Can you practice intuitive eating and lose weight?
If you’re trying to lose weight, dieting might seem like you’re only option - but before you go keto or carb free, it’s important to realize that dieting can actually be counterproductive to your well intended efforts.
The unfortunate reality is that most people who go on a diet will gain the weight back in just a few years.
Researchers at UCLA confirmed this - they compiled 31 studies that looked at the relationship between diets, weight loss and rebound gains. They found that although dieters typically lost between 5-10 percent of their body fat in the first six months - that ~two-thirds of thiem gained the weight back after 4-5 five years.
Think about that - people who lose weight gain it back in a few short years.
Yo-yo dieting is counterproductive in every way - it causes a loss in muscle and a gain in body fat, hence changing your body composition. Even more so - the constant dieting changes our relationship with food.
If you’re constantly battling body weight and body image with the next diet - you are not only setting yourself up for failure, but you’re also creating issues and a complex around food.
So, if dieting doesn’t work … what does??
Eating mindfully and intuitively is the best way to support fat loss in a healthy and sustainable way.
The term ‘intuitive eating’ was first coined in 1995 and is based around the principle of rejecting diet culture and instead connecting with our body’s own inner wisdom and listen to our body’s hunger and satiety cues.
This is how we can create a more peaceful relationship with food and our bodies, while also keeping goals in mind.
Intuitive eating is founded on 10 main principles:
Rejecting the diet mentality
Making peace with food
Challenging the “food police”
Feeling your fullness
Discovering your satisfaction factor
Copy with emotions without using food
Respect your body
Exercise - feel the difference
Honor your hunger with gentle nutrition
There is a lot that intuitive eating mindset encompasses (way more than this blog post can) - if you’re interested in diving in deeper and learning more about intuitive eating, check out this book and workbook.
Whether you’ve been on your weight loss journey for a while now, or are just starting out, the idea of not dieting might seem really scary.
But the first step really is to trust in the process - research even shows that people who practice intuitive eating not only have a lower and more consistent BMIs (body mass index), but they also have better psychological health and other health outcomes, for ex: lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
A recent 4-week study found that eating in a more mindful way and simply chewing more slowly promotes weight loss, while also improving eating habits (increased intuitive eating skills and decreased emotional overeating and food cravings).
How does intuitive eating support weight loss?
Intuitive eating can be a really powerful tool for weight loss and sustainability. When working with clients, I have found a few foundational pieces to be the building blocks for creating a healthy relationship with food and body fat.
Think about why you want to lose weight?
Connecting with your motivation for losing weight is the first step in your journey.
Diet culture - magazines, TV, social media - create a warped sense of body image, guiding so many people to lose weight without even thinking about why they’re dieting.
If you’re wearing blinders and are hyper focused on the number on the scale, I’m encouraging you to take this opportunity to pause and instead think about why losing weight is important for you?
When we truly think about this and frame our answers in a positive way, it changes our attitude towards the process.
For example, you might want to shed some pounds to:
Feel light, strong and energetic
Feel more confident and sexy in your own skin
Age gracefully and have enough energy and mobility to play with your children and grandchildren
Our brains don’t respond well to negativity, which is why framing this process as positive is essential. A negative point of view I hear a lot is people connecting their body weight and food choices to their own self worth: some feel like they’re ‘bad’ when they eat sugar and others feel unworthy because they’re ‘fat’. These are examples of the language that keeps us stuck where we are - and steals joy from the journey.
Take a moment and zoom out - think about the bigger picture: what’s important in your life and how does your weight loss journey fits into that?
2. Eat foods that are balanced and satisfying
Diets often divert our attention to everything we ‘shouldn’t’ be eating - but focusing on what you’re missing out on, makes the process feel depriving.
Instead, can you focus on the foods to include?? Loading up your plate with colorful, non-starchy vegetables and high quality proteins. These building blocks help to set your metabolism up for optimal fat burning.
If you need more guidance, my Food Foundations course (next session starts April 2019) teaches you exactly how to eat and implement tools and strategies for success. Join the wait list here for more information and early bird goodies.
3. Differentiate your emotional hunger from your physical hunger
We have two types of hunger - physical hunger and emotional hunger and knowing the difference is key.
We all know the physical feeling of hunger - that feeling of emptiness in the stomach that starts gradually, might be accompanied by hunger pangs but will ultimately be satisfied when you eat food.
On the other hand, emotional hunger is completely separate. It is usually in response to an emotion like when we’re stressed, sad or lonely - and can even be the result of us avoiding our feelings.
Awareness is the first step in changing this emotional response - name the underlying feeling that is causing you to mindlessly eat so that you can identify what your true needs are. For example, if you’re eating because you’re stressed and lonely - eating to mask these feelings will only make them stronger. Instead, can you think about what can help you laugh a little more and help you feel more connected?
The reason this is so important is because there is no amount of food that can satisfy emotional hunger and often leads to feeling uncomfortably full and feeling ashamed and guilty about our food choices. Which is why addressing your emotions will be the best way to support yourself and break this cycle and dependence on food.
…. And you might even lose a few pounds in the process :)
4. Think about the way you’re describing food
Our thoughts determine our actions and our food behaviors, which is why developing a healthy mindset is the foundation for your health journey.
If you’ve been on your diet journey for a while now, changing your mindset takes practice. Here are some ways to reframe your diet mentality to create longer term healthy habits:
Food is an incredible vehicle for creating change in the body and as a functional nutritionist, I rely on therapeutic diets to help my clients re-establish balance and vitality. However, a healthy mindset is the foundation for this.