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What is Intuitive Eating? (and 9 Reasons You Should Give It a Try)

intuitive eating

What is Intuitive Eating? (and 9 Reasons You Should Give It a Try)6 min read

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Intuitive eating is a way of eating that has nothing to do with diets, meal plans, discipline or willpower. It’s about getting back to your roots and learning to trust your body again.

Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach to health and wellness that helps you tune into your body signals, break the cycle of chronic dieting and heal your relationship with food. In short: intuitive eating is normal eating. From a nutrition professional’s perspective, intuitive eating is a framework that helps us keep nutrition interventions behavior-focused instead of restrictive or rule-focused.

Click here for a detailed list of the ten principles of intuitive eating.

Keep reading for 9 reasons you should give intuitive eating a try!

1. Improved Digestion

Two of the key tenets of intuitive eating are to:

  • Eat only when you’re truly hungry
  • Eat until you’re satisfied, not stuffed

Practicing both of these habits can help improve your digestion in a number of ways.

For one, eating only when you’re truly hungry gives your digestive system time to completely empty your stomach from your last meal. This might seem like no big deal, but when you keep eating every couple hours and not allowing your food to digest, your system can easily become overworked.

Your stomach has to continually pump out enzymes and acids to help digest your food, while your liver is continually being worked to filter toxins and digest fat.

2. Less Stress

Studies have shown that intuitive eaters not only enjoy a more pleasant emotional state than dieters, but also experience improvements in depression, anxiety, negative self-talk, and general psychological well-being when they switch to eating intuitively.

The reason for this reduction in stress might stem from the fact that when you eat intuitively, you get to focus more on enjoying your food instead of analyzing it. You also take yourself out of the mindset of, “I can’t have that because I need to lose weight,” or “I can’t have carbs because I’m fat.”

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3. Weight Loss

Studies have also shown that intuitive eaters have lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than dieters. One of the major reasons for this could be due to the fact that intuitive eating is easy to stick to (unlike fad diets) which can lead to long-term weight loss.

When you eat intuitively you also learn to respect satiety signals that tell you when you’re truly satisfied, versus just eating for the sake of eating. This results in a natural, optimal calorie balance that could lead to weight loss if you’ve been overeating by ignoring hunger signals.

4. Higher Self-Esteem

In addition to improving eating patterns and anxiety levels, studies have also shown that practicing intuitive eating improves self-esteem.

For instance, participants in one study experienced more acceptance of their bodies and less psychological distress regarding their bodies. They were also able to let go of  “unhealthy weight control behaviors.”

By improving your self-esteem, it’s only natural that other areas of your life will improve as well. When you’re focusing less on not being “good enough,” and more on accepting yourself, you’ll naturally experience less anxiety and have a more positive outlook on life. In turn, this can lead to untold opportunities at work and improvements in your personal relationships.

5. Improved Body Awareness

Being aware of your body and what it’s signaling to you is extremely important when it comes to maintaining your health. If you listen closely, your body will give you subtle signs that something is wrong. This allows you to give it what it needs before it becomes a major problem.

Take, for example, signs of nutrient deficiencies. Many people are so disconnected from their bodies that they don’t notice subtle signs of a nutrient deficiency, like a lack of energy or tingling in their hands and feet. By the time they do notice, the deficiency has become so severe that they have to go to the doctor to get it taken care of. (Source)

6. Gain Health & Happiness

One common myth about intuitive eating is that, because you can eat whatever you desire, your life will likely become an endless buffet of sweets and fast food. But this isn’t the case, says registered dietitian Evelyn Tribole. “Here’s what’s so shocking to a lot of people: Healthy eating feels good!”

While you can enjoy low-nutrient fare while eating intuitively, you’ll naturally focus on foods that promote physical and emotional wellness – such as fruits, veggies and, whole grains – as you grow more attuned to your body, explains Tribole. This paves the way for improved immune function, cardiovascular health and, moods – unlike low-carb diets, for example, which can cause agitation. (Source)

7. Reduced Disordered Eating

According to NEDA, many people, including about half a million teens, report struggling with disordered eating — a disturbed eating pattern that can include compulsive eating, restrictive dieting, health-food obsession and other factors that detract from health and happiness. Intuitive eating could help manage disordered eating, lowering your risk for complications, such as full-fledged eating disorders, depression and obesity.

In a study published in Appetite in January 2013, researchers analyzed the eating habits of 2,287 young adults. Participants who reported trusting their body’s hunger and fullness cues had lower odds of eating-disorder behaviors. Much less when compared with those that did not have this trust.

8. More Energy

When you get enough calories, and are satisfied with the foods you’re eating, you’ll have more energy. More than from logical approaches to eating if they’re restricting you in any capacity. When your body is deficient, it will slow down metabolic processes vital to survival. Take reproduction for instance.

Why do female athletes suffer so frequently from menstrual irregularities? It’s because reproductive functions are energetically expensive, and it’s smarter for the body to put them on hold if the person is exercising excessively. (Intuitive Eating Source)

In men, this will manifest as low testosterone and libido. Now compared to diets that do not restrict, I am not claiming that intuitive eating will give you more energy. But in theory, by eating what your body wants instead of telling it what it wants, you may have more energy by obtaining the proper nutrition that’s right for your body.

9. Better Health

The body is intelligent. So when you follow it, you’re going to achieve better health. When you follow dietary blueprints that don’t factor in your individuality, you’re going to develop imbalances long term. Your body gives you better personalized advice on what to eat than any other method out there. (Intuitive Eating Source)

All you have to do is follow it, and you will eat the foods your body requests.

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A psychology and creative-writing major at the University of Missouri. He loves to read and people-watch. He's a huge geek who is not afraid to show it.