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Eat What You Want and When You Want
Trust your feelings
Counting calories isn't the best way to lose weight, according to a new Brigham Young University study that suggests that an approach toward food called "intuitive eating” is better at producing lower cholesterol levels, body mass index scores and cardiovascular disease risk.
"The basic premise of intuitive eating is, rather than manipulate what we eat in terms of prescribed diets we should take internal cues, try to recognize what our body wants and then regulate how much we eat based on hunger and satiety,” said lead researcher Steven Hawks, a BYU professor of health science, who adopted an intuitive eating lifestyle several years ago and lost 50 pounds as a result.
In a small-scale study Hawks and his team of researchers identified a handful of college students who are naturally intuitive eaters and compared them with other students who aren't. Participants were then tested to determine how healthy they were.
As measured by the Intuitive Eating Scale, researchers found that intuitive eating was significantly correlated with lower body mass index, lower triglyceride levels, higher levels of high density lipoproteins and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. "The findings provide support for intuitive eating as a positive approach to healthy weight management,” said Hawks, who plans to do a large-scale study of intuitive eating across several cultures.
"In less developed countries in Asia, people are primarily intuitive eaters,” said Hawks. "They haven't been conditioned to artificially structure their relationship with food like we have in the United States. They've been conditioned to believe that the purpose of food is to enjoy, to nurture. You eat when you're hungry, you stop when you're not hungry any more. They have a much healthier relationship with food, far fewer eating disorders, and interestingly, far less obesity.”
Hawks says that "normal” dieting in the United States doesn't result in long-term weight loss and contributes to food anxiety and unhealthy eating practices, and can even lead to eating disorders.
"What makes intuitive eating different from a diet is that all diets work against human biology, whereas intuitive eating teaches people to work with their own biology, to work with their bodies, to understand their bodies,” said Hawks.
An intuitive eater has to adopt two attitudes and two behaviors. The first attitude is body acceptance. The second attitude, that dieting is harmful. The next step is learning how to not eat for emotional, environmental or social reasons. The final step is learning how to interpret body signals, cravings and hunger, and responding in a healthy, positive, nurturing way. There's no food that's ever taboo. Although in the short term people may have binges when they first start eating intuitively, they eventually learn to trust themselves. One technique Hawks suggests is having an abundance of previously taboo foods on hand. Once the foods are no longer forbidden, a person quickly loses interest in them.
- For information on the Brigham Young University go to: home.byu.edu