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Intuitive Eating Helps Dieters Manage Emotional Food Cravings

Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Fri, Aug 8th 2014

If you are trying to lose weight, are you sick of the oodles of diets out there? Each one touts its superiority over other diet plans and comes with complicated menus, checklists, and possibly special food you must buy from the diet company.

woman holding hamburgerBut what if a study indicated that all of those diets were for naught? Would you be happy to try something more simple, more natural, more…intuitive?

I'd bet you would. That's why I was intrigued by this study by researchers at the University of Missouri that examined the effectiveness of an eating program called "Eat for Life."

(Note: I have never tried Eat for Life, nor was I asked to write about it. I simply read about the research study and decided to report on it because of its scientific merit and relationship to emotional factors.)

Eat for Life is a mindfulness-based eating program that centers on helping people become more in tune with their physical and emotional feelings surrounding food. That way, people develop the skill to determine when they are really hungry versus when they are craving food because of stress, sadness, or boredom. The program aims to help people develop a positive relationship with food and their bodies by learning to read their internal cues about what to eat and when.

In the study, 124 women were randomly assigned to either a 10-week Eat for Life program or a waiting list. All women were assessed before and after the program on scales that measured body appreciation, mindfulness, disordered eating patterns, and demographic information.

The women who participated in the Eat for Life program showed significantly more body appreciation, mindfulness, and intuitive eating patterns. They also showed significantly less disordered eating patterns such as binging, purging, and fasting.

Interestingly, the women were asked to not weigh themselves during the entire 10 weeks, and the researchers did not report whether the women who completed the Eat for Life program actually lost weight. But I don't think that was the point.

The researchers suggest that most dieters traverse along a roller coaster of weight loss and gain, which is actually more dangerous than maintaining extra weight. The goal of the Eat for Life program is not necessarily to lose weight, but to develop healthier eating patterns and a healthier sense of one's body and oneself.

In that case, the program seems to have met its mark.


Bush, H., Rossy, L. A., Mintz, L., & Schopp, L. (2014). Eat for Life: A worksite feasibility study of a novel mindfulness-based intuitive eating intervention. American Journal of Health Promotion, 28(6), 380-388.


Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.

Itís a true blessing to have you visit my blog on mental health and wellness. I also write blogs on faith and caregiving in addition to teaching part-time for Columbia College of Missouri. For more information about my background and writing, visit my webpage at

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