Why dieting is out and intuitive eating is in
Updated: Jun 12
Heal your relationship with food
Research conclusively shows that most diets fail. Even if the dieter loses weight in the short term, they generally gain it back once they return to their regular pattern of eating. Significantly, 95-98% of people regain the weight over a 4-5 year period. Dieting reinforces the concept of restriction and food restriction is associated with a long list of adverse health issues. These range from nutrient imbalances and food preoccupation to malnutrition, unhealthy body image and disordered eating. Several studies have shown that restraint eating (dieting) may actually cause weight gain.
Intuitive eating has gained popularity in the last few years due to its health-centred focus and contribution to physical and psychological wellbeing. Intuitive eating programs aim to address a person's natural ability to regulate their food intake and cultivate a positive attitude towards food and body image.
What is intuitive eating exactly?
Intuitive eating is an evidence-based program designed by dietitians; Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. It aims to bring your focus back to the mind-body connection, using hunger and satiety cues to regulate eating. It involves listening to internal body signals and eating for physical rather than emotional reasons. Intuitive eating empowers individuals to eat when they are hungry and not label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
The program also promotes physical activity and gentle nutrition. Tribole & Resch instruct intuitive eaters to focus on how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie-burning effect of exercise. Exercise is scientifically proven to increase energy, reduce stress and stabilise mood. Tuning into these beneficial effects can increase your motivation to continue exercising.
An understanding of basic nutrition is encouraged to help you make food choices that honour your health. Honouring your tastebuds with food that tastes good is also important and intuitive eaters are reminded that you don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy.
What are the benefits?
Cultivating greater body appreciation along with freedom from restrictive eating, food preoccupation and diet culture are just some of the benefits of an intuitive style of eating.
Can it help with binge eating?
Studies demonstrate that intuitive eaters are 40% less likely to display extreme weight loss control behaviours and less likely to experience chronic binge eating. It is also associated with lower levels of disordered eating behaviours.
Can you lose weight from intuitive eating?
Intuitive eating is not a weight loss program. There is no calorie counting, food plan or diet ‘rules’. Weight loss may occur naturally over time as you become more in tune with your physiological and psychological needs, however this is not the primary focus of the program. It is not recommended to approach intuitive eating with the aim of losing weight but with the intention of healing your relationship with food and learning to accept your body in the process
Does it work?
During my teens and 20s, restriction and calorie counting featured high in my repertoire. I followed all the diet crazes and witnessed my weight yo-yo along with my mood. I now loosely follow an intuitive style of eating and have naturally reduced sugar-laden food and large portion sizes because I have learnt which foods do, and do not, make my body feel good. My weight has remained relatively stable for the last 10-15 years however it is important to add that I have a detailed knowledge of nutrition, I exercise regularly and eat a diet that is high in both plant and whole foods.
How do you get started?
You can find the principles of intuitive eating on Tribole & Resch’s website.
You can also read their book; ‘Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach’ and accompanying workbook.
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Intuitive eating can take time but learning to listen to your hunger cues, re-establish your mind-body connection and give up ‘dieting’, can make a huge difference to your wellbeing. Your mental health, body image and self-worth may flourish as a result.