Is Intuitive Eating Just Another Diet?

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With all the hype about what Intuitive Eating is, and is not, it can get quite confusing to understand fact from fiction. Is Intuitive Eating a diet? Does it involve rules? Can you also restrict foods and be an intuitive eater? Let’s take a look!

According to the creators and authors of Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Intuitive Eating is an “evidence-based, mind-body health approach, comprised of 10 principles and is a weight-neutral model with a validated assessment scale with over 90-studies to date ”

So what does this actually mean?

It means that Intuitive Eating is not something that was created as a way to lose weight, it integrates both your mind AND body in the healing process, and it is backed by lots of scientific studies to prove it’s efficacy.  

Now, let’s break this down:

First:

Intuitive Eating was not created as a way to lose weight, but rather as a way to take the focus off of weight as a perimeter of health and instead focus on the behaviors that contribute to health long-term. In fact, in the very first chapter of the book, it asks you to put weight on the back burner. Meaning, you cannot work to heal your relationship with food if you are focusing on and actively trying to change your body.

This is because the persuit of weight loss often asks that you manipulate your food intake and exercise, which disconnects you from your body. Hungry? Eat an apple. Hungry? Drink some water. Hungry? Just ignore it. Sound familiar? Tired? Work out anyway. Injured? You can’t skip a workout.

Dieting (this includes restricting food and food groups) asks you to override your body’s signals and with time this erodes trust (of both you of your body and your body of you) and makes feeling things like hunger and fullness very difficult.  

Intuitive Eating, over time, helps you to lean into trusting that your body will arrive to it’s set-point weight (the weight range that feels most safe to your body and is based on a collection of factors that include genetics, medication, trauma and history of dieting.

Second:

Intuitive Eating integrates the mind and the body in the healing process. Why is this important? Because in order to establish a new relationship with food, you must also connect to and integrate the mind. This includes your thoughts, feelings, stories you tell yourself, emotions, your lived experience, your dieting history, food rules, and so much more.

By integrating both the mind and the body, you are better equipped to listen and respond to your body’s needs with compassion. This is essentially the opposite of what diet culture teaches you. Knowing how you think about food, and how your dieting history and family of origin food history has influenced your relationship with food is helpful to understanding the “whys” behind your behaviors. The “why” helps take you in the direction of becoming an intuitive eater and healing from diet culture.

Third:

Intuitive Eating is backed by over 90 scientific studies to date. This means that it is evidence-base. This is important because there is tons of diet/health information out there that does not give any consideration to the scientific evidence that either proves its efficacy, or there is no scientific data at all.

As a registered dietitian, I am required by training to be evidence-based in my recommendations for this reason. In other words, my recommendations or counsel can’t be based on something that is not backed by research, no matter how woo-woo I would love to be at times.

Bottom line: Intuitive Eating is not a diet.

It’s not a lifestyle change or a path to weight loss. It is not “eat just the right amount, but not too much” diet. It is not a way to cut out some foods and then “intuitively eat” your way through the foods that you are giving yourself permission to eat. It is not a portion measuring or calorie tracking plan. It’s not a plan only meant for people in smaller bodies. Its not made up of rules or “shoulds”.

Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach that will help you to experience freedom with food and your body so that you can live your life liberated from diet culture.

This is want I want for you.

Katherine Metzelaar