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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 goes by many names, including non-dieting or the non-diet approach, normal eating, wisdom eating, and conscious eating. Some strategies and goals for building intuitive eating skills are discovering how to listen and reconnect with your body's hunger and fullness cues, learn to trust yourself to make decisions around what or how much to eat, take back your power around food, reconnect to your body's innate wisdom to determine the right amount of food for you, develop self-trust around eating challenging or "forbidden" foods, practice being more mindful at meal times in a safe and supportive environment. This approach to eating fights against weight stigma in terms of negative judgement, bias, assumptions, attitudes, and treatment based on a person's size. This stigma inevitably makes people feel worse about themselves and leads to even worse health outcomes for that individual.
"Weight neutrality" is a key component to intuitive eating because it is the process of making absolutely no assumptions about a person's health or habits based on physical appearance (weight in particular). It deems every individual deserving of health enhancing interventions regardless of whether it produces a change in weight. This leads to an intuitive eating approach that is critical to helping without harming.
"Health selfishness" is a term that can help explain the principles of intuitive eating because it includes the process of becoming clear on what food you need, owning what food you need whenever possible, and not apologizing for it. In short, it's about becoming attuned to your own sense of what is right for you. Furthermore, the process of intuitive eating more often than not leads to body positivity and an overwhelming acceptance of one's body, shape, and weight. Body positivity does not worry whether improved self-care results in weight loss because every body is different. Sometimes improved self-care leads to body changes and sometimes it does not. Body positivity is being your own unique self, not making changes to make yourself look like every other idealized image. Through intuitive eating, health selfishness, and body positivity, one can reach one's unique and full health potential without surrendering to society's idea of beauty or hurting themselves physically and emotionally.   
History[edit | edit source]
The idea that excessive eating can be bad is not a recent idea. Aristotle can be said to have had some sort of intuitive eating and exercising philosophy when he stated, "For both excessive and insufficient exercise destroy one's strength, and both eating and drinking too much or too little destroy health, whereas the right quantity produces, increases or preserves it."  Horace Fletcher, a nineteenth-century health food enthusiast, advised eating only when hungry. Early twentieth-century self-help writer Wallace D. Wattles also encouraged eating only when one is hungry, and stop eating when hunger begins to abate.
Exactly when the intuitive eating movement began is uncertain, but one of the early pioneers was Susie Orbach, whose 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 workshops were started in 1975 by Judy Wardell-Halliday and Joy Imboden Overstreet. However, the book Thin Within published in 1985 had few, if any, religious overtones.
Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch coined the name in their 1995 book, Intuitive Eating, which outlines how to let go of dieting and become an intuitive eater. The first professional book on implementing this internally regulated eating, Moving Away From Diets, was written in 1996 by Karin Kratina, Nancy King and Dayle Hayes.
An early promoter in the recent wave of interest in intuitive eating is Lynn Donovan. She published a 1971 book called The Anti-Diet: the pleasure power way to lose weight.
Intuitive Eating Studies[edit | edit source]
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".
Notes and references[edit | edit source]
- Evans, Marci (October 27, 2016). ""Body Positvity & Weight Loss." Marci's Blog". marcird.com.
- Evans, Marci (December 23, 2016). ""Healthy Selfishness." Marci's Blog". marcird.com.
- Evans, Marci (February 6, 2017). ""BED and The Well-Trained Clinician: Are You Helping Without Harming?" Marci's Blog". marcird.com.
- Evans, Marci (May 23, 2017). ""Build Enduring Strategies with Intuitive Eating Group Program." Marci's Blog". marcird.com.
- Evans, Marci (June 9, 2017). "Marci's Blog". marcird.com.
- Wattles, Wallace (1910). The Science of Being Well. Holyoke, Massachusetts: Elizabeth Towne.
- 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:10.1037/0022-018.104.22.168.
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