In a world where there are pressures of looking a certain way and eating a certain way, staying healthy can be overwhelming. Fad diets come and go. They pull you in and leave you feeling irritated and dissatisfied with your results. Calorie counting and the feelings of guilt can take over your life.

Thankfully, two women set out to build a concept to cultivate a better relationship with food. Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, an award-winning dietitian, specializes in counseling patients with eating disorders and celiac disease.  Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD, Fiaedp, FADA, FAND, is a nutrition therapist, specializing in Intuitive Eating and treatment for eating disorders. Together, they created Intuitive Eating and have written three books that are here to save you from falling down a dangerous path of scrutinizing over everything you eat. 

Photo courtesy of Elyse Resch

So what exactly is Intuitive Eating? Tribole and Resch describe it as "Creating a healthy relationship with food, mind, and body." Meaning, you listen to your body when it's hungry, you nourish it with good food, and you don't overeat when you are full. You are consciously aware of your level of satisfaction with your meal and you do not shame or torture yourself when you feel you have overeaten or had too much "play food."

Nutrition and Dietetics graduate student Maria Wolfel, who is completing her dietetic internship to become a Registered Dietitian at Marywood University, describes play food as "bad" food. In other words, it's essentially what we call junk food. But junk food comes with a negative connotation that brings feelings of guilt. By switching the word to "play food," we can subconsciously look at that type of food in a positive light. Wolfel explains that when you ignore cravings for play food, your brain wants you to eat it more. This is the same exact way diets work, leaving you unsatisfied until you binge on that certain food. That is why Intuitive Eating rejects diets and focuses on a positive outlook on all food. Tribole and Resch explain this effective mentality in their 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating that are crucial to eating intuitively and living a healthier lifestyle.

1. Reject the Diet Mentality

Diets can make you go crazy. Agonizing over every calorie and how much weight you need to lose can make you forget healthy eating practices and mentally put you in a dark corner.

2. Honor Your Hunger

Tribole and Resch stress the importance of keeping your body nourished with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Excessive hunger will cause you to lose your efforts of mindful eating. Don't starve yourself until the next meal, feed your body when it needs to be fed.

3. Make Peace with Food

Tribole and Resch say to "give yourself unconditional permission to eat." Don't deprive yourself of cravings so that when you finally give in, you fall to "the Last Supper overeating and overwhelming guilt."

4. Challenge the Food Police

The Food Police are unhelpful thoughts that try to declare you successful when you eat small amounts of calories and shame you when you have a treat. Don't let these guilty thoughts get to you.

5. Respect Your Fullness

Pay attention during a snack or meal when you become full or satisfied. Begin to observe the signs that you are "comfortably full."

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

Tribole and Resch derived this principle from the Japanese wisdom that pleasure is necessary to live a healthy life. Eat what you actually want to eat, and you'll be more mindful of when you are satisfied.

7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food

Don't let your emotions push you into bad eating habits. Tribole and Resch explain that food won't fix any of your feelings, except provide a crutch that will make you worse in the long run. 

8. Respect Your Body

You cannot change your genetics and you must come to peace with your bodies. Reject the negative and critical thoughts. Be realistic about your body so you can appreciate who you really are. 

#SpoonTip: Watch the uplifting documentary EMBRACE on Netflix. A woman explores body image across the world and shows women should love what they have.

9. Exercise-- Feel the Difference

Tribole and Resch suggest to forgot strict exercise regiments and just be active, focusing on how your body feels when you exercise compared to when you don't exercise. Do not put all your energy into counting the calories you are burning, but rather focus on how being active improves your life.

10. Honor Your Health

Give yourself good food that tastes good and makes you feel good. One "bad" meal or a day of "poor" eating won't ruin your healthy lifestyle. Your progression, not having a perfect diet, is what makes your lifestyle healthy. 

The Proof is in the Pudding 

Several studies have been conducted in the recent years that provide scientific evidence for why Intuitive Eating has numerous health benefits. In 2015, a study found that in college students, higher restraint in eating was associated with increased disordered eating and increased BMI. Whereas the principles of Intuitive Eating was associated with decreased disordered eating and decreased BMI.

In 2011, a study conducted on the comparison of women in young adulthood, early adulthood, and middle adulthood, found body acceptance contributes to eating intuitively. 

Project EAT-111 followed the strategies of weight management of 2,287 young adults. Overall, the findings suggested that intuitive eating practices are associated with less harmful outcomes, including binge eating and eating disorders. 

The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2014) published “A Review of Interventions that Promote Eating by Internal Cues.” The review found that the principles of Intuitive Eating were associated with positive effects on measures of eating behaviors and helped provide a healthier diet mindset. In one study, overweight participants who learned to eat intuitively saw significant decreases in weight or maintained their weight. Another study found that Intuitive Eating interventions resulted in significant increases in physical activity. 

Photo courtesy of Elyse Resch

Intuitive Eating comes down to changing your mindset and previous beliefs. It costs nothing to look at your eating habits from a new perspective. There is no diet to follow because Intuitive Eating is the anti-diet. It may take mental work to recondition yourself to having a positive, healthy outlook, but overall you'll find yourself in a better, brighter place. To learn more about Intuitive Eating, you can read Tribole and Resch's book Intuitive Eating, 3rd Edition. They also recently published The Intuitive Eating Workbook which has exercises that show you how to stop feeling frustrated, being dissatisfied, and mistrusting your own body.