Behind the scenes of Intuitive Eating, digging into the research
Written by Tara Cristobal-Rivera MSN
The Intuitive Eating approach was coined by registered dietitians nutritionists (RDN) Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995 and has been positively supported by many scientific studies since. The non-diet approach encourages folks to move away from rigid food rules created by the diet-wellness industry (aka diet culture) and instead reclaim their intuition around food and exercise while also embracing body acceptance.
As we all know, A LOT can change in 25 years - technology, politics, the way food is processed, fashion. Remember how popular the grunge and the sexy schoolgirl looks were back in the mid-'90s?
With so much change and advances in nutrition science and functional medicine, does the intuitive eating approach still work in today’s wellness-hip culture?
Here's a bit of the latest research.
In the latest edition of the Intuitive Eating textbook (June 2020) and workbook (2017), principle #1, talks about rejecting the diet mentality. This means throwing out the diet books and your bathroom scale. The Intuitive Eating approach advocates for listening to the inner body cues as the guide to knowing what, when, and how to eat.
A study published in 2020 evaluated if college women, through intervention workshops, could increasing intuitive eating habits and decrease body image. The women, between the ages of 18-30, attended workshops that discussed body acceptance, healthy eating patterns, and the importance of rejecting unhealthy restrictive food rules (aka dieting) and unrealistic body images. In this brief intervention, the women reported significant improvements in intuitive eating habits, overall body image, eating concerns, and anti-fat attitudes compared to women who did not attend the workshops.
Intuitive Eating for the win! Even if the intervention was brief, this offers validation that
magazine articles offering false weight-loss hopes and fat-phobic beauty ideals need to be replaced with scientific information like this.
Intuitive Eating focuses on rebuilding trust with yourself and food. There are previous studies proving that people who adopt an intuitive eating lifestyle tend to experience less disordered eating behavior. A study published in 2019 found that women who eat intuitively rely more on actual physical cues of hunger versus emotional triggers of eating.
The non-diet approach teaches the importance of respecting your body and accepting your genetic blueprint. A study published in 2019 from the Eating Behaviors journal evaluates if there is a relationship between intuitive eating and body image. Results showed that people who gave themselves unconditional permission to eat for physical reasons rather than emotional reasons had lower levels of body concern and a more positive body image.
This is great news! Especially since the relationship between intuitive eating and body image was strongest among those with a healthy weight. Our bodies deserve to be fed and deserve to be respected.
These are just a handful of principles discussed within the Intuitive Eating approach. Recent scientific studies supporting the Intuitive Eating philosophy continue to offer more evidence linking eating based on intuition and increasing positive body acceptance. Listening to your body can improve your quality of life.
If you'd like to learn how to apply the principles of Intuitive Eating to your relationship with food and your body, schedule a Free 20-minute discovery call HERE
Craven, M. P., & Fekete, E. M. (2019). Weight-related shame and guilt, intuitive eating, and binge eating in female college students. Eating Behaviors, 33, 44–48.
Keirns, N. G., & Hawkins, M. A. W. (2019). The relationship between intuitive eating and body image is moderated by measured body mass index. Eating Behaviors, 33, 91–96.
Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2012). Intuitive Eating. New York, NY: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN-10: 1250004047
Wilson, R. E., Marshall, R. D., Murakami, J. M., & Latner, J. D. (2020). Brief non-dieting intervention increases intuitive eating and reduces dieting intention, body image dissatisfaction, and anti-fat attitudes: A randomized controlled trial. Appetite, 148, N.PAG.