Assessment and Goals
This module is devoted to helping you assess where you are now, set your own individual goals and intentions for the weeks to come, and start to practice one of the key concepts we'll cover in the course.
I recommend completing this module over the course of a week, taking some time to do the exercises and review the material a couple of times.
Start by completing the self-assessment survey below. When you're done, scroll down to listen to the audio lecture, read the notes, and complete the journal exercises and meditation.
This survey will help you see where you are now and identify the areas you’ll want to put some extra focus on in the course.
The results of this survey will be your “baseline,” and we’ll jump right in to help you set your own personal goals and intentions based on these results. At the end of the course, you’ll take this same survey again to see how far you’ve come!
Survey directions: Please note that filling out the survey here will save your answers in our system but not on your screen. You may want to jot down the answers in your journal as well so that you can refer back to them later in this module.
The following statements are meant to assess core characteristics of intuitive eaters. Answer "yes" or "no" for each statement. If you're unsure of how to respond, consider if the description usually applies to you—is it mostly "yes" or mostly "no”?
Survey adapted from Tracy Tylka's research on Tribole & Resch's model of Intuitive Eating, and from the Body Trust® Wellness program by Be Nourished, LLC.
Audio: Assessment and Goals
PDF Workbook (NEW!)
Module 1 Notes
Thanks for taking the survey! Before we go into depth about the results, I want to explain one of the key concepts of the course, and share how you can start putting it into practice right now.
The concept is self-compassion.
Self-compassion means relating to yourself with understanding, warmth, and kindness, even if you want to change some things about yourself.
It means offering yourself care and comfort rather than criticism.
Self-compassion is a huge key to intuitive eating—and to making pretty much any lasting change in your life. If you approach your struggles from a place of self-compassion, you’ll have a much easier time making positive changes than you would if you criticized yourself into changing.
In fact, research on self-compassion has shown that it’s a particularly important tool in helping people improve their physical health, psychological well-being, self-esteem, and body image.
Self-criticism, in contrast, only makes everything worse. It's incredibly common among disordered eaters, and it's one of the reasons people stay stuck in an unhealthy relationship with food. Berating yourself about your eating is not the way to change it.
So in this course, we’ll be talking a lot about self-compassion, and I’ll teach you how to use it to inform your intuitive eating journey every step of the way.
Starting right now.
As you look at the results of your survey, try to do it through the lens of self-compassion. For example, if you start to feel frustrated or angry with yourself for not getting the "right" answers, try offering yourself some kindness instead. You might remind yourself that we all have to start somewhere—this is the beginning of your journey, so of course you’re going to have lots to work on. That’s why you’re here, amirite?!?
Throughout the course, try this simple guideline to be more self-compassionate: Talk to yourself the way you'd talk to someone you love. Use the same caring voice in your inner monologue that you'd use with a beloved friend or family member who was struggling.
Many of us are infinitely nicer to everyone else in our lives than we are to ourselves, and that's just not right! We all deserve self-compassion, even if we aren't totally happy with where we are at the moment.
We'll have a much better chance of getting where we want to go if we're kind to ourselves along the way.
After you’re done with the self-assessment below, be sure to listen to the meditation and complete the journal exercises to help increase your self-compassion.
Interpreting Your Survey Results
Now that you know the importance of self-compassion, try to put it into practice as we walk through each of the survey questions. I'll explain how an intuitive eater would answer them, and identify the module(s) that will address that aspect of intuitive eating. Offer yourself compassion for wherever you are right now.
I try to avoid certain foods high in fat, carbs, or calories - An intuitive eater would say no. Intuitive eating means allowing yourself to eat any food you desire, and making your food choices based on internal cues rather than external rules. Intuitive eaters don't have any "off-limits" foods, yet we still manage to eat a balance of nutritious foods. (See modules 2, 4, 5, and 11)
If I am craving a certain food, I don't allow myself to have it - An intuitive eater would say no. Intuitive eating is about honoring your desires and your body's needs, and intuitive eaters don't see cravings as a problem. Once you've moved past the diet mentality and stopped seeing foods as "good" and "bad," cravings don't lead to "out-of-control" eating, the way they may have for you in the past. (See modules 2-5, 7, 9)
I get mad at myself for eating something unhealthy - An intuitive eater would say no. Intuitive eaters know that true health is about balance, and that the healthiest people eat "fun" foods as well as nourishing foods. There's no reason to get mad at yourself for eating any food, and if you ever do start to get out of balance, you can gently bring yourself back with self-compassion and attention to your internal cues and emotions. (See modules 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 11)
- I have forbidden foods that I don't allow myself to eat - An intuitive eater would say no. There are no forbidden foods in intuitive eating. (See modules 2, 4, 5, and 11)
I follow eating rules or diet plans that dictate what, when, and/or how to eat - An intuitive eater would say no. Intuitive eaters don't follow rules or plans to govern our eating. Our intuition guides us in choosing what, when, and how to eat; food choices are made from a place of self-care rather than one of self-control. (See modules 2-7, 9, and 11)
I pay attention to the sensory elements of food, including taste, texture, and flavors - An intuitive eater would say yes. Intuitive eaters know that pleasure is an essential part of a healthy relationship with food, and that paying attention to taste is a way to find pleasure. (See module 7)
I treat each meal and snack as its own experience (not as a way to compensate for previous food choices) - An intuitive eater would say yes. Intuitive eaters make our food choices based on many factors including desire, hunger level, and availability of food, but we do not deliberately change our food choices to compensate for previous meals. (See modules 2-5, 7, 9, and 11)
I use food to help me soothe my negative emotions (such as anxiety, sadness, or loneliness) - An intuitive eater would say no. Even the most seasoned intuitive eater still occasionally eats more for emotional reasons than for hunger, but in general food is not used to soothe negative emotions. (See modules 3 and 8)
I am unable to cope with my negative emotions (i.e. anxiety, sadness, and loneliness) without turning to food for comfort - An intuitive eater would say no. Intuitive eaters have plenty of other ways to cope with these emotions. (See modules 3 and 8)
When I am bored, I eat just for something to do - An intuitive eater would say no. In general, intuitive eaters don't eat purely out of boredom. (See modules 3 and 8)
I trust my body to tell me WHEN to eat - An intuitive eater would say yes. Intuitive eaters have a good connection to our hunger and fullness cues, which generally tell us when it's time to eat. (See modules 3 and 6)
I trust my body to tell me WHAT to eat - An intuitive eater would say yes. Intuitive eaters tune in to our body's desires and needs to guide our food choices. (See modules 3, 6-7, 9, and 11)
I trust my body to tell me HOW MUCH to eat - An intuitive eater would say yes. Intuitive eaters use our hunger and fullness cues to let us know how much to eat. (See modules 3 and 6)
I trust my body when to stop eating - An intuitive eater would say yes. Intuitive eaters have no doubt that our bodies will let us know when to stop eating. The fear of "losing control" that's so common among dieters isn't a concern for intuitive eaters, because we know we can trust our bodies. (See modules 2, 3, 5, 6, and 9)
When exercising, I keep my focus on the non-cosmetic benefits of movement - An intuitive eater would say yes. Intuitive eaters may choose to engage in physical activity for many reasons unrelated to our appearance—e.g. to let off steam, or because it feels good to stretch and move in different ways, or because we love to play a certain sport, or for general wellness, etc. We may still occasionally have thoughts about how physical activity is making our bodies look, but that is not the reason we engage in the activity. (See modules 9 and 10)
I choose styles of physical activity that bring me joy - An intuitive eater would say yes. Intuitive eaters seek out opportunities for movement that are joyful and fun, and don’t push ourselves to engage in activities that aren’t pleasurable. (See modules 9 and 10)
I avoid using physical activity to compensate for my eating or body judgments - An intuitive eater would say yes. Intuitive eaters don’t use exercise as compensation, because we know that turns movement into a punishment rather than a joyful experience. We accept our bodies and our food choices and don’t use exercise to try to "make up for" anything. (See modules 9 and 10)
I take days off from physical activity without feeling guilty - An intuitive eater would say yes. Intuitive eaters know that rest and recovery are essential parts of self-care, and we don’t have any guilt about offering ourselves that care. (See modules 9 and 10)
I limit “body checking” and comparisons to others’ bodies - An intuitive eater would say yes. Intuitive eaters accept our bodies and know that every body is unique. We avoid comparisons and limit the amount of time we spend scrutinizing our bodies, and instead focus on how our bodies feel. (See module 9)
I try to speak to myself kindly - An intuitive eater would say yes. Intuitive eaters know that self-compassion is essential to a happy and healthy life, and we practice it daily by treating ourselves with kindness—even in our own heads. (See modules 1, 5, 9, and 13)
I am aware of my inner critic and actively work to challenge it - An intuitive eater would say yes. Intuitive eaters are attentive to our inner monologues, and can notice when critical messages pop up. We work to challenge those messages and quiet the inner critic, knowing that self-compassion is a much more effective motivation than self-criticism. (See modules 1, 5, 9, and 13)
My food and physical activity choices come from a place of self-care and self-compassion - An intuitive eater would say yes. Intuitive eaters use self-care and self-compassion—instead of self-control—to guide our behaviors. In this way, we are internally motivated to seek balance, nourishment, and pleasure from food and movement. (See modules 1, 5, 9, and 13)
Most of the time, I desire to eat nutritious foods - An intuitive eater would say yes. Notice the word desire here; intuitive eaters want to eat nutritious foods most of the time because it feels good, not because it's a "rule" or because we're "being good." We also want to eat fun foods some of the time because we enjoy them, not because we're "breaking the rules" or "being bad." (See modules 4, 5, 9, and 11)
- I mostly eat foods that give my body energy and stamina - An intuitive eater would say yes. Most of the time, intuitive eaters choose foods that keep us fueled and energized, because that's how we want to feel—not because it's how we think we "should" eat. (See modules 3, 6, 9, and 11)
And that's it for the survey! Now you have a sense of the areas you'll want to focus on in the course. Scroll down for journal exercises to help you reflect on your survey results, set your own goals for the course, and practice self-compassion.
Journal Exercise 1: Reflection
In your journal, reflect on the following questions and write down your responses:
- In the pre-course survey above, what did you identify as the most challenging aspects of intuitive eating for you? (It's totally OK if the answer is "all of them"!)
- Were there any aspects that seemed less challenging, or any that you've already worked on or mastered?
- If so, what in your life has helped you put those elements of intuitive eating into practice?
- What came up for you when you thought about incorporating self-compassion into your efforts to improve your relationship to food?
- Did you notice any positive or negative reactions to the idea of self-compassion?
- Where do you think those reactions might be coming from?
Journal Exercise 2: Goal-setting
Now it's time to set some of your own individual goals for the course:
- Short-term goal: What's one thing you can do this week to work on one of your challenges? Just pick something small.
- For example, if you answered "no" to question 2 of the survey, try to honor a craving once this week, and journal about the experience.
- Or if you noticed that self-compassion is a big challenge for you, you might try to notice moments of self-criticism throughout the week, and work to re-phrase your self-talk using more compassionate language.
- Course goals: Based on your self-assessment, what goals can you set in order to get the most out of this course?
- For example, if you found that your greatest challenges revolve around listening to your body's cues, you might set a goal of devoting an extra week to modules 3 and 6.
Journal Exercise 3: Self-Compassion Practice
This exercise will help you clarify what it means to talk to yourself the way you would talk to a loved one.
Adapted from psychologist Kristin Neff, one of the leading researchers on self-compassion.
- First, try to recall a few times when close friends or loved ones were going through something really difficult. Perhaps they'd experienced grief or loss, or a major career setback, or shame of some kind.
- How did you respond when they shared their pain with you? How do you typically respond to loved ones who are suffering (especially in your better moments, when you're feeling calm and present)? Write down what you do and say in these situations, including the tone of voice in which you speak.
- Now think about a few times when you were going through something difficult. You might bring to mind a time when you felt bad about your body or your relationship with food, in addition to times when you were struggling with feelings of grief, loss, or failure.
- How did you respond to yourself? How do you typically respond when you are suffering? Write down what you do and say in these situations, including the tone of voice in which you speak to yourself.
- Did you notice a difference in how you treat yourself and how you treat others? If so, why might that be? See if you can identify factors in your life that taught you to treat others better than you treat yourself.
- Finally, write down how your life might change if you started treating yourself the way you'd treat a loved one who was suffering.
Meditation: Self-Compassion Break
Use this meditation to take a quick, four-minute self-compassion break anytime.
- For more on the science behind self-compassion, check out the work of psychologists Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer.
- For more on laying the groundwork for intuitive eating, see Tribole & Resch's book Intuitive Eating, chapters 3-4.
Throughout this course I've included relevant episodes of my podcast, Food Psych, and of our Premium series, Ask Food Psych, as bonus content. Look for these bonuses under the heading "further listening."
In the following episode of Ask Food Psych, I answered a listener question about getting started with intuitive eating. And in the episode of Food Psych below, writer and therapist Akirah Robinson shares her own personal experience of learning intuitive eating. Check them out to get an overview of what we'll be working on in the coming weeks:
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