Becoming a True Intuitive Eater vs Diet Culture’s Edition
Intuitive Eating, coined by two dietitians who wanted to encourage individual body cues for guiding eating practices, was not meant to be a diet by another name. However, like the majority of eating regimens, the big multi-billion dollar diet industry dug its claws in to create yet another way to make false promises about changing an individual’s genetic blueprint. It’s easy to get caught up in the diet trance with advertisements sporting smiling, fit, and beaming actors all over social media. So how does one know if they’re learning about true intuitive eating?
The Truth about Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating is a framework that includes 10 principles to guide someone towards body attunement vs relying on an external source to eat. (To understand these principles in short, read my earliest post titled Intuitive Eating: The 10 principles I practice and preach as a dietitian.) A big proponent of this technique is ditching the scale and taking the focus off of weight being the, or one of the, main measures of health. It explains that individuals have their own body which require proper nutrition, hydration, sleep, and stress management unique to them. The idea is that after taking the pressure off of weighing oneself to delegate how much and what to eat, breaking down individual food rules and biases, and practicing a neutral approach to food compared to a good vs bad will be the guide towards noticing and honoring hunger, feeling fullness, and truly being satisfied from food consumed. Gentle nutrition is a part of this journey, but a later principle– without honoring the earlier principles and training one’s mind to know that all foods are available disrupts building full trust in one’s body.
The seventh principle of intuitive eating is Respect Your Body. It’s actually impossible to become a true intuitive eater without working through biases around different bodies, shapes and sizes, and accepting a body for the beautiful vessel it is. Seeking weight loss while working through the 10 principles, well, a whole step will be missed. Sure, the novel by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole clearly states that weight loss could be a potential result of becoming an intuitive eater, but so isn’t weight maintenance or gain. The idea is that after trust has been built, and overeating, undereating, and compensatory behaviors are eliminated (for the most part, sometimes eating a little past fullness or not quite feeling 100% satisfied is also normalized in IE), the body can find its happy set point weight, so mental and physical energy can be put towards things other than food noise.
What Intuitive Eating is Not
Intuitive eating is none of the following:
the hunger and fullness diet
a way to manage or lose weight
another diet industry prototype
another way to count calories or macros clean eating, careful eating, emotional eating
a way to fuel overeating or undereating
encouraging eating one type of food or food group
There are several IE promises to look out for online. First, be skeptical if a practitioner, personal trainer, or other social media influencer states they are IE aligned, but then promotes weight maintenance or focuses on changing physique. (If you take anything away from this blog, it's that IE is not meant to be another way to manage weight like the traditional diet.) Second, weight loss medications completely defeat the purpose of becoming an intuitive eater. Taking laxatives, fat burners, off-label medications for weight loss such as Wegovy or Ozempic are interrupting someone noticing and honoring their hunger cues. However, it’s possible to discontinue these medications and seek IE. Third, if a diet or person is encouraging honoring hunger and feeling fullness, this does not mean it's a true IE eating regimen. There are eight other principles that need consideration and a full education other than just eating when hungry and stopping when full. Fourth, compensatory behaviors are discouraged in IE. For example, encouraging an individual to walk off their food, or workout harder because more food was consumed, or avoid x food as it wasn’t earned, is not building trust in one’s body.
All in all, becoming an intuitive eater is meant to guide a person away from relying on external cues to eat and trusting their own body’s wisdom. Our bodies evolved to protect us, keep us alive, and survive through famines, meaning human hunger cues are a survival mechanism. It’s tricky to unlearn habit-formed food rules over many years, but very possible with some time, patience, and remembering the true intuitive eating journey. Go one step further by seeking support from a weight inclusive (weight neutral), intuitive eating practitioner.
Want to work with a dietitian that practices and preaches these 10 principles? Reach out to us at Enhance Nutrition as we’d love to help you explore this method of health and wellbeing.