What Is Intuitive Eating and Can It Help You Lose Weight?
What to try when all of the diets have failed. Maybe for your goals, a diet isn’t the answer and intuitive eating can help.
One of the hardest parts of adopting a healthy lifestyle is finding a diet that works.
There are so many diets out there, with new fad diets popping up all the time. For each one, you’ll hear stories of success and many more of failure. What ultimately works for one individual might not work for someone else. And the reasons for that are varied—because of genetics, psychology, or lifestyle.
What can become a barrier to sticking to a healthy diet though is the feeling that none of them work. When it feels like you’ve tried everything, it can feel like a healthier lifestyle is forever out of rhea. Like it just isn’t possible at all for you.
But, for many people who feel like they yo-yo between diets, there is an alternative that can help improve your relationship with food and overall health.
It’s called intuitive eating.
What is intuitive eating?
Unlike traditional diets, intuitive eating does not have restrictions. Intuitive eating is all about learning how to listen to your body and hunger cues.
Although knowing to eat when you’re hungry and to stop when you’re full is an idea that sounds obvious, in reality, it’s harder to make that happen.
The truth is that we often don’t just eat because we are physically hungry. This is when your body is telling you to replenish your energy stores and nutrients. When you feel properly hungry, you might experience irritability or something often called being “hangry”—feeling angry because you’re hungry.
But there’s also emotional hunger. Many people eat in emotional circumstances, whether it’s sadness, stress, or loneliness. And others eat when they’re bored. This habit of eating in times even when your body isn’t actually hungry can lead to weight gain and detrimental health effects.
The goal of intuitive eating is to learn how to listen to when your body is truly hungry and develop the lifestyle habits of listening to your body.
Listening to your hunger cues means eating when you’re hungry without guilt, but also stopping when you’re full. For many, this is the hardest part. Many have ingrained that it’s wrong to not finish a full meal when it’s put in front of you. So we learn to ignore our body’s cues that we’re full and ultimately overeat more often than we want. Intuitive eating means being okay with saving the rest of your food for later, or even the next day, when you recognize that you feel full.
Many doctors and dieticians who teach patients to eat intuitively will often enourage them to reflect on a few important ideas around food:
- Think about your cravings—is there a pattern between what you crave and when you crave it?
- What is going on internally or externally for you when you have certain cravings?
- What does it feel like when you reach a state of being full?
- Reflect on how you feel after each meal. Do certain foods make you feel tired, give you a headache, or make you feel unwell?
The point of these reflections is to start to recognize when you have a genuine craving for a particular food versus using it on an emotional level.
Is it effective for weight loss?
Intuitive eating is associated with lower BMI and healthy weight maintenance.
But it’s not usually the option for those who want to lose weight on a set timeline or who have ambitious weight loss goals.
Part of the reason for that is that when starting on a weight loss journey, it is difficult to regain control over your relationship with food. It’s a challenge to listen to your hunger cues after years of ignoring them. As a result, the lack of structure and ability to keep any food in your diet can make intuitive eating harder for those who are already struggling with food and their weight.
The association with lower BMI and healthy weight maintenance is in part because those who listen to hunger cues are less likely to consistently eat beyond what their body needs to replenish their energy and
In time, learning a healthy relationship with food is the goal of any diet and weight loss program. The goal isn’t to have to stick to a rigid diet plan for the rest of your life. But for some, at the start, a stricter diet can be helpful for weight loss progress while still learning the principles of intuitive eating.
Are there other benefits?
One of the major benefits of intuitive eating is how it improves your relationship with food.
Many people, whether they are overweight or even at an ideal weight, have an unhealthy relationship with food.
What does an unhealthy relationship with food look like? There are a few indicators actually, including:
- Binge eating
- Feeling guilt or shame for eating certain foods, or for simply wanting to eat certain foods
- Having a rigid of “good” food vs “bad” food and practice extreme restrictions with food
- Food is rarely enjoyable and you worry about the scale every time you eat
Anyone can have an unhealthy relationship with food, and oftentimes diet culture promotes and prolongs an unhelpful outlook towards food and lead to increased psychological stress.
It can create a vicious cycle of feeling guilty for eating “bad” foods or looking at dieting through an all-or-nothing lens (that feeling of being a failure or like the day is ruined if you break your diet for one snack).
It turns out there is a connection between intuitive eating and improved psychological health. This is because there is more flexibility in a diet with intuitive eating. You also learn how to understand your real hunger cues, improving your perceived body image and self-worth.
Find a weight loss program that works for you
When you come to Valley Medical Weight Loss with your weight loss goals, we help you get a personalized approach to diet, exercise, and supplements so you can achieve your goals. We’ve seen our patients reach and exceed their goals with the dedicated support of our doctors and staff.
If you’re ready to reclaim your health and find a weight loss plan that works for you, visit your closest Valley Medical Weight Loss today for your first consult.
By Jodi Jaffe
September 23, 2021