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Intuitive eating: Losing weight without dieting by listening to your body


Losing weight without dieting is everybody’s dream. Let your body play the expert. Intuitive eating lets you trust your inner body’s wisdom and signals which gives you control of your diet choices.

What is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is an evidence-based approach that promotes healthy relationship with food. Unlike traditional dieting, it helps people to lose weight by trusting their own body instincts when it comes to food choices as opposed to following an external diet plan.

Intuitive eating is focused on building a healthy body image by listening to the body signals and honouring hunger with foods that benefit your health, both physically and mentally. It doesn’t impose guidelines on what to avoid and when and what to eat.

Basics of intuitive eating

The thought process behind losing weight without being on a diet through intuitive eating is that you should eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.

Being dependent on diet books and experts regarding what, when and how to eat can take you away from trusting your body and its intuition.

In order to learn how to trust your body’s signals, you should be able to distinguish between physical hunger and emotional hunger.

1. Physical hunger- Physical hunger is your biological call to replenish the nutrients, such as growling stomach, irritability or fatigue. It comes on gradually and gets satisfied when you eat any food.

2. Emotional hunger- Emotional hunger comes on suddenly and craves specific comfort foods. It is driven by emotional needs such as sadness, boredom and loneliness. It triggers feelings of guilt, shame and hatred.

Intuitive eating is based on physical hunger which can be construed as eating should satisfy physical hunger without causing feelings of guilt.

10 principles of intuitive eating

In their book on intuitive eating, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch lay out 10 principles of the philosophy of intuitive eating which include accepting your body and honouring your feelings of hunger and fullness:

1. Reject the diet mentality

When you rely on diet books and magazine articles, you have the mentality that there’s a diet out there that will help you lose weight easily, quickly and permanently. On the other hand, intuitive eating is anti-diet in nature.

It insists on recognizing and identifying when you’re being influenced by ‘diet culture’.

2. Honour your hunger

Hunger is not your enemy or something that has to be avoided.

Intuitive eating says that you need to respond to your signs of hunger by feeding your body. If you do not pay heed to this, you’re likely to overeat and not stand up to your intention of losing weight without dieting.

So, eat when you're hungry and try to determine what food your body is asking for.

3. Make peace with food

Stop fighting with food. Don’t restrict yourself to what you should eat and shouldn’t eat.

When you pull yourself back from eating something you really want to, it will lead to feelings of deprivation and ultimately, uncontrollable cravings.

Say to yourself ‘I can’ instead of ‘I could never’. Intuitive eating allows you to be more open and get rid of those judgemental thoughts and feelings of guilt by being gentle with yourself.

4. Challenge the ‘food police’

Have you ever felt ‘bad’ about consuming sugar or felt ‘good’ about having a salad? Chances are you’re giving in to your food police- the voice that judges anything and everything you eat.

Losing weight doesn’t mean you have to beat yourself up everytime you consume something you want to. You can grab a small chocolate bar and enjoy every bite of it and still, lose weight without dieting.

5. Discover the satisfaction

Your brain has been wired in such a way that in order to comply with the diet culture rule, you forget to experience the pleasure and satisfaction associated with the eating experience.

Instead of eating what you’re supposed to, eating intuitively stresses on eating what you really want to. On doing this, you’ll discover that it takes the right amount of food for you to reach the "enough" level of satisfaction.

6. Feel your fullness

This principle of losing weight through intuitive eating talks about ‘physical satisfaction’. If you haven’t eaten everything on your plate but still you feel full, then you should stop eating instead of being a part of the ‘clean plate club’.

Check in with your body to find cues that tell you that you’re no longer hungry.

7. Cope with your feelings without using food

Emotional hunger is based on your feelings. So, focus on dealing with your feelings, be it anger, sadness or loneliness in healthy ways like- meditation, journaling or talking to your loved ones instead of using food to deal with it.

Intuitive eating insists on being more aware and identifying the times when you call a feeling as hunger which is based on emotion in reality.

8. Respect your body

In a world which craves getting ‘zero-size’ figures, it’s very important to appreciate your own body for what it is. Intuitive eating asks you to stop attaching yourself to conventional beauty standards and respect and celebrate your body.

Being stuck with the strict diet mentality will make it difficult for you to come out of the ‘ideal body size’ expectations and thus, lose weight without following a diet.

9. Movement

Instead of focusing on exercising to burn calories, shift your mindset towards the feeling you get when you move your body like energized, strong and alive. Choose something you enjoy, be it walking or dancing.

10. Honour your health

When you focus too much on monitoring your calorie intake, you forget about the food that you find tasty and that makes you feel full.

Choose food which is nutritious but also tasty. Also, remember, if you don’t consume healthy food once, it’s completely fine. It’s not going to make a huge difference in the long term.

How to practice intuitive eating to lose weight

Here are some actionable steps you can take for losing weight without dieting through intuitive eating:

1. Trust your body instincts

Pay attention to your body when it gives you hints of hunger and feed it properly.

2. Reflect on the reason for eating

Consider whether you’re eating due to physical hunger or to curb a negative emotion.

3. Change your mindset

Don’t dwell on numbers related to your weight or BMI. Instead, focus on your overall health.

4. Avoid moralizing food

Don’t label food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and don’t beat yourself up for eating unhealthy food once in a while.

5. Engage in exercise

Be sure to indulge in moderate exercise and focus on the feeling rather than on losing weight.

6. Don’t miss meals for larger meal

This will cause overeating due to which you will not be able to follow the principle of honouring your hunger.

Benefits of intuitive eating

On the basis of what all we’ve learnt yet, the benefits of intuitive eating can be reduced to the following:

  1. It doesn’t revolve around losing weight.
  2. It helps to break the habit of emotional eating.
  3. It encourages you to respect your body.
  4. It can reverse your mindset related to diet culture.

Is intuitive eating the same as mindful eating?

Both intuitive eating and mindful eating are based on the foundation of enjoyment of food and life and cultivating a healthy relationship with food. They’re meant to benefit your health and overall well-being.

Mindful eating involves consciously being aware of every part of the experience, including taste, thoughts and how your body responds to the food you eat.

However, unlike mindful eating, intuitive eating involves physical exercise, body aspect, rejecting the mentality of diet culture and considering nutrition but being non judgemental at the same time while making decisions.

Risks and considerations

Intuitive eating might not be a feasible option for everyone.

For people having a health condition like diabetes, high blood pressure and heartbeat who’re required to follow a certain type of diet, should follow the instructions of their doctors or registered dietitian.

Final thoughts

You can eat in a way that is beneficial for your health and mind if you practice intuitive eating which will ultimately help you in losing weight without dieting. You can improve your awareness of what you’re eating and why you're really practicing intuitive eating. This enables you to approach your meals with greater mindfulness.

Improving your body image and quality of life can result from letting your own internal indications of hunger and fullness control your eating.

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