Next, they work on eating whatever they crave, without deeming it “good” or “bad.” Make “peach pie equivalent to a peach,” the book says. “Observe how your body feels when eating this food and how satisfying it is to your tongue,” and actively seek pleasure from meals, paying attention to taste, texture, aroma; take “several deep breaths” before sitting down to eat, and savor food.
Once you’ve eaten, the book instructs, feel your fullness. “Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry,” it says. “Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of eating and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what your current hunger level is.”
People often worry that intuitive eating will lead to gluttony. “That is the greatest fear people have: ‘If I give myself permission to have what I want, I’ll never stop eating it,’” Ms. Resch said. At first, especially if they are used to restricting their diets, new intuitive eaters tend to gravitate to food that was previously off-limits and “eat beyond fullness,” Ms. Resch noted. Her guidance: Continue to give yourself “full freedom” to eat. She added, “get as many packages of Oreos as you want. Once people really sink into the sense that they’re going to be able to have that food, and they stay present and they taste it, it doesn’t take long before they realize, ‘Eh, I don’t want so much of it’” anymore.
Intuitive eating is linked to the Health at Every Size movement, a perspective that de-emphasizes weight as a means of assessing people’s health. “Accept your genetic blueprint,” Ms. Resch and Ms. Tribole write in “Intuitive Eating.” “Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally futile (and uncomfortable) to have a similar expectation about body size.” Intuitive eaters may gain or lose weight or remain at the same weight, the authors said, but shedding pounds is never the goal.
A longitudinal study published in 2021 found that intuitive eating led to better psychological and behavioral health among people with anorexia and bulimia, and to lower odds of binge eating, fasting, taking diet pills and vomiting. “I think of intuitive eating as the goal of eating disorder recovery,” said Dr. Jennifer Gaudiani, an internist in Denver who specializes in eating disorders and encourages the method to patients; she refers them to dietitians and therapists who use it in treatment. “People can be shocked to realize there’s another way of thinking about food other than ‘I should feel guilty; I need to deprive myself.’”
Jenae Davis, 25, an epidemiologist in Richmond, Va., was binge eating as a student at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2018 when she began intuitive eating as part of an intervention study there. Ms. Davis said that she had often engaged in binge eating to cope with stress but that the act of slowing down and savoring meals had helped her feel more in touch with her body’s needs. “I want to feel hungry,” she said. “I don’t think I ever allowed myself that when I was binge eating.”
The practice also allowed Ms. Davis to regain control around food. “When people who restrict themselves from eating cake get cake, they eat the whole thing, but if I have cake in my house, I’ll eat a slice and be satisfied,” she said.