Healthy at Every Size, Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating: What’s the difference? Our Yale St. Therapy expert Cori Rosenthal explains 3 useful non diet approaches.

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Ashley, Shira and I, (the Yale Street Trio) were talking about the differences between Healthy at Every Size or HAESⓇ Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating. For Ashley and Shira these concepts are relatively new.   Having spent decades hating my body and wishing it were different, this is a topic that I am extremely passionate about.

I began dieting in the 7th grade, but no matter how hard I tried I ALWAYS regained the weight and usually gained a bit extra.  I finally decided I couldn’t do the diet thing anymore. It was destroying my health and my self-esteem. My non diet journey began with Mindful Eating and skeptically moved toward the principles of Intuitive Eating.   When I discovered Healthy at Every Size it was the final piece to the puzzle I had struggled with since childhood. Our culture is consumed by the number on the scale but consistent healthy behavior is likely a better measure of health than the morning weigh in.  

I know all of these concepts can become confused with one another and are not quiet in the mainstream culture, so I’m providing a simple explanation of each here.

What is Healthy at Every Size?

Healthy at Every Size or HAESⓇ began as a book by Linda Bacon.  Since that book it has grown to a movement that encompasses dieticians, therapists, physicians, and activists.  The Association for Size Diversity and Health or ASDAH is a nonprofit committed to the principles of HAESⓇ.   The ASDAH website lists the following principles:

  1. Weight inclusivity.  Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.

  2. Health Enhancement: Support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services, and personal practices that improve human well-being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs.

  3. Respectful Care: Acknowledge our biases, and work to end weight discrimination, weight stigma, and weight bias. Provide information and services from an understanding that socioeconomic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities impact weight stigma, and support environments that address these inequities.

  4. Eating for Well-being: Promote flexible, individualized eating based on hunger, satiety, nutritional needs, and pleasure, rather than any externally regulated eating plan focused on weight control.

  5. Life-Enhancing Movement: Support physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose.

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is an awareness practice that relates to food, hunger, the emotions, thoughts, and body sensations associated with eating.  Mindful eaters use all of their senses to eat foods that are nourishing and satisfying, noticing, their likes, and dislikes without judgement.  Mindful eating is a practice that can encompass meal planning, meal preparation, eating and clean up. These practices can help you tune into your bodies natural hunger and satiety cues and help you be present when you eat.  Mindful eating is a practice that can support a healthy relationship between food and your body.

Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating is a book, workbook and program created by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole.  Mindful eating is a component of intuitive eating. The foundation of the program are the following ten principles:

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality.  95% of people who diet regain their weight within 5 years and 66% of those people end up weighing then they did when they started the diet.  The cost of losing and gaining weight repeatedly is a greater risk for diseases like diabetes and heart disease and a loss of self-esteem with increases in anxiety and depression.

  2. Honor your Hunger.  Eating when you are hungry is essential to avoid triggering your bodies  natural reaction to overeat.

  3. Make Peace with Food.  Stop depriving yourself of foods you label as “bad” because food labeling and feeling deprived is usually a set up for overeating those foods and then feeling guilty.  There is another way.

  4. Challenge the Food Police.  The food police are all the food rules you learned from family or the culture than now run as a tape in your head.

  5. Respect your Fullness

  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor.  When you eat what you want in a pleasing environment, the pleasure you derive can support you to feel satisfied and contented.

  7. Honor your feelings without using food.

  8. Respect Your Body.  Bodies come in all shapes and sizes and unfortunately we are not all predisposed to be a size 2, 4 or even 6.  Respecting and accepting that fact can help you to feel better about yourself.

  9. Exercise to feel good.  When we exercise only to lose weight we are likely to become motivated or unmotivated by a number o the scale.   Exercising to feel good is ultimately more sustainable.

  10. Honor your health or what is called gentle nutrition. You can honor both your taste buds and your health, knowing that for most of us one meal will not determine our overall health.  The goal is progress, not perfection.

Mindful eating, intuitive eating and Healthy at Every Size all provide an opportunity to leave behind dieting and the diet culture to create a healthier relationship between food, your body and the world around you.  All three of these practices / philosophies are complementary and work together toward a healthier relationship, not only with your own body but all bodies. For more information check out the books I mentioned above and come back to our Yale Street Therapy blog.