Intuitive Eating (IE) is a framework that is made up of 10 principles. It’s a non-diet approach that is backed up by 140 studies! We will review all ten principles but this post focuses on the first one.
1. Reject the diet mentality
2. Honor your hunger
3. Make peace with food
4. Challenge the food police
5. Feel your fullness
6. Discover the satisfaction factor
7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
8. Respect your body
9. Exercise – feel the difference
10. Honor your health with gentle nutrition
The quiz below can help guide you in helping you know if you are an intuitive eater or need to grow and work on becoming one. Read the statement and answer “yes” or “no” if it mostly applies to you.
Unconditional permission to eat.
- I try to avoid certain foods high in fat, carbs, or calories.
- If I am craving a certain food, I don’t allow myself to have it.
- I follow eating rules of diet plans that dictate what, when and/or how to eat.
- I get mad at myself for eating something unhealthy.
- I have forbidden foods that I don’t allow myself to eat.
Eating for emotional rather than physical reasons.
- I find myself eating when I’m feeling emotional (anxious, sad, depressed), even when I am not physically hungry.
- I find myself eating when I am bored, even when I am not physically hungry.
- I cannot stop eating when I feel full.
- I find myself eating when I am lonely, even when I am not physically hungry.
- I use food to help soothe my negative emotions.
- I find myself eating when I am stressed, even when I am not physically hungry.
Reliance on internal hunger/satiety cues.
- I cannot tell when I am slightly full.
- I cannot tell when I am slightly hungry.
- I do not trust my body to tell me when to eat.
- I do not trust my body to tell me what to eat.
- I do not trust my body to tell me how much to eat.
- When I am eating, I cannot tell when I am getting full.
If you answered yes to many of these questions, this gives you the opportunity for further work on your relationship with food. Find the section with the most amount of “yes’ responses and start there.
What IE looks like:
- Eating foods that satisfy and you enjoy eating
- Eating wide variety of foods with no guilt or shame
- Flexible eating
- Enjoying social experiences without fear of food
Dieting may look like:
- Counting calories, macros, or points.
- Measuring all of your food (does not include for baking purposes)
- Cutting out food groups for reasons not related to your religion or food allergy
- Intermittent fasting
- Shakes, powders, cheat days
With every new diet you start, you experience hope and contentment that you have found an answer to your struggles with food, weight, and more. Eventually after a few weeks or months, you feel defeated, disappointed, and upset that this diet did not work and results were not permanent. Dieting causes biological, psychological, and emotional damage. Biological damage from diets includes decreased metabolism/increased fat retention, increasing binges and cravings, increasing risk of premature death and heart disease due to yo-yo dieting. Psychological and emotional damage includes increased social anxiety (may worry about what you can eat or not eat at restaurants or events), lowered self-esteem, loss of control over eating. Dieting is also linked to eating disorders (“Dieters were eight times as likely to suffer from an eating disorder by the age of fifteen, than non-dieters).” (Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, 2012)
You may decide to give up diets but could be stuck in the diet mentality. This mentality may look like cutting back on food for a special event, drinking coffee or diet soda when hungry, eating low-calorie or low-fat foods, eating perfectly in front of others.
Diets serve as an external cue that tells us what to eat, how much to eat, or when to eat. Dieting disconnects us from our body signals. You may not know what feeling full or feeling hungry feels like unless it’s extreme. It makes us not trust food, especially carbohydrates.
Building up your anti-diet toolbox takes time and can include the following.
Finding social media accounts that make you feel good about yourself and don’t promote diet culture. I can share a list with you if you are looking for new ones!
Getting rid of magazines and books that encourage dieting or make you feel bad about your body
Deleting tracking apps like MyFitnessPal, MyFatSecret, etc.
Looking for registered dietitians that specialize in IE, HAES (Health At Every Size) and don’t promote weight loss. Intuitive Eating is a journey that takes time, patience, and a willingness to look inward. Having support is crucial.
Not weighing yourself everyday. You may want to gradually do this by cutting back to 1x/week, then once/month or you may be ready to throw out the scale.
There are multiple studies that show how intuitive eating can help you feel better, reconnect and trust your body.
A new meta analysis (data combined from 89 studies!) showed Intuitive Eating is POSITIVELY associated with: Body appreciation, Body image flexibility, Body function, Body acceptance by others, Mindfulness, Positive affect, Self-compassion, Self-esteem, Social support, and general wellbeing.
The drawbacks of the study is that it is cross-sectional, which is an observational study and cannot be used to establish causal relationships and most of the participants were white females. Having experimental studies and following people over longer periods along with recruiting more diversity including different races, ethnicities, and genders.
By embracing IE, it allows for less fear, guilt, freedom, body trust, more variety, joy with eating, and less disordered eating.
Consider: How many diets have you tried and what was the result? Has dieting ever helped you improve your health sustainably? What holds you back from intuitive eating?
Denny, K. N., Loth, K., Eisenberg, M. E., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2013). Intuitive eating in young adults. Who is doing it, and how is it related to disordered eating behaviors? Appetite, 60, 13–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2012.09.029
Linardon J, Tylka T, and Fuller-Tyszkiewicz M. (2021) Intuitive eating and its psychological correlates: a meta-analysis. Int J Eating Disorders 2021:1-26.
Kelly Goodson is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the book listed above is an affiliate link.