Intuitive eating - what is it and are you ready for it?
What is intuitive eating?
Intuitive Eating is an eating philosophy based on the idea that each person knows best what, when and how much they need to eat to get all the nutrients they need to be healthy and feel good.
It is essentially the opposite of all traditional diets, as it does not impose any guidelines on what foods to avoid, what can be eaten or when.
Intuitive eating invites you to develop a positive relationship with food, not to rely on diets and the restrictions they impose, but to listen to your body and eat only in response to physical hunger and stop when you are full.
- There are no “forbidden” foods, and, unlike traditional diets, foods are not divided into “good” and “bad”.
- By eating intuitively, you also give up the idea that you have to lose or gain weight to look a certain way but focus on the foods that are best for your overall physical and mental health.
It might seem that this also means you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, as much as you want.
This is not the case – by eating intuitively, you use your body’s natural ability to tell when you are hungry or full.
In other words, “listening to yourself” means eating in response to genuine physical hunger, not to external factors such as emotions. It also includes being able to stop when you are full enough (your body has had all it needs) and paying attention to how you feel after eating different foods.
To “hear” your body, you need to practise listening to it. This is not easy, and not everyone succeeds because it takes time and perseverance.
The prerequisites for intuitive eating
Eating intuitively – eating exactly what your body needs at the moment and exactly as much as it needs – requires developing attention, the ability to perceive your body’s signals, to recognise them, and to understand them correctly.
The key prerequisites for effective “listening to your body” are:
- The ability to be aware of your feelings, thoughts and emotions and accept them without judging them as good or bad.
- The ability to perceive and understand your body’s hunger and satiety signals, be aware of how you feel after different foods and take note of emotional hunger triggers that may affect your eating habits.
- The ability to accept your body, understanding that it has unique needs, and to eat what your body needs – without guilt or self-condemnation.
- The ability to let go of stereotypes – diets and any external rules about what, when and how much to eat. Intuitive eating is based on focusing on inner feelings rather than external influences.
- The ability to trust your body’s power to self-regulate – that your body knows when it is hungry and when it is full. This means letting go of the fear of losing control and allowing your body to guide your eating choices.
- The ability to distinguish physical hunger from emotional stimuli and the use of alternative coping mechanisms for emotions. Hunger and thirst signals are also similar, and we often start eating instead of just having a glass of water.
- Openness to diversity. Be open to different foods and explore what works best for your body. Allow yourself to enjoy a variety of foods without discriminating between ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
- Patience, perseverance and curiosity. Developing the ability to listen to your body takes time and practice. And – a sincere desire to hear and understand.
- Respect your body – your genetics. Don’t have unrealistic expectations and accept your body type for what it is – this will help you choose food logically rather than emotionally.
- Regular exercise is also essential, but enjoy the movement rather than doing something just to burn calories.
Does intuitive eating work?
Most research focuses on the psychological benefits of this approach, and in this respect, intuitive eating has really good results compared to restrictive diets.
Because intuitive eating is not linked to specific dietary plans, people who stick to it eat more varied foods. In other words, their diets are more balanced, and the risk of nutrient deficiencies is lower when compared to those following restrictive diets.
Some studies also show that intuitive eaters weigh less than those who follow strict restrictive diets.
On the other hand, listening to your body and understanding its signals correctly requires practice based on trial and error. This can be time-consuming, and unsuccessful experiments can negatively affect both your health and weight.
The main problem with intuitive eating (and its main advantage) is the lack of specific guidelines, which for some means permissiveness and leads to regular overeating, weight gain and subsequent health problems.
In other words, if you want to lose weight, you need to take in (eat) fewer calories than your body consumes.
Intuitive eating is not about counting calories – it’s a method of developing a positive relationship with food by getting to know yourself.
The importance of calorie and nutrient control should never be underestimated. Talking about intuitive eating without any knowledge of the nutritional value of foods, calories, and their role in the diet is like talking about higher mathematics without knowing the simplest mathematical operations.
In other words, intuition is a good thing, but it is even better when combined with common sense.
We often have no idea how many calories we take in during a day without even noticing it (a handful of nuts (50 g) = about 300 Kcal).
Try it, count it – you’ll be surprised how quickly we gather those extra calories, which inevitably turn into fat when unused. Once you start to consciously monitor and keep track of what and how much you eat, you will realise that there is always a choice, and you will gradually learn to make the right decisions about the products you choose in the shops and how to prepare them.
We come into this world knowing how to eat. Babies eat when they are hungry and turn away from the breast or bottle when they are full.
We lose this skill as we grow up, but by listening to our bodies, some of us manage to regain it.
Intuitive eating is about reconnecting with hunger and satiety signals and choosing from a wide range of foods that our body really needs and make us feel full.
If we use not just intuition but also common sense, the chances of success increase.
Eat a balanced diet, don’t worry if you don’t get it right away, move and – be healthy!
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