People have recently been concerned with weight loss and have focused on diets for this purpose. These diets often involve restrictions; for example, the ketogenic diet involves restricting carbs, while the 5:2 diet involves restricting calories 2 days per week and eating normally for the remaining 5 days. However, research shows that restrictive eating can result in a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) after some time, and a high likelihood of becoming obese. Other possible effects include feeling guilty in relation to eating, obsession with food, and increased levels of anxiety, stress, and depression.
With the observation that diets do not always lead to weight loss and could result in psychological issues, another solution has become necessary. People have started focusing on “intuitive eating” in recent times as a possible solution.
Intuitive eating explained
Intuitive eating is based on the premise that one should listen to their body and let it guide them on when and how much to eat, as opposed to being influenced by their environment, emotions, or the guidelines of particular diets.
The biggest difference as compared to other diets is that intuitive eating does not restrict any food—it encourages you to eat what you want. Although many may think that people would eat high-sugar foods or high-fat foods since there is no restriction, research shows that this does not happen. Proponents of intuitive eating hold the view that the more you deny yourself some foods, the higher the chances of overindulging in them later. It is a straightforward concept devoid of complex dietary rules.
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Benefits of intuitive eating
When it comes to weight loss, there is not yet a clear indication that intuitive eating is more effective than diets that involve limiting calories. However, studies have shown that those who observe intuitive eating have a lower BMI compared to those who do not. Still, considering that those who restrict calories possibly do so since they already have a high BMI, determining the real impact of eating intuitively may be difficult. Additionally, the results from engaging overweight people have not come out so clearly.
The goal of intuitive eating is not to address weight loss, as is the case with other diets, but was instead meant to address why people eat. As such, even without success as a weight-loss method, it is providing benefits by encouraging healthy eating habits.
Also, recent studies have led to the findings that higher levels of intuitive eating were likely to lead to fewer eating disorder symptoms as opposed to monitoring calories and checking your weight regularly. The findings contrast the typical restrictive diets that have been associated with a rise in eating disorders, and this can even be even more disastrous for those who deal with depression and low self-esteem issues. As such, eating intuitively has a positive impact on mental health and promotes healthy eating habits. More studies are needed to ascertain if it can help with weight loss.
Challenges of intuitive eating
While intuitive eating requires us to listen to our bodies and respond to the internal cues—hunger and satiation—some people, especially those with eating disorders, have a problem recognizing signals from their body. Such people could have a problem eating intuitively.
The principle that people eat as per internal sensations and not environmental conditions may not be so practical for the majority. Most people’s eating time is out of their control due to things like family meal times and defined meal breaks at work. Eating when hungry may be ideal but practically impossible.
Intuitive eating could be an effective method for weight loss, but there is insufficient evidence to show it’s more effective than the typical restrictive diets. However, the psychological health benefits that it provides are enough proof that it is a much healthier approach to eating. Although it may not work for everyone, like those who have issues recognizing their internal signals, it is better to listen to your body to give it what it needs rather than allowing the environment to dictate what and how much to consume.