Health Magazine

Intuitive Eating – A ‘anti-diet’ Approach to Food

By Staceycurcio @staceymccosker

Intuitive-EatingIn my last blog, I encouraged you to ponder your ‘relationship’ with food, and think about your food story. Today, I’m discussing how to have a healthy relationship with food, and the concept of “mindful or intuitive eating” versus “controlled eating”. Its common knowledge that most dieters fail to stick to their programs, thus, much research is being dedicated to a novel ‘anti-diet’ approach to food. Mindful/Intuitive eating differs from calorie-counting and other quantitative approaches to nutrition and weight loss/gain, and instead focuses on our bodies’ natural ability to assess how much food we need.

Controlled dieting can be counterproductive

Strict and controlled diets which are difficult to maintain have been shown to result in feelings of losing control, binging, shame, failure, self-disgust, resentment, wrong-doing and contempt. One 10-week intervention combining intuitive eating and mindfulness was MORE effective than traditional calorie-controlled weight-loss programs in improving individuals’ views of their bodies and decreasing problematic eating behaviours (Bush et al, 2014). Another study suggests that intuitive eating can be safely used in obese adolescents without fear of sustained consumption of unhealthy foods. The same study showed that conventional calorie-controlled dieting was counterproductive, and portion size should be addressed using awareness of internal satiety and hunger signals rather than external rule (Weigenberg et al, 2014).

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Controlled eaters are more vulnerable to overeating in response to advertising, super-sizing and all you can eat buffet; and are more likely to have binging episodes and have an eating disorder or be overweight. Research also shows that feeling guilty about food doesn’t lead to positive behaviour changes (Kuijer & Boyce, 2014), and thus a new model is urgently needed.

What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating emphasises the importance internal signals of hunger and fullness, as well as a greater awareness of the physiological effects of food. Intuitive eaters eat mindfully, and give themselves permission to eat whenever they feel hungry. They let go of internal feelings of guilt or rigid rules that say you can’t eat more than a certain number of calories a day or enjoy a slice of birthday cake if the occasion calls for it. Intuitive eaters are less likely to be overweight and they spend less time thinking about food. Click here, here and here for more information on intuitive eating.

While there’s no magic bullet to weight loss, current research shows that not only do intuitive eaters have lower cholesterol, less diabetes, healthier hearts, better levels of fitness, and lower body mass index (BMI); they have less psychological stress and self-loathing than those following conventional controlled diets.

Bottom Line…

Intuitive eating is about how someone eats, not just what they eat. Intuitive eaters eat with both INTENTION and ATTENTION and can distinguish between physical hunger and emotional need. The goal is to become aware of how and what to eat, without becoming obsessed. Although mastering the art of mindful and intuitive eating takes patience, education, consistency and self-compassion; it is SO empowering and can be quite life changing! I challenge you to give it a go.

Until next time,

Stacey.


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