If I had to name one book that has most influenced my work as a dietitian, it would undoubtedly be Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA, CEDRD. I think it took a lot of courage, vulnerability and insight to write such a groundbreaking book that went against conventional wisdom seventeen years ago. Although the original concept was more “evidence-inspired” by the authors’ work with their patients and their own experiences, today there are over twenty-five studies on Intuitive Eating – with more studies currently being conducted.

So of course, I was thrilled when Evelyn agreed to be interviewed to discuss the totally revised third edition, her personal Intuitive Eating aha moment, and some fun facts about herself. Check it out:

How would you define Intuitive Eating if someone asked you at a cocktail party?  Intuitive Eating is a process of eating with attunement to the needs and states of your body, which includes hunger, fullness, and satisfaction.  It means trusting your body. Ultimately, Intuitive Eating empowers a person to be the expert of his or her own body.

What is one of the most misunderstood principles of Intuitive Eating?  No question—it is principle 3, Make Peace with Food.  This principle is about giving yourself permission to eat what food you want, when hungry.  Some people mistakenly think this is an entitlement to eat whatever they want, as much as they want, and when ever they feel like eating—but this distorts the premise of Intuitive Eating.  Attunement to body cues is a very important part of Intuitive Eating.  Eating whenever you feel like it, without regard to hunger and fullness, might not be a very satisfying experience and might also cause physical discomfort.  And it could promote eating in the absence of hunger, which could be problematic to health.

The purpose of Making Peace with Food—is to make all foods emotionally neutral—you are not a bad or good person based on what you eat.  I sometimes call this the ‘permission paradox’, because when someone really has permission to eat what food they want—he or she will often discover they no longer want it. Or they eat less of it—because it is allowed—and there is no pressure to eat it while you can. When deprivation is removed, it also removes the Last Supper effect of eating.

With permission, a person can truly ask—do I really want this food now?  If I eat it now will I enjoy it—will it be satisfying?  And if the person chooses to eat the food—she can freely evaluate if she likes the way her body feels after eating it.

What’s new or different in the latest edition?  The 2012 is completely updated and we added two new chapters, one of which is about how to raise your child to be an Intuitive Eater.  The other new chapter is about the science of Intuitive Eating, which summarizes about 25 studies to date on our process.

You said something recently that caught my attention: “There’s no such thing as a healthy dieting.”  Can you elaborate on that?  Yes, there is no such thing as ‘healthy dieting’.  There is a profound body of research that shows that dieting increases risk of weight gain, binge-eating, and eating disorders.  A large study on 2,000 pairs of twins (4,000 people) showed that dieting increased weight gain, independent of genetics.  The researchers believe that dieting could be part of the cause of the obesity epidemic. 

Tell us three fun facts about yourself.  I love to ski and hike. I have a fear of heights.  When it rains, I make home-made soup for dinner.

On the Intuitive Eating Online Community, there’s a place where people can share their turning point. What’s yours?  Ahh, I actually shared that information with the community [see below from http://intuitiveeatingcommunity.org/forum/topics/evelyn-tribole]:

Here’s a tidbit I have not shared.  I grew up with a dieting mother–I always knew her goal weight while growing up, but she never imposed her dieting on us kids (I’m one of four kids).

One of the saddest and memorable moments, occurred when my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  We were sitting on the couch having one of those heart-to-heart-hand-me-a-tissue conversations.  She stood up and said, “Look at me, all those years of dieting, what a waste–I just want to live and grow old.”  She died three years later at the age of 67.

I am hoping that through [the] Intuitive Eating Online Community, it will offer inspiration, hope, and support, for anyone struggling with food and body worries.  It can feel so challenging when the world around us dieting, as if it is normal, as if it is healthy.  I wonder how much energy and time have been wasted on the pursuit of a ‘better body’? How can one really find his or her purpose in life while distracted with food rules and body bashing?