Do you know what is Intuitive Eating?
“Imagine a world where you woke up each day and had an easy relationship with food. You ate when you were hungry and stopped when you were full. There are no moments of being hard on yourself. No beating yourself up when you eat something “bad.” No shame or guilt. No eating out of anger or sadness. You simply ate what felt good for you and your body.” – Institute for the Psychology of Eating on what is intuitive eating.
Perhaps, you already have this kind of relationship with food. However, for many, an endless cycle of dieting and weight gain, “cheat meals” and food guilt play a large part of their lives. Ultimately feeling stuck in a self-defeating cycle, that can lead to an array of mental health difficulties. As such there has been a push for non-diet alternatives … intuitive eating has come forth!
So the underlying premise behind Intuitive Eating is that, when listened to, the body naturally knows the quantity and type of food to eat in order to maintain nutritional needs and a healthy weight for ourselves. This is often referred to as “body wisdom.”
Societal expectations and diet culture have contributed to many people ignoring and eventually losing connection to their own body’s wisdom through diets, calorie restriction, extreme exercise, being forced to eat until we are finished rather than until we are full (often as children), the elimination of food groups labelled as “bad”, time assigned meals (e.g., breakfast, lunch, dinner) and advertising.
Therefore, the purpose of intuitive eating is to regain this innate wisdom. To build trust in your body’s internal cues regarding hunger and fullness and find trust in yourself to make informed decisions about food.
Intuitive Eating Benefits
Research has shown that intuitive eating is associated with numerous psychological health benefits…
- increased self-esteem
- greater life satisfaction
- positive body image
- decreased depression and anxiety
- lower use of unhealthy weight control behaviours and disordered eating (fasting, skipping meals, taking diet pills, vomiting, and binge eating)
It also appears to be associated with physical health benefits…
- decreased weight cycling
- lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol levels
Intuitive eating is meant to be a long-term sustainable lifestyle change with better long-term results for both health and happiness.
Does Intuitive Eating work?
Well, this depends on what you mean by this question. If you are asking, can you eat intuitively and lose weight… the answer is you might, but that isn’t really the point. Unfortunately, some people and even practitioners misunderstand Intuitive Eating and prescribe it to people as a weight loss strategy. Which it is not.
Now that I have cleared that up, here are some of the reasons why it does work…
Researchers have found we have a second brain – our “Gut Brain” – not a literal brain in our bellies, but it is a complex network of neurons and neurochemicals that communicate with our brain (the one in our heads) regarding our nutritional needs. This is the part of our bodies we want to begin to trust when we are eating intuitively, it is providing on the ground, in the trenches information about what our body needs. So it knows a lot more than what we tend to give it credit for.
Also, within today’s modern society many of us are moving so quickly, and ultimately on autopilot a lot of the time, thus becoming disconnected from our bodies. This can lead to skipping meals, and overeating at the end of our days (among other things) which tends to negatively impact on our metabolism. Not to mention large amounts of ongoing stress has been shown to make it more difficult to lose weight, build muscle, reduce our immunity and cause fatigue. Thus, if we are engaged in dieting practices that are stressful and unrealistic we may be doing more harm than good to our health.
Understanding What is Intuitive Eating, may hold the key to some health benefits.
Denny, K. N., Loth, K., Eisenberg, M. E., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2013). Intuitive eating in young adults. Who is doing it, and how is it related to disordered eating behaviors?. Appetite, 60, 13-19. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.09.029
Finding Balance Psychology. (n.d.) Intuitive Eating at Every Size. http://findingbalancepsychology.com.au/intuitive-eating/
Institute for the Psychology of Eating. (n.d.) The Science and Psychology of Intuitive Eating. https://psychologyofeating.com/the-science-and-psychology-of-intuitive-eating/
Linardon, J., Tylka, T. L., & Fuller‐Tyszkiewicz, M. (2021). Intuitive eating and its psychological correlates: A meta‐analysis. International Journal of Eating Disorders. 54, 1073-1098. doi: 10.1002/eat.23509
Mahlheim, L. (2020, December 31). How can Intuitive Eating Help My Eating Disorder? Very Well Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/intuitive-eating-can-help-disordered-eating-4796957#toc-principles-of-intuitive-eating
Van Dyke, N., & Drinkwater, E. J. (2014). Review article relationships between intuitive eating and health indicators: literature review. Public Health Nutrition, 17, 1757-1766. doi: 10.1017/S1368980013002139
Author: Samantha Sheppard, B Psych (Hons).
Samantha is a registered psychologist with experience working with children and adolescents (and their families), young adults and adults. Samantha empowers others with their mental health using a non-judgmental, compassionate approach and particularly resonates with the social and emotional wellbeing framework.
To make an appointment with Samantha Sheppard try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Loganholme on (07) 3067 9129.