In this post I will share my thoughts on intuitive eating vs calorie counting and how to go towards finding what suits you best. Which is better for efficient and healthy weight loss and weight management?
As you may have noticed I have a lot of weight loss meal plans on here and they all have caloric values added to them. There is a reason behind this and it is not to keep you counting calories for the rest of your life. It is to aid you in your weight loss journey, showing you how much food equals how much calories and nutrients.
A healthy weight is not only about our outside appearance, being overweight, weather it comes from vegan, junk or an standard diet is associated with increased risk of disease and all-cause mortality.
For many who come from a “normal” way of eating and want to lose weight while working on their health, adequate amounts and the right food choices are not obvious.
Also, calorie in versus calorie out is a thing and to lose weight we need to eat less than we need but enough to keep everything running smoothly.
And yes, the goal is to not have to count calories. The goal is that we make healthy choices for the most of our meals and when we indulge we don’t beat ourselves up about it. But that is a learned skill for most, especially when overweight or coming from an eating disorder background.
Intuitive eating may sound like the ultimate solution. Eat what you want when you want it because your intuition says so while you reach your desired weight and health goals. Hmmm…
My thoughts on intuitive eating
Intuitive eating promotes a healthy attitude toward food and body image, on board with that. The idea is that while you follow your intuition you will learn to understand your body’s hunger and fullness signals and only eat when hungry and stop when full. We all need some of that in our lives.
There are some obvious limitations to this way of eating. Food choices do matter, not only for our weight but also very much for our health. No restrictions or guidelines leave the dieter in a challenging place.
Intuition can be a tricky thing. Throughout the day and week there are so many outside and inside influences that can trigger eating and affect our choices. It is pretty hard to navigate through this without guidelines.
Hunger and fullness cues and healthy food choices are not something that come naturally to most. If you try to eat intuitively your body will ask for the foods it is used to. Intuitive eating as a weight loss protocol is questionable.
Yes, there are people who succeed with this way of eating but keep in mind intuitive eating is not about losing weight although that is how it is often portrait. It is about your relationship with food. A great goal to work towards with basic food and nutrition knowledge in your pocket.
This way of eating is not for everyone and not for every fase of a weight loss journey. Someone who has emotional eating issues, is stressed, tired from work, sad or needs to lose weight is not going to crave and chose foods intuitively that support weight loss and health. It’s as simple as that.
Intuitive eating is for most people a skill that needs practice and knowledge. Calorie density, portion sizes, meal ideas etc are the basics you need to know otherwise your weight will be going up instead of down when eating everything you want. You just can’t eat chocolate cake all day and expect to lose weight. The same applies to “healthy” foods like avocado and nut butters, amounts matter.
This “free” way of eating can be successful for seasoned dieters or the few people who are at a healthy weight and already mostly eat what they want. They could switch to healthier choices to up their health game. Intuitive eating works better for maintenance. But even for this fase a balanced versatile meal plan can provide inspiration.
How to lose weight and keep it off
From my point of view you need to learn first about what healthy food is, what amounts of that food correspond with your needs to lose or maintain body weight. Only then can you start to let go and play around with following your intuition food wise while implementing the knowledge you have acquired.
Also many weight loss plans don’t pay attention to the amounts of micro nutrients needed to keep the body running and functioning optimally. You can lose weight eating rice cakes all day while depleting your body.
Kick starting a weight loss journey by following healthy balanced meal plan and implementing important lifestyle changes is a good way to start for long term benefits.
For healthy weight loss a diet that offers structure and has some flexibility built in is the best way to go. Leaving room for fun foods can be helpful in not feeling deprived. Although I have to say that if you are getting enough nutrients in every day, the cravings will subside and will be easier to handle. That is a fact.
On a nutrient dense meal plan you start to lose weight, learn about portion sizes, learn how to build a balanced meal and about nutritious ingredients. Over time you will be able to shift gradually to a more intuitive type of eating and keep losing or maintain your weight.
Weight loss does not always equals fat loss. Read HERE more about how to increase your metabolism and the importance of building muscle for women.
Counting calories works, it is just something most of us don’t want to be doing for the rest of your life. Tracking our weight loss journey, not only what we eat but also the feelings surrounding meals and foods provides us with great feedback so we can correct course if needed.
Keeping a food journal is proven to enhance weight loss succes. There will be more on this topic.
Tracking calories for a while and following a well balanced meal plan will give you basic knowledge about nutrients and adequate portion sizes.
Following a whole foods plant based diet seems to be the magic key to achieve and maintain a healthy weight without counting. But even then, a basic knowledge of healthy foods and meal compositions is needed.
For many who are trying to lose weight, calorie counting is a great way to get used to portion sizes and what a healthy diet looks like. Intuitive eating can be introduced slowly after this knowledge of calories and portion sizes comes naturally.
For others who already have a basic healthy diet knowledge and don’t need to heal, intuitive eating can be a way to be more free with food choices and stay in a good weight range.
And there are people who just feel good with knowing the calories and nutrients consumed. They need structure to keep them on the road.
I hope you found this post on intuitive eating vs calorie counting interesting and now see why I support keeping track of calories when appropriate,