By: Sarah Zucker, PsyD.

Intuitive Eating - Counseling San DiegoThe diet industry makes a considerable amount of its money off of our chronic displeasure with our bodies. It can count on us to return to diets over and over again, even though they don’t work for 95% of people.  Although it is more likely that you’ll gain weight as a result of a diet, not lose it, 50% of American women are on a diet at any given time. No matter how they spin it, if it’s a conventional diet, it is extremely unlikely that it will work for you. The disappointment that usually follows after a diet doesn’t live up to its promises leaves people dissatisfied with their bodies and feeling like failures.However, there is an empirically-supported, simple, rational, self-affirming approach available. You may not be aware of it because it’s not sensationalized or dramatic and it doesn’t have to cost money. It’s called Intuitive Eating.

Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD, Fiaedp, FADA. wrote the first well-known book “Intuitive Eating” in 1995. It has been updated since then, but the principles remain the same: rebuilding a healthy and affirming body image, strengthening our innate ability to listen to our bodies, and making peace with food. Intuitive Eating helps us to take a more neutral stance on food, recognizing that it is not our best friend nor our enemy. Dr. Jenn Berman (yes, the one from television) is an expert in eating disorders and a big promoter of the intuitive eating approach. She asserts that in order to break the cycle of dieting, losing, gaining, and giving up, you must learn to listen to, and obey, your body’s signals as opposed to eating for emotional reasons. At its core, intuitive eating is eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full – that’s it. But most of us are so out of touch with our body from years of ignoring its cues that we tune out our bodies’ signals. Some of the principles of intuitive eating are: learning self-care unrelated to food (i.e. not turning to food when you’re feeling down or when you’re celebrating but instead meditating or getting a massage), eating a wide variety of foods that fuel your body, embracing your body no matter your size or shape, deriving pleasure from eating, and eating mindfully and with awareness.

If you’d like to put intuitive eating into practice, try keeping a food journal for a day. The Hunger Scale is another tool that helps you to identify your level of hunger using a 10-point scale to rate hunger before, during, and after meals. If you would like to learn more about intuitive eating, or intuitive living in general, browse the many articles and websites on the topic, consult a registered dietitian, or contact a qualified therapist. There are many psychologists in San Diego who have experience and training with disordered eating and intuitive eating. Therapy is a valuable tool to help with the psychological component of weight change and we are here to support you. Because emotions are so closely tied to food in our culture, it’s hard to make lasting changes in our eating without addressing the underlying emotions.