Intuitive eating is an approach or philosophy to nutrition that is very different from eating habits developed as part of a strict regimen or an emotional impulse. Essentially, intuitive eating involves becoming attuned to the subtle signals that the body sends out regarding what and when to eat. The underlying philosophy of intuitive eating is that by paying close attention to the natural cycle of hunger, it is possible to achieve and maintain a healthy weight without counting calories or experiencing unhealthy hunger due to a strict diet plan.
While there is some debate on the exact origins of the concept of intuitive eating, the actual term can be traced to a nutrition guideline published in 1995, bearing the term as the title for the work. The two authors, Evelyn Trible and Elyse Resch, did not claim to have invented this novel approach to eating and nutrition. In fact, the general idea of intuitive eating can be seen in nutrition materials as far back as the 1970’s. Some researchers have indicated their belief that the basics of intuitive eating go back for thousands of years and can be found in many different cultures.
In general, intuitive eating is about creating a healthy relationship with food. Rather than using food as comfort as is the case with emotional eating, food is seen simply as fuel. The understanding is that the body will send subtle signals regarding what type of fuel is needed at any given time. With intuitive eating, no food is off limits. However, most proponents of intuitive eating do encourage savoring each bite. By taking time to enjoy the food as it is consumed, it is easier to recognize when the body has received sufficient nourishment without overindulging.
Intuitive eating also precludes the idea of setting a rigid schedule for daily food consumption. This means that the intuitive eater is likely to engage in consuming small amounts of food throughout the day, rather than sitting down to three meals at set times. Because intuitive eating is physical eating conducted for the express purpose of responding to the body’s natural cycle, each individual will choose to eat at different times of the day.