If you’ve ‘been there, done that’ in terms of every diet imaginable under the sun, you might be thinking, “Can’t I just eat like a ‘normal’ person for a change?”
For many of us, feeling the heat of counting calories, tracking macros, and making sure we tick all the boxes of our meal plan requirements gets tiresome. Perhaps you’ve seen great results but are just growing exhausted of feeling like your eating is under a microscope.
Or, you may have never seen that great of results and feel as though for all the effort you’re putting in, you would have expected more.
Regardless of the situation, if a plan where you’re given the freedom to eat as you wish sounds appealing, intuitive eating might just be for you.
But hold on, before you go off thinking this means endless nights of pizza, cake, and cookies, you need to know the real deal about intuitive eating and how you can improve your shot at success.
Because if done improperly, intuitive eating can be a recipe for disaster.
Here are the deets.
What Is Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating is essentially a plan where the rules and guidelines are loose. You eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and focus on mostly healthy foods.
That’s it. Seems simple enough, right? Sadly, for many of us ‘lifetime dieters’, it’s anything but. We’re so used to food schedules, rules, and guidelines that when given no map to follow at all, many run around in circles not knowing which way is left and which is right.
That’s why in order to be successful with intuitive eating, you need to get back in touch with your body’s true signals – something you’ve likely been out of touch with for years (or quite possibly, nearly forever).
How To Boost Your Chances Of Results
So this said, how can you do that? How can you feed your body what and when it really needs it?
1. Learn what emotional eating really is.
Most people, if you ask them what emotional eating is, will tell you that it’s eating when you’re bored, sad, lonely, anxious, happy, and so on. And they wouldn’t be wrong.
To a large degree, that’s precisely what emotional eating is. But there’s another component – a component that goes largely under the radar of most people.
It’s eating because it’s noon. It’s eating because you walked by the food court and smelled something that lured your taste buds in and tricked you into feeling hungry. It’s eating because you are feeling low in energy despite the fact that it could very well be because you’ve been sitting all day long.
Emotional eating is eating for any reason other than true, physiological hunger. But remember the psychological can and does influence the physical.
So how will you really know if it’s true physical hunger? The best way is to experience the feeling of hunger and then identify that it’s not due to any obvious emotion. If it’s not, drink a glass of water and wait 15-20 minutes.
Are the feelings of hunger still present? If so, that’s likely a sign that it is true physical hunger and it’s time to eat.
2. Know how to read your body signals before hunger hits.
The second step, once you’re good at the first, is to learn how to identify your body’s signals of hunger before they hit.
For instance, if you define hunger by the pain in your stomach, chances are there were signs of becoming hungry before that. You might have felt a little weak or lightheaded. Or perhaps your concentration was starting to wear out. Or for some, you might feel a bit shaky if your blood sugar is starting to drop.
When you notice these, pay attention. This doesn’t necessarily mean eat right away, but know that if they continue, it’s best to eat before you become ravenous. Part of intuitive eating is knowing when to stop and if you’re ravenously hungry, nine times out of ten, all abilities to control food intake go out the window. You’ll overeat and that is no longer intuitive eating.
3. Education yourself about nutrition.
If you truly want to be successful with intuitive eating, it’s also important that you educate yourself about nutrition. Yes, this type of diet means you can eat what your body and brain desire, but to remain healthy, you need to keep health at the top of mind.
Meaning, learn what a generally healthy diet plan looks like. Find out what a balanced meal would entail. Make sure you can eyeball portion sizes. Knowing all these things will make composing meals – of foods you want to eat (for the most part), far easier and sound.
4. Deal with your food guilt.
Finally, the last step in seeing success with intuitive eating is learning to deal with your food guilt. Many who have dieted for years are stuck in the notion that ‘all carbs are bad’. Or all ‘sugar is bad’. Or all ‘fat is bad’. Regardless of whatever happens to be your poison, you feel immense guilt whenever you eat it.
Instead, learn to accept that all things can be okay in moderation. Intuitive eating means listening to what your body wants and desires, and if this means a little bit of cake at a friend’s birthday, it means a bit of cake at a friend’s birthday!
When you intuitively eat with success; however, that looks like having a small slice, being satisfied, and then continuing on with your meals that day in a healthy manner without feeling terrible about throwing in the dietary towel. Instead, you ensure that the remaining meals you eat are a bit lower in calories and contain hardly any sugar so it all balances out at the end of the day.
You do this because your nutrition intuition has told you to.
So hopefully this sheds some light into what intuitive eating is and what you should be doing before you begin to ensure you come out successful. When done right, it can be one of the most freeing types of nutrition programs around.
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.