You can learn to become an intuitive eater. I know because I learned to do so and it changed my life. I went from restrictive and binge eating and bulimia to eating according to my appetite and health needs. And learned life skills I didn’t even know I needed.
Dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch coined the term “intuitive eating” in 1995, referring to the “process of using internal cues rather than external rules to guide decisions about what to eat.” (“To eat intuitively, trust your instincts” by Carrie Dennett, Sarasota Herald Tribune, 10/15/19, E28, accessed 10/15/19). Their book has been a mainstay of the international intuitive eating movement ever since and undoubtedly helped me hone my ability to eating according to appetite.
Their advice is to “honor your hunger” and “feel your fullness,” while stressing that these are only two of the 10 intuitive-eating principles. This is similar to the advice I give in The Rules of “Normal” Eating which includes guidelines for hunger, fullness, satiation, cravings and eating with awareness. I couldn’t agree more with their warning that, “You can’t cherry-pick the principles,” meaning that you need to attend to all of them to improve your relationship with food.
Dietitian and author of Anti-Diet, Christy Harrison also has some excellent advice about not dieting. She says, “It’s about changing your mindset and recognizing, then stepping away from, the internalized beliefs that come from the diet culture.” I agree with her that many people who say they’re not dieting, still eat restrictively rather than intuitively.
Tribole and Resch warn people not to confuse intuitive with healthy eating. This is true of “normal” vs “nutritional” eating as well. The former is focused on appetite signals, while the latter is based on food’s nutritional value. Fortunately, we need not choose between the two. I recommend that people spend several months tuning into appetite and eating what they crave to develop an abundance mentality. Once that behavior is ingrained, then it’s time to tweak their diet to become healthier.
The truth is that when you eat primarily for health, not weight loss, your body and mind feel better which is a motivator to continue to eat healthfully while also respecting that you will sometimes crave and eat foods that are not highly nutritious. You can eat healthfully most of the time and still enjoy sweets and treats without feeling guilty and getting hung up on eating the wrong way. It’s a wonderful way to view food and nourish yourself. If you haven’t checked out the newly revised edition of Intuitive Eating, now’s the time.