Back to Basics with Intuitive Eating

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, more than 2 out 3 Americans are either overweight or obese.1 Given that weight loss is considered by many to be the primary goal of treatment, it may come as no surprise to hear, 49 percent of those who are overweight or obese are currently trying to lose weight.2

Weight loss strategies often result in initial weight reduction, however long term maintenance is often poor, with 95 to 98 percent of patients regaining weight over three to four years.3

I personally felt discouraged to hear such statistics. While discussing my concerns with a good friend (who is a registered dietitian and has also battled excess weight most of her adult life), she shared with me how Intuitive Eating has gotten her away from dieting and back to enjoying food and loving her body. I was inspired to learn more about Intuitive Eating and to share this information with the community.

What Is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive Eating has been more formally defined as, “the dynamic process-integrating attunement of mind, body, and food.”

Intuitive eating focuses on connecting to internal body signals, letting hunger and satiety cues regulate food intake.3

The concept of eating intuitively may seem simple, however for those of you who have chronically dieted, you may come to realize that you have to retrain your body and your brain to learn hunger and satiety cues.

There are four core components to Intuitive Eating:3

  1. Unconditional permission to eat when hungry and whatever food is desired
    • Simply stated, stop classifying food as “good” and “bad,” rather give yourself permission to eat the foods you enjoy.
  2. Eating for physical rather than emotional reasons
    • Simply stated, food should be used to “satisfy physical hunger and not emotional distress”
  3. Reliance on internal hunger and satiety cues to determine when and how much to eat
    • Simply stated, learning to eat when physical hunger occurs and to stop eating when satisfied
  4. Body-Food Choice Congruence
    • Simply stated, “choose foods that feel good and energize your body”

How Does Intuitive Eating Impact Health?

Research has shown that Intuitive Eating may having the following health benefits:

  • Improved emotional well-being
  • Reduced body mass index (BMI)
  • Improved cardiovascular risk markers

The following is a short list of guidelines to start eating intuitively:5

  • “Honor your hunger”
    • Avoid waiting to eat until you are famished. Check in with yourself on occasion by asking yourself, “Do I feel hungry?”
  • “Honor your feelings without using food
    • Find healthy ways to cope with stressful situations without using food.
    • Keeping a journal, exercising, and meditation all are strategies that can help with healthy coping.
  • “Make peace with food”
    • Avoid categorizing food as “forbidden” or “allowed”
    • If no food is considered “off limits” then overeating is less likely to occur.
  • “Respect your fullness”
    • Eat until you feel satisfied. As you begin to feel satisfied and near “comfortably full” food will begin to taste less palatable.

If you feel like dieting is preventing you from reaching your personal goals, Intuitive Eating may be the change you need! As always, make sure to first discuss potential diet changes with your physician, as he/she may want to monitor you more closely.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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