MOST people think losing weight involves sticking to a rigorous diet and ditching the food you love.
However, blitzing body fat doesn't need to be as taxing as this, according to medics and dietitians.
In recent weeks, countless experts have been encouraging slimmers to try intuitive eating if they want to trim down.
As Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and Clinical Director of Patientaccess.com, tells us: "Intuitive eating is about rejecting the diet mentality, recognising your hunger (and taking notice when you’re full), respecting your body and learning not to use food as a coping mechanism.
"It also means no foods are off limits, and many people worry that if they ‘let go’ of control, they will end up gaining more weight.
"But intuitive eating is also about learning to value your body and the foods that make it feel good."
Intuitive eating is also about learning to value your body and the foods that make it feel good
The eating plan was developed in the Nineties by two American dietitians based on their experiences of working with overweight people, and the growing popularity of the non-diet movement.
And a recent review of about 25 studies showed that people following intuitive eating generally weigh less than those following restrictive diets.
According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), there are ten basic principles slimmers need to know if they're following intuitive eating…
1. Reject the diet mentality
Intuitive eating is all about rejecting diets, constraints or schedules that surround food and learning to listen to the body.
Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you the false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently.
2. Recognise your hunger
It is all about eating when your body tells you that you’re hungry and stopping eating when you are full.
Learning to honour this biological signal sets the stage for rebuilding trust in yourself and in food.
3. Don't ban foods
No foods are off limits. Allowing yourself to have the foods banned by restrictive diets removes any guilt you might feel about eating them.
And when it’s no longer forbidden, the food may not seem so appealing.
"Eating what you actually want can mean you feel more satisfied with your meal – if you deny yourself, you might go on to have unhealthy snacks anyway," say the BHF.
How to work out if you're a healthy weight
The body mass index (BMI) is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy.
The BMI calculation divides an adult's weight in kilograms by their height in metres squared. For example, A BMI of 25 means 25kg/m2.
For most adults, an ideal BMI is in the 18.5 to 24.9 range.
For children and young people aged 2 to 18, the BMI calculation takes into account age and gender as well as height and weight.
If your BMI is:
- below 18.5 – you're in the underweight range
- between 18.5 and 24.9 – you're in the healthy weight range
- between 25 and 29.9 – you're in the overweight range
- between 30 and 39.9 – you're in the obese range
If you want to calculate your BMI, you can try the NHS' healthy weight calculator.
4. Challenge the food police
We've all experienced that feeling off guilt after we've dived into the biscuit tin or helped ourselves to another slice of cake.
Be aware of and challenge internal negative thoughts that categorise foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and lead to feelings of failure or guilt when you can’t stick to a diet plan.
5. Feel your fullness
Think before you eat. Tune into your hunger levels, and only eat when you are hungry.
Pause during the meal to think about how it tastes and how full you are.
Stop eating when you are comfortably full, even if that means leaving food on the plate or saying no to dessert.
6. Savour experience of eating
Don’t eat while you are in the car, rushing to an appointment or distracted (whether it’s by television, work or something else).
Studies show that people who eat while doing something else are likely to eat more, either at the time or at their next meal.
Concentrate on your food while you are eating so you can appreciate and enjoy it.
7. Cope with feelings without food
From moments of stress to times you're feeling sad and lonely – we're all guilty of using food to deal with our emotions from time-to-time.
However, while it might offer a short-term fix, it doesn’t resolve the problem and it certainly won't help when it comes to your waistline.
The BHF say: "Find another way of dealing with the emotion – whether it’s going for a walk, or trying to fix the issues that are causing negative emotions."
NHS advice on calorie intake
As a guide, an average man needs around 2,500kcal (10,500kJ) a day to maintain a healthy body weight.
For an average woman, that figure is around 2,000kcal (8,400kJ) a day.
These values can vary depending on age, size and levels of physical activity, among other factors.
Our bodies need energy to keep us alive and our organs functioning normally.
When we eat and drink, we put energy into our bodies. Our bodies use up that energy through everyday movement, which includes everything from breathing to running.
To maintain a stable weight, the energy we put into our bodies must be the same as the energy we use through normal bodily functions and physical activity.
An important part of a healthy diet is balancing the energy you put into your bodies with the energy you use.
For example, the more physical activity we do, the more energy we use.
If you consume too much energy on one day, do not worry. Just try to take in less energy on the following days.
8. Respect your body
Letting go of unrealistic expectations of body image, will help you keep on track with your weight loss journey.
In particular, accepting and respecting your body at every size will help you to feel better and make choices about food and exercise that are logical, rather than emotional.
9. Stop exercising to burn calories
Often find yourself setting targets to burn a certain amount of calories in one gym session?
Well, if you're trying intuitive eating, experts say you should be focusing on how exercise makes you feel rather than the amount of calories it is burning.
"Choose something you enjoy, whether it’s dancing, walking, running, gardening or team games, rather than forcing yourself to do something you don’t enjoy," say the BHF.
10. Honour your health
Lastly, those behind intuitive eating encourage slimmers to pick meals and snacks that are nutritious, but also satisfying and tasty.
And remember that one slip does not mean a fall.
One meal or one day where you don’t eat particularly healthily won’t make a difference in the long term – it’s what happens on most days that matters.
Can it really help you lose weight?
Dr Jarvis credits intuitive eating for helping people to lose weight – as it removes the obsession with food and the cycle of yo-yo dieting.
She said: "Many factors have contributed to the rising levels of obesity in the UK.
"Among them are ever-rising levels of ultra-processed foods and unhealthy carbs; increasing portion size; grazing between meals and mindless eating while we’re not concentrating on our food.
"But our obsession with food and the cycle of yo-yo dieting many people go through plays a major part too.
Fat loss becomes much harder to predict when enjoyment of calorie dense food is left unaccounted for
"Intuitive eating isn’t for everyone but I often discuss it with patients. If they feel it is right for them, I encourage them to try it, often with real success."
On the other hand, fitness expert Graeme Tomlinson cautions that intuitive eating could leading to slimmers overeating.
He wrote on Instagram: "Of course one can lose fat whilst following intuitive eating structures.
"But in doing so, fat loss becomes much harder to predict when enjoyment of calorie dense food is left unaccounted for.
"By listening to our desire, it is highly likely that we will consume favourite foods in excessive quantities."
He added that people should instead control their calorie intake if they want to lose weight.
He said: "Whilst calorie counting is not the only way to lose fat, it is the closest mechanism to the principles of calorie balance – which is fundamental to fat loss/gain."
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