Clearing Up Intuitive Eating Misconceptions
When I first began learning about intuitive eating, it blew my mind! The idea that nutrition corresponded directly to the body’s internal cues and was intrinsically driven made so much sense to me, that I could not believe I had ever thought differently. In recent years, intuitive eating has become extremely popular through social media. With this rise in popularity has also come a lot of confusion and misinformation about the topic. In this blog, we decided to dispel some of the common misconceptions associated with intuitive eating and set the record straight.
“Having a healthy relationship with food means you are not morally superior or inferior based on your eating choices.”
- Evelyn Tribole, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works
Myth: Intuitive eating is a free for all excuse to eat whatever you want, whenever you want.
Reality: While, yes you do technically eat whatever you want, whenever you want, intuitive eating is more about honoring your body and respecting your own individual needs.
When we finally begin to give ourselves permission to let go of some of those old diet restrictive patterns and rules and practice eating intuitively, our bodies might signal a need for more of those foods we tried so hard to avoid.
Why? During periods of restriction and dieting, our bodies slow down our own metabolism to conserve itself. During these deprivation periods, our bodies are taking whatever we give it to simply keep your body going and functioning at some base level. However,
when we begin to feed our bodies fully, our metabolism speeds up and captures this newfound source of energy. As our bodies begin to trust us again and begin to realize that we will not stop providing it energy, it WILL regulate itself.
As we stay the course and continue to provide ourselves unconditional permission to eat all foods, our brains will get the message and will stop sending the “EAT ALL THE PASTA!” signal. Soon, our bodies will instead signal “Ok, I trust you. You’re not going to deprive me of energy, so I would like some vegetables now” or some variation of it.
In the middle of diet heavy thoughts and restriction, it can be so difficult to believe and trust our bodies to do what is needed for you, but with consistent practice you will get there. Despite what society likes us to think, there is actually a healthy middle ground between dieting and eating five boxes of donuts.
Myth: Intuitive eating provides no structure
Reality: One of the amazing aspects of intuitive eating is that it is about flexibility and not rigidity. It’s about respecting our bodies own needs and meeting those needs individually.
Unlike dieting, intuitive eating is NOT based on hardset rules. That is the beauty of it. Intuitive eating begins to encourage the idea that every person is unique and different and no two bodies are the same. Our bodies need different things individually and are not all cookie cutter molds of the same person. Intuitive eating focuses on ten principles (ie not rules) which act as guidelines.
The ten principles for intuitive eating are shown below:
Reject the Diet Mentality
Honor your Hunger
Make Peace with Food
Challenge the Food Police
Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Feel Your Fullness
Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
Respect Your Body
Movement- Feel the Difference
Honor Your Health - Gentle Nutrition
When you first begin your intuitive eating journey, these principles are so helpful to give you a ground level idea of how to start! As you progress further in your journey, these principles become your own and are molded to fit your own needs and preferences.
This process is a journey, it is challenging especially if you have a history of disordered eating, dieting, or have a history of an eating disorder. With that, I would recommend seeing a dietitian who specializes in intuitive eating for guidance and support as you work your way through these principles.
Myth: Intuitive eating will make me gain weight
Reality: Intuitive eating is NOT a weight loss approach, but every person is different and your weight might stay the same, you may lose weight, or you may gain weight
Intuitive eating is about healing your relationship with food and is not focused on helping you lose weight. As you begin to build your relationship with your body and start to honor and respect yourself, some individuals may maintain their weight, lose weight, or gain weight if their bodies have been suppressed through dieting and restriction. Every person’s journey with Intuitive Eating is unique and individualized and will be different. If you have heard that intuitive eating is a weight loss method from somebody, they are completely missing the point! In fact, intuitive eating emphasizes putting weight loss on the backburner and focusing more on healing your relationship with food as well as your relationship to your body’s signals.
Your body might experience changes with intuitive eating but again it is not the focus of it. Changes to your weight might occur due to so many aspects separate from what you might think, including your natural set point weight (check back for more discussion on this topic), genetics, hormones, movement, your own personal history with restriction and dieting, etc. Plus, our lives are worth so much more than fitting into a smaller pair of jeans or losing weight. In fact intuitive eating focuses on reclaiming a positive relationship with our bodies and nurturing respect for ourselves and our individual needs. It’s about letting go of unrealistic standards and expectations that diet culture has put on our bodies and instead embracing a version of nutrition that is about self-care and healing our relationships with ourselves and food.
Myth: Intuitive eaters don’t care about exercise and movement
Reality: Movement is an important part of the intuitive eating process but comes later on down the road
In diet culture, exercise is seen as a way to punish yourself and is seen as a tool for when you feel guilty about something you have done. With intuitive eating, the focus of movement becomes more about moving away from this harsh version of exercise into a more gentle, self-care motivated version of movement. However, as shown above in the Intuitive Eating Principles listed, movement falls later in the intuitive eating process.
Why? In order to progress through the journey of intuitive eating, one must first begin to heal one’s relationship with food. Once you become comfortable enough in your journey to actually internally make decisions with your food without the influence of external sources, then you can begin to approach a version of movement that is focused on joy and expression of your body. NOT about how much energy you burn or weight loss. Movement is an amazing way to show appreciation for our bodies and can be an incredible version of self-care. However, it takes time to rewire our brains to focus on the positive aspects of movement instead of the self-punishing ones. Be patient in your journey with intuitive eating and seek help from dietitians, therapists, and healthcare providers who focus on intuitive eating if you need guidance or support.
Intuitive eating is a constant journey that requires consistent practice, patience, and respect. It takes a lot of time to put aside society and diet culture’s expectations and focus on eating according to your own body’s individual needs. In the end, the path to intuitive eating is a beautiful act of self-love and self-discovery and is so WORTH IT. For more information, please visit our website to work with our dietitians. We recommend the following site for more information on intuitive eating as well!
Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2020). Intuitive eating: An revolutionary anti-diet approach.