Studies

Intuitive Eating Studies

The annotated Intuitive Eating studies are listed by year, in descending order from the most recent year, followed by alphabetical order of the author. A compilation of these studies (citations only) may be downloaded here.

PDF of Summary of Intuitive Eating Studies

2018 Studies

  • Bégin C, Carbonneau E, Gagnon-Girouard MP, Mongeau L, Paquette MC, Turcotte M, Provencher V (2018.). Eating-Related and Psychological Outcomes of Health at Every Size Intervention in Health and Social Services Centers Across the Province of Québec. Am J Health Promot. 2018 Jan 1:890117118786326. doi: 10.1177/0890117118786326

Quasi-experimental design evaluated eating behaviors and psychological factors, using Health at Every Size (HAES) intervention in a real-world setting. Eating behaviors (ie, flexible restraint, rigid restraint, disinhibition, susceptibility to hunger, intuitive eating, and obsessive-compulsive eating) and psychological correlates (ie, body esteem, self-esteem, and depression) were assessed using validated questionnaires at baseline, postintervention, and 1-year follow-up. The evaluation of this HAES intervention in a real-life context showed its effectiveness in improving eating-, weight-, and psychological-related variables among women struggling with weight and body image.

  • Christoph MJ, Loth KA, Eisenberg ME, Haynos AF, Larson N, Neumark-Sztainer D (2018). Nutrition Facts Use in Relation to Eating Behaviors and Healthy and Unhealthy Weight Control Behaviors. J Nutr Educ Behav. Mar;50(3):267-274.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2017.11.001

In women, greater Nutrition Facts use was associated with a 17% greater chance of engaging in binge eating. In men, greater label use was associated with a 27% and 17% greater likelihood of engaging in healthy and unhealthy weight control behaviors, respectively, and a lower level of intuitive eating. Since label use was related to engagement in some unhealthy behaviors in addition to healthy behaviors, it is important to consider how individuals may use labels, particularly those at risk for, or engaging in, disordered eating behaviors. Future research investigating potential relationships between Nutrition Facts use, intuitive eating, and binge eating is needed.

The Caregiver Eating Messages Scale (CEMS) was developed to assess perceived restrictive or critical caregiver messages in relation to food intake and pressure to eat, whereas the Intuitive Eating Scale-2 (IES-2) measures one’s tendency to follow internal cues of hunger and satiety when making eating-related decisions.These results provide evidence for the psychometric properties of the CEMS and IES-2 in Brazilian Portuguese-speaking adults.

  • Homan KJ and Tylka TL. (2018). Development and exploration of the gratitude model of body appreciation in women. Body Image. 2018 Feb 8;25:14-22. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2018.01.008.

The present study proposed and tested a comprehensive model linking gratitude, contingent self-worth, social comparison, body appreciation, and intuitive eating. Path analysis indicated that this model fit the data for a sample of college and online community women (N = 263). Gratitude was indirectly linked to body appreciation via lower investment in self-worth based on appearance and others’ approval, and via lower engagement in eating and body comparison. Gratitude had a strong direct effect on body appreciation, and body appreciation accounted for a large portion (88%) of gratitude’s relationship with intuitive eating. These results provide strong preliminary support for the model, revealing that gratitude, which can be improved via intervention, plays a key role in body appreciation.

  • Paterson H, Hay-Smith J, Treharne G., Herbison P., Howarth C. (2018). Validation of the Intuitive Eating Scale in pregnancy. J Health Psychol. 2018 Apr;23(5):701-709 doi: 10.1177/1359105316671186.

The objective of this study was to examine the content validity and test-retest reliability of the Intuitive Eating Scale among pregnant women. Overall, the Intuitive Eating Scale made sense to pregnant women, but food safety affected the interpretation of some items. A version with instructions modified accounting for food safety, the Intuitive Eating Scale-Pregnancy, was subsequently shown to have stable scores over 5 weeks during the second trimester. The Intuitive Eating Scale-Pregnancy was acceptable for use in this New Zealand pregnant population.

  • Peschel SKV, Tylka TL, Williams DP, Kaess M, Thayer JF, Koenig J. (2018). Is intuitive eating related to resting state vagal activity? Auton Neurosci. Mar;210:72-75. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2017.11.005.

Efferent and afferent fibers of the vagus nerve are involved in regulating hunger and satiety. Vagally-mediated heart rate variability (vmHRV) reflects vagal activity. Previously no study addressed a potential association between resting state vagal activity and intuitive eating. Self-reports on intuitive eating and measures of resting state vmHRV were obtained in 39 students (16 female, mean age: 19.64±1.44years). Hierarchical multiple regression models showed that, after controlling for gender, age, and body mass index, resting vagal activity was inversely related to the Unconditional Permission to Eat subscale of the Intuitive Eating scale. Individuals with higher resting vagal activity tend to be less willing to eat desired foods and are more likely to label certain foods as forbidden.

Engaging in self-weighing and calorie counting was adversely associated with ED severity among the present sample of college students. Cultivating IE within health promotion efforts may, instead, lead to favorable eating-related outcomes that may translate to the holistic health of this population.

  • Saunders JF, Nichols-Lopez KA, Frazier LD (2018). Psychometric properties of the intuitive eating scale-2 (IES-2) in a culturally diverse Hispanic American sample. Eat Behav. Jan;28:1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2017.11.003.

Intuitive eating is an adaptive eating tendency consistently associated with positive physical and mental health outcomes, including lower risk for obesity and eating disorders (EDs). Obesity rates are disproportionately high in Hispanic American populations, yet the properties of intuitive eating remain to be examined in such samples. The current findings demonstrate that the modified IES-2 is better tailored to assess the cultural nuances influencing intuitive eating and can advance understanding how intuitive eating is understood and practiced in Hispanic Americans, compared to the original measure.

2017 Studies

  • Bas M, Karaca KE, Saglam D, Arıtıcı G, Cengiz E, Köksal S, Buyukkaragoz AH. 2017. Turkish version of the Intuitive Eating Scale-2: Validity and reliability among university students. Appetite. 114:391-397.

Intuitive Eating is defined as “the dynamic process-integrating attunement of mind, body, and food”. The purpose of this study was, therefore, adapt the IES-2 to the Turkish language and reliability and validity of IES-2 among Turkish populations. The findings from this study support the notion that intuitive eating is a viable concept for university students and the IES can be used to examine adaptive eating behaviors in this population.

  • Camilleri, G., C. Méjea, F. Bellisle, V. Andreeva, E. Kesse-Guyot, S. Hercberg, S. Péneau. 2017. Intuitive Eating Dimensions Were Differently Associated with Food Intake in the General Population-Based NutriNet-Santé Study. Journal of Nutrition. Jan;147(1):61-69. doi: 10.3945/jn.116.234088.

Intuitive eating (IE) is characterized by eating in response to physiological hunger and satiety cues rather than emotional cues and not considering certain foods to be forbidden. Evidence supports an inverse association of IE with body mass index (BMI), but little is known about its association with food intake. Intuitive eating dimensions such as Physical Reasons and Cues subscales were associated with healthier dietary intakes overall, whereas the Permission dimension was associated with unhealthier dietary intakes. From a public health perspective, these findings suggest the importance of developing strategies to promote eating in response to hunger and satiety signals.

  • Carbonneau E, Bégin C, Lemieux S, Mongeau L, Paquette MC, Turcotte M, Labonté MÈ, Provencher V. (2017). A Health at Every Size intervention improves intuitive eating and diet quality in Canadian women. Clin Nutr. 36(3):747-754.

Health at Every Size® (HAES®) interventions focus on healthy lifestyle by promoting behavioral changes related to diet and physical activity while emphasizing self-acceptance and well-being through an empowerment and intuitive approach. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a HAES® program on intuitive eating and diet quality in women. The HAES® program seems effective in improving intuitive eating and also favours improvements in diet quality. However, the association between intuitive eating and diet quality remains unclear, being positive and significant only after the HAES® intervention.

  • Daundasekara SS, Beasley AD, O’Connor DP, Sampson M, Hernandez D, Ledoux T. 2017. Validation of the Intuitive Eating Scale for pregnant women. Appetite.112:201-209.

Pre-pregnancy maladaptive eating behaviors have predicted inadequate or excess gestational weight gain and poor dietary intake during pregnancy, but little is known about effects of pre-pregnancy adaptive eating behaviors on pregnancy outcomes. The purpose of this study was to produce a valid and reliable measure of adaptive pre-pregnancy eating behaviors for pregnant women using the Intuitive Eating Scale. The findings indicate that among pregnant women, the revised 15 item pre-pregnancy IES (IES-PreP) should be used to evaluate pre-pregnancy adaptive eating behaviors.

  • Duarte C., Ferreira C., Pinto-Gouveia J., Trindade I.A., Martinho A. 2017. What makes dietary restraint problematic? Development and validation of of the Inflexible Eating Questionnaire. Appetite. 114:146-154.

This study presents the Inflexible Eating Questionnaire (IEQ), which measures the inflexible adherence to subjective eating rules. The scale’s structure and psychometric properties were examined in distinct samples from the general population comprising both men and women. IEQ presented an 11-item one-dimensional structure, revealed high internal consistency, construct and temporal stability, and discriminated eating psychopathology cases from non-cases. The IEQ presented significant associations with dietary restraint, eating psychopathology, body image inflexibility, general psychopathology symptoms, and decreased intuitive eating. IEQ was a significant moderator on the association between dietary restraint and eating psychopathology symptoms. Findings suggested that the IEQ is a valid and useful instrument with potential implications for research on psychological inflexibility in disordered eating.

  • Gan WY and Yeoh WC (2017). Associations between body weight status, psychological well-being and disordered eating with Intuitive Eating among Malaysian undergraduate university students. Int J Adolesc Med Health. Sept 13.

Intuitive eating, which can be defined as reliance on physiological hunger and satiety cues to guide eating, has been proposed as a healthy weight management strategy. To date, there has not been a published study on intuitive eating in the context of Malaysia.Multiple linear regression results have shown that body appreciation and disordered eating were significant predictors of intuitive eating. Health promotion programs should highlight the importance of enhancing body appreciation and preventing disordered eating behaviors among university students in order to promote intuitive eating as one of the health management approaches.

  • Leahy K., Berlin K.S., Banks G.G., Bachman J. 2017. The relationship between Intuitive Eating and postpartum weight loss. Matern Child Health. 21(3):1591-1597.

Objective Postpartum weight loss is challenging for new mothers who report limited time and difficulties following traditional weight loss methods. Intuitive eating (IE) is a behavior that includes eating based on physical hunger and fullness and may have a role in encouraging weight loss. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between IE and postpartum weight loss. Following a more intuitive eating approach to food consumption may encourage postpartum weight loss without the required weighing, measuring, recording and assessing dietary intake that is required of traditional weight loss programs. IE could offer an alternative approach that may be less arduous for new mothers.

  • Linardon J, Mitchell S. (2017). Rigid dietary control, flexible dietary control, and intuitive eating: Evidence for their differential relationship to disordered eating and body image concerns. Eat Behav. 26:16-22.

This study aimed to replicate and extend from Tylka, Calogero, and Daníelsdóttir (2015) findings by examining the relationship between rigid control, flexible control, and intuitive eating on various indices of disordered eating (i.e., binge eating, disinhibition) and body image concerns (i.e., shape and weight over-evaluation, body checking, and weight-related exercise motivations). This study also examined whether the relationship between intuitive eating and outcomes was mediated by dichotomous thinking and body appreciation. Analysing data from a sample of 372 men and women recruited through the community, this study found that, in contrast to rigid dietary control, intuitive eating uniquely and consistently predicted lower levels of disordered eating and body image concerns. This intuitive eating-disordered eating relationship was mediated by low levels of dichotomous thinking and the intuitive eating-body image relationship was mediated by high levels of body appreciation. Flexible control predicted higher levels of body image concerns and lower levels of disordered eating only when rigid control was accounted for. Findings suggest that until the adaptive properties of flexible control are further elucidated, it may be beneficial to promote intuitive eating within public health approaches to eating disorder prevention. In addition to this, particular emphasis should also be made toward promoting body acceptance and eradicating a dichotomous thinking style around food and eating.

  • Oswald, A., Chapman, J., and Wilson, C. 2017. Do interoceptive awareness and interoceptive responsiveness mediate the relationship between body appreciation and intuitive eating in young women? Appetite 109:66-72. PMID:27866989

The extent to which an individual appreciates their own body is recognised as a proximal predictor of intuitive eating, but the mechanisms underlying this relationship are less clearly understood. This study tested whether two partially independent, self-reported facets of interoceptive ability: ‘interoceptive awareness’ (defined as the ability to detect internal bodily cues) and ‘interoceptive responsiveness’ (the way in which individuals value and respond to these cues) mediated the relationship between body appreciation and three subscales of intuitive eating: ‘unconditional permission to eat’; ‘reliance on internal hunger and satiety cues’, and ‘eating for physical rather than emotional reasons’. Multiple mediation analyses of data from an online survey of Australian college women (n = 200) showed that: (1) interoceptive awareness partially mediated the relationship between body appreciation and ‘reliance on internal hunger and satiety cues’, and (2) interoceptive responsiveness partially mediated the relationship between all three subscales of intuitive eating. Although preliminary, this work lends support to the theoretical framework of the acceptance model of intuitive eating and extends it by suggesting that the different facets of intuitive eating may have distinct underlying mechanisms.

  • Plateau CR, Petrie TA, Papathomas A (2017). Learning to eat again: Intuitive eating practices among retired female collegiate athletes. Eating Disorders. 25(1):92-98.

The present study used an open-ended survey to collect information about current eating practices and coping strategies among 218 retired female athletes. An inductive and deductive thematic analysis revealed three themes relevant to the intuitive eating framework-permission to eat; recognizing internal hunger and satiety cues; and eating to meet physical and nutritional needs. Athletes described feeling liberated with regards to their eating following retirement from sport, and for some this included an alleviation of disordered eating practices. These changes, however, required an effortful process of recalibration, during which athletes had to relearn and reinterpret their body’s physiological signals of hunger and satiety. Additional research is needed to understand just how this process unfolds and how retired athletes can be supported in developing a healthier and more adaptive approach to eating.

  • Richards PS, Crowton S, Berrett ME, Smith MH, Passmore K (2017). Can patients with eating disorders learn to eat intuitively? A 2-year pilot study. Eat Disord. 2017 Feb 2:1-15. doi: 10.1080/10640266.2017.1279907.

The present article reports on a 2-year pilot study that evaluated the effectiveness of an intuitive eating program for patients in an eating disorder treatment center. Standardized measures of intuitive eating and eating disorder and psychological symptoms were administered. Psychotherapists and dietitians rated patients on the healthiness of their eating attitudes and behaviors. Preliminary findings indicated that patients can develop the skills of intuitive eating, and that the ability to eat intuitively is associated with positive treatment outcomes for each diagnostic category (i.e., anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and eating disorder not otherwise specified). Recommendations are offered about how to implement intuitive eating training safely and effectively in inpatient and residential treatment programs.

  • Ruzanska UA and Warschburger P (2017). Psychometric evaluation of the German version of the Intuitive Eating Scale-2 in a community sample. Appetite. 117:126-134.

Intuitive eating is based on a strong physical connection with the body, aligned to internal cues of hunger and satiety, and a low preoccupation with food. The aim of this study was to provide a German version of the Intuitive Eating Scale-2 (IES-2) and to examine its psychometric properties with data collected from 532 participants aged 18-91 years. In line with our hypotheses regarding construct validity, the IES-2 score had negative associations with emotional eating, restraint eating, external eating, binge eating and eating disorder symptomatology, as well as positive associations with self-efficacy and mental health-related quality of life. Second-order confirmatory factor analysis replicated the four-factor solution, with intuitive eating as a higher-order factor. These findings demonstrate that the German version of the IES-2 is a useful tool to assess intuitive eating in the general German population.

  • Sairanen, E., et al (2017). Psychological flexibility mediates change in Intuitive Eating regulation in acceptance and commitment therapy interventions. Public Health Nutr. 20(9):1681-1691.

Despite the promising results related to intuitive eating, few studies have attempted to explain the processes encouraging this adaptive eating behaviour. The focus of the present study was on exploring mechanisms of change in intuitive eating and weight in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) interventions. Mediation provides important information regarding the treatment processes and theoretical models related to specific treatment approaches. The study investigates whether psychological flexibility, mindfulness skills and sense of coherence mediated the interventions’ effect on intuitive eating and weight. These findings suggest that ACT interventions aiming for lifestyle changes mediate the intervention effects through the enhanced ability to continue with valued activities even when confronted with negative emotions and thoughts related to weight.

  • Schaefer, J. and M. Zullo (2017). US Registered dietitian nutritionist’s knowledge and attitudes of Intuitive Eating and use of various weight management practices. J Acad Nutr Diet. 117(9):1419-1428.

Researchers have been advocating for a new weight-inclusive paradigm that focuses on health rather than weight. One important component of this model is intuitive eating. Although registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) are the nation’s food and nutrition experts, RDNs’ knowledge of and attitudes toward intuitive eating and use of traditional or restrictive strategies are unknown. A validated survey was distributed using online survey software to 88,834 RDNsThis study provides evidence that RDNs are using an intuitive eating approach more often than traditional weight management practices.

  • Warren JM, Smith N, Ashwell M. (2017). A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviours: effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms. Nutr Res Rev. Dec;30(2):272-283. doi: 10.1017/S0954422417000154.

The role of mindfulness, mindful eating and a newer concept of intuitive eating in modulating eating habits is an area of increasing interest. In this structured literature review, a summary of the current evidence is presented, together with details of interventions undertaken and the tools to measure outcomes. The evidence base for intuitive eating is limited to date and further research is needed to examine its potential in altering eating behaviours. Mindfulness appears to work by an increased awareness of internal, rather than external, cues to eat. Mindfulness and mindful eating have the potential to address problematic eating behaviours and the challenges many face with controlling their food intake. Encouraging a mindful eating approach would seem to be a positive message to be included in general weight management advice to the public.

2016 Studies

  • Bruce LJ, Ricciardelli LA. (2016). A systematic review of the psychosocial correlates of intuitive eating among adult women. Appetite.96:454-472.

Twenty-four cross-sectional studies, published between 2006 and September 2015, met eligibility criteria for systematic review. Intuitive eating was associated with less disordered eating, a more positive body image, greater emotional functioning, and a number of other psychosocial correlates that have been examined less extensively. Participants in the majority of studies were university students in the USA so findings cannot be generalized to wider population of female adults. Prospective studies are now needed to verify these cross-sectional findings, and show if intuitive eating may reduce disordered eating and body image concerns, and promote women’s psychological health and well-being.

  • Ellis J1, Galloway AT, Webb RM, Martz DM, Farrow CV (2016). Recollections of pressure to eat during childhood, but not picky eating, predict young adult eating behavior. Appetite. 97:58-63. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.11.020.

Current adult intuitive eating and disordered eating behaviors were self-reported by 170 college students, along with childhood picky eating and pressure through retrospective self- and parent reports.  Analysis revealed that childhood parental pressure to eat, but not picky eating, predicted intuitive eating and disordered eating symptoms in college students. These findings suggest that parental pressure in childhood is associated with problematic eating patterns in young adulthood.

  • Kelly AC, Miller KE, Stephen E. (2016).The benefits of being self-compassionate on days when interactions with body-focused others are frequent. Body Image. Dec;19:195-203. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.10.005.

We examined whether a woman’s level of self-compassion on a given day (within-persons) and over a week (between-persons) influenced her eating, body image, and affect in the face of frequent daily and/or weekly interactions with body-focused others. For seven nights, 92 female undergraduates reported on their daily social interactions, self-compassion, body image, eating, and affect. On days when women were less self-compassionate than usual, frequent interactions with body-focused others were associated with more body image concerns and negative affect, and less body appreciation and intuitive eating. However, these relationships were absent or inversed on days when women were more self-compassionate than usual. Self-compassion played a similar buffering role at the between-persons level. Results suggest that by treating themselves with a higher degree of self-compassion than what is typical for them, young women may be able to maintain healthier approaches to eating and body image when faced with body image threats.

  • Schaefer, J., and M. Zullo. 2016. Validation of an instrument to measure registered dietitians’/nutritionists’ knowledge, attitudes and practices of an intuitive eating approach. Public Health Nutrition 1:1-19.

The purpose of the present study was to develop and assess the construct validity of a tool to measure knowledge, attitudes and practices of registered dietitians/nutritionists (RD/N) regarding an intuitive eating lifestyle. Unlike the hypothesized three-factor solution (knowledge, attitudes and practices), validation analysis revealed that the survey measures knowledge of intuitive eating, attitudes towards intuitive eating, use of traditional and restrictive weight-management practices, and use of non-restrictive and intuitive eating practices. With the landscape of weight management and health promotion undergoing a shift towards a health centred, size acceptance approach, this instrument will provide valuable information regarding the current knowledge, attitudes and practices of RD/N and other health promotion professionals.

  • Webb J.B., and Hardin A.S. (2016). An integrative affect regulation process model of internalized weight bias and Intuitive Eating in college women. Appetite. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.02.024.

A weight diverse sample of 333 college women completed an online survey assessing internalized weight stigma, intuitive eating, body shame, body image flexibility, and self-compassion. Internalized weight bias is a potential driving force behind myriad negative health and quality of life complications for individuals traversing the weight continuum. Subscribing to internalized weight stigma was marked by declines in a healthy intuitive approach to eating for young women traversing the weight spectrum. Mindfulness, acceptance and compassion may be a helpful way to transform self-critical weight bias.

2015 Studies

  • Anderson LM, Reilly EE, Schaumberg K, Dmochowski S, Anderson DA. (2015). Contributions of mindful eating, intuitive eating, and restraint to BMI, disordered eating, and meal consumption in college students. Eat Weight Disord. Aug 5.

This is the first study to compare intuitive eating, mindful eating, and restraint in college students. Higher restraint was associated with increased BMI and disordered eating. Whereas, intuitive eating was associated with decreased BMI and disordered eating. Mindful eating was not related to outcome variables.

  • Carbonneau N, Carbonneau E, Cantin M, Gagnon-Girouard MP. (2015). Examining women’s perceptions of their mother’s and romantic partner’s interpersonal styles for a better understanding of their eating regulation and intuitive eating. Appetite. Sep;92:156-66.

The main purpose of this research was to examine the role played by both the mother and the romantic partner in predicting women’s intuitive eating. Overall, these results attest to the importance of considering women’s social environment (i.e., mother and romantic partner) for a better understanding of their eating regulation and ability to eat intuitively.

  • Tylka, T.L., Calogero, R.M., & Danielsdottir S. (2015). Is intuitive eating the same as flexible dietary control? Their links to each other and well-being could provide an answer. Appetite 95: 166-175.

Flexible control strategies include monitoring portion sizes, eating smaller amounts and lower calorie versions of comfort foods, staying within a predetermined daily calorie range, and self-monitoring weight.  Flexible control have been touted by certain scholars as adaptive approaches to eating that stand in contrast to rigid restriction of food intake. This is the first study to compare Intuitive Eating with flexible control. Results indicate 1) Intuitive Eating was found to be related to well-being as well as a lower BMI. 2) Intuitive Eating is an adaptive and distinct construct from flexible control. 3) Flexible control was found to overlap with rigid control. The  researchers concluded that flexible control eating strategies should not be adopted by health professionals or health organizations.

  • Tylka TL, Homan KJ. (2015). Exercise motives and positive body image in physically active college women and men: Exploring an expanded acceptance model of intuitive eating. Body Image. Aug;15:90-97..

To improve positive body image and intuitive eating, efforts should encourage body acceptance by others and emphasize functional, rather appearance motives for exercise.

  • Tylka TL, Lumeng JC, Eneli IU. (2015). Maternal intuitive eating as a moderator of the association between concern about child weight and restrictive child feeding.Appetite. Dec 1;95:158-65.

Mothers who are concerned about their young child’s weight are more likely to use restrictive feeding, which has been associated with increased food seeking behaviors, emotional eating, and overeating in young children across multiple studies. Researchers examined whether mothers’ intuitive eating behaviors would moderate the association between their concern about their child’s weight and their use of restrictive feeding. Their findings indicate that it may be important address maternal intuitive eating within interventions designed to improve self-regulated eating in children, as mothers who attend these interventions tend to be highly concerned about their child’s weight and, if also low in intuitive eating, may be at risk for using restrictive feeding behaviors that interfere with children’s self-regulated eating.

  • Wheeler BJ, Lawrence J, Chae M, Paterson H, Gray AR, Healey D, Reith DM, Taylor BJ. (2015). Intuitive eating is associated with glycaemic control in adolescents with type I diabetes mellitus. Appetite. Sep 25;96:160-165.

In adolescents with type 1 diabetes mellitus, there appears to be a strong association between intuitive eating, in particular the effect of emotion on eating, and glycaemic control. Higher values of both total Intuitive Eating Scale and the Eating for physical rather than emotional reasons subscale were associated with lower HbA1c.

2014 Studies

Bush H, Rossy L, Mintz L, & Schopp (2014). Eat for Life: A Worksite Feasibility Study of a Novel Mindfulness-based Intuitive Eating Intervention. Am J Health Promotion (July/Aug):380-388.

A 10-week intervention combining Intuitive Eating and mindfulness, is more effective than traditional weight-loss programs in improving individuals’ views of their bodies and decreasing problematic eating behaviors.

Camilleri GM et al (2014). Cross-cultural validity of the Intuitive Eating Scale-2. Psychometric evaluation in a sample of the general French population. Appetite.Sept 17 2014 (online).

The Intuitive Eating Scale-2 was adapted in French & validated for assessing adult IE behaviors in France.

Gast J, et al (2014). Intuitive Eating:Associations with Physical Activity Motivation and BMI Am J Health Promotion .Jan 24. [Epub ahead of print]

People who were internally motivated to engage in physical activity were 1) less likely to engage in restrictive eating behaviors 2) more like to practice self-care 3) enjoy physical activity. In contrast, those who reported guilt as a motivator to exercise, were at risk for eating emotionally or in response to social cues. Intuitive eaters had lower BMI..

Gravel K, St-Hilaire G, Deslauriers A, Watiez M, Dumont M, Dufour Bouchard AA, Provencher V. (March 2014).Effect of sensory-based intervention on the increased use of food-related descriptive terms among restrained eaters. Food Quality & Preference. 32:271-276.

A sensory-based intervention may help restrained women (those with concerns about dieting and weight) to become more objective, and to enjoyably connect to food and their own bodies,which may promote a more intuitive approach to eating.

Gravel K, Deslauriers A, Watiez M, Dumont M, Dufour Bouchard AA, Provencher V. ( Jan 2014). Sensory-­Based Nutrition Pilot Intervention for Women. J Acad Nutr Diet.114:99-106 xxx

A sensory-based intervention, taught women how to experience eating based on 1) hunger & fullness cues 2) eating sensations based on the senses (taste, touch, hearing, smell and sight) and 3) pleasurable associations with eating. Women in the intervention group scored higher on the Intuitive Eating Scale. Researchers concluded that this is a promising strategy that, if implemented in clinical practice, can promote healthy eating in a positive way rather than through restrictive strategies that focus mainly on weight and calories. Such intervention seems to effectively reduce overeating episodes and promote the eating of desired foods when hungry.

Weigenberg,M.J.et al (2014). Imagine HEALTH: results from a randomized pilot lifestyle intervention for obese Latino adolescents using Interactive Guided ImagerySM. BMC Complementary & Alternative Med. 14:28.  http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6882/14/28 [accessed 4-28‐2014.]

Consistent with adult findings showing cross sectional relationships between intuitive eating practices and health markers [66,67], our findings suggest that intuitive eating can be safely used in obese adolescents without fear of sustained consumption of unhealthy foods. In other words, no sustained increases in calories, sugars or fats were seen despite the curriculum suggesting all foods are allowable, dieting is counterproductive, and portion size should be addressed using awareness of internal satiety and hunger signals rather than external rules.

2013 Studies

Denny KN, Loth K, Eisenberg ME, Neumark-Sztainer D (2013). Intuitive eating in young adults. Who is doing it, and how is it related to disordered eating behaviors? Appetite.Jan;60(1):13-9.

Large study evaluated Intuitive Eating as a possible healthier, more effective, and more innate alternative to current strategies of weight management among 2,287 young adults from Project EAT-III. Intuitive eating practices were inversely associated with a number of harmful outcomes, including binge eating and eating disorders behaviors. Researchers concluded that clinicians should discuss the concept of intuitive eating with their young adult patients to promote healthier weight-related outcomes.

Herbert BL, Blechert J, Hautzinger M, Matthias E., Herbert C.(2013). Intuitive eating is associated with interoceptive sensitivity. Effects on body mass index. Appetite, 70(Nov):22–30.

This is the first study to demonstrate that relevant role of interoceptive sensitivity and the appraisal of bodily signals for Intuitive Eating. Interoceptive sensitivity was a positive and significant predictor for Intuitive Eating and BMI.

Moy J, Petrie TA, Dockendorff S, Greenleaf C, Martin S (2013). Dieting, exercise, and intuitive eating among early adolescents. Eat Behav.14(4):529-32. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2013.06.014.

Dieting to lose weight, with its focus on restriction of caloric intake, may disrupt intuitive eating processes, though other forms of weight loss, such as exercising, which do not emphasize food may not. This study on nearly 1400 middle school boys and girls, found that regardless of sex or exercising, dieting was related to feeling less free to eat what was wanted and to eating more to soothe emotions than to satisfy actual physical hunger. Exercising, independent of dieting, was associated with feeling less permission to eat what was wanted, but also eating to satisfy physical hunger as opposed to coping with emotional distress. Overall, girls were more aware and trusting of their bodily hunger and satiety cues than boys, but when boys were exercising, they scored similarly to girls on this dimension. These findings suggest that different weight loss approaches – dieting vs. exercising – have unique relationships to young adolescents’ intuitive eating and these associations tend to be stable across sex. Longitudinal studies now are needed to examine how dieting that begins in childhood or early adolescence might have long-term effects on the progression of intuitive eating.

Tylka TL, & Kroon Van Diest AM. (2013) The Intuitive Eating Scale-2: Item refinement and psychometric evaluation with college women and men. J Couns Psychol. Jan;60(1):137-53.

Largest study to date on Intuitive Eating, on 1405 women and 1195 men, which updates and validates the new Intuitive Eating assessment scale (IE-2). The IE-2 has a new category, Body-Food Choice congruence, which reflects the principle of Gentle Nutrition. Intuitive eating scores were positively related to body appreciation, self-esteem, and satisfaction with life; and were inversely related to eating disorder symptomatology, poor interoceptive awareness, body surveillance, body shame, body mass index, and internalization of media appearance ideals. IES-2 scores also predicted psychological well-being above and beyond eating disorder symptomatology.

Schoenefeld SJ, & Webb JB. (2013). Self-compassion and intuitive eating in college women: Examining the contributions of distress tolerance and body image acceptance and action. Eat Behav. 2013 Dec;14(4):493-6.

Self-compassion has been linked to higher levels of psychological well-being. Results provide preliminary support for a complementary perspective on the role of acceptance in the context of intuitive eating.

2012 Studies

Gast, J., Madanat H., & Nielson A. (2012). Are Men More Intuitive When It Comes to Eating and Physical Activity?  Am J Mens Health, vol. 6 no. 2 164-17.

Men scoring high on Hawks’ Intuitive Eating scale, was associated with lower body mass index. Men placed value on being physically fit and healthy, rather than on an ideal weight.

Madden C.E., Leong, S.L., Gray A., and Horwath C.C. ( 2012). Eating in response to hunger and satiety signals is related to BMI in a nationwide sample of 1601 mid-age New Zealand women. Public Health Nutrition. Mar 23:1-8. [Epub ahead of print].

Women with high Intuitive Eating Scale (IES) scores had significantly lower body mass index, which suggests that people who eat in response to hunger and satiety cues, have unconditional permission to eat, and cope with feelings without food, are less likely to engage in eating behaviors that lead to weight gain.

2011 Studies

Augustus-Horvath CL and Tylka T. (2011) The Acceptance Model of Intuitive Eating: A Comparison of Women in Emerging Adulthood, Early Adulthood, and Middle Adulthood. J Counseling Psychology 2011 (Jan ) 58:110-125.

The acceptance model of intuitive eating posits that body acceptance by others helps women appreciate their body and resist adopting an observer’s perspective of their body, which contribute to their eating intuitively/adaptively. We extended this model by integrating body mass index (BMI) into its structure and investigating it with emerging age, in adult women from ages 18–65 years old.

Heileson J.L., & R. Cole (2011). Assessing Motivation for Eating and Intuitive Eating in Military Service Members. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111 (9 Supplement), Page A26.

Intuitive Eating was associated with lower body mass index levels in 100 active military troops.

Dockendorff, S. A., Petrie, T. A., Greenleaf, C., & Martin, S. (2011, August).Intuitive Eating Scale for Adolescents: Factorial and construct validity. Paper presented at the 119th annual American Psychological Association conference, Washington, DC.

Tylka’s Intuitive Eating scale was adopted for adolescents and Intuitive Eating was associated with health benefits including lower body mass index, without internalizing the thin ideal, positive mood, and greater life satisfaction.

Sarah H. Shouse S. J. & Nilsson, J. (2011). Self-Silencing, Emotional Awareness, and Eating Behaviors in College Women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 35: 451-457.

Expression of thoughts, feelings, or needs seems to be a critical aspect of healthy eating behaviors. The suppression of voice, combined with high levels of emotional awareness, may decrease trust of internal signals of hunger and satiation and disrupt Intuitive Eating. Intuitive eating is maximized when a woman has high levels of emotional awareness and low levels of self-silencing. Conversely, intuitive eating is disrupted.

Young, S. Promoting healthy eating among college women: Effectiveness of an intuitive eating intervention. Iowa State University, 2011, Dissertation 147 pages; AAT 3418683.

This is the first experimental study to test the effectiveness of an intuitive eating intervention designed to increase adaptive eating practices and reduce eating disorder risk factors. Overall these results present empirical evidence that the intuitive eating model can be a promising approach to disordered eating prevention in a variety of service delivery modalities.

2010 Studies

Cole RE and Horacek T. Effectiveness of the “My Body Knows When” Intuitive-eating Pilot Program. Am J Health Behavior 2010; (May-June):286-297.

The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the “My Body Knows When” Intuitive Eating program tailored to assist Fort Drum military spouses in rejecting the dieting mentality.The intuitive-eating program was able to significantly transition participants away from a dieting mentality towards intuitive-eating lifestyle behaviors. Overall, Intuitive Eating is a holist approach to long-term healthy behavior change and would benefit from an extended support system to improve effectiveness.

Galloway A.T., Farrow, C.V., & Martz DM. (2010). Retrospective Reports of Child Feeding Practices, Current Eating Behaviors, and BMI in College Students. Behavior and Psychology (formerly Obesity), 18(7):1330-1335.

Nearly 100 college-aged students and their parents completed retrospective questionnaires of parental feeding practices regarding the college students’ childhood. The results showed that parental monitoring and restriction of food intake had a significant impact on their college student’s body mass index, emotional eating, and Intuitive Eating Scale scores.

MacDougall EC. An Examination of a Culturally Relevant Model of Intuitive Eating with African American College Women. University of Akron, 2010. Dissertation 218 pages.

The present study explores the model intuitive eating with African American college women. Results of the present study provide empirical support for several propositions underlying a model of intuitive eating that suggests several, but not all, model paths may extend and generalize to more diverse samples of women.

2008-2009 Studies

2006-2007 Studies

2004-2005 Studies

  • Bacon L. Size Acceptance and Intuitive Eating Improve Health in Obese Female Chronic Dieters. J Am Dietetic Assoc.2005;105:929-936.
  • Hawks S et al. Relationship Between Intuitive Eating and Health Indicators Among College Women. Am J Health Ed 2005:Nov-Dec;36(6):331-336

Special thanks to Steven R. Hawks of BYU; Tracy L. Tylka of OSU; and Lori Smitham of Univ Notre Dame for advancing and validating the Intuitive Eating process and allowing their research to be shared on this site.


Studies Related to Intuitive Eating

  • Bacon L and Aphramor L.Weight Science:Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift. [2011]. Nutrition Journal, January. 10:9. [Free full text]. http://bit.ly/f4CKOK .
  • Ciampolini M et al., Sustained Self-Regulation of Energy Intake: Initial Hunger Improves Insulin Sensitivity, Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, vol. 7 2010. [Free full text]
  • Ciampolini M et al. Sustained self-regulation of energy intake. Loss of weight in overweight subjects. Maintenance of weight in normal-weight subjects, Nutrition and Metabolism, vol. 7, article 4, 2010. [ Free full text.]
  • Ciampolini Mand R. Bianchi, Training to estimate blood glucose and to form associations with initial hunger,Nutrition and Metabolism, vol. 3, article 42, 2006. [ Free full text.]
  • Eneli et al. (2008). The Trust Model: A Different Feeding Paradigm for Managing Childhood Obesity. Obesity. 2197-2204. [Free Full Text.]
  • Field AE et al.(2003).Relation Between Dieting and Weight Change Among Preadolescents and Adolescents. Pediatrics, 112:900-906. [Free Full Text.]
  • Mann, T. (2001).Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. Am. Psychologist, 62(3): 220-233.
  • Neumark-Sztainer D, Wall M, Guo J, Story M, Haines J, Eisenberg M. (2006). Obesity, disordered eating, and eating disorders in a longitudinal study of adolescents: how do dieters fare five years later? J Am Diet Assoc,106(4):559-568.
  • K H Pietiläinen, S E Saarni, J Kaprio and A Rissanen (2011). Does dieting make you fat? A twin study. International Journal of Obesity.