Intuitive Eating for Older Adults
BY STACEY SIMON, MS, RDN, CSG, CDN, NBHWC
What is intuitive eating?
Intuitive eating for older adults is a non-diet approach to eating developed by two registered dietitians in the 1990s. It consists of 10 principles that, instead of focusing on external markers of success like weight and clothing size, focus on internal markers such as honoring hunger and fullness levels, listening to our bodies, and feeling satisfied with the foods we consume. Rather than following a strict diet, intuitive eating allows for flexibility and gets rid of “black and white” thinking around foods. It allows all foods a place without judgment or guilt.
10 Principles of Intuitive Eating for Older Adults
1) Reject the diet mentality.
2) Honor your hunger.
3) Make peace with food.
4) Challenge the food police.
5) Discover the satisfaction factor.
6) Feel your fullness.
7) Cope with your emotions with kindness.
8) Respect your body.
9) Move. Feel the difference.
10) Honor your health with gentle nutrition.
Becoming an intuitive eater.
Rather than following a restrictive diet, intuitive eating teaches us to listen to what our bodies need to get the right amount of nutrition. Identifying hunger and fullness signals, eating when hungry and stopping when comfortably satisfied, helps us to consume the right amount of nutrition.
Checking in with satisfaction levels throughout the course of the eating process, granting ourselves full permission to eat at “odd” times, allowing all foods to be enjoyed without guilt, and stopping eating when comfortably satisfied can help us to eat the ideal amount for our bodies. Intuitive eating also prioritizes satisfaction and enjoyment when eating and drinking. We oftentimes think of eating “healthy” foods as a chore and eating fun foods as a treat. Intuitive eating reframes this thought process; we can find joy in eating foods that make our bodies feel good, and we can enjoy every bite. Intuitive eating also allows us to enjoy fun foods without guilt; all foods truly have a place in a balanced diet.
Is intuitive healthy for older adults?
A common misconception about intuitive eating is that it leads to overconsumption of fun foods like cookies, cakes, and pizza. To the contrary, intuitive eaters are actually found to enjoy more balanced meals and snacks. When all foods are morally equal, our bodies often crave more fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Intuitive eaters also feel less compelled to overeat fun foods because they’re always “allowed” on the menu, which can take away those feelings of lack of control around sweets. Over 125 studies (and counting) have demonstrated the health benefits of intuitive eating. Intuitive eaters have lower triglyceride levels, blood sugar levels, body mass index (BMI), and more. Intuitive eating is growing in popularity as a way to fuel our bodies. You may have heard about intuitive eating, but aren’t sure what it involves or how you may be able to incorporate it into your lifestyle. Here, we will discuss the basics and how intuitive eating for older adults can support our wellbeing throughout the aging process.
Intuitive eating throughout the aging process. Intuitive eating for older adults is a practice that can be adopted at any age. Learning to incorporate foods and beverages that make our bodies feel good is a key piece of aging. Most older adults require more protein, calcium, and vitamin D than their younger counterparts; and most older adults don’t consume enough fiber or drink enough water. Finding ways to make nutrition joyful and satisfying can help to get the right kinds of foods and beverages to support nutrition needs. As we age, our taste preferences often change. Many older adults find that they have a stronger preference for sweet foods. Finding ways to incorporate pleasurable flavors, textures, and temperatures can help older adults get the nutrition their bodies need without sacrificing enjoyment.
How to get started with intuitive eating for older adults
Despite the name, intuitive eating can feel anything but intuitive at the beginning of your journey. Learning to feel hunger and fullness levels, respecting our bodies, and allowing all foods without guilt can feel like hard work. Working with a certified intuitive eating counselor can help you learn to trust your body and give it the nutrition it needs to thrive.