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Session 6

Professionals – Body Image and Healthy Eating

Session 6

Energy & intuitive eating

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Lightbulbs use electricity
as the energy source
to make light.

Like a lightbulb, our bodies need
energy to work and function.
Humans get energy
from food and drinks.

Unlike lightbulbs, our bodies never turn off, therefore we need constant supply of energy to cover tasks day and night.

Energy balance

Food and drinks
containing calories

Young people are often not aware that the body is constantly running and therefore needs fuel even at rest.

They may believe that what they eat needs to be burnt off in exercise to be in balance, which is not the case. The body would be in an energy deficit if all intake was used for exercise and daily activity.

Our bodies use energy:

• To maintain 24/7 basic functions that keep us alive, such as the heart, lungs, organs and 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.

• Young people often think that if they overeat occasionally, it will automatically be stored as fat. The body is very smart and frequently adjusts to stay in balance and avoid weight shifts.

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).

• Increase preoccupation around food (due to restriction of usually variety and quantity of food).

• Increase risk of overeating at next meal following restriction.

This is why high restrictive diets often do not work for sustainable weight loss!

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.

Food intake

Thermic effect of 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 a period of rapid growth and 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.


Greater exercise or movement in the day requires greater energy.

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 >60 minutes/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 from food intake.

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 training 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

Energy in

Our bodies get energy from foods and drinks.

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...

    Drag one of the options into this box
  • Hormone signals

    I think this is...

    Drag one of the options into this box
  • Social setting

    I think this is...

    Drag one of the options into this box
  • Nerve signals 

    I think this is...

    Drag one of the options into this box
  • Expected taste from food

    I think this is...

    Drag one of the options into this box
  • Volume of food in the gut

    I think this is...

    Drag one of the options into this box
  • Body fat levels

    I think this is...

    Drag one of the options into this box
  • Smell of food

    I think this is...

    Drag one of the options into this box
  • Sight of food

    I think this is...

    Drag one of the options into this box
  • Blood glucose levels

    I think this is...

    Drag one of the options into this box
  • The time

    I think this is...

    Drag one of the options into this box
  • Eating habits

    I think this is...

    Drag one of the options into this box

External influences on food and fluid intake



Cues associated with eating
(place, time of day)

Psychological Factors

Central appetite

Internal Influences

Gastric distension (Bloating)
Hormone levels
Blood glucose level
Blood amino acid level
Blood purine level
Body fat stores

Body image

Sensory qualities of food


Overall activity


How can your young person balance their energy input and energy output to be healthy and well?

This is where the concepts of intuitive eating and mindful eating come in.

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 is intuitive eating?

Rejecting diet culture

Listening to your body's
hunger and fullness signals

Avoiding food rules

Permission to eat all food

Not dismissing food as 'good' or 'bad'

Eating flexibly with trust that your
body knows how much food it needs

Eating a variety of foods

Permission to eat a food
because you want it

Being aware of your types of
hunger (emotional and physical)

Understanding the balance of your
body with exercise

Can you think of another
example of intuitive eating?

An example of eating based on food rules rather than intuitive eating

What is eating based on
food rules?

Avoiding eating cake or sweets at a birthday party despite really wanting them. Listening to diet culture which tells us that we must avoid all foods high in sugar as they are 'bad'. Then overeating later in the day due to ignoring hunger and feeling unsatisfied with food options chosen.

What is intuitive eating?

Eating a slice of cake at the birthday party as you want it. Feeling satisfied by this and then eating a smaller portion of dinner once home as less hungry.

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.

Eating patterns and the impact to our energy levels

We want to encourage regular eating patterns, in particular to young people with disordered eating behaviours.

Restricted eating:

Reduced energy.

Often a reduction in mood due to limited fuel going to the brain.

Regular eating:

Is an intake pattern of approximately every 3-4 hours.

It provides regular consistent top up of energy as it starts to dip. More efficient use of energy in the body.

Better hormone regulation for hunger and fullness signals.

Irregular eating patterns:

Skipping meals leads to low energy and physical hunger within the body which can increase cravings and over-eating, often on more refined foods for fast energy.

Leading to erratic energy levels which can impact mood.

Examples of diets promoted within social media for weight loss.

There are many diets promoted within social media for weight loss.

Dukan diet


South beach

Keto diet

Atkins diet

The Zone diet

5:2 diet

fasting diet

South beach

These diets often have common themes:

- They promote restriction and control of eating, which can lead to starvation or malnutrition and disordered eating habits.

- They label foods as 'good' or 'bad'.

- They reinforce societal messages that a thin shape and lower weight is the ideal body, rather than overall health and wellbeing.

-They often have little long term evidence to their benefit.

- They create a sense of failure if someone isn’t able to follow the rigid dietary rules.

- There is often limited research within varied population groups e.g. ethnic minority groups, adolescents, those with varying medical conditions etc.

How do I work toward being more intuitive in eating?

Intuitive eating starts with curiosity and mindfulness!

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

The hunger scale

Mark where are
you on the hunger scale right now?

  • 1
  • 2
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  • 9
  • 10

Types of hunger in the body

Eye hunger:
Do you see food and therefore want to eat?

Nose hunger:
Do you smell food and therefore want to eat?

Ear hunger:
Do you hear food cooking or being eaten and now want to eat?

Mouth hunger:
Did you just taste some food and are now wanting to eat more?

Stomach hunger:
Is your stomach feeling empty or growling, increasing your desire to eat?

Mind hunger: Did you realize it was a certain time of day or think that you “should” eat more of a particular kind of food and therefore want to eat?

Emotional hunger:
Do you feel sad, lonely, or anxious and therefore want to eat?

Types of hunger in the body


- Increases overtime.

- Means any food will satisfy the hunger.

- Is a deliberate choice to eat out of awareness of hunger.

- Is a response to definite need and you will still be hungry if you wait 15 minutes.

- Distractions will not decrease the craving.

- There is a sense of satisfaction after eating.

- No guilt with eating.


- Appears suddenly.

- Is a want for a certain type of food, usually an apple will not satisfy.

- It is a want for food immediately with sense of urgency or panic.

- Eating is used as a coping tool with impulsive food choices, eaten quickly.

- It is a response to feelings (boredom, sadness, tired). Food is a companion.

- Lots of guilt with eating.

- Person is usually left wanting more food, or a different type of food as does not feel satisfied.

- Distractions usually decrease craving.


- Occurs when person has not had access to desired foods.

- Results from dieting, restriction or weight cycling.

- Can escalate from following a specific medical diet.

- Can occur as a result of labelling foods 'good' and 'bad'.

- Can lead a person to feel out of control. Person is often looking for structure when their life is unstructured.

- Lack of trust in own judgement to self-manage eating and food.

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.
Reflect on the extent of your avoidance behaviours. Which avoidance behaviours occur? How often?



Well Done!

- Completed
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References or Creators Credit


My Notes

Supporting Videos

The Fight, Flight, Freeze Response

If you could change one thing about your body, what would it be?

Mindful Eating