What is intuitive eating?
Intuitive eating is defined as a dynamic process of being in tune with the mind, body and food. This adaptive form of eating is based on interoceptive awareness, and encourages an individual to be in tune with hunger and satiety cues to regulate food intake.
Statistics show that dieting in any form does not work. In fact, Evelyn Tribole, founder of intuitive eating, states that not only does dieting not work, it is the root of many problems -- including childhood obesity, eating disorders and likelihood of gaining more weight long-term.
The reality: Dieting mindset is solely for the sake of weight loss as opposed to an overall change in lifestyle and health. Practicing intuitive eating allows you to reject this diet mindset, and truly trust your body so that you may start to feel freedom when enjoying food.
Reject diet culture
One of the first steps to begin practicing intuitive eating is rejecting the diet culture. This can be challenging, as diet culture is all around us.
This process identifies specific dietary rules that have been set to achieve a certain body shape or weight, and works to reject them. This is an important step as dieting can actually be harmful and lead to subsequent weight gain later on, or potentially lead to the onset of disordered eating.
Intuitive eating helps take the focus off of weight and instead put it towards making sustainable changes to improve overall health.
Honor your hunger cues
Another piece of intuitive eating is listening to your body’s hunger cues.
Hunger is your body’s signal for survival. Your body is smart and knows when it needs to be fueled, so it deserves to be treated with respect. By honoring your hunger, you can start to trust your body while healing your relationship with food.
Signs of hunger vary from person to person; some tend to feel lethargic, others get a “gnawing” feeling in their throat, a headache, or maybe even no signs at all.
Knowing your hunger cues will help ensure you get an adequate amount of food throughout the day so that you can then begin to know your satiety cues. This ultimately will help you know when you’re full or if you need more fuel.
Make peace with food
Intuitive eating also focuses on allowing your body and mind to make peace with food in order to build a positive relationship with food. This involves not labeling foods as “good” or “bad” which can lead to wanting the “bad foods” even more.
Again, food is a form of survival. Avoiding foods that you’ve labeled as “bad” can lead to overeating later on. In order to counteract this, one can make peace with food by giving themselves permission to eat what they’d like. With intuitive eating, one can begin allowing all foods to be eaten by not labeling them as “good” or bad.” Intuitive eating involves no judgment. Be kind to yourself and allow your mind to be free of the “dos and don’ts” of eating.
Cope with your emotions with kindness
Food restriction (i.e. dieting) can physically and emotionally trigger loss of control which can lead to emotional eating.
Stress, anxiety, loneliness, boredom and anger are common emotions we experience throughout life and are managed through different coping mechanisms. When experiencing these emotions, remember food may help provide comfort for a short period; however, it will not solve the problem.
Emotional eating can further provoke your emotions by inducing guilt and shame about your body or perception of health. Intuitive eating helps recognize emotional eating and encourages respecting your genetic blueprint; this means respecting, loving and nurturing your body for what it is.
Honor your health & feel the difference with movement
Another important component of intuitive eating is making food choices that honor your health. You can do this by making food choices that make your body feel good.
It is important to remember that there is no “one food” out there that will make you unhealthy by consuming it. What you eat consistently is what plays a major role in your overall health.
Along with honoring your health through food choices, it is important to emphasize joyful movement. Intuitive eating encourages how movement makes you feel overall, rather than focusing on how many calories are being burned. Shifting your focus to how movement feels within your daily activities can improve your overall mood within your day.
The big picture
The overall goal of intuitive eating is to integrate the mind and body together by cultivating or removing obstacles to body awareness.
Intuitive eating is a journey that encompasses honoring your health by listening and responding to the direct message of the body’s need. This journey encourages being respectful and kind to your body and celebrate progress and challenges along the way.
If you are interested in learning more about intuitive eating reach out to your local Registered Dietitian for further guidance. For additional information on intuitive eating, click here.
Article written by Jasmine Sanchez and Bai Xiong. Jasmine and Bai are first-year students in the Cox College Nutrition Diagnostics master’s program.
Cadena-Schlam, Leslie, & López-Guimerà, Gemma (2015). Intuitive eating: An emerging approach to eating behavior. Nutrición Hospitalaria, 31(3),995-1002.
ISSN: 0212-1611. Retrieved from: https://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=3092/309235369001
Tribole, E. (2012). Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works. 3rd Edition. St. Martin's Publishing Group.
Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2019). Definition of Intuitive Eating.Retrieved from https://www.intuitiveeating.org/definition-of-intuitive-eating/
Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (n.d.). 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating. Retrieved from https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/