Intuitive Eating – Part 1
By Amber Whittemore RD BSN MHSc
Welcome back to the HEC blog!
Today we are focusing on the concept of Intuitive Eating (IE), a framework of viewing food, our bodies and movement through a neutral and acceptance-based lens. This is different than how society typically views these things given our modern “weight centric” culture, where the focus is typically on dieting, weight loss, and working out to justify eating.
IE is highly embraced by many Registered Dietitians in the medical community, as the current research indicates embracing food in this way has both mental and physical health benefits, many of which will be covered in this blog!
Therefore, the dietitians at HEC strive to cultivate an environment that fosters neutrality in individuals’ relationship with food and their body.
During this blog we will outline the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating, how these can be adapted in our day-to-day lives, as well as the science behind why IE and supporting neutrality around our food and bodies is a positive thing!
Of note, all Intuitive Eating principles come from the hard work and research from Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch1, the Dietitians and Founders of Intuitive Eating. The following information therefore remains integral to their research. Links to the original articles and work can be found in the reference section!
The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating & How Science Supports them:
- Reject the Diet Mentality
If you have dieted in the past, you likely know that diets are tough to stick to, often do not have lasting results, and make your relationship with food (and maybe those around you) a lot more volatile. It is now scientifically proven that diets do not work, this is because more often than not they lead to weight cycling or regain and an unhealthy relationship with food.
There are many reasons that dieting has been “disproven”, including:
Firstly, we now know that dieting increases your risk of weight cycling, which means weight gain. A 2007 literature review2 revealed that dieting is strongly associated with weight gain, as two thirds of dieters gain back more weight than they had lost on said diet. You may be familiar with the term “weight cycling”, which refers to those yo-yo weights on the scale, and this is the primary reason for why we see that occurring. What’s concerning is that weight cycling has significant risk factors for our health, including developing heart disease, inflammation, high blood pressure, and type two diabetes. Further to this, what many people don’t know is that weight cycling is the top contributor to health concerns in individuals, not the weight they were carrying in the first place. Therefore, those individuals in larger bodies, who have healthy and balanced lifestyles, are at less health risks than those who are yo-yo dieting.
Secondly, we know that dieting or inadequate energy, decreases the metabolism. On a biological level our bodies observe dieting as a form of starvation. Therefore, the body responds on a chemical level by shifting into what many call “survival mode”. This adaption goes all the way back to our ancestral roots, where scarcity from hunting and gathering was all too common.
What does this survival mode mean for our body? We shift our body down a gear by slowing down our metabolism. Thus, storing more nutrients and energy, and placing the importance on life-essential functions over gaining muscle, losing weight, and resiliency in mental health and cognitive functioning. In this way, the body is beautiful because it will step in to protect us and our organs.
What does the end of a diet mean for our body? When the diet ends (which may or may not be associated with overeating) we begin gaining weight because the metabolism adapted to receive the lower amount of energy. In this way, the body is confusing because metabolism does not bounce back as quickly as it may go down!
Thirdly, because the body shifts to store more energy and nutrients in survival mode, dieting seems to teach the body to store more fat. Historically famine was a serious concern for humans. Those with more body fat were most resilient. The body learned to store fat to protect us. Consequently, our bodies will build fat reserves when we give them less.
How does this happen? This is in line with that chemical shift that was noted earlier. Our bodies begin increasing the enzymes required for our body to make and store body fat.
How to start challenging Diet Mentality: Throw out the diet books and supplements, unfollow triggering content on social media, and recognize that anything promising quick, easy, or permanent weight loss is likely a scam with the goal of profits.
Stay tuned for part 2 next week as we discuss “Honouring Your Hunger”.
1Tribole, E. & Resch, E. (2020). Intuitive Eating, 4th edition. St. Martins Publishing Group.
2Mann, T., Tomiyama, A. J., Westling, E., Lew, A. M., Samuels, B. & Chatman, J. (2007) Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer. American Psychology, 62(3), 220-33. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.62.3.220.
3Bacon, L. & Aphramor, L. (2011). Weight science: evaluating the evidence for a paradigm shift. Nutrition Journal, 10(9). Received from: https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-10-9