Intuitive Eating: Well intentioned, but bad advice for reaching a healthy body weight
What Is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating means not restricting any particular food groups like some other diets might have you do. It means paying attention to what your body is telling you it needs in regards to how much to eat, when to eat, and what to eat.
“Experts say intuitive eating means tapping into your body’s natural ability to tell you when you’re hungry or satisfied.”
It also means letting go of the idea that you need to gain or lose weight so that you can look a certain way.
The Goals of Intuitive Eating
The goal of Intuitive Eating is to help you to make better food choices by paying attention to what your body is telling you.
“This framework enthusiastically welcomes people of all sizes, helping them to improve their relationships with food, mind, and body without encouraging them to lose an ounce.”
Intuitive Eating aims to put you better in touch with your emotions by getting you to ask yourself important questions like “Am I eating right now because I’m actually hungry or am I eating because I had a bad day at work?”
The Problem with Intuitive Eating
In principle Intuitive Eating is great and should be the norm for most people. The problem comes from how the average person applies it. Most people’s intuitions around food don't match up with reality and to make it even worse… they’re not even aware of it! So, they’re not doing anything to bring the two more in line with each other. They aren’t asking themselves questions to better understand their emotions. They are not asking themselves “why am I eating right now?” or “what emotion am I trying to satisfy or bury with this food?” or “ why did I decide to eat THIS right now?”
The problem lies not in Intuitive Eating itself, but in how people apply it to themselves. They don’t do the key part which is asking themselves questions about their food choices and emotions.
Can you blame them?
We live in such a busy and on-demand world. We’re expected to be always reachable by the people in our professional and personal lives. Food is more accessible now than ever before. You don’t even need to live in a big city anymore to have access to fully-prepared meals. While this is tremendous progress for us as a society, this also makes it difficult for the average person to pause and reflect on their choices.
We also need to acknowledge the health crisis facing us regarding obesity. 35.5% of adult men are obese and 35.8% of adult women are obese. These numbers should be startling.
Unfortunately, the Intuitive Eating principles aren’t well-equipped to help someone reach a healthy body weight. In its current form it is not a great strategy for most to reach a healthy body weight as it doesn’t teach people about calorie balance.
And yes… calories are what matter the most for gaining or losing weight. What Intuitive Eating is missing is the measuring against reality that these people so desperately need so that they can reach a healthy body composition.
Trying to improve your health without; measuring your body weight, your food portions, your waist circumference, your body fat %, and examining the nutritional makeup of your food, would be like shooting an arrow at a target, but never checking to see how close to the target your arrow landed.
So what do we do?
Does this mean we need to weigh and track everything we eat forever?
To make Intuitive Eating a viable strategy for you, first you need to train your intuition muscles to become more in line with reality. That means actually measuring & tracking your food intake and what that means for your weight and health. Then compare this data against what your intuition was telling you to do.
This checking against reality combined with the principles of Intuitive Eating will help you bring your intuition in line with the reality of how your food choices are affecting your health.
And guess what?
As you do this, you’ll start to find areas where your intuition is a better judge than the calorie tracking tools!
If you need help putting Intuitive Eating into practice while at the same time losing weight so that you can reach a healthier body composition, please contact us. Our team of In-Home and Virtual Trainers in Brampton, Mississauga, Oakville, Etobicoke, and Toronto are here and ready to help you.
Precision Nutrition: “https://www.precisionnutrition.com/intuitive-eating”
Prevalence of obesity and trends in the distribution of body mass index among US adults, 1999-2010: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1104933