What is Intuitive or Attuned Eating?

Why do I have Intuitive and Attuned in the same sentence?

The word intuitive has gotten more traction in recovery from disordered eating circles. This is an awesome thing. However I felt the burning need to be more encompassing with the definition of intuitive eating towards our full experience with food in our lives. So this is my definition of what it means to be really “attuned” to your individual needs for food, thus becoming your own eating expert.

What is Attuned Eating?

  • It is a process of checking in with your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs for food.  This process also enables you to be more in-touch and directive with your life.
  • It includes intuitive eating, which entails listening to your signals of hunger and fullness with full permission to eat.
  • It is eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full most of the time
  • It is knowing the fact that we sometimes eat for fun or comfort but it is not problematic if it is an occasional device for coping with frustration, sadness, etc and we are fully aware of what is happening.
  • It is weight neutral and not designed to manipulate the body size in any way.
  • As we are open and willing to feed our body when it is asking for food, it is the gentle inclusion of nutrition knowledge to enhance your life.
  • It is being self aware enough to plan ahead and employ structure around meals as needed to expect  and respect  hunger and fullness.
  • It also includes the body’s desire for joyful movement to complement overall wellness.

Listen to this podcast about Intuitive Eating and Trauma.

I will reassure you that eating what you want with full persmission is not a free-for-all. Nutrition is important. However, to heal the years of telling yourself “no” you will need to set nutrition goals aside to learn to listen to what your body needs instead of  what the food guide pyramid/the government/well-meaning people have told you to eat. Or maybe your eating is chaotic because sometimes we react to people crossing our  boundaries around food and body and we reject signals to eat “healthy foods” because it has been forced upon you.

Intuitive, Attuned Eating is about choosing to eat  with full awareness of your hunger, emotional state and the level of support and self-care in your life. For a while you may need to eat more “fun foods” than you are comfortable with to settle down that “rebel” part of you that has been deprived so long. This might last a while (months) but will not last forever.  It is a “coming home” in a sense that you were born eating this way. We learn with Intuitive Eating that sometimes you need a lot or less, depending on the day and that our body really does not want “too much” of any one thing. What a relief!  Our bodies know how to manage our food and weight with very little “head information”. We can relax and eat from the  neck down.

Research: Why Diets Cause Harm

This might be hard to hear for many of you.  I know it was for me.  Pursuit of thinness is part of what keeps people stuck in eating disorders, body dissatisfaction and chronic dieting.  

The sad truth is:

  • Diets result in weight regain 95% of the time usually within the first year, and almost certainly within
     2-5 years
  • Adolescents who count calories, fast and deprivation eat are at 30% increased risk of weighing more and continuing dieting and eating disordered behaviors in a 4 year follow up study
  • Eating disorders are the most lethal of mental concerns and in my 8 1/2 year experience, everyone came to me concerned with weight loss, trying to restrict calories somehow or trying to “eat healthy”.

For More Evidence on the Research about the failure rate of dieting:

Mann T, Tomiyama AJ, Westling E, Lew AM, Samuels B, Chatman J: Medicare’s Search for Effective Obesity Treatments: Diets Are Not the Answer (link goes to article)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez/17469900 (link goes to study)

“You can initially lose 5 to 10 percent of your weight on any number of diets, but then the weight comes back.  We found that the majority of people regained all the weight, plus more. Sustained weight loss was found only in a small minority of participants, while complete weight regain was found in the majority. Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people…In addition, the studies do not provide consistent evidence that dieting results in significant health improvements, regardless of weight change. In sum, there is little support for the notion that diets lead to lasting weight loss or health benefits.”


We believe the ultimate goal of diets is to improve people’s long-term health, rather than to reduce their weight. Our review of randomized controlled trials of the effects of dieting on health finds very little evidence of success in achieving this goal. If diets do not lead to long-term weight loss or long-term health benefits, it is difficult to justify encouraging individuals to endure them

Miller, WC:  How Effective are Traditional Dietary and Exercise Interventions for Weight Loss

“Although long-term follow-up data are meager, the data that do exist suggest almost complete relapse after 3-5 yr. The paucity of data provided by the weight-loss industry has been inadequate or inconclusive. Those who challenge the use of diet and exercise solely for weight control purposes base their position on the absence of weight-loss effectiveness data and on the presence of harmful effects of restrictive dieting. Any intervention strategy for the obese should be one that would promote the development of a healthy lifestyle. The outcome parameters used to evaluate the success of such an intervention should be specific to chronic disease risk and symptomatologies and not limited to medically ambiguous variables like body weight or body composition.”

Methods for voluntary weight loss and control. NIH Technology Assessment Conference Panel

A panel of experts convened by the National Institutes of Health determined that “In controlled settings, participants who remain in weight loss programs usually lose approximately 10% of their weight. However, one third to two thirds of the weight is regained within one year [after weight loss], and almost all is regained within five years.”

Bacon L, Aphramor L:  Weight Science, Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift

“Consider the Women’s Health Initiative, the largest and longest randomized, controlled dietary intervention clinical trial, designed to test the current recommendations. More than 20,000 women maintained a low-fat diet, reportedly reducing their calorie intake by an average of 360 calories per day and significantly increasing their activity. After almost eight years on this diet, there was almost no change in weight from starting point (a loss of 0.1 kg), and average waist circumference, which is a measure of abdominal fat, had increased (0.3 cm)”

Field et. al Relationship Between Dieting and Weight Change among preadolescents and adolescents

“Findings from this study suggest that dieting, and particularly unhealthful weight control, is either causing weight gain, disordered eating or eating disorders; serving as an early marker for the development of these later problems or is associated with some other unknown variable … that is leading to these problems.  None of the behaviors being used by adolescents (in 1999) for weight-control purposes predicted weight loss[in 2006]…Of greater concern were the negative outcomes associated with dieting and the use of unhealthful weight-control behaviors, including significant weight gain…Our data suggest that for many adolescents, dieting to control weight is not only ineffective, it may actually promote weight gain”

Studies about healthy habits leading to healthy bodies

Matheson, et al:  Healthy, Lifestyle Habits and Mortality in Overweight and Obese Individuals

“Healthy lifestyle habits are associated with a significant decrease in mortality regardless of baseline body mass index.”

Steven Blair – Cooper Institute

“We’ve studied this from many perspectives in women and in men, and we get the same answer: It’s not the obesity, it’s the fitness.”

Glenn Gaesser – Obesity, Health, and Metabolic Fitness

“no measure of body weight or body fat was related to the degree of coronary vessel disease. The obesity-heart disease link is just not well supported by the scientific and medical literature…Body weight, and even body fat for that matter, do not tell us nearly as much about our health as lifestyle factors, such as exercise and the foods we eat…total cholesterol levels returned to their original levels–despite absolutely no change in body weight–requiring the researchers to conclude that the fat content of the diet, not weight change, was responsible for the changes in cholesterol levels.”

Paffenbarger et. al. Physical Mortality:  All Cause Mortality, and Longevity of College Alumni

“With or without consideration of …extremes or gains in body weight…alumni mortality rates were significantly lower among the physically active.”

Wei et. al. Relationship Between Low Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Mortality in Normal-Weight, Overweight, and Obese Men

Research about doctors perception of fat patients

Rebecca M. Puhl and Chelsea A. Heuer The Stigma of Obesity –  A Review and Update

“In a study of over 620 primary care physicians, >50% viewed obese patients as awkward, unattractive, ugly, and noncompliant. One-third of the sample further characterized obese patients as weak-willed, sloppy, and lazy.”

Research collected by Ragen Chastain and reprinted here with permission.  http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/for-fat-patients-and-their-doctors/

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