This is a question I get asked many times. There are two main aspects triggering that question. The first one, is the fact intuitive eating allows you to eat what you want. Most people think that you can’t lose weight with intuitive eating for that reason. They think that, if they eat what they want they will be binging on the forbidden foods all the time. The second, is that intuitive eating promotes self-acceptance and many people who follow the intuitive eating lifestyle, are also supporting the health at every size approach.
Let’s see more in depth and explain why you can and should lose weight if you are overweight, when practicing intuitive eating. Although, I will first mention that losing weight should never be your main goal. It will result as a consequence of practicing intuitive eating correctly, if you hold extra weight, but we should never be driven by losing weight itself.
LOSING CONTROL WHEN EATING WHAT YOU LIKE
When it comes to choosing freely what to eat, it is unlikely you will be all the time indulging on the prohibited foods. Prohibited foods are so desired because, while you are dieting, you restrict them. You don't allow yourself to eat and enjoy what you like. This increases the desire and makes you binge on those foods when giving in. Your mind is like, "who knows when I am going to be able to eat this again, let's make the most of it! Restriction will come back". This is the all or nothing mentality caused by restriction.
When you have little of something is enjoyable, but too much gets boring. It won't take long until you get tired of the chocolate and cookies. Is like when you go on holidays and you eat heavy meals for many days, and suddenly you are like, "I fancy a nice salad". This is your body asking for nutritious food, because it needs them to function efficiently.
When you stop restriction and you listen to your body, you will naturally start choosing more balanced. You will start noticing how you feel when eating certain foods and the energy changes depending on what you eat. You will find yourself seeking nutritious food most of the time but having the treats occasionally, when you really feel like having them.
Of course, there is a period of adaptation. This doesn't happen overnight. I am not saying that you will stop restricting and this will happen straight away. As everything in life, there is a changing process you need to go through. If you have been dieting a prolonged period of time, you will probably find yourself, at the beginning, eating more of the foods you have been restricting. But don't panic, this won't stay forever. It will slowly equilibrate, until you find your balance.
Your brain and your body need to really believe they are free from the restriction. This shift will happen overtime, as you allow yourself to eat what you like. It is not only a physical process, but mental as well. Be patient and positive that you are in the right direction to food freedom and finding a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable long term. No more quick fixes that don't work.
Whatever you eat until you find your balance, if you listen to your body signals, eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied, you will still provide the right amount of energy your body needs. No more, no less. You shouldn't be augmenting weight. Just trust your body and the process. You can have the doughnut and fit in your jeans. If you are overweight, you might even start losing the extra weight.
As mentioned before, the focus with intuitive eating is not weight loss, but how we feel and maintaining good health. I know you most likely want to lose weight and that is why you have been trying diet after diet. That is ok, but don't think of that sole purpose alone. Focus on what is good for you, on feeling great an energetic, on enjoying life, your health and happiness.
BODY ACCEPTANCE AND HEALTH AT EVERY SIZE
Here is where everything with intuitive eating gets a little bit controversial. True that intuitive eating promotes self acceptance. Without this mindset it is almost impossible to find food freedom. If your motivation to lose weight or achieving a healthy lifestyle comes from hating your body, you won't be doing things from a state of love and improvement. You will be forcing your body to avoid something you don't like or something you fear.
It is very important then, working on being ok in your own skin. Accept who you are now, and work to improve to be better, healthier and happier. Work mind and body as a whole. The change comes when you find the balance within first. When you shift your mindset, magic starts to happen, the real change comes.
The question to discuss now is, is being overweight healthy? Should we accept health at every size? My opinion as a coach is, that everyone should be doing what they feel is best and makes then happy. Although, from a health point of view, being overweight is not healthy.
Your body doesn't need to be overweight. Holding excessive fat is not healthy. We do need a certain percentage of body fat, that is a fact. How much? Different people have different set points. We all have different frames, heights, bone densities and shapes. Our set points differ and different people need different body fat percentages to be healthy. But we all should be in a normal range. Too much is not good as well as too little. Being overweight is not healthy and being skinny is not healthy either.
Body fat is particularly important for women. Many women that go below their set point and get to low percentages of body fat, normally lose their period. We are meant to carry babies and we go through many hormonal changes every month. Certain amount of fat is essential as it plays a vital part in maintaining hormonal balance.
Excessive body fat causes inflammation, heart diseases and many other illnesses. We all know that obesity is not healthy. Everyone should be respected at every size and respected whatever they choose to do, although in my opinion being overweight is never healthy.
If you practice intuitive eating and you eat what your body needs, you should maintain in a healthy range. Your body wants to feel full of vitality, full of energy, not sluggish and low. If you listen to it and provide what it needs, you will keep a natural ideal weight for your own genetics and maintain optimum health. Your energy levels will tell you if you are where you should be, as energy is the way our body has to tell us how healthy it is and how efficiently is working.
Aim to be in a healthy weight, accept your set point and your genetics. Love how you are and how nature has made you. Feel great as you are now and believe that you are already perfect, because you are unique. Being yourself and knowing that there is no one else like you is the most beautiful thing.
After discussing these two points, you can rest assure that intuitive eating is definitely linked to a healthy weight. Intuitive eating is a healthy lifestyle that allows you to work trusting the wisdom of your own body. No one knows better what is best for you than you. It allows you to fulfil your physical and mental needs for a sustainable nutrition and a happier you who can enjoy life again without obsessing over food.
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