What is intuitive eating?
Intuitive eating is a philosophy of eating which is based on the belief that the vast majority of people are born with all of the intuitive wisdom they need to have to know how to eat. That includes knowing when they're hungry and full, knowing what taste preferences they have, and knowing how their bodies feel after making their food choices. Unfortunately, many people, for various reasons, become distracted from this wisdom. These people need to challenge their diet thinking and distorted cognitions and myths in order to find their way back to their inborn wisdom.
What are its origins and how big is it as a worldwide movement?
The origins of Intuitive Eating come from a movement toward a non-diet philosophy which emerged sometime during the late 1980's. It became evident that dieting for the purpose of weight loss could only lead to failure, more weight gain, and lowered self esteem. The two authors of Intuitive Eating, both Registered Dietitians were the first dietitians to take this broad philosophy and lay down ten principles, named the principles of Intuitive Eating, which addressed how people could move away from diet thinking and move back toward their intuitive wisdom about eating. The original edition of Intuitive Eating was released in 1995, with a second edition in 2003, an audio book with guided practices for all of the Intuitive Eating principles in 2009, and now the 3rd edition in 2012. The term, "intuitive Eating" was coined by the authors.
Why is it a better option than three meals a day and other more structured eating philosophies?
A structured meal plan or diet comes from "the outside in" rather than "the inside out". In other words, structured plans tell people what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. This is completely counter to and invasive of the very private place within each human that houses the information responding to the what, when, and how much to eat. Diets engender deprivation, with its accompanying deprivation backlash and rebellion against being told what to do, which triggers an individual's need to assert autonomy by going against the diet. Dieting has been proven to be a consistent predictor of weight gain.
What are the benefits of intuitive eating? Eg lose weight, better relationship with food etc
Intuitive Eating has scientifically been proven to be associated with both physical and emotional benefits including:
•lower body mass index (BMI)
•higher HDLs, (the "good" cholesterol)
•higher self esteem, well being, optimism, body appreciation and acceptance, proactive coping skills, psychological hardiness, unconditional self-regard, pleasure from eating, and variety of foods eaten
•lower internalized thin ideal, eating disorders, emotional eating, and self silencing
Who would you recommend it for?
Intuitive Eating is recommended for people of all ages and genders.
Do you find that lots of women try it only to eat too much - is it too testing for most women's self control?
I think that this question needs to be looked at in a different way. First of all, Intuitive Eating is not about will power or self control. Instead, it's about trusting the body to give accurate information about the what, when, and how much to eat. This trust can only come from going through a process of making peace with all foods, so no food is forbidden. Forbidding or restricting certain foods creates a sense of deprivation and a subsequent period of overeating as a backlash to the deprivation. In the beginning of finding their way back to their internal wisdom about food, many people go through a period of eating more of the foods that have previously been forbidden, and eating them more often than they will as time goes on. When they finally truly belief that they have unconditional permission to eat any food, without judgment, and without fear of future deprivation, more balance in eating organically evolves. The people who tend to eat "too much" for "too long" are holding onto some inner belief that "if this doesn't work, I can go on to some new diet". Even the mere perception of future deprivation will lead people to feel out control and eat in an out of control manner.
Are there instances where you wouldn't recommend intuitive eating to someone?
There are some children and adults who have inborn errors of metabolism or genetic abnormalities, such as Prader-Willi syndrome, or who are severely developmentally delayed or are on the autistic syndrome who would have a great difficulty turning in to the information that their bodies give about eating.
But other than in these rare cases, Intuitive Eating can be used in its entirely or slightly modified for many different conditions. Even people who are healing from Anorexia Nervosa, can begin to utilize some of the principles of Intuitive Eating regardless of being weight compromised. People who are suffering from medical conditions can also utilize Intuitive Eating principles as long as they understand that the tongue is not the only part of the body that can give information about what and how to eat. Information can be derived from how the stomach or head feels after eating certain foods, or how the whole body feels when deviating from using rational thinking to expand upon the body's instinctual knowledge.
What are your top practical tips for making the most of intuitive eating?
The most practical tip I can give is to make the seeking of satisfaction be the primary goal in eating. When that is the focus, people will find that they will have greater satisfaction if they eat when they're moderately hungry, rather than being in primal hunger, and if they stop when moderately full, as food loses its satisfaction factor after fullness has been achieved. If they're eating in a favorable environment, which includes a lack of emotional tension and which provides foods that please the palate, while eating slowly and savoring the food, they will have more satisfaction in eating. They will also achieve greater satisfaction if they have made peace with all foods, have challenged the negative internal and external voices about eating, have learned to nurture themselves, and have found ways to cope with their feelings, rather than going to food as a coping mechanism.
What are some of the recent research findings in this area?
All of the items mentioned under the question about benefits of Intuitive Eating have come from recent research studies. There is an entire chapter in the latest edition/3rd edition of Intuitive Eating that came out in August of 2012.
Any other comments?
Yes, Intuitive Eating has been known to change people's lives. The more they begin to trust their inner wisdom about eating, the clearer they are to evaluate other areas of their lives, through trusting their inner voice. They find peace in the realm of eating and body image, and they are freed to pursue areas that have been left behind while they're been focused on dieting and losing weight.
And, lastly, it's most important to take weight loss out of the picture. It must be put on the back burner. If someone's current weight is a result of a dieting history, without honoring hunger and fullness signals and perhaps of using food emotionally as a coping mechanism to get through life, and or the person has not allowed her/himself the freedom and joy of natural movement, then his/her weight is likely to normalize throughout this process. But any focus on weight loss can only sabotage one's ability to tune into intuitive signals.
Thanks for this opportunity to spread the Intuitive Eating word to our neighbors in Australia!