Why intuitive eating is NOT a diet

By JillMerkel on 30th Dec 2020

Intuitive Eating is becoming more popular and mainstream, which is great, but some people are making it out to be another diet or do not fully understand what Intuitive Eating actually is. Intuitive Eating is an anti-diet approach to help you make peace with food, free yourself from chronic dieting, and rediscover the pleasures of eating.

Intuitive Eating is defined as “a dynamic mind-body integration of instinct, emotion, and rational thought. It is a personal process of honoring your health by paying attention to the messages of your body and meeting your physical and emotional needs. It is an inner journey of discovery that puts you front and center; you are the expert of your own body.”

What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating is an evidenced-based, compassionate, self-care eating framework that treats all bodies with dignity and respect. It was created by two Registered Dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, in 1995. Now, 25 years later, the latest 4th edition book is out as it continues to evolve with more studies, evidence, and client stories.

Intuitive Eating is a weight-neutral approach, meaning the focus is not on weight or body size at all, but rather on healing your relationship with food. This can be confusing in a society that is so deeply rooted in diet-culture and a drive for thinness.

Intuitive Eating is a personal process of honoring your health by listening and responding to your body by getting back to INTERNAL cues versus EXTERNAL diets or food rules.

Intuitive Eating is Divided into 10 Principles:
These are not rigid steps and they do not have to be in any certain order, although rejecting the diet mentality is a great place to start and saving gentle nutrition until the end is also recommended so that you don’t try and turn Intuitive Eating into a diet:
– Reject the Diet Mentality
– Honor Your Hunger
– Make Peace with Food
– Challenge the Food Police
– Discover the Satisfaction Factor
– Feel Your Fullness
– Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
– Respect Your Body
– Movement — Feel the Difference
– Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition

What Intuitive Eating is NOT:
Intuitive Eating is not a diet of any kind. It is not a 10-step linear process; in fact, there is no pass or fail. It is not an “eat whatever you want, whenever you want, in whatever amount you want” system. It is NOT focused on weight because weight is an outcome and we can only control our actions and behaviors.

Intuitive Eating also is not anti-weight loss or anti-health. Practicing Intuitive Eating (or getting back to practicing Intuitive Eating, as we were all born with the innate ability to feed ourselves) may result in weight changes, or it may not. Either way is fine — weight is neutral. And Intuitive Eating is very much pro-health regardless of weight changes, because we know that there’s a lot more to health than simply what you eat or how much you weigh.

One thing we know to be harmful about dieting and intentional weight loss is the weight cycling (losing and gaining weight over and over) and food restriction. If you begin restricting (dieting), your eating may become unregulated or may evolve into disordered eating or an eating disorder. Research shows that 35 percent of dieters will progress into disordered eating, and 30 to 45 percent of dieters will progress into a full eating disorder.

Unfortunately, the healthcare industry is one of the biggest perpetrators of weight stigma and weight bias so there are still a lot of medical and healthcare practitioners that are weight-focused, believing that a person’s weight determines their health and prescribing weight loss instead of assessing the root of the problem. Intuitive Eating is a journey of unlearning and going against the diet culture grain.

The goal behind Intuitive Eating is to stop yo-yo dieting and normalize your relationship with food. Focusing on weight loss interferes with your ability to listen to and trust your body’s internal cues and signals telling you when, what and how much to eat. It is hard to listen to your body and trust your body around food when you are constantly battling with thoughts of weight loss.

Intuitive Eating is a PROCESS and it does not happen overnight. It is a journey that is different for everyone, but if you stick to the process with compassion and kindness for yourself, it is POSSIBLE to heal your relationship with food and get back to living a fulfilling life without the obsession and guilt surrounding your food choices and body image.

If you are tired of dieting and obsessing about food, make 2021 the year of Intuitive Eating. Ditch restrictive dieting for good, relearn how to trust yourself around food, and get back to enjoying food as one part of an overall healthy lifestyle.

Jill Merkel is a Nashville-based Registered Dietitian (RD) and Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She works individually with clients on body image, Intuitive Eating, disordered eating and sports nutrition. Visit www.JillMerkelRD.com for more information or follow her on IG @JillMerkelRD.

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