Health

Intuitive Eating: Hungry for Internal Awareness

Discover the 10 principles of intuitive eating and the health benefits associated with this weight-neutral approach to health.

Intuitive Eating: Hungry for Internal Awareness
Image by Lisa Fotios on pexels.com

Have you ever gone on a diet or know someone who has? An estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet each year, but many are unsuccessful at maintaining weight-loss long term. According to nutrition specialist Dr. Layne Norton, about 95% of all dieters regain weight lost within three years. Along with poor weight maintenance, weight loss strategies promote weight stigma. Weight stigma occurs when individuals negatively judge a person based on their physical weight. According to a scientific review from 2018, negative health outcomes are associated with weight stigma include increased oxidative stress, inflammation, depression and anxiety. Increasing evidence supports a shift away from focusing on weight-loss as the only pathway to long-term health. The question becomes, how can we approach health from a weight-neutral perspective and begin to avoid weight stigma?

In 1995, registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch definedintuitive eating, a nutrition philosophy that fosters a positive relationship with food without focusing on weight. Intuitive eating is an evidenced-based model where eating occurs in response to internal physical hunger and satiety cues rather than emotions or the external environment. Tribole and Resch wrote the 10 principles of intuitive eating, which promote internal awareness.

  1. Honor your hunger
  2. Respect your fullness
  3. Discover the satisfaction factor
  4. Exercise – feel the difference
  5. Reject the diet mentality
  6. Make peace with food
  7. Challenge the food police
  8. Honor your feelings without using food
  9. Respect your body
  10. Honor your health with gentle nutrition

Often, we can go through the day and avoid paying attention to what our bodies are telling us. Internal awareness occurs when we remove obstacles to our body’s perceptions. If we achieve internal awareness by applying the principles of intuitive eating, then we have the cognitive ability to regulate our attention and focus on our internal cues. Intuitive eating is not a weight loss strategy, but part of a weight neutral approach to health and should not be identified as a “diet.”

Are there health benefits associated with intuitive eating? Studies indicate that people who eat intuitively have increased body acceptance, positive emotional expression and lower odds of food obsessions. There is proof for improved physical health signs such as better weight maintenance for longer than 18 months, improved long-term cholesterol levels for up to 24 months and reductions in inflammation. Intuitive eating maybe a feasible option for pursuing health by focusing on listening to your body rather than only focusing on weight-loss with a diet.

A question in the current research is: “Can an intuitive eating be a learned behavior?” According to a research study, 15 out of 26 participants maintained intuitive eating behaviors for 10 years. Researchers found high study participant completion rates of 92%! These high completion rates and maintained long-term intuitive eating actions indicate that intuitive eating can be learned. Participants in the studies found satisfaction from developing intuitive eating skills and continuing with them long-term. Listening to your body’s internal cues can be an achievable approach to health! There are many exciting opportunities to grow the research supporting intuitive eating that go beyond the current observational studies. Stay tuned as science continues to develop what we know about intuitive eating!

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