Updated: Jan 9, 2021
Do you ever ask yourself the question 'How do I go back to eating without reading nutritional panels'?
If so, you will hopefully find further clarity in today's article.
If you're already familiar with it, you will know it is fast becoming the ultimate endgame for experienced dieters!
For those whom aren't, let me break down 'Guess-timation at its finest' for you. 🙏
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating also known as Mindful or Instinctive eating is a 'hands off' approach to dieting. It is a less restrictive method involving no Weighing of food or Tracking of Macros whatsoever. You are literally eating on the fly!
Whilst there are certain advantages of tracking your nutrient intake, it is important to know that it doesn’t also have to be forever.
Albeit to be able to eat Intuitive does take time and is not without certain conditions. How long it takes you to get there depends how well your Self-Monitoring skills have come in to play. Most individuals whom have tracked for certain periods of time understand the benefits of being consistent with measuring food intake.
This is the basic fundamental and also the first phase of setting yourself up for Intuitive Eating. Whether it's eating and tracking wholesome nutritious foods or fun foods into your diet. You are starting to create a mental log of foods, serving sizes alongside most of their energy (caloric) value simultaneously over time.
This not only allows one to be objective with their physique and performance goals but start to gain a better understanding of what foods & servings contain how many macros and calories.
Eating instinctively can come with its own host of benefits in and of itself:
✔️ less stressful 'dieting' approach
✔️ socially manageable
✔️ balance and moderation
✔️ less food focused i.e. meal prep
✔️ less numbers focused
✔️ mindful eatting
The basis of Instinctive eating is once you reach your goal by tracking your food intake, you will have a vague nutrient database mentally stored from the countless food tracking activity.
You should also have a good idea of what 100g of chicken breast looks like? Which foods are high in fibre? The macros of your favorite dessert? etc.
Knowing the above will greatly improve your potential to guesstimate your food intake on the fly and still stay within your goals.
Checkout these awesome results and journey from past client Kayla:
"I first started my fitness journey in 2011 after giving birth to my first daughter in 2010 and like a lot of mothers I wanted to get rid of the baby weight. Growing up we had a lot of takeout in pre-packaged Foods. I never had to eat fruit and veggies. When I started working out everything I read was about clean eating. Clean eating was the only way. I downloaded clean eating cookbooks, recipes and followed clean eaters on Instagram. I did this for 4 years but during these four years I also fell off the wagon and got back on too many times to count. I would be good all week, and then come the weekend I would usually binge on anything I could get my hands on. This brought a lot of negative and destructive feelings and thoughts.
Fast forward to 2015. As I became more aware of the fitness industry I started hearing about flexible dieting and iifym. So of course I did some research, join some groups on Facebook and I took in this new information. I followed these groups, read questions, opinions, advice until I felt comfortable enough to give this new diet a try. I finally decided to calculate my macros and give it a go. At first it was a little hard to get the hang of it. Trying to make my numbers match, weighing and inputting cooked meats, creating recipes in order to get macros per serving and trying to balance out the numbers. I was so unsure heading to my calculations I was supposed to be eating somewhere around 2100 calories a day. But I wanted to lose weight, aren't you supposed to eat less?
Flexible dieting made me realize that it is possible to maintain a healthy relationship with food all the while fueling your body. I felt there were days I was stuffing my face just to get my macros. Coming from clean eating you weren't supposed to eat past 6 p.m. everyone kept repeating just trust the process so I did. even though I felt bloated and questioned everything that clean eating had taught me. About a month into it, I started to notice some changes I was slimming down even while eating over 200 grams of carbs. I was building a healthy relationship with food. The more I learned about macros the more myths about clean eating that had been busted. I was now able to go out and eat with friends, attend birthday parties and potlucks without feeling guilty about what I had just eaten. I realize that so much of life is centered around food. Births and baptisms, graduations and weddings, birthday parties and holidays. Everywhere you turn food is there and people are eating. I was at my best physically. I was able to fit jeans I hadn't worn since high school, I could see muscle definition in my arms and my shoulders and my obliques. This was the progress I had been waiting 3 years to see.
I was finally on track with my workouts and consistently meeting my numbers. It seemed every week I had noticed a change in my measurements. I was so excited to find something that worked. I got pregnant in September of 2014 and due to morning sickness and Cravings I was just eating what I could. I stopped tracking my whole pregnancy and due to some complications I had to stop working out as well. I started tracking macros again about 4 months after giving birth. I was so excited to start seeing some progress and my old body back. What I didn't expect was to be hit with postpartum. Adjusting to being a new mom of two was tougher than I expected. I was lucky if I worked out once a week. I was not following my meals to meet my macros. At the end of the day, I carried so much guilt and judged myself for not being able to keep up. It also seemed that I was constantly sharing my food with my children and all I could think about was how many proteins, carbs and fats I was going to short that day. My anxiety had gotten the best of me and it felt like the only thing I could think about was the food I ate and the workouts I missed. I decided I needed to focus on myself and that I needed to clear my head and reassess my priorities. I stopped tracking my macros and my workouts because I lost my interest and it became a chore for me.
After seeking help again I decided I needed to find the passion that I had with working out. I started going back to the gym but knew that mentally couldn't go back to tracking yet. So I just started to become more aware of what I was eating. After doing FD, I knew that there was approximately 20g of protein in that chicken breast, and 19g protein and 30g carb in 2 eggs and 2 pieces of toast. So I would base my meals off of that. I would try and keep track mentally throughout the day how much protein I had eaten. I than made sure that I was eating veggies and salad with every meal, and fruit with breakfast. I didn't focus too much on carbs and fats, but I was aware of what I was putting in my meals. It's been about a year now since I haven't been counting and I can truly say that I am at my best. Mentally and physically. I am stronger, and I no longer have food being the focus in my life.
There are days that I eat 3 hot dogs and 2 ice cream cones (thank you Summer) and I don't feel guilty. I make sure the next day to add in an extra bottle of water and less carbs the next day to ease the bloat. I am now eating to maintain, but have thought off bulking at some point. And will try and achieve that by doing what I am doing now. Because of flexible dieting, I feel comfortable enough to eat the way I do now." - Kayla.
Intuitive Eating 101
Transitioning to eating intuitively can be done in a simple process, however it is necessary to have sufficient experience in tracking before considering the shift. Here a few points to keep in mind:
Have a defined specific goal - establishing a main fundamental goal is important. Having a few 'moving' goals will help make your intention more realistic.
Have a specific body fat percentage range - having a body fat range rather than an actual percentage will allow more breathing room as you start out. This will also help you move away from absolutes and being comfortable with slight variations in progress.
Once the above is established, start moving away from tracking and weighing your food intake. You don't have to go cold turkey during this step, simply limiting the number of times you Self-Monitor is enough. Repeat until you no longer Weigh or Track.
Stick to foods that are high in Protein and Fibre - these will be your 2 most reliable macronutrients when starting and will set the foundation of your new dietary lifestyle. It is very hard to overeat these foods mindlessly as they aren't as palatable as Carbohydrate and Fat based foods. This will also help ensure sufficient Protein and Fibre is consumed daily.
Carbohydrate and Fat foods - these should be roughly based on how you both look and feel. If you have an intensive activity i.e. Deadlifts coming up, consuming rice, sweet potato or Fruit will assist in providing you adequate energy. Consuming Protein with each meal along with your Daily five serves of Fruits and Vegetables will greatly improve auto-regulation. Note: If find yourself constantly in a state of being full or slightly heavier on the scale more often, decrease your Carbohydrate and Fat intake. Your body will also let you know if or when it requires more nutrients.
Shifting your focus to the above recommendations is generally based off what you are accustomed to over time.
The Goal is to somewhat continue eating within a similar range when you were Weighing and Tracking everything.
Intuitive Eating is simply 'Guess-timation' at its finest at the end of the day!
*Always consult a Nutrition Coach if you are starting the next phase of transition to Instinctive Eating*
1. Appetite. 2002 Feb;38(1):39-44. Rigid vs. flexible dieting: association with eating disorder symptoms in non-obese women. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11883916
2. Appetite. 1999 Jun;32(3):295-305. Flexible vs. Rigid dieting strategies: relationship with adverse behavioral outcomes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10336790