What Is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach to health. The holistic framework focuses on internal cues rather than external rules to help guide eating and movement choices. It was developed in 1995 by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S, and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S, FADA, FAND. Intuitive Eating promotes eating in a way that works best for the body and brain while honoring both physical and mental health. The ultimate goal is to cultivate a more peaceful and healthy relationship with both food and the body.
IntuitiveEating.org describes Intuitive Eating as:
“…a self-care eating framework, which integrates instinct, emotion, and rational thought…Intuitive Eating is a weight-inclusive, evidence-based model with a validated assessment scale and over 100 studies to date.”
Intuitive Eating challenges the idea that there is a “right” way to eat. Instead, it asks individuals to use their experiences and sensations to guide their eating. In doing so, they can learn to trust their bodies and brains to communicate what they need.
The framework is sometimes oversimplified and misunderstood as eating whatever you want whenever you want. While it’s true that unconditional permission to eat is a key part of eating intuitively, the approach is more complicated than that.
The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating can provide more insight into the nuances of the approach:
- Reject the diet mentality.
- Honor 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.
- Honor your health with gentle nutrition.
Moving through the principles looks different for each individual based on their past experiences and current level of connection with their body’s cues. For most folks, dismantling diet culture-influenced thoughts takes time. As such, becoming an intuitive eater is a journey that requires patience, exploration, and experimentation.
The Benefits of Intuitive Eating
Ultimately, Intuitive Eating helps eliminate food rules and encourages individuals to trust their bodies to guide their eating choices. When a person implements Intuitive Eating, they no longer need someone else to tell them when, what, or how much to eat. Instead, they can listen to their internal cues in combination with observations from their past eating experiences. By connecting the mind, body, and spirit, Intuitive Eating allows individuals to eat in ways that feel good while empowering them with confidence and autonomy to make authentic eating and movement choices.
Intuitive Eating and Eating Disorders
When individuals with eating disorders move through the process of nutrition rehabilitation and begin implementing the principles of Intuitive Eating, many of the medical and mental health complications brought on by disordered eating begin to resolve. As individuals honor their body’s internal cues, physical symptoms associated with eating disorders, such as gastrointestinal upset, cold intolerance, sleep disturbances, and dizziness start to subside. Likewise, mental health symptoms, such as obsessive thoughts about food, anxiety, and depression also improve. For individuals with eating disorders, Intuitive Eating can be a vital step in learning to nourish their entire well-being.
Mindful Eating vs. Intuitive Eating
Mindful eating applies the principles of mindfulness to eating experiences. Mindfulness is a form of meditation that focuses on being present without judgment or interpretation. By practicing awareness and acceptance, mindfulness allows individuals to notice their thoughts, feelings, and sensations objectively without needing to take action. Similarly, mindful eating asks individuals to focus on the experience of food without judgment or worrying about what’s in the food.
Mindful eating is an element of Intuitive Eating, so there’s significant overlap between the two. In order to truly be in tune with the body, it’s necessary to be present and aware before, during, and after eating experiences.
Some differences between mindful eating and Intuitive Eating come to light, however, when we consider the logistics of eating. While practicing mindful eating can benefit individuals’ relationships with food as well as their overall mental and physical health, it’s not realistic to practice mindfulness during every meal and snack. For this reason, implementing mindfulness during each eating experience isn’t required by Intuitive Eating. Instead, Intuitive Eating uses other principles to help guide individuals when mindfulness isn’t accessible.
Diet Culture’s Influence on Intuitive Eating
The diet industry has created confusion around mindful eating, often suggesting mindfulness as a way to control eating habits rather than foster a healthy mind-body connection. The same argument falsely claims that eating mindfully promotes eating less and subsequent weight loss. While weight change may be a natural side effect that some people experience when they heal their relationships with food, twisting mindfulness into a weight-loss tactic is an example of the ways the diet industry causes harm. Similarly, the diet industry has muddled the concept of Intuitive Eating by promoting it as a weight-loss strategy as well. Any resource touting mindful or Intuitive Eating as a way to promote weight loss doesn’t apply the true principles of either practice and should be avoided.
Because mindfulness is a part of Intuitive Eating, you’ll also learn about mindful eating as you move through the principles. To dive even deeper into Intuitive Eating and mindful eating, consider reading Intuitive Eating, 4th Edition and The Intuitive Eating Workbook by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN.
To gain a fuller understanding of mindful eating and Intuitive Eating, exploring the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating more thoroughly and experimenting with the application of each principle can be an impactful way to begin your journey.
MySoulrenity has certified Nutritional Coaches on board who can help implement both Intuitive Eating and mindful eating into your nutrition philosophy to help heal your relationships with food and your body. To learn more about our therapeutic services, nutrition support, and eating disorder treatment programs, please reach out.