Diets for weight loss usually involve restriction. The 5:2 diet relies on restricting calories, and the ketogenic diet relies on restricting particular types of food.
Research suggests, however, that restrictive dieting can lead to a higher body mass index (BMI) over time and a greater future likelihood of being overweight. There is also evidence suggesting food restriction can lead to a preoccupation with food, guilt about eating, and higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress. So, if diets don’t always help you lose weight and could contribute to psychological problems, what other solutions are there? Recently, there has been an increasing focus on the concept of “intuitive eating”.
Intuitive eating was popularised by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, who published a book on the subject and developed a website dedicated to the topic.
The goal of eating intuitively is to listen to your body and allow it to guide you about when and how much to eat, rather than being influenced by your environment, emotions or the rules prescribed by diets. The concept is similar to mindful eating, and the terms are often used interchangeably.
Mindful eating involves developing an awareness of internal hunger and satiety cues and making conscious food choices. It emphasises the importance of paying attention to the emotional and physical sensations experienced while eating.
Unlike many other diets, intuitive eating encourages you to eat what you want – no food is off limits. While some may expect that this could lead to adherents to the diet eating more high-fat or high-sugar food, research suggests that this is not the case. In fact, advocates of intuitive eating suggest that the more you restrict yourself, the more likely you are to binge later.