How Intuitive Eating Could Help You Reach Your Health Goals

When your bladder is full, you go to the bathroom. When your knee hurts, you stop running. When your brain struggles to read another page, you put the book on the nightstand and fall asleep.

All day, every day, we receive and honor a variety of messages from our bodies. They are biological instructions, meant to arm us with the information we need to make rational decisions. Listening to them is a sensible way to function as a functioning human being.

For some reason, however, many of us consistently ignore cues related to food and fullness. Americans have a complicated love-hate relationship with food, and almost every year try out a new way to eat less of it. A fifth of Americans are actively experimenting with weight loss diets, helping to fuel a $250 Billion Global Weight Loss Industry.

But decades of research, like The New York Times summarized in a recent article, revealed that so-called chronic dieters are trapped in a self-destructive cycle. Their dieting attempts usually lead them to eat too much. As people begin to identify as dieters, their efforts are more likely to backfire. A study led by Dr. Janet Polivy and Dr. C. Peter Herman dubbed this phenomenon the “fucking shit effect.”

Simply put, the second a self-proclaimed dieter consumes something outside of their diet (a high-calorie milkshake, for example), the wheels tend to come off. They’ve ruined another diet, they figure, so might as well order a burger and fries too. Chicken nuggets wouldn’t hurt either.

Evelyn Tribole, author of Intuitive eating: a revolutionary anti-dieting approach, used the research of Dr. Polivy and Dr. Herman as the starting point for his book, which argues for an overhaul of dietary thinking. Instead of categorizing foods as “good” or “bad,” people should focus on how the food makes them feel – both in general and at the time. Much like the bladder or the knee, the body sends important biological cues about whether it can handle a certain type of food, in a certain amount, at a certain time of day.

This philosophy does not exclude the idea that a bowl of almonds is healthier for your heart than a bowl of Frosted Flakes. But he recognizes that a concern for to avoid Frosted flakes can ironically cause you to eat more frosted flakes.

Any tips for getting started with intuitive eating this year? Number one: stop dieting. Ignore fad diets in particular. Don’t let someone on TikTok who’s never met you dictate tomorrow’s lunch. Make sure you eat when you’re hungry (you know, like you drink water when you’re thirsty). If you always crave sugar at a certain time of day or night, find out why. Check how full you feel – before and after a meal – before taking seconds or having dessert. Feel free to season or fry a vegetable, if that’s how you prefer to eat it. Eat should not be a chore. And always, always keep track of how certain foods make you feel physically. For example, do you work (or train) better after eating a salmon salad rather than a beef burrito? Everything counts, and that’s better than sweating over stupid, impersonal “rules.” Eat intuitively and your body will repay you in kind.

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