Intuitive Eating

February 27th, 2012 by Sara Upson

Intuitive Eating is a core component to the philosophy at My Signature Nutrition.  Wondering what that even means?  Read on…

Intuitive Eating is an approach coined by dietitians Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA and Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD that teaches you how to create a healthy relationship with food, mind, and body by learning to respond to your body’s internal cues of hunger and fullness.

In its basic essence Intuitive Eating means you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.  This may sound like basic common sense, however often health myths, food rules, or other types of diet mentality will interfere with this basic principle.  For example, you may know someone who does not eat after 8:00pm (or any other set time point) even if they’re hungry, someone who is trying to lose weight so they ignore their hunger, someone who just ate and is already hungry again but thinks they shouldn’t eat anything, or someone who is hungry between meals but chooses not to eat a snack.  With Intuitive Eating you give yourself the permission to eat whenever you’re hungry and stop when you are full.  (But to be clear, you’re not limited to just hunger and fullness, it’s not the eat when you’re hungry stop when you’re full diet.)

With Intuitive Eating you also honor and respect your hunger cues for what type of food sounds appealing and satisfying to you.  This means that all foods can fit into a healthy diet and that there are no “bad” or “good” foods.  By legalizing all foods and giving yourself permission to eat whenever you’re hungry and whatever you’re hungry for you may find that your food preferences actually change because “bad” or “forbidden” foods no longer hold the allure they once did.  You may even find yourself choosing more balanced meals with greater variety because that is what your body is actually hungry for and desires.  You may even find yourself passing on cake, cookies, ice cream, pizza, hamburgers, (or any other food you can’t imagine eating whenever you want) because it actually is not what you are hungry for.

This is where many people get hung up.  Many clients will say, you mean I can have x,y, or z whenever I want.  And the answer is yes, if you’re physically hungry and that is what you body desires, then yes.  Often clients reply, but if I eat that then I’ll never stop eating it!  To which I challenge, you mean if you had x for lunch, you would then want it again for dinner, for breakfast the next day, lunch the next day, dinner the next day, breakfast the day after that, lunch the day after that, and so on?  Usually the answer to that question is no.   Giving yourself the permission to honor your body’s hunger and fullness cues is a very powerful tool and allows you to enjoy what you are eating while reducing the negative stress associated with food selection (i.e. you want this but you think you should really have that).

Many people people are fearful about what will happen to their body if they eat intuitively.  Intuitive eating isn’t about weight, it’s about healing your relationship with food to find peace with food.  Since everyone starts in a different spot it’s difficult to predict how what your body will do.  Some people gain weight, some lose, and some stay the same.  Focusing on your weight in this process isn’t helpful and can be counterproductive.  Studies on Intuitive Eating show that Intuitive Eaters tend to have lower body mass index (BMI) levels, lower disordered eating and eating disorders, eat a variety of foods, enjoy eating, and have better cholesterol levels.(1) Interestingly, studies on dieting (dating as far back as World War II) indicate that dieting itself  causes weight gain.

You may now wonder, how do you begin to eat Intuitively?  Intuitive Eating is a process and you start by learning to listen to your body.  If you haven’t listened to your body for some time, it may take longer to become a competent Intuitive Eater.  Intuitive Eating doesn’t mean eating perfectly, it means discovering your body’s natural internal hunger and fullness cues.  To help you along the way there are 10 principles to 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.

I have listed the principles briefly here, however for more information checkout out the Intuitive Eating website, www.intuitiveeating.org or the book itself, Intuitive Eating.  I highly recommend both.  If you would like help through the process of Intuitive Eating, or have questions, a dietitian is always a great place to start.

  1. Intuitive Eating. Accessed 22 Feb. 2012 <www.IntuitiveEating.org>.

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