If you've even been on a diet, you would know that many diet approaches tell you to reduce the number of calories you consume. And what happens when you do this? Confusion. Why? Because then it becomes all about numbers. Consume X calories and add Y exercise, and you will reach Z ideal weight. But all that counting and calculating, is that really the right way to go about it?
Enter intuitive eating! A non-diet approach that helps you tune into your body's hunger signals, break the cycle of chronic dieting and heals your relationship with food. Conceptualised in 1995 by two registered dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, this approach focusses on keeping your preferences restricted to your eating behaviour rather than following any restrictions.
Mahima Sethia, a nutritionist, fitness enthusiast, lifestyle educator and founder of Fitness Flu says, "We are confused all the time thinking what to eat, when to eat, how to eat, in what quantity to eat. And all these questions can be answered only when you become an expert of our own body and that’s what Intuitive Eating is all about," she says.
"Intuitive eating is about connecting with yourself. It is a way of eating by paying attention to your body's hunger cues. This approach has no rules, judgements or guilt, you eat when you are hungry and until you are satisfied. Every time you eat something, simply ask yourself 'do I really want this now? Will I feel good after eating this?' And once you start understanding it and practising it, you will become an expert on your body," she further adds.
Intuitive eating certainly follows a few principles but it doesn't involve following a meal plan, measuring your portions, or not eating certain foods at all. Raksha Lulla, a lifestyle and nutrition coach, says intuitive eating is the best approach to health and wellness. "You don't have to direct your food into carbs, protein and fat. You accept all tastes--sweet, sour, pungent, and salty and you eat meals without any distraction. You are not worrying while you're eating your food," says Raksha.
Here are a few principles that you should follow:
Mahima stresses on developing a healthy relationship with your body. "If you don't understand your body then no matter what diet you follow and how many calories you count, you will always be unsatisfied. The motive of Intuitive Eating is to be a happy and satisfied eater."
So, first and foremost for that 'no-restrictions' life is to forget all about dieting.
If you're hungry even after eating a snack, you should eat more. Because being hungry is your body's way of telling you it wants more calories and it needs more energy. And because getting hugged by a pizza is heaven! All you have to do is avoid mindless eating.
Set yourself free of all the worries because being hungry sucks and not eating when you're out with your friends is just being cruel to yourself. So stop weighing yourself frequently and do not attach too much value to the number that you see on it. It does not define you.
"Restrict yourself from eating specific food items only when you are allergic or sensitive to something. In general, food restrictions make us feel deprived and thus it is important to indulge as and when you want to and not label food as a cheat meal, good, bad, healthy, unclean," says Mahima.
Feel your emotions, don't eat them. When you reach for that chocolate bar, know that it's just a quick fix but not a long-term solution. Feel bad – eat – gain weight – feel worse – eat more can easily become a vicious cycle. When you rush to that cookie jar for some comfort, don't judge yourself, but simply pause. Ask yourself: Am I hungry or I am going to eat this just because I'm sad?
"Just like hunger cues, understanding when you feel full is equally important. Listen to your body's signals of being comfortably full," says Mahima.
The goal of intuitive eating is to improve your relationship with food. "It is about learning to trust your body and eating the most natural way where you listen to your body’s hunger signals and respond accordingly. It will happen gradually where you start getting comfortable with food and not getting mentally drained. And the best part is that we are born to eat that way but consciously we have changed it by following the diet culture. So maybe it’s time to unlearn and go back the natural way," adds Mahima.
Arm yourself with knowledge, buy books on intuitive eating and talk to experts before you start practising it. Another rule to intuitive eating is that you stop following any rules.
In order to become an intuitive eater, you have to make a few changes in your eating habits. For instance, Mahima says, "The lesser you consume processed and packaged food items, the earlier you’d learn the art of intuitive eating because packaged foods are designed to make us not listen to our instincts. So, it is important to switch to home-cooked food to practise intuitive eating. After all, you can overeat a packet of chips but you cannot overeat chapatis."
However, if you are struggling with an eating disorder, you should consult an expert about intuitive eating. And if you are underweight, intuitive eating is not meant for you.
So, ladies, it's time to ditch that detox and enjoy your meals without any guilt.
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