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Mindful and Intuitive Eating

The terms Mindful Eating and Intuitive Eating are often used interchangeably.  The concepts are connected, but they aren't the same thing. 


Mindful Eating is based on mindfulness techniques dating back to ancient Buddhism.  It is a concept rather than a set diet or program, but there are core principles that you will find in almost every description.


Intuitive Eating is a program developed by dietitians.  It includes some elements of Mindful Eating, but the focus is freeing people from harmful beliefs about food and their own bodies.

To find out more about Mindful and Intuitive Eating as tools for IBS management...

  • Watch the video

  • Click on links in the white box

  • Just scroll down!

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Mindful Eating

Mindfulness is all the rage these days, but what is it exactly and how can it be applied to eating?

In this section we'll look at what it means to "eat mindfully" and strategies you can use to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday eating habits.  Eating mindfully is good for everybody, even if they don't have a chronic condition.  But it's especially helpful as a tool for managing IBS symptoms, because it addresses a number of different triggers for IBS flareups.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindfulness means focusing on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations without judgement.


Mindful eating means purposely paying attention to your entire eating experience.  This includes the time you actually spend eating, but can also extend to grocery shopping, food prep and even the health of the planet.

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To eat mindfully means thinking about your relationship to food...

  • Why are you eating? Hunger, stress, boredom? 

  • Where are you eating?  In a calm place or at your desk surrounded by stressors? 

  • When are you eating?  At a proscribed time of day or when your body tells you to? 

  • What are you eating?  Tasteful food that will fuel your body or whatever is handy? 

  • How are you eating?  Slowly to savour your food or shovelling it down? 

  • How much are you eating?  Enough to satisfy your hunger or too much for comfort?

Mindful eating connects your mind and your body


  • Reduces stress around meal times

  • Leads to a better understanding of your food habits

  • Helps to make positive changes in eating behaviours

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Principles of Mindful Eating

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Pay Attention to Hunger and Fullness Cues

Eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full.  This may seem like a no brainer, but it's actually quite common for people to ignore their own body's signals.


Hunger sensations can be a trigger for IBS symptoms, because people with IBS are more sensitive to pain and sensations in the GI tract.  Eating big meals or eating too much causes the abdomen to swell and can lead to distention and pain due to hypersensitivity.  More room is needed in the gut, so there is also a stronger gastrocolic reflex (stomach sends nerve signals to colon to start contracting and get things moving).  Especially with IBS -C, these increased muscle spasms could cause pain. 

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Practice Gratitude Before Your Meal

Practicing gratitude is a stress management tool.  Consciously thinking about what you have to be thankful for helps to put the current situation that is causing you stress into perspective.

Stress can be a trigger for IBS symptoms and eating can be stressful if you have IBS, as it is often associated with pain and discomfort.  Practicing gratitude before meals may help to calm your mind.  You may also want to start your meal with a few calming belly breaths.

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Minimize Distractions

Try to eat in a calm and inviting place.  

Distractions like working or watching the news can elevate stress levels, make food less satisfying, prompt faster eating which could lead to overeating and make it harder to listen to hunger and fullness cues.

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Eat Slowly and Chew Thoroughly

Eating slowly gives your GI tract time to get prepared for digestion and gives your stomach a chance to tell your brain when it's had enough.  Try taking smaller bites or putting your utensils down or taking a deep breath between bites.

Chewing your food thoroughly (30 chews per bite) can help you slow down and also aids digestion in other ways.  In the mouth it mechanically breaks down food, helps to release enzymes that start to digest carbs and fat and others that signal your rest and digest nervous system that food is on the way.  This signalling affects motility (moving things through your GI tract), which is especially important to people with IBS.

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Use All Five Senses

Taking the time to experience food through taste, touch, sound, sight and smell can also help you to slow down.  Savour tastes and textures.  Chances are you will also eat better, eat the right amount and enjoy your food a lot more!

Paying attention with all your senses may also help to identify emotions surrounding eating.  For example, fear of foods linked to previous bad experiences.  This may help if you are trying to figure out your IBS trigger foods or if you decide to try the FODMAP diet. 

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No Judgement

To eat without judgement means to observe your thoughts and feelings and to accept them without criticism, shame or guilt.  Whether we are aware of it or not, many of us have a running internal dialogue when it comes to food.  If the conversation is negative - this food isn't healthy, I shouldn't be eating this - it can add a lot of stress to our meals.

Stress can have a big impact on IBS symptoms and eating can be stressful enough without negative self-talk!

Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating is a specific program developed in the 1990's by two dietitians - Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole.  The focus is freeing people from damaging beliefs about food, often rooted in diet culture.  These harmful beliefs may come from past life experiences or unrealistic diets.  Body positivity and self compassion are also key features.

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The program has 10 core principles:

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality

  2. Honor Your Hunger

  3. Make Peace with Food

  4. Challenge the Food Police

  5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

  6. Feel Your Fullness

  7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

  8. Respect Your Body

  9. Movement - Feel the Difference

  10. Honor Your Health - Gentle Nutrition

10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating Homepage

Mindful or Intuitive Eating for IBS?

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Mindful Eating and Intuitive Eating both include:

  • Addressing the ways our mental state can affect food choices

  • Tuning in to hunger and fullness cues

  • Experiencing pleasure when eating

  • Reducing feelings of stress and negative self-talk

Mindful Eating

  • Excellent strategy for everybody with IBS

  • Good eating habits help digestion

  • Focus on reducing stress and mind/body connection

  • Increasing awareness can help you recognize hunger and fullness cues, identify food triggers of IBS and navigate the low FODMAP diet

Intuitive Eating

  • Good complementary strategy if you have harmful beliefs about food and your body

  • Focus on ditching the unsustainable diet mentality​

  • Program associated with higher levels of self-esteem and lower levels disordered eating/body image concerns

  • Helpful for understanding negative self-talk

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