I get asked all the time what is intutive eating and who intuitive eating is for. Short answer – almost everyone!
Long answer – I’ll drop a bunch of science below but of course in language you can understand! It’s funny because most people think of intuitive eating as eating whatever they want, whenever they want and pretty much “giving up” on their health.
That could not be more inaccurate of a description of intuitive eating! Intuitive eating has over 100 studies backing it up. Intuitive eating also follows 10 clearly laid out holistic wellness principles. Plus, intuitive eating studies show that it is absolutely for those who truly want to conquer their health!
Let’s dive into some science! (I’m feeling like Bill Nye the science guy writing this blog lol)
Body Dissatisfaction & Weight Bias Internalization
Intuitive eaters have actually been shown to have lower body dissatisfaction and lower weight bias internalization. Most diets do the exact opposite.
What is Body Dissatisfaction? – “Body dissatisfaction develops when people have negative thoughts about their own body image and when people begin to define their own self-worth based on their negative body image, a number of mental health issues can arise, including eating disorders.” – Walden University
What is Weight Bias Internalization? – “Weight bias is defined as a negative attitude towards, and beliefs about, others because of their weight. Their negative attitudes are manifested by stereotypes and/or prejudice towards people with overweight and obesity. Internalized weight bias (IWB) is defined as holding negative beliefs about oneself due to weight or size.” – World Health Organization
Most diets breed body shaming, body dissatisfaction and weight bias internalization through rules like weekly measurements or daily weigh ins.
Instead, intuitive eating principles actually helps improve body satisfaction. Instead of teaching you that you should not love yourself due to your own weight, or that you are worth less because of your own weight, intuitive eating helps you get rid of that weight bias internalization.
Have you ever thought that you might be more successful in your career if you lost weight or a better mother if you lived in a smaller body? Those are examples of weight bias internalization!
Intuitive eating helps lower weight bias internalization and body dissatisfaction.
Blood Pressure Definition – The pressure of the blood in the circulatory system, often measured for diagnosis since it is closely related to the force and rate of the heartbeat and the diameter and elasticity of the arterial walls.
Intuitive eaters also tend to have lower blood pressure than the average dieter. Why is this important? Well, high blood pressure tends to cause atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a big word that simply means the hardening & thickening of your arteries.
Binge Eating & Loss-of-Control Eating
Guess what?! Intuitive eaters are shown to binge eat less and have less loss-of-control eating!
How fascinating is that?
Binge Eating Definition – The consumption of large quantities of food in a short period of time.
Loss-of-Control-Eating Definition – LOC (loss-of-control-eating) is the subjective experience of being unable to control what or how much one eats, regardless of the amount of food consumed.
I started this blog out by mentioning how many people believe that intuitive nutrition is getting to eat whatever you want, whenever you want and however much you want.
How interesting that eating intuitively actually lessons your change of binge eating and loss-of-control eating!
When I take on a new client, I always get them to fill out a few worksheets in which one question reads, “do you fear that if you gave yourself permission to eat any and all foods, that you would never stop?”
Majority of the time they answer yes.
It’s interesting how diet culture has taught us to fear food and to not trust our own bodies around food.
Meanwhile if we actually just tune into our bodies once again, they will actually help us gain control of both binge eating & loss-of-control-eating! We will be able to grow in our food relationship.
Emotional Eating Definition – Emotional eating is eating as a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions, such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness. Major life events or, more commonly, the hassles of daily life can trigger negative emotions.
People often assume that intuitive eaters are the definition of emotional eaters. If they are happy = pizza. If they are sad = pizza. If they are bored = pizza. Can you relate?
(BTW there is NOTHING wrong with having pizza in any of those situations!)
However, studies actually show us that intuitive eaters emotional eat less then dieters! Why? Well, when you give yourself unconditional permission to eat all foods, emotional eating tends to not feel as satisfying as it once did.
For many emotional eaters they tend to restrict foods like dairy or gluten all week long. Then when something particularly stressful or emotional happens, guess what they want?
Dairy & gluten!
When we give ourselves permission to eat all foods whenever, this helps us not require these foods when we are emotional!
What is Disordered Eating and how does it differ from Eating Disorders? – “Disordered eating is used to describe a range of irregular eating behaviours that may or may not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder. Eating disorders, such an anorexia nervosa, or AN, or bulimia nervosa, or BN, are diagnosed according to specific and narrow criteria. This excludes a majority of people suffering with disordered eating. Many individuals with disordered eating symptoms are diagnosed with Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specific, or EDNOS. However, similar to AN or BN, EDNOS has specific criteria that must be met in order for the patient to receive this diagnosis, and that criteria also is narrowing”. – Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Intuitive eaters tend to experience less disordered eating. This one hits home for me.
Back when I was a chronic dieter, I was the definition of disordered eating.
I would be prescribed or recommended my new diet, take the next few days to throw out hundreds of dollars of food from my kitchen that was now “bad food.”
I would then make the lists in my phone of my food rules, my “yes” foods list for healthy eating & my new “no” foods lists.
I would then let my husband and my bestie know that this is what I was now diving into.
And I would dive in.
For as long as I could.
Maybe it was a day, or a week, or a month. Or maybe it was until that same health professional who prescribed the diet would say it actually hadn’t worked for me. Maybe it was until I just simply couldn’t handle the restriction anymore.
And then I would throw my hands up and binge.
Guess what came next? Intense shame and anxiety in regard to what I had just done. I was convinced it was my fault. That I was too weak to commit to these diets.
And so, the cycle of restrictive eating would start again. “Tomorrow I will be fully, 100% committed!”
It was incredibly disordered and incredibly unhealthy. I didn’t know how to have a healthy relationship with food.
I didn’t fit into the box of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or eating disorder not otherwise specific. I didn’t tick the box of an eating disorder.
But I had severe disordered eating.
Intuitive eating helps people who are in situations like I was in. Studies show that intuitive eaters experience less disordered eating!
Have you ever heard of self-silencing?
What is Self-Silencing? – “Repressing one’s feelings when they might threaten relationships or one’s security and appearing outwardly agreeable while inner feelings grow angry and resentful.” – Dana Jack, a professor of psychology at Western Washington University
We live in a world where many people are at risk for self-silencing. Those who are in larger bodies, those who are female, those who are trans, those who are BIPOC etc.
Dieting tends to breed self-silencing. There’s no holistic nutrition with dieting.
How? Well dieting tells you that if you can’t stick to the diet, it’s your problem. Dieting tells you that if you feel like that specific diet isn’t working for you, you should suck it up. Dieting tells you that if you can’t maintain your weight loss or lose the weight in the first place, that it’s all your fault.
Dieting continually puts you in the position of having A LOT of negative feelings that end up being suppressed my health professionals, nutritionists and even yourself. Meanwhile anger and resentment are boiling on the inside.
Intuitive eating is all about changing your relationship with food.
Intuitive eating tells you that your voice matters.
Intuitive eating tells you that you aren’t alone in what you’ve experienced.
Intuitive eating tells you that diet culture is the enemy, not your body.
Intuitive eating tells you that you can be healthy at your current size.
Intuitive eating tells you that you are worthy exactly the way you are.
Intuitive eating tells you that it’s not your fault that the diet failed, it’s diet culture’s fault.
Most of my clients come to me with issues in self-silencing. This is something we work on together through intuitive eating as we dismantle diet culture in their lives!
Could you Benefit from Having Higher…
We’ve talked about a lot of benefits in regard to what intuitive eating can “lower” the risk of in your life. Now let’s dive into some of the things intuitive eating can actually help raise in your life!
Ready? Let’s go!
Intuitive eating can help you have higher life satisfaction. Incorporating holistic healing, it can help have higher unconditional self-regard and psychological hardiness.
Intuitive eating can help you have higher proactive coping, pleasure from eating and interoceptive awareness.
Intuitive eating can help you have higher HDL which is the good cholesterol, body appreciate and acceptance.
Intuitive eating can help you increase the variety of foods eaten, increase your well-being and optimism and increase your self-esteem.
Intuitive Eating is truly the perfect melting pot of mind & body health. It promotes holistic health and wellness. I mean, who couldn’t benefit from these incredible things that intuitive eating could potentially aid you with?!
Have you Seen Yourself in this Blog?
Maybe while reading this blog, you’ve continually thought, “damn, that’s so me.” Or “wow, I could use some of that in my life.”
Maybe you’ve dieted for at least a decade on and off or you know that you are subconsciously still listening to food rules.
Maybe you have a yo-yo relationship with food. One day you are “on” when it comes to your diet and the next day you are saying “screw it, I’ll dive back in tomorrow.”
Maybe you’ve been on a diet that has “worked” for you in the past, but you just can’t seem to stick with it. You beat yourself up continually because you are convinced that it’s your fault. You know this unhealthy relationship with food needs to change.
Maybe you continually find yourself “cheating” on your diet and are constantly looking for the next most flexible diet to invest in.
Maybe you’ve tried all the diets and still never been satisfied when it comes to your relationship with food. You always feel like something is missing.
Who knows, maybe it’s time to try something completely different. Maybe it’s time to try intuitive eating, a holistic approach to health. And I don’t mean the intuitive eating that the influence on Instagram sells that simply allows you to eat whatever, whenever.
I mean the original intuitive eating. The intuitive eating that is backed by over 100 studies. The intuitive eating that follows 10 principles to healing.
More on that below!
The Real Intuitive Eating
If you and I were sitting in the same room right now, I’d pull my chair in closer, look you straight in the eyes and tell you the truth: you don’t have to live this way. Your life is so much more expansive than a diet to abide by or the size of your pants
I’d also tell you that you have the ability to…
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honour Your Hunger
- Challenge the Food Police
- Respect Your Fullness
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Honor Your Feelings Without Food
- Respect Your Body
- Exercise – Feel the Difference
- Honor Your Health
If you hadn’t already guessed it, those are the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating. The 10 principles I work through with my clients as we work to heal their relationship with food and free them from diet culture once and for all.
Eating intuitively has completely transformed my life. You can read more on that here. And it’s transformed so many of my clients lives as well.
I now help women feel at peace around food once again and heal from disordered eating, click here and see if what I have to offer may be a great fit for you!
Until next time, happy healing!
*To read more about the science behind intuitive eating, read the book Intuitive Eating, A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach (specifically pages 1-18 which is titles, “The Science Behind Intuitive Eating”) by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S, FAND. I had the privilege of being mentored by these women when I became certified in intuitive eating and highly recommend reading anything that was written by them!