June 3, 2021
by Mona Jauhar RDN, LD
Our body is constantly telling us what it needs, what and when to eat and drink, when to rest and sleep. But our senses are fogged by diets plans and fitness fads. While we are constantly looking for cues and cures outside, the answers lie within.
Tune into yourself
People are exhausted from diets and unnatural ways of exercising for a long time. Decades of skewed nutrition practice has made people eat unrealistic meals that play havoc with the body’s relationship with food. Intuitive Eating is a nutritional strategy that rejects dieting in favor of psychological awareness. While diets were all about restriction — calorie counting, weigh-ins, denial of pleasure — intuitive eating gives permission to eat anything as long as you really want it. And it works! 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.
There is science to it
Research says people are more likely to stick to Intuitive fitness programmes than diets since it gives them authority, less guilt and also the scope to indulge. Intuitive eaters emerge as people with higher self esteem minus any obsession with weight and body image. Conventional dieters on the other hand are used to calorie restriction and resisting hunger. Now this has a catch. Calorie restriction elevates the hunger hormone ghrelin, that sparks overeating and weight gain. The situation worsens as the failed diets stack up and the years go by. The resulting obesity renders the brain resistant to leptin, the very hormone that is supposed to help put the brakes on our appetites.
Honor your body, hunger
The underlying premise of Intuitive Eating is that you will learn to respond to your inner body, because you were born with all the wisdom you need for eating intuitively. Learning to pick up on your body’s cues takes practice and a willingness to notice subtle changes in mood, coordination, balance and heart rate variability. Controlled eating doesn’t come so easy. We over eat most of the time. One reason is because our food is nutrient deficient. It lacks the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and all the undiscovered X-factors and energies we require. Our brain senses that and asks for more.
Here are 7 steps to start an intuitive journey:
- Honor hunger: Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant.
- Don’t eat for the wrong reasons: Get in touch with your feelings and don’t let food become an excuse for not dealing with emotions such as anger, anxiety, or loneliness.
- Make peace with food: Buy foods you feel like eating. Listen to your food cravings, it is alright to indulge every once in a while.
- Stop when full: Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full.
- Don’t over-exercise: Check in with your body, do not exercise hard when exhausted, opt for a gentler routine. Have a variety of workouts at your disposal and pick and choose based on how your body’s feeling.
- Exercise and move for enjoyment: Not expressly for weight loss or calorie burning.
- Eat nutrient dense food: Notice how you feel when you choose healthy, high-quality food. Take stock of your physical, mental and emotional responses.
PS: If you’re out to maintain your weight or drop a few pounds, intuitive eating may be an ideal strategy. If you’ve experienced little luck with restrictive dieting in the past, intuitive eating may help you rethink your whole approach to food. But if you are obese or dealing with disrupted biochemistry as the result of food intolerances, you may want to seek some professional nutrition counseling before you give intuitive eating a try.