Intuitive Eating

Recently I’ve heard a few people say they would prefer not to count calories and instead want to try Intuitive Eating.

Intuitive Eating is almost an anti diet movement, believing people should eat when they are hungry and what they feel their body needs.  It follows a ten point plan which includes respecting your hunger, not labeling food good or bad and not using food as an emotional crux.

There is actually very little about intuitive eating that I disagree with, it largely encourages people to have a healthy relationship with all foods and not starve themselves.

My issue with Intuitive Eating is this.

Unless you have already mastered tracking calories you will struggle to reach your goal eating intuitively. 

I can see the appeal.  If you’ve always struggled to stick to a certain number of calories the idea of eating what you ‘feel like’ you need is appealing.  Let’s be realistic here though.  If you were able to do this you’d probably already be at your goal (here I’m assuming it’s some form of fat loss).

If you’re not at your goal, which here I’m going to assume is fat loss, you are probably currently eating more calories than you burn.  If you were not you’d be losing fat and not looking for an alternative way of eating.

So what you need to do is learn how to track, then stay within your calorie goal for a sustained period of time.

Now once you have mastered this and done this for a fair while chances are you will be able to eat intuitively.  You’ll start to get an idea of how much you need to eat each day to be at the right energy level for you and be able to track less and still stay on track.

But until you reach this stage eating intuitively is likely to be much the same as eating as you currently do, with a limited idea of how much you are actually eating and no way of educating yourself on how to make the changes you need to make.

Think of it like driving a car.  Now when you drive you probably get in the car and just go- everything happens automatically without even thinking.  But that wasn’t the case when you first started to learn – you followed rules and checklists.

Think of your job, how you were in the first few weeks or even years of doing it compared to now.  As you become more skilled in something you can react more instinctively, but to begin with you need to learn that trade.

So if you want to eat intuitively and reach a specific goal, you really need to qualify to do that by first learning how to track and understand calories.

Social Strategy

When you are trying to stick to a calorie deficit social occasions can be tough and you need to decide on a strategy to not let one day or night out derail your progress.

Below are some ideas of methods you could sue to exercise a bit of damage limitation and still enjoy yourself.

  • Check out the menu beforehand

Have a look online at the menu before your night out and plan what you will eat, that way when you are there you are less likely to over order or order things you haven’t accounted the calories for.

  • Fill up on salad / veg

Aim to include some salad / vegetable items with your meals to help fill you up whilst also keeping calories down.

  • Avoid the bread basket

Perhaps you really like bread, in which case knock yourself out and have some.  But if you’re only eating it because the bread basket it’s extra unnecessary calories.

  • Mix your drinks

Not in the way you think.  Mix water in between your alcoholic drinks to help limit calories through drinks.

  • Eat beforehand

If the social occasion isn’t specifically based around food you might want to eat beforehand so you can easier control how much you eat.

  • Save calories during the week

If you want to stay on track but still have a big calorie night out you could consider creating a bigger calorie deficit across the week so you have extra calories to use on your night out.

  • Eat something you really enjoy

If you going to eat more calories than normal you may as well pick something you are really going to enjoy, that way you are more likely to feel satisfied and less likely to overeat on other elements of your meal.

  • Pick an activity that doesn’t involve food and drink

When planning days or nights out try and plan activities that aren’t just based on eating and drinking.

Over Eating

We all have days when we over indulge – whether that be food, alcohol or both.  It’s not a case of trying to never do that because that would make life pretty miserable.  We can however choose to respond more positively to these over indulgences so we don’t sabotage our results in the long term.

So what do you do if you’ve had over indulged?

Do drink more water

Depending on how you over indulged you may be dehydrated, but regardless extra water will make you feel fresher.

Don’t do extra exercise

Avoid using exercise as a punishment for over eating as this will create a negative association with training, plus if you have a hangover exercise isn’t really what you want to be doing.

Do use the extra calories to fuel your next workout

Whilst you don’t want to add extra training in you could use those extra calories to push yourself harder in your next scheduled workout and come out feeling really good.

Don’t starve yourself

Punishing yourself by drastically reducing your calories in the days after will create a negative cycle of eating.  You could look to slightly reduce your calorie intake for a few days subsequently (couple of hundred calories max) but reducing what you eat dramatically to make amends will only make you feel worse.

Do eat nutrient rich / dense foods the next day

Eat foods that will both fill you up and make you feel good the next day, making you feel better without starving and allowing you to mentally get back on track.

Don’t skip meals

By the same token don’t purposefully skip meals to try and compensate.

Do Move on

One bad meal or day doesn’t define your diet overall, so rather than punish yourself for it look at it as a day / meal you enjoyed and focus on the next day / meal instead.

Don’t scrap the rest of the week

Try moving on straight away instead of saying well I may as well start again Monday now.  This essentially ensures damage limitation.