What is Intuitive Eating?

It’s exciting to see Intuitive Eating growing in popularity both in the media and in the research.  But it’s also frustrating to see the co-opting of our work by diet culture in social media and beyond.  So I thought I would address are a couple of key take-away points about what Intuitive Eating is and is not.

Intuitive Eating is an evidenced-based, mind-body health approach, comprised of 10 Principles and created by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995. It is a weight-neutral model with a validated assessment scale and over 90 studies to date (Tribole 2017). It’s thrilling to see all the research and gives me great hope.  Intuitive Eating is a dynamic integration between mind and body.  The principles  work by either cultivating or removing obstacles to body awareness, a process known as interoceptive awareness.  Essentially, Intuitive Eating is a personal process of honoring health by listening and responding to the direct messages of the body in order to meet your physical and psychological needs.

What is NOT Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive Eating is not a diet or food plan. Period.  There is no pass or fail, therefore there is no “blowing it”, rather it’s a journey of self-discovery and connection to the needs of your mind and body.  There is nothing to count: this includes no counting of calories, carbs, points, or macros.  If a health professional or coach is offering you Intuitive Eating for the purpose of weight loss–run away. Fast. (This has been such a problem that in 2007, we started training and certifying health professionals in the Intuitive Eating process.  To find a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor in your area, read here.)  There is not a single long-term study that shows that weight-loss dieting is sustainable. Study after study, shows that dieting and food restriction for the purpose of weight loss leads to more weight gain. Yes, weight gain (Rothblum 2018). Worse–the focus and preoccupation on weight leads to body dissatisfaction and weight stigma, which negatively impacts health (O’Hara & Taylor 2018).

Ultimately, you are the expert of your body.  Only you know what hunger, fullness, and satisfaction feels like.  Only you know your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.  Intuitive Eating is an empowerment tool–it’s time to unleash it and liberate yourself from the prison of diet culture and weight obsession.

References

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. (2017). Intuitive Eating: Research Update. SCAN’s Pulse. 36(6):1-5.

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.

Categories: Nutrition

Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S

Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S is an award-winning registered dietitian, with a nutrition counseling practice in Newport Beach, California. She has written nine books including the bestsellers Healthy Homestyle Cooking and Intuitive Eating(co-author). Her newest book is the Intuitive Eating Workbook:Ten Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food.