Can You Be an Athlete and An Intuitive Eater? Thoughts from a Sports Nutritionist, Part 1


Written By: Lauren Weissman, Dietetic Intern

Reviewed By: Lauren Manganiello, MS, RD, CDN, RYT;  Intuitive Eating Sports Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher

If you know anything about intuitive eating, it would seem like the answer to this question would be no.

I mean, in the world of competitive sports and sports nutrition, when anyone talks about diet, it’s always about specific food choices and nutrient timing.

Food is utilitarian and so many athletes eat according to specific goals: lose weight, gain weight, get faster, get stronger, etc. and not about enjoyment or satisfaction. 

Unfortunately, these dietary restrictions can overflow from fueling for sport into everyday life resulting in increasing amounts of athletes with relationships with food that are unhealthy.

The longer this relationship goes on, the more likely it is for that disordered relationship to turn into a full-blown eating disorder.

Not only is this problematic because of the toll it can take on a person in the obvious ways, ie obsession over food, drastic weight fluctuations, mental health issues… there are other side effects that most don’t realize can occur like electrolyte imbalances, cardiovascular abnormalities, stroke, hormonal imbalances, loss of menstruation leading to osteoporosis, and the list goes on.

The irony in all of this is that while most athletes begin strict diets in order to optimize performance and improve in their sport, the snowball effect they see because of the restrictions these diets have ends up leaving them with a negative return on their investments. 

In contrast, Intuitive Eating takes a much gentler approach to creating a relationship with food.  It takes the focus away from exterior rules and restrictions putting it back on getting in touch with what’s going on inside your body and mind.

So, getting back to the question- can you be an athlete and an intuitive eater? 

My answer to you is, yes.  If done properly, following the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating will only help an athlete to maintain a healthier relationship with food and their body.

I’ll talk to you a little bit more about how each step can apply in later posts, so stay tuned!