Do you want to eat healthily but don’t like any of the diets out there? You might be a great candidate for the intuitive-eating strategy. In this series, we will take a look at how this approach works and how to implement its principles into your cycling lifestyle.

Become an expert on your own eating habits

Intuitive eating is the opposite of what’s considered a traditional diet. It doesn’t tell you what foods to avoid and what foods to eat more of. It doesn’t tell you how much or when you should eat. Intuitive eating teaches that you are the best person to make those choices. It’s trying to make you the expert on your body and its hunger signals. The goal is to help you develop a healthy attitude toward food and body image.

The basic idea behind intuitive eating is that you should eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. It sounds quite easy but, for many people, it’s not. There are so many attractive food choices all around us – cakes, fast food, chocolate, chips, ice cream, sugary drinks – that it can be hard to ever feel real hunger. Add internet full of contradicting advice and you have a perfect scenario where people are not confident in what it means to eat well.

Bakery pastries
There are so many attractive food choices around. © Profimedia

Physical and emotional hunger

The main thing to understand with intuitive eating is hunger. You need to pay closer attention to it to trust your body. That’s because there are several types of hunger, and not all of them are worth listening to. These are two main categories.

Physical hunger – This is the type of hunger you feel after a long hike, in the morning or after exercise. It’s a biological signal to get more nutrients and energy. It builds and increases in intensity gradually. You don’t suddenly feel intense physical hunger. It goes away when you eat any food.

Learned hunger – This is hunger driven by emotional needs, cravings, food cues, societal pressure or even the time of day. It often doesn’t have much to do with physical hunger, doesn’t go away after eating just any food, and can appear quickly and feel intense.

Cheese and salami
Can you tell learned hunger from physical one? © Profimedia

It’s important to pay attention to emotions such as sadness, loneliness, anxiety, and boredom around food. These are some of the feelings that can create cravings for comfort foods. Similarly, it’s important to notice when you’re having a slice of cake: is it when a colleague is celebrating or are you buying pastries just because you walked past a bakery? All of these false hunger sensations can make it seem like you’re hungry really often, and that you need specific flavours and textures of food to satisfy that hunger. Intuitive eating is trying to help you get rid of those types of hunger so that you eat almost only when real physical hunger strikes.

What are the benefits of intuitive eating?

Studies have linked intuitive eating to healthier psychological attitudes, lower body mass index, and good weight maintenance, but not weight loss. Participants in intuitive eating studies also improved their self-esteem, body image, and overall quality of life while experiencing less depression and anxiety. People in these studies also showed they are more likely to stick with this way of eating than they would with a diet.

If these benefits sound interesting to you, stay tuned. Next time, we will take a look at the rules and principles of intuitive eating so you can start doing it too.