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View All Posts - Diet Can Intuitive Eating Help Me Lose Weight?

 

In the current health and nutrition landscape, you may have heard the term “intuitive eating” being used as a recommended new approach to maintaining good dietary habits for the long-term – but what is intuitive eating exactly, and can this “trust yourself” approach to your diet actually help with weight loss?

In this article, we’re going to dig deep into this philosophy so you get a good understanding of what intuitive eating really is – and the 10 principles that encompass it. We’ll also discuss how this dietary philosophy can potentially be helpful for weight loss – by healing your relationship with food, and helping you understand what your body needs and how to respect it above all else.

What is Intuitive Eating?

Ever find yourself mindlessly munching on a bag of chips while watching TV, and before you know it, half the bag is gone? Or, you continue eating and eating at dinner because the food is so good, but then afterwards you feel uncomfortably stuffed?

Have you ever reached for a chocolate bar because you were having a bad day, or, chose not to eat a meal (even though you were hungry), because you felt guilty for the unhealthy food you ate at the meal before?

If you've ever experienced any of the examples above, know that you are not alone, but there is also likely room for improvement in your relationship with food. It’s no wonder that many people struggle with their weight – and some experts believe it’s due to this unhealthy underlying relationship with food that can lead to an endless cycle of dissatisfaction, and unhealthy dieting.

In 1995, two dietitians developed a system to help heal this so-called broken relationship, called intuitive eating. The premise is that instead of following rigid dietary rules, you start to pay attention to how food makes you feel – as well as to your own body signals regarding when you’re hungry and full. 

Instead of the way we currently label food as “good” or “bad”, intuitive eating principles stress the importance of non-labeling. Instead, while following an intuitive eating system, you never feel deprived because you allow yourself to eat whatever you want, whenever you’re hungry… but that’s also the tricky part… Intuitive eating is not simply an all-day food fest! Instead, you learn to recognize (and respect) natural body cues that tell you when you’re truly hungry, or when you don’t need to keep eating. 

Intuitive Eating Principles (And How They Help With Weight Loss)

Let’s go ahead and look at the 10 principles of intuitive eating and how they can potentially help you live a healthier, happier and more fulfilling life…

1) Say goodbye to diets

blue measuring tape on clear scale

The first principle of intuitive eating encourages you to drop the dieting mentality… which is basically that you have to follow a set of rigid rules around food, with things you can and cannot eat. The underlying wisdom behind this is that most people who diet in order to lose weight eventually end up gaining the weight back – simply because many diets include unrealistic expectations that can’t be maintained, and they therefore don’t work.

Action Steps To Take:

The key is to focus on living a fulfilling, satisfying life in which you feel your best, and make decisions that support your long-term wellness as well as present happiness. To do this, you have to make a shift mentally from, “I have to get as thin as possible” to “I want to be as healthy as possible and live as long as I can.” When you do this, you start to naturally make better choices that support your optimal wellness, which can help you reach a healthy (realistic) weight that you can maintain.

2) Make friends with your hunger

Next, when you diet, you typically end up being scared of your hunger – because you worry you might go over your calorie goal for that meal, make unhealthy food choices, etc. Or, you may just ignore your hunger in hopes that it goes away! But, these are both detrimental paths to healthy eating because they go against nature. The bottom line is, if you’re truly hungry, you need to eat, but more importantly, you need to nourish your body with what it needs. 

Action Steps To Take:

Start to pay attention to your body’s natural hunger signals, such as your stomach rumbling or a drop in energy. These are ways that your body communicates that you need food, (and you shouldn’t ignore them), otherwise you may end up overeating once you finally eat. You should also give your body exactly what it wants, which is extremely contrary to typical dieting, and is the next principle we’ll talk about…

3) Make peace with food - Accept all foods

table spread of salad and olives

Typically, when you diet, you label foods “good” or “bad” – the bad ones being the ones that contain unhealthy ingredients and promote weight gain. But intuitive eating encourages you to throw away those labels and (gasp), eat whatever you want – with no guilt or shame attached. In this way, your body doesn’t feel deprived, and you won’t end up with uncontrollable cravings. HOWEVER, this definitely doesn't mean go wild and eat cookies and cake for every meal...

Action Steps To Take:

Allow yourself to eat whatever you want, but then pay attention to how you feel after eating. You will start to recognize things such as that salty foods make you bloated, foods lacking in nutrition make you tired, or sugary foods give you a rush of energy but then leave you feeling hungry and sad.

Once you start to really experience the difference between how you feel when you eat unhealthy foods versus healthy ones, the thought is that you will choose healthy foods naturally because they simply make you feel much better! However, on the flip side of that, the other foods you once labeled as “bad” are still not off limits – but since they don’t make you good, you will likely choose to eat less of them.

4) Challenge your food police

The next intuitive eating principle challenges you to quiet the “food police” – or the voices inside your head that tell you that you’re doing something great when you eat a salad, or that you’re an awful person when you eat a sugary dessert. According to the principles of intuitive eating, these judgments cause you harm, because they lead you to have an imbalanced relationship with food.

Action Steps To Take:

Listen to your inner critic while you’re eating, and counter any judgments about the decisions you’ve made regarding the food. Instead, tune into your body and pay attention to how you feel. Also, really tune into your perceptions about and enjoyment of the food, specifically how it tastes and smells… this is called mindful eating, and the practice carries over into intuitive eating.

By eating “mindfully”, you savor each bite of food and the overall experience of eating in general, causing you to be satisfied much more quickly than if you weren’t paying much attention while eating. By doing this, you naturally will indulge in a bite of cake or a piece of chocolate rather than binge eating the entire cake or chocolate bar. 

5) Respect your fullness

white bowl of quinoa and tomatoes

Another thing that dieting can do is move you away from feeling your natural fullness signals. When you diet, you typically already have the meals you will eat pre-planned, so you feel like you can’t miss them. You also probably feel like you need to eat everything on your plate, regardless of whether or not you actually want to eat it all! In contrast, with intuitive eating, you pay attention to your body’s natural fullness signals… and you actually stop when you’re full.

Action Steps To Take:

Honor your body when it tells you it’s full. Believe it or not, you often become full long before you stop eating, but you keep eating simply because you’re used to cleaning your plate! Instead of taking a large plate of food, start with half the amount; Then, when you’re done with it, take a few minutes to analyze how you feel before getting more. You may realize you’re satisfied after all and don’t need to keep eating.

6) Aim to be satisfied (not just full) 

This is another reason why there are no “good” or “bad” foods in an intuitive eating plan –because if you don’t eat what your body is truly craving, you’re likely to keep eating because you aren’t satisfied.

Action Steps To Take:  

Give your body exactly what it’s craving in order to be satisfied, even if it’s something you would typically label as “bad”, like a bowl of ice cream. When you do this, the theory is that you will need much less of it in order to be content – which ends up being great for your overall happiness, and can aid in maintaining a healthy weight in the long-run. Think about it... you can either try to distract your craving from ice cream by eating other "healthy" things, which usually ends up in eating the ice cream anyway (and sometimes even eating the entire carton from distress), OR you can serve yourself some ice cream, eat it mindfully, stop when you're satisfied, and move on with your day. 

7) Honor your emotions without food

back of woman overlooking water

Another step in intuitive eating is realizing when you’re reaching for food simply as a coping mechanism to deal with unpleasant emotions. This is a practice that’s discouraged when you’re trying to eat intuitively.

Action Steps To Take:

Learn how to cope with your emotions without food, choosing more positive ways to deal with stress such as deep breathing, walks in nature or great self-care. When you have other things that you can do to make yourself feel better, you won’t need to reach for food anymore as a crutch – and you won’t have the accompanying feelings of guilt that come along with using food to soothe yourself.

8) Respect your body

Instead of starting out with a weight goal, or looking at a bathing suit model and thinking “I want to look like her,” you need to start with a healthy understanding and respect of your own body. You have your very own unique shape and size… therefore, you can’t try to mimic what works for someone else. Instead, you need to step back and examine what will realistically work for you.

Action Steps To Take:

Instead of focusing on a certain weight goal as the top priority, make becoming a healthier version of yourself the top priority, with a healthy weight goal falling underneath that. When you look in the mirror, tell yourself how strong and beautiful you are, because you’re uniquely you. This will help you develop a positive, and realistic self-image, instead of constantly pointing out imperfections and trying to become something you’re not.

9) Enjoy physical movement

woman stretching on mat

Instead of choosing exercises that you believe will best propel your weight loss goals forward, do something physical that you actually enjoy! Focus on exercise as part of healthy living and feeling your best instead of as a weight loss tool – and then you’ll be more likely to continue doing it, versus feeling like it’s something you have to do.

Action Steps To Take:

Find something you really enjoy doing, like running with your dog, bike-riding, hiking, or even dancing. Pay attention to the way you feel both as you’re doing it and after the fact. Do you have more energy afterwards? Do you sleep better? Do you have less unhealthy cravings? This activity will help you realize why fitness is important and why you should fit it into your weekly schedule.

10) Honor your health - Embrace balanced nutrition

This is the last intuitive eating principle, but it’s also the most important. You first need to recognize your natural hunger and fullness cues, quiet the food police, and respect your body and all food before you can put this principle into place. But once you’re ready, learning how to eat a balanced diet that supports your optimal wellness is the overarching goal of intuitive eating.

Ultimately, once you recognize that you can eat cookies – but you feel awful when you eat too many – you can move onto learning the importance of good nutrition. This starts with the fact that it’s not about a “diet”, but about living a healthy, vibrant life.

Your goal, therefore, should be healthy dietary habits that aren’t fixated in rigid do’s and don’ts, but instead have balance – where you eat wholesome foods that make you feel good, but also allow yourself to indulge when you want as well.

Action Steps To Take:

Choose foods that make you feel energetic and alive… like fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins. If you have a busy schedule and need some help getting quality nutrients that enable you to feel your best, meal replacement shakes are a great way to supply your body with what it needs on-the-go. 

Many people look at meal replacement shakes as simply a short-term dietary tool, but the best diet shakes contain quality ingredients that support your long-term wellness – and therefore nourish your body completely. The important part is picking the right ones that contain wholesome ingredients, (with no sugar, artificial sweeteners or other unhealthy additives). 

This is exactly why we recommend 310 Shakes as an important part of a long-term healthy lifestyle, and intuitive eating plan. Learn more about 310 Shakes and how they can help you in your quest to your best self and live your healthiest life, today.

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