lifestyle . Wellness

Stop Dieting! Here’s Why You Should Do Intuitive Eating Instead

Honour your hunger

The new normal calls for new routines. In this series, #TeamClozette shares their journey of making healthier habits a new way of life.

Ever heard of intuitive eating? Going on a diet is usually the first to come to mind when we think of lifestyle changes. After all, eating is part of our daily routines and, unlike working out or starting a new hobby, turning to healthy eating should come naturally. However, in reality, it’s a lot harder to do. That’s where intuitive eating comes in.

As someone who's envied classmates and friends with flatter stomachs growing up, I’ve tried a variety of diets myself. One time, I only had bananas for breakfast for a week. In another instance, I tried the unhealthy ‘skipping out on meals’ method to see if it works. As expected, these only provided short term results.

Looking back at my old photos, I realised that I wasn’t exactly as ‘fat’ as I thought I was then. So what was I putting effort into and where did everything go wrong? Ahead, how I came into terms with my relationship with food through intuitive eating.

What is intuitive eating?

(Photo from: Sigmund via Unsplash)

But first, what is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is a “philosophy” that “makes you an expert of your body and its hunger signals,” according to Healthline. It was coined in 1995 by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch who wrote a book bearing the same name. However, principles supporting intuitive eating was said to have existed as early as the 60s and aligned with the feminist movement at the time.

It’s not a fixed method or a specific lifestyle program you have to follow with bulleted steps, but rather a more instinctive and personal practice. At first, it seems kind of vague and confusing, considering that guidelines are meant to ‘force’ us into creating a new habit. But while I was studying how it works, I noticed how perfect it is for people who have very unpredictable lifestyles and eating habits as it is less restrained and more adaptive.

Its main idea focuses on two things: our physiological need to eat and how we eat based on our emotions. The first one is a given; the second one is usually the culprit when it comes to unhealthy eating.

Understanding its principles and putting them to work

Intuitive eating has basic principles, all of which are quite self-explanatory. There’s ‘rejecting the diet mentality’, ‘honouring your hunger and health’, and ‘making peace with food.’ It also suggests ‘discovering a satisfaction factor’ and ‘respecting your fullness’.

Indulgent snacks are not the enemy. It’s all about eating in moderation.

Indulgent snacks are not the enemy. It’s all about eating in moderation.

I’ve long dismissed the idea of dieting ever since I figured that apart from shedding water weight, I’ve never really harvested good results from it. So that’s one step done. As for ‘making peace with food,’ it’s letting go of all the notions about what you should and should not eat. Living with my family means eating whatever fits everyone’s palate and tastes, and that usually means unpredictable bouts of cravings or eating out from time to time. I mean, who can resist when you get offered home-baked cookies by your mum?

I’ve often been told that I’m a hearty eater who still knows to stop when full so I was quite surprised to learn how I’ve been intuitively eating even prior to this ‘experiment’. However, when I read that honouring my hunger was also a principle of intuitive eating, that’s when I realised I was in trouble.

Making the change

This has always been one of my biggest problems. I try to suppress my hunger and skip meals altogether when I’m caught up with work or something else that’s keeping me busy. I also can’t eat when I’ve let my hunger pass for too long as my body will start to feel horrible when I consume anything on an overly empty stomach.

As prompted by this series, I made sure I ate with a proper mealtime schedule (7AM for breakfast, 11AM/12NN for lunch, no later than 6PM for dinner) so I can assure my body wouldn’t reach a starving point. Whenever I feel like eating something just because I’m stressed or annoyed, I hold back from reaching for snacks and grab a glass of water instead.

Addressing the ‘right’ kind of hunger is key in intuitive eating.

Addressing the ‘right’ kind of hunger is key.

When I was itching to munch on something in between meals, I started to lean more towards fruits (or treats with fruits) to satiate my need for small bites. I don’t reject crisps or ice cream completely and happily indulge in them when I’m in the mood, but I realised that I started preferring fruits more when I made an active decision to incorporate them into my eating habits.

Through this entire process, I realised that mealtimes are there for a reason so you don’t push your body and hunger signals to a limit. Also holding back on junk snacks and trading them with a glass of water or a piece or fruit conditions the mind that it’s not hungry but rather just temporarily craving (like a need-versus-want kind of thing). This helps in controlling unhealthy intake of food without overly policing yourself about what you are and are not eating.

Should you try intuitive eating?

Absolutely. I’ve always believed that repressing yourself from something works like a rubberband that you can only stretch so much before it snaps back. Think of the diets that ask for very little to no food, which can be quite tedious for a person who is used to eating ‘normally’. However, intuitive eating requires a lot of discipline since it’s a ‘programless program’. If I’m being honest, it’s both easy and hard to do. Easy because you might already be doing some of its practices without realising; hard because it requires self-reflection and policing and correcting eating habits you’ve previously developed. Still, it’s not impossible to get right. It only proves that, as cheesy as it sounds, the key to addressing your hunger to be healthy (pun obviously intended) is still ultimately up to you.