How many times have you or has someone you know jumped on the band wagon of the latest diet craze? And how many times have these diets failed to keep their promise for quick weight loss, a faster metabolism, or better health? The majority of diets today are unsustainable and difficult to follow. This leads to fluctuations in body weight, psychological changes, and often a sense hopelessness.
What if instead of dieting we tried to actually listen to our bodies? The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recently published a review of 20 studies that examined the outcomes of eating by internal cues. Intuitive eating focuses on a health-centered approach, meaning that physical and psychological wellness is the ultimate focus compared to weight loss being the primary goal. Below are key principles to successful intuitive eating.
- Unconditional permission to eat. At first glance this may seem counterproductive. With diet rules being eliminated, almost all participants in these studies actually lost or maintained weight. Remember, the goal is to listen to hunger cues not to restrict calories. Diets should be rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. If you are following a balanced diet and your body is saying you are hungry, you probably are.
- Respect of your body. Body dissatisfaction may lead to disordered eating and can make eating intuitively very difficult. In non-diet participants, self-esteem and self-acceptance increased while depressive symptoms decreased. Accepting and appreciating your body type is a crucial component of overall health. Every body is different-and that is a good thing! We only get one body-make an effort to learn to be comfortable in your own genes.
- Mindful eating. How many times have you sat down to eat and watch a TV show only to realize an hour has flown by as well as the bag of chips? Mindful eating is simply being aware of what you are eating and how your body feels about eating that food. This principle will take practice but may improve your physical and psychological health. We are all busy and sitting down to eat a meal may be a challenge. But the investment is worth it.
- Relaxation and Spirituality. Those who were able to manage stress effectively were more capable of eating intuitively. In addition, participants who had a high “spiritual readiness” and therefore purpose scored higher on body satisfaction scores. Find activities that help you relax and engage spiritually, and do them regularly.
Your challenge is to choose one healthful principle this month that you can apply to your life. Shifting the focus from the scale to awareness is not always easy. Anything worth having is worth striving for-an intuitive approach to eating included!