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5 Common Misconceptions About Intuitive Eating

Written by: Amparo Penny, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

We have seen a rise of information about Intuitive Eating in social media, promoting it as an “anti-diet response” to the diet ads and influencers that end up in our social media algorithm on a regular basis. A recent consumer survey by the International Food Information Council found that 49% of people in the U.S. between the ages of 18 to 34 are familiar with the concept, while 60% of all those surveyed were interested in learning more about mindful or intuitive eating.

woman not in mood for eating cereal

Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of mixed information in the media about what Intuitive Eating means – usually, there will be pictures of donuts, pizza, or other sugary treats in the photos where Intuitive Eating is mentioned, giving an impression that Intuitive Eating equates to “giving into every tempting snack that your body desires.”


What does Intuitive Eating mean?


Intuitive eating is an approach to food and eating that was developed by dieticians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995 that emphasizes listening to your body's hunger and fullness cues, as well as your cravings and preferences, in order to guide your eating choices. This also involves shutting out the external tools used to manage our hunger (i.e., diet pills, restriction, etc.) and listening to our internal body signals to guide our eating behaviors.


This can often lead to confusion with people, especially those who are reading about Intuitive Eating for the first time on social media as opposed to speaking with a qualified professional. Intuitive Eating tends to be presented to the public in graphics containing rich and tasty foods, such as pizza, cookies, and ice cream as opposed to vegetables and fruits. Therefore, many people are prone to make the assumption that Intuitive Eating means that you “go of the rails” or “eat what you want” when practicing this framework.


When working with clients on improving their relationship to food and their body, I have found that there are a number of misconceptions about intuitive eating; here are some of the common ones and how we clarify them:


Misconception No 1. Intuitive eating means you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want.


Clarification: While intuitive eating encourages you to honor your cravings and preferences, it also emphasizes balance and moderation. This means that while you can enjoy all foods, you should also aim to include a variety of nutritious foods in your eating. It’s not about restricting yourself of foods or food groups; rather, it’s about finding a balance that works for you and your body.


Misconception No 2. Intuitive eating is only for people who are naturally thin.


Clarification: Intuitive eating is for everyone, regardless of body size or shape. Sadly, this assumption can be perpetuated by the images we tend to see in social media where a thin, white dietician discusses their intuitive eating program. The approach is about learning to trust your body and its signals, not about conforming to a certain body type. Everyone can benefit from learning to listen to their body and make food choices based on their own unique needs.


Misconception No 3. Intuitive eating causes you to gain weight.


Clarification: Intuitive eating is not a weight loss program. Some people will gain weight in the beginning of the journey if they have been restricting for some time, while others may lose weight due to listening to their fullness cues. Intuitive eating focuses on overall well-being, including physical, mental, and emotional health. By listening to your body and feeding it a wide balance of foods (nutritious and fun foods), you may find that your weight stabilizes at a healthy level for you.


Misconception No 4 .Intuitive eating is just another diet, like the hunger and fullness diet.


Clarification: Intuitive eating is actually an anti-diet approach. It’s about breaking free from short-term and restrictive diets (which aren’t sustainable) and learning to trust your body to guide your eating choices. It’s not about following external rules or restrictions, and instead learning to tune into your body and respond to its needs.


Misconception No 5. Intuitive eating is a quick fix for any of your food issues.


Clarification: Intuitive eating is an ongoing process and it takes time, grace and patience to learn. It involves constantly unlearning diet culture messaging and developing a new relationship with food and your body. While it can be a powerful tool in healing your relationship with food, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution and may require additional support from a healthcare professional or therapist.


It’s important to clarify these misconceptions in order to help people understand what intuitive eating is and what it isn’t, especially since there are so many mixed messages in social media. This way, people can decide if they want to incorporate intuitive eating concepts into their daily life, and how to do so in a balanced and flexible manner. In addition, they can also help to clear up misconceptions for other people when they ask them: “Oh, you’re doing Intuitive Eating? So you can just eat what you want, when you want?”


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Amparo Penny, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Amparo Penny is a licensed clinician and health and mindset coach, who helps people stop obsessing about food and their bodies and get their sanity back. She helps people end black or white thinking around food and exercise and change their mindset to developing healthy habits FOR LIFE. This was what helped to end her 20+ year battle with her body, yo-yo dieting, and using exercise as punishment. And now it's her mission to help others end this battle and find food freedom!

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