Intuitive Eating — What It Is and What It Isn't

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If you’ve been following the buzz around diet culture lately you’re sure to have seen what appears to be a new approach to diet and consumption.

Intuitive eating.

Quite the opposite of paleo, keto, intermittent fasting and such – intuitive eating has slowly taken the diet world by storm.

Fed up with restrictive diets and unsustainable results, many dieters are reclaiming their power around food. And they’re doing so by listening to the one person who knows them best – themselves.

But what exactly does intuitive eating mean?

In a nutshell, it’s a mind-body approach to health. It provides an opportunity to work on your relationship with food without the judgment, guilt and shame that’s often associated with diet culture and weight.

According to Evelyn Tribole, Registered Dietitian and intuitive eating pioneer, “Intuitive eating is a personal process of honoring health by listening and responding to the direct messages of the body in order to meet your physical and psychological needs.”

It may seem like an intuitive process, but for many, it’s not. Though we’re all born intuitive eaters, that can change for a variety of reasons as we age. Regardless, there’s a power that comes from relearning to trust your body.

To do this, you need to understand the difference between physical and emotional hunger and what it means to you.

Physical hunger is a biological need to replenish energy and nutrients; it’s satisfied when you eat.

Emotional hunger is a physical sensation driven by emotions; food doesn’t resolve it.

A growing number of therapists and dietitians have endorsed this approach to health and consumption. But can the best advice for dieters really be to stop dieting?

Let’s take a more in-depth look at what intuitive eating is and what it isn’t. Because, quite frankly, it might be an excellent way for you to eat.

Intuitive eating isn’t

– a diet or food plan
– eating based on externality
– eating with reckless abandon
– disregarding your health
– ignoring your hunger cues
– using food to mask your feelings

Intuitive eating is

– unconditional permission to eat
– removing shame, guilt and fear around food
– allowing yourself to find pleasure in eating
– non-restrictive
– listening to your hunger cues
– not labeling food (good and bad)
– taking power away from the scale or weight
– in line with the health at every size model (HAES)
– an empowerment tool
– a sustainable way to eat and live

And research is supporting it.

Study after study shows diets don’t work. On the contrary, they result in weight gain. Rothblum (2018) reported, “The overwhelming majority of people who lose even 5–10% of body weight have regained it 1 year later.” Worse, health that focuses predominantly on body weight has shown to result in body dissatisfaction, reduced health and well-being and reduced quality of life (O’Hara & Taylor, 2018).

So there you have it – an overview of intuitive eating.

I’ll leave you with its 10 principles, developed by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch:

  1. Reject the diet mentality

  2. Honor your hunger

  3. Make peace with food

  4. Challenge the food police

  5. Respect your fullness

  6. Discover the satisfaction factor

  7. Honor your feelings without using food

  8. Respect your body

  9. Exercise – feel the difference

  10. Honor your health

 

References

O’ Hara, L. and Taylor J. (2018) What’s wrong with war on obesity? A narrative review of the weight-centered health paradigm and development of the 3C framework to build critical competency for a paradigm shift. SAGE Open: Apr-June: 1-28. doi.org/10.1177/2158244018772888

Rothblum, E. (2018). Slim chance for permanent weight loss. Archives of Scientific Psychology: 6, 63–69. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/arc0000043

Tribole, E. and Resch (2013). Intuitive Eating, 3rd ed. St. Martin’s Press: NY, NY.