- There is nothing inherently gendered about intuitive eating.
- Intuitive eating is a way to reclaim what our culture has largely lost—a direct, intimate, and appreciative relationship with our bodies.
- Practice listening to and honoring bodily signals, not from a place of forceful control but from a place of collaboration.
Intuitive eating for men is an attractive proposition. Just listen to your body, and it will tell you what it wants.
What if my body wants beer and a donut?
Slow down and pay really close attention to how it makes you feel. Not just in the moment, but later as well.
What if the people around me are filling their plates with seconds and having another drink?
Start a conversation with your body. Ask if it’s truly hungry.
You want me to talk to my body?
Yes. Not just talk to it, but also listen to it and learn from it.
The Art of Listening to Your Body
For many men, the idea of having a conversation with their bodies is a foreign concept. Eating just happens, often without much thought or awareness. The meal is over when the food is gone, regardless of how one feels about it.
Our multitasking, eat-while-you-work culture only exacerbates this disconnected way of eating. When you’re snarfing down a sandwich in front of a screen, you’re not paying attention to how your body is feeling—a prime opportunity for internal cues of fullness to get overridden by social and environmental cues to keep eating.
Intuitive eating is a way to reclaim what our culture has largely lost: a direct, intimate, and appreciative conversation with our bodies.
Yet, getting men to open up to the idea of intuitive eating requires confronting socialization around food and feelings that disconnect them from their body.
Here are three places for men to practice intuitive eating as a means of reclaiming their bodily wisdom:
1. Stop Forcing and Start Listening
Because men have been conditioned from an early age to disconnect from their emotions, trusting one’s body can be difficult. Hunger and fullness often get brushed aside as unimportant.
A “real man“ tells his body what to do. Not the other way around.
From gym floors to dinner tables, this mind-over-body approach is evident. When guys inhibit their body, it’s typically all about force—force it to move faster, lift heavier, go longer, and achieve more.
However, the act of eating is fundamentally not about forcing. Eating is about receiving:
- Receiving energy in the form of calories.
- Receiving cellular information in the form of micronutrients and phytochemicals.
- Receiving pleasure in the form of taste, aroma, and flavor.
- Receiving satiety in the form of fullness and plenitude.
- Receiving connection through the web of plants, animals, and soil from which we are inextricably tied.
The challenge is that traditionally masculine ways of relating to the body aren’t very good at receiving. It’s too feminine—too yin for the masculine yang.
I see this manifest when groups of guys eat together. They’re often not dining as much as they are feeding. The act of eating is one giant push to satisfy hunger—get satiated and move on.
This can lead to overeating, mindless snacking, or a complete disregard for the quality of food one consumes. Intuitive eating is a way to rebuild trust with your body. Yet, to get there, you may need to unlearn the ways in which masculinity relates to the body through force and will.
2. Build Your Body Satisfaction
Men have largely been ignored in the intuitive eating literature (Van Dyke & Drinkwater, 2014). This is not because men are less likely to benefit from intuitive eating but because intuitive eating arose primarily in response to a highly gendered phenomenon: “diet culture.”
Diet culture can be described as the sociocultural pursuit of thinness that is reinforced by guilt-based messaging around food. Diet culture creates a backdrop of shame and blame around one’s body size. Moreover, it upholds an implicit body hierarchy (i.e., thinner is more beautiful) that leads to weight stigma and food hypervigilance.
Because intuitive eating has primarily focused on women who feel burdened by the dissatisfactions of diet culture, many men foreclose on the concept of intuitive eating, assuming it’s not relevant to them.
Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Even if men feel less encumbered by relentless messaging around diets, many still feel anxious about their appearance and dissatisfied with their bodies.
Body dissatisfaction is largely associated with how much men internalize the “mesomorphic ideal”—the muscular physique of stereotypical heroes and athletes (Gerrard et al., 2021).
The issue is that the muscular male body satisfies basic human needs for mastery, competence, and power. A guy who forces his body into the mesomorphic mold has exhibited mastery over the physical, competence in fitness and nutrition, and a powerful presence.
Even if guys don’t consciously endorse the stereotypical male physique, it’s in the air we breathe. The sociocultural pressure to adhere to this ideal, even if it's unrealistic, unattainable, or unhealthy for a particular individual, creates a backdrop of stress for men who feel like their bodies will never be enough.
This is perhaps where men can gain the greatest benefit of intuitive eating: increasing body satisfaction by letting go of culturally defined standards of beauty. Multiple studies have found that intuitive eating helps people develop greater body satisfaction by focusing on the appreciation of the functionality and health of the human body, instead of its appearance (Bruce & Ricciardelli, 2016). When you actually listen for your body’s story, you can’t help but feel more appreciative of all it does for you and are more likely to treat it with respect.
3. Eat What Your Body Needs—Responsibly
Intuitive eating rejects the moralization of food as “good” or “bad.” The goal is to build a felt understanding of how the food you eat impacts your body, mood, and energy. This nonjudgmental stance can relieve the stress of restricted diets, yet many guys take it at face value to eat without abandon.
This is where intuitive eating for men often goes astray. Asking your body what it wants and then eating yourself into a food coma does not qualify as intuitive eating. Without an ongoing inquiry into what your body is telling you, you are likely to miss its most important messages.
It’s common to confuse intuitive eating with instinctual eating:
- Instinctual eating is opportunistic and uncritical—see food; eat it. It is wholesale permission to eat anything and everything because it is driven by our animal instinct for survival.
- Intuitive eating is conscious communication with your body about hunger, fullness, and satisfaction. It is more discerning of what your body actually needs and how those needs are shaped by the unnatural environment we live in.
An intuitive eater will check in with his body and ask what he’s truly hungry for. Then he will assess how external factors like time of day, other people eating, and food advertisements are influencing his desire to eat.
This turns eating from a truncated one-liner—see food; eat—to a real conversation that is both internally regulated and socioculturally shaped.
The Difficulty of Eating Intuitively
The challenge is that we live in a food environment that’s very different from what our bodies evolved to know and trust. Our instinct to eat whatever is in sight is woven into our DNA. The impulsive part of us doesn't want to bother having a real conversation with our bodies. That takes too much effort.
The legacy of instinctual eating also jibes well with traditional masculine norms. “I can eat anything I want,” speaks to the masculine desire for control, autonomy, and power. It frames eating as a personal choice that no one can mess with, not an externally enforced government or media agenda.
Eating without restriction feels empowering, but it misses the other side of the eating coin: With personal choice comes personal responsibility.
While all foods may be morally equivalent, they’re not all nutritionally equivalent. The quality of food matters for your physical and mental health.
This is where intuitive eating meets the reality of a world filled with ultra-processed, hyper-palatable treats. Hunger cues can get hijacked by sugary, dopamine-stimulating foods that create cravings. These impulses to eat may masquerade as intuition, but these are really addictive substances playing tricks on your nervous system (Lennerz & Lennerz, 2018).
If what you eat makes you feel anxious, fatigued, or bloated, you need to take responsibility for these consequences. Intuitive eating asks you to figure out what your body actually needs, not what you think you want, and this takes ongoing investigation and a lot of patience.
Making Intuitive Eating Accessible for Men
When we move beyond gender notions of intuitive eating, we create a space for men to be more vulnerable with their own bodies. Men deserve a deeper relationship with their bodies, and this begins by listening to and honoring bodily signals, not from a place of forceful control but from a place of collaboration.
Experimenting with intuitive eating in the privacy of your home can be a helpful starting place since it may free you from the social constraints that lead to disconnection and domination over your body.
Practice slowing down and staying attuned to the signals you feel before, during, and after eating. See if you can be mindful of what feels nourishing. Over time, you can use the sensations of hunger and fullness as a guide for choosing satisfying and nutritious foods.
There is a great deal to be gained in liberating yourself from imposed ideas of "bad foods" and "good bodies." The best part is that you can start reconnecting with your internal wisdom about eating right now by asking your body what it’s truly hungry for.
Bruce, L. J., & Ricciardelli, L. A. (2016). A systematic review of the psychosocial correlates of intuitive eating among adult women. Appetite, 96, 454–472. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2015.10.012
Gerrard, O., Galli, N., Santurri, L., & Franklin, J. (2021). Examining body dissatisfaction in college men through the exploration of appearance anxiety and internalization of the mesomorphic ideal. Journal of American college health: J of ACH, 69(5), 560–566. https://doi.org/10.1080/07448481.2019.1704412
Lennerz, B., & Lennerz, J. K. (2018). Food Addiction, High-Glycemic-Index Carbohydrates, and Obesity. Clinical chemistry, 64(1), 64–71. https://doi.org/10.1373/clinchem.2017.273532
Linardon, J., Tylka, T. L., & Fuller-Tyszkiewicz, M. (2021). Intuitive eating and its psychological correlates: A meta-analysis. The International journal of eating disorders, 54(7), 1073–1098. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.23509
Van Dyke, N., & Drinkwater, E. J. (2014). Relationships between intuitive eating and health indicators: literature review. Public health nutrition, 17(8), 1757–1766. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1368980013002139