Today many nutritionists, dietitians, physicians and mental health clinicians specialize in working with those with eating disorders. Such professionals often recommend ways to help repair and rebuild a healthy relationship with food. The terms, “intuitive eating” or “mindful” eating are often used to help guide those who are fraught with emotional and physical pain when dealing with food. The good news is there is plenty of science to support a more aware, mindful approach.
The May, 2014 edition of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics looked at 20 research studies that compared non-diet approaches to traditional weight loss. From this research six studies showed that practicing intuitive eating actually helped people lose weight. Other studies showed that at least weight could be maintained with this method, as well as other improved health measures such as blood pressure levels. Physical activity was also an important component as well.
So what is intuitive or mindful eating? This non-diet approach involves accepting one’s body rather than trying to change it, listening to and honoring internal body cues of hunger and fullness versus restricting calorie and portions, exercising for health and not for the purpose of losing weight... This approach also involves an unconditional permission to eat rather than of sticking to specific food rules (i.e. low carb, low fat, high protein etc.). Overall, this is a way of emphasizing health rather than weight or size, or calorie intake.
The research shows that those who practiced intuitive/mindful eating dieted less, had less restrictions of what they ate, did less binge eating and had fewer overall signs of eating disorders.
Research also showed lower levels of depression and anxiety along with increased levels of self-esteem. Body image, satisfaction, and negative self-talk all improved as well.