12 Jan Intuitive Eating: What is it and should you be doing it?
Guest post by Katy Zanville, MS, RDN, and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor
Intuitive Eating has gained a lot of popularity over the past few years. Known as an “anti-diet”, Intuitive Eating sounds tempting to people who have tried it all but haven’t found a program that works for them. But is it right for you?
What is Intuitive Eating?
Founded by registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995, Intuitive Eating is a model that consists of ten principles and helps people reconnect to their bodies. We are all born intuitive eaters. As babies, you would cry when you were hungry and pushed food away when you were full. However, Intuitive Eating is more than just eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. As defined by Natalie Nowak MS, RD and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, “Intuitive Eating is a whole-person centered self-care framework that teaches people to reject diet culture and instead focus energy and attention on nourishing the unique and individual body.” Unlike most of the diets heavily marketed in the new year, Intuitive Eating “helps you learn to tune in to your body to best determine how to nourish yourself, rather than relying on external metrics like weight, grams of carbs/fat, and/or macros,” explains Kelly Abramson MS, RD, registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor.
The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
Intuitive Eating consists of ten principles that collectively work hand-in-hand to unlearn dieting and reconnect with our bodies. As anti-diet, weight-inclusive registered dietitian Heather Caplan states, “I don’t see these principles as a set of rules, but rather guidelines that can help a nutrition practitioner navigate weight-inclusive care for their clients and patients.” The ten principles of Intuitive Eating are as follows:
- Reject the Diet Mentality: Research has proven that 95% of diets fail and over two-thirds people who lose weight on a diet will end up gaining more weight back than their original weight before the diet. The first step of Intuitive Eating is to reject the industry that tells people they need to lose weight in order to be healthy when they are really just trying to sell us faulty products. “Nobody is unscathed by diet culture, therefore everyone can benefit from Intuitive Eating,” states certified intuitive eating counselor Chelsea Levy (she/her), MS.
- Honor Your Hunger: Keeping our bodies fed and nourished will prevent overeating and bingeing in the future. Ignoring those cues and listening to diet plans instead of our bodily functions is an important step in body connection, also known as interoceptive awareness. “Intuitive eating involves becoming aware of your body’s physical sensations, accurately interpreting these sensations and responding to these sensations in a health promoting way, “ states certified intuitive eating counselor Lynleigh Palmer MBA, RDN, LDN.
- Make Peace with Food: When you allow yourself to have all foods, you inevitably lose the allure and intense cravings that certain foods hold and will eat them when it is truly craved and satisfying. “I find the most common misconception about Intuitive Eating is that it will lead to eating too much of the food one craves without ever being able to stop. In fact, the opposite occurs when the novelty of the “forbidden” food wears off,” expresses certified eating disorder dietitian Laurie Dunham, MS, RD, LD, CEDRD-S.
- Challenge the Food Police: Diet culture has created fear and stress around food, labeling certain foods as good or bad. When you allow all foods to be morally “neutral”, you can focus on tuning into what your body really needs and not spiraling into guilt when you eat something considered “off limits.”
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor: Have you ever eaten a large bowl of raw vegetables, felt full, but kept searching around your kitchen for more? Perhaps you were full, but not satisfied with your meal. With Intuitive Eating, finding pleasure and satisfaction in eating is an essential component to eating “the right amount” of food for you to decide you have had enough.
- Feel Your Fullness: It is difficult to feel your fullness if you are not honoring your hunger. “Oftentimes, people are so disconnected from their bodies that they go from starving to Thanksgiving full and can’t feel what is in between,” says registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor Katy Zanville, MS, RDN. Intuitive Eating counselors and practitioners help people understand where the comfortable feeling of fullness is and how to find it.
- Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness: It is important to understand that deprivation and restriction can lead to feeling “out of control” around food, which may initially feel like emotional eating. Intuitive Eating helps people turn to other forms of coping in order to deal with stress, boredom, and loneliness without initially turning to food.
- Respect Your Body: Even though media representation makes you feel differently, everyone is born in a different body and there is not one or right perfect shape. Accepting your body for what it is and not participating in behaviors to change your genetic blueprint is important in making peace with food and being less critical of yourself.
- Movement—Feel the Difference: When you focus on exercise benefits besides body change, such as increased energy, better mood, or feeling stronger, research shows that healthy behaviors become more sustainable. Find a way to move your body that is enjoyable—from dance to gardening or going for long walks, all movement is beneficial.
- Honor Your Health—Gentle Nutrition: Think Intuitive Eating doesn’t involve nutritional guidance? Think again. Intuitive Eating was written by two dietitians, after all. “The biggest misconception about IE is that it doesn’t incorporate nutrition science, or can’t be used in medical nutrition therapy. With a little more education and understanding, folks can see that the gentle nutrition principle addresses both of these things,” states Heather Caplan RD and founder of Weight Inclusive Nutrition Events (WIND).
Is Intuitive Eating right for you? “Intuitive Eating is helpful for “chronic dieters”—people who go on and off restrictive diets, a.k.a. “yo yo dieting”—or people who struggle with anxiety, guilt, or other negative feelings about food and eating,” explains certified intuitive eating counselor Sarah Newman. However, any of the principles can be applied to people with most health conditions. Even if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or PCOS, this non-diet, weight-inclusive approach can work for you. Everyone can benefit from Intuitive Eating.
Find An Intuitive Eating Specialist
If you would like to speak to a registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor, here are several people you can contact: