Are You An Intuitive Eater? Take the Test

I am finishing up my presentation for the Women’s Health and Fitness Expo on Saturday in Kingston, NY. Lucky me! I get to go to Rhinebeck, a place where fairies flower-bounce in the glade. (Ahem, back to work.) I’ll be speaking on behalf of Diets In Review, discussing intuitive eating, the only weight loss method that makes any sense to me. I’ll be using a scale (questions – not a device for measuring weight) to portray the mindset of an intuitive eater vs. a traditional dieter. Take a look and see.

This Intuitive Eating Scale has pretty good questions, but it is by no means the only test in town. I’m not even using it correctly, insofar as it is meant to be a Likert-type scale (rate your answers from strongly disagree to strongly agree), not a True or False test. But, the way I see it, all incorrect answers call for some soul-searching. Like many research tools, this scale has been validated for Caucasian, middle-class, healthy, normal weight college students. Still, the level of agreement is highest for non-dieters (individuals at peace with food).

Take the Test
The correct answer is always “yes” except when (R) is present, when the correct answer is “no.”

  1. Without really trying, I naturally select the right types and amounts of food to be healthy.
  2. I generally count calories before deciding if something is OK to eat. (R)
  3. One of my main reasons for exercising is to manage my weight. (R)
  4. I seldom eat unless I notice that I am physically hungry.
  5. I am hopeful that I will someday find a new diet that will actually work for me. (R)
  6. The health and strength of my body is more important to me than how much I weigh.
  7. I often turn to food when I feel sad, anxious, lonely, or stressed out. (R)
  8. There are certain foods that I really like, but I try to avoid them so that I won’t gain weight. (R)
  9. I am often frustrated with my body size and wish that I could control it better. (R)
  10. I consciously try to eat whatever kind of food I think will satisfy my hunger the best.
  11. I am afraid to be around some foods because I don’t want to be tempted to indulge myself. (R)
  12. I am happy with my body even if it isn’t very good looking.
  13. I normally eat slowly and pay attention to how physically satisfying my food is.
  14. I am often either on a diet or seriously considering going on a diet. (R)
  15. I usually feel like a failure when I eat more than I should. (R)
  16. After eating, I often realize that I am fuller than I would like to be. (R)
  17. I often feel physically weak and hungry because I am dieting to control my weight. (R)
  18. I often put off buying clothes, participating in fun activities, or going on vacations (hoping I can get thinner first). (R)
  19. When I feel especially good or happy, I like to celebrate by eating. (R)
  20. I often find myself looking for something to eat or making plans to eat—even when I am not really hungry. (R)
  21. I feel pressure from those around me to control my weight or watch what I eat. (R)
  22. I worry more about how fattening a food might be, rather than how nutritious it might be. (R)
  23. It’s hard to resist eating something good if it is around me, even if I’m not very hungry. (R)
  24. On social occasions, I feel pressure to eat the way those around me are eating—even if I am not hungry. (R)
  25. I honestly don’t care how much I weigh, as long as I’m physically fit, healthy, and can do the things I want.
  26. I feel safest if I have a diet plan, or diet menu, to guide my eating. (R)
  27. I mostly exercise because of how good it makes me feel physically.

Your thoughts: How did you do? What do you think of the questions?

My Intuitive Eating “Aha” Moment

On LinkedIn, I am a member of the Intuitive Eating Professionals Group, where Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, group founder, asks us to “share something…that is not included in your profile, perhaps an “aha” moment in your career.”  I am inspired to share my “aha” moment after attending the BEDA (Binge Eating Disorder Association) national conference on Saturday, where I learned that, treatment-wise, not much has changed over the years.

In 1985, I worked in a large gastroenterology practice affiliated with a teaching hospital. I saw lots of eating disordered patients because one of the docs did medical evaluations of patients with bulimia and AN. At the same time, another gastroenterologist performed a procedure with a device called the Garren-Edwards Gastric Bubble. A deflated ‘bubble’ made of stretchable plastic (like a pool toy) was placed by endoscopy in the stomach of a severely overweight patient.  With the pull of a cannula, the bubble was inflated and left in place to fill the stomach while the patient followed a low-calorie diet. That’s where I came in. The bubble was developed by a team at Johns Hopkins. It was all above the board. The hospital asked us to do the procedure, but we stopped after a patient got a small bowel obstruction from the bubble. Those were interesting days. My patients’ eating patterns were all over the map.

But my “aha’ moment came by way of a patient referred by an internist for a simple weight loss diet.  She was a favorite patient, a young woman of my age, overweight but far from obese, with my mother’s maiden name. We were doing the balanced, flexible diet thing with a focus on behaviors when one day, she looked at me and said, “Mary, you don’t understand. I peek behind the curtain, and when my husband drives away, I make a batch of scalloped potatoes, and I eat the whole thing.” Aha! I thought, “they didn’t teach us this in school.” And then I thought, “this is really real.”

I was lucky because psychologists who specialized in EDs would stop into  the office. They turned me on to Susie Orbach, Fat Is a Feminist Issue (1978); Geneen Roth, Feeding the Hungry Heart (1982) and Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating (1986) and, of course, Hilde Bruch. Evelyn’s book, Intuitive Eating (1995), wasn’t published yet and there was no Gurze catalogue. But, I read and read and saw lots of patients, and attended Geneen’s workshops,  consulted with therapists, and taught others how to do it. And now it’s wonderful to see so many dietitians espouse the non-diet approach. But, after all those years, the pills, shakes, meals, stomach stapling (but not swallowing pool toys) are all still here.

Your thoughts: Why don’t more people give up dieting and follow a non-diet approach?

A Reading List for Yo-Yo Dieters and Emotional Eaters

I am happy to report that my online nutrition counseling practice is taking off. And the best part is that I get to work with my favorite patients/clients/customers: yo-yo dieters and emotional eaters. They are the folks that don’t feel good about their weight and the way they eat. A history of traditional diets knocked them off their natural course and, for many, childhood trauma had a role. Their weights cycle up and down because, unfortunately, diets make you fat. My job is to help them get off the wobbly track and back into the groove. It doesn’t matter if they have a medical condition; everyone has a personal best. When they stop dieting and their weight no longer cycles, better health always returns.

My Favorite “How To” Books for Intuitive Eating

Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, two registered dietitians, wrote the 1995 classic, Intuitive Eating, that gave a useful name to the “non-diet” approach. The approach uses physical and emotional feelings (and knowledge) to guide intake and rebuild pleasure in eating. The mindset can be learned, especially with the help of a skillful teacher, and so to understand the ins-and-outs of intuitive eating, I always ask my yo-yo dieters to read at least one of these excellent books:

When I asked the LinkedIn Group of Intuitive Eating Professionals to recommend their favorite books, they also suggested books that address self-acceptance, self-care and spirituality, essential issues of breaking free. Here are some of the books for emotional eaters that they recommend:

Your thoughts: Which books help you to a healthy life and eat with joy?