A weight loss diet usually includes a restricted diet. The 5: 2 diet relies on calorie restriction, and the ketogenic diet relies on restricting certain types of food. However, research has shown that over time, strict dieting leads to higher body mass index (BMI) and greater likelihood of overweight in the future. There is also evidence that dietary restrictions can lead to food concerns, guilt over eating, and higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. So if diet doesn’t always help you lose weight and can cause psychological problems, are there any other solutions?
Recently, the concept of “intuitive diet” has received increasing attention. The intuitive diet was promoted by two nutritionists, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, who published a book on the subject and developed a website dedicated to the subject. The purpose of eating intuitively is to listen to your body and let it guide you when and how much to eat, not to be influenced by environmental, emotional, or dietary regulations. This concept is similar to the mindfulness diet, and the two terms are often used interchangeably. The mindfulness diet includes developing awareness of intrinsic hunger and satiety, and consciously choosing food. It emphasizes the importance of paying attention to emotional and physical feelings while eating.
Unlike other diets, an intuitive diet encourages you to eat whatever you want-no food is contraindicated. Although some may think that this may cause people who adhere to this diet to eat more high-fat or high-sugar foods, research suggests that this is not the case. In fact, proponents of intuitive diets believe that the more you restrict yourself, the more likely you are to overeating in the future. The concept of an intuitive diet is simple; it does not involve complex dietary rules. But what does the evidence show?
Positive impact on mental health
In terms of weight loss, it is unclear whether an intuitive diet is more effective than calorie restriction. The results of observational studies have found that people who eat intuitively have a lower BMI than people who eat intuitively. However, since people who restrict their diet may be because their BMI is already high, it is difficult to determine the true effect of an intuitive diet. In addition, the results of intervention studies targeting overweight or obese people are less clear.
For example, a review found that of the eight studies they evaluated, only two found that an intuitive diet reduced weight. In a recent study, only 8 of the 16 studies found weight loss. Of these 8 studies, only 3 showed significant weight loss effects. Unlike other diets, the focus of an intuitive diet is not on losing weight, but on how people eat. Therefore, even if its effectiveness as a weight loss method is uncertain, it can still provide benefits by promoting healthy eating behaviors. This possibility is supported by research that suggests that an intuitive diet may lead to binge eating symptoms and reduced eating for external and emotional reasons.
Intuitive diets are also associated with more positive body image, physical satisfaction, positive emotional function, and higher self-esteem. Finally, a recent study found that a higher level of intuitive eating compared to counting calories and frequent self-weighing predicted lower symptoms of eating disorders. This contrasts with the typical restrictive diet, which is associated with an increased risk of eating disorders, which may be greater for those with symptoms of depression and inferiority. Although more research is needed to determine whether an intuitive diet can lead to weight loss, its positive impact on mental health and healthy eating behavior is promising.
Listen to yourself
One problem with instinctual eating is that it assumes that we can accurately determine how hungry or full we are. Studies have shown that those who are better at perceiving inner feelings are also more intuitive when eating. However, because there is evidence that people with eating disorders have difficulty recognizing signals from inside the body, some people may have difficulty responding to intuitive eating patterns simply because they have difficulty listening to their own body sounds.
In addition, while it seems logical to imply eating based solely on internal feelings rather than the environment, for many this is not a practical solution. The time you eat is often beyond your control, such as sticking to a specific family meal time or having lunch at a designated time during work. Although it seems ideal in principle to eat when hungry, in practice this is not always possible.
Intuitive diet may be an effective way to lose weight, but so far there is not enough evidence to suggest that it is more effective than traditional calorie-restricted diets. However, the benefits of diet for mental health suggest that it is a healthier way of eating. It may not apply to everyone, especially those who have difficulty feeling what they feel in their bodies.
But when everything around us seems to be telling us what and how much to eat, it may be valuable to take the time to listen to your body and find out what you need.