With so many diets out there, it’s hard to know which one is right for you. A diet, by definition, is a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for special health reasons. However many people are shying away from restrictions mainly because it’s not the best long-term solution. “Intuitive eating is making waves in the dieting world. It’s opening up our eyes to a way of eating that is not about restriction, but about nourishment. It removes the idea that there is a “wagon” and helps you stop dieting and reclaim power over your body. After all, no one knows your body like you do,” explains Amanda Montalvo, RD for Kettlebell Kitchen.
If you have been trying to refine your lifestyle, but are not sure if a traditional diet is the way to go you may want to consider intuitive dieting. Experts help to break down the pros and cons of this lifestyle choice to help you determine if it’s the right fit.
What is intuitive dieting?
It’s important to know that this is not a dedicated way to lose weight. While intuitive dieting may result in weight loss, that will come as a result of an improved relationship with food. It’s a process that will really allow you to listen to your body, encouraging you to eat when are hungry and stop when you’re full. In addition, it deters eating out of boredom, stress, and for emotional reasons. Intuitive eating is a way of eating that rejects dieting and diet culture. It encourages the eater to look to choose foods that are both pleasing and nourishing. “You learn to become aware of your body’s hunger and fullness cues to help you learn when to begin eating and recognize when to stop. Intuitive eating also addresses emotional eating and what drives us to eat,” Montalvo explains.
The 10 core principles to intuitive dieting are:
- Reject the diet mentality
- Honor your hunger
- Make peace with food
- Challenge the food police
- Respect your fullness
- Discover the satisfaction factor
- Honor your feelings without using food
- Respect your body
- Exercise—feel the difference
- Honor your health
Why It’s Popular
Intuitive eating is gaining in popularity because it takes the guesswork and stress out of dieting. The time spent on planning and prepping meals can be devoted to other things, like enjoying the activities that you love to do. Typically, traditional diets are stressful, and, for many people, they can be an intense source of deprivation. This tends to result in overeating or feelings of guilt. “Allowing yourself to eat what you want, in moderation, allows for much more freedom and lowered anxiety levels than dieting,” explains Nutratech CEO Jeremy Danvers.
Not everyone may agree with this style of dieting. Some may say it allows you just to give up and eat what you want, but it’s actually more than that. Eating recklessly is not the core of this lifestyle. The freedom to eat without judgment helps to create a healthy relationship with food.
Adopting an intuitive eating approach can help you improve your relationship with food and increase variety in your diet. Nadia Gargallo, certified coach and founder of Your After Story, shares, “Intuitive dieting works on self-love and acceptance. It’s important to focus on health and the way you feel rather than a specific size or a number on the scale. This mindset is a vital part of intuitive eating. Food rules need to be replaced with new beliefs. Nutrition and eating psychology work hand [in] hand.”
Below are some reasons why traditional diets may not be working for you:
- Many traditional diets go against our biological and physical needs.
- Diets tend to unbalance the hormones that control hunger and satiety.
- Some diets slow down metabolism.
- You often produce rebound weight gain with other diets.
- Due to restrictions, other diets can cause an increase in hunger, provoking hunger explosions, and binge eating.
- Dieting can lead to feelings of low self-esteem, low confidence, and guilt.
- Most diets damage relationships with food, provoking food obsession.
“Allowing yourself to eat what you want, in moderation, allows for much more freedom and lowered anxiety levels than dieting.”
Gargallo goes on to say that, “Diets don’t provide what the body needs. They are based on external decisions, food rules, meal plans, timings. They force the body to go against its nature and its biological need to provide enough energy. Nobody can tell what your body needs except for your own body.” The biggest take away is that the need to restrict food removes the morality around food. What you choose to eat is not good or bad, and choosing to eat a certain food does not make you a good or bad person.
“Many times, if you ate exactly what you wanted to eat, you would feel extremely satisfied, and be able to mentally focus on all of the other aspects of your life—without worrying about food. And, if you consistently eat this way, you may very well easily stay within or even under your daily calorie budget for weight maintenance or weight loss,” explains Rachel Paul, Ph.D., RD from CollegeNutritionist.com.
One of the biggest negatives is the initial process—if you do not have a good relationship with food or the right support you may struggle to find a good sense of balance. Being able to take the time to understand and listen to your body is vital, there are no quick fixes here! “It can take a bit longer to see results, but the results are maintained,” says Gargallo.
Another negative is the likelihood of overindulging or bingeing on your favorite foods. This can happen at first and is pretty common. Paul says, “In the book Intuitive Eating it states that if you overindulge, you will not crave that food so intensely anymore, and stop binge eating.”
Other cons include:
- There could be a possible increase in weight gain when starting out.
- It can be challenging to shift your mindset without the right support.
- Choosing the right foods can be confusing at the beginning, especially if you are used to a diet mentality.
- Being mindful of creating the right amount of balance in order to provide the right amount of nutrition for your body.
Tips Moving Forward
Intuitive eating can be a powerful and liberating process. Allowing yourself to eat your favorite foods unconditionally and without any food guilt in your head can be emotionally freeing. “Of course, you want to choose whole, real food! And then, once you can hear the wisdom of your body, you can make choices that feel good and will leave you happy and satisfied,” shares Elise Museles, certified eating psychology and nutrition expert.
Paul recommends thinking of what a day of perfect and satisfying meals looks like, regardless of health or what you think you “should” eat. She offers a perfect example below:
- Breakfast: 2 pancakes and 1 tablespoon peanut butter
- Lunch: Cobb salad with egg, bacon, and blue cheese
- Snack: 2 tablespoons peanut butter and an apple
- Dinner: 2 pieces of pizza
Exercises like this will help to set up the proper mindset and strengthen your relationship with food. Having a trusted professional to guide you on your intuitive eating journey is helpful so that you can make sure that you’re still getting all the nutrients that you need in a way that you enjoy.