With clients who are ready for intuitive eating, I will often have them take an intuitive eating quiz. The quiz I use was developed and tested by researchers and you can check out that research here if you are interested. There is a therapist in Houston who I frequently collaborate on clients with who has the quiz on her website in a super easy to take fashion…so I wanted to tell you about it! You can take the intuitive quiz here.
And then I wanted to talk a bit more about intuitive eating. So here we go.
There are 3 components of intuitive eating that have been identified. Those are:
Research has shown that women who are intuitive eaters are found to have higher body satisfaction without internalizing the thin ideal. Additionally, those with higher intuitive eating scores have “increased body appreciation, self-esteem, and satisfaction with life.”(1)
My highly scientific and technical interpretation of that data is: if you allow yourself to get away from food rules and listen to your body, you will like your body more because you are finally taking care of it rather than fighting it. Hell-freaking-yeah.
You will not be able to be an intuitive eater if you are stuck in a diet mentality or have an eating disorder. How do you know if you are in a diet mentality? See below:
A bit more research on intuitive eating has shown that women with higher intuitive eating scores (as assessed by the above quiz I linked to) had lower weights. Dieting predicts increased weight gain.
In the intuitive eating book, they share the below chart:
I was hesitant to share this chart, because if you are using intuitive eating to lose weight, you are missing the point of intuitive eating. Intuitive eating will help you find where your body is meant to be. Intuitive eating is to help you make peace with the size your body is meant to be.
Personally, I gained weight with intuitive eating, but there was this odd peace with the weight gain because I was finally working with my body (i.e. listening to it’s hunger and fullness cues, being more gentle/intuitive with my movement, being more compassionate with myself, discovering my value outside of weight and size.). Intuitive eating helps you develop an internal compass that guides your eating behaviors and makes you confident that you are doing what is best for your body.
I got an email from a blog reader a month ago asking my thoughts on if intuitive eating is an appropriate approach for someone who has been in a larger body for a lifetime. She was wondering if intuitive eating is for everyone or only thin people getting over eating disorders. It’s a fair question. I would say that a non-diet approach/intuitive eating helps anyone find their set point weight. To know if you are above your set point weight, you can ask yourself these questions that are from the Intuitive Eating book:
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions. Perhaps you are over you natural set point weight and it could be beneficial to work with a dietitian to help you discover what that set point weight is for you. Additionally, many of my clients need to reconnect to what their body needs and being given a meal plan that teaches portions and macronutrient needs can help reconnect them to what feels good in their body. I am not a fan of meal plans. But there is a time when someone can benefit from a bit of structure for a short amount of time. A meal plan can be thought of as a cast you temporarily wear to help you heal.
IMPORTANT POINT–>Intuitive eating is best when used as a guideline for how to better take care of yourself, rather than a strict set of rules for which to judge yourself by. Making peace with food and your body comes from self compassion, not from self hate. If you are in an eating disorder/disordered eating state of mind, you are constantly fighting your body. Intuitive eating is about stopping that fight and finally being your body’s friend. It’s about finally working with your body to figure out the size it is meant to be.
If you have an eating disorder, you are likely not ready for intuitive eating. Talk with your treatment team before you make any adjustment to you meal plan. Intuitive eating can have a huge impact on you eventually, but it is likely that if you have an eating disorder you will use intuitive eating as a rigid guideline with which to control/manipulate/shame/harm your body, rather than a tool to increase your understand about what your body needs.
To end. You are allowed to trust your body. I feel like we live in a world where we are always trying to fill ourselves with more and more knowledge. We forget to stop looking for the answer from somewhere else and instead look inward. Your body will tell you what it needs if you begin listening to it and trusting it. And this isn’t just some “granola-hippie bullshit” (quoted from a lovely person I came into contact with). There are multiple research articles that correlate positive health outcome and intuitive eating. You can check those out here.
If you have a difficult relationship with food and your body, I hope you will look into my online course and see if it is something that resonates with you.
(1) The Intuitive Eating Scale–2: Item refinement and psychometric evaluation with college women and men. Tylka, Tracy L.; Kroon Van Diest, Ashley M. Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol 60(1), Jan 2013, 137-153. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0030893