‘Intuitive eating’ is a phrase that is thrown around a lot on social media these days, with little appreciation of what it actually entails. Just because you’ve stopped counting macros, doesn’t mean you are eating intuitively! The term ‘intuitive eating’ was coined by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, who wrote a book outlining this way of eating (linked below). Contrary to what social media would have you believe, the principle of intuitive eating go beyond simply eating when you’re hungry, and stopping when you’re full. It is not just another way of dieting.
I found Intuitive Eating a few months ago, and so far I absolutely love it! It has really helped me improve my relationship with food, and completely changed my mindset towards nutrition. That said, it’s still very much a work in progress for me, and I’m certainly no expert on Intuitive Eating! Since I mention it fairly often, I thought I’d share a quick summary on what it is, and some resources to check out if you want to learn more.
The first, and most important, principle of Intuitive Eating is rejection of diet culture. This doesn’t mean simply getting rid of fad diets, skinny teas and the like – though needless to say, they’ve got to go! It is rejection of the idea that we need to lose weight to be happy, confident, and worthy of love. The diet industry sells us the idea that once we have the perfect body, the rest of our lives will magically fall into place. We put our lives on hold until we’ve reached that target weight – ‘When I’m thin I’ll be happy, confident, and find the perfect guy’. But you know what? Life is happening right now. The sooner you realise you don’t need to look a certain way to enjoy life, the better.
Intuitive eating focuses on using your own internal satiety signals to to guide your eating, as opposed to environmental or emotional cues. This means eating when you’re actually hungry, as opposed to because it’s a certain time of day, everyone else is eating, you’re bored, sad etc. This doesn’t mean you can’t ever do this – Intuitive Eating provides guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules.
Another key principle of intuitive eating is giving yourself unconditional permission to eat. This means placing no restrictions on food – there are no good foods or bad foods. There’s no limit placed on things like chocolate, biscuits, doughnuts etc. – you’re free to have them whenever you choose. I realise that can sound a little scary – surely you’d end up eating them all the time? In reality, it doesn’t happen. When you initially start eating intuitively, you may consume a fair bit of previously ‘off-limits’ food, but the novelty does wear off. Once you get use to the idea that you’re free to eat it whenever, the appeal lessens, and it becomes just another food. I can now have Nutella in the house and just eat it the odd time – a few months ago I could literally eat an entire jar in a day or two!
Mindful eating is another aspect of Intuitive Eating. This entails taking time to enjoy your food without distraction, and making eating a pleasurable experience. When you take the time to really savour your food, you may find yourself more satisfied after a meal. Eating mindfully also helps you appreciate feelings of fullness more easily, so you can stop eating when comfortably full, as opposed to stuffed.
So who is Intuitive Eating for? I think it’s ideal for anyone who wants to have a better relationship with food, is sick of yo-yo dieting, or is caught in the restriction-binge cycle. If you feel out of control around food, then it could really help. While it may be beneficial as part of recovery from disordered eating and eating disorders, it is not a substitute for professional help, and should only be implemented with help from a dietician in this case. If you’re looking for the best diet to get abs, or a quick-fix transformation, this isn’t for you. Likewise, if you’re a competitive bodybuilder, athlete etc., then it’s probably not going to give you the extreme results you need. While I really love Intuitive Eating, I’m not going to pretend everyone else will. I’m not looking to push it on anyone – if you’re happy with how you eat, then keep doing what you’re doing! If you want to have a better relationship with food, however, I would recommend looking into it 🙂
If your interest is piqued, you can check out some of the resources below.
Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole – This book is the basis for Intuitive Eating, if you read one book, let it be this!
Big Girl by Kelsey Miller
Why Diets Make Us Fat by Sandra Aamodt
Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon
Body Respect by Linda Bacon
Don’t Salt my Game | With Laura Thomas, PhD Episodes #45 and #54 provide a really good intro to Intuitive Eating
Evidence for Intuitive Eating