NYC Physical Therapy and Fitness Training Studio - Custom PT

Custom Coaching: Pre-Season – Why Runners Need Intuitive Eating


We work with enough runners to know that there’s one thing they can all benefit from when it comes to nutrition, and it’s not about adding more kale, adopting the latest diet trend, or adding a professional athlete-endorsed energy supplement. It’s about understanding why a process called Intuitive Eating (IE) should be part of their world.

Intuitive Eating was created in the mid-90s by two registered dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Fed up with the restrictive and lucrative world of dieting, they created a process to help people form a healthy relationship with food, mind, and body. Dieting, with its emphasis on rules and guidelines, has stopped people from listening to their bodies, a key to both confidence and well-being. IE focuses on nurturing the body, not starving it. It encourages awareness about hunger, fullness, and food choice. What’s more, this integration of body, mind, and food also helps people find the weight they are meant to be.

Sports performance nutrition is often filled with goals, numbers, and strict nutrition recommendations, but this advice isn’t always helpful or healthy. Runners are at a higher risk for disordered eating or eating disorders, so it can be helpful for nutrition professionals to integrate IE with thoughtful sports nutrition counseling that improves both physical and mental health.

Intuitive Eating, in a nutshell:

  • Addresses the issues of cognitive distortions and emotional eating
  • Views satisfaction as a focal point in eating
  • Sees physical activity/movement for the sake of feeling good
  • Rejects the diet mentality & uses nutrition information without judgment
  • Promotes body respect, regardless of how one feels about their shape

10 Principles of Intuitive Eating: Runner Specific Notes.

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality: Many diets are restrictive and can lead to undernourishment for the athletic demands of runners.
  2. Honor Your Hunger: Hunger isn’t always predictable. Helping learn the value of listening to what your body is saying vs. relying on what you ‘should be doing’ is helpful.
  3. Make Peace with Food: Runners receive food recommendations from multiple sources including coaches, medical professionals, family, social media and advertisements. Learning what works for you individually is key.
  4. Challenge the Food Police: Nobody should tell you what or how you should be eating except for you. A qualified nutrition professional can partner with a runner to help offer tailored guidance and set goals collaboratively.
  5. Respect Your Fullness: Runners working to include adequate and balanced food & fluids throughout the day can help maximize performance. This balance may prevent hunger and impulsive eating that often follows.
  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor: Runners can mindfully add favorite foods they may have intentionally avoided for fear of weight gain or poor performance.
  7. Cope with Your Emotions without Using Food: Runners can manage stress, anxiety, sadness, or other emotions by including meditation, stretching, or another outlet not involving food or drink.
  8. Respect Your Body: Runners can address insecurities and body image with a focus on a strong body that achieves goals.
  9. Exercise – Feel the Difference: Does the runner enjoy running, training, racing, etc. or are they doing it to stick to a regimen or meet the pressures set by others? Exercise and movement should be enjoyable.
  10. Honor Your Health: Is the runner frequently sick or getting injured? Is the female runner not getting a period? Healthy runners stay running.

Intuitive Eating is based on the belief that most people are born with all the wisdom needed to know how to eat in a satisfying and balanced way. Many of us have gotten out of touch with this wisdom. IE can help us reconnect. As a runner, having a good relationship with both body and food is invaluable.

*Source: Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

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