Intuitive Eating

Yes, this is a thing when it comes to dieting

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

An eating plan that says to eat when you want, treats no foods as “good” or “bad” and doesn’t require tracking calories, points or food measurements — it all sounds like a dream come true for people struggling to manage their weight. But that’s intuitive eating, the non-diet eating plan.

Popularized in 1995 by the book “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, intuitive eating has come back into vogue by influences and themes as diverse as mindfulness, body acceptance (versus body shaming), enjoying whole foods and local foods and finding a pleasurable physical activity instead of a brutal exercise regimen.

Heather Carrera, doctor of clinical nutrition who works in the office Lesley James, MD in Pittsford, finds some merit in listening to the body’s needs.

“If you have cravings, it’s OK to indulge once in a while,” she said. “It may be an emotional craving, as long as we identify it as that, as the reason you’re doing it. You’re eating it just for enjoyment and that’s OK.

“Our bodies are supposed to tell when we’re eating enough.”

Carrera is not a big fan of measuring foods, but emphasizing more produce and whole foods as sources of nutrients. She said that by focusing on these, the body can more readily signal satiety and natural portion control.

Tonya Klein, registered dietitian and clinical nutrition specialist with Rochester Regional Health and Lipson Cancer Institute, said that intuitive eating isn’t a weight loss plan per se, but about building a better relationship with your food, body and mind. “Some people as a result do lose weight but some gain and some stay the same.”

As most dietitians, Klein wants to see patients adopt a lifelong healthful eating plan. She views intuitive eating as a good example since it isn’t rigid and also helps patients work on the emotional factors tied to eating and body image.

“It’s unrealistic to never say you’ll never eat sugar or eat a full Thanksgiving meal again,” Klein said. “Learning to navigate your internal needs helps with that.”

As effective as intuitive eating can be to help people eat better for life, it’s also important to note its caveats. Someone whose poor eating habits have contributed to weight gain may need guidance from a dietitian to learn what foods should constitute the majority of the diet. As Carrara indicated, that can help the body tune into true hunger cues and not cravings and help prevent overeating.

Klein said that it’s also vital to eat at the first signs of hunger “instead of waiting until the last minute. That starvation mode will trigger you to eat more.”

She said that one of the hardest parts of intuitive eating is making peace with food and activity and viewing them as contributors to good health instead of sources of struggle.

“You also have to accept your genetic blueprint,” Klein said. “Not all of us are bikini models. Recognize you can make healthful food choices while making you feel well. Shoot for progress, not perfection.”

The 10 principles of Intuitive Eating

1. Reject the Diet Mentality

2. Honor Your Hunger

3. Make Peace with Food

4. Challenge the Food Police

5. Respect Your Fullness

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food

8. Respect Your Body

9 Exercise—Feel the Difference

10. Honor Your Health