Updated: Jan 11
You know who you are. You've adjusted your diet, reduced sugar and are keeping more hydrated. You're exercising and making better food choices but for some reason the weight is more stubborn than ever! Say what?
It's a misconception that exercise and diet alone will shift unwanted kilos and help improve your overall health. There is so much more to it and one of the biggest habits to adopt is what is known as 'intuitive eating'.
What is Intuitive Eating?
A new buzz ward? Hardly, being mindful at meal time is nothing new but if you are not practising it every day, you're missing a key component to your weight loss efforts.
For those who are prone to gaining weight, let's get real, there's often a tendency to snack and eat even when not really hungry. I get it. This could be for a variety of reasons. Maybe you've battled emotional eating for years and it's your go to comfort therapy. You may be eating out of boredom or just because those oreos and doritos leapt out of the pantry and into your lap. Perhaps after an exhausting day chasing toddlers, crying babies and older kids you just want to hide in a closet with a sneaky wine and packet of Red Rock Deli chips. You may not even realise that you are eating for these reasons, because it takes practice to learn when you really need to eat. This is where 'intuitive eating' is the secret weapon to lasting weight loss and control over your diet.
When you're not hungry and you eat, it's a bit like giving your body energy and calories that it neither wants or needs. As a result, it's much easier to pile on the kilos, especially if you gain weight more easily than others anyway. Intuitive eating is learning to only eat when your body actually signals it needs food. When you feel legitimately hungry, then you can eat.
For most people, the feelings of genuine hunger niggle you around 3-4 hours after your last meal, depending on the size of the meal, so it's easy to fit in your regular 3-4 meals per day. If you feel hunger in between, be sure it is is not actually thirst. As human beings, we often mistake the two and have a little salty or sweet snack when what the body was in fact is signalling was the need to for more water. I always recommend to my clients that they ensure their hydration is on fleek and if they feel snackish in between meals to first try 500ml of water or a warm cuppa of herbal or "Jerra" tea.
The Benefits of Intuitive Eating
The main benefit of intuitive eating for weight loss is that you avoid consuming more calories than the body needs. When you do get cravings and want to eat, it is best to hydrate first and wait 10-15 minutes. If you are still feeling the same level of hunger pangs, nibble on a protein based snack to tide you over. You shouldn't deprive yourself of food if you're legitimately hungry (especially if you have blood sugar issues), but do be wary of eating too much.
On a calorie-controlled diet, you might often feel like you are deprived of the foods that your body wants but if that craving is so strong it makes you really irritable or grumpy to not have it, it's often a red flag.
"I can't tell you how many times clients are surprised to learn, what the body craves, can mean a sign of an intolerance or food allergy. When those cravings are for complex carbohydrates, which release the neurotransmitter serotonin, the 'feel-good' brain chemical, I know we're dealing with a potential sensitivity."
If you have experienced this before, I encourage you to sit with the craving. Does is lessen or dissipate after a warm cuppa or glass of water? Is there something weighing heavily on your mind that having a bite of food will offer an escape or source of comfort? Can you push past it or does the thought just make you more grumpy? Becoming more intuitive around food is an essential healthy habit to adopt for long term health and weight management. Need more help, go here.
How To Practice Intuitive Eating
Ok, so now you understand a little bit better how intuitive eating is about listening to your body and hunger cues, how do you go about it? If you want lasting weight you need to only eat when your body needs to and not out of emotional triggers, boredom or comfort. Here are a few things you can do to get yourself into the swing of things.
Firstly, listen to your body....like really listen. Are you legit feeling hungry or are you trying to satisfy some other need? Are your feelings of hunger so strong that they are starting to interfere with your tasks at the moment? Is it causing headaches or severe mood swings?
Secondly, don't let your body get to the point where you feel like you're going to faint from hunger. Some of us really do need to eat more frequent than others. Smaller meals or healthy snacks throughout the day work best to keep blood sugar levels regulated and the brain functioning it's best. For others, three square meals a day and the odd snack in betweens works better. You really to have to master the intuitive ability to read your own body signals to decide what suits you best.
And lastly, make sure you are fully hydrated. Drinking enough water is en essential habit to get into. Remember, sometimes your body is trying to tell you that you're thirsty, not hungry!