‘People always say, “If I ate whatever I wanted I’d be eating pizza at every meal,”’ says Resch, who calls herself a nutritional therapist. ‘But my response is that once you legalise something, once you make it perfectly legitimate, after a while, in a process called habituation, it doesn’t have that shiny golden light to it, because it’s now part of what you can have forever.’
Diet culture has created rules and restrictions, and to eat intuitively these need to be broken down so that, in the longer term, the approach will also be nutritionally beneficial. ‘Eventually, when all foods are permitted and you’re at peace with all these foods, you end up having very balanced eating. When people diet, so many foods are restricted, then they get off their diet and binge on all the foods they weren’t allowed,’ says Resch.
‘The thing is that eating well actually feels good, so who doesn’t want that?’ adds Tribole, asserting that when you eat what feels good, you’ll choose what’s best for your body.
However, perhaps the greatest benefit of intuitive eating is psychological. Removing restrictions means you can’t fail, so there’s no beating up on yourself, no anxiety around food and no shame. ‘The greatest purpose is to heal one’s relationship with food,’ says Resch, who in the development of the philosophy considered all the psychological reasons behind why dieting doesn’t work.
Research has shown that intuitive eaters experience increased self-esteem and wellbeing, better body acceptance and appreciation, an enhanced ability to cope emotionally and greater joy in eating.
‘Intuitive eaters have more interoceptive awareness,’ says Tribole. ‘That’s their ability to perceive physical sensations that arise within the body. Some are obvious: a full bladder, heart rate, feeling sleepy, hungry, full. But every emotion has a physical sensation, so when you start listening to the messages of your body, it’s a profound treasure trove to get your needs met both psychologically and physically.’
Resch agrees, adding: ‘When you eat intuitively, you feel better physically because you’re nourishing yourself throughout the day, you’re not overfilling yourself, you’re listening to which foods works with your body and which don’t.”
As you might have guessed, intuitive eating is not an approach designed for weight loss. Some people will lose weight, others may not. It’s the increased well-being that accompanies the journey to eating more mindfully and with satisfaction as your driver.
Tribole sums it up: ‘Intuitive eating is a path to body liberation and food liberation. It’s the path to freedom.’