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The Advantages of Intuitive Eating

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Intuitive Eating: Is it really intuitive? In the first of two parts, Ben Coomber looks at the advantages of ‘intuitive eating’.

One of the biggest trends in UK nutrition right now is the anti-’diet culture’ idea of intuitive eating.

Diet culture usually means restricting your food intake – either using portions, calories, or food choice – and is usually caused by body dissatisfaction.

This is not cool, and always leads to a poor relationship with eating. In order to have a healthy relationship with food you should not restrict portions, calories, or food choice. Instead, you should practise body acceptance and body appreciation regardless of your size. You should exercise (or not) when you want to and eat foods in an intuitive manner, trusting your body to know what it wants.

Basically, eat whatever you want to, in amounts that make you happy, living to love your body rather than change it. This may or may not cause weight loss, but it will improve your health.

The above is obviously a simplistic view of intuitive eating, but I believe that dieting, or doing stuff because you hate your body, is never going to work out. Many overweight folks need to repair their relationship with their body, themselves and food if they are ever going to be able to achieve improved health.

It’s extremely sad to see people who detest what they see in the mirror. They struggle to buy clothes, they socially isolate themselves and they typically enter a spiral of self-loathing as a result. No amount of body fat means you deserve a life like that and so the body positivity movement and associated theories like intuitive eating can be useful tools in getting people back in charge of how they feel about themselves.

I mean, some will say: “there’s nothing wrong with being ashamed about being overweight, you should be ashamed because then you’ll fix it”, but that’s just not true in many cases. How much care are you likely to take of something that you hate?

How much will you be willing to abstain from things you enjoy because it will benefit something you don’t even like?

Exactly.

Then, contrary to what many think, health can be improved without – or just with modest – weight loss. A person with obesity will be healthier if they lose 10% of their body weight, even if they stay obese (this isn’t news – we’ve known this since the 90s) and the importance of this can’t really be overstated. If people believe they need to lose 50% of their body weight and achieve a ‘healthy weight’ in order to make a difference, that’s a pretty big ask, but 10%? Most people could do that in a month or two.

And finally, perhaps the most clear benefit of intuitive eating; the improvements that can be seen in those with eating disorders from this kind of intervention are incredible.

Next month: what are the drawbacks of ‘intuitive eating’?

For more nutrition advice, check here.

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