Intuitive eating has grown in popularity in the past few years. Proponents claim that it is a more natural way of eating and helps you to listen to your body's signals about what, how much, and when to eat.
But can intuitive eating cause weight gain? Some people seem to think so. For those reasons, many people are hesitant to attempt to transition from dieting to intuitive eating.
In this article, I'll explore the potential impacts of intuitive eating and share some evidence that suggests the benefits far outweigh the risks!
What is Intuitive Eating and How Does It Work?
Intuitive eating is an approach to wellness that is all about ditching the diet mentality and tuning in to your body's natural cues. It's not a diet or a rigid set of rules. Instead, intuitive eating is a flexible way of eating that respects your hunger cues and allows you to enjoy all kinds of foods.
So how does it work? Well, intuitive eating starts with the premise that you are the best expert on your own body. For example, when you eat intuitively, you don't need to track your calories because you know when you're hungry and full. Intuitive eating also emphasizes listening to your body's hunger cues and honoring your cravings. Even though there are common misconceptions that intuitive eating means eating whatever you want, whenever you want, that is not the case. Instead, intuitive eating is about permitting yourself to enjoy the foods you love without guilt or shame.
Lastly, intuitive eating is about developing a healthy relationship with food. For instance, you might have previously avoided grains because you considered all grains to be "bad" foods. However, that is not true, and including grains in your diet can provide many health benefits. Thus, intuitive eating can help you learn to be more mindful of your eating habits and recognize that all foods can fit into a healthy diet.
How Intuitive Eating Can Lead to Weight Gain
Even though intuitive eating has many benefits, this way of eating can lead to surprising results - like weight gain. But before you give up on intuitive eating, it's essential to understand why this happens.
- You're No Longer Excessively Restricting Calories: For many people, weight gain is simply a result of finally giving their bodies the nourishment they need after years of dieting.
- Your Body is Adapting to Your Dietary Changes: When you've been restricting your calories for a long time, your body adapts by becoming more efficient at using the food you eat. So when you start eating more, your body may hold onto those extra calories instead of burning them off.
- You're Giving Your Body What It Needs: While intuitive eating can lead to weight gain, it's not necessarily bad. It can signify that you're finally giving your body what it needs.
If you're thinking about starting intuitive eating, or if you've already started and are seeing some unexpected results, don't despair. Remember that weight gain is not necessarily a negative thing - and it may be temporary as your body will adjust to its new level of nourishment.
Why the Benefits of Intuitive Eating Outweigh the Risks of Weight Gain
Although dieting is often seen as a necessary evil, it has various adverse side effects. Intuitive eating, on the other hand, is a far more holistic approach that helps people improve their overall health and has several other benefits.
One of the biggest concerns about intuitive eating is the potential for weight gain. However, compared to the long-term risks of dieting, this is less of a concern. In addition, dieting often leads to yo-yo dieting, which can have severe consequences for health. In contrast, intuitive eating provides three specific health benefits that far outweigh the risks of weight gain:
- Helps You Develop a Healthier Relationship With Food: Intuitive eating allows people to develop a healthy relationship with food and their bodies. The reason is that intuitive eating priorities eating foods you enjoy and provides your body with the nourishment needed to thrive. As a result, that enables you to see food as a friend instead of a foe.
- Helps Improve Mental Health and Self-Esteem: Additionally, intuitive eating has improved how people feel and think about themselves. We all know that dieting can have some very adverse impacts on people's mental health and self-esteem. Intuitive eating, in comparison, removes the guilt that often comes with eating certain foods and replaces it with trust that you're making the right choices for yourself at that moment.
- Helps Lower Stress and Anxiety: Lastly, intuitive eating removes the stress and anxiety that often comes when people are trying to make the "right" food choice. Unfortunately, diet culture has fixated on our food choices being "good" or "bad." Consequently, this has resulted in undue stress and anxiety for people around food. Intuitive eating allows people to take back their power by ditching the rules for making food choices that are right for them.
Overall, the benefits of intuitive eating far outweigh the risks of weight gain. Nevertheless, I'm not ignoring the fear that potential weight gain can have on us. That's why I want to ensure I leave you with a few tips on dealing with that.
Tips for Overcoming Concerns About Weight Gain When Intuitive Eating
If you're concerned about gaining weight when you start intuitive eating, don't worry - you're not alone. Many people turn to restrictive diets to control their weight, but this often leads to frustration, feelings of deprivation, and ultimately, weight gain. The good news is that you can follow some simple tips to overcome concerns about weight gain when you start eating intuitively.
- Remember Weight Fluctuations Are Normal: First, remember that weight fluctuations are normal - even if you're eating intuitively. Just as your weight fluctuates daily, it will also fluctuate over weeks and months. Try not to get too focused on the numbers on the scale. Instead of focusing on your weight, focus on how you feel in your clothes and body.
- Practice the Fundamentals of Nutrition: When you start eating intuitively, it's easy to forget the tenth principle to Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition. That means you're not just making food choices that honor your taste buds. You're also making food choices that are promoting your health. You can do that by ensuring you're eating the macronutrients and micronutrients your body needs to thrive.
- Give Your Body Time to Adjust: Remember that it takes time for your body to adjust to new eating patterns. So, that might mean that you're learning how to differentiate between your hunger and cravings in the beginning. Over time you'll be able to make food choices without feeling the need to second guess.
Final Thoughts About Intuitive Eating and Weight Gain
The critical thing to remember is that intuitive eating is a healthy way to approach food that should not be discouraged. The fear of gaining weight should not stop us from eating intuitively. Even though society has convinced us that weight gain is something to be avoided, the reality is that many people gain weight. Spoiler alert - they still live healthy lives. And, you can too!
Despite the precautions you might hear from many dieters, we cannot dismiss the fantastic benefits of intuitive eating. Those benefits include improved mental health, physical health, and overall well-being. When we allow ourselves to eat intuitively, we are more in touch with our bodies and establish a healthy relationship with food. In addition, for those who have struggled with chronic dieting, intuitive eating can help to prevent disordered eating behaviors and improve our self-esteem.
Thus, intuitive eating is a sustainable way of eating that can be enjoyable and satisfying. It is important to remember that the fear of gaining weight should not stop us from listening to our bodies and eating in a way that is natural for us.
So, There You Have It
Intuitive eating is far from a perfect solution, and there's always the potential for weight gain. But when you consider all of the other benefits – improved mental health, decreased stress levels, and more – it seems clear that the pros outweigh the cons.
I hope these tips have addressed your concerns about intuitive eating. Once you do, you'll be able to overcome your fears and start enjoying this healthy way of eating. So what are you waiting for? Start exploring intuitive eating today!