It’s no secret that our society is always looking for new tips and trips to lose or manage body weight. Fad diets, cleanses and “reset” programs are more popular than ever and it seems like a new one pops up every week! Despite the popularity of these diets, it’s been shown that they are not effective or sustainable in the long term, and often weight ends up coming back.
So, what’s the answer? There is a growing movement towards eating in a way that allows us to trust our bodies, respect their needs, and truly enjoy the foods we love until we are satisfied. The key here is being in touch enough with our bodies, our hunger, and our satiety (fullness) cues to know when we’ve had enough to eat – and it’s usually sooner than when most people stop eating!
Intuitive Eating is defined as the dynamic process-integrating attunement of mind, body and food1.
- Unconditional permission to eat when hungry, and whatever food is desired.
- Eating for physical, rather than emotional reasons.
- Reliance on hunger and satiety cues to determine when, and how much, to eat.
- Body-Food Choice Congruence (gentle nutritional guidance of food choices)
Mindful Eating seeks to raise awareness about our eating environments, evaluate our hunger and determine whether we are truly hungry, and truly savouring food when we do eat2.
- Eating rate: Eating at a slower pace allows for greater enjoyment of foods and helps our bodies judge when we are truly full, which takes about 20 minutes to register.
- Hunger and Satiety Awareness: Assess hunger and satiety cues, recognizing when hunger is related to emotional, rather than physical reasons.
- Portion Sizes
- Minimize distractions while eating: Fully tune into enjoyment of food, hunger and satiety cues
- Savour Food: Enjoy food using all of the senses: Taste, sight, smell, and feel. Make food and eating more enjoyable by eating in a more enjoyable environment.
Benefits of Intuitive and Mindful Eating Behaviours:
- Lower incidence of disordered eating behaviours and restricted food (dieting) behaviours 1,3
- Balanced dietary and physical activity habits, improved nutritional quality and variety of food intake, adoption of healthy eating habits (e.g. eating breakfast)1
- Increased body satisfaction and improved psychological well-being associated with intuitive eating1
- Greater chance of adopting mindful eating approaches in eating patterns (i.e. choosing less sweet foods), maintaining weight loss and reducing fasting blood sugars standard diet approach4
- Improved blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride measurements1
- Lower body mass index (weight for height) associated with intuitive eating 1,3
So, what can you do? Start by becoming more aware of your eating patterns.
One very important aspect of mindful and intuitive eating is respecting your body’s hunger using what’s known as the Hunger Scale. The Hunger Scale ranges from 0 (rated as “starving” – think about the hungriest you’ve ever felt!) to 10 (rated as “stuffed” – incredibly full to the point of feeling extremely uncomfortable). Start to evaluate and rate your hunger on this scale before and after each meal/snack2,5. Maybe you need to eat sooner (feeling too hungry before the meal) or are eating more than your body needed to feel satisfied (feeling too full after the meal).
Additionally, start to take a closer look at your eating patterns and behaviours. Michelle May, MD, wrote the book Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat and founded Am I Hungry? Eat Mindfully, Live Vibrantly. One of her resources is a cycle of questions to reflect on our eating habits and patterns6
- Why do I eat? (including reasons aside from hunger),
- When do I eat? When do I think about eating, feel like eating and decide to eat?
- How do I eat? Rushed, slower, distracted, with enjoyment?
- How Much do I eat? Until comfortably full vs. until plate is empty/food is gone?
- Where does the energy go? Thinking about what activities your food and nourishment will power can help bring back some appreciation for eating and what food does for our health!
Check out some additional resources to learn more and help you get started with intuitive and mindful eating:
- The Center for Mindful Eating
- The Original Intuitive Eating Pros
- Am I Hungry? Eat Mindfully, Live Vibrantly
1Cadena-Schlam L & Lopex-Guimera G. Intuitive Eating: An emerging approach to eating behaviour. Nutr Hosp 2015; 31(3): 995-1002.
2Monroe, JT. Mindful eating: Principles and practice. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine 2015; 9(3): 217-220
3Anderson LM, Reilly EE, Schaumerg K, Dmochowski S & Anderson DA. Contributions of mindful eating, intuitive eating, and restraint to BMI, disordered eating, and meal consumption in college students. Eat Weight Disord 2016; 21:83-90.
4Mason AD, Epel ES, Kristeller J, Moran PJ, Dallman M, Lustig RH et al. Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on mindful eating, sweets consumption, and fasting glucose levels in obese adults: Data from the SHINE randomized controlled trial. J Behav Med 2016; 39: 201-213.
5Harris, C. Mindful eating: Studies show this concept can help clients lose weight and better manage chronic disease. Today’s Dietitian 2013; 15(3): 42.
6May, M. Mindful Eating is Eating with Intention. ©Am I Hungry? 2016. http://amihungry.com/what-is-mindful-eating/