If you frequent Cosmopolitan's Snapchat story or scroll through fitness accounts on Instagram, chances are that you've seen a mirage of hypothetical "miracle diets" that claim to help people lose up to thirty pounds in a month. In reading between the lines of these diet plans (which, in all honesty, can feel like pyramid schemes) you might find that in order to lose weight, you have to pledge to never touch a piece of chocolate or a Chipotle burrito ever again. But what if it was possible to defy the prescriptive, limiting, "eat this not that" regime associated with dieting and develop a better bodily awareness in the process? Welcome to intuitive eating! 

apple, 3 apples, fuji apples, red apples, apples in hand, Healthy, Fruit
Jocelyn Hsu

So what exactly is intuitive eating? 

Intuitive eating is simply defined by eating based on bodily signals. Rather than listening to a prescriptive diet plan (i.e. a ketosis-enducing diet) that tells you what to eat and when, intuitive eating requires an individual to listen to how the body reacts to fullness and deficiency and select foods based on those preferences. For many people, eating just comes as something we do- there's no consideration of why we're actually eating. As a result, intuitive eating often comes with a prerequisite of relearning your body's signs of both physical hunger (not having enough to eat) versus emotional hunger (eating driven by feelings that often causes us to feel guilty afterwards). 

From a philosophical point of view, intuitive eating rejects the idea of classifying foods as good or bad. Rather, it enforces the radical idea that people should be able to eat what they want without feeling bad about it. An intuitive eater can identify when they are hungry and subsequently fulfill that biophysical need in the same way they can identify when their body has had enough of a particular food. 

But isn't intuitive eating just like- eating normally?

Precisely! The fact of the matter is, the up-and-go nature of society has altered the way humans (especially college students) eat. For example, think about the last day you didn't instinctively eat dinner. Or the time you ate a big lunch in the dining hall, just because you thought you might be hungry later. In short, everyone is guilty of eating mindlessly at some point. Our lives are so busy that we rarely consider why we're doing what we're doing, or why we choose to eat what we do. Prescriptive diets provide structure and clarify what we should be eating so we don't actually have to consider it for ourselves. 

chocolate, peanut, nut, candy
Christin Urso

How does one start eating intuitively?

The first thing you'll need to learn before you start eating intuitively is how to recognize your body's expression of hunger and fullness. Take a few moments whenever you decide to eat (albeit a full meal or a snack) to ask yourself why you're choosing to eat. Are you experiencing physical hunger? Or are you eating out of emotion? Next, rank your hunger on a scale from 1-10 before you dive in. If you're at a 10 (very, very hungry), you're more inclined to over-eat. Aim to eat when you are hungry, but not starving.

After you eat a little bit, see if your physical symptoms of hunger have dissipated. Eat until you are comfortably full rather than stuffed. Overeating can trigger feelings of guilt and anger- and also make you feel physically slow. If you want a Reese's, eat a Reese's. Focusing your attention on what you're eating, the tastes, smells, and feelings you experience, can give an overall better, happier way of eating. 

How effective is intuitive eating compared to other diets? 

Intuitive eating is inherently transgressive towards dieting norms. You're not limiting yourself to certain food groups, nor forcing yourself to only survive off lemon water and almonds. In becoming more attentive about your food choices, you're attuning your focus to the true beauty of food- full of vibrant tastes, textures, and the ability to make us feel happy.