I often get asked, “What is the difference between Intuitive Eating and mindful eating?” It can be a bit confusing since the terms seem to be used interchangeably [1,2].

To my knowledge, the first time the concept of mindful eating was introduced to the public was in 1990, in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s best-selling book, Full Castrophe Living [3]. He describes mindful eating in a few pages, including an activity on how to eat a raisin using a mindful approach. (I am a big fan of his work, but I was not introduced to it until about 8 years ago!)

While Intuitive Eating, includes mindful eating, that term was not in the public venacular, when the first edition of Intuitive Eating was published in 1995. Consequently, we used the term “conscious eating” to describe the process of being aware while eating. (I actually prefer the term mindful eating, because it’s less ambigous).

Mindful eating is a process of paying attention (on purpose), to your actual eating experience,without judgment. While this sounds straightforward, the process can be quite complex, especially for those inclined to multi-tasking.

I consider Intuitive Eating a broader philosophy, which includes physical activity for the sake of feeling good, rejecting the dieting mentality, using nutrition information without judgment, and respecting your body, regardless of how you feel about its shape. There are 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating, but they can be boiled down to these three core characteristics, which were validated by the research of Tracy Tylka [4]:

  • Eat for Physical Rather than Emotional Reasons
  • Rely on Internal Hunger and Satiety Cues
  • Unconditional Permission to Eat

In short, Intuitive Eating is a form of attunement of mind, body and food. To date there are over 13 studies, which have validated Intuitive Eating as a healthful way to live and use in the treatment of binge eating disorder.

For those who struggle with eating issues, both mindful eating and Intuitive Eating can help facilitate normal eating.


  1. The Center for Mindful Eating website:http://www.tcme.org/
  2. Intuitive Eating website: www.IntuitiveEating.org 2. Intuitive Eating website: www.IntuitiveEating.org
  3. Jon Kabat-Zinn. Full Catastrophe Living (1990). Delta:NY,NY.
  4. Tylka, T. Intuitive Eating Assessment Scale. J Counseling Psychology 2006 (53):226-240.
  5. General Intuitive Eating Resources
  6. Mathieu J. What Should You Know about Mindful and Intuitive Eating? J Am Dietetic Assoc 2009;109 (Dec):1982-1987.
Categories: Nutrition

Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S

Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S is an award-winning registered dietitian, with a nutrition counseling practice in Newport Beach, California. She has written nine books including the bestsellers Healthy Homestyle Cooking and Intuitive Eating(co-author). Her newest book is the Intuitive Eating Workbook:Ten Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food.