There always seems to be a new diet craze or a new food group being restricted and pinned as the bad guy. All of this conflicting information can be confusing and frustrating. I still struggle with looking at certain foods as good and certain foods as bad. In reality, it's simple–moderation. Restricting yourself is only going to cause you to crave those foods. Intuitive eating allows you to stop the restricting and begin to listen to what your body is craving. 

Eating intuitively–and living intuitively (regarding working out and even how you approach life in general)–can repair your relationship with food and give you the freedom to start living and stop letting society's pressures of staying thin from controlling your life. 

Why Diets Don't Work

Diets are based around the idea of restricting yourself. They look at food as good or bad. We always want what we can't have, right? That is exactly why a diet (while possible) usually is not sustainable for the long term. 

Traci Mann, a researcher of eating habits, self control, and dieting says that there are three biological changes that happen when dieting–neurological, hormonal, and metabolic. "When you are dieting, you actually become more likely to notice food. Basically, your brain becomes overly responsive to food, especially tasty looking food."

She then talks about how when dieting, your hormone levels change and the levels of the hormones that keep you full decrease, while the levels of hormones that make you hungry increase. 

Finally, the metabolic biological change. It is common knowledge that dieting leads to a lowered metabolism but Mann says, " [a lowered metabolism] isn't a good thing if you're trying to lose weight, because when your body finds a way to run itself on fewer calories there tends to be more leftover, and those get stored as fat, which is exactly what you don't want to happen."

Intuitive Eating

The basis of intuitive eating is:

1. eat what you want when you’re hungry.

2. Stop when you’re full.

3. Don’t see food as “good” or “bad.”

Sounds simple but with all of these engrained ideas about the diet culture and food in general, it is hard to rid your mind of these disordered thoughts about food. 

I began my intuitive eating journey by checking in with my body when I woke up and when I went to bed. In the morning, I ask myself "what am I craving for breakfast?" Whether it be a smoothie bowl, or something more savory like avocado toast and a fried egg–I give myself what I am craving.

After I eat breakfast, I check in with how I feel. Am I satisfied or do I want something else? Honestly, a lot of times I go back for seconds or make something else (I'm a sucker for ending my meals off with something sweet). 

This "checking in" goes on throughout the day. At first, it can be annoying to constantly stop and listen to your body but after a while, it becomes second nature. 

What if I Only Crave Unhealthy Foods?

A valid question. 

Let me tell you a secret, your body is smart. If you only eat pasta, pizza, and donuts for a week straight, you will crave vegetables and "healthier" foods. 

A review article by the journal Public Health Nutrition about intuitive showed that "intuitive eating is linked with lower BMI (weight maintenance and lack of weight gain over the years) and better psychological health"

There is a sense of freedom that comes with allowing yourself to choose foods that you are craving with no guilt tagging along with that choice. I still struggle with letting go of the guilt but am slowly realizing that there is so much more to life than looking a certain way or cutting out every food that you enjoy because everyone around you is doing it. 

Applying These Principles to Your Life

The principles of eating intuitively can be used for how you look at working out or even how you look at life. While having a fitness routine is good, there are days that your body is begging you to rest. Instead of pushing yourself to complete a workout because you feel obligated, honor your body's wishes to rest. 

People always say that no one knows yourself better than you do. Since trying to live life more intuitively, I have begun saying no to things that I don't want to do, I have started to do more things for me. In a way, living intuitively has helped me become closer to myself and I feel as though I am living more authentically. 

This not only leads to a healthier body, but also a healthier mind. 

For more on my journey with intuitive living, check out my blog or on Instagram @naturallynicoletta.