Intuitive eating is a nutrition philosophy based on the premise that becoming more attuned to the body's natural hunger signals is a more effective way to attain a healthy weight, rather than keeping track of the amounts of energy and fats in foods. It's a process that is intended to create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, making it a popular treatment for disordered eating and eating disorders. Intuitive eating, just like many other dieting philosophies, goes by many names, including non-dieting or the non-diet approach, normal eating, wisdom eating, conscious eating and more.
Exactly when the intuitive eating movement began is uncertain, but one of the early pioneers was Susie Orbach, whose groundbreaking book Fat is a Feminist Issue, was first published in 1978. Before that, however, Thelma Wayler founded Green Mountain at Fox Run in Vermont as a non-diet retreat for women struggling with eating and weight. Her understanding of the issue began via her work in the 1950s, seeing the effects of restricted eating in children with diabetes. Also in the early 1970s, Carol Munter and Jane Hirschmann began Overcoming Overeating workshops in New York City, and eventually published a book by that name. Susie Orbach was a participant in Munter & Hirschmann's workshops. Geneen Roth's first book on emotional eating, "Feeding the Hungry Heart", was published in 1982. All identified conventional weight loss diets as the problem, and recommended intuitive eating (also called "attuned eating" or "the non-diet approach") as the solution. There also have been religious approaches to intuitive eating. Gwen Shamblin founded The Weigh Down Workshop in 1986. Thin Within, another religious approach, goes back to the early 1970s.
An early promoter in the recent wave of interest in intuitive eating is Lynn Donovan who published a 1971 book called The Anti-Diet: the pleasure power way to lose weight. Nonetheless, intuitive eating is not a recent idea. "Fletcherism" is defined in dictionaries as eating according to hunger, and is named for American nutritionist Horace Fletcher (1849–1919).
Intuitive Eating Studies
In 2005, researcher Linda Bacon published the first two-year long study demonstrating the effectiveness of Intuitive Eating. Later that year, Steven Hawks, a professor of Community Health at Brigham Young University, made headlines when he claimed to have lost 50 pounds following his version of an intuitive eating program. Hawks claims the underlying philosophies of intuitive eating are thousands of years old and exist in most eastern and some western religions. Intuitive eating is designed to be a "common sense, hunger-based approach to eating," where participants are encouraged to eat when and only when their body tells them it is hungry.
In 2006, Ohio State University researcher, Tracy Tylka, published a study which accomplished two key outcomes. First, Tylka developed and validated an assessment scale to define key traits of Intuitive Eaters, which are: unconditional permission to eat, eating for physical rather than emotional reasons, and reliance on internal hunger/satiety cues. Lastly, Tylka used that assessment scale on over 1400 people and determined that intuitive eaters have a higher sense of well being and lower body weights, without internalizing the "thin ideal".
Currently, University of Notre Dame psychology researcher, Lora Smitham, is recruiting people with binge eating disorder to study the effectiveness of the intuitive eating process for treating this problem. Smitham's premise is that dieting triggers binge eating and learning to become an intuitive eater can be therapeutic.
Intuitive eating is a key component of the Health at Every Size movement. Supporters argue that eating in response to internal cues of hunger and fullness, while allowing all foods to be part of the diet, weight will be maintained to a different weight.
Notes and references
- Elyse Resch, Evelyn Tribole (1996). Intuitive Eating: A Recovery Book For The Chronic Dieter; Rediscover The Pleasures Of Eating And Rebuild Your Body Image. New York: St. Martin's Paperbacks. ISBN 0-312-95721-1.
- Bacon L, Stern JS, Van Loan MD, Keim NL (June 2005). "Size acceptance and intuitive eating improve health for obese, female chronic dieters". Journal of the American Dietetic Association 105 (6): 929–36. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2005.03.011. PMID 15942543.
- Tylka T (April 2006). "Development and Psychometric Evaluation of a Measure of Intuitive Eating". Journal of Counseling Psychology 53 (2): 226–40. doi:10.1037/0022-0126.96.36.199.
- Cox C. (Nov 7, 2007). "ND professor craves participants for binge-eating".