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Intuitive Eating: To Eat or Not to Eat? That is the Question

Updated: Nov 5, 2022

Intuitive eating is something we are hearing more about in the wellness world in recent years. However, it is more than a buzzword or a fad because it is not a new concept. It has been around since 1995 when two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch first created it. We are only now becoming more aware of this way of eating because the diet culture has hijacked the health and fitness industry making our eating habits counterintuitive to the way we ought to eat. Plus, North America has an abundance of food and because it is so easily available and loaded with flavor, we eat more than we need. Our habitual eating patterns have entrapped us to the point that we do not pay attention to our hunger cues but simply eat because it pleases the taste buds, not the stomach.

I first became acutely aware of this habit in my own life when we were hosting two young girls from Belarus on a health respite program. Being concerned that we were not feeding them enough, I was constantly offering them food. One day the oldest girl candidly said to me in her broken English, “Susan, me not hungry. In Belarus, when hungry, you eat. In Canada, you eat.” Whoa, that hit me hard. What a powerful lesson to me about the poor eating practices of North Americans. We have much more to learn, and Intuitive Eating has much to teach us!

Evelyn Tribole defines Intuitive eating as a self-care eating framework that integrates instinct, emotion, and rational thought. It is an evidence-based model with over one hundred studies to date and is suitable for people of all weight ranges.

I have recently begun researching this model and am liking what I have found. The model is based on ten key principles which really resonate with me.

1. Reject the Diet Mentality

2. Honor Your Hunger

3. Make Peace With Food

4. Challenge the Food Police

5. Respect Your Fullness

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

7. Honor your Feelings without Using Food

8. Respect Your Body

9. Exercise – Feel the Difference

10. Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition

According to Tribole and Resch, the principles work in two key ways:

1. By helping you tune in to the physical sensations that arise from within your body to get both your biological and psychological needs met.

2. Removing the obstacles and disrupters that distract us from attunement, which usually come from the mind in forms of rules, beliefs, and thoughts.

A review of twenty-four studies published between 2006 and 2015 found that Intuitive Eating was associated with the following benefits (Ricciardelli 2016):

•  Greater body appreciation and satisfaction

•  Positive emotional functioning

•  Greater life satisfaction

•  Unconditional self-regard and optimism

•  Psychological hardiness

•  Greater motivation to exercise when the focus is on enjoyment rather than guilt or appearance

These studies also showed that Intuitive Eating was inversely related to disordered eating, dieting, poor interoceptive awareness, and internalization of the thin ideal.

I need to clarify here that intuitive eating is different from emotional eating and overindulgence. It is NOT eating whatever you want whenever you want it. It IS paying close attention to hunger cues. God created us with an internal instinct for our own good and it will help guide us if we pay attention to it. If we struggle to identify our cues for hunger, we can ask God to help us in that process. He created our bodies and wants us to care for them.

I especially like that the principles of intuitive eating can be rooted in scripture.

If you know me well, you know that the bible is my roadmap for life. It has such wisdom to offer for daily living. I use it as my measuring stick to evaluate practices and to determine if they will serve me well. It is a great tool, and it has kept me on the right path in my wellness journey. One of my favorite quotes from scripture is so fitting here, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for me. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12 I am so grateful that I do not have to be a slave to food.

So, there is much to consider about ditching diets and embracing an intuitive eating practice. To begin engaging in this practice use this Food Journal help you pay attention to your own eating patterns and to start eating more intentionally, without guilt. Food is not the enemy. I believe we can EAT WELL when we practice the principles of intuitive eating. I am excited to embrace this freeing concept. Hope you will join me.

Tribole, Evelyn ; Resch, Elyse (2020-06-22T23:58:59.000). Intuitive Eating, 4th Edition . St. Martin's Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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