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This National Nutrition Month, ditch the diet and focus on intuitive eating

National Nutrition Month

Each year, during the month of March, we celebrate National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme, Eat Right, Bite by Bite, is not about cutting calories or losing weight, it’s about giving your body the nutrients it needs when it needs them.

“National Nutrition Month is a great time to create new, healthier habits,” says Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital’s Outpatient and Community Liaison Dietitian Allie Lang, RDN, LDN. “However, when trying to change our eating habits, so many of us resort to the newest diet trend. These diets are aimed at dramatic, short-term weight loss and are almost never sustainable. Intuitive eating, on the other hand, is about losing weight for good through lasting, healthy habits.”

Our society has strayed away from eating intuitively.

We live in a fast-paced environment that demands long hours and values efficiency over health and wellbeing. “We glorify ‘hustle,’ workaholics and long hours of overtime,” says Lang “This can lead to dependence on fast food and ignoring hunger signals. The stress of this environment leads to eating for emotions rather than hunger.”

What is intuitive eating?

Lang explains that intuitive eating focuses on listening to our body’s natural signals. We have built-in hunger and fullness cues that many of us learn to ignore. Focusing on hunger and fullness cues can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Intuitive eating is about valuing meal time, enjoying each bite and eating slower.

How do I start eating intuitively?

“Start by listening to your body,” says Lang. “It takes 20 minutes for our stomachs to communicate to our brains that we are full.”

Lang suggests that eating slowly and listening for a feeling of satisfaction can help with portion control. She also suggests keeping a food diary with what you eat, portions, any emotions you are feeling, your level of hunger and your level of fullness after the meal. This can help you start to be mindful about what hunger and fullness feel like. Planning meals ahead of time is another great way to avoid extreme hunger and falling back on fast food or takeout.

“Most importantly, you should place value on meal time and the eating experience,” says Lang. “You are nourishing and caring for your body. Take time to appreciate the tastes and textures of your favorite foods. This will lead to more satisfaction and make it easier to control your portions.”

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