Intuitive Eating

Inuitive eating is an evidenced-based, mind-body health approach, comprised of 10 principles and created by two Dieticians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995. As a nondiet approach to health, the focus is shifted away from weight outcomes and toward the improvement of health otcomes and psychological wellbeing. Intuitive eating is not measured by pounds lost. Instead, it is measured in how our thoughts, feelings and behavior change.

Now you may be thinking without the structure of a diet, wouldn’t people start to be unhealthy? This is a common misconception. In fact, if you look at the research—it’s clear that intuitive eaters have higher self-esteem, higher well-being, and lower body mass indexes. They eat a variety of foods and have greater trust in their bodies by focusing on their internal cues versus the short term external cues of a diet.

Tribole explains it as this:

“A wonderful thing ends up happening when you give yourself permission to, say, eat chocolate doughnuts for breakfast,” she says. “You stop and ask yourself, ‘Do I really want this now?’ Not just, ‘Will I enjoy it in the moment,’ but also ‘Will I feel good when I’m finished?’ And often, people realize they don’t really want that food that was forbidden before; they just got caught up in society telling them they couldn’t have it.”

In 2014 the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics published A review of interventions that promote eating by internal cues. This paper explored the efficacy and the physical and psychological benefits of all “non-restrictive” dietary approaches. After reviewing 20 peer-reviewed interventions based on intuitive eating principles the authors concluded that, overall, overweight or obese participants who learned to eat intuitively achieved significant decreases in weight or maintained their weight.

Furthermore, other positive benefits included:

  • Better relationship with food and decreased disordered eating

  • Improvements in blood pressure, lipids, and cardiorespiratory fitness—even in the absence of weight loss

  • Positive physiological benefits including decreased depression and anxiety

  • Increased self-esteem

  • Improved body image

  • Lower rates of attrition as compared to traditional weight loss programs –speaks to the long term sustainability of intuitive eating

(Reference: Schaefer JT & Magnuson AB. (2014). A review of interventions that promote eating by internal cues. J Acad Nutr Diet; 114: 734-760.) 

As mentioned, there are 10 principles of intuitive eating:

  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

For more information on the 10 principles and how to apply them, click here!

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