Food 

5 Myths About Intuitive Eating

November 27, 2020 4 min read

Woman pouring water into a glass with lemon at lunch

You may have heard about intuitive eating by now, a concept and way of eating that has gained more media attention in recent years. While traditional dieting hasn’t gone anywhere, more and more people are taking a different approach to manage their weight, health, and wellness goals. Some headlines are even saying the latest diet trend isn’t dieting at all(1)

This is where intuitive eating comes into play: a non-diet approach to health that teaches its followers to tune into their body’s internal cues, break the vicious dieting cycle, and ultimately heal their relationship with food. To learn the ten foundational principles of intuitive eating, read ourstarter’s guide here.

Intuitive eating is much more sustainable than traditional diets and is associated with a host of benefits(2). Yet because intuitive eating is so drastically different from the dieting messages often promoted in the media, it’s frequently misunderstood. This article will outline some of the most common misconceptions about intuitive eating and provide an explanation to help you better understand and follow its guidelines. 

5 Myths about Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating can appear too good to be true. You may be wondering how you can forget the dieting rules you’ve ingrained in your mind for so long and ultimately make peace with food. With practice, rest assured it is possible and completely worthwhile. 

Here are some common myths associated with intuitive eating and the truths behind them: 

Myth #1: It’s a diet to help you lose weight 

When you think of dietary changes, you probably think of diets intended to help you shed pounds. Intuitive eating is different in a few ways: 

Facts:

  • Weight is never the focus of intuitive eating, and all sizes and body shapes are welcome and accepted within its principles. 
  • Intuitive eating is not a diet but a way to start viewing food through the lens of nourishment and satisfaction. 
  • Intuitive eating may or may not cause weight loss. Still, the benefits you are likely to experience in your mindset and overall health due to its principles are significantly more rewarding.

Myth #2: You can’t follow intuitive eating if you have special dietary needs or preferences 

Because intuitive eating focuses on the mental implications of your relationship with food, it doesn't dictate what foods you can eat. 

Facts:

  • While intuitive eating permits the enjoyment of all foods, it doesn’t mean that you should eat them if you have an intolerance. 
  • Likewise, if you have a chronic disease, you can still eat intuitively by choosing foods you desire along with ones that will also benefit and protect your body and help manage your condition. 
  • Intuitive eating is not an “all or nothing” way of eating, and it can easily take into account specific dietary needs. 

Myth #3: Intuitive eating forgets about health and is an “eat what you want when you want it” diet 

More often than not, your body knows what's best for it. If you pay attention to the way your body responds after eating certain foods, you'll quickly learn the value of nutritious choices. 

Facts:

  • Intuitive eating doesn’t mean eating “junk food” all day long. In fact, the last principle is to honor your health with gentle nutrition. 
  • An intuitive eater eats not just for pleasure, but also for health and makes food decisions based on what makes them feel good both physically and mentally.
  • This might mean choosing to eat a salad not because you “have to” but because you genuinely want to and like the way it makes you feel afterward. Intuitive eating helps you get attuned to your body’s nutritional needs. 
Two people sharing apples at a table during lunchtime

Myth #4: Having unconditional permission to eat means you’re going to overeat forever 

If you've deprived yourself of foods for some time, you might worry you'll go overboard once you've provided yourself the freedom to enjoy them again. As you'll see ahead, intuitive eating principles take this into account: 

Facts:

  • While it’s easy to think this at first glance, this is not true. However, it is expected and understandable that if something like cake has been forbidden from your diet for years and you now have given yourself permission to eat it, you may want it in larger portions and more frequently than you otherwise might. 
  • In this way, temporary “binges” may occur once you finally grant yourself permission, but they are highly unlikely to last. 
  • Once food no longer has a stigma associated with it, and you believe you can eat it whenever you want without guilt, the desire to overeat will naturally fade away. 
  • Intuitive eating helps you discover the middle ground between restrictive dieting and overeating.

Myth #5: Intuitive Eating doesn’t take into account the reality of eating

Whether you're on the go or stuck in back-to-back meetings, it can be tough to squeeze a fulfilling meal into your busy days. Fortunately, intuitive eating does not dictate a strict schedule of when you can or can't eat, so you're free to fit meals in wherever they work best for you. 

Facts:

  • While intuitive eating teaches you to tune into and follow your body’s natural cues, it also recognizes that there are many situations where you may need to eat even when your body is not actually hungry, such as a scheduled meal break or time where you know you will not have a chance to eat later. 
  • Intuitive eating considers both the body’s cues and the confines of your schedule and lifestyle.

In summary

Intuitive eating can drastically transform your relationship with food and your body in a positive way by reducing food-related stress and promoting mental freedom. But it’s easy to misunderstand its principles since they are contrary to what is traditionally taught in the media. By studying and practicing intuitive eating principles, you will gain a better understanding of them and learn how they fit into your lifestyle. 

When adopting intuitive eating, consider starting with one principle to implement into your life while gradually working your way through the other principles over time. Receiving support from a healthcare professional familiar with and trained in intuitive eating can also help you grasp the concepts and uniquely apply them to your lifestyle. 

Joanna Foley - Contributing Writer, Physician’s Choice


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