Is their evidence that intuitive eating can result in weight loss? That’s a question I’ve been investigating, and the answer is yes. This article summarizes research published in 2014 titled A Review of Interventions That Promote Eating by Internal Cue that looked at 20 relevant research studies.
The study itself reports:
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.
Thus the study found that there was significant proof of the benefit of non-diet approaches to health. But what about non-diet approaches and weight loss? The researchers report:
In addition, only one study reported weight gain in subjects during the 1-year follow-up period. The remaining studies demonstrated significant weight loss or weight maintenance.
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. Findings in the studies we reviewed support the notion of shifting the focus from dieting for weight loss to adopting an intuitive eating lifestyle. Interventions that encourage intuitive eating decrease unhealthy eating behaviors such as dietary restraint and binge eating, signifying a healthier relationship with food.
It’s important to keep in mind that weight loss is not the goal of intuitive eating. What’s inspirational is that research shows that weight loss can and does regularly occur without the harm of dieting when using an internal cues approach.
I’ve linked this article rather than the underlying study due to access limitations.