It accounts for hunger, satiety, palette, desire, environment, schedule and emotion, making it much more than simply eating when hungry and stopping when full.
Why we need intuitive eating.
Restrict. Binge. Repeat. 45 million Americans follow this pattern every year as they cling to new diets that usually fail after a few short months (Boston Medical Center). Whether people are too obsessed with French fries, or too fixated on cutting calories, most Americans don’t interact with food in a wholesome way. In 1995, two registered dietitian nutritionists, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, recognized the need for healthy mind, body, and food relationships and developed the intuitive eating approach to help break the dieting mentality in the U.S. and beyond.
What is intuitive eating?
Intuitive eating is a wellness framework centered around equipping people to become more in tune with their physical and emotional needs, as they pertain to food. Taking into consideration hunger, satiety, palette, desire, environment, schedule and emotion, it is much more than simply eating when hungry and stopping when full.
Intuitive eating disregards calorie counting and food group restrictions, while improving body image, and good cholesterol. It gives people control of their lives and rebuilds trust between bodies and food. Unlike other eating trends, it address the invisible, yet heavy guilt many people fight everyday when making food choices.
Make no mistake, intuitive eating is not a diet and in fact, its primary goal is not to help people lose weight. Instead, it pursues a deeper level of health by breaking internal and external patterns of chronic dieting, disordered eating, and eating disorders. Over 70 research articles have proven intuitive eating's effectiveness in thought and behavior change. Scientists have found that intuitive eaters have improved body image, decreased emotional eating (Cole, Horace, 2007), lower body mass index (Smith and Hawks, 2006), and many other desirable traits. Altogether, the practice is based on 10 principles.
Principles of Intuitive Eating
Ditch the Diet Mentality. Most diets fail in the long term. Have you tried a diet in the past? If so, how did it leave you feeling when you were no longer following it? Begin to recognize how society is full of shaming rules when it comes to food. Decide to not engage in negative food/body conversations that flood our minds everyday. Learn to quit the comparison and get back intune with your body and what it needs.
Honor Your Hunger. Overtime our body's hunger cues will fade if we don't listen to them. Relearn how to gauge hunger cues within your body and begin to acknowledge and respond to what your body is telling you.
Make peace with food. Certain foods are often restricted because they have been deemed as "bad" in our minds. Try to stop labeling food as "good" or "bad" and move towards consuming all foods in moderation. Unrealistic restriction of food usually leads to binging. Allow yourself to have all types of foods, and gain trust that your body will tell you when/how much you should eat. When you ease up on food rules, the foods you used to crave become less tantalizing and they will soon lose power over you.
Challenge the food police. The food police can be any negative external or internal interaction that causes you to feel guilty while eating a certain food. It can be a thought, a comment from a friend, or a post you read. Learn to recognize unnecessary negativity and take thoughts captive to rid yourself of guilt when coming to the table.
Feel your fullness. Food rules can often cause you to not get enough calories and carbohydrates into your body. Staying in a state of hunger breaks trust with your body and can cause you to binge later. When you relinquish food rules, you often eat less because you know that you’ll be able to have the food again, making it easier to stop when you’re satisfied rather than stuffing yourself on “special” occasions.
Discover the satisfaction factor. Eating what sounds good allows you to feel satisfied while eating less, rather than eating what you “should” PLUS what you really wanted in the first place.
Cope with your emotions without using food. Food is not your counselor. Address your emotions appropriately by doing something that brings a true resolution to your feelings rather than turning to food for a quick band-aide.
Respect your body. You do not have to love what you look like, but you do need to treat your body with the same respect you would give a close friend. Speak kindly to it, invest in it, listen to it.
Exercise-feel the difference. It's easy to focus on calories burned or intense cardio when picking an exercise routine. But if you don't enjoy the exercise you're doing, you're missing out. Instead of focusing on how many calories you're burning, try to find physical activity that brings you joy, and do that.
Honor your health with gentle nutrition. Remember that one day of imperfect eating is not going to cause you to gain ten pounds. Choose food that makes you feel good, and that tastes good. Establish an overall lifestyle of healthy eating, while also eating to enjoy life to the fullest.
Intuitive eating brings freedom to the table and has been life changing for many people. It is counter cultural but extremely universal, meaning anyone can do it. The beauty in intuitive eating is that it helps stop restriction, and therefore binging. It helps people find a satisfied fullness and teaches them how to honor the amount of food the body needs in order to be happy, and to function properly. Most importantly, it can give people freedom in the mind and halt years worth of invasive dieting thoughts. Simply put, it brings joy back into eating.
If you deal with shame, guilt, or confusion when it comes to food, intuitive eating might be a great next step. Reach out to Mikyah Owens, RDN, LD at Honest Nutrition for a free intuitive eating consultation.
Mikyah Owens, RDN, LD, CD
Boston Medical Center. Weight Management. Retrieved from
Cole, R., & Horacek, T. (2007). Effectiveness of the “My Body Knows When” Intuitive Eating
Non-Dieting Weight Management Pilot Program. Journal of the American Dietetic
Association, 107(8). doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2007.05.238
Smith, T.S., and Hawks, S.R. (2006). Intuitive eating, diet composition, and the eating of food
in healthy weight promotion. American Journal of Health Education, 37, 130-136.