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Why Intuitive Eating Doesn’t Work (And How to Fix It)

Intuitive eating won’t work. That’s a fact.

Here’s another fact… I’ve been on an intuitive eating “program” for months. And it’s working.

I’m not one of those genetic freaks that eats whatever they and never gains a pound. In fact, I’m a natural chubster that can gain weight just looking at a piece of chocolate cake.

I’m not one of those live-ins at the gym that spends countless hours pumping iron. In fact, I’ve been recovering from an injury so I’m not doing more than simple bodyweight workouts a few times a week.

I haven’t been tracking my foods, hitting my macros, meal prepping, or even putting much thought into what I eat. But I’m still getting results.

And I’m going to tell you how you can too. But first, I have to explain something…

We’re a sum total of everything that has ever happened to us. It’s the dynamic process of life.

Everything we’ve ever experienced has made us who we are today. For example, I still have a big thing for violinists. Back in 7th grade, my first girlfriend was a violinist. We were both in the orchestra and it was a great relationship. From opposite sides of the room, we would flash each other funny looks, laugh at inside jokes, and carry on entire conversations via lip reading. (Texting and social media weren’t really a thing back then.)

We even held hands sometimes. We were kind of a big deal. Like, people knew us. …in the orchestra, at least.

That was years ago, but even something as seemingly insignificant as a middle school girlfriend can have a lasting effect. (Which is probably why I have such a massive crush on Lindsey Stirling.) The dynamic process of life applies to anything and everything—from me and my violinists to you and your fitness.

Your current fitness level is the sum total your entire life’s activity and nutrition. Every set you’ve ever finished, every rep you’ve ever done, and every bite you’ve ever taken has landed you right where you are.

And that’s why intuitive eating usually doesn’t work.

What Is Intuitive Eating?

learning to eat right

The concept of intuitive eating is straightforward and pretty simple. Rather than following a strict diet, logging foods, and tracking macronutrients, you eat intuitively. The philosophy is based around the idea that being in tune to your body and listening to its natural hunger cues is a better way to reach healthy weight.

I really like intuitive eating…

In theory.

But things often don’t work as well in practice as they do in theory. Like a cheap Chinese buffet—it’s always a good idea, until you eat too much and it hurts to think. 

Most people practice a form intuitive eating… well, intuitively. Scientific research calls it ad libitum, which is just fancy Latin for saying as you please or eating according to your natural cues.

Life simply isn’t as easy as listening to our bodies and knowing exactly what to eat to reach our goals. If it were, everybody would have the body of their dreams. But according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 69% of American adults are overweight or obese.

It’s not just that intuitive eating won’t work. It isn’t working.

Intuitive Eating: Why It Doesn’t Work

does intuitive eating work?

The crux of intuitive eating relies on listening to your body and understanding natural hunger cues. There’s just one slight problem. People are awful at listening to their bodies.

Ever ignore and injury or put off going to the doctor when you’re sick? When you do, you’re hearing what our body’s saying, but you’re not really listening. Everyone does it. The more we practice not listening to our bodies, the better we get at it. Over the course of our lives, we get really good. Some people even wind up on TV show because they didn’t know they were pregnant. Talk about not listening to your body.

But yeah, let’s base our eating on listening to the body and getting better results. Seems legit.

Even if we were perfectly in touch with our bodies, sometimes our body screams for a bacon wrapped hot dog, french fries, and all the ice cream. It’s just the way it is.

At the end of a long, stressful, and hectic day, junk food may be exactly what you need. However, eating whatever you want whenever you want won’t help you lose fat or build muscle. That’s common sense.

Another issue with intuitive eating is that, unless you’re following a diet plan, you’re already eating intuitively. Statistically speaking, most people aren’t following a diet. Based on the odds, that includes you. And If it’s not working for you today, it won’t suddenly start working tomorrow.

Remember, the dynamic process of life applies to everything. In this case, you’ve been molded—literally and figuratively—by your eating habits. Intuitive eating will simply be an extension of the habits you’ve already formed. Those same habits that got you to where you are now.

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

But you’ve got goals. And to reach those goals, you need to do more than intuitive eating.

Here’s the biggest problem with intuitive eating—people have no idea what they should eat. It’s not your fault. We were never taught proper principles of nutrition. And thanks to all the confusion, misinformation, and dogma surrounding nutrition, it’s almost impossible to go it alone.

In spite of the fact that it’s impossible, intuitive eating is based on going it alone. And it won’t work…

At least not yet.

How to Make Intuitive Eating Work

hire a coach

Flying solo with your nutrition isn’t going to work. So don’t try. You’ll waste your time and effort. Save yourself the frustration and get a great plan or hire a coach.

I’m not suggesting you get a coach because I am a coach. I’m suggesting you get a coach because I have a coach. Everybody needs coaches—even coaches.

If you can’t get a coach, at least get a good plan.

A coach (or plan) is going to help you learn the proper nutrition you need to reach your goals. And thanks to the dynamic process of life, that’s a gift that keeps on giving. As you learn more, you develop the knowledge base required to successfully follow an intuitive eating program.

That’s why intuitive eating’s been working for me. It’s not because my body intuitively knows what it needs. It’s because my mind does. I’ve spent years studying and applying nutrition strategies and principles. At this point, advanced tactics come naturally for me.

And they can come naturally—or intuitively—for you too.

But it doesn’t have to take you years. It can happen in as little as one month. Here’s how:

1. Get a coach, proper plan, or both. (Preferably both.)
2. Follow the plan to the letter.
3. Religiously track your foods.

Do that for a month or two and you’ll be prepared to crush intuitive eating. After 30–60 days of experience with proper eating, you’ll learn what your body needs and when it needs it. You’ll know what foods will help you get which macronutrients.

You’ll be able to make intuitive eating work.


  1. Suhana Anwar

    Total bullshit. It’s mostly your personal opinion and no scientific bases at all!! Read some good well-researched books on intuitive eating as well as scientific papers, if you can read! Stop publishing misleading info please. These stupid blogs make people more dumb. You just want to earn money and are misleading people for it. Get real dude! Take some responsibility.

  2. Delphine

    With all due respect Suhana, Ben makes a valid point.
    I am a huge believer in Intuitive eating. It has literally saved my life from years of compulsive eating, chronic dieting and debilitating depression. However it took me years to get the hangs of it and finally master it. A lifetime of dieting and obsession with perfection has tremendous power over your mind. A few months of initial elation and liberation from your own dictatorship are usually not enough and relapses are very common. If one does not deal truly and seriously with the underlying fear of getting out of control , fat and rejected,Intuitive eating is nothing more than a band aid. A very soothing one, but a band aid nonetheless.
    The core issues of self worth, belief systems and perception must be addressed and do require some form of therapy or coaching .
    Cognitive Behavioral Techniques are usually very helpful. Some folks have been so disconnected with their physical cues ( as a former bulimic I had not been hungry in over 17 years and had no idea what that felt like!) and will usually rely on mental cues such as what they “ feel like eating” rather than “ am I hungry now?”, and will soon spin out of control in complete oblivion holding on to the hope that this new found freedom will serve them better than their former rigid principles and may even lead to weight loss.
    How do I know? Because I have seen it happen dozens of times!
    I had to get a therapist who had some knowledge of the method to finally make it stick and I too got certified and began coaching.
    No it’s no about the money, most of my clients are pro-bono.
    Intuitive eating is in essence normal eating which someone who simply is sick of dieting has a much greater chance to embrace but for those who battled severely disordered eating and suffered ( and always will to some degree) some form of dysmorphia it is simply terrifying. The appeal of the method lies in the fact that they understand it is the ONLY sustainable way to end their misery but it requires enormous amounts of faith and without proper guidance and support they will either go back to dieting as soon as they see the slightest increase in weight ( I did a hundred times!) or end up worse than before they started and give up all together on their best shot at recovery.
    So, to sum up, we are not dismissing the method, quite the contrary, every study shows that the long term effects are highly beneficial for people with obesity and chronic dieting.
    We are only saying: If you wish to learn how to drive your perfectly engineered car, you can get a manual, read it a few times hope for the best and get on the road and most likely crash! Or you can actually get driving lessons , initially ,and be on the road, driving away in the sunset!

  3. Margaret

    I can see your point and I’d like to propose an addition to this article that could satiate pro-intuitive-people. You ARE correct in saying “we have no idea what to eat”, if your “we” means adults today. Humans in the past and babies do. In one peer-reviewed research article about intuitive eating it is clearly stated we develop it at 6-weeks old and lose this ability at a young age because of strict parental diet control and societal influences. The solution, I believe, is a mix of reteaching adults how to eat intuitively through your method or something similar, and stopping the crisis at its root. We NEED to invade the parenting blogs and tell them strict strict dietary control and societal influence teaches them WRONG ways to eat healthy. Instead of educating our kids “when, where, what, how much” we just need to tell them “what”. They need to calibrate their little heads to know when and how much, and they need to now and have done so for thousands of years, do it on their own.

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