Yes, you read that right. Instead, you need to get in touch with what are termed “intuitive eating cues,” which are your natural internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite.
Science demonstrates you will be thinner if you throw the calorie counter out the window and start listening to your body. In a 2005 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association , 78 overweight women were placed into one of two groups: calorie counters and intuitives. Over the next six months, each of the groups was instructed how to maximize their success using each method.
At the end of the six month period, there were no surprises: 41% of the calorie counters lost weight, compared to just 8% of the intuitives.
However, after six more months, nearly all of the calorie counters had gained their weight back. The intuitives, on the other hand, either maintained their weight loss or lost even more pounds.
What’s more, after two years, the differences were astounding. At that time point, all of the calorie counters had gained their weight back, whereas the intuitive eaters maintained their weight loss or lost even more, achieved lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and higher self-esteem.
This research study conclusion is not an isolated finding. Dozens of studies and publications have been devoted to intuitive eating. Here are 6 ways for you to implement better intuitive eating habits:
1. Devote time to yoga and meditation.
Numerous studies show that yogis have a greater self-awareness, better eating habits, lower body mass indexes, and improved mood over those who do not practice yoga. These studies include a 2005 two-part study in the Psychology of Women Quarterly , a 2000 review in The Journal of Affective Disorders , and a 2008 study in the Journal of Counseling and Development .
2. Take your time between bites.
It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that you have eaten, much less had a proper meal. So take your time with it. There’s one technique, popular in Japan, that demands chewing each bite of food 30 times. According to some reports , this stimulates release of peptide YY, reducing appetite.
Another rather amusing technique is from the author Alexandra Stoddard : No matter what you are eating, lay out a placemat, light some candles, and eat off your best plates. It not only infuses a little bit of specialness into an ordinary day, but it also helps your brain to fully register, hey, we’re eating here.
I honestly can’t say that I chew each bite 30 times or do the placemat-candle bit often, but I will admit I eat my dinner a little more slowly. I also eat less at my desk and more at a proper table.
3. Read more about intuitive eating.
One of the best resources on intuitive eating is Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works . Written by nutritionists Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, and Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA, the book focuses not only on methods for developing your own intuitive dieting habits, but also to change your mindset towards diets altogether.
I’ve found the more I read about a topic, the more comfortable I become in trying it. So invest in a few resources if you are serious about losing weight.
4. Ignore statements from successful calorie counters.
One of the most frustrating parts of having a diet fail is listening to ultra-skinny friends tell you what they do. I have one friend who lost 30 pounds three years ago and has not touched a carb in five years. I am Asian by birth and raised in an Italian household, so there is no way that I could live without rice or pasta. I tried once, and it lasted for exactly 21 hours and 3 minutes.
The bottom line is this: The point of intuitive eating is to listen to what is right for your body. Maybe you can go carb-free, maybe you just need smaller portions of everything. Heck, maybe you’ll go through all of this and your body will tell you a calorie-counting regimen is right for you! Do what is best for you.
5. Track your progress.
Two reasons: One, you won’t know if it’s working unless you have a starting point, mid-points, and an end point. Two, journaling has been associated with heightened self-awareness, reinforcing your intuitive powers. What better than to kill two birds with one stone?
If you want to lose weight and have failed at diets in the past, try intuitive eating. It’s super-effective, free, and completely natural. At best, you’ll succeed. At worst, you will learn something about yourself, heighten your sense of self-awareness, and have an idea of what to try next. And that’s a beautiful thing.
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