Intuitive Eating and Eating Disorder Recovery

What is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is a method that helps you improve your relationship with food, mind and body, by being able to fully understand the various messages that your body gives you, and to respond to those signals in the most appropriate way. Eating intuitively means that you are able to separate your physical from emotional feelings, and to gain a deeper understanding of your bodily needs. Through intuitive eating, you learn how to feel calm around food, so you do not constantly worry about your food choices.

Due to the emergence of dieting and the spread of food myths we have forgotten how to listen to our body cues, such as hunger and satiety feelings.


Can intuitive eating help people with their eating disorder recovery?

A recent study done by Richards and colleagues (2017) looked at whether it was possible to teach the principles of intuitive eating to individuals struggling with various eating disorders in order to help them with recovery.

During the intuitive eating program people with eating disorders, for example binge eating disorder, learned techniques to distinguish emotional hunger from physical hunger, consciously select food, and to develop emotional awareness.  Research has showed that intuitive eating has been associated not only with a healthy weight, but also with a better regulation of emotions, decreased body image disturbance and less anxiety regarding eating. Thus, this type of programs can lead to the reduction of the symptoms of eating disorders, improve peoples’ wellbeing, and increase feelings of self-control.

Richard and Colleagues (2017) found that people with eating disorders can learn how to eat intuitively, and this ability was linked to better treatment outcomes for all the various eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder.

Further research should examine how intuitive eating programs could be incorporated into the treatment plan of eating disorders both in inpatient and outpatient services. A multi-factorial support by nutritionists and psychologists could help individuals make healthier food choices and develop a healthy relationship with food.



Reference: P. Scott Richards, Sabree Crowton, Michael E. Berrett, Melissa H. Smith & Kimberly Passmore (2017) Can patients with eating disorders learn to eat intuitively? A 2-year pilot study, Eating Disorders, 25:2, 99-113, DOI: 10.1080/10640266.2017.1279907