Written by Kathryn Durston, Dietetic Student
Intuitive eating is a way of eating that emphasizes eating for internal and physiological cues rather than external and emotional cues1.
It has risen in popularity over the past few years in the media and continues to be studied clinically for its benefits on body image, overall quality of life, weight regulation, and more.
One benefit, in particular, that has been seen among individuals who practice intuitive eating is an improved relationship with food.
This concept can be extremely important because we know having a positive relationship with food has holistic benefits on both our mind and physical body.
In fact, having a negative relationship with food has been shown to be associated with disordered eating habits and poor psychological and social wellbeing2.
Therefore putting time and effort into improving your relationship with food through the right strategies can have numerous favorable health outcomes.
So how exactly does intuitive eating improve your relationship with food?
Let’s find out!
Intuitive Eating Principles
Intuitive eating focuses on a few main principles including3:
- Eating until satiety
- Having confidence in your hunger cues
- Giving yourself unconditional permission to eat
- Eating for physical nutrition needs over emotional ones
- Not labeling foods as either “good” or “bad”
Recent advances in research around intuitive eating have defined it as an overall positive and adaptive eating pattern.
A 2019 article out of the journal Appetite noted that current literature supports the claim that intuitive eating is associated with less dieting and disordered eating, and more positive emotions around food and body image1.
Further, a 2021 article out of the same journal found that among older women a greater adherence to intuitive eating was associated with lower restraint, eating, and body concerns, as well as fewer depressive symptoms4.
These studies help us to acknowledge the fundamental effects that intuitive eating has on not only our relationship with food but on ourselves as a whole.
Intuitive eating emphasizes a mind-body connection with a common goal of eating for what your body actually needs in terms of nutrients1.
As we’ve all witnessed, many popular eating patterns focus on restriction and limiting food choices, which can have damaging effects on both our mental and physical health.
Even further, engaging in these types of diets can negatively impact our long-term relationship with food.
On the flip side, intuitive eating aims to regulate food consumption by refraining from eating to excess, or past the feeling of being “full”.
With this mindset, you do not have to restrict the types of foods you are eating and are able to adapt more of an “all foods fit” mentality2.
In turn, many individuals are able to pursue a more positive relationship with food since they allow themselves to break free from emotional eating habits, while still enjoying the foods they love.
When looked at in a clinical setting, this concept of eating regulation through intuitive eating has been shown in studies to be a more positive approach to weight regulation and binge eating than traditional restrictive diets5.
It is my hope that after reading this article you now have more knowledge about what intuitive eating is and how it has the ability to improve your relationship with food.
If you do consider yourself someone who struggles with your relationship with food, you may benefit from incorporating intuitive eating principles into your daily routine.
This includes allowing yourself to eat when you are hungry and aiming to steer away from a restrictive mindset and negative approach to nutrition.
Overall, having a positive relationship with food through intuitive eating helps to cultivate harmony between our mind, body, and the food we eat.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with this process, you may benefit from additional support from a registered dietitian to help you navigate the ropes of intuitive eating.