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Intuitive Eating and Body Image



Here are a few highlights on Intuitive Eating vs Dieting!


Diets Don’t Work

  • 90-97% of people who lose weight through dieting will regain it back within 2-3 years

  • 33-66% of people who diet regain more weight than they originally lost

  • Dieting is associated with an increased risk of binge eating, eating disorders and long- term weight gain

  • 65% of women have some form of disordered eating – thinking or behaving abnormally about food, skipping meals, restricting food groups, binge eating, controlled eating

  • Weight cycling (yo-yo) dieting is a risk factor for poor health outcomes (worse than staying at a higher weight)


Deprivation-Binge Pendulum

  • Dieting feels like starvation to your body, so it responds by increasing appetite, lowering fullness signals, and increasing cravings for energy dense foods (fat, sugar), often in the context of metabolic adaptation.

  • Your body is wired for survival!

  • This is why diets don’t work – if they did, the diet industry would be out of business!


Diet Culture….is the pervasive belief that appearance and body shape are more important than physical, psychological and general well-being. It’s the idea that controlling your body, particularly your diet, by limiting what and how much you eat – is normal”.


Examples of diet culture –

  • Food anxiety

  • Avoiding foods too high in carbs and fats

  • Ignoring body cues - Associating worth with how you look

  • Equating thinness with health

  • Exercise for punishment

  • Scale dictates happiness or worth

  • Believing you must take supplements for health

  • Avoiding social situations because of food


Intuitive Eating

  • Intuitive eating is not a diet – it is a practice or eating style that promotes a healthy attitude towards food and body image

  • Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full

  • The process is intuitive – you likely need to relearn how to trust your body by tuning into hunger cues and distinguishing between emotional and physical hunger.


Intuitive Eating Principle 1: Reject the Diet Mentality


Intuitive Eating Principle 2: Honor Your Hunger – Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates.


Intuitive Eating Principle 3: - Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation.


Intuitive Eating Principle 4: There are no good/bad foods- declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake.


Intuitive Eating Principle 5: Feel Your Fullness – Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry.


Intuitive Eating Principle 6: Cope With Your Emotions with Kindness – Food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger may only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion.

Intuitive Eating Principle 7: Respect Your Body – Accept your genetic blueprint.


Intuitive Eating Principle 8: Honor Your Health – Gentle Nutrition – Remember that you don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters.


Tune Into Your Body

  • Practice going within to determine when to eat and when to stop

  • Hunger is a good sign of a healthy metabolism – especially in the morning!

  • Respond to your hunger at a 3 or 4

  • Respond to your fullness at a 6 or 7

  • Eat mindfully


Hunger and Fullness Scale

  1. Starving: I have severe hunger pangs and want to eat everything in sight. I feel shaky, lightheaded and weak. I am obsessing over food.

  2. Ravenous: I feel really hungry but I am not at the point that it is intolerable. I feel drained of energy and can’t concentrate. I keep thinking about what I can eat.

  3. Hungry: I have slight hunger pains but I don’t feel uncomfortable. I want to eat but I feel in control. I know what I want to eat that will satisfy me.

  4. Mild Hunger: I am slightly hungry. My stomach is growling a little, but I’m not quite ready to eat. I am not having many thoughts about food and I know I will want to eat soon.

  5. Neutral: I don’t feel hungry or full. I am not thinking about food. If I ate now, the food probably won’t taste as good as I hoped.

  6. Mild fullness: I am filling up but I could eat a bit more before I feel totally satisfied. I feel comfortable and a bit ore energized.

  7. Full: I am totally satisfied and feel no hunger pains. I feel like my energy has been “topped up” and don’t feel like I will be hungry for hours. Food doesn’t seem as appealing.

  8. Slightly overfull: I should have stopped eating a few bites ago because now I feel slightly overfull and a bit uncomfortable. My stomach feels a bit swollen.

  9. Overfull: I am overfull and bloated. I feel uncomfortable and sleepy.

  10. Stuffed: I am full to the point of feeling stuffed. I feel extremely uncomfortable. I have eaten much more than what was good for my body. I have no energy. I feel like I could be physically ill to relieve the discomfort.


Physical vs. Emotional Hunger


Physical Hunger Characteristics

  • Stomach growling

  • Thinking about food, considering options

  • Low energy

  • Hunger grows slowly

  • Time has passed since last meal

  • Food is satisfying


Emotional Hunger Characteristics

  • No physical cues

  • Specific cravings (like chocolate)

  • Eating food feels like the best/only option

  • Little time has passed since you ate last

  • Food doesn’t totally satisfy

  • Wandering around kitchen, searching


Responding to Emotions


What do I need, now?


  • Distraction

    • Change environment

    • Watch funny movie

    • Music

  • Support

    • Call a friend

    • Email a friend

    • Text a friend

  • Deal directly with feeling

    • Write in journal

    • Write a letter

    • Sit with your feeling for 10 minutes

  • Self-care

    • “Alone” time

    • Sleep/rest

    • Go for a walk


Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is maintaining an in-the-moment awareness of the food and drink you put into your body, observing rather than judging how the food makes you feel and the signals your body sends about taste, satisfaction, and fullness.


Benefits of Mindful Eating

  • Slow down and take a break from the hustle and bustle of your day, easing stress and anxiety

  • Derive greater pleasure from the food you eat, as you learn to slow down and more fully appreciate your meals

  • Make healthier choices about what you eat by focusing on how each type of food makes you feel after eating it - Improve your digestion by eating slower

  • Feel fuller sooner and by eating less food

  • Make a greater connection to where your food comes from, how it’s produced, and the journey it’s taken to your plate

  • Eat in a healthier, more balanced way.



Keep Moving Forward 😊 Sarah



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