There exist several reasons why we may eat excessively. We could be tired, bored, distracted, starved, or feeling that leaving food behind is wasteful. On the other side of the spectrum, those who desire to lose weight indulge in diets that restrict certain food groups such as the keto diet and limit calorie intake through intermittent fasting. While these diets work in the short term they may have long term psychological effects. Unknown to most is that we possess hunger and satiety cues that are a true reflection of body wisdom. Synonymous with babies who cry when hungry and ease when full, that is a discipline we ought to adopt.
Unlike highly restrictive diets, intuitive eating is liberating. This mode of eating involves listening to your body to decide what, when, and how much to eat without the diet culture influence. It supports having a healthy relationship with food by deriving pleasure from it. As most would ask, is it a weight loss diet? No, but it is a long-term foundation for healthy eating. In a diet mentality environment, intuitive eating is the anti-diet culture.
For a ‘diet’ plan that began in the ’80s and is recently gaining popularity, there are several reasons as to why most would adopt this ‘freedom’. Among them are:
- Reduces overeating as one stops eating when they are full
- Greater enjoyment of eating as there are no restrictions
- Higher self-esteem
- Decreased BMI. Though not a weight loss diet, several studies conducted indicate that intuitive eaters have lower BMIs
- Reduced binge eating. Restrictive diets often tend to result in binge eating when the restricted meal is made available
- Less disordered eating
Though it appears simple as there are no restrictions and the benefits are immense, it is challenging for the strict dieters.
For those seeking freedom and desire to renew their relationship with food, ten principles exist on how to go about it.
- Reject the diet mentality- ditch the quick weight loss schemes as they will prevent you from being free to discover intuitive eating
- Honor your hunger- biologically keep your body fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. The point of excess hunger can result in overindulgence
- Make peace with food- allow yourself to eat without avoiding any food. Denying yourself can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that result in uncontrollable cravings and binge eating
- Challenge the food police. The food police are present because of all the rules made available by diets. Disagree with the guilt and hopelessness that comes from eating foods labeled as bad
- Feel your fullness- stop eating when you are comfortably full without being overfull
- Discover the satisfaction factor. In our desire to be thin and healthy, we have overlooked the most basic gifts of pleasure and satisfaction derived from the food experience. Interestingly, the Japanese have the wisdom to keep pleasure as one of their healthy eating goals. When you eat what you want in an inviting environment, you are satisfied, content and tend to eat less
- Cope with your emotions without food. Food does not fix feelings hence the need to find ways that can help solve the intense emotions experienced like deep breathing and journaling
- Respect your body so that you can feel better about who you are. It is almost impossible to reject the diet mentality if you are overly critical about your body type. Body vigilance begets body worry that brings about food worry and results in fueling the dieting cycle
- Exercise. Shift your focus from the calorie-burning effect of a workout to the after-feel. It will result in consistency as it is an enjoyed activity
- Honor your health. Until all the above principles are actualized is one able to practice this final principle. It involves practicing gentle nutrition since healthy nutrition does not have to be about deprivation. At this point, one can comfortably deal with food portions
Instead of always experiencing the yo-yo effect from all the diets indulged, try out intuitive eating. Be liberated because only when you trust and appreciate your body, and ditch the diet mentality can you derive pleasure and satisfaction from the food you eat.