Common Intuitive Eating Misconceptions
Intuitive eating is a philosophy that helps individuals develop a healthy relationship with food and body image. Essentially, the foundation of intuitive eating is that it is the opposite of dieting or restriction and does not lead to weight loss. Intuitive eating is about going back to basics, such as eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full, not assigning foods with ‘good’ or ‘bad’ labels, and simply enjoying food. There are ten intuitive eating principles. Although more people learn and engage in intuitive eating than in previous years, there are still misconceptions about this philosophy.
By Elizabeth Low
Below are some common misconceptions about intuitive eating:
Misconception 1: Intuitive eating means I can eat whatever I want in whatever quantity.
Intuitive eating is about giving yourself unconditional permission to eat food. You can eat what you want when you want. However, it is also important to note how food makes your body feel. Intuitive eating means engaging with your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Forget what society might be telling you about the food. Once you give yourself the ability to eat your favorite foods until you feel satisfied, you are less likely to binge. Elyse Resch, one of the founders of intuitive eating, explains that “Food might be delicious, but you can stop when you have enough.”
Misconception 2: You cannot be healthy eating intuitively.
Being healthy has many facets – Health is made up of mental and physical health. There are countless studies on the merits of intuitive eating. A 2014 review of 22 intervention studies on intuitive eating found that physical and psychological health improved. The results from the study showed that eating habits, body image, depression, anxiety, and self-esteem improved. Notably, weight control behaviors were abandoned, and metabolic fitness improved. Overall, the lifestyles were sustainable.
Misconception 3: Intuitive eating relies on my instincts, which are not good.
Indeed, practicing intuitive eating is not as easy for some people due to a past eating disorder or a health condition. However, most people can learn to follow it.
While the principles of ‘feel your fullness’ and ‘honor your hunger’ rely on instincts to some extent, the other principles can be done even if your hunger and fullness cues are disrupted due to disordered eating or health conditions. With time and support, you can gradually begin to trust your body and be more in tune with it.
Misconception 4: Some people need to be on a special diet because they have diabetes or another GI condition.
Intuitive eating can accommodate a wide range of needs. Christy Harrison, a registered dietitian, has used intuitive eating with medical nutrition therapy (MNT) to manage clients with health conditions such as diabetes. The tenth principle of intuitive eating, gentle nutrition, is particularly applicable here. Individuals can learn to work on their approaches to specific nutrients with a registered dietitian.
Despite common myths or misconceptions of intuitive eating in popular culture, practicing even some intuitive eating principles when you can is immensely rewarding to your mental and physical health. Embracing intuitive eating means you can eventually be free from the anxiety food may cause you.
Redefine Wellness is a virtual coaching platform that helps clients reject diet culture and cultivate a life free of guilt and shame around food and their body using an Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size® framework. Click here to learn how working with a Redefine Wellness coach can help you move from food and body distress to neutrality and body acceptance.
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This post was written by Redefine Wellness Blog Contributor, Elizabeth Low (she/her).
Elizabeth is currently finishing her sociology degree with a concentration in social interaction and a minor in psychology at San Jose State University. During her undergraduate studies she has volunteered and worked in childcare, and in the food industry. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in Clinical Nutrition or Counseling. She hopes to actively counteract social messaging that is linked to disordered eating, overexercise, and body dissatisfaction. Her interests include cooking, childcare, education, research, and writing. She plans to help individuals have a healthy relationship with food and their body image through counseling in the future.