Intuitive Eating isn’t just eating what you feel like when you feel like. In fact, IE is an evidence-based weight-neutral health approach developed by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995. Intuitive Eating is guided by 10 principles, with validated assessment tools such as the Intuitive Eating Scale-2 and a growing body of scientific studies to support this weight-inclusive approach.
Intuitive eating is an adaptive dietary behavior that promotes eating in response to physiological hunger and fullness cues (internal). According to several studies, it is associated with healthier lifestyle choices including lower body-mass index (BMI), and positive psychological well-being. Numerous cross-sectional studies have reported strong and consistent associations between intuitive eating and body appreciation.
Registered (associate) nutritionists and dietitians guide clients using the 10 principles of IE. These help you by cultivating or removing challenges to body awareness which have been upheld by the multi-billion-dollar diet and weight loss industry and sadly been intertwined into health messaging.
Now being an intuitive eater doesn’t mean you’ll be jolly, body-positive and floating around on a cloud all day. But it could mean you won’t let spurious information about sugar, fats or “super foods” ruin having a cupcake every now and then.
One study by study by Jake Linardo and Sarah Mitchell showed that intuitive eating predicted lower prevalence of disordered eating behaviours and body image concerns (hang-ups over weight, body shape, reasons for exercise), in comparison to rigid dietary control which presents inflexible rules about what, when and how much to eat (external cues). While intuitive eaters were also more likely to experience body appreciation, rigid dieting was a consistent predictor of disordered eating and negative body image.
So is it mindful eating?
Not exactly, but I can understand where the confusion may come about since intuitive eating includes mindful eating. Mindful eating is a process of intentionally paying attention to your actual eating experience without judgment. Both approaches don’t promote specific eating patterns (diets) but empower persons to reconnect with their inner cues to make decisions around eating and fully engage with the experience.
10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honour Your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Feel Your Fullness
- Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
- Respect Your Body
- Movement—Feel the Difference
- Honour Your Health—Gentle Nutrition
Can you lose weight while practising intuitive eating?
That’s a bit hard to give a straight answer as it depends on everyone’s relationship with food and their body. Intuitive Eating is not focused on losing weight but is a great way to evaluate and change those food hang-ups and dieting rules we have. Truly neutralizing foods and enjoying the experience of eating plays a big role in how we start to notice our internal hunger and satiety cues. For some that may mean weight gain, while for other’s fixing this relationship may mean they lose weight.
What about the Nutrition? I’m sure I’ll want to eat everything in sight!
Nutrition and regular exercise are critical for good health, but as I’ve come to realise in my time as a nutritionist, those are not the only things to consider. Intuitive Eating is a personal process of honouring health by listening and responding to your body’s messages in order to meet your physical and psychological needs. Only you know what hunger, fullness, and satisfaction feel like. Only you know your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
Despite what you’ve heard before about bingeing on “junk foods”, when you take a more intuitive approach (being an intuitive eater), you will start to notice that those foods are no longer triggers. Shocking right?!
That’s because you are nourishing yourself for more than nutrition. You can begin to feel more at ease with having macaroni pie, cookies and fries when you want, without thinking dichotomously, “this will ruin my diet”. They really won’t!
For more information, you can reach out to a non-diet (intuitive eating-aligned) nutritionist like myself, or dietitian. I am preparing to host group coaching sessions soon on this, so my mailing list for updates.
References & Resources
Evelyn Tribole, Elyse Resch, 2020. Intuitive Eating A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach, 4th ed. St. Martin’s Essentials.
Thomas, L., 2019. Just Eat It – How intuitive eating can help you you get your shit together around food. Bluebird.
Evelyn Tribole, 2010. The Difference Between Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating. The Original Intuitive Eating Pros. URL https://www.intuitiveeating.org/the-difference-between-intuitive-eating-and-mindful-eating/
Khalsa, A.S., Stough, C.O., Garr, K., Copeland, K.A., Kharofa, R.Y., Woo, J.G., 2019. Factor structure of the Intuitive Eating Scale-2 among a low-income and racial minority population. Appetite 142, 104390. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2019.104390
Linardon, J., Mitchell, S., 2017. Rigid dietary control, flexible dietary control, and intuitive eating: Evidence for their differential relationship to disordered eating and body image concerns. Eating Behaviors 26, 16–22. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2017.01.008
Tylka, T. L., & Kroon Van Diest, A. M., 2013. The Intuitive Eating Scale-2: item refinement and psychometric evaluation with college women and men. Journal of counseling psychology, 60(1), 137–153. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0030893
Tsui, V., 2019. Mindful Eating & Intuitive Eating: What’s the Difference? Vincci Tsui, RD | Calgary Registered Dietitian. URL https://vinccitsui.com/blog/2019/01/mindful-eating-intuitive-eating/ (accessed 7.1.21).