What Is Intuitive Eating?

woman holding red apple

Of so many food related lifestyles (if you don’t really want to call it diet approaches), one that has piqued my interest for a couple of times is this idea of Intuitive Eating.

Like so many people who has tried a lot of diet in their younger years, the idea of NOT DIETING is wonderful. Intuitive Eating is basically that. The premise of Intuitive Eating is that you listen to your body, and make yourself happy with it, and you can eat what you want… and somehow stay healthy.

woman holding red apple
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If I was the inventor of Intuitive Eating, I would have renamed it and rebranded it as ‘the Unicorn Diet’.

The whole Intuitive Eating basic premise can be broken down to 10 principles:

  1. Reject the diet mentality
  2. Honor your hunger
  3. Make peace with food
  4. Challenge the food police
  5. Discover the satisfaction factor
  6. Feel your fullness
  7. Cope with emotions without using food
  8. Respect your body
  9. Exercise — feel the difference
  10. Honour your health with nutrition

There a plenty of websites out there giving a detailed explanation for each principles, but I am going to summarise it.

Number 1 and 2 basically mean that you can eat whatever, and whenever you are hungry — no CICO, no IF. Number 3 and 4 basically mean nobody can tell you what is good food and what is bad food, including yourself — no keto, no paleo, no atkins, etc. Number 5 and 6 basically mean you stop before you are too full.

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Number 7 is pretty explanatory. Number 8 is somewhat explanatory, but it’s like body positivity thing. 9 and 10 are the things that I think very important, and pretty much very explanatory too.

Now… what do I think about it?

If I simplify it even more — eat only when you are hungry, and stop when you are full. Eat nutritious food, but other food is not off limit too. Exercise, but don’t be too critical about your body.

I think it is a wonderful idea to be able to ‘listen’ to what your body needs. It is a brilliant concept, that you love your body so that you are just letting it do its own bodily function without trying to force it to do what it doesn’t want to do. For someone who does not like exercise, of course the idea of not having to force myself to sweat is ideal.

But I also think that ‘listening’ to your body is a bit dangerous, because you can’t really listen to it can you? Our hunger system is not like the light indicator on our car telling us it is really time to fuel up. We basically interpret hunger from symptoms. BUT those symptoms can always be false.

woman sitting on chair while leaning on laptop
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Thirst for example, can easily be misinterpret as hunger. And what about when we have a late night and our body starts firing out ghrelin because of the lack of sleep? Would that count? Ghrelin is called the hunger hormones for a reason, and the feeling of hunger is real, so… if we actually listens to our body, should we honour that? Or should we do what I think the right thing to do… just go to sleep.

What if you don’t feel hungry, but you are with type 1 diabetes, where you have to keep your sugar level right? Should you wait until you feel hungry? Or should you do what I think the right thing to do… eat that cereal bar.

My other problem is how the principles number 3 and 4 seem to be contradicting number 10. If there is no actual ‘good food’ or ‘bad food’, so what is this sudden preaching about ‘treat your body right with good nutritious food’. Do you mean I am not honouring my health by not eating nutritious food? And if I am not honouring my health with nutritious food, is that bad? Are you food policing me now?

See what I mean?

Intuitive Eating is definitely not what I want to do. Especially not for weight loss anyway. It’s approach is too unscientific to be measured for result, and way too new-age for my liking.

crop kid weighing on scale
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It might work for some people, and I have no doubt that for some it is actually helpful with their anxiety or even some types of eating disorder because most of the principles are about making peace with your anxiety of food and diet. Of course I can see the brilliant idea behind it…

However as much as I think this can help with mental health, I don’t think it is necessarily good for physical health. The exercise and nutrition bit seems to be thrown in as an afterthought response of a ‘whatabout’ instead of being the core of the belief.

Anyway I’d like to be corrected if I am wrong. And if you are an Intuitive Eater and you manage to get yourself to stay in a healthy lifestyle (or healthy lifestyle according to the mainstream idea), I would definitely love to know about it too.

Love,

Mel x

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6 Replies to “What Is Intuitive Eating?”

  1. Oof! You’ve really hit upon a particular bΓͺte noir of mine here Chip…namely the faddish areas of weight-loss techniques, which seem much more concerned with the wishy-washy sentiments espoused by the lunatic ‘fat acceptance’ crowd and their many ‘body positive’ minions. When you read about the basic concepts at a very basic surface level, they manage to make it sound as though this approach is a much gentler, more holistic method of trying to work in conjunction with what each human body knows that it needs. Sounds all lovely and fluffy and flies in the face of any restrictive eating plans that might actually require some real self-discipline. Because make no bones about it, this is just another attempt to try and demonize diet plans or WOE that require a concerted effort on the part of the individual who wants to shed those unwanted and unhealthy extra pounds.

    What it truly fails to acknowledge is that many people who have already established a new, focused WOE, are themselves already moving towards a form of ‘intuitive eating’ as part of their overall weight loss journey. Take my personal low-carb plan of choice. By embarking upon a low-carb WOE I have gotten myself into ketosis and am now happily burning my own body fat stores on a daily basis. Ketosis curbs one’s appetite though, so it becomes a bit of a task to actually get enough food in my daily diet. It is exactly at this point that a degree of ‘Intuitive Eating’ becomes a natural progressing for the likes of myself as I have to try to look hard at what I’ve already eaten during one given day, whilst trying to feel about to work out what else I can consider adding into my daily food allowance, in order to make sure that I’m getting suitable amounts of nutrition.

    It is at THIS point when a form of ‘Intuitive Eating; becomes an essential tool, helping me to tune into how my body feels and what it truly needs at that particular moment in time. It’s about getting to know how our bodies work and respond to our WOE, and then getting a feel for what our intuition (guided by how we feel when missing certain nutrients or already having plenty of balanced macros in the food we’ve already consumed. That doesn’t mean that I simply follow my “intuition” in deciding that what I want is a Krispy Kreme doughnut – nobody NEEDS a Krispy Kreme doughnut to help ensure that they’re getting the best most comprehensive nutrition. All that indicates is that a body still gets the urge to eat sugary rubbish and now has a special new term “intuitive Eating” in order to validate those choices.

    The reality of the situation is, most of us who re significantly overweight got this way by running entirely on our urges…or our ‘intuition’. We chose to eat whatever we felt we deserved or desired, with little thought as to how it would affect our overall health. This label of ‘Intuitive Eating’ is nothing more than a one way ticket to enabling bad choices…and it’s employed by people who don’t have the self discipline to stick to a proper diet/plan/WOE. it gives them an ‘out’ when questioned about their poor choices, by giving it an allegedly legitimate label that they can hide behind and trot out in any discussion where someone criticizes their bad choices in view of an attempt to lose weight.

    Just like ‘fat acceptance’ or the lunatics who espouse ‘health at every size’ (without understanding that they emphasis there, really is supposed to be on ‘health’) this ‘intuitive eating’ nonsense is just another barrier for proponents to hide behind, so as not to have to take responsibility for their poor eating choices. True ‘intuitive eating’ is something that occurs in individuals who are already in a position where their appetites are under control and listening to one’s body becomes an essential part of intelligent nutrition. But most of the people trying to excuse their bad choices away as them being ‘intuitive’ any way, are just lying. To you, to me, to everyone who will listen, but ultimately themselves.

    Just one more example of the erosion of personal responsibility that has permeated our culture and created irresponsible individuals who want to have their cake, eat it, and have nobody tell them that what they’re eating is pure hedonistic indulgence.

    I have no time for any idiot trying to make it sound as though they’re making really healthy decisions with their ‘intuitive eating’ plans.

    Let them eat cake.

    It’s not my problem, lol.

    Great post by the way!

    Blue

    1. I agree. I love the idea of being able to actually supplying my body exactly what it needs. And you are spot on by mentioning nutrition.
      Unfortunately, in this movement, nutrition was way down on number 10 of the principle list. Along with exercise, these two principles seems as if they’re contradicting the other principles — which mainly emphasised on hunger and satisfaction, more than meeting the needs for nutrients and macros.
      Why? Because once we talk about the need of nutrients, we will have to pick our food — this is inevitable because we know scientifically not all calories are created equal. Which wouldn’t work well with this movement because this ‘intuitive eating’ premise is that you are not allowed to cut out certain types of food because you think that it is bad for you (like going carb-free) — that is food policing.
      Anyway, you are right. This is probably just another excuse for people who are giving up because making good choices is not easy…
      Thank you for commenting πŸ™‚ Insightful as always <3 <3

      Mel xx

  2. Intuitive eating is a tricky one. I get where it’s coming from – a non-judgemental, holistic place – which I like. But I think there are other factors at play too. For example, our food choices (or cravings) are also influenced by our gut microbiota telling us what it wants by sending messages directy to our brain and these wants depend on the species thriving in our guts. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Mel – it’s an interesting topic πŸ™‚ x x

    1. Ooh that is interesting. I have heard about the role of gut bacteria on a BBC documentary, but I have never properly look into that. Thank you for reminding of that Kate πŸ™‚
      I would love to be able to get on the Intuitive Eating wagon, but so far I am not yet convinced πŸ™ It seems like it is overlooking a lot of other variables such as gut bacteria, food addiction, or even hormonal imbalance — which would impair our ability to ‘listen’ to our body the way IE intended xx

      1. I’m fascinated by gut bacteria – it was my topic on my uni dissertations 😊 But there’s so much we still don’t know about it. I agree, the other factors you mentioned are also important in potentially misleading messages. I think IE has good intentions, but I’ve decided my aim is to eat mindfully – really think about and appreciate what I’m eating when I’m eating it and slow down – I can eat too quickly sometimes x x

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