Kilojoules, macros, percentages, grams. The path to healthy eating can feel so complex sometimes. But, what if it could be as simple as listening to your gut? Quite literally.
That’s the idea behind intuitive eating, which encourages us to let go of guilt or fear around food, and instead nourish and tune into what our body’s telling us. It’s an approach nutritionist, yoga teacher and intuitive eating counsellor Nicola Jane Hobbs 100 per cent advocates.
“Intuitive eating is about making peace with food and learning how to truly nourish yourself,” says the author of Fear Free Food (Green Tree, $24.99).
“Whereas dieting often involves following external rules and meal plans, intuitive eating prioritises the internal signals your body sends out, such as hunger and fullness, as well as what foods leave you feeling vibrant and energised compared to the ones that leave you feeling tired and lethargic. It’s a kinder and gentler alternative.”
Science is on side, too: in a study by Japan’s Hiroshima University, people who ate mindfully and slowly were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome and gain weight in the long run, most likely because they’d recognise that feeling of fullness sooner.
So, where do we start? Well, the first step involves a bit of soul-searching and acknowledging your current relationship with food, says Hobbs.
“It’s helpful to identify how any diet beliefs, food rules or unhealthy eating habits are harming your health and impacting your life. For example, restricting calories may leave you feeling tired all the time and disconnected from your appetite; cutting out food groups can leave to cravings and overeating; and obsession over nutrition can mean you miss out on social events and time spent with loved ones.
“Then think about why you want to be able to eat intuitively and have a more peaceful relationship with food. This might include feeling more energised, not feeling guilty about eating, being able to eat a greater variety of food.”
As well as thinking about the wholefoods and nutrients that help your body tick, intuitive eating encourages you to check in with things like what you feel like eating (a meal or snack? Hot or cold? Sweet or savoury?), how food helps you connect to other areas of your life such as family or nature, as well as what you actually enjoy having on your plate.
Bon appetit, people!