With the quick pace of living we are experiencing today, we tend to lose touch with our bodies. We forget how to listen to the signs they are sending out and what they are telling us. We sure know the signs for going to bed and getting some rest, but what about hunger? We know we are hungry when we hear our stomach growling, and the first instinct is to grab something to eat. However, not just any snack will do; it can fulfill your hunger but what about nutrients and what our bodies really need?
What is Intuitive Eating?
Many people misinterpret intuitive eating as reaching for whatever food you want and whenever you feel like it. This option sounds more like anarchistic eating, which can only result in weight gain and poor health. What intuitive eating actually is is a system of controlling what you eat based on your body’s cues instead of planning and calculating calories and nutrients. Basically, there are three simple precepts:
- Eat when you are hungry.
- Stop eating once full.
- Don’t restrict food choices.
However, you might get “hungry” in several situations. Sometimes it is just because you haven’t eaten in a while; but there are other situations such as boredom, procrastination or peer-pressure that might convince you that you are hungry. In these extreme situations, you will eat more than you actually need and the very aim of intuitive eating is to stop such external influences from making us eat more. So, instead, it is advised to carefully prepare each meal according to your body’s internal systems and common sense.
Firstly, it is hard to intuitively guess and match the amount of calories your body needs. Even though you think you are eating just to satisfy your hunger, you are probably eating much more. This happens because our mind can trick us into being hungry when it sees a bowl of cookies right after a full meal. You have satisfied your hunger, but the cookies look good and the brain switches back to “hunger mode”.
Secondly, as we lose weight, the body becomes resistant to further weight loss. This is due to metabolic adaptations, which work to increase our energy intake and lower energy expenditure. Thus, intuitive eating actually works against you over time, because the percentage of your body fat drops.
Lastly, this type of eating is hard to maintain if you lead an inactive lifestyle. Exercising is essential for our health and it can positively influence our perception of hunger. So, if you go to the gym regularly, your body will learn how to recognize when real hunger strikes and it will respond better to the food you eat; thus making you a better intuitive eater.
Do it Right
In order to provide everything your body really needs, you have to learn how to be mindful. Before each meal, you should rate your hunger level and acknowledge how you feel about the food you are going to eat. When you start eating, enjoy it. Chew thoroughly, think about every taste and allow yourself to enjoy the meal for at least twenty minutes. During this period, your stomach will signal the brain that it’s not hungry anymore and that it is ready to stop taking in food.
Another thing that can help you become a better intuitive eater is being familiar with calories. Even though it is tiresome to count them, knowing the caloric value of each ingredient will help you understand your body and its needs better. Thus, you will know which meals to prepare and which snack is better at a given moment of craving. Additionally, this new diet will work better if you eat enough proteins every day, because they help you lose fat and gain muscle instead.
The road to a healthy body consists of 20% exercising and 80% healthy eating habits. By listening to your body, you will know what it actually needs, but it will take some practice. Intuitive eating can give you the body you desire, you just have to be disciplined a little bit as well.