I want to discuss a topic that is growing in awareness and popularity- and that is intuitive eating! I also wanted to take this time to detail the difference between intuitive eating and intuitive tracking! Let’s dive right on into it!
Intuitive eating, by definition, is simply eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. In the fitness industry and online, I do believe it is used in a very generic and loose way. A lot of fitness professionals also use the term when they are talking about dieting when you aren’t actively tracking macros (carbs, fat, and protein). In theory, this is best used for maintenance or bulking.
Unfortunately, many trainers or fitness professionals who state they are doing intuitive eating are actually doing intuitive tracking (which we will get into later in the blog). Unfortunately, the lack of education on intuitive tracking is now promoting intuitive eating as something it isn’t and is giving many people false hope that they can just eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full but they aren’t reaching their goals.
There are 10 principles to Intuitive Eating:
- Reject the diet mentality
- Honor your hunger
- Mentally make peace with food
- Challenge the food police
- Respect your fullness
- Discover the satisfaction factor
- Honor your feelings without using food
- Respect your body
- Feel the difference
- Honor your health gentle nutrition
As I am sure you can imagine, this is a very liberating way to eat- no restrictions and just “listen to your body.” Unfortunately, I do not think a lot of people are disciplined enough for this style of dieting if you haven’t counted macros or calories beforehand. Why? Because you have literally no idea what calories or macros you are ingesting- even if it’s just a rough idea. However, if you have an unhealthy relationship with food, it may be wise to couple this style of dieting while actively seeking the help of a food therapist. Again, it is important to note that this style is best for non-dieting maintenance, aka your weight won’t go up and it won’t go down IF you can actually stop eating every time you are full.
While in a calorie deficit (actively trying to lose weight), it is normal to feel SLIGHTLY hungry- usually a 3 on the hunger scale (graphic below). During Intuitive Eating, you would usually eat when you hit a 3. In a calorie deficit, you usually wouldn’t- hence, the weight loss (this doesn’t mean starvation, as an FYI). Milk hunger is normal, especially at the beginning of a calorie deficit. This is why Intuitive Eating is used for non-dieting maintenance as it encourages you to eat every single time you are hungry (not bored, actually hungry).
Macro tracking, even for a short time, is beneficial because it teaches you how to track, portions, building a plate, etc. This is a learned skill that will be engrained in you as it was a habit reinforced over weeks, months, and for some, years. Even if you aren’t realizing you are doing it, if you have tracked macros and then switch to “intuitive” at maintenance, there’s a strong chance you will still be somewhat tracking (or at least prioritizing protein at each meal).
Even at maintenance, someone who has tracked before will still probably somewhat listen to cues (aka tracking without tracking, if that makes sense). This “style” of eating is how people can stop tracking macros and still maintain their weight, for the most part. So, if you see a trainer talking about intuitive eating, ask them if they have ever tracked macros. Chances are- they have. And chances are, they are still using those skills they learned (there’s nothing wrong with this, it should just be classified as such).
As a side note- if you lost weight without tracking, you probably so through a fad diet, you did it so by listening to “rules” (no carbs, paleo, etc). Macro tracking will teach you skills while fad diets teach you rules (with no education and no skill behind it).
I hope this helps clear up any confusion and helps you in your diet and fitness journey!