Intuitive Eating

What is intuitive eating? Intuitive eating is an approach that allows you to create a healthy relationship with food based on understanding the influences of physical appetite and social factors. With an intuitive eating knowledge, one learns to listen to the bodies’ inner cues despite being clouded by cultural food myths and dieting pressures. It has been found helpful, especially for those who have struggled with years of yo-yo dieting and extreme calorie constriction. Intuitive eating is actually remarkably simple and follows a few basic principles.

The first is to reject the diet mentality and make peace with food. Clear out any diet books and magazines offering any “slim down quick” challenges. These corner-cutting methods have not worked in the past and will not in the future. Once you’ve accepted this, understand that there are no “good” or “bad” foods, only foods your body is craving and foods it is not. Give yourself permission to eat without worrying about every calorie or carb. Otherwise, these restrictions often backfire and cause a binge-like meal that usually results in overeating and guilt.

This may sound like an impossible weight management program: eating whatever you want, but the key is with honoring hunger. With intuitive eating, learning to fully respect your body’s signals with hunger is a necessity. Pause in the middle of a meal to see how full you are, and, once you are, stop eating. Discovering when your body is actually satiated can be difficult, especially for those who have often struggled with skipping meals or overeating. Pausing allows the leptin hormones to do their job, which signal fullness to the brain. This satiation hormone can take up to 15 minutes to take effect after reaching fullness, so eating slowly can help you avoid overconsumption.

A caution with this process is that calories still matter. The food choices involved in intuitive eating must be prudent and wise. Choose to buy foods that are nutrient dense and provide vital energy for your body to utilize. The natural fiber in fruits and vegetables aids in feeling “full,” whereas processed foods are often stripped of such fiber, leading to unsatisfied meal times.

Finally, a consideration for intuitive eating is being aware of why you are compelled to eat. There are dozens of social and emotional factors that often stymie the “full” switch. For example, stress-eating has been known to injure many-a-dieter. When going towards the candy jar at work, are your sugar levels truly low enough that you need a snickers or do you just need a quick break away from the desk. You will find that as you listen to what your body craves, you will not gravitate towards the 3.5 pound bag of jelly-beans simply because it doesn’t feel good. Your body requires proper fuel to run which ranges from high quality proteins to whole grain fibers. Processed sugar is not a part of that mix.

The road to understanding your body’s signals can be a long one, especially if you have been ignoring them for years. Cultural attachments with food can further complicate the process. Ultimately, however, trusting your body enough to know what it needs is rewarding and freeing.  

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