Content provided by the GBS Health & Wellness Team
From the Dietitian’s Desk
With Becca Rick, MS, RD
Recently, intuitive eating has gained quite a bit of traction in the media, likely due to people seeking reprieve from dieting and weight loss efforts or looking to improve relationships with food and body acceptance. As the popularity of intuitive eating increases, so do the misconceptions surrounding what intuitive eating is and what it is not.
Intuitive eating is a set of 10 principles that were first developed in 1995 by two registered dietitians. The principles were established to help people return to their innate relationship with food that is often lost due to external influences like diet culture. Reference the article “What is Intuitive Eating?” for an in-depth outline of each of the 10 principles. Continue reading below to learn a few common myths about the topic.
- “Intuitive eating is a method used to lose weight.” If intuitive eating is being used to promote weight loss, consider it a red flag! Intuitive eating is not used for weight loss. Weight change, whether that be loss, gain or maintenance, may be an outcome of intuitive eating but it is certainly not the goal or focus.
- “Intuitive eating means only eating donuts and cheeseburgers for the rest of your life.” The third principle of intuitive eating, “Make Peace with Food,” allows for unconditional permission to eat all foods without restriction. The assumption in this myth is that once food freedom is allowed only the previously most restricted foods will be chosen and consumed uncontrollably and indefinitely. While intuitive eating opens up the freedom to eat all foods, this “honeymoon phase” of rediscovering joy in forbidden foods is just the beginning of the journey and typically behavior tends to balance out in a way that will feel best for one’s body long-term. In fact, restricting certain foods makes them seem more alluring. Once the deprivation stops, the uncontrolled feelings around those foods also eventually subsides.
- “Intuitive eating is the hunger and fullness diet.” Remember that intuitive eating is made up of 10 principles, not just one. The second principle of intuitive eating is to “Honor Your Hunger,” which encourages keeping the body adequately fed to avoid excessive hunger and overeating. While this principle is essential to rebuilding trust around food, it is just one piece in a larger puzzle of returning to peace, pleasure, and freedom in eating.
- “Intuitive eating lacks structure and will result in a loss of control around food.” While intuitive eating is not based in rigid rules or external pressures, it is guided by 10 principles. The major difference between intuitive eating and dieting/restrictive lifestyle changes is that intuitive eating guidelines leave room for individual needs and preferences. One cannot “fail” at intuitive eating; the whole framework is a learning process that allows for one to adapt and grow from each eating experience.
- “One can become an intuitive eater overnight.” Becoming an intuitive eater is a challenging, life-long process that requires intention, patience, and trust. Being an intuitive eater does not magically become second nature, especially if years have been spent immersed in dieting and restriction. Be patient and approach each eating experience as part of the learning process rather than a pass-or-fail.
- Harrison, C. (2020). 6 Myths About Intuitive Eating-And What It Can Actually Do for You. Retrieved January 20, 2021, from https://www.self.com/story/intuitive-eating-myths.
- Tribole, E., MS, RDN, CEDRD-S, & Resch, E., MS, RDN, CEDRD-S, FAND. (2020). Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach. New York: St. Martin’s Essentials.