For those of you who've lost the weight and managed to maintain, do you eat intuitively? Do you find you can trust your hunger signals? Do you find that there are things which throw your hunger signals out of whack? Do you have any suggestions for people struggling with intuitive eating? Share your tips and insights here.
I like the idea of intuitive eating and while I'm sure for some people it works well, I'm not one of them. I can easily tell the difference between hunger and the faux-hunger of wanting to eat. Even though I've been maintaining a big weight loss for a few years now, I still would prefer to eat more than what is maintenance for me. I don't think it's the hunger aspect though, I think it's whatever turns off the appetite and signals satiety that still isn't quite right. I just stick to counting calories, that's what has worked for me in keeping the weight off.
epinephrine: I have always failed at maintaining while doing intuitive eating when I try it for very long. Before, I gained weight. This last time, since I knew I always gained weight, I must have subconsciously not eaten at maintenance since I fell BELOW my weight window.
I am going back to calorie counting and accurate weighing-in. However, that is just me. There are many people on CC who can maintain AND eat intuitively. I just am not one of them.
Best of luck!
After a 50lb weight loss (only the last 20 pounds of which was through calorie counting and deliberate effort - the first 30 pounds came off naturally with some positive lifestyle changes), I'm now transitioning back into maintenance mode and intuitive eating. Well, mostly intuitive. I still log my foods, but I do it by keeping a food journal and then logging it at the end of the day or even a few days or weeks later. I also journal and log my exercise. This way I can monitor my intake and energy expenditure and keep an eye on the general trend without planning my life calorie by calorie. Some days I have a surplus, some days I have a deficit, some days I break even. When I find a rise or fall in the trend, I make a little adjustment. I've maintained quite successfully so far, so I must be doing something right.
But I still don't completely trust my hunger signals. It was intuitive eating that caused me to gain to that high weight in the first place - I wasn't binging or eating outrageous quantities of junk food, I was just consistently overeating and gaining a few pounds a year. I don't feel deprived or anything, and my intake is ample at an average of ~2200 cals/day according to my logs, but I could easily eat twice that.
As a full-time student, I spend a lot of time studying, which means I spend a lot of time bored and looking for distractions. This totally messes with my hunger signals. When I'm bored or looking for some kind of distraction from a frustrating essay, I cannot keep my mind off food! I've also found that eating refined, processed foods totally messes with my hunger signals. I don't miss that stuff when I don't eat it, but as soon as I have a bite, I'm thinking about the next bite. It triggers a full-on craving, which I generally don't have. It's kind of creepy how pronounced it is - what the hell are they putting in junk food these days?! So I try to avoid it, but you know how it is...
I think it is great people who can do this but I think one has to have a mindset where they don't use food/weight mentally. For example they don't base food choices on calories,don't use food or lack of it for emotional or other issues etc. Also have accurate signs in their body of hunger and fullness. If those items are not in place I think intuitive eating can't really happen until those items are in a good place
I remember a dietician telling me you have to train your body and mind to be able to do this. That starts by developing a healthy food/activity plan that allows for healthy brain
"I also journal and log my exercise. This way I can monitor my intake and energy expenditure and keep an eye on the general trend without planning my life calorie by calorie. Some days I have a surplus, some days I have a deficit, some days I break even. When I find a rise or fall in the trend, I make a little adjustment."
This is a good way to compromise -- keeping a general logging of your calories in-calories out, but not being overly committed to doing it.
Good job of maintaining.
epinephrine, I'm impressed- what a healthy attitude, well done.
I would love to be able to eat intuitively, but as a recovered anorexic, it ain't yet happening entirely! Maybe it'll just take a few more months/years of normal eating properly, at a healthy weight before my mind is completely healed, but frankly, I think my entire life, I have linked food with emotions. Plus, if I'm busy I can happily go all day without thinking of food but if I'm bored, well, food is something 'to do'.
If I'm sad/depressed/stressed/ill, I lose my appetite, so my cues would be off in those circumstances anyway. I really can't trust my hunger signals- I want to so badly, but one day I could eat 1000 cals and be stuffed, and another 3000 and be hungry. I don't think either example would be true to what my body maintains on. Maybe a person who has never had an ED might be better at being intuitive. I do think the key is completely disassociating food from any emotion at all- but hang on, wouldn't that be a bit bleak? I mean, you'd want to look forward to a special meal sometimes, I think.
I still personally cannot look at food without associating it with a calorie number- I've been doing it for too many years- and that hinders 'true choice'. I mean, I reckon a 100% intuitive eater might look at two sandwiches in a shop, one of them 800 cals and the other 300, and pick the 800 cal one if they wanted it- but honestly, I could never do that. So my 'intuition' would break down there- but is that such a bad thing? If, unfortunately, a person's intuition (their 'natural tastes') lead them to genuinely choose high fat/ salt/ calorie options all day every day, in not very long they are going to get pretty unhealthy. So doesn't an element of mindful choice come into it anyway? Just wondering.
Sorry a bit of a ramble but this is such an interesting topic. I hope one day to be able to trust my hunger cues and be truly intuitive.
I've always had problems identifying real hunger and fullness signals, which were my problems in the first place. Now I find that when I really pay attention, I have no issues with this and if I'm able to go by what I feel I can eat intuitively and keep my weight.
I still log my food and weigh in almost daily though. I've decided that I need to keep track for a few months after I've started maintaining and now that I'm on a weight loss break until next year, it's just a "maintenance practicing period" for me.
But that's the physical part. The mental part of it all is that I keep sabotaging myself. Like last night, I wanted a small meal but took the rest of the pizza and ate all four pieces. I probably wasn't hungry enough for more than two but I ate everything plus chocolate and other snacks too. Like I just stopped caring what I ate. I was terribly full afterwards and regretted the whole thing.
So yes, I am able to eat intuitively and maintain. As long as I keep focus and don't let myself eat mindlessly even when I know that my body has had what it needs. But I guess it's just a matter of getting used to the mindset...
I don't rely on it alone. It has to be Hunger signal + Logical time to eat. If I'm "hungry" but just ate breakfast an hour ago, I'm probably not really hungry: I'm probably tired, thirsty, bored, something smells really good, etc. If I'm "hungry" and ate breakfast four hours ago then, yeah, I might actually be hungry.
Oh, yeah, fullness signals - I still have trouble with that. That 15-minute lag always screws me over - if I eat until I feel full, then I've actually eaten more than I should, because the signal telling me I'm full is actually from 15 minutes ago! I'm so bad about this - I hate stopping before I feel full! If I'm hungry, I wanna eat! I don't want to sit there looking at my half-finished plate of food while my stomach is still telling me it needs more. I have to be fairly vigilant about this - it's still very much a conscious thing, since my body's hunger signals are basically lying to me in that short window before the fullness signals reach my brain. It helps if I have some kind of distraction to occupy my attention while I wait for my brain to register what I've just put in my stomach so I'm not just staring at my food or mindlessly eating more. I'm always shocked by how little I can fill up on sometimes when I allow myself a small snack while I prepare myself a meal - although the snack is only a fraction the size of what I would normally eat as a meal, by the time the meal is ready to eat, I'm not hungry for it anymore. I'm just so used to eating more than my fill in a sitting while my fullness signals are taking their sweet time to do their thing that I have a distorted idea of how much it actually takes for me to feel full.
So now I'm wondering - for those of you who do eat intuitively according to your body's hunger signals, how exactly do you respond to those signals? Do you eat as soon as the signals start, when you're just a little bit hungry, or do you wait until you've got full-on hunger pangs and a growling tummy? Do you interpret those first hunger pangs as "eat right now," or do you interpret them as "hmm, maybe I should start thinking about what to make for lunch"? I've just realized that I tend toward the former. I've been focusing on maintaining and building muscle lately, so I've come to fear hunger pangs as signs that my muscles are atrophying. Which I know is kind of irrational, but it made me wonder if I was the only one, and made me realize that "intuitive eating" can mean a lot of different things.
Now that I'm aware of this tendency to eat at the first feeling of hunger, I realize that I no longer really know my own hunger signals, since I never really let myself get truly hungry. So today I actually tried to familiarize myself with my body's hunger signals again. I was surprised by how little it bothered me once I acknowledged the pangs and told myself "don't panic, you're not going to starve - you'll be eating in an hour." It's been a good reality check, and I think it will help me eat more mindfully and get rid of some residual bad habits that I still have.
Original Post by epinephrine: So now I'm wondering - for those of you who do eat intuitively according to your body's hunger signals, how exactly do you respond to those signals? Do you eat as soon as the signals start, when you're just a little bit hungry, or do you wait until you've got full-on hunger pangs and a growling tummy? Do you interpret those first hunger pangs as "eat right now," or do you interpret them as "hmm, maybe I should start thinking about what to make for lunch"?
I've been trying to eat more or less intuitively for a while now, and it works moderately well I suppose. The main problem is that I don't get hungry very often or very quickly, which can make it difficult to fit enough food into a day since I do really want to wait until I'm quite hungry before eating. To answer your question, when I get the first indications of hunger I would ideally like to wait a couple of hours before i eat. I just find that food tastes so much better when i'm really hungry. In the past I used to get dizzy and shaky quite quickly but I eat very little sugar these days so never get the blood sugar peaks and crashes anymore.
So, basically, I tend to eat when I'm really hungry, and stop before I feel full. I also eat mostly quite calorie-dense foods (the amount of olive oil I go through in a week is almost embarrassing...). However, I've started to monitor my calories a little lately as I was curious how much I'm eating, and I would like to increase a bit, so need to figure out a way to do that while sticking to the 'eating when hungry' pattern (really don't want to stop that as it has dramatically improved my relationship with food and has made me enjoy eating in a whole new way).
Will keep an eye on this thread - it was really interesting reading other people's responses. And I have to admit that, like raspberryrose, I know my hunger signals are not always reliable as they are so tied to mood etc, but the thing is I really do want to learn to eat without a pre-determined structure in place (be it calories, or specific meal times, etc), so will just keep at it and hope that I get better at this intuitive eating business with time!
I have been trying to listen to my body and eat intuitively. When I get hunger pangs, I will eat something. But I also count my calories and exercise every single day too, taking into account everything I put in my mouth - though I do not obsess about things that are negligible like coffee, or iced tea since they are like 5 calories per glass? Pshh.
So far so good. I am aware that some days I could have 500 to 1000 calories deficit but there are also days where my calories are at 500-1000 calories surplus, but the bottom-line is, at the end of the day, I eat according to my body signals and my weight is still pretty consistent (around 115 lb to 120 lb) so I am happy with myself, I suppose. :)
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