By Enise Kaya Urcan, MPharm, MS Candidate in Human Nutrition
Intuitive eating allows us to make peace with all types of food. The main idea is to listen to our bodies and eat what feels right without labeling food “good” or “bad” (Tribole & Resch, 2020). Intuitive eating targets self-awareness to develop a positive body image and balance internal and external factors.
The internal factors include the cognitive (i.e., thoughts), the emotional (i.e., the feelings), and the physiological (i.e., body) domains (Cook-Cottone, 2015). Here are some examples from the intuitive eating principles:
- Thoughts: making peace with food and respecting your body
- Feelings: honoring your emotions without food
- Body: eating in response to hunger, recognizing your fullness, and encouraging yourself with mindful and enjoyable exercise
The external factors include culture, family, and community (Cook-Cottone, 2015). Here are some examples of how they change eating behaviors:
- Culture and family: traditions around food and beauty expectations
- Community: health guidelines, nutritional values such as organic or whole foods, and medical conditions
An intuitive eater can self-regulate to build healthy eating behaviors by balancing emotions, paying attention to hunger and fullness signals, and engaging in the family and community.
The hunger/fullness scale
According to intuitive eating (Tribole & Resch, 2020), you need to know how long the food keeps you full until you get hungry again. The hunger/ fullness scale is commonly used to understand your body’s needs; hence eat more intuitively.
Here is how you can practice learning about the hunger clues:
1 5 10
Very hungry Neutral Physically ill
In the hunger/ fullness scale, “1” represents the moment you feel starving, while “10” means overstuffed. Ideally, we want to stay around the neutral state. If you have difficulty understanding where you are on the scale, ask yourself:
- How do I physically feel after eating this meal or snack?
- Are you satisfied eating this meal?
- How does the food taste?
- When was the last time I ate?
- Do you feel you need energy?
- Does your stomach feel hungry and growl?
Keep in mind that you may feel hungrier some days and eat more to feel full, while a smaller meal may be satisfying on other days (Wyatt et al., 2021). If you practice the hunger/ fullness scale, you’ll notice subtle fullness cues and feel more in tune with your body’s needs.
For more information about intuitive eating, visit intuitiveeating.org
- Cook-Cottone, C. (2015). Incorporating positive body image into the treatment of eating disorders: A model for attunement and mindful self-care. Body Image, 14, 158-167. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2015.03.004
- Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2020). Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach(4th ed.). St Martins.
- Wyatt, P., Berry, S., Finlayson, G., O’Driscoll, R., Hadjigeorgiou, G., & Drew, D. et al. (2021). Postprandial glycaemic dips predict appetite and energy intake in healthy individuals. Nature Metabolism, 3(4), 523-529. https://doi.org/10.1038/s42255-021-00383-x