What Is Intuitive Eating?


Intuitive Eating


Rather than trying to ‘force’ the body into accepting various kinds of dieting programs, intuitive eating takes an entirely different, more holistic approach. The emphasis here is on learning to recognize both your body’s internal hunger and satiety (satisfaction) cues and eating based on those cues, not on some externally imposed timetable.

The concept of intuitive eating was introduced in 1995 by nutritionists Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch after seeing numerous clients and patients eventually fail with conventional diet plans.  

They developed a nutritional strategy designed to increase their clients’ awareness of their body sensations and went on to write a book about their process in 2003. The book is entitled Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works.

In 2006 health psychologist Dr. Tracy Tylka at Ohio State University brought scientific rigor to the concept. She and her colleagues developed a scale which defined how intuitive eaters thought about hunger and eating. Since Dr. Tylka’s research, there are four main components of intuitive eating that have been articulated and are supported by further research:  

One - Unconditional permission to eat when hungry and whatever food is desired. This goes against the conventional wisdom which states you must deprive and discipline yourself when it comes to eating.

Two - Eating for physical rather than emotional reasons. Of course, many people, especially in the throes of a stressful, emotionally upsetting situation, will turn to food for immediate comfort.

Three - Reliance on internal hunger and satiety cues to determine when and how much to eat. This has to be trained and developed over time, as we modern humans have almost entirely forgotten how to sense and trust our internal bodily sensations.

Four - Agreement between my body and my food choices (Body-Food Choice Congruence) This means paying attention to how eating certain foods makes your body perform.

Health psychologists, Leslie Cadena-Schlam and Gemma López-Guimerà, at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain present an excellent narrative review of the principles of intuitive eating in a paper published in 2015.

Intuitive Eating is similar but different to mindful eating. They are both about awareness of hunger & fullness but mindful eating is related specifically to Eastern principles of mindfulness.

They conclude their review of the intuitive eating approach by stating, “although it is certain there is a need to extend current research on health-centered interventions; this approach may be a more promising and realistic alternative to address overweight and obesity than the conventional weight-loss treatments. In addition to meeting health goals, it guards people of all sizes and shapes against unhealthy weight-control behaviors that may diminish their health and well-being.”

When it comes to choosing a way of eating, as well as what to eat, every person is different, with different preferences, tendencies, and needs. Certainly, the evidence seems to show that eating a mostly plant based diet that is nutritionally diverse and perhaps combining that with periods of alternate day or intermittent fasting is beneficial to your cells and can lead to a more vibrant life and well as a longer one.

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  • Maday Labrador