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What is Intuitive Eating and Could it Work For You?

Updated on August 14, 2012

Get in Touch with Your Real Hunger


A Definition Of Intuitive Eating

Intuitiive Eating is an approach toward weight loss that has a very simple premise: eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full. This simple premise, though, is not so easy for some of us to follow. We are born able to recognize hunger and to know when we are full, but dieting makes us ignore those innate sensations. We learn to ignore hunger and to eat based not on our needs, but on a plan. Years of dieting and rules about food lead to restriction, obsession, binges, guilt, shame, weight gain, and more diets. This results in being out of touch with our true hunger and our natural cravings. Intuitive Eating eliminates the diet/binge/weight gain cycle by helping us to re-connect with our physical hunger and with the sensation of being full. Intuitive Eating teaches to eat only for physical reasons, not for emotional ones. Beyond that, Intuitive Eating is also a philosophy that believes in progress rather than perfection, honoring our feelings and our natural cravings and ultimately, learning how to make peace with food.

What Intuitive Eating is NOT

Intuitive Eating is not a food plan. There is no diet to follow, no counting of calories, carbs, or fat grams. There is no weighing or measuring of food and NO FOODS are off limits. Intuitive Eating allows you to choose any food that you crave.

Intuitive Eating is not a quick fix. By honoring your natural hunger and cravings, it may take awhile for your body's metabolism to adjust and for you to reach your natural weight, especially if you have been dieting for years. It is definitely an adjustment as you learn to allow ALL foods into your diet, even the foods you would normally try to resist. Eventually, though,as you become in tune with your hunger and cravings, your body will begin to naturally want more healthy choices. Some intuitive eaters say it takes around three months to really notice a change in their weight. Others say up to a year.

Intuitive Eating is not a short-term or limited-time approach. Intuitive Eating is a "forever" approach to eating and is a way of life. It is a mindset toward eating and physical and emotional health and it is meant to last a lifetime.

How Intuitive Eating Works

Intuitive Eating works by encouraging followers to say no to diets and diet rules and instead honor true physical hunger and natural cravings. For many, this is a challenge because years of dieting creates false restraints regarding eating. As a result, many of us are unsure what real hunger even feels like anymore! The Intuitive Eating philosophy believes that diets cause us to eat more because we restrict ourselves, deny what we really want to eat, and then end up binging when we "fail" at perfection. Intuitive Eating allows us to eat anything we want, as long as we honor our natural cravings, are truly hungry and then stop when we are full. Intuitive Eating means eating only when you are hungry--not for any other reason such as time of day or because it's normal routine or out of emotion. The theory is that when we allow ourselves to eat when we are truly hungry and to eat what we truly crave, we will stop when our bodies are satisfied. Thus, overeating will be eliminated, we will lose weight and eventually we will arrive at a natural weight that we can maintain for life.

For example, if your diet plan allows for only a few servings of carbs, but you want more, you may eat other foods which are "allowed" in order to avoid the craving. However, despite how much of the "good" foods that you eat, the urge/obsession with having more carbs will take over, and you end up having them anyway. Then you feel guilty due to the false diet constraint that you've "failed" at, so you end up bingeing on more food out of guilt and shame and now you have a full-on food disaster. Yet if you had just honored what you wanted in the first place, you would have been able to avoid the obsession and the guilt and the binge and the extra calories, and the need to diet again!

Intuitive Eating gets you to recognize the signs of physical hunger. Then it teaches you to really consider what it is that you really want to eat. Next, Intuitive Eating teaches you to be aware while you are eating. Is this food really satisfying you? Do you want to keep eating it, or do you now want something else? Finally, Intuitive Eating has you be mindful of when you've had enough to eat. No measuring or calculating. No list of foods you can or cannot have. Just your own inner guidance of when you are hungry, what you want to eat, and when you are full.

I am using Intuitive Eating as part of my Easy, Three-Step Diet Plan, and I can tell you that it really works. I am not obsessed about eating. I never feel deprived. I am in tune and allowing myself to eat what I want, yet I am still losing weight. When I was on strict diet plans, I may have lost weight, but I never felt this relaxed. And ultimately, the diet would lead to a binge and weight gain anyway. Intuitive Eating allows for a much less rigid approach to eating, a feeling of calm control, and freedom from food obsession. All of this helps to eliminate the diet/binge/weight gain cycle and thus leads to true, lasting weight loss.

Benefits of Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating not only gets you in touch with your true hunger and cravings, it eliminates your obsession with food since no food is off-limits. No food is "good" or "bad". This eliminates guilt over food choices and the guilt/binge cycle. Although intuitive eaters may indulge in "unhealthy" choices more often at first, the body will eventually crave healthier options. It really does happen! Once the restrictions and guilt are eliminated, it is amazing how the healthy foods are what you will truly want, instead of feeling forced to have. When I am touch and honoring my true, natural hunger and cravings, I can go into a donut shop and order an egg-white sandwich, not because I "have to" because of my diet, but because that is what my body really wants. At another time, I may want a donut, and that's OK, too. Intuitive Eating allows for you to honor your cravings when you are truly hungry, as long as you stop when you are full. When you are in touch with this way of eating you will begin to fall into this natural approach toward eating. I find that when I am letting my natural hunger be my guide, I will leave food on my plate and often pass on dessert, because that is what my body really wants me to do. When I am on a "diet" this would never occur! Think of someone you know who is "naturally thin" and who does not have issues with overeating. They are probably intuitively eating without even knowing it. They say they can eat whatever they want, and that is probably true. But I am sure that they only eat when they are hungry, and they have no problem passing on food or putting their fork down when they are full--no matter what is left on their plate. This is a natural approach to eating that we were all born with, it's just that some of us lose this connection due to years of dieting. But Intuitive Eating is something we can all re-learn!

Intuitive eating eliminates emotional eating by encouraging followers to learn how to comfort themselves without comfort food and how to cope with problems instead of escaping into food. When you are mindful of this, you realize that eating does not solve your issues but only adds to them. Once you are aware of your real hunger, you will begin to eat only when hungry, and not for other reasons such as stress, anxiety, or boredom. This happens naturally when your are in tune with Intuitive Eating and is an important key to weight loss.


Can Intuitive Eating Work for You?

If you are someone who has been on and off diets for years, feels a bit obsessed with food, and is often conflicted by what you want to eat and what you think you should eat, Intuitive Eating may be for you. It is a way to get back in touch with your real hunger and simplifies the whole approach to dieting. Simply put, you eat when you are hungry, and you stop when you are full. You eat only for physical hunger, not because it's "time to eat" or you're nervous or you're bored. You honor what you really want to eat--today it may be a cheeseburger, but tomorrow, it may be a salad. Intuitive Eating benefits your physical health and your emotional health as well because it eliminates obsession and perfection regarding food. When practiced, Intuitive Eating can bring you what no other diet can--peace not only with your weight, but with food as well.


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