What is intuitive eating and why is it currently a big hit? Pitfalls, advantages, dangers…

Published On: 23. July 2023.
8 min read

Since the beginning of the world, there have been so-called beauty standards that individuals want to fit into to a greater or lesser extent. In the last 30 years or so, we have seen that beauty trends oscillate from the fact that extremely thin, model-like bodies are valued, as well as lush curves. Five years ago, more and more people started talking about body positivity and accepting ourselves the way we are – regardless of the fact that perhaps beauty standards tell us that we don’t fit into the desired norms.

In this constant search for acceptance and the formation of a perfect appearance, with which today’s society is largely unhealthily obsessed, many, instead of changing their habits and accepting the idea that a balanced diet, quality sleep and regular exercise are the safest recipe for a long-lived body, tend to try various ‘IT’ and a trendy diets. So, from season to season, on the lists of the most popular fitness programs and diets, you can find keto, lunar or Japanese diets – although they are all essentially based on the same concept, which is a caloric deficit.

So, a caloric deficit, i.e. the consumption of less calories than what we burn through in a day, is the only way to lose kilos and lose weight, and lately the public is more and more aware of the dangers of some trendy diets that have long-term fatal consequences for health. Namely, eliminating one or more groups of foods from the diet can lead to weight loss in the short term, but in the long run it can damage organ functions and cause problems with the functioning of our body at the molecular level.

For this reason, more and more emphasis is placed on learning about so-called intuitive eating – that is, a kind of anti-diet.

What is intuitive eating?

While diets and specially created nutrition programs prescribe to what extent, what and when to eat, the whole idea behind intuitive eating is that you can eat in quantities that will fill you up – and that you learn when and how to get to that point and then consciously stop to eat, without strict rules and restrictions.

Intuitive nutrition is thus based on the assumption that our bodies naturally know what they need for maintenance and improvement, but it should be taken into account that we are evolutionarily ‘programmed’ to reproduce in conditions of limited energy availability – so we are often more attracted to food rich in energy and fats. So, it is logical that we are more attracted to higher calorie, fattier food, and if we eat intuitively, won’t we constantly overeat? There lies the catch.

Source: Nutritionist Resource

Nutritionists warn that, although intuitive eating is a good antithesis to drastic diets that harm the body, it can actually be just as disastrous. Studies show that individuals who suddenly decide to eat intuitively do not actually have control over the choice of foods they consume or the amount of food eaten – in fact, most will initially consume a significant surplus of calories, while at the same time telling themselves that they are eating healthy and balanced because they feel the body’s need for , for example, sweet. Therefore, merely listening to internal body signals is not enough – because they can often deceive us.

Cons and pros of intuitive eating

Nutrition is not just about nutrients. The psychological aspect of nutrition, the relationship to food, is the basis of a healthy diet. Food is an elementary part of our social lives, it has an emotional component and represents comfort and consolation. Looking at that segment, intuitive eating is indeed a better choice compared to most other diets that prescribe restriction of food and calorie intake and create a bad relationship with food. This bad relationship often leads to eating disorders, from simple overeating to bulimia or anorexia – that are life-threatening.

It is clear that food is more availablethan ever, especially highly processed and with added sugars. Such food causes a certain amount of “addiction” (not physical because it has not been scientifically proven, but psychological one) due to the feeling of temporary pleasure and satisfaction (dopamine levels). I believe that we are aware that this kind of food is the reason for the increase in obesity in the world (See the article Obesity and its devastating impact on health Obesity and its devastating impact on health). Such food does not help at all with the increase in the problem of overeating, with which big amount of the population is struggling. More than you might think. When I did polls about who has problems with overeating, the answer was a worrying 73%. That’s a statistic from my Instagram profile, but it’s not an insignificant figure when we look at a sample of a few hundred people who voted.

One of the really high-quality tools for establishing a healthier relationship with food surely is Intuitive Eating. By building such a relationship, we will achieve long-term sustainable results. The problem is that on that long journey there is often a temporary accumulation of extra pounds. What I consider a healthy and normal process of learning about satiety levels, the amount of food that is really needed by the body and mind as well as removing restrictions. Short-term problem, long-term peace and freedom.

If we ask the question whether intuitive eating is necessary and a healthier way to lose weight, the answers of scientists that you will find vary a lot, and it can be said that it depends from case to case but generally everyone agrees that intuitive eating is not the most effective way of eating for people who want to lose weight.

Losing weight by definition means that we have less energy compared to the period when we keep the weight off. In such a situation, the body dominantly seeks food rich in energy. It is an evolutionary stamp on us and it is completely natural. At that moment, when we want to lose weight and have to be hungry now and then or deny ourselves excessive amounts of food we like, listening to the body can be very demanding. The body is just telling us that this is counter-natural, counter-intuitive behavior and ultimately the combination of the goal of losing weight and intuitive eating will lead to overeating. We will give in to the pressure of the ‘will of the body’ and reach for a bag of chips when we want to achieve caloric consumption – and all under the pretext of intuitive eating and the slogan ‘my body is asking for it’.

Such a pattern of behavior can be just as toxic as the one we learn by following a strict diet where we deprive ourselves of a lot of food. The result is ultimately the same, both options end with ‘giving in’ and overeating in everything that is ‘forbidden’, which leads to stagnation or excess on the scale.

Also, another reason why intuitive eating is not the best form of weight loss is that the process of losing weight should not be carried out by neglecting the nutritional value of the diet. A healthy weight does not mean a healthy diet. Quality and quantity of nutrition are two completely separate stories. Intuitive eating tells us nothing about this. Unfortunately, the body does not have sensors for the quality of food – in fact, it very often asks us to put not-so-healthy, fatty and high-calorie foods into the body.

Conclusion – intuitive eating, yes or no?

Whether a particular diet is healthier than another depends primarily on what we eat, on the nutritional quality of our diet. Intuitive eating does not tell us what to eat. Moreover, it sends a dangerous message that our bodies send us optimal signals about what they need – which very often misleads and leads into a trap. Nutritionists therefore agree that intuitive eating is an excellent tool for acquiring a healthier relationship with food, but only if that relationship is based on knowledge of the nutritional importance of foods. It is therefore wrong to expect that your body will only know what it needs and that it will bring the best impulses – on the contrary, you must learn how to read these impulses and choose the best one for you.

As a person who has struggled with an eating disorder for a long time, I know how important the decision to seek professional help is, and that is exactly why I am sharing useful Croatian contacts, associations and Instagram profiles below:

Sources:

2024-01-06T05:59:29+01:0023. July 2023.|

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