If you’ve been in the fitness game for a while, chances are you’ve tried a fad diet or two. Even if you haven’t, we’re willing to bet you’ve at least become accustomed to tracking macros or some other heavily structured nutrition strategy.

There’s nothing wrong with using hard numbers or rules to build your nutrition strategy, but after a while some people may find it mentally tiring to do so. In some cases, placing so much value on simply following a strict plan may impact a person’s mentality when they break said diet.

Another option that some dieters may find more emotionally rewarding than a highly-structured plan is intuitive eating. It’s not necessarily a plan, per se, but it’s a different way of viewing the food you eat, according to Alana Kessler, MS, RDN, who specializes in teaching clients to use an intuition-based approach to eating.

“Intuitive eating is less about the food that you eat and more about being attuned to yourself—mainly how you feel, what you want to eat, and why you want to eat something,” she explains. “It’s an attitude around your relationship with your body and your relationship to food and your ability to trust yourself enough to know when and why you want to eat.”

Now, don’t take that to mean “eat whatever you want, healthy or unhealthy, whenever you want.” At its roots, the goal of intuitive eating is to trust yourself to self-regulate and hold yourself accountable for what you eat without exterior rules and restrictions.

Kessler points out that this style of eating does require you to have some background knowledge on things like food portions and the way different foods make your body feel. Everyone’s different, so it takes some experimenting over time to see how your body responds to different foods and macronutrients.

For that reason, intuitive eating may be better suited to more experienced dieters than beginners. If you think it might be a fit for you, keep reading for the basics of eating intuitively.

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