Intuitive Eating: Eat What You Want and Get Healthy
How many diets have you tried? Are you happy with your current weight?
If the answer to that first question was “one or more” and the answer to the second wasn’t an enthusiastic “yes!”, then you need to get into intuitive eating.
Intuitive eating encourages you to drop all of the negative dieting habits and mentalities and stop being at war with yourself over what you eat.
So if you’ve ever tried a diet and it let you down or you’re simply looking for a healthier way to approach weight loss, this post is for you.
Of course, it’s not just about weight loss. Intuitive eating is about teaching yourself how to live a healthy lifestyle without making food the enemy. It’s about embracing your body and making positive choices. It’s about feeling good about your body and what you put into it.
What is intuitive eating?
Simply put, it’s about making a conscious effort to live a healthier lifestyle, especially when it comes to food and exercise, without torturing yourself over every calorie you take in.
The founders of this concept, known as The Original Intuitive Eating Pros, describe it like this:
“Intuitive eating is an approach that teaches you how to create a healthy relationship with your food, mind, and body–where you ultimately become the expert of your own body. You learn how to distinguish between physical and emotional feelings, and gain a sense of body wisdom. It’s also a process of making peace with food—so that you no longer have constant “food worry” thoughts. It’s knowing that your health and your worth as a person do not change, because you ate a food that you had labeled as “bad” or “fattening”.”
The Pros have a list of 10 basic principles that they encourage people to follow, which include things like: stop thinking about eating in terms of diets, be realistic about your body, allow yourself to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. They support healthy exercise and being active in ways that make you feel energized and happy.
When it comes to weight loss, many people choose a fad diet and jump on the bandwagon. The trouble is that most of these diets encourage severe restrictions and force you to think about your food in terms of calories and your exercise in calories burned. This kind of mindset sets you at odds with yourself. You constantly feel like you’re fighting your body, using food deprivation and exercise as weapons.
How does intuitive eating work?
There are no lists of things you can or cannot eat, there is no set number of calories that you’re allowed and there is no set exercise schedule.
Intuitive eating means taking the time to listen to and understand your body and give it what it needs. Eat when you’re hungry, make thoughtful choices about foods and don’t deprive yourself of the foods and flavors that you love. This way, you’re more likely to stick to balanced eating habits rather than giving into cravings and getting off-track.
Fitness Magazine explains how eating intuitively actually leads to eating less:
“If you stop focusing so much on eating less, you’ll actually eat less. It’s a radical notion, but desperate times call for desperate measures. “For most people, dieting doesn’t lead to weight loss that lasts,” says Traci Mann, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota. In the most complete analysis of weight-loss studies to date, she found that most people regain all the pounds they dropped, and as many as two-thirds pack on even more. Not shocking, when you consider that chronic dieting can affect a person’s psychology — for example, cause moodiness or preoccupation with food, says Janet Polivy, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. Dieters have a tendency to binge, both before their diet begins and after it fails.”
Intuitive eating ideals also encourage you to participate in the kinds of exercises that make you happy. Maybe that means going for a walk on the beach, hitting the gym or going for a bike ride. Maybe it means dancing in your living room. The point is, you need to find a way to make it fun, instead of making it work, so that it fits easily into your lifestyle and isn’t something you have to talk yourself into.
Are people seeing success with intuitive eating? You bet! ExperienceLife.com talks about some of the benefits people are noticing: “Not only did intuitive eaters in recent studies have lower cholesterol, less diabetes, healthier hearts, better levels of fitness, and lower body mass index (BMI), they achieved all that without the psychological stress and self-loathing that dieting can bring on.”
A positive relationship with food and with your body
This lifestyle invites you to make sure you are getting enough food at each meal and snack time so that you don’t feel excessively hungry. It also doesn’t call for you to stop eating the foods you love, but rather to be mindful of moderation and of maintaining a healthy balance.
If you think about it, the best example of intuitive eaters, are young children. They eat what they want, they ask for more if they want it and they refuse to eat if they aren’t hungry. It’s kind of funny to think that to achieve better health in a way that makes you happy, you should think of food the way a two-year-old does, but it’s true!
Sure, when you first give up on dieting and let yourself eat what you want, you might find yourself having cheeseburgers every day for a week or ice cream with every meal but that won’t last. Once you really realize that you can eat what you want, when you want it, you will start learning how to listen to your body and you’ll find yourself eating what your body needs.
As blogger Kelsey Miller, author of the Anti-Diet Project at refinery29.com puts it, “Seriously, imagine a life where you wouldn’t struggle to choose between a carrot and a Kit Kat. You would hardly give it a thought, and if you did, that thought would only be, Do I want it? No worry, no checking your calendar to see if you had time to hit the gym later and make up for this “bad behavior.” You’d be free to choose with the full, instinctive knowledge that neither food was off-limits, and both would be available again, at any time. Never worrying, as you ate, about when you should stop, but simply enjoying with ease, knowing that you didn’t have to think about it, period. Your body and brain would chime in and let you know when you were done. At that point, you could just put it down, whether the food was finished, half-finished, or down to just one bite left.”
Dieting tends to make people obsess about everything they eat and every minute of exercise they do. When you wake up and the first things you think about are finding out how much you weigh, what you can and can’t eat and trying to motivate yourself to exercise out of guilt, you know that the diet mindset is controlling you.
Your first priorities in life should be the things that bring you joy. You don’t need to constantly be thinking about dieting in order to achieve weight loss and a healthier lifestyle.
At APinchofHealthy.com, food blogger Marjorie talks about how dieting was making her feel depressed and hurting her self-confidence. Through a few blog posts and videos, she talks about her journey to stop dieting and start focusing on bringing healthy options into her day to day without obsessing over the details. You’ll probably agree she sounds pretty positive now:
“My current intentions are nurturing myself, enjoying myself, exercising in a way that is joyful, NOT obsessing over being thin and prioritizing my own intuition above all external messages…in ALL things, not just dieting. And to let thoughts about food be secondary to my family, my hobbies and my life’s purpose, service to others, etc.”
What is it you’re really seeking?
A healthy weight doesn’t necessarily mean being ‘skinny’ or line up with a certain dress size. Your healthy weight may be more or less than you weigh right now. Learning to eat intuitively will help you reach a weight that is good for your body. On top of that, it will help you to find peace and stop battling your body and feuding with food, which will make you happier day-to-day.
Good health. A positive body image. Enjoying your meals. Isn’t that the whole point? Stop dieting. Start living.
8 Steps to Intuitive Eating
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