The Newest Diet Trend: Intuitive Eating

Is the newest diet trend of intuitive eating helpful or harmful?

A new year has most of us looking towards new health and fitness goals. We have all heard of the trending diets like keto and intermittent fasting. The latest trend, intuitive eating, tells us to let those diets go. But should we?

With the current fad diets like keto and intermittent fasting, you are restricted in one way or another to eat a certain way. Many people find it difficult to sustain any kind of diet because of the restrictions they place on your daily life. They can often hold to these diets strictly for a few weeks or months at a time, but most people will fall off the wagon and struggle to climb back on, if at all. In addition, research has shown that many fad diets do not provide a balanced diet- that the restriction placed on certain types of foods causes a person’s health to be deficient in other areas.

Current Fad Diets

Those who are on the keto diet are restricted to a small number of carbohydrates per day, and add in healthy fats to help aid the fat burning process. For keto dieters that means:

You can eat:

  • Bacon and other meats
  • Avocado
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Dairy

You cannot eat (or must limit):

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Bread/grains
  • Rice

This is a very abbreviated list of the limitation of the keto diet, but much of it goes against the traditional line of thinking for many of us when it comes to what is deemed healthy versus unhealthy. Research has shown that the keto diet is very beneficial to some people with autoimmune disorders or epileptic disorders, but many people find it very difficult to stick with the keto diet long term because of the restrictions.

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Intermittent fasting requires dieters to restrict their eating windows to certain times of the day and fast for 12 to 16 hours. For example, someone on the intermittent fasting train will fast from 7 pm until 11 am the following day, giving them a 16-hour fast window. They will only eat during the hours of 11 am until 7 pm, which restricts the amount they eat, thereby losing weight.

The problem that many people have with intermittent fasting is that it doesn’t fit in with a regular lifestyle. Many of us cannot afford to be hungry and exhausted first thing in the morning, and we can’t power through meals all afternoon. Most people end up giving up intermittent fasting because it simply does not work for their schedule.

Macro-counting is another fad diet that requires a person to calculate the number of grams of carbohydrates, protein, and fats they should be consuming each day in order to get to or maintain a healthy weight. There are several macro calculators online that can help people calculate exactly how many grams of carbs, protein, and fats they should be eating each day as well as apps that help people track their daily intake.

Macro-counting is one of the diets that might be easiest to stick to long term because it allows you to eat what you’d like (although “clean” eating whereas you don’t eat anything processed is always highly recommended) and it doesn’t restrict you to eat during certain times of the day. However, some people find it hard to keep track of every single thing they eat throughout the day causing them to stop using this method.

Diet vs. Lifestyle

You’ve probably heard fitness bloggers and Instagram influencers say it a thousand times before- “Eating right is a lifestyle, not a diet.” In some ways they are right- you have to change the way you eat in order to see significant and consistent results in weight loss. You cannot “diet” for six months and then go back to eating fast food three times per week and still keep the weight off. Each fitness expert will have a different idea of what “eating right” means, which is where the fad diets come into play. But the newest idea behind nutrition, called intuitive eating, makes a little more sense when it comes to the lifestyle change to which many experts speak.

Intuitive eating basically means that you eat when you are hungry and you stop when you’re satiated. That is the keyword here- you don’t eat until you are full; you only eat until your brain says, “Yea, I’m good now.” The biggest, glaring issue with this is that nothing is stopping you from grabbing that second slice of pizza. Sometimes our eyes play tricks on us and we think we are hungry simply because there is food in front of us. We can’t help but reach for another cheese and cracker from our friend’s charcuterie board because it’s sitting there in front of us as we play Pictionary. We mindlessly grab a few Goldfish as we pack our kid’s lunches. We see it and we eat it. 

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Logically, intuitive eating makes the most sense. We simply eat until we don’t need to eat anymore, and we train our brains to recognize real hunger cues versus “I’m bored” hunger cues or ” I deserve it” hunger cues or even the “It’s in front of me and I don’t even realize I’ve eaten 16 pieces of brie” hunger cues. But will it actually catch on?

Probably not. The reason we have these fad diets with Instagram bloggers telling us that it’s a “lifestyle” and not a diet is that as a society, we have a real problem with over-eating. We don’t have the self-control to simply stop when we are satiated. Instead we stuff ourselves until we can’t eat anymore for almost every single meal. We “treat” ourselves several times per day. Food is so easily and readily accessible that we don’t have to limit ourselves. So we don’t. Fad diets are around because we need someone to tell us exactly what to eat and when to eat it.

So then what? If we can’t control ourselves and fad diets don’t actually work, then what is the right lifestyle to live a happy and healthy life? It may be cliche but the only way to create a healthy lifestyle for yourself is to choose it. You will never stick to a “lifestyle” if you’re constantly craving other foods. Sure, eat pizza. But maybe only eat two slices and pair it with a huge salad, too. Go ahead and eat a piece of birthday cake. But then throw the rest out after the party so you aren’t eating cake for the next five days.

The best type of “diet” is one where you are consistently making healthy choices. Eat when you’re hungry, but don’t eat until you can’t take another bite. Choose clean, whole foods over processed ones but enjoy that juicy burger every once in a while, too. You will find the best way to a healthy lifestyle is not only eating healthy and clean foods but also not stressing about it constantly. 


Photo: George Rudy/Shutterstock

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