Intuitive Eating

August 12, 2019

Most people are starting to accept the idea that “diets” — the kind you go on and then off of — don’t work in the long run. In fact, reports now show that about 90 to 95 percent of all diets fail! One of the ironies behind failed diets and yo-yo dieting is that, ultimately, some diets even make you fat.

Meanwhile, people tend to blame themselves, feeling like a lack of willpower, no self-control and bad genetics are the reasons they can’t lose weight and keep it off. Sometimes they blame themselves so much that they stop eating and enter into a dangerous starvation mode, rather than adopting a more healthful approach, like mindful eating.

Along the lines of more healthful approaches to eating comes “intuitive eating” (or IE): an emerging approach to sustainable healthy eating and body acceptance. Intuitive eaters believe the blame shouldn’t be put on “dieters” themselves, but instead on the flawed process of dieting. Is intuitive eating evidence-based? Yes, according to dozens of studies, this approach seems promising and a “realistic alternative to address overweight and obesity than conventional weight-loss treatments.”

What Is Intuitive Eating?

What is the definition of intuitive eating? There isn’t just one definition of intuitive eating, as different people approach this style of eating in unique ways. The term “intuitive eating” was first coined in the 1990s by the authors of the Intuitive Eating book, Registered Dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyze Resch. They described IE as “a new way of eating that is ultimately struggle-free and healthy for your mind and body. It is a process that unleashes the shackles of dieting (which can only lead to deprivation, rebellion and rebound weight gain). It means getting back to your roots — trusting your body and its signals.”

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, the definition of intuitive eating is: “Trusting your inner body wisdom to make choices around food that feel good in your body, without judgment and without influence from diet culture.”

Rates of obesity and being overweight continue to climb, yet more and more people report being on “diets” than ever. It’s finally clicked with some of the public that we need another way to approach healthier eating. Many studies have found positive implications for IE, including protecting against obesity, lowering body mass indexes, leading to a healthier mindset about food, lowering cortisol levels and improving body image.

The Basics of IE:

Evelyn Tribole and Elyze Resch call their approach a “180-degree departure from dieting.” Instead of a strong focus on weight loss, deprivation, cutting or counting calories and writing off certain foods, their goal is to teach people how to eat in a way that supports a healthier relationship with food. In essence, the goal of IE is to practice health on every level — both physically and mentally.

How do you learn to be intuitive when it comes to making food choices? One way is to follow the 10 principles of intuitive eating (see below). Dietitians and therapists involved in intuitive eating research have also put together several different general guidelines for IE, which include:

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