Now that we have a good understanding of what intuitive eating is, we can better distinguish what it should not look like. This will help you be critical of diets or health professionals offering restrictive plans and hiding behind the idea of Intuitive Eating.
NOT a diet nor food rules
Diet culture has become a master in disguising and labelling certain diets for the purpose of “wellness” (5). IE does take healthy eating into account, but rejects external diet rules that dictate how much or when you should eat. Instead, IE restores your autonomy by allowing you to make your own decision about what to eat (4).
When it comes to your hunger and fullness cues, IE also does not tell you to completely stop eating when you eat past the point of fullness, regardless of social and personal context. That’s just another diet, telling you how much and when you should stop eating (4).
NOT a means to lose weight or to change your body
“There’s no form of intentional weight loss that lets you live peacefully with food and your body” (4).
Do you find yourself celebrating weight loss? If you knew a certain lifestyle would make you happier and healthier but would cause you to gain weight, would you still adopt it? IE does not make any promises when it comes to weight. Rather, IE takes the focus off weight and focuses on changing and healing an individual’s relationship with their body.
This does not mean that weight loss or gain does not occur when following IE. However, it encourages people to heal their relationship from within rather than validating it from external factors.
NOT always an easy or effortless approach
Listening to our internal cues is not a switch we can just turn back on. Going through the process of relearning how to listen to our body might not be as intuitive as we think ! If one has not taken the habit of being mindful of their hunger or fullness cues, they might find it difficult to be in tune with IE principles at first.
Intuitive eating can also raise some uncomfortable emotions. Trusting and giving your body unconditional permission to eat might feel scary and out of control, especially if you’ve had a history of disordered eating patterns. In fact, many people are so used to ignoring and suppressing their hunger, that they can almost feel a sense of panic when finally deciding to eat. The good news, though, is that it gets easier with time as your body learns to trust you again and you learn to trust your body.
NOT eating whatever you want, whenever you want
Although giving yourself unconditional permission is a key pillar of intuitive eating, it is quite not the same thing. IE is much more than that; it is the ability to respond to your cues when you are hungry or satisfied, and using that to guide your decision. You might recall gentle nutrition – a pillar of IE, which considers and engages with nutrition to improve your health. This means adapting and planning your meals to nourish and meet your personal or health needs. Besides, it is not because you allow yourself to eat all foods that you will necessarily only eat highly palatable foods or the foods that you’ve previously avoided. Research has actually shown that the more access you are given to a food, the more neutral it becomes to you (3). Therefore, observing what feels good or not in your body, allows us to respect our body by reaching comfortable fullness and satisfaction.
NOT only for people struggling with disordered eating – for everyone
Everyone can benefit from IE – at least to some aspects of it. Because IE’s principles are guidelines and not strict rules, IE can be adapted to meet your own needs. Depending on your lived experience, you might find some aspects of IE more challenging to incorporate into your daily life. Examples of this are people who experience food insecurity, are diagnosed with a health condition that interferes with their hunger and fullness cues or requires them to follow a certain medical diet, as well as people who have a history of trauma, making it hard for them to tune in with their bodies.
Certain principles of IE might also not be suited for people in the early stages of eating disorder (ED) recovery. Hunger and fullness cues might not be appropriate to guide eating, but making peace with the body would be crucial to healing. Depending on your experience,try focusing on aspects of IE that are the most accessible to you, like ditching diets or giving yourself the unconditional permission to eat all foods. Remember – IE is still for you.
Want to start eating intuitively?
Don’t know where to start? Our team can help. To meet with a dietitian to explore how intuitive eating can be suited for you, please reach out to our team at (202) 738-4726 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Nesrine Aboulhamid, McGill Dietetics Intern in collaboration with Valerie Bouzo and Annyck Besso
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Sööma is a bilingual company that operates in both English and in French. We will provide blog posts, recipes and articles from various sources that are sometimes written in English and sometimes in French. If you feel unable to access a specific article or topic due to a language barrier, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to translate the content for you.
- Begin, C., Carbonneau, E., Gagnon-Girouard, M. P., Mongeau, L., Paquette, M. C., Turcotte, M., & Provencher, V. (201 8). Eating-Related and Psychological Outcomes of Health at Every Size Intervention in Health and Social Services Cent ers Across the Province of Quebec. Am J Health Promot, 890117118786326. doi:10.1177/0890117118786326
- Bruce, L. J., & Ricciardelli, L. A. (2016). A systematic review of the psychosocial correlates of intuitive eating among ad ult women. Appetite, 96, 454-472.
- Epstein, L. H., Temple, J. L., Roemmich, J. N., & Bouton, M. E. (2009). Habituation as a determinant of human food intake. Psychological Review, 116(2), 384–407. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015074
- Harrison, C. (2019). Anti-diet : reclaim your time, money, well-being, and happiness through intuitive eating (First ed). Little, Brown Spark, p203, 209, 223, 250.
- Hartley, R. (2021). Gentle Nutrition: (A Non-Diet Approach to Healthy Eating). Victory Belt Publishing, p30-35, 39
- Hazzard, V. M., Telke, S. E., Simone, M., Anderson, L. M., Larson, N. I., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2020). Intuitive eating longitudinally predicts better psychological health and lower use of disordered eating behaviors: findings from EAT 2010–20 18. Eating and Weight Disorders-Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity, 1-8.
- The Original Intuitive Eating Pros. 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating. Retrieved October 19, 2022, from https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/