What is Intuitive Eating?
The phrase "Intuitive Eating" is all over; it seems like pretty much anyone associated with health and wellness is using the term. I've seen it paired up with information ranging from mindful eating to promoting specific diets and everything in between. So what is it really? How can it be used by both people selling weight loss and anti-diet dietitians...?
Intuitive Eating (IE) is a holistic framework that was developed in 1995 by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. It is comprised of 10 principles with the purpose of promoting interoceptive awareness - which means having awareness of our internal body sensations - and ultimately teaching how to tap-in to the inherent wisdom present in our bodies. It is a weight-neutral, evidence-based approach to health that reminds us that each person is the expert on their own body. It is NEVER, ever to be used as a weight-loss plan, and is actually well-suited to help chronic dieters recover from years of restriction and/or binging.
Intuitive Eating as a Process of Self Re-discovery
I often think of IE as self re-discovery -- we were born knowing how to respond to our hunger and fullness cues, how to move our bodies in ways that felt good, and how to express emotion or ask for what we needed. Many people point to babies and early toddlers as good role models regarding food, movement, and emotional expression because they haven't yet been totally exposed to external pressures around their natural, internal signals or how to hide what they feel.
Unfortunately, things can get in the way of how we respond to the cues our bodies send. We live in a world the promotes dieting/weight loss as a means to health, and a side effect of dieting is outsourcing who dictates when, what, and how we eat and exercise. Tracking calories/points (Lose It!, WW), counting macros (IIFYM), banning certain kinds of foods (keto, vegan*), clean eating (Tone It Up), or time-based eating (IF) can erode one's ability to recognize and respond to what the body really needs by assigning rules to what is and is not allowed. The more we outsource, the less connected we are, and the harder time we have noticing when we're hungry, when we're full, and responding accordingly.
(Important side note: There is not a single scientific study showing that weight-loss is sustainable in the long-term. In fact, many studies only follow their patients to 6-months! Many other studies don't report how many people leave/drop out of the study and stop dieting. And - dieting can often lead to gaining MORE weight. Yes, that's right - it doesn't work and it leads to gaining more weight, which keeps us in a constant loop - lose, gain, lose, gain. Studies are starting to suggest that weight cycling may be more detrimental to our health than any of the "traditional" factors regarding weight. Bonkers!)
So, what are the 10 principles?
The 10 principles serve as guides to move through the process of reconnecting to our internal ability to know when, what, and how much to eat and move our bodies. Moving through the principles in the order they are presented made the most sense to me and my journey, but you can start where ever makes most sense to you.
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
2. Honor Your Hunger
3. Make Peace with Food
4. Challenge the Food Police
5. Respect Your Fullness
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
7. Honor Your Feelings without Using Food
8. Respect Your Body
9. Exercise—Feel the Difference
10. Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition
And an honorary mention - Evelyn Tribole has said that principle #11 would be Self Care.
Stay tuned for a deeper dive into each of the 10 principles!
If you're ready to learn more about Intuitive Eating, let's work together. I offer in-person counseling or online IE coaching sessions to help you find a life that doesn't revolve around your weight. You don't have to feel like food is the center of your world - you deserve so much more. Get in touch for more information or to schedule a free initial consultation.
O’ Hara L and Taylor J. (2018) What’s Wrong with War on Obesity? A Narrative Review of the Weight-Centered Health Paradigm and Development of the 3C Framework to Build Critical Competency for a Paradigm Shift. SAGE Open: Apr-June: 1-28. doi.org/10.1177/2158244018772888
Rothblum E. (2018). Slim Chance for Permanent Weight Loss. Archives of Scientific Psychology:6, 63–69. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/arc0000043
Tribole E and Resch (2013). Intuitive Eating, 3rd ed. St. Martin’s Press: NY, NY.
Tribole E and Resch (2017). Intuitive Eating Workbook: 10 Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food. New Harbinger: Oakland, CA.
Shelly Annameier is a Marriage & Family Therapist (Candidate) and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor in Fort Collins, CO. She specializes in helping people repair their relationships, discover their authentic selves, and life fuller, more vibrant lives.