Intuitive Eating: Focus on the Health, Not the Scale

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Written By: Riley Griffin, Dietetic Intern

With so many different diets out there, choosing which option works best for you can be more difficult than it should be. Many fad diets offer promises of weight loss, which may be the result if you have the “will power” to stick with all the rigid rules. However, it’s commonly at the cost of your mental, emotional, and ironically, your physical health. Weight gain is actually very common after a fad diet. This is because many diets involve unrealistic restrictions that are difficult and sometimes unhealthy to follow long term. Some research has also shown that focusing on those promises of weight loss (and your weight in general) leads to body dissatisfaction, which negatively impacts health in other ways.

Although it may not be as exciting to hear, the reality is that a well-balanced diet, not centered around weight, is most likely best for feeling healthy. Another reality is that feeling healthy and well-balanced can look different for everyone. Intuitive eating offers a way of thinking and eating outside of the shame, guilt and stress that often come along with fad diets. It focuses on the personal aspects of eating and considers your unique body. Intuitive eating focuses on creating an inner mind-body connection and trusting your body to make choices. You were born with the instinct to eat satisfying and nutritious food to fuel you, and intuitive eating is reconnecting to this instinct by listening to your hunger, fullness and satisfaction cues. This non-weight centered strategy then allows your body to fall within its own, natural shape. In the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch, they focus on different principals of intuitive eating such as:

  • Reject the Diet Mentality: Stop giving into the unrealistic social media posts, articles, books, etc. that offer the fantasy of losing weight “quickly, easily and permanently”.
  • Honor Your Hunger: “Keep yourself fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates.” Excessive hunger leads to primal instincts to overeat and throws conscious, moderate eating out the window.
  • Make Peace with Food: “Off limits” foods lead to feelings of deprivation and uncontrollable cravings that often lead to bingeing and guilt. Dismiss these food lists. “Give yourself permission to eat.”
  • Respect your fullness: Listen & respect when your body says you’re no longer hungry.
  • Discover the Satisfaction Factor: When you eat what you really want, in a positive environment, observe how satisfied you feel. “By providing this experience for yourself, you will find it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough”.”

Intuitive eating is not a diet. It is not just giving up and mindlessly eating or bingeing either. It is an empowerment tool that can allow you to take back your health from the way society has taught you to think shamefully about weight, diets and food. By giving yourself permission and listening to your body, you may just find trusting yourself lends the best “results” yet.

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension of Lee County’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, wellness, and nutrition please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Alyssa Anderson, MS, RDN, LDN, at 919-775-5624.