In an ideal world, food intake would be as simple as gassing up your car. When your “fuel” runs low, you’d simply fill it back up. Unfortunately, while cars don’t have the capacity to expand in order to store excess fuel, our bodies do!
Research is indicating that weight gain and food choices are more behavioral and psychological than they are physical, thanks to the concept of habituation. But intuitive eating can help us change our habitual patterns, and is an opportunity to listen to your body and start a new way of eating, not dieting.
Habituation vs Intuitive Eating: How to Start Intuitive Eating
When you begin trying to eat intuitively, you might want to start by looking at your current eating patterns and reviewing your relationship with food. Think about it: do you ever find yourself habitually eating at certain times of the day, or eating certain foods during certain events or activities.
For example, do you have a snack every night before you go to bed? Is that something you had every night as a child? Is it due to physical hunger, or to habit? For a lot of us, it’s the latter — and it’s a habit we may need to break. Habituation may have programmed that into your eating cycle — whether your body really needs it or not.
A Guide to Intuitive Eating
Once you’ve identified your eating habits (both healthy and unhealthy), you can start intuitive eating by following these concepts:
- At its most basic level, food is fuel. (However, some types of fuel may be better than others!)
- Listen to your body, particularly for signals that it is satiated (or satisfied).
- Dehydration or fatigue can manifest as hunger, and it’s important to identify which one you’re feeling. If you’re unsure, try muscle testing with yes/no questions like:
- Does my body need water?
- Does my body need food?
- Does my body need sleep?
- Eliminate distractions — no books, TV, devices, or even conversation while eating.
- Eat for your body, not for your mouth, and learn to recognize how you feel after eating.
- SLOW DOWN! Set down your fork between bites, chew thoroughly and slowly.
- No multitasking while you eat. Concentrate on eating, do not share that time with paying bills, checking emails, and other daily errands.
- Throw out the timetable. Breakfast time, lunch time, and dinner time are arbitrary schedules. Eat when you are hungry.
- Plate your food. Do not have extra portions in pots and pans on the table that are easily accessible.
- You don’t need to clean your plate! You’re a grown-up now, right? The food left on your plate can go in the fridge. You can have it later if you get hungry
Intuitive Eating & Weight Loss
Part of the concept of intuitive eating is that if you deny yourself something you really desire, you will be more apt to sabotage a weight loss program by binging on the very thing you are trying to avoid.
By mentally “allowing” yourself to eat as much as you want of that ice cream, cookies or whatever your “bad food” may be, those foods may become far less desirable, causing cravings to lessen or disappear.
Most people find that taking time and simply being mindful of eating helps them to eat less, feel better, have more energy, and lose weight easier.
Emotional Impact of Intuitive Eating
When you stop listening to your mouth and start to listen to your body, intuitive eating can lead you to make healthier choices, including wholesome, all-natural, unprocessed foods your body really craves. These healthier choices physically benefit you in a lot of ways:
- Lower blood pressure
- Better cholesterol levels
- Weight loss
- Improved metabolism
On an emotional level, feeling better through intuitive eating can result in:
- Reduced stress
- Boost in confidence
- Increased self-esteem
- A calm and content feeling
You are the expert of your body; after all, you’ve been in it your whole life. Eating intuitively can help you start listening to it, and providing the fuel it needs when it needs it. So the next time you go to eat something, stop for a second and assess what’s really driving that “hunger” or take a minute to muscle test. After a while, intuitive eating can become second nature.