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PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: WHAT IS INTUITIVE EATING AND WHY IT HELPS LOSE WEIGHT

I have learned how to eat and lose weight at the same time


Not so long ago, I started to work in the office. During the first three months, I was very nervous and afraid of not being able to meet expectations. So my well-established system of five meals a day very soon failed. When working from home, I used to satisfy my hunger slowly, chewing every bite carefully, without checking my watch. In the office, I was awkward, felt a little hungry in the morning, and learned not to notice my food cravings. I reduced my menu and it looked like this: an omelet with vegetables or oatmeal with honey, berries, and nuts for breakfast; one banana and a cup of espresso, chocolate bars, and muffins for lunch (not earlier than at five o'clock in the evening).


I came home late at night and ate up my food. And because of the continuous flow of tasks, I forgot to drink the usual two liters of water.


The result was immediate: I gained six pounds, started to ignore hunger, and noticed it only when it was too intense.


Previously, a mild desire to grab a bite to eat had indicated that it was time for food intake. When I set out to rediscover how to eat without restrictions and diets, I learned that my previous eating pattern had been intuitive. In fact, there are thousands of adherents to intuitive eating around the world.


Listen to your heart


The first thing to know: this is not a usual diet and you don’t need to take stock of your daily calorie intake, nutrient balance, portion size, or make a list of "forbidden" foods. Such approaches always trigger the "Diet - breakdown – remorse - diet" scheme. Intuitive eating is not a diet, but a fundamentally new concept of your relationship with food. Buddhists have become trendsetters of this eating pattern: they have been practicing the principle of mindful eating for centuries. The author of the New York Times Jeff Gordiner visited a Buddhist monastery and drew his readers' attention to one interesting tradition. Newcomers are given a few raisins or tangerines and are asked to meditate with food. They should spend about 10-20 minutes contemplating, reflecting, and eating their food slowly. This practice can seem pointless to millennials who are always in a hurry.

However, being present at the moment is a special art.

Jeff writes that emotional eating is a strategy for overcoming your feelings. That’s why you also need other ways to grapple with emotions: walking, meditating, writing, communicating with friends, and listening to your favorite music.


Buddhists believe that there are different types of hunger, and those who eat their negative emotions have the feeling of "heart hunger". The first step toward intuitive eating is to find the connection between your psychological state and the food you eat. We often choose certain products not because we like them, but to reproduce the emotions associated with them such as joy, comfort, love, peace.

"Food is just food. It’s not related to love, rest, sex, or friendship, " says Dr. Robert Schwartz in his book "Diets don't work".

For many years, he suffered from obesity and owned a chain of fitness clubs. He was always on a diet without any results.


And then he conducted a large-scale twelve-year study of thin people and wrote a book about how to eat consciously, easily lose weight, and no longer gain it. Schwartz found out that slim people usually followed four rules: they ate only if they were hungry; ate exactly what they wanted to eat; enjoyed every bite of food they put in their mouth; and stopped eating when they felt full.


The cult of overindulgence


Intuitive eating assumes that you can eat all that you want. Seriously, everything! But you should honestly want to eat this or that product and feel a physiological hunger. It develops gradually a few hours after eating, is accompanied by weakness, dizziness, loss of strength, and can be satisfied with different food (in contrast to emotional hunger that makes you run to the shop to buy crisps).


When you keep long and exhausting diets, your metabolic rate significantly slows down, while mindful eating suggests that you only allow yourself to eat when you want to. When you learn to listen to the signals of hunger, you will discover that you usually want to eat small frequent meals. In the long run, the problem of overeating will become less acute, and your metabolism will normalize.


On the Mother Nature Network website, Jenny Grover gives another advice on how to master mindful eating:


"If you start to pay attention to such important details as the acid taste of lemons, spicy flavor of arugula, crunching sound of pizza crusts, you will begin to eat consciously."

It won't be easy at first. Most of us are used to fast food and pastry. These products are oversaturated with sugar and flavor enhancers. Such people prefer food that does not have any nutritional and energy value.


The clinical psychologist and intuitive nutrition specialist Svetlana Bronnikova says:

"In my practice, I haven't had patients who would ask themselves: what do I want to eat at the moment? which dish will satisfy me best? In any case, such patients don’t visit us".

In her book " Intuitive nutrition. How to stop worrying about food and lose weight" she writes:

"The idea that the body has the right to choose seems absurd to many. We perceive the body as something that is inherently flawed, vicious, and needs to be strictly controlled."

The Zen Buddhist teacher Tik NAT Hanh and nutritionist Lillian Chang have compiled a real textbook of intuitive nutrition that is called " Conscious eating, conscious life. Zen-Buddhist approach to the problem of excess weight." They proclaim:

"When you are chewing an apple consciously, slowly, and enjoying its taste, you perceive it as it is. At the same time, you become fully aware of the present moment. By staying in it, you can truly realize what the apple is giving you. And it gives you not only a dose of sugar, dietary fiber, and vitamin C but also freedom from your worries."

This approach was adopted by Google: once a month, employees eat in complete silence enjoying the taste of food. Top managers note an unprecedented rise in ideas and the improvement of their quality.


For two months, I have been trying to eat consciously. As a result, I’ve lost four kilos, improved my health, and my skin has become radiant.


For the first time in my life, I’ve stopped eating breakfast — despite my invincible belief that it’s a must. I’ve just become more attentive to my body's signals. Previously, I was afraid to even think about going to work without having breakfast, and now I do it easily. I’ve replaced my morning meal with a large glass of water and a tablespoon of chia seeds. As a result, I feel a burst of energy and lightness. I have breakfast at work, and before lunch, I eat fruits, nuts, cheese, and cereals. Besides, last year, I stopped eating sweets and felt extremely unhappy. While writing this article, I reconsidered my decision and allowed myself to eat a few pieces of chocolate or cookies. I was surprised to find out that this "dose" was quite enough. Previously, I kept chewing sweet food until I ate up every bit of it. Now everything has changed. The only thing I need is to stop eating dinner on weekends while re-watching "Sex and the city".


Nine life hacks to help you start eating intuitively


  • Increase the time you spend on eating your meal. You shouldn’t eat more food but you need to eat slowly. When you feel pleasure, you will be full (depending on the speed of food consumption, it takes the brain about 15-30 minutes to send the appropriate signal).

  • Keep track of the variety of products in your refrigerator, so you will be always able to choose what you really want.

  • Use a pause technique: stop eating in the middle of your food intake, put down your fork for a few minutes, and do something else. When you start to move, you will sooner feel a sense of satiety and avoid overeating.

  • It is important not to limit yourself violently: try to listen to your body. If after a break you are still hungry, continue to eat.

  • Avoid acute feelings of hunger: eat at least four or five times a day.

  • Replace your meal with yoga from time to time. Or you can choose to communicate with your beloved ones or read a book. The habit of eating at certain times can disorient you.

  • Buy food at the market, not at the supermarket. It's very likely that you will prefer to buy delicious fresh products, rather than pastry, convenience food, or canned goods.

  • Focus on color, flavor, and texture — your tactile and olfactory receptors will get used to natural food, and sooner or later you will include it in your daily menu.

  • Play around with recipes. Popular broccoli and spinach can be tasty if you add cream or unusual spices to these vegetables.

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