Intuitive eating is a unique approach to weight management that does not require strict calorie counting or limiting intake of certain food groups. It aims to help people avoid binge eating and maintain their desired weight by building a healthier relationship with food. Nutritionists Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch introduced the eating plan in their 1995 book “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works.” The authors said people should reject the diet culture and rely on signals from their body to better manage their food consumption and weight. The signals the authors refer to are those people get when they are hungry or full.
“The biggest difference between intuitive eating and diets—or ‘lifestyle changes’—is the focus on internal signals and cues rather than external rules,” Alissa Rumsey, nutritionist and certified intuitive eating counselor and owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness, told Women’s Health. ”Intuitive eating uses feelings of hunger, fullness, satisfaction, and body knowledge to dictate eating choices in the moment. Traditional diets, meanwhile, use external factors like nutrient counts, calories or food groups to plan food ahead of time without room for flexibility,” she added.
Nutritionist Karen Ansel, also quoted in the article, said that humans are born capable of listening to the body’s hunger and fullness signals. But the natural intuition slowly disappears as people grow old because of changing lifestyles and diets. ”As children, adults are constantly feeding us snacks, whether we’re hungry or not; we’re told to finish our meals even though our bodies may be perfectly well-nourished; we’re rewarded with food for good behavior,” she said. “At the same time, we’re told that hunger is an emergency, even though it’s a completely natural sensation, just like being tired.”
The National Eating Disorders Association describes intuitive eating as a peace movement and rather than a weight loss program, it’s a program that helps you develop a better relationship with food. “It’s ending the war with your body, learning to accept our diverse genetic blueprint.”
How to Practice Intuitive Eating
In their book, Tribole and Resch provide 10 principles of intuitive eating. These may help promote a healthier or happier relationship with food and a more positive self-care approach, coping mechanism, and body respect.
- Reject diet mentality. The authors recommended those who want to better manage their weight should ditch diet books and articles that promote quick weight loss.
- Honor your hunger. Listen to your hunger cues and keep the body nourished with the right foods at the right time to avoid overeating.
- Keep healthy food relationships. This principle suggests eating what you want, when you want it.
- Ignore the food police. This means people should stop worrying about every food they eat and their effects. The intuitive eating approach encourages people to enjoy their meals without the “good” and “bad” thinking.
- Focus on satisfaction. Learning when you are satisfied and content may help you to easily notice when you’ve had enough of a food.
- Feel your fullness. This intuitive eating principle focuses on trusting your body to get the right amount of foods. The authors say pausing in the middle of eating to think about how the food tastes and how hungry you are may help avoid overeating.
- Manage your emotions. Look for ways to manage your emotions without involving food.
- Know body respect. Embrace your body and learn to accept who you are.
- Stay active. Move your body around and feel the energy you get from working out.
- Follow gentle nutrition. Pick the foods that offer more health benefits and help you feel good.
It can take time to learn intuitive eating. You can start by knowing when you commonly feel hungry during the day. From there, you will eventually learn to manage your food consumption based on what you need or want, leading to fewer cravings and overeating. Meeting with a registered dietitian may also help you understand intuitive eating and its challenges.