9 SMART Goals for Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating means getting in touch with your internal wisdom to cultivate a healthy relationship with food. This is done by rebuilding your connection between your mind and your body.

So when you are hungry, you eat, and when you’re full, you don’t eat. It may sound simple, but it’s not always obvious how to get there, depending on your starting point. Setting SMART goals is a great way to become a more intuitive eater.

Remember: Intuitive eating is about you listening to your own body. SMART goals are just a tool that might help you learn to do that more effectively. Trusting yourself is the overarching goal.

What is a SMART goal?

SMART is an acronym: It stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Setting SMART goals is a nice first step on the intuitive eating path.

SSpecific What will be accomplished? What actions will you take?

MMeasurable How will you measure your accomplishments?

AAchievable Is the goal doable? Do you have the skills and resources you need?

RRelevant Why is the goal important?

TTime-bound What is the time frame for accomplishing the goal?

What does a SMART goal for intuitive eating look like?

A SMART goal provides a clear objective to do something—in this case, to help you learn how to eat more intuitively. When setting SMART goals for intuitive eating, be sure to look at each letter of the acronym and make sure the goal aligns with all of them.

For example, if you struggle with binge eating and you want to become an intuitive eater, you might decide this is a good goal:
I’m going to stop eating so much that my stomach hurts.

The goal seems worthwhile, but let’s assess it based on the SMART goal guidelines. Is that goal specific? Not really. How do you put that into action on a day-to-day basis to make progress toward it? It’s too vague. Is the goal measurable? You could count the number of times you eat until your stomach hurts, so yes. Is it achievable? Someone who binge eats may or may not have the tools and techniques they need to change an entrenched behavior, so maybe. Is the goal relevant? Yes. Is it time-bound? No.

A SMART goal version of that would be:

For one week, I will notice how my stomach feels before and after eating snacks and meals.

This is specific, although you can make it even more specific by committing to journaling about how your stomach feels before and after eating. It is measurable, because you can either see what you have journaled, or mentally check off whether you noticed how your stomach felt before and after meals. Is it achievable? It might be a bit challenging to remember before and after eating, but if you forget a few times, that’s okay. It’s about the intention to be more mindful. So yes, it is achievable. Is it relevant? Yes. Learning to be mindful is a big part of intuitive eating. Is it time-bound? Absolutely. One week, before and after eating.

This is the assessment process you can use if you decide to come up with your own SMART goals for intuitive eating. For suggestions on SMART goals for intuitive eating, see below.

Can I use SMART goals to heal from an eating disorder?

For someone with an eating disorder like binge eating, bulimia, or anorexia, intuitive eating can be a healing tool in the recovery process. These individuals may struggle with shame, anxiety, rigid rules, and relentless thoughts about eating and/or body size.

As you think about setting SMART goals to become an intuitive eater, keep in mind that you want to move away from rigid thinking and rules that may have contributed to disordered eating behaviors. Intuitive eating will feel like a release from binary thinking (“good/bad,” “allowed/not allowed”) to a more reflective and allowing place.

Although SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, intuitive eating is a practice. So you can become more familiar with it, but it’s not something you will ever check off a to-do list as “done.” Intuitive eating describes a relationship with food. As with all relationships, it is ever-changing.

Intuitive eating doesn’t mean you will always eat perfectly (whatever that means), or that you will never feel self critical. But you will be learning to allow for moments of self criticism, or eating behaviors that cause suffering.

When you create space to allow these moments to exist, you begin dissolving a perfection-oriented worldview—where you act out a destructive cycle of behavior-and-punishment. In its place, you begin opening to a more expansive, noticing-and-allowing worldview. With this perspective, thoughts and behaviors are not pushed away. They are acknowledged and allowed—even when they are painful.

9 SMART goals for intuitive eating

  1. Serve food on a plate or a bowl. (1 week)

    This is about taking the time to prepare and be with the food before you eat it. Our ancestors all spent time preparing food before they ate it. Even if you’re just pouring something out of a bag, there is value to this ritual of food preparation.

  2. Draw what you eat. (1 week)

    If you enjoy drawing, this is a fun one. Get a sketchbook and quickly sketch your food before you eat it. If you end up eating without sketching, you can go back and draw it from memory. This is another way to spend time with your food before you consume it. It is about noticing and accepting what you choose to put into your body—even if it’s a pile of chips.

  3. Eat meals with no screens. (1 week)

    Increase your attention on your meal by shutting off any screens that are within eyesight.

  4. Notice your hunger levels before and after eating. (1 week)

    You may choose to journal these thoughts or you can just consciously notice them in your mind. If it helps, print out a hunger scale to help you reflect on how you’re feeling and to easily reference these feelings with an assigned number.

  5. Read a book about intuitive eating. (in the next month)

    We like Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, but there are many great ones out there. If you’re not a reader, you can also listen to an audiobook version.

  6. Breathe while you eat. (1 week)

    It might help to put up notes in the places you usually eat that help you remember to do this. They could say something like “eat–breathe–eat–breathe.”

  7. Make note of at least one smell you notice per meal or snack. (1 week)

    This can increase your curiosity and enjoyment of the foods you consume. What smells did you notice? Are you finding that you are noticing smells more often since you started working on this goal?

  8. Set meal times. (1 week)

    Life is about rhythm. Humans thrive on it. When you eat at the same time every day, it makes it easier to relax and trust the process. Set the intention to eat meals at certain times each day.

  9. Write down what you eat. (1 week)

    This goal won’t be for everyone. If you find it makes you anxious or triggers you in any way, it might not be the right fit right now (or ever). But for some, this can be a nice way to acknowledge and accept the food that you’ve chosen to put into your body.

    Sometimes when we binge, part of that cycle is eating so much or so quickly that we may not even consciously notice or remember what we ate. This goal seeks to take inventory of everything we eat, even when we binge. The larger goal here is acceptance of our experiences and behaviors rather than numbing from them.

These are just ideas. Experiment and find what works for you. Creativity and healing go hand-in-hand, so move in the direction of hope and inspiration.

SMART goals can help you become a more intuitive eater. They can also help you heal from disordered eating.


Are you ready to heal your relationship with food? Having an experienced therapist or dietitian by your side can be hugely beneficial.

Reach out today for a free 15-minute intake call.