Intuitive Eating — Bad Idea, or Terrible Idea?

Probably, most of us just sailed right past January 20, the International Day of Acceptance, without awareness. It was designed to bring attention to the fact that many people have special needs that in a civilized society must be not only accepted but accommodated. Diversity is good, and that includes those who are differently abled.

But then, there are always people who are felt by others to be pushing it too far. Dietitians and book authors Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole are the most enthusiastic proponents of “intuitive eating,” about which they published a book in 1995. Now, almost 30 years down the road, their brainchild is still going strong. Incidentally, it comes as no shock to learn that intuitive eating and the Health at Every Size movement form a mutual admiration society, and might both be said to practice a bit too much acceptance.

The doctrine rests on 10 principles, presented in quotation marks and commented upon here:

If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet or food plan might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.

That warning to “Reject the Diet Mentality” encourages followers to get angry at the so-called diet culture. But “diet” and “food plan” are both basically terms that comprise everything a person eats, so that is a pretty broad criticism. It seems that eating “intuitively” would also come under both of those headings.

To “Honor Your Hunger” apparently means eating lots of carbohydrates in order to prevent yourself from eating carbohydrates. To “Make Peace with Food” means to “give yourself unconditional permission to eat,” and while becoming a pacifist in that area, you must at the same time also “Challenge the Food Police.” In other words, it all seems completely in tune with the old saying (and drinking toast), “A short life and a merry one!” which is attributed to the most illustrious Welsh pirate of them all, Black Bart, aka Bartholomew Roberts.

Seek satisfaction?

“Discover the Satisfaction Factor” is a very optimistic suggestion indeed. Allegedly, by providing yourself with this experience, “you will find that it takes just the right amount of food for you to decide you’ve had ‘enough.'” However, going by the experience of many thousands of humans, this does not always work out as planned. “Feel Your Fullness” means taking care to observe the body’s signals of fullness. Doesn’t it seem like, if it were that easy, people would already be doing it?

A long paragraph expanding on the principle “Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness” emphasizes the importance of finding emotional satisfaction in other things than food, and that would be very difficult to disagree with!

Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort in the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger may only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion.

This is all absolutely true, and finding ways to deal with those emotions is one of the goals of Dr. Pretlow’s current project. Not everyone needs years of talk therapy. A great many people can benefit from the practices being developed by Dr. Pretlow and his team.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “They Rejected Diet Culture 30 Years Ago. Then They Went Mainstream,”, 01/18/23
Source: “10 Principles of Intuitive Eating,”, undated
Image by Artlessly, Arielle/CC BY-ND 2.0

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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