Can Intuitive Eating Help You Achieve The Body You Want?
Intuitive eating sounds like dieting Holy Grail you've been searching for. A way of dieting allowing you to eat what you want, when you want. But is it really that easy? Or is it another fad diet promising the Earth, but leaving you stuck at weight loss square one?
In this article, you're going to get the no BS truth on intuitive eating.
Here's what you're going to find out.
- What intuitive eating actually is
- The cons of adopting an intuitive eating approach
- The pros of intuitive eating
- 7 top tips to transition from beginner to expert intuitive eater
So tell me, do you intuitively feel ready to learn more? Awesome. Let's do this.
What The Hell Is Intuitive Eating?
Those Damn Hormones
Intuitive eating isn't a new concept. In fact, it's probably been around for centuries. It just so happens some bright spark has decided to put a fancy label on it. Cynically, I'd say that's to sell you something. But hey, I could be wrong (although that's never happened before).
Whether you realise it or not, your body has inbuilt hunger and fullness sensors.
No doubt you've had feelings of hunger in the past. Hell, all the fucking time, am I right?
This is largely to do with hormones in the body.
The Role Of Leptin And Ghrelin
Leptin and Ghrelin are both hormones playing a role in hunger and satiety (the feeling of fullness). If Ghrelin is high and Leptin is low, you feel hungry. Conversely, if Leptin is high and Ghrelin is low, you feel full and satisfied.
"So, Simon. Weight loss IS all about hormones then!"
Nutrition gurus across the world will talk about manipulation of hormones as the primary focus for weight loss. Fuck this calorie deficit shit.
But in reality, while hormones clearly play a role, actually influencing them comes back to some fundamental basics.
Improving hormonal balance and optimising your health is largely achieved through proper weight management and a healthier lifestyle. Simply put, you still need to focus on a calorie deficit and making more nutritious food choices.
Intuitive Eating 101
So with all that said, where does intuitive eating come into play?
The concept of intuitive eating encourages you you use your natural hunger and fullness cues to regulate how much you eat. No foods are restricted (I like the sound of that). And you can eat what you want, when you want, as long as you listen to those pesky hormones.
This all sounds great in theory, but it does have its pitfalls. And that's especially true if you're someone who has struggled with weight loss.
The Downside Of Intuitive Eating
Ultimately, a form of intuitive eating is what we should all be striving for...
Whether you agree or disagree with intuitive eating, it's hard to argue that the core principles aren't something we should all adopt to some degree. After all, there aren't many people on the plant who want to manage calories and live on MyFitnessPal for the rest of their lives.
And those who do are just plain mental.
But intuitive eating isn't easy. In fact, you can get it massively wrong if you don't know what you're doing.
The 3 Cons Of Intuitive Eating
- Intuitive eating is a learned skill. It requires a good understanding of food, calories, portion sizes, and basic nutrition. It takes time to understand what foods are calorie dense and should be eaten in lower quantities. Expecting you to get all of this right from day one is a tall order. And let's face it...you'll probably get it wrong.
- Less structure and guidelines. If you're a beginner, having a basic structure and guidelines to follow is particularly important. But that doesn't mean you have to calorie count. You just need to know what you're doing is helping create that deficit.
- Easy to overeat. Nuts, avocado, and foods such as these are full of nutrients and considered healthy. But they also contain a shit load of calories and aren't great and helping you feel full. So the novice intuitive eater could easily eat may too many calories, while not feeling very full. This means your calorie deficit could be well and truly fucked from the get go.
The Upside Of Intuitive Eating
So with all that said, you might be forgiven for thinking I'm against intuitive eating. But you couldn't be more wrong. In fact, it's an approach I encourage all of my online coaching clients to progress towards. I call it "Coaching To Live."
Coaching to live is about helping you feel comfortable managing your weight without the constant need for calorie monitoring. It's designed to enable you to live a leaner, healthier life for good. Because achieving a 12 week transformation is great. But maintaining it for life is the real goal, right?
Clients, such as Emily (in the picture below) are testament to the approach. Achieving and maintaining an awesome transformation, without being glued to MyFitnessPal forever. And you can see more transformations just like hers right here.
So, if you're in the right stage of your body transformation journey, intuitive eating could be the perfect strategy for you. Here's some of the key benefits it offers.
The 3 Pros Of Intuitive Eating
- Reduces Hang Ups About Certain Foods. There are no restrictions on what you can eat. So the demonisation of food doesn't exist, which is great. Ultimately, intuitive eating is a sign of having a great relationship with food. You just have to remember to keep things under control.
- Less structure and guidelines. This was a con, but it's also a pro. Because once you have the basics of nutrition in place, not having rules is liberating. You can fly the nutritional nest and soar like a nutrition eagle.
- Be healthy and enjoy life. Let's face it, when you're in a dieting phase you don't live life to the absolute full. Yes, you can enjoy great food and still lose weight. But you're putting a certain degree of limitation on your diet...you have to. But intuitive eating allows you to be a little more 'free and easy' with your food choices.
7 Tips To Transition From Calorie Counter To Intuitive Eater
While intuitive eating might not be the place for you to start, it might be a great place to end up. So that begs the question, "how do you transition to be am intuitive eater?"
And that's a great question, so here's 7 top tips to make that transition as smooth as silk.
1. Start With Habit Changes
If you're an absolute beginner to nutrition, then you don't even need to jump straight to calorie counting, let alone intuitive eating. Adopting positive eating habits that promote a calorie deficit are a great place to start. For example, eating 200g of green vegetables with lunch and dinner, removing starchy carbs from one main meal, and having a portion of protein with each meal are all great examples.
Start here and build from there.
2. Progress To A More Structured Approach
It's possible you might find a habit based approach lacks a little precision. And you might want to try a more targeted approach. So this is where calorie tracking may be a good option. Of course you don't have to calorie count, there are lots of other ways to approach dieting. But just remember, you need to create that calorie deficit.
3. Practice Mindful Meal Planning
As you figure out what to eat each day, week, and month consciously think about adding more low calorie, nutritious foods into your diet. These types of foods can help with feelings of satiety. So getting used to incorporating these foods at an early stage will certainly help when you come to start intuitive eating.
4. Practice Mindful Eating
You and I live in a world where everything is fast-paced, right down to how quickly we can shovel food into our faces. But mindful eating can be a great way to avoid eating a bunch of calories without even realising it. So take time to eat your meals and chew each bite fully.
5. Take Mental Notes Of Portions
If you're going to spend a good chunk of your life tracking calories and weighing food then don't do it blindly. Instead, look at what 100g of chicken looks like and how much of the plate your 150g of cooked rice takes up. Further down the line, this makes it much easier to intuitively eat and stay on track.
6. Take Your Time
Learning these intuitive eating skills might take time. So don't expect to be an expert overnight. Transition slowly and when the time is right as you build up your knowledge.
7. Be Like The Chameleon
You can switch between dieting methods any time you choose. Don't feel like you're stuck with one way of eating forever if it doesn't suit your goal at the time. So if you feel like you need to tighten up your nutrition for bit, switch from intuitive eating back to tracking. And when you're done, switch back again. Make everything fit you.
Intuitive Eating The Bottom Line
For most, intuitive eating is the end and not the start of the journey.
Intuitive eating is a great approach to eating. But it requires a level of skill and nutritional knowledge. In my opinion, this makes it something to progress towards, rather than the approach adopted from day one.
Work on getting the basics in place, start making progress, and then transition as you become more confident.
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But for now, all I'll say is... Keep living the Lean Life and I'll see you soon.