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Session 6

Young People – Body Image and Normal Eating

Session 6

Intuitive Eating

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It’s okay if you are...

Not moving your
body much right now


Eating out
of boredom


all day long

Having challenging
body image thoughts

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Quiz Time!

Warm up

Name the food or drink brand

You got: 0/0

Pot Noodle
Blue Dragon
Burger King
Cathedral City
Birds Eye
Twister Ice Lolly
Dr Pepper

Quiz! Factors that impact energy levels

Select whether you think it is an internal or external factor

  • Nutrient stores in the body

    I think this is...

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  • Hormone signals

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  • Social setting

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  • Nerve signals 

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  • Expected taste from food

    I think this is...

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  • Volume of food in the gut

    I think this is...

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  • Body fat levels

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  • Smell of food

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  • Sight of food

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  • Blood glucose levels

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  • The time

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  • Eating Habits

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Energy Balance

Food and drinks
containing calories

Our bodies use energy:

• To maintain 24/7 basic functions that
keep us alive inside the body e.g.
heart, lungs, organs, brain.

• For exercise

• To digest food eaten

• For general movement in the day

Our bodies like balance and work hard to stay
in balance. Overeating...

Your body's response to eating above your energy needs

• If you overeat in one sitting, the body will increase the metabolic rate to use the excess energy in the body. You may notice feeling hot, sweaty, restless, and slightly nauseous.

• Consistently eating above your energy needs will result in storage of excess energy as fat and weight gain.

Our bodies like balance and work hard to stay
in balance. Undereating...

Your body's response to eating below your energy needs. The body will:

• Slow down functioning in the body to conserve energy (reduced metabolism)

• Increase hunger signals (fat loss reduces Leptin, which is the fullness hormone, triggering Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, sometimes nicknamed the ‘growl’ hormone!)

Important energy output:

Regular exercise can:

Make you feel rejuvenated

Improve social connections

Improve mood

Improve cardiovascular health, bone strength and muscle strength and stability

Current physical activity guidance for young people (5-18years) is to aim for at least
60 minutes moderate to vigorous intensity activity per day.


Helpful Exercise

Rejuvenates the body

Can make the body feel tired, but not run down or exhausted

Allows for rest whilst exercising

Allows for rest days based on how the body feels

Promotes positive emotional and physical outcomes

Allows for variety of movements and activities

Allows varied intensity of movement e.g. lighter activity days and more intense workout days

Promotes positive social interactions

Exercise within Government recommended health guidelines

Is enjoyable!

Harmful Exercise

(excessive, driven, compensatory)

Leaves the body feeling exhausted (over exercising)

Extended bouts of exercise of more than 60 minutes per day for multiple times in the day (this may not apply for some young athletes)

Doesn’t allow for breaks

Increased stress, anxiety and low mood in relation not being able to exercise

Increased guilt if not able to exercise or with reduced intensity of exercise

Exercising as a punishment for eating or to allow you to eat

Exercising in secret

Inability to change type of exercise session or intensity of sessions

Still exercising when ill or unwell

Still exercising while injured

Inability to have a rest day (compulsion to exercise more)

Exercising to give yourself permission to eat

Exercising to cancel out calories

Exercising more and more to achieve the same desired effect

harmful exercise

Young people with high exercise
and activity levels

On the last slide, we discussed when high levels of exercise with the purpose of weight loss can be an example of ‘unhealthy exercise.'

However, some young people who are competing in sports may regularly participate in trainings or competitions lasting multiple hours.

If you compete for a sport that has high training levels (multiple hours a day), it is important to remember that your body will need a lot more fuel (food) to avoid having low energy.

Low Energy Availability (LEA) is when there is not enough energy to cover basic body functions and so the body needs to slow down to ensure the most essential processes still occur (e.g. our brain functioning, heart pumping)

Long term low energy availability can lead to Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (REDS), which is term to describe the effects low energy has on your physical and mental health. (See the image for the various aspects negatively affected if you have REDS)

You can learn more about REDS on the Sport Ireland Institute fact sheets:

For young budding athletes, having a regular, structured intake of meals and snacks to fuel your sport is needed. High intensity sport can reduce appetite, so relying on hunger signals alone for when to eat is not always recommended. Fuelling for your sport is important to prevent unintentional low energy!

Body systems affected by REDS

Factors affecting how much
energy our body uses


Males have higher energy needs than females, generally speaking, due to higher muscle mass and larger bodies.

Amount of energy

needed for your body to digest, absorb and metabolise food.


Larger bodies means greater mass and cells requiring energy, therefore larger bodies actually have higher metabolic/energy needs compared to smaller bodies.

Muscle Mass

Muscle requires greater energy due to it’s active nature of protein synthesis and breakdown.


Adolescence and puberty is period of rapid growth, increases in weight and height, requiring additional energy to feed additional mass.


Increases cortisol, stimulating greater fat and carbohydrate metabolism to produce energy – essentially to provide sudden energy to ‘fight or flight’, if required!


Chemical messengers, therefore they signal for increased or decreased energy needs.

Activity levels

Greater exercise or movement in the day requires greater energy.

Energy In

Our bodies get energy from foods and drinks

How do I balance my
energy input and energy
output to be healthy and

This is why concepts of Intuitive eating and mindful eating were developed!

Intuitive eating is trusting your inner body wisdom to make choices around food that feel good in your body, without judgment and without influence from diet culture.

Mindful eating is an approach to food that focuses on being fully present while you’re eating. It also increases awareness of your thoughts, senses and feelings during and after you eat.

What impacts eating intuitively
and confuses hunger signals?

Can make it harder for the brain to make rational and clear decisions
Can slow signalling in the body e.g. hunger and fullness signals are disrupted
Stomach content removed, when the body was preparing for digesting and using the food.
Confuses body signals and disrupts energy systems.
Can lead to deficiencies.
Disrupting hormone regulation (Hormones are the chemical messengers in the body)
About food that can override listening to body signals
Athletes will have very high energy needs due to their sporting demands, which might mean intake is needed even when not feeling hungry.

Let’s look a closer at how restriction confuses hunger signals

Restriction of food
e.g. skipping meals,
irregular eating or
cutting out food type

Increased psychological
hunger for avoided food and increased
physical hunger

Increased thoughts about food,
fatigue, difficulty thinking,
irritability, craving for
higher energy foods

Overeating or eating
avoided foods

Guilt from overeating or
from eating certain
avoided foods

How do I work toward being more intuitive with my eating?

Intuitive eating starts with curiosity and mindfulness!

  • Being aware what your body is saying when around food
  • How you feel physically, emotionally, socially
  • Listening for internal and external cues

Mindful eating
Food and it’s link to mood

Carbohydrate intake

Carbohydrates help transport tryptophan into the brain

More serotonin can be made

Mood boost

are brain power! Carbohydrate (complex and simple sugars) such a grains, cereals, rice, pasta, fruits, vegetables and milk provide glucose. Glucose is the main fuel for the brain. The brain needs about 20% of our daily energy needs to function optimally.
Foods rich in protein contain tryptophan, which aids to create Serotonin in the brain. Carbohydrates support the uptake of tryptophan in the brain. There is some evidence that eating a low carbohydrate diet, may contribute to lower mood.

The Hunger Scale

Mark where are
you on the hunger scale right now?

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