What Is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is a method of food consumption that relies on responding to your body's natural signals. There is no weight loss goal in mind but rather listening to your body and eating instinctively. The premise is being in tune with your body to know when you're hungry or full. Which sounds simple at first, but can be tricky if you misinterpret your body's signals. As an example, a common signaling misinterpretation for many people is confusing thirst with dehydration or hunger.
Can You Lose Weight Eating Intuitively?
The answer is absolutely, but for the intuitive eating community, that's not the goal. Despite, I have known women to achieve their goal bodies through intuitive eating and exercise. Berenice Fitzpatrick or LadyFit on Instagram is a popular fitness inspiration who has achieved an athletic build, athleticism, and her goal physique while practicing intuitive eating.
However, for many, studies have shown that intuitive eating is not the most effective method for losing or managing your weight. Judith C. Anglin, an associate professor of nutrition and director of the dietetics program at Texas Southern University in Houston led a pilot study to find out Intuitive Eating's effects on weight loss. Researchers recruited sixteen overweight men and women. The group was split in half. Eight volunteers were tasked, to reduce their daily caloric intake by 500 calories, according to their metabolic needs. In addition, they received coaching on how to eat healthily and make better food choices. The other eight volunteers were tasked to follow the principals of intuitive eating without any calorie restrictions. What the study found was that in the first three weeks, intuitive eaters lost slightly more weight than those managing their caloric intake. However, that progress slowed or even reversed with many regaining the weight they lost. While the eight individuals who counted calories continued their weight loss at a steady pace.
What Has Been the Response to the Intuitive Eating Method?
Responses to the intuitive eating method vary. For those who have suffered eating disorders, Intuitive Eating has been a therapeutic response to combat their past unhealthy relationships with food. In fact, much of the response to the intuitive eating method stems from each individual's personal relationship and experience with food. Some have endured psychological issues they feel were further exacerbated by calorie counting and restriction. Others like myself see food as primarily a source of energy for the body. Or, that eating should be an enjoyable experience, while remaining mindful of its intended purpose of helping your body function. While some have struggled with relying on food as a coping mechanism for other psychological issues, thus potentially over-eating.
An honest self-assessment of your relationship with food is a good start before shirking the ideals of calorie management. What foods do you gravitate to? Do you find yourself overeating when not being mindful of your consumption? Or do you naturally crave healthier food options? Additionally, make sure you're removing any barriers that could cause you to misinterpret your body's signals. Get plenty of rest, and make sure to stay hydrated. Download the mindful eating tracker ($3) which is an app based journal that will help you build the awareness you need to be able to successfully navigate intuitive eating.
So is intuitive eating the right choice for you? Only you can answer that. A healthy lifestyle change requires consistency and sustainability. You will need to take into account your personal needs and cater to them. I yo-yo dieted with simple calorie counting for years until I discovered flexible dieting and found it a more sustainable and effective method of achieving my personal goals. In order to find out what will work for you, assess your past, your present, and your goals. Then find a method that will allow you to achieve those goals while being sustainable.