Intuitive Eating: A solution to dieting?

20 May 2019

Written by: Natasha Pietrobuono

How Intuitive Eating can help you find food satisfaction and heal your relationship with food and your body.

Since making the switch from dieting to intuitive eating, Evie Skeels hasn’t looked back. She chose to begin listening to her body’s psychical hunger cues when she realised it was socially and emotionally easier than sticking to a diet plan.

Skeels has gone from being on a diet to eating whatever she wants, whenever she wants. Although many individuals go through their own experiences of dieting, Skeels says eating intuitively has been a better option because of the wide variety of foods she is able to enjoy.

“The diet plan is too strict and I always cheat and treat myself which reverses my progress,” she told upstart.

“Following a diet plan restricts your whole lifestyle. Eating intuitively means I can still go out with friends without it ruining my diet plan and I can still enjoy the foods I like. I haven’t lost weight as quickly as I would have if I stuck to a diet plan strictly, but I [have still] lost some weight eating intuitively like I was doing before and being more active.”

Eating has always been a natural part of everyday life. People grow up eating, allowing their bodies to receive the required nourishment it needs to grow, and maintain daily bodily functions.

Eating is even a form of socialising with family and friends, so why would you want to restrict yourself from something that could be so enjoyable?

Intuitive Eating is not only about eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full, but also incorporates healing your relationship with food and your body. This can lead to food being enjoyed without guilt and body discomfort.

Overall, Intuitive Eating means learning to trust your body to tell you when it’s time to eat, rather than sticking to a diet that limits you to eat each meal at a specific time throughout the day. Essentially it relates to allowing yourself to connect with your mind and body.

Meanwhile, dieting means limiting your food and drink intake, especially if you are trying to lose weight, which can even include portion control.

Many individuals may choose to go on diets for various reasons, some of which include weight loss, fitness reasons and reducing food intake. Others may choose to have one cheat day week. A cheat day essentially means you can eat any food you desire for a day, without having to strictly follow your diet.

According to NDTVFood, individuals who choose to follow diets and restrict their food intake are often left with bigger cravings and food obsessions. This can lead to overeating, especially on cheat days.

Eventually, overeating may lead to feelings of guilt and could cause anxiety for an individual. This may often lead to dissatisfaction, which is where Intuitive Eating comes in. When you feed yourself what your body and mind want, you will then feel more satisfied within yourself and with what you have eaten, rather than restricting what you can and cannot eat.

Nutrition Therapist Elyse Resch is the author of The Intuitive Eating Workbook for Teens and co-author of Intuitive Eating and the Intuitive Eating Workbook. She says that since the beginning of her career, she knew that diets didn’t work and instead trusted in Intuitive Eating.

“Intuitive Eating is not just important, but critical in helping people increase self-care, find satisfaction in eating, heal their relationship with food and their bodies,” she told upstart.

“[Learning] to respect [your] body and radically accept that our size and shape is determined by our DNA. The goal of Intuitive Eating is to help people understand this destruction and move toward a place of listening to their bodies’ signals, trusting their inner wisdom, and finding the freedom to enjoy food without fear.”

She was first introduced to the non-diet approach back in its inception in the early 1990s, where she remained intrigued and hopeful. The non-diet approach teaches you to respect the fact that your body knows best in relation to eating, food, nutrition, movement, weight, rest and self-care. This removes the pressure to eat for weight-loss.

Resch’s interest in this new approach inspired her to write her first non-diet book as a dietitian.

“I had no alternative to help people when they came to my office for the purpose of weight loss,” Resch said.

“At the time, I also had not been awakened to the concept of Health at Every Size, with an understanding that ‘helping people lose weight’ only promoted the weight stigma that accompanies the culturally thin ideal. At this point in my career, I promote body diversity acceptance and do not help people to lose weight. Intuitive Eating is a focus on self-care and changing behaviours, not weight loss.”

Registered Dietitian Jess Rann believes that some individuals may choose dieting because we still live in a diet culture where the thin ideal is idolised. If people do not choose to conform to this ideal, they may be actively criticised or stigmatised by others.

Rann says that this is one of the many reasons why people still want to try dieting.

“For many of us, the idea that we should constantly be changing our bodies and trying to make them smaller is so culturally ingrained that the idea that there is an alternative may not even have occurred to some people yet,” she told upstart.

“This is why the first principle of Intuitive Eating is ‘Ditching the Diet Mentality’. We need to unlearn all these messages that we’ve heard about our bodies not being good enough. Intuitive Eating is a framework to help people get out of their heads about food, exercise, how their body looks and start trusting their body’s internal signals for hunger, fullness and pleasure.”

Rann makes it clear that dieting encourages us to be hyper-focused on external rules and restrictions, how our bodies look, or our weight. This is known to be associated with poor psychological wellbeing and more disordered eating practices.

She says that Intuitive Eating is more effective than dieting if someone’s goal is less food pre-occupation and disordered eating, and greater body appreciation and acceptance.

“Intuitive eaters tend to have higher self-esteem, well-being and optimism, eat a greater variety of foods, gain more pleasure from eating and have higher HDL-cholesterol [known as the ‘good’ cholesterol],” Rann said.

“Intuitive Eating is also associated with less disordered and emotional eating, lower internalisation [of] the thin ideal, less self-silencing [suppressing one’s thoughts and emotions] and lower blood glucose and blood pressure.”


Natasha Pietrobuono is a third-year Bachelor of Media and Communications (Journalism) student at La Trobe University. You can follow her on Twitter @tashpietrobuono.


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