Programs that target weight management typically employ restrictive eating strategies to achieve weight loss. Although short-term weight loss is often attained, these traditional diet programs have been associated with weight gain and higher psychological distress (e.g., Linardon & Mitchell, 2017). Increasingly, employers are offering worksite wellness programs to optimize employee productivity and decrease costs associated with health care coverage (Goetzel & Ozminkowski, 2008); however, data demonstrate that the typical diet interventions provided in the workplace have been insufficient (Osilla et al., 2012). An alternative approach to such dieting interventions is to emphasize intuitive eating (IE) over restrictive eating. IE is an approach to eating regulation that emphasizes eating in accordance with physiological hunger and satiety cues. Eating intuitively has been found to be associated with more positive body image, less disordered eating, lower body mass index (BMI), and lower psychological distress (Bruce & Ricciardelli, 2016; Tylka et al., 2015). However, many IE intervention studies lacked quality randomized controlled trials, had limited outcome measures, and did not include a long-term follow-up (e.g., Benedict & Arterburn, 2008; Bush et al., 2014; Tam & Yeung, 2018), The current study improved upon limitations in previous studies and assessed the effects of an 8 week intuitive eating intervention on university employees who were randomly assigned to an intuitive eating (n = 22) versus a waitlist control group (n = 20). We examined changes in intuitive eating, appetite awareness, self-efficacy related controlling eating and weight, body satisfaction, BMI, life satisfaction, and work absenteeism both across intervention conditions and over time (baseline vs. post intervention) using multilevel modeling. The IE intervention appeared modestly effective in increasing participants’ awareness and knowledge of eating intuitively. However, across other variables, the IE group showed small, but non-statistically significant improvements in comparison to the control group. Use of IE with larger samples could better clarify the impact of an IE intervention. It may also be that an IE intervention alone may not be effective without additional components such as mindfulness or strategies targeting self-efficacy to change. Additional research focused on establishing a better understanding of factors that facilitate increases in intuitive eating habits and associated changes could be helpful.
A Plan B Research Project submitted to the faculty of University of Minnesota Duluth by Hannah I. McCarthy in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts, May 2021. This item has been modified from the original to redact the signatures present.
McCarthy, Hannah I.
An Intuitive Eating Intervention for Healthy Living Among University Employees.
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