Intuitive eating is a mind-body approach to eating that’s good for your health.
During midlife and menopause, it’s common for women to gain weight. For some women, extra weight gain adds to a lifetime of angst about body image; for others, it may be the first time thoughts turn to dieting.
But who wants the anguish and abstinence of dieting on top of an already stressful life?
If you want to feel healthier without restricting certain foods, adhering to set meal plans, weighing all food or spending hours scrutinizing food labels, why not try intuitive eating?
Dieticians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch introduced intuitive eating in the 1990s after noticing traditional diet methods often failed in the long term.
Intuitive eating removes the yearning for forbidden foods and the impulse to eat more than you need. The principle idea reframes attitudes to food by distinguishing physical desires to eat from the emotional needs that often result in overeating. The focus is on promoting long-term health and self-care and less on weight.
If you think that unrestricted eating means people become unhealthier and gain more weight, evidence suggests otherwise. Research shows both physical and psychological health benefits, and although Tribole and Resch are keen to stress intuitive eating is not a diet plan, people do lose weight. For example, one study published in Public Health Nutrition found middle-aged women who ate only when hungry and stopped when they felt full had a lower body mass index.
Intuitive eating focuses on ten key principles
- Ditch the ‘dieting’ mindset because long-term diets don’t work for many people.
- Listen to the body for signs of hunger because calorie-controlled diets make you hungry, which leads to overeating.
- Make peace with food because you crave what you can’t have, which leads to binging and feeling guilty.
- Challenge the inner critic because constructing views about yourself as either a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ person from what you’re eating is destructive.
- Notice when your body is full because eating when hungry is OK, but it’s important to stop when full.
- See food and eating as pleasurable experiences because enjoying all the sensory aspects of food adds to the richness and quality of life.
- Find kind alternatives to manage difficult emotions because food isn’t meant to be used as a tool to distract from unpleasant feelings.
- Honour your precious body because it deserves it. Reject society’s ideas of how it should be.
- Keep your body moving because it needs loving care and maintenance like any machine.
- Value your health because making wise and kind food choices have long-term benefits.
Tribole and Reich have published several books on intuitive eating, including a workbook that can be found on the intuitive eating website.
Madden.C.E., Leong.S.L., Gray.A., Horwath.C.C. (2012). Eating in response to hunger and satiety signals is related to BMI in a nationwide sample of 1601 mid-age New Zealand women, Public health Nutrition, 15(12): 2272-9
Sowers.M.F., Huiyong Zheng., Kristin Tomey., Carrie Karvonen- Gutierrez., Mary Jannausch, Xizhao Li., Matheos Yosef, and James Symons, (2007). 6-year changes in body composition in women at midlife; ovarian and chronological aging. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism. 92(3) 8. 895–901. doi:10.1210/jc.2006-1393.
Van Dyke. N and Drinkwater. E.J. (2012) Relationships between intuitive eating and health indicators: literature review. Public Health Nutrition: 17(8), 1757–1766. doi: 10.1017/S1368980013002139
Tribole and Resch www.intuitiveeating.com
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