The Joys of Intuitive Eating

“Intuitive Eating: The anti-diet, or how pleasure from food is the answer, says its creators,” a CNN Health article, makes it sound as if intuitive eating (IE) is making a comeback, when it’s never gone away. Back in the 80s IE taught me how to eat intuitively after decades of dieting and binge-eating and the movement has only grown stronger nationally and internationally. (Sandee Lamotte, 1/31/20, accessed 1/31/20, Since then there have been hundreds of books written about appetite-attuned eating.

Here’s some how-to advice straight from the mouths of its creators and the authors of Intuitive Eating: An Anti-Diet Revolutionary Approach, Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole, both well respected registered dieticians. “The scientific mechanism behind intuitive eating is called ‘interoceptive awareness,’ or the ability to perceive physical sensations that arise within the body. Intuitive eating is really instinct, emotion and thought," Resch said. "It's the instinct, hunger, fullness. What we like, what we don't like. But you also monitor your emotions and your thoughts because the cognitive distortions, the diet myths that are in our culture, can affect our eating."

They go on to make the point that if you aren’t enjoying food and finding pleasure in it, it will never satisfy you. Paraphrasing Geneen Roth, another guru in the IE movement, “You can’t get enough of what you didn’t want in the first place.” So, if you’re planning on becoming an intuitive eater, you will want to stop thinking of foods as good and bad, fattening and low-calorie, and start focusing on what foods are enjoyable to you.

That means setting aside choosing foods for weight loss and, for the time being, for nutrition, and going for the pleasure they’ll bring you. Note that pleasure doesn’t come from quantity but from quality, enjoyment and satisfaction. It won’t come to visit if you’re guilty or ashamed of what you’re eating. It won’t come from eating fast or in secret. 

Here’s what they advise doing to connect with food in a pleasurable way: list “all the foods you reject or restrict, and then rank them from "scariest"—what you think is worse for you or makes you gain weight—to least "scary. Pick one (maybe the least scary, Tribole suggests) and then a couple of hours after a meal, find a calm, quiet place and eat as much of that food as you like.” Says Resch, "Making peace with food means giving yourself license to eat. There's no judgment. There's no good food, there's no bad food." If you feel scared or guilty, I would add, stop eating and reset your mind to non-judgment before resuming. This is how to begin becoming a “normal” eater.



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