Today we live in an era where the lesser you eat, the healthier you are or a fancy diet plan is what keeps you ‘fit’. You starve for days to achieve the ‘perfect body’ and end up trying out a new ‘miracle diet’ that crops up every other day. We’ve heard of paleo, ultra-low fat diet, Dukan diet, Atkins diet, HCG diet, Zone diet, and the list goes on...
With so many diet plans available and so many rules on what NOT to eat, intuitive eating comes as a savior. No! Intuitive eating is not another diet plan, it is anti-diet, actually.
Let us start with the basics of intuitive eating.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is a simple principle of learning to respect your body. It has nothing to do with diets, denial and willpower. In fact, it is the exact opposite of a regular diet plan. Intuitive eating does not impose guidelines as opposed to other diet plans. Furthermore, it does not chart out what you must eat and what you must avoid.
Instead, intuitive eating is about becoming the master of your own body. It is about you taking control and taking cues from your body about what you want to eat. This technique helps you get back to your natural instincts, identify and follow the hunger signals of your body and eating accordingly.
Today, people often resort to diet books and follow diets that their friends follow, without necessarily checking if these diet plans actually work for them. Diets put your body in denial mode, where you have to compromise on your food intake, calories and what not! This is where intuitive eating can help you. It is all about learning to listen to your body, trusting your intuition and eating appropriately. The basic idea is to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. This promotes a good attitude towards food and body image.
The first step toward intuitive eating is to identify the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger.
Physical hunger: Your physical hunger goes by your biological need to replenish nutrients and satiate your hungry stomach. When your biological clock nears mealtime, you surely will notice a growling stomach, fatigue or in some cases irritability. All of these are signs of a hungry stomach. The feeling goes away once you have had your fill.
Emotional hunger: Sometimes, we tend to binge eat to overcome our feelings. Our mind tends to fall back on ‘comfort foods’ to beat the strong emotional phase it is going through at that moment. It may be sadness, loss, loneliness, stress and sometimes even boredom.
If you are successfully able to identify physical hunger, you sure will be able to tune into your body’s ‘intuition’ and eat without feeling guilty!
A few basic ground rules of intuitive eating are as follows:
- Give up the diet mentality: Intuitive eating does not count calories, or portions or doesn’t require meal preps and putting food off limits, like other diets. Instead, it focuses on trusting your body and understanding what it really requires.
Respect the feeling of hunger: Your body requires fuel to function well; it needs food in order to do so. Food restores your body with nutrients and nourishes it, keeping you feeling healthy and energized through the day. When you override your feelings of hunger and avoid the required calories and carbohydrates, your body often resorts to cravings and binge eating when it gets a chance.
- Make peace with food: Do not categorize foods as good or bad. Instead, try to eat all that you want but in the most moderate way possible. Never deprive your body of its genuine intuition. This often ends up in binge eating and of course feeling guilty afterward. Therefore make peace with your food.
- Respect your body: Your body is your temple and when you learn to respect it, you will learn to have a positive attitude towards yourself. Accept the way your body is and work towards building a positive body image rather than resenting your physique or the way you look.
- Appreciate your emotions and cope with them without depending on food: Emotional eating is a common practice. Breakups, work stress, anxiety, loss, and a negative body image can often lead to poor eating habits. Overeating or starving yourself aren’t the measures to deal with emotions. Learn to cope with your emotions without messing with your food chart.
- Learn to identify fullness: Intuitive eating isn’t about giving in to temptation and eating your heart away. It is about eating what you want to eat and understanding when your body says it’s full. Practice being conscious of what you eat and how much of it does your body really need.
Exercise: Keeping your body fit isn’t dependent only on your healthy eating habits, you need adequate physical activity as well. That is why exercise. Hit the gym, play your favorite sport, go for a quick jog or walk your dog around the neighborhood. You could even get yourself a good superfood powder supplement while you’re at it. This helps fill gaps in your nutrition and enhances strength and stamina.
With intuitive eating, you earn a positive body image, higher self-esteem, lower body mass index and a healthier attitude toward food.