Intuitive eating in young adults. Who is doing it, and how is it related to disordered eating behaviors?

Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, 717 Delaware St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. Electronic address: .
Appetite (Impact Factor: 2.69). 10/2012; 60(1). DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.09.029
Source: PubMed


Intuitive eating (i.e., reliance on physiologic hunger and satiety cues to guide eating) has been proposed as a healthier, more effective, and more innate alternative to current strategies of weight management. The current study explored intuitive eating among young adults according to socio-demographic characteristics and body mass index (BMI), and examined associations between intuitive and disordered eating behaviors. Data were drawn from Project EAT-III, a population-based study of 2287 young adults (mean age: 25.3years). More males reported trusting their bodies to tell them how much to eat than did females. Intuitive eating was inversely associated with BMI in both genders. Males and females who reported trusting their body to tell them how much to eat had lower odds of utilizing disordered eating behaviors compared to those that did not have this trust. Females who reported that they stop eating when they are full had lower odds of chronic dieting and binge eating than those who do not stop eating when full. Overall, this study found that intuitive eating practices are inversely associated with a number of harmful outcomes. Clinicians should discuss the concept of intuitive eating with their young adult patients to promote healthier weight-related outcomes.

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    ABSTRACT: To review the peer-reviewed literature on relationships between intuitive eating and health indicators and suggest areas of inquiry for future research. We define the fundamental principles of intuitive eating as: (i) eating when hungry; (ii) stopping eating when no longer hungry/full; and (iii) no restrictions on types of food eaten unless for medical reasons. We include articles cited by PubMed, PsycInfo and Science Direct published in peer-reviewed journals or theses that include 'intuitive eating' or related concepts in the title or abstract and that test relationships between intuitive eating and physical or mental health indicators. We found twenty-six articles that met our criteria: seventeen cross-sectional survey studies and nine clinical studies, eight of which were randomised controlled trials. The cross-sectional surveys indicate that intuitive eating is negatively associated with BMI, positively associated with various psychological health indicators, and possibly positively associated with improved dietary intake and/or eating behaviours, but not associated with higher levels of physical activity. From the clinical studies, we conclude that the implementation of intuitive eating results in weight maintenance but perhaps not weight loss, improved psychological health, possibly improved physical health indicators other than BMI (e.g. blood pressure; cholesterol levels) and dietary intake and/or eating behaviours, but probably not higher levels of physical activity. Research on intuitive eating has increased in recent years. Extant research demonstrates substantial and consistent associations between intuitive eating and both lower BMI and better psychological health. Additional research can add to the breadth and depth of these findings. The article concludes with several suggestions for future research.
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    ABSTRACT: Traditional diet programs that encourage individuals to consciously restrict their dietary intake have not only been ineffective in terms of weight outcomes, but have also been counterproductive, promoting psychological distress and unhealthy eating behaviors. Nondiet approaches shift the focus away from weight outcomes to the improvement of health outcomes and psychological well-being. One such approach, intuitive eating, promotes dietary intake based on internal cues of hunger and fullness, body acceptance, and making behavior choices based on health as well as enjoyment. Several studies have implemented such ideas into intervention programs. The purpose of our review was to examine the physical and psychological effects of these programs. Twenty interventions were identified. Overall, studies had positive results, demonstrating improvements in eating habits, lifestyle, and body image as measured by dietary restraint, restrictive dieting, physical activity, body satisfaction, and drive for thinness. Participants also experienced improved psychological health as measured by depression, ineffectiveness, anxiety, self-esteem, negative affect, and quality of life. Several improvements were sustained through follow-up periods as long as 2 years. Completion rates were as high as 92% in nondieting groups. In addition, improvements in eating behaviors and maintaining a nondiet approach, increased self-esteem, and decreased body dissatisfaction were sustained long-term. Overall, studies that encourage individuals to eat intuitively help participants abandon unhealthy weight control behaviors, improve metabolic fitness, increase body satisfaction, and improve psychological distress. Results from our review favor the promotion of programs that emphasize a nonrestrictive pattern of eating, body acceptance, and health rather than weight loss.
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