Dear Barb – Intuitive Eating to Lose Weight

Dear Barb: I feel like I’ve been on a diet my whole life. I lose weight then gain back even more. Recently, I’ve heard about a new way of eating called “intuitive eating.” It is suppose to help you lose weight without dieting. Do you have any information on this?

Grace in Newmarket

Hi Grace, I think this is an excellent topic! Millions of people share your struggle. It is very hard on your body to constantly gain and lose weight. Therefore, you are moving in the right direction by trying to find a different way to eat, rather than continuing to diet.

Intuitive eating has been around for approximately ten years. It gained popularity in 2005 when a study by Steven Hawks, a professor at Brigham Young University, was published in the November/December issue of the American Journal of Health Education. Hawks lost 50 pounds by eating intuitively, and he has been successful in keeping the weight off.

The whole premise of intuitive eating is to eat only when you are hungry and stop when you are full. To be successful, you must first get reacquainted with the physical signals from your body. Pay attention to the signals telling you that you are hungry. Try not to ignore them until you are starving, because then you will over eat or eat too quickly. If you eat too quickly, by the time your brain has received the message that you are full you will already have over ate. Also, you must learn to stop eating when you feel content, not stuffed.

The advantage of this way of eating is that you can eat whatever you want, but only when you are hungry. Translated this means if you are watching television, think before you grab that bag of chips. Ask yourself if you are really hungry, or maybe just bored, or eating because the chips are there. If you are physically hungry then eat whatever you want and don’t feel guilty. Remember to stop when you are full.

This way of eating could be comparable to the philosophy of living in the present and becoming mindful of what you are doing at any particular point in time. Do not think about what you will be doing tomorrow or what you did yesterday. Enjoy the moment you are in and live it fully. Similarly when you eat, sit quietly away from the television or other distractions and pay attention to the physical feelings you are experiencing. Many people have lost touch with what being physically hungry or physically full truly feels like.

Professor Hawks and a group of researchers conducted a study where they discovered students who were intuitive eaters weighed less and had a reduced risk for many health issues, including high cholesterol, than other students. Intuitive eating seems to be worth investigating.

Later this year, the website will offer more information on intuitive eating. The book entitled, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works may provide you with insight.

Hawks, S. R., Madanat, H. N., and Merrill, R. M. (2004). The Intuitive Eating Scale: Development and preliminary validation. American Journal of Health Education.
Tribole, E. and Resch, E. (2003). Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works. Revised edition. St. Martin’s Griffin.

E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.