“Does Intuitive Eating just mean eat whatever, whenever you want? How can that possibly be healthy?”
If this thought is racing through your mind, you are not alone! There are many misconceptions about Intuitive Eating. In this post, I’ll set the record straight about the gentle nutrition approach.
WHAT IS INTUITIVE EATING?
Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based anti-diet framework that prioritizes physical AND mental health. It’s not the “eat whatever you want diet.” Rather, IE is an approach that can help you heal your relationship with food rediscover your natural abilities for nourishment.
Intuitive Eating was founded by two registered dietitians, Evelyn Tribole MS, RD, CEDRD-S and Elyse Resch, CEDRD-S, Fiaedp, FADA, FAND. Drawing from mindfulness concepts and nutrition science, Intuitive Eating is is composed of 10 principles to steer you away from diets and toward a healthy relationship with food and your body.
How Does Intuitive Eating Work?
As you learn and apply the 10 principles, you clear out food rules and restrictions that are taking a toll on your health. This de-cluttering process enables you realign with your values and health goals and listen to your body.
In research studies, Intuitive Eating is associated with a range of health benefits including:
Decreased binge eating behaviors
Decreased disordered eating behaviors
Improved body image
Improved cholesterol numbers
What Are the 10 Principles?
Here’s a breakdown of the 10 principles and what each means:
Reject the Diet Mentality. Exhale the food rules. Critical thoughts and judgements about food do not benefit your health. Rather, the diet mentality keeps you trapped in the restrict-binge cycle and intensifies your food cravings and obsessions. This principle is about letting go of “black and white” thinking around food and embracing the nuances of food and nutrition.
Honor Your Hunger. Discover what hunger feels like in your body and let it guide your eating patterns. Once you let go of the food rules holding you back (like “it’s not time to eat yet!”) you will find it easier to hear and respond to hunger at the right times for your body.
Make Peace with Food. Give yourself permission to eat the foods you want with atonement. Inviting once forbidden foods back in your life will improve your relationship with food and quality of life. When a food is off limits, we want the forbidden fruit more than anything. Once you give unconditional permission to eat all foods you enjoy, you no longer feel controlled by food.
Challenge the Food Police. Acknowledge that inner critical voice criticizing your food choices. This principle is about questioning the food rules and letting go of them.Once you see how the food rules are not rooted in science, you strengthen your nurturing voice and can listen to your body.
Discover the Satisfaction Factor. Find pleasure in food. Eating with minimal distractions enables us to tune into the present experience and enjoy a variety of flavors, textures, and tastes. Multitasking through a meal or eating “air foods” often lead to feelings of deprivation later. When we’re tuned in, we’re more likely to reach that natural point of satisfaction.
Feel Your Fullness. Learn what fullness feels like in your body so you are comfortable after meals, rather than left feeling hungry or stuffed. When you’re not deprived, your body will let you know when it has enough food.
Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness. Recognize that it’s okay to eat emotionally. At the same time, acknowledge that food will not help you solve difficult emotions on its own. Getting to the root cause of your emotions, and understanding what you need to cope in a moment of difficulty. Practice asking yourself, “what do I need right now?”
Respect Your Body. Accept your here and now body. See that there is nothing wrong with your body and it doesn’t need fixing. All bodies are good bodies, and yours is worthy of dignity and respect.
Movement - Feel the Difference. Move your body joyfully. Rather than punishing yourself with extreme exercise, engage in physical activity that is kind to your body. Whether that’s running outside, practicing yoga, swimming, or walking the dog, find an outlet that feels good for you.
Honor Your Health - Gentle Nutrition. Apply concepts of nutrition science is a balanced way. Eat in a way that makes you feel good emotionally and physically. Remember that there is room for all of your favorite foods in a healthy lifestyle.
Here are some recent studies on Intuitive Eating, if you’d like to read-up on more science!
Bégin C, Carbonneau E, Gagnon-Girouard MP, Mongeau L, Paquette MC, Turcotte M, Provencher V (2018.). Eating-Related and Psychological Outcomes of Health at Every Size Intervention in Health and Social Services Centers Across the Province of Québec. Am J Health Promot. 2018 Jan 1:890117118786326. doi: 10.1177/0890117118786326
Da Silva, W. R., Neves, A. N., Ferreira, L., Campos, J. A. D. B., & Swami, V. (2018). A psychometric investigation of Brazilian Portuguese versions of the Caregiver Eating Messages Scale and Intuitive Eating Scale-2. Eating and Weight Disorders – Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity. doi:10.1007/s40519-018-0557-3
Homan KJ and Tylka TL. (2018). Development and exploration of the gratitude model of body appreciation in women. Body Image. 2018 Feb 8;25:14-22. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2018.01.008.
Peschel SKV, Tylka TL, Williams DP, Kaess M, Thayer JF, Koenig J. (2018). Is intuitive eating related to resting state vagal activity? Auton Neurosci. Mar;210:72-75. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2017.11.005.
Ruzanska UA and Warschburger P (2017). Psychometric evaluation of the German version of the Intuitive Eating Scale-2 in a community sample. Appetite. 117:126-134.