Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, Second Edition

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by Evelyn Tribole, Elyse Resch



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ISBN-13: 9780312321239
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 08/06/2003
Edition description: Second Edition
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.18(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.86(d)

About the Author

Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D., is an award-winning registered dietitian with a nutrition counseling practice in Irvine, California, specializing in eating disorders. She has written six books including the million-copy bestseller Healthy Homestyle Cooking. She was the nutrition expert for Good Morning America and was a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association for six years.

Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A., has been in private practice in Beverly Hills, California, as a nutrition therapist for over twenty years, specializing in eating disorders, Intuitive Eating, and preventative nutrition. A certified child and adolescent obesity expert, she is a fellow of the American Dietetic Association and is also on the advisory board of "Healthy Dining" publications.

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Intuitive Eating

A Revolutionary Program That Works

By Evelyn Tribole, Elyse Resch

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2003 Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D., and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-0969-3


Hitting Diet Bottom

I just can't go on another diet; you're my last resort." Sandra had been dieting all her life and knew she could no longer endure another diet. She'd been on them all — Slim-Fast, Jenny Craig, Scarsdale, Opti-fast, the grapefruit diet ... diets too numerous to itemize. Sandra was a dieting pro. At first, dieting was fun, even exhilarating. "I always thought, this diet will be different, this time." And so the cycle would recharge with each new diet, and every summer. But the weight lost would eventually rebound like an unwanted tax bill.

Sandra had hit diet bottom. By now, however, she was more obsessed with food and her body than ever. She felt silly. "I should have had this dealt with and controlled long ago." What she didn't realize was that it was the process of dieting that had done this to her. Dieting had made her more preoccupied with food. Dieting had made food the enemy. Dieting had made her feel guilty when she wasn't eating diet-type foods (even when she wasn't officially dieting). Dieting had slowed her metabolism.

It took years for Sandra to truly know that dieting doesn't work (yes, she was familiar with the emerging concept that dieting doesn't work, but she always thought she would be different). While most experts and consumers accept the premise that fad diets don't work, it's tough for a nation of people obsessed with their bodies to believe that even "sensible dieting" is futile. Sandra had been hooked into modern-age social mythology, the "big diet hope," for most of her life, since her first diet at the age of fourteen.

By the age of thirty, Sandra felt stuck — she still wanted to lose weight and was uncomfortable in her body. While Sandra couldn't bear the thought of another diet, she didn't realize that most of her food issues were actually caused by her dieting. Sandra was also frustrated and angry — "I know everything about diets." Indeed, she could recite calories and fat grams like a walking nutritional database. That's the big caveat, losing weight and keeping it off is not usually a knowledge issue. If all we needed to be lean was knowledge about food and nutrition, most Americans wouldn't have weight problems. The information is readily available. (Pick up any women's magazine, and you'll find diets and food comparisons galore.)

Also, the harder you try to diet, the harder you fall — it really hurts not to succeed if you did everything right. The best description for this effect is given by John Foreyt, Ph.D., a noted expert in dieting psychology. He likened it to a Chinese finger puzzle (a hollow cylinder of straw into each end of which you insert an index finger). The harder you try to get out, the more pressure you exert, the more difficult it is to get out of the puzzle. Instead, you find yourself locked in tighter ... trapped ... frustrated.


Diet backlash is the cumulative side effect of dieting; it can be short-term or chronic, depending how long a person has been dieting. It may be just one side effect, or several.

By the time Sandra came to the office, she had the classic symptoms of diet backlash. She was eating less food, yet had had trouble losing weight during her more recent diet attempts.

Other symptoms include:

The mere contemplation of going on a diet brings on urges and cravings for "sinful" foods and "fatty favorites," such as ice cream, chocolate, cookies, and so forth.

Upon ending a diet, going on a food binge and feeling guilty. One study indicates that post dieting binges occur in 49 percent of all people who end a diet.

Having little trust in self with food. Understandably, every diet has taught you not to trust your body or the food you put in it. Even though it is the process of dieting that fails you, the failure continues to undermine your relationship with food.

Feeling that you don't deserve to eat because you're overweight.

Shortened dieting duration. The lifespan of a diet gets shorter and shorter. (Is it no wonder that Ultra Slim-Fast's sales pitch is, "Give us a week ... and we'll ...")

The Last Supper. Every diet is preceded by consuming foods you presume you won't eat again. Food consumption often goes up during this time. It may occur over one meal or over a couple of days. The Last Supper seems to be the final step before "dietary cleansing," almost a farewell-to-food-party. For one client, Marilyn, every meal felt like it was her last. She would eat each meal until she was uncomfortably stuffed — she was terrified she would never eat again. For good reason: She had been dieting over two-thirds of her life, since the sixth grade, through a series of fasting and 500-calorie diets. As far as her body was concerned, a diet was only around the corner — so she felt she had better eat while she could. Each meal for Marilyn was famine relief.

Social withdrawal. Since it's hard to stay on a diet and go to a party or out to dinner, it becomes easier just to turn down social invitations. At first, social food avoidance may seem like the wise thing to do for the good of the diet, but it escalates into a bigger problem. There's often a fear of being able to stay in control. It's not uncommon for this experience to be reinforced by "saving up the calories or fat grams for the party," which usually means eating very little. But by the time the dieter arrives at a party, ravenous hunger dominates and eating feels very out of control.

Sluggish metabolism. Each diet teaches the body to adapt better for the next self-imposed famine (another diet). Metabolism slows as the body efficiently utilizes each calorie as if it's the last. The more drastic the diet, the more it pushes the body into the calorie-pinching survival mode. Fueling metabolism is like stoking a fire. Remove the wood and the fire diminishes. Similarly, to fuel our metabolism, we must eat a sufficient amount of calories, or our bodies will compensate and slow down.

Using caffeine to survive the day. Coffee and diet drinks are often abused as management tools to feel energetic and filled up while being underfed.

Eating disorders. Finally for some, repeated dieting is often the stepping-stone to an eating disorder, ranging from anorexia nervosa or bulimia to compulsive overeating.

Although Sandra felt she could never diet again, she still engaged in the Last Supper phenomenon. We regularly encounter this when we see someone for the first time. She literally ate greater quantities of food than usual, and consumed plenty of her favorite foods because she thought she would never see these foods again. It's as if she were getting ready for a long trip, and was packing extra clothes. Just the thought of working on her food issues put her into the pre-diet mentality, a common occurrence.

While Sandra was just beginning to understand the futility of dieting, her desire to be thin had not changed — clearly a dilemma. She held on to the allure of the noble American dream.


In our society the pursuit of thinness (whether for health or physique) has become the battle cry of seemingly every American. Eating a single morsel of any high-fat or non-nutritionally-redeeming food is punishable by a life sentence of "guilt" by association. You may be paroled, however, for "good behavior." Good behavior in our society means starting a new diet, or having good intentions to diet. And so begins the deprivation cycle of dieting — the battle of the bulge and the indulge. Rice cakes one week, Häagen-Dazs the next.

"I feel guilty just letting the grocery clerk see what I buy," lamented another client, describing a cart stocked with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, pasta, and a small pint of real ice cream. It's as if we live in a food police state run by the food mafia. And there always seems to be a dieting offer you can't refuse. Exaggeration? No. There's a good reason for this perception. A study published in the 1993 Eating Disorders — The Journal of Treatment and Prevention found that between 1973 and 1991, commercials for dieting aids (diet food, reducing aids, and diet program foods) increased tremendously.

The researchers also noted that there is a parallel trend in the occurrence of eating disorders. They speculate that the media pressure to diet (via commercials) is a major influence in the eating disorder trend.

The pressure to diet is fueled by more than television commercials. Magazine articles and movies contribute to the pressure to be slim. Even subtle cigarette billboards aim for the female Achilles' heel, weight, with names such as Ultraslim 100, Virginia Slims, and so on. A new Kent cigarette, "Slim Lights," especially characterizes this focus on women's body issues. Their ad reads more like a commercial for a weight-loss center than for a cigarette by highlighting slender descriptions, "long," "lean," "light." Of course, the models in cigarette ads are especially slender. Lighting up as a weight-loss aid is not a new concept. As early as 1925, a Lucky Strike print ad campaign aimed at women stated, "To keep a slender figure ... reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet." It is no surprise that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) attributed an increase in smoking by women to their desire to be thinner. Sadly, we have heard women in our offices contemplate taking up smoking again as a weight-loss aid.

But weight loss is not just a women's issue (although there's clearly added pressure on women). The proliferation of light beer commercials have planted the seed of body consciousness in men's minds as well — a lean belly is better than a beer belly. It's no coincidence that we've seen the launch of magazines aimed at men, such as Men's Fitness and Men's Health.

While the pursuit of leanness has crossed the gender barrier, regrettably, we have given birth to the first generation of weight watchers. A disturbing new dieting trend is affecting the health of U.S. children. Shocking studies have demonstrated that school-age children are obsessing about their weight — a reflection of a nation overly concerned with diet and weight. Around the country, children as young as six years old are shedding pounds, afraid of being fat, and increasingly being treated for eating disorders that threaten their health and growth. Societal pressure to be thin has backfired on children.

Dieting not only does not work, it is at the root of many problems. While many may diet as an attempt to lose weight or for health reasons, the paradox is that it may cause more harm than good. Here's what our nation has to show for dieting:

• Obesity is higher than ever in adults and children.

• Eating disorders are on the rise.

• Childhood obesity has doubled over the last decade.

• There are more fat-free and diet foods than ever before, yet one out of three adults is overweight.

• Over 1,200 tons of fat have been liposuctioned from 1982 to 1992.


Dieting is a form of short-term starvation. Consequently, when you are given the first opportunity to really eat, eating is often experienced at such intensity that it feels uncontrollable, a desperate act. In the moment of biological hunger, all intentions to diet and desire to be thin are fleeting and paradoxically irrelevant. In those moments we become like the insatiable man-eating plant in the movie The Little Shop of Horrors, demanding to eat — "Feed me, feed me."

While intense eating may feel out of control, and unnatural, it is a normal response to starving and dieting. Yet so often, postdiet eating is viewed as having "no willpower," or a character defect. But when you interpret postdiet eating as such, it slowly erodes trust in yourself with food, diet after diet. Every diet violation, every eating situation that feels so out of control, lays the foundation for the "diet mentality," brick by brick, and diet by diet. The seemingly brave solution — try harder next time — becomes as bewildering as the Chinese finger puzzle. You can't fight biology. When the body is starving, it needs to be nourished.

Yet so often a dieter laments, "If only I had the willpower." Clearly, this is not an issue of willpower, although glowing testimonials from weight-loss clinics often foster this incorrect notion. When underfed — whether from a self-imposed diet or starvation — you will obsess about food.

Maybe you don't diet, but eat vigilantly in the name of health and fitness. This seems to be the politically correct term for dieting in the nineties. But for many, it's the same food issue — with the same symptoms. Avoiding fat at all costs and subsisting on fat-free foods is essentially dieting, and often results in being underfed. There are many forms of dieting and many types of dieters. We will explore your dieting personality and meet the Intuitive Eater in the next chapter.


What Kind of Eater Are You?

Perhaps you are still dieting and don't know it! There are many eating styles that are actually unconscious forms of dieting. Many of our patients have said they were not on a diet — but upon closer inspection of what and how they eat we found they were still dieting!

Here's a good example. Ted came in because he wanted to lose about fifteen pounds. He said that in his fifty years of living, he had only been on four serious diets. When perusing the book titles in the office (compulsive overeating texts, eating disorder books, and so forth) he stated, "You work with a lot of serious dieting problems ... well I'm not one of those." Ted clearly did not see himself as a dieter, merely a careful eater. Yet it turned out that he was an unconscious dieter. Although Ted was not actively dieting, he was undereating to a level where he was nearly passing out in the afternoon. The reason — he had always been unhappy with his weight! In the mornings he would go for an intense hilly bike ride for one hour, then come home and eat a small breakfast. Lunch was usually salad with iced tea (while this sounds healthy, it's too low in carbohydrates). By suppertime, his body would be screaming for food. Ted was not only in a severe calorie deficit, but also carbohydrate-deprived. Evenings turned into a food fest! Ted had thought he had a "food volume" problem with a strong sweet tooth. In reality, he had an unconscious diet mentality that biologically triggered his night eating and sweet tooth.

Alicia also was not a conscious dieter. She came in not to lose weight, but because she wanted to increase her energy level. During the initial session, it became clear that she had complicated issues with food. So she was asked if she had been dieting a lot. She looked astonished. "How did you know that I've been on zillions of diets?" While Alicia claimed to be okay with her current weight, she was still at war with food; she didn't trust herself with food. As it turns out, Alicia had been dieting since she was a child. Although she was not officially dieting, she retained (and expanded) a set of food rules with each diet that nearly paralyzed her ability to eat normally. We see this all the time, the hangover from dieting: Avoiding certain foods at all costs, feeling out of control the moment a "sinful" food is eaten, feeling guilty when self-imposed food rules are broken (such as "Thou shall not eat past 6:00 P.M."), and so on.

Unconscious dieting usually occurs in the form of meticulous eating habits. There can be a fine line between eating for health and dieting. Notice how even the frozen diet foods such as Lean Cuisine and Weight Watchers are putting their emphasis on health rather than diet. As long as you are engaged in some form of dieting, you won't be free from food and body worries. Whether you are a conscious or an unconscious dieter, the side effects are similar — the diet backlash effect. This is characterized by periods of careful eating, "blowing it," and paying penance with more dieting or extra-careful eating.

In this chapter, we will explore the various dieting/eating styles to help see where you are now. Later, you will meet the Intuitive Eater and the Intuitive Eating style, the solution to living without diets.


To help you clarify your eating (or dieting) style, we have identified the following key categories of eaters that exhibit characteristic eating patterns: the Careful Eater, the Professional Dieter, and the Unconscious Eater. These eating personalities are exhibited even when you are not officially dieting. It's possible to have more than one eating personality; although we find that there tends to be a dominant trait. Events in your life can also influence or shift your eating personality. For example, one client, a tax attorney, was normally a Careful Eater, but during tax season he became the Chaotic Unconscious Eater.

There's nothing wrong with possessing the eating characteristics described under the three eating personalities. But when your eating exists in one of these domains most of the time, it can be a problem.

Read through each eating personality and see which one best reflects your eating style. By understanding where you are now, it will be easier to learn how to become an Intuitive Eater. For example, you may find you have been engaged in a form of dieting, and not even have been aware of it. Or you may discover traits that unknowingly work against you.


Excerpted from Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, Elyse Resch. Copyright © 2003 Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D., and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1. Hitting Diet Bottom,
2. What Kind of Eater Are You?,
3. Principles of Intuitive Eating: Overview,
4. Awakening the Intuitive Eater: Stages,
5. Principle 1: Reject the Diet Mentality,
6. Principle 2: Honor Your Hunger,
7. Principle 3: Make Peace with Food,
8. Principle 4: Challenge the Food Police,
9. Principle 5: Feel Your Fullness,
10. Principle 6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor,
11. Principle 7: Cope with Your Emotions Without Using Food,
12. Principle 8: Respect Your Body,
13. Principle 9: Exercise — Feel the Difference,
14. Principle 10: Honor Your Health — Gentle Nutrition,
15. Intuitive Eating: The Ultimate Path Toward Healing from Eating Disorders,
Appendix A: Common Questions and Answers About Intuitive Eating,
Appendix B: Step-by-Step Guidelines,

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Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works, Second Edition 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have always been completely obsessed with losing 5 to 10 pounds, bouncing from one diet to another and hating myself; to the point where I didn't even know what I like to eat because I was always on some diet. Most of all; I was obsessed with dieting and getting really thin, (an unrealistic weight for me). This book has completely turned me around and taught me that it's okay not to be "perfect." It has so much good information and helpful examples of people who have been in the same boat. I would recommend this book to anyone; EXCELLENT.
Dyerfan More than 1 year ago
This is a great book for telling you how to pay attention to your body's signals in order to get back to your natural weight. It covers hunger, being satisfied (or knowing when you're full), and emotional eating. It involves other eating topics that are relevant to anyone who wants to shed diets forever!! Diets don't work and these women tell you why.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book. I have never dieted, and have tried to eat more healthy. I grew up a chubby kid and have been able to lose the weight from my own efforts of exercise and healthy eating, but I still found I was an emotional eater and would "splurge" now and then. This book helped me to overcome that. It isn't an overnight fix. It takes time to make habits, but slowly, I've become better and better.
ElizaED More than 1 year ago
For anyone who having problem with overeating for any reason or emotion reason. This is it. This book is for you who interest to eat right way without worry about diet. If only interest in dieting then this book is not for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book, very informative, and well put together. It shows you how to eat according to what your body wants and needs and helps you stop obsessing over food and dieting. Break the cycle!
labelleaurore on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Intuitive eating makes sense to me but how can I recognize intuitive eating after dieting for so many years and not trusting my intuitive anymore?Good theory in all but not for me...
LisaDean on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Intuitive Eating has become an important part of my personal library. It offers one of the most common sense approaches to weight loss among the avalanche of diet books on the market today. That's because Intuitive Eating is NOT a diet book. Instead of prescribing yet another regimented eating plan with a list of "good" and "bad" foods, this book encourages us to listen to our bodies and eat when hungry and stop eating when full. Though both of the authors are registered dietitians and acknowledge the importance of good nutrition, they are well aware that many of us use the rules of healthy eating as a stick to beat ourselves over the head with when we fall short of the standards. They stress that pleasure and satisfaction in addition to health must be a consideration in our eating habits. They point out that deprivation only leads in the end to overeating and weight gain and that foods we forbid ourselves to eat take on an exaggerated importance and lead to the overindulgence we try so hard to avoid. I read this book for the first time after going through a major weight loss and was struck by how many of the core principles I had used without knowing this book was on the market. I still read Intuitive Eating from time to time for inspiration when I get a little off track.This is a great book for anyone who is a serial dieter and has developed a difficult relationship with food.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so helpful in getting me out of "diet" mode and into normal eating. Great advice if you want to leave all the guilt and dieting behind. I strongly recommend it!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book turns everything I have ever thought about food and eating on its head! As a life long dieter, it is a challenge to embrace and practice the ideas and concepts put forth in the book but the more I try to the better I feel - more at peace and happier. I think this is a must read for anyone who has been feeling imprisoned by their own unsuccessful dieting regimens and food relationships.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I find the book gives good insight into dieting and disordered eating. I am trying to practice what it teaches but after years of dieting, it will take some time to break myself from the diet mentality.
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