Knowing how to count macros and calories, along with understanding portion control and moderation is extremely important when you are learning how to eat healthy, lose body fat, and build muscle. Knowledge is power after all. However, for many people, this isn’t an enjoyable process that they want to do day in and day out for the rest of their lives. I am here to tell you that once you have mastered counting your macros, you get to a point where you know what to do without counting every calorie or macronutrient. This is when intuitive eating comes in to play.
What is intuitive eating? It is very simple actually. Intuitive eating allows you to listen to your body and eat what feels right for you. This does not mean you eat whatever you want, whenever you want. It means that you are attune to your body’s natural ability to tell you when you are hungry and satiated. It takes the stress out of counting calories or the pressures around meal time. It focuses on eating the foods that works best for your overall physical and mental health and ensures that you are in tune with and listening to your body’s needs.
You are probably wondering how exactly do you go about eating intuitively? Follow these 5 steps to learn how:
1.Stop dieting and just focus on making healthy choices. Fad diets are all over the internet claiming that you will lose weight and lose it quickly. Many of which have strict rules around food that require eliminating food groups or reducing calories to an unhealthy level. Most of these diets aren’t sustainable and won’t work in the long run. When you restrict foods and severely reduce calories, your body may not get the nutrients it needs to function properly. They cause your body to feel hungry and many times you will end up overeating later. So ditch the diets and focus on making healthy food choices and fueling yourself on nutrient dense foods.
2. Eat when you are hungry. It is so important to listen to your body’s natural cues; trust your body and allow yourself to eat when it lets you know that you are hungry. Don’t ignore your hunger pangs until they overwhelm you and you end up overeating out of the feeling of starvation. Instead, eat when your body says it is time. Focus on making healthy food choices. Once you know the macronutrients your body needs, you already know the foods you should be eating, as well as the quantity and portions you need, to keep you healthy and satiated. So, make sure you continue to eat a variety of foods to make sure you are getting the proper nutrients.
3. Pay attention to when you are full. It is important to stay attune to your body when you are eating. Eat slowly and pause frequently to check in with your body. This will allow you to assess your hunger levels to see if you need more food or if you feel satisfied. When you eat nutrient dense foods and get sufficient protein, you are likely to be satiated quicker too, which stops you from overeating. Helpful hint: start your meal with eating your protein.
4. Eat foods that make you feel good. It is important that you fuel your body with healthy foods. These give you the nutrients you need for your body to function properly. It also assists with weight loss, building muscle, or just maintaining your weight. However, this doesn’t mean avoiding your favorite “feel good” foods. Depriving yourself of certain foods will definitely trigger cravings and can lead to binge eating. Eating intuitively is about choosing foods that will satisfy your health needs as well as enjoying foods that simply taste good. Moderation and portion control is key here. A small portion of chocolate or ice cream won’t make you gain weight overnight. You can eat these on occasion and not feel guilt, but what and how much you eat over time will affect your health and weight.
5. Emotions vs. Hunger. It is important to differentiate between when you are hungry or when you are eating your emotions. Emotional eating is a problem that many people have. Eating as a result of anxiety, stress, loneliness, boredom, etc. often leads to health issues and this type of eating doesn’t fix or address the problems that cause those feelings. Pay attention to your body. Are you hungry or are you having emotional feelings? If this is something that is occurring, it is best to talk to a therapist to help sort out your feelings and get to the root of the problem.
Intuitive eating may not be for everyone, especially for those dealing with serious medical issues that require you to manage your condition by eating or avoiding certain foods. It is always best to refer to your primary care physician before starting anything new. I also highly recommend seeking a registered dietitian to assist with meal plans as they are educated and experienced to assist with individuals with all different nutritional needs.
As you try intuitive eating, it is important to know that you still have the know-how to count macronutrients at any time. Therefore, if you decide you want to attain a certain body goal, you can always count your macros to assist with reaching that goal. Or perhaps, if you find yourself gaining weight or you feel like you may be going a little off the rails with your food choices, you can always take a short period of time to reassess and reevaluate what you are consuming by tracking your macros again. You will likely find what is happening, whether you are just eating too many calories, not enough protein, or maybe alcohol consumption is higher than usual. Whatever may be happening, this can help you reset and get back on track and back to eating intuitively.
Remember, whatever way you choose to maintain healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle, just know that it should be something that you can do long term, because as you know, health and wellness is a journey, not a destination.