What is Intuitive Eating and Does it Actually Work?


In 1995, dieticians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, founded a new nutrition lifestyle concept known as intuitive eating. To date, intuitive eating has over 100 studies demonstrating its effectiveness in helping individuals find peace in their relationships with food and their own bodies.

Intuitive eating is much more than just another diet. It’s an entire way of thinking and being. Food is essential for our survival, but our relationships with it can be complicated at best. Instead of trying to squeeze people into different diets, fads, and trends that are just not sustainable and don’t take into consideration different emotional and physical backgrounds, intuitive eating promotes a mind-body approach to food by addressing the relationship itself first. This personal and dynamic process consists of 10 key principles:

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality: Diet Mentality has become our society's go-to relationship with food. You must seek outside validation and guidance at all times for the best, most worthy decisions about the food that goes into your body. Diet mentality is false. Although asking for help and seeking guidance is a great way to learn new things, you also can learn what is best for you and be able to make many of these food choices completely by yourself. So kick the diet mentality to the curb!

  2. Honor Your Hunger: Many diets try to convince you that genuine feelings of hunger are just part of the deal. They're not. By honoring your hunger, you're honoring your instincts.

  3. Make Peace with Food: When it comes to food, there is no "good" or "bad", "right or "wrong"- it's whatever you decide will satisfy and fuel you best.

  4. Challenge Your Inner "Food Police": It's the voice that likes to tell you you're "bad" or "good" for making certain food choices- like when it tries to shame you for those cookies you had the night before. Accept that there is no morality tied to nourishing your body or enjoying the taste of food and start to challenge that inner voice every time it starts to creep into your head.

  5. Respect Your Fullness: We have become so reliant on other people telling us what should make us full, that to actually know for ourselves when we are can be a battle. The more you tune into your body and trust your instincts, the easier it will become to read your body's signals of almost full, full, and too full and you can respond how you feel is best.

  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor: Another thing that gets taken from us far too often is the satisfaction factor of food. We live in a "fast" culture filled with food-on-the-go and microwaves. If you're also used to living a life of restriction, you've got a double whammy of unsatisfaction. Slow down and start appreciating what you're eating and choose foods that you thoroughly enjoy- not the ones that you're "supposed" to eat or that are easy or binge-able.

  7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food: Recognize that using food to cope with your emotions won't solve anything long-term and will leave you feeling more out of control, guilty, and shameful when you're finally able to pull yourself away. It's time to find and practice other coping skills that will help ease your emotions and keep you fully in the present of your life.

  8. Respect Your Body: Treat your body with respect – feed it when it is hungry, hydrate it fully, rest it when it is tired, dress it in comfortable clothes and move it in ways that feel empowering. This will look different for everybody and every body!

  9. Exercise—Feel the Difference: Instead of looking at exercise as another thing you have to do in order to lose weight or stay in shape, learn to look at it as something you get to do to honor your strength, mobility, flexibility, and endurance. Most importantly, find active activities that you actually enjoy doing.

  10. Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition: This concept refers to your ability to make the best, most wholesome choices for yourself, while still enjoying foods that you love.

These 10 principles work together to help you learn how to trust your instincts and your body by developing and growing a relationship between yourself and your intuition. Believe it or not, our bodies are great at telling us exactly what they need at any given moment. But, through failed diet attempts, society’s pressuring health and weight stigmas, and emotional regulation obstacles, we’ve learned to tune out our body's needs and not trust ourselves with food. The process of Intuitive eating is a practice that honors both physical and mental health by helping each participant understand that their bodies deserve dignity and respect from the inside out. Although there are the 10 key principles, you are not locked into a list of good vs. bad food choices. There are no points to count or calories to keep track of. Instead of looking for that outside guidance and validation, you learn to tune inward and discover what your body really needs and wants. Imagine that you fully trust yourself to know that the food choices you make are in your best interest because you -and you alone- are in the driver’s seat? Many participants of the intuitive eating principles have discovered this level of freedom. For example, in a study published by Science Direct, participants improved their self-esteem, body image, and overall quality of life while experiencing less depression and anxiety. Other intuitive eating interventions also have good retention rates, meaning people are more likely to stick with their new lifestyle than they would be on a diet or trend like keto, paleo, etc. In addition, some studies have shown that women in particular who consistently practice intuitive eating are less likely to fall into dangerous food cycles or disordered eating behaviors.

To get started with intuitive eating, approach your current eating habits without judgment and become more aware of how and when you eat. Consider doing more research on intuitive eating by visiting The Intuitive Eating website. You can also utilize St. Andrew’s Family Fitness Plus’s free Starting Point Session where you can gain a better understanding of your current food habits and discover gentle ways to nudge those habits into new ones! Simply visit our website and submit a Starting Point questionnaire to get started!

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