Intuitive eating – where does nutrition fit in and 6 questions to ask yourself to see if you’re ready

One misconception with intuitive eating is that the idea is to eat whatever you want without a thought for nutrition or health. That said, you will most likely find that when you start the process, allowing yourself to eat freely without worrying about nutrition is actually a key step in healing your relationship with food. This includes the ability to rewire your brain and change your thinking around food to soften (and eventually rid) any anxiety, emotional distress or shame you have with food.

Once you’ve reached a point* where you feel much calmer around food, the food battle in your head has ceased and you think about food and/or nutrition a hell of a lot less, you may be ready to start paying more attention to nutrition. A key point here though, is how much attention do you actually need to pay to your nutrition? If you have a medical or health condition that is affected by food choices, then yes you may benefit from some gentle focus on nutrition.  If you’re free a specific medical or health condition and generally you feel well and energised with your current pattern of eating, perhaps more focus is unnecessary. Either way, a non-diet dietitian can guide you with how much focus you may or may not need.

While nutrition is important to all humans, it has been massively overplayed. We are inundated with nutrition knowledge, self help books, recipe books, online recipes, the internet in general, ready to eat meals, food packaging, menu boards, social media, TV, gyms, a variety of health professionals,  health coaches, fitness trainers and more – but where has all this knowledge taken us?


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If we consider that calories as we know them today didn’t come into common thinking until the 20th century, nor did we know what a vitamin was until last century and macronutrients were only discovered in the 1800s, how did humans manage prior to this? That is to say, humans have managed to feed themselves well enough for 1000s of years without this nutrition knowledge.

Rather than helping the majority of people have a better understanding of how to nourish themselves well, it would appear that we humans are more confused than ever! Rates of disordered eating and eating disorders are on the rise globally, especially in Asian countries. An over-focus on nutrition, especially tracking calories and/or macronutrients is commonly part of what leads people into disordered eating or an eating disorder.

Even if tracking calories and macronutrients doesn’t mess with a person’s psychology around food or result in mental health issues, it takes us away from listening our own internal cues of hunger, fullness and satisfaction, it takes us away from trusting our own bodies with what, when or how much to eat, something humans would have done naturally before we were introduced to the science of nutrition. A key part of the intuitive eating process is to redirect our thinking away from external cues (largely driven by nutrition science) on how to eat and instead reconnect to our bodies natural wisdom with eating.

Of course there are some circumstances where it may be useful to focus more on nutrition and even to monitor or track calories and/or macros. Some athletes, some pregnancies and some medical conditions may benefit from the nutrition knowledge we know have, but this isn’t always necessary. If you happen to have a medical or health condition that could benefit from modern nutrition knowledge, then by no means am I against using this knowledge, but we need to really careful with how we balance this against a person’s life circumstances and current relationship with food and body.

If you’ve had a complicated relationship with food but are on the mend, or fully healed and you’d like to focus on an aspect of nutrition, ask yourself these 6 question to see if you’re ready…

  1. If for whatever reason it does’t happen, you’re completely ok with that and you don’t get mad at yourself
  2. You enjoy eating that way, perhaps finding it even more pleasurable
  3. The dietary change doesn’t increase how much you think about food when you don’t need to be
  4. If you’re out of usual routine, ie on holidays and it’s not practical or is more difficult to follow the dietary change, it doesn’t phase you at all and you’re happy to go with the flow and wait until you’re back in usual routine
  5. There is no guilt, shame or mental distress attached to whether or not you do what you intended
  6. You don’t feel compelled to tell others what you’re doing, or advise that they would benefit from doing it too

Gentle nutrition is one the 10 principles of the intuitive eating process developed by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. You can read about the 10 principles here 

* This can take anywhere from a few months to a few years

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Not only does the olive oil makes your veggies taste better, it makes them healthier!

So we all know vegetables are nutritious and I’m pretty sure we all know extra virgin olive oil (evoo) has health benefits…

But did you know that cooking your vegetables in extra virgin olive oil increase the health properties of the olive oil?

Cooking in evoo conserves and increases the phenolic compounds of vegetables. Cooking veggies in fat also increases absorption of some of other compounds important to health.

If you’re anything like me and find steamed veggies a bit boring, then this is a win win win!

Not only does the olive oil makes your veggies taste better, it makes them healthier!


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My tips for cooking your veg in extra virgin olive oil…
Oven baking – chop up veggies into bite size pieces, add generous amount of evoo (at least 4 tbls for 2 people, but you can use more), some spices (cinnamon, paprika, cayenne pepper work well), a little salt and if you have them, fresh herbs such as oregano, rosemary and thyme.
These veggies work well in the oven: Cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato, potato, corn, beetroot, asparagus, whole cloves of garlic, onion.
Pan frying – chop up veggies into bite size pieces, add generous amount of evoo (at least 4 tbls for 2 people, you can use more), a little salt and any herbs or spices to your liking.

These veggies work well in the frying pan: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans, asparagus, corn, onion, spinach, capsicum, mushrooms, snow peas, zucchini, eggplant, tomato and just about any other veg (maybe not cucumber…)

Fried broccoli and oven baked cauliflower are my favs, what will yours be?

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Do you have a healthy relationship with food? – take our free quiz to find out

Want to learn how to nourish your body without dieting or restricting food?
Learn about intuitive eating with our ebook Nourish.

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When the people close to you think this intuitive eating thing, or your dietitian, is just bananas!

Making the decision to stop dieting and stop pursuing weight loss is tough. It’s tough for many reasons including, but not limited too:

  • We are constantly being told this is what we should be doing to look better and feel better
  • It’s (almost) impossible to get through the day without seeing an ad, post, article, blog that mentions some dietary fix or cleanse or some kind of body transformation
  • Many of your friends and work colleagues are talking about it
  • If you have a health issue, the advice is often lose weight, even though there’s no evidence losing weight improves any health condition long term
  • People in fatter bodies are hardly ever represented as happy, healthy, successful or even normal, or even just represented!
  • Our culture’s extreme weight stigma and fat shaming
  • We are all conditioned to believe and feel that being thinner is better

Non-Diet Approach dietitians

I was compelled to write this after one of my clients mentioned yesterday how his partner just doesn’t get the non-diet process and how their comments around food make things that much tougher.

We talked about how it’s completely understandable that his partner doesn’t understand the process. After all, the common wisdom in our culture is change your diet and you’ll lose weight and if you’re paying a dietitian, then that’s what should be happening. Or that if you’re seeing a dietitian, or doing something to improve your health, you’ll eat a certain way. Therefore, the idea that you could choose to eat perceived “unhealthy” food and still be looking after your health, or doing the “right thing”, would seem completely absurd. 

So while my client has actually seen some significant progress in terms of his relationship with food, the ability to practise self compassion, finding new pleasure with cooking and discovering he’s not actually “addicted” to fast food; the partner voiced concern when my client bought some chips at the supermarket. As the chips were being scanned, the partner asked “so how are things going with the dietitian?”

Not for a second am I suggesting the partner was meaning harm by this, but the truth is that such a comment is harmful. My client felt a sense of shame and disappointment that his partner seemed more interested in how things were going with the dietitian, or that they weren’t producing the “results”, than how things going with him.

This reminded me of a something I heard on a podcast recently and that’s how small our conversations become when the focus is on food choices and numbers, be that calories or the scales. How much richer would our conversations be if we talked about how we can change our brains to change our thinking and how we relate to things, the power of self compassion and what it truly means to self-care? Woven into this conversation could be how taking pleasure from food enhances our quality of life.

An important step to navigating comments from others is to pause and and remember they simply don’t understand (yet) what they are saying. They are simply saying, or doing, all the things that our culture has conditioned them to say and do. I used to be that person too. I used to judge others for their food choices and make what I thought were helpful comments around food choices and weight. Being compassionate toward the person who is not understanding, or any judgement, can help you to not get as caught up in the dialogue.

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Want to learn how to nourish your body without having to restrict food? Learn about intuitive eating with our ebook Nourish.

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The 30 day Health Challenge where you get to eat all the food you love!

Health challenges don’t need to involve cutting food from your diet.

In fact, there are many different ways we can take care of our health. This challenge (although it doesn’t need to be a challenge as such), is wholistic in the way it encompasses aspects of physical, mental and emotional health.


Here are a bunch of things you can focus on that will boost your physical and mental health over the next 30 days.

Please note: you don’t have to do all of these things in order to care for your health and the ability to do most of these requires a level of privilege where we have a choice, access, freedom and financial capacity.

  • Practice listening to your appetite and aim to eat when you notice physical hunger*
  • Whatever you do choose to eat, practise eating with some mindful awareness of how the food looks, smells, tastes and feels in your body.
  • As often as possible, eat food you enjoy the taste of and that leaves you feeling satisfied.
  • Aim to include some fruit and vegetables in your diet each day
  • Sometimes eat food just because it tastes good without worrying about the nutritional value
  • Cook or prepare more of your own food from scratch
  • Enjoy meals with family or friends a few times per week
  • Eat regular meals or try not to go more than 5 waking hours without eating
  • Aim to get enough sleep most nights
  • Find something you can do daily that involves moving your body in ways you enjoy
  • Do something each day that makes you smile or laugh
  • Offer kindness to a stranger
  • Find at least one thing each day to be grateful for

After all, health is so much more complex than what we eat or our nutrition. Unfortunately, many people sacrifice their mental and emotional health in  the pursuit of physical health. Physical health means little without mental or emotional health.

*If you struggle with this, that’s ok and fairly normal if you’re been dieting, have (or had) and eating disorder, or just aren’t used to listening to your hunger and fullness cues. Learn more about this here.

Excuse the click baity title…

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Want to learn how to nourish your body without having to restrict food? Learn about intuitive eating with our ebook Nourish.

Click the banner to grab your copy today for $9.95


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When a less nutritious food might actually be a good choice

There is a tendency, in some cases a slight obsession, these days to get caught up with the nutritional value of a food above all else.

At a workshop Jodie and I delivered, the question arose regarding added sugar and sweeteners as being something best to avoid in snacks and how isn’t one is best to always choose the more “natural” food.

Well, like with almost everything in nutrition, not always…

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I’m going to use one participants experience as an example. Let’s call him Bob. Bob is a farmer and works in the fields all day, when he gets home in the late afternoon, he’s starving and usually goes for the easiest thing such as sweets biscuits, when really he’d prefer something more nutritious. But he’s too hungry to think straight and he needs to eat then and there, he also tends to over-eat at dinner and often feels too full.

I asked Bob what he thought he could do differently to avoid being so hungry when he walked in the door. Bod said he’d thought about taking muesli bars in the tractor with him but said to me “aren’t they full of rubbish, sugar and additives?”

Regardless of the actual ingredients, we discussed how if Bob ate a muesli bar or two, perhaps he wouldn’t be so starving when he came home and then he’d be much more likely to make a nourishing snack rather than inhaling a few sweet biscuits and then over-eating at dinner. Allowing the convenient pre-packaged snack might afford Bob better eating habits in the afternoon. The overall effect being a positive one, not only physically by mentally too as Bob often feels guilty for eating the sweet biscuits and over-eating at dinner.

Now of course, not all muesli bars are full of sugar and additives, some are perfectly nutritious, but I think you get my point. If you really want to be wholistic, then you need to look at whole picture, not just the food in isolation. If you find yourself inclined to judge others for a particular food choice, try and take a moment to remember we usually don’t know what the full picture looks like for other people.

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Why a healthy relationship with food and body often needs to take precedence over nutrition knowledge.

Meet Rebecca. Rebecca has T2 diabetes and high blood sugars. Rebecca knows that eating a balance of carbohydrate, protein and fat at meals helps manage her sugars better, however she often finds herself eating mostly carbohydrate rich, low protein food.

Why does she do this?

Rebecca has struggled with her eating and weight since she was 10, her mum took her to weight watchers and a dietitian as a teenager and she has done a variety of weight loss programs and 12 week challenges in her 20s and 30s. Most times Rebecca lost weight but was unable to stick with any long-term (as rarely anyone can), she felt miserable – hungry, tired, anxious about food, avoiding social eating – with the food and calorie restrictions and each diet would end in a 2-3 week eating binge of mostly carbohydrate rich food, the very food she was trying so hard to limit.

As a teenager Rebecca received sensible advice from the dietitian and she knew how she “should” be eating to manage her blood sugars and weight. However, when she did this, despite her blood sugars improving, she didn’t lose weight and therefore felt she was doing something wrong and that she must need to restrict her food more, which of course lead to the dieting. This on-going battle with food and her weight, meant Rebecca developed a love/hate relationship with food, especially carbohydrates, and felt frustrated and unhappy with her body, she could lose weight but she always gained it back and now at age 41, she is the heaviest she’s ever been. Her love/hate relationship with carbs meant she was either restricting them or going nuts on them. The irony is that Rebecca actually felt better eating a more balanced meal of carbohydrate, protein and fat and she really enjoyed such meals, however, she continually felt driven to over-eat the carbs. The restricting of food followed by over-eating that food is something dietitians see in clinic over and over.

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Now, what if Rebecca felt ok about her body and had never gone down the dieting path, how different might things look for her? As mentioned, she enjoyed eating in a more balanced way and her blood sugars were better managed. What if she hadn’t been told to “watch” her carbs, but rather experiment with eating in a way that felt good for her body, didn’t leave her feeling hungry, and enabled her to eat food she enjoyed. There’s a strong possibility that if Rebecca hadn’t spent the last 30 years trying to restrict her carbs and food she enjoyed eating, she wouldn’t have the love/hate relationship and she wouldn’t feel driven to over-eat carb rich food.

Think of someone you know who doesn’t diet or restrict food they enjoy, do they struggle with their food? You might be thinking “but they don’t need to as they don’t have a health concern”; what I want you to reflect on is the possibility that Rebecca’s T2DM and health could be managed well too if she wasn’t restricting food or struggling with food. If Rebecca hadn’t been told repeatedly by society that her weight was an issue, perhaps she never would have dieted, she would be eating in a balanced and enjoyable way and her blood sugars may be controlled well enough. There’s also every chance that if Rebecca had a sound relationship with her body that she would feel less shame exercising and take more pleasure in being active, numerous studies have shown fitness is more important than fatness when it comes to health.

All the nutrition knowledge in the world is, for many people, unconstructive if a person has a poor relationship with food and their body. So how do you change your relationship with food and your body? This is precisely what we non-diet (intuitive eating) approach dietitians who work within the Health At Every Size ® (HAES) paradigm do. HAES fact sheet

You can find us here:

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HAES dietitians worldwide

I have also just released an ebook which includes tips and steps to improve your relationship with food. Click the banner to purchase your copy today for $9.95 AUD

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