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Atkins, keto, raw food, paleo… when it comes to weight loss diets, we’ve tried them all. At some point, however, those late night cravings kick in and we think “what the hell, I’ll start again on Monday”. The restrictive nature of fad diets and weight loss trends puts us in an all-or-nothing mindset, which only sets us up for failure. Intuitive Eating and mindful eating are two schools of thought that reject the often unrealistic messaging and mentality surrounding diets. In this article, we’ll discuss the difference between them and how they can support healthy weight loss.  

What is Intuitive Eating? 

Founded by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Intuitive Eating encourages people to listen and respond to innate bodily messages in order to meet their physical and psychological needs. No foods, quantities or timings are off limits and there’s no counting calories, tracking macros or measuring portions. It’s simply about being aware of when you’re hungry and acknowledging when you’re full. There are 10 principles of Intuitive Eating: 

  • Reject the diet mentality 

  • Honour your hunger  

  • Make peace with food 

  • Challenge the food police  

  • Discover the satisfaction factor  

  • Feel your fullness 

  • Cope with your emotions with kindness 

  • Respect your body  

  • Movement — feel the difference 

  • Honour your health —gentle nutrition 

At its core, Intuitive Eating is the idea that individuals should be their own experts, pay attention to their own physiological needs and satisfy them in a mindful way.  

What are the benefits of Intuitive Eating? 

Aside from being able to enjoy all the foods you love, Intuitive Eating helps us get in touch with our natural instincts and rediscover the value of food. It also challenges the norms of typical diets. If we tell ourselves not to eat those cookies, we’ll crave them even more. By not curbing cravings, we’re better able to develop a healthier relationship with food and, in turn, be kinder to our bodies and minds. 

Intuitive eating: does it work for weight loss? 

It’s important to emphasise that Intuitive Eating is not a traditional weight loss diet. It’s more focussed on self-care and breaking emotional eating habits. When you learn to use hunger and fullness signals rather than external triggers to guide your eating, you’re better able to stop eating when you’re satisfied rather than stuffed, uncomfortable and feeling guilty or shame. 

What is mindful eating? 

Mindful eating is a technique developed to gain control over your eating habits. It’s based on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, a form of meditation that is often used to treat eating disorders and food-related behaviours like overeating (as well as anxiety and depression). Fundamentally, mindful eating is being present in the eating experience. It involves distinguishing between real hunger cues and non-hunger cues (like boredom, for example); being aware of colours, tastes, smells, sounds and textures when eating; and noticing the effects food has on your body, as well as your feelings, without judgement.  

What are the benefits of mindful eating? 

In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, eating has become somewhat of a mindless act. We regularly eat while scrolling on our phones, hurried on by the day’s next task. When we eat mindfully, we’re making eating an intentional act instead of an automatic one. This allows us to recognise our hunger triggers and consciously decide how to respond to them.  

Mindful eating and weight loss 

In a similar way to Intuitive Eating, mindful eating is not about counting calories or forbidding certain foods. It encourages replacing negative feelings associated around eating with awareness, positivity and self-control. When we’re aware of unwanted eating behaviours and address them in the right way, the chances of long-term weight loss are higher. 

What are the differences between Intuitive Eating and mindful eating? 

Although Intuitive Eating and mindful eating have plenty of similarities, there are some key differences. Where mindful eating is about being present in the eating experience, Intuitive Eating goes beyond, rejecting diet mentality and offering a more natural relationship with food.  

Curious about seeing how Intuitive Eating or mindful eating could improve your relationship with food? Try asking yourself some of the following questions: 

  • Do I stop eating when I’m truly full? 

  • Am I responsive to fast food advertisements and deals? 

  • Do I really taste food when I eat? 

  • When I eat a big meal, do I notice feeling heavy or sluggish? 

  • Do I appreciate the way food looks on my plate? 

  • When I’m sad or bored, do I use food to feel better? 

If you’re struggling with overeating, excessive binge eating or negative feelings surrounding food, Intuitive Eating and mindful eating can certainly help. Although, we always recommend seeking the advice of a doctor or licensed professional. We’d love to hear your experiences with either approach, so don’t hesitate to reach out @body&fit_official.