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Intuitive Eating: The Anti-Dieting Approach to Losing Weight
Intuitive eating - Dr. Axe
Most people are starting to accept the idea that “diets” — the kind you go on and then
off of — don’t work in the long run. In fact, reports now show that about 90 to 95
percent of all diets fail! (1) One of the ironies behind failed diets and yo-yo
dieting is that, ultimately, some diets make you fat.
Meanwhile, people tend to blame themselves, feeling like a lack of willpower, no
self-control and bad genetics are the reasons they can’t lose weight. Sometimes t
hey blame themselves so much that they stop eating and enter into a dangerous st
arvation mode rather than adopt a more healthful approach like mindful eating.
Along the lines of more healthful approaches to eating comes “Intuitive Eating”: an
emerging approach to sustainable healthy eating and body acceptance. Intuitive e
aters believe that the blame shouldn’t be put on “dieters” themselves, but instead on
the flawed process of dieting. According to dozens of studies, this approach see
ms promising and a “realistic alternative to address overweight and obesity than c
onventional weight-loss treatments.” (2)
The authors of the book Intuitive Eating, registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole a
nd Elyze Resch, call their approach a “180-degree departure from dieting.” Instead o
f a strong focus on weight loss, deprivation, cutting or counting calories and w
riting off certain foods, their goal is to teach people how to eat in a way that
supports a healthier relationship with food. In essence, the goal of Intuitive
Eating is to practice health on every level — both physically and mentally.
The Core Principles of Intuitive Eating
Researchers have put together several different general guidelines for Intuitive
Eating which include:
1.Mostly Intrinsic Eating (mostly eating based on your inner cues for fullness a
nd hunger)
2.Sometimes Extrinsic Eating (at times eating based on your mood, social situati
on, time of day or food availability without feelings of guilt)
3.Anti-Dieting (eating that’s not determined by any specific diet, like counting c
alories or following a risky low-fat diet plan, or purely just for weight loss)
4.Self-Care and Body Acceptance (regardless of current size)
Just the opposite of most quick-fix diet plans, Intuitive Eating proposes a way
of eating that allows for any and all food choices. Essentially nothing is off l
imits and there is no cap of how many calories, fat grams or carbohydrates can b
e eaten in a day. Of course, nutrition and exercise are important pieces of the
puzzle, but first and foremost the priority is to “reject the diet mentality” that c
auses many people to feel guilty, chronically stressed and out of touch with the
ir own bodies.
Since it removes stress, deprivation and mistrust from the weight loss equation,
Intuitive Eating relies on a better mind-body connection. This helps most peopl
e to make good food choices more often than not, to get better in touch with the
ir body’s signals of hunger versus fullness, and to respect and appreciate their u
nique body at any size.
Intuitive Eaters feel that a lack of knowledge about general nutrition isn’t one o
f the main reasons that many adults can’t lose weight — rather it’s the emotional reas
ons behind eating that are hardest to overcome. Initially some people are highly
skeptical about how any eating plan that allows for all foods and zero calorie-

happy. rebellion and rebound weight-gain) and help ing people to get back to trusting their body’s own natural signs and preferences. Many studies have found positive impl ications for Intuitive Eating.Unconditional permission to eat sired 2. fullness.) and overall hea lthier body mass indexes. heavy breathing.” Intuitive eaters ar e less likely to eat in the absence of hunger. body acceptance and sati sfaction. Intuitive Eating Guide . It’s finally clicked with the public that we need another way to approach healthier eating. effective and re silient. and even lower incidences of eating disorder sympto ms. Compared to women scoring low on this scale. and to binge due to deprivation. eat to soothe stress. th e primary “stress hormone” that is tied to weight gain. yet more and more peopl e report being on “diets” than ever. healthier mind sets about food. including lower body mass indexes.Axe Proven Benefits of Intuitive Eating Rates of obesity and being overweight continue to climb. more socially integrated. Wondering about how “healthy” this way of eating can really be when it comes to nutr ition to weight? Higher Intuitive Eating scores have been tied to healthier weig ht management and healthier BMIs and improved physical health indicators other t han BMI (like blood pressure or cholesterol levels). unleashing the comm on shackles of dieting (deprivation. This suggests that listenin g to your body’s signals for determining what. Eating intuitively can also result in lower stress levels and lower cortisol.300 college women that f Intuitive Eating. Intuitive Eating hopes to encourage healthy eatin g in a radically new way: reconciling forbidden food issues.Dr. appreciative. Intuitive eaters report feeling upbeat.Reliance on internal hunger and eat large study on over 1. fast heartbeat. when and how much to eat is one of the best ways to prevent weight gain long-term. (5) Ohio State University published a ocused on several key features of 1. according to studies. (6) Many other studies have found that people who eat intuitively are less likely to yo-yo diet (losing and gaining weight over and over again. more satisfaction with life and positive feelings including optimism and proactive c oping with emotions. mood disturbances and troubl e sleeping. healthy weight control. But numerous studies show that downright rejecting most “diets” results in better b ody acceptance. including: when hungry and the types of foods that are de emotional reasons satiety cues to determine when and how much to The women first completed the Intuitive Eating Scale (IES) to measure if they se lf-identified as Intuitive Eaters. which can damage the metabolism) because they engage in fewer behaviors that lead to emotional eatin g or weight gain — or to what I call the “metabolism death foods. lower stress levels about being thin and fitting cultural ideals. eat due to situational or social factors like peer pressure.counting can really help bring about weight management and better mental health. mostly well-rounded and nutritious food choices. People who focus on health before weight tend to experience more ple asant emotional states in general. lower cortisol levels and better body images. perh .Eating for physical rather than 3. less yo-yo dieting. Intuitive Eaters were found to have higher self-esteem. better awareness of physical sensations originating from th e body (hunger. They’re even more likely to be physically active on a regular basis. to restrict certain food group s. etc. (3) While “anti-dieting” (4) alone doesn’t necessarily help someone lower health risks and make smart dietary decisions.

easily and perma nently by taking drastic measures. an d having a lower risk for eating disorder symptoms (like bulimia. Recognize that it’s important to give your body the calories it needs. (8) 6 Steps to Becoming a More Intuitive Eater 1. to feel like it’s their “last chance” and t hen to feel overwhelming guilt. but vowing to 100 p ercent eliminate certain foods or food groups from your diet forever can just in crease stress and feelings of pre-occupation with “forbidden foods. being more attentive to the body’s basic needs. but rather it should be “put on the back burner” in order to focus on general health and feeling good. Acknowledge That Quick-Fix Or Fad Diets Don’t Work It’s tempting to believe that there’s a way to lose weight quickly.aps because they value their bodies more and have more energy. But in reality. while also making you feel good. instead of what food is in front of them. Intuitive Eaters primarily rely on their bodies to tell them when and ho w much to eat.” stop dieting all together. they a re very tempted to eat very large amounts. all without trying to be “perf ect. most people can’t overr ide their body’s natural biology and cravings for extended periods of time. stable mind and steady energy levels. yo u want to prioritize eating all types of healthy foods over highly processed foo ds. (7) The American Psychological Association identified an additional benefit of Intui tive Eating: better self-trust and reliance on the body’s innate hunger and satiet y cues. eliminating entire food groups. call a truce and stop the food fight.” Intuitive eater s aim to “make peace with food. radically cut ting calories or going on a low-carb diet. it causes many people to deprive themselves of enough calories and rest. binge eating d isorder or anorexia) or negative body image. Give up the idea that there’s new and better diets lurking around the corner and r eturn to what has worked for people for centuries: eating real foods. otherwise y ou’re likely to deal with feelings of chronic fatigue. Fuel Yourself with Enough Calories Most Intuitive Eating experts believe that the goal of weight loss shouldn’t take center stage. Exp erts believe that “all or nothing” thinking about foods can increase the likelihood for bingeing because when someone finally “gives in” to their forbidden food. deprivation and resentment. . but don’t expect perfection and assume you’ll never have your favorite comfort f oods again. or the urge to overeat or binge due to biological changes. The motivation of simply wanting to lose weight to look better. it can lead to intense feelings of shame along with uncontrollable cravings. Studies also sho w that better trust in one’s own body leads to more self-appreciation (despite siz e and perceived imperfections). Instea d of trying diet after diet only to feel like a failure every time you “fall off t he wagon. the time of day. practicing moderation and moving your body! Aim for a nutrient-dense diet that supports a healthy body. Avoid “Good/Bad” or “Black/White Thinking” About Certain Foods It’s true that some foods are more nutrient-dense than others. or what others are eating. 2. portio n sizes being served in restaurants. can be temporary and fleeting — but even more importantly. which has damaging effects on the metabolism. 3.” Of course.” Make food choices that honor your health and satisfy your taste buds. especially for a specific event. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food ever again.

not perfection” is the goal. just aim to have them less often and focus your attention on adding in mo re of the things that support your health and make you feel good. Intuitive Eating opens the doors to finding new ways to destres s. and if you lov e it. try to eat before you feel “ravenous. anxiety. don’t eat it. savor it. and resolve emotional issues. 95 Percent of People Don’t Fail Their Diets”: http:// . and Stop When Full “Feeling your fullness” and “honoring your hunger” are two key concepts of Intuitive Eat ing. Many people find it helpful to slow down when eating. Just because you’r e carrying around a little extra weight than you’d like to doesn’t necessarily mean you’re unhealthy and that you need to force yourself to be smaller. Practice mindful eating and ask yourself if what you’re having is actually satisfy ing you. Learn to Eat When You’re Hungry. Try your best not to view certain foods (or entir e food groups like carbohydrates. 6. watching TV. ch ew food well. Practicing Body Acceptance and Be Realistic About Your Goals We all have unique genetic blueprints. loneliness or boredom. massage therapy. for example) as “bad”. or if you’re simply eating it because it’s there. driving. Find Ways to Handle Stress and Emotions without the Use Of Food For many people.). comfort. News & World Report. “No. and to pause in the middle of a meal or snack to take note of how full they feel.” 5. Are you setting the bar too high? Is y our current diet or exercise routine causing more stress and harm than it’s worth? Are you accepting of your natural body or constantly fighting your genetics and beating yourself up? Respect your body.Remember that it’s what you eat consistently over time that matters and that “progre ss. they can finally start to eat in l ine with what their body really needs. nurture or distract themselves. Learn to listen to your inner body signal s that tell you that you are starting to get hungry. drop the guilt as much as you can.” which can easily lead to overeating b efore reaching satiety. too. acup uncture. writing a journal. and for many people reaching their “ideal w eight” is unrealistic. One principle that many i ntuitive eaters love to follow is: “If you don’t love it. etc. Get to know what it feels like to be “comfortably full” without being overly stuffed . meditation or healing prayer.S. fats or animal proteins. Read Next: Mindful Eating — Maintain a Healthy Weight & Appetite References: 1. Ask yourself if your goals are realistic.U. Wondering how to be happier everyday and to fin d appropriate outlets for uncomfortable emotions and stress? Try exercising in a fun way. unsustainable and possibly even unhealthy. but it actually usually winds up making the initial problem even worse. Many people find that when they don’t categorize any foods as totally off-lim its or deprive themselves of enough calories. because then you have to deal with feeli ngs of shame or discomfort. withou t overeating or turning to comfort food. Also. and when you’ve had enough to feel satisfied. in stead. and start feeling better about who you are so you can take better care of yourself l ong-term. Emotional eating might feel good in the moment. or spending time with people you love. eat un-distracted (not emailing. We all feel tough emotions from time to time like frustration. but it’s important to real ize that food can’t actually fix any of these feelings or solve problems in your l ife. 4.

Journal of Counseling Psychology.Huffington Post.Public Health Nutrition. “Relationships between intuitive eating an d health indicators: literature review”: http://www.osu.nih. early PArticle-2buggx0.Nutricion 72 6. December 2013. “How One Woman Is Ending Her Body Image War”: http ://www.ncbi. “Intuitive eating: associations with physical activity motivation and BMI”: 5.Journal of the American Dietetic Association.g ov/pubmed/24459999 8. January-February 2015. “Intuitive eating: an emerging approach to eating behavior”: http://www. January 2011. and mid dle adulthood”: .nlm.ncbi.nlm.usnews.nih. female chronic dieters”: ont-fail-their-diets 3. August 2014. “The acceptance model of intuiti ve eating: a comparison of women in emerging adulthood.nih.pdf 7.Nutrition and Health.American Journal of Health Promotion. October 2014. “Size acceptance and in tuitive eating improve health for obese.nlm. April 2012. June 2005. “Assessing the effectiveness of intuitive eati ng for weight loss – pilot study”: 4. nlm.