Intuitive Eating, Weight loss advice

Intuitive Eating: What is it, and Can it Help You Lose Weight?

I’ve been talking about intuitive eating for quite awhile now, and I thought it was finally time I make a post all about it. Specifically, what it is (my take on it, at least), and especially, whether it can help you.

But first, let me ask you a question. Do you find yourself having issues with…

  • Wanting to lose weight and not being able to?
  • Eating because you’re stressed, emotional, or bored?
  • Feeling hungry or craving something because you saw food on TV, social media, friends eating, etc.?
  • Overeating because you’re starting your diet tomorrow, or because you failed at following your diet that day?
  • Feeling guilty for eating?
  • Not letting yourself eat even though you were hungry?

So did I. And intuitive eating is the reason I don’t have these issues anymore.

Photo from 2017, a year after I started intuitive eating, feat. chocolate milkshake 🙂

Intuitive eating is a term coined by the authors of this book, but the idea has been around in different forms for a lot longer than that. There are scientific studies from before 1995 and in more recent years showing that following the tenets of intuitive eating lead to weight loss, treat disordered eating like binge eating, reverse obesity, heal relationships with food, reduce depression and anxiety, and improve self esteem and body image.1,2,3

The basic principle of intuitive eating (and related ideas) is simply:

Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.

That may sound too simple, too good to be true, or just something you’ve tried before that hasn’t worked. But it can be tricky to get right, especially with society’s attitudes about food these days. We start out doing it as kids, but somewhere along the way, most of us lose the ability.

Maybe because we learned to use food to deal with our emotions, maybe because of our culture’s obsession with dieting as THE way to lose weight, maybe because we’re taught that desserts, carbs, sugar, etc. are “bad”.

If you’ve tried dieting, followed meal plans with scheduled eating times and portions, overeaten or undereaten, or felt guilty for eating, chances are you’ve fallen out of tune with your ability to eat when hungry and stop when full. I know I did, completely–hunger and fullness were almost irrelevant in my eating behavior for 10 years.

The more we learn to ignore our hunger and satiety signals, the more we start to rely on cues like emotions, stress, the presence of “bad foods” in the kitchen, and other people’s diet plans to dictate when we start and stop eating. And that’s how weight gain, guilt, and constant dieting sneak in.

Intuitive eating is all about undoing this: getting back in tune with our hunger signals, and learning not to let external or psychological factors determine when and how much we eat. As a result, it involves effortlessly maintaining a healthy weight, improving your health, and healing your relationship with food and your own body.

With intuitive eating, there is no such thing as dieting, restricting, binging, “bad” foods, or guilt for eating.

No more calorie counting. No more food scales. No more portion control. Just reaching your goal body by eating as much as you want, when you want it. Channeling all that time and mental effort that you were once spending on food into the rest of your life: your relationships, your work, your hobbies.

If it sounds too good to be true, don’t worry… I thought so too. Until it worked.

It’s fun to look back at these photos and see how much fat I’ve replaced with muscle since then!

So, I’m starting a series of blog posts all about how to get started with intuitive eating, no matter how unattainable it might feel for you. I was stuck in a restricting/dieting and binge eating cycle for over 10 years, so I think I qualified as one of the more hopeless cases out there… so I’ll be sharing what worked for me, and incorporate tips from scientific research on it.

Maybe you already do intuitive eating, and still can’t lose weight. I still have advice for you coming up, and part of that involves tweaking what and how you’re eating (notice I didn’t say how much)!

So stay tuned for posts every other weekend on how to eat intuitively or troubleshoot your intuitive eating. If you’re looking to lose weight, escape disordered eating habits, or improve your physical and psychological health, this series is for you.

Some of the posts I have planned so far are:

  • My 10 year battle with “unintuitive” eating, and my journey since
  • How to get started with intuitive eating
  • How to troubleshoot your intuitive eating
  • How to stop binge eating

And more! (I’ll add a table of contents with links as the posts come out)

If you’d like to keep up, sign up below to get email notifications when I post! 🙂

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(I know I probably sound like I’m trying to sell you something, but honestly, I just want to share this because I want to help other people not have these issues anymore too. Getting rid of them seriously changed my life… not only have I finally achieved my goal appearance, but more importantly, I’m so much happier. And I want to turn my gratitude into a way of helping others. I even paid to get rid of ads on this blog because I don’t want them to get in the way!)

References (scientific studies):

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212267213018960
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/eat.22041
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1077722995800131

(There are many more studies on the benefits of intuitive eating, but this is a quick sampling of some)

Videos

How to Reduce Stress | 7 Natural Science-supported Remedies

7 natural stress remedies

Today, I have something a little bit different for you: 7 natural ways to reduce your stress using foods and herbs, based on scientific studies. Stress is a major reason for overeating and weight gain, and causes all sorts of bad health effects, both physical and mental. So if you’re stressed, reducing it could help you reach your health & appearance goals!

In the video, I go over the remedies and what types of stressors and stress symptoms they help with, how to use them, and briefly cover studies supporting them. In the post below, I list specific supplements/foods, dosages, how long they should take to work, and link the studies.

(Subscribe to my Youtube Channel!)

Unfortunately, many supplements don’t actually contain what they say they do. So I researched independent lab tests for supplements to make sure they contain the proper dose of the active ingredient, are free of toxins, and have the most bang for your buck!

For the food and teas, I’ve researched the best ones and linked my favorites. I also include my recommended dose for everything if applicable, based on the linked studies and others. And, I found a few combo products (linked at the bottom) that contain multiple remedies in one!

All of these remedies are supported by placebo-controlled studies in humans. (All studies linked below are in humans, and all but one are placebo-controlled). Studies done in rodents also support these remedies.

Tulsi from my garden 🙂

1) Lemon balm:

Studies: 1 | 2

2) Tea

  • Black tea
  • In the study they drank 4 cups a day for 6 weeks, but I imagine less would help too
  • Green tea & matcha
  • Anywhere from 1-5 cups a day is helpful–the more the better (unless the added caffeine causes you stress)
  • Available as a supplement: L theanine (or a smaller dose)
  • Taking as little as 40mg is helpful, but you start to get extra benefits around 200mg (larger dose link). Take one to two 200mg capsules a day, will likely start working within a week.

Studies: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

3) Dark chocolate

A lot of chocolate is high in heavy metals (particularly cadmium), so I researched brands that have the most flavonols and the least heavy metals!

  • Chocolate bars (anything by this brand is good!)
  • Cacao nibs (I LOVE these in smoothie bowls, as a healthy chocolate chip replacement, etc.)
  • Cacao powder
  • Can be taken right before a stressful event to help (studies found good effects with 280 cals/50g of a dark chocolate bar, but you would likely need less when using cacao powder or nibs since they contain more flavanols)

Studies: 1 | 2

4) Ashwagandha

  • Available as a supplement
  • Recommend taking 1 of these capsules per day (do NOT recommend taking higher doses), can expect to see good effects in at most 4 weeks (they will almost certainly start sooner though!)

Studies: 1 | 2

5) Rhodiola Rosea

  • Available as a supplement
  • Recommend taking 1-2 capsules a day, can expect to see benefits in 2 weeks or less

Studies: 1 | 2 | 3

6) Holy Basi (Tulsi)

  • Available as tea
  • Available as a supplement
  • Recommend taking 1 capsule per day, can expect to see benefits by 6 weeks or less

Studies: 1 | 2 | 3

7) Probiotics

  • This probiotic contains 5+ strains mentioned as helpful
  • Take 1 per day, expect to see benefits in 8 weeks or less
  • Can take non-dairy kefir or yogurt as well

Studies: 1 | 2 | 3

 

Combo products:

  • Supplement that contains ashwagandha & L-theanine
  • Supplement that contains lemon balm, ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea, and L-theanine (also contains other herbs though)

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Happy de-stressing,

Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating: When old habits creep back in

Once you’ve done intuitive eating for awhile, your weight tends to be more of a curiosity than anything to actually care about.

Until it isn’t.

I didn’t weigh myself much at all while learning to eat intuitively, because the number on the scale used to be a bit of an obsession, and a major source of guilt and shame.

But after feeling firmly settled into my unrestricted eating and body positivity habits, I started to weigh myself again… both out of curiosity, and because my fiancé is always talking about his day-to-day weight fluctuations. We’re scientists and we love our data, for science’s sake. (Did running after that high salt meal negate the water retention? Did we actually manage to lose weight on that beach vacation from all the swimming?)

But today I realized that at some point, it stopped just being data. I’ve noticed that my weight on the scale is affecting how I see myself again, and daily fluctuations are having an influence on my mood.

I’ve been lifting weights more, so this is especially damaging because I want to gain muscle. But my lifelong conditioning is that weight going up = bad.

But either way, why should an arbitrary, irrelevant number have an effect on my mood?

It shouldn’t.

So I’ve stopped weighing myself.

Easy!

If thoughts about my weight creep in, I can just shake them off by deciding that I think I look fine. Instead of the other way around where I let the scale decide how I feel, when otherwise I would have felt happy about how I look.

And, most importantly, I remind myself that it doesn’t really matter either way if I gained a bit of weight.

Would my career suffer if I gained weight? Not at all.

Would my fiancé leave me? Nope.

Would it really affect my life in any way besides my own self-perceptions, which I can easily change? No!

(Now, I know there are some careers and circumstances where gaining a bit of weight could negatively impact your life. But still, feeling bad about yourself won’t prevent it at all. Feeling good about yourself and nourishing your body with satiating foods will prevent it1.)

I’ve found that the key to maintaining intuitive eating is to be mindful of what kinds of thought patterns and habits you might fall into. Some of us may naturally trend back towards bad habits and thought patterns if we’re not actively maintaining our new, better patterns. And that’s okay!

For some of us, thoughts are like teeth that way… without a retainer, they slowly drift back towards old, pre-braces patterns. It’s worth having to pop in a retainer occasionally to avoid being stuck with painfully crowded teeth. We don’t feel bad about ourselves because our teeth do that, it’s just how it is!

So every once in awhile, take a moment to self reflect about your feelings towards yourself and food. Check in with yourself to find any bad habits or worries that are forming, and stop them in their tracks. Better yet, replace them with something good: freedom to eat, self love, and good food.

Here’s a great book on intuitive eating for those looking to get started. I’m also starting a series of every-other-week posts on how to eat intuitively, both for beginners and for those facing issues later on the process (none of us are perfect!), so subscribe to stay tuned!

  1. See my weight loss videos for scientific research on how to lose weight without restricting.

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Join 1,322 other followers

Welcome!

Hey there!

I’m Miche, and I’m a recovering dieter.

After years of yo-yo dieting & weight gain, I figured out how to stop the cycle, lose the fat, and gain muscle!

So I’m here to share advice on how to eat without rules or restriction and reach your goal body, using scientific research from nutrition & psychology.

…and share recipes, too!

Weight loss isn’t about eating less.

It’s about eating differently.

Losing weight, and especially maintaining it, is about what you eat, and how you go about eating it.

I know, this completely runs against conventional wisdom. But hear me out.

Conventional wisdom doesn’t consider the actual scientific research on how weight loss works.

I do: I’m a PhD student!

I run studies on nutrition & memory, and apply science to my daily life!

There is a lot of great research out there on how to lose weight, and be happier & healthier… but most people don’t know about it, because it’s hard to access & understand.

So I break it down by writing posts & filming videos so you can apply scientific findings to your life!

PS: I also love gardening, so I’ll be sprinkling in some health-related gardening posts here and there 😉

Check ins

I’ve Started Designing Vegan-Themed Merch!

Hey guys!

Long time, no see. I’ve been working on a bunch of recipes to start posting here (currently tweaking and refining), so hopefully you’ll be seeing more of me.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on something else too. I realized I’ve had a problem: good vegan merch is hard to come by. It always takes a lot of digging to find decent vegan T shirts and workout tanks, and they’re usually really overpriced. So I decided I’d try to help fix the problem myself by making my own!

As of yesterday I’ve been uploading my own designs (mostly vegan themed) to Redbubble, where people can buy them as shirts, stickers, mugs, totes, pillows, phone and laptop cases, pretty much everything. The prices still aren’t as low as I’d like them (and they vary wildly by shirt style), even though I lowered the default markup (aka I lowered the percent of money I get), but it’s better than most stuff I’ve seen. I’m planning to upload a ton more, and I’m sure I’ll learn as I go, so stay tuned!

So, if you’re interested in vegan swag and want to help support a poor vegan grad student, check out my brand new shop! (Also linked in the menu bar above)

And if you have any suggestions, let me know–I’d love to take custom requests 🙂

Click here for the shirt above

Click here for the bag above

Food & Exercise Diaries

Day 58 and 59 (1/21-22) of Back to High Carb Intuitive Eating

Instagram | Original Post

Day 58 – 1/21

On Saturday, I had a memory conference in San Francisco with my lab which involved being out from 6am to midnight–it was so fun, but also a tad hectic. The food situation was iffy enough given I was out that long without access to a fridge or microwave, but to add to that, the wisdom tooth pain I’d been having for days intensified to frightening levels (I could hardly sleep the night before!). I survived on plain bagels, and various combinations of bananas and oats.

And perhaps more importantly, I survived on ibuprofen–I took a whole day’s dose of ibuprofen in the first 6 hours of the conference just to be able to focus!

1-22-17-122
Packed a bunch of these 2 ingredient banana oat cookies

Exercise: walked 3.5 miles

Breakfast:

  • Raw banana oats
  • Coldbrew coffee with soymilk

Lunch:

  • 2 sourdough bagels
  • Coffee

Dinner:

  • 2 banana oat cookies
  • Beer and a white wine cooler

Day 59- 1/22

The wisdom tooth pain got so bad I couldn’t sleep, and when I woke up I knew it was an emergency because I was feverish, my entire cheek was swollen, and it hurt to swallow. I got incredibly lucky that the dentist right next to my apartment was kind enough to see me on a Sunday, especially considering I wasn’t even a patient yet.

It turns out I had a bone-eating infection caused by the wisdom tooth growing in. Delightful.

He messed around with the area and put some topical antibiotics on, and thankfully I was able to wait til I got back to my car to scream/sob from pain–I felt so dramatic, but the pain was probably the worst I’ve felt in my life… at least 3x as bad as when I broke and sprained my ankle in September.

To make a long story short, thank God for vicodin and antibiotics.

1-22-17-068

Exercise: walked 3 miles

Breakfast:

  • Blueberry banana smoothie
  • Bagel with tofutti
  • Coldbrew coffee with soymilk

Lunch:

  • Half a bagel with tofutti, superfood patty
  • 2 banana oat cookies

Dinner:

  • Lentil veggie curry with basmati rice
  • Apple with pb2

Check out my Instagram for more photos!

Food & Exercise Diaries

Day 56 and 57 (1/19-20) of Back to High Carb Intuitive Eating

Instagram | Original Post

Day 56 – 1/19

Tuesdays and Thursdays have been tough for me this quarter–I have class, meetings, and TAing from 9:30am-6:30pm in buildings 2 miles apart, and only really have time for one lunch break during which I can’t fit that much food in me. So I’ve been getting a bit shaky/hungry from all the activity and bike commuting by the time I have to teach at 5. I need to think of some good snacks to keep in both my labs that are preferably homemade, require no prep after the fact, and are totally nonperishable!

In the meantime, I’ve been surviving on higher calorie coffees, date rolls, and clif bars.  😛

Exercise: biked 30 mins, walked 7 miles

Breakfast:

  • Pumpkin banana raw oats
  • Coldbrew coffee with soymilk

Lunch:

  • 4 red potatoes with chili lime seasoning
  • Soy mocha
  • Date roll
  • Half a clif bar

Dinner:

  • Lentil veggie curry and basmati rice
  • Apple with PB2

Day 57- 1/20

Had another great run: 4.5 miles this time! I needed to go to sleep ridiculously early (like 9:30pm)–which is a difficult feat for me–so I could wake up at 5am for a conference the next day. Thankfully the running made it much easier to pass out that early. Yet another bonus of exercise!

Another day, another sketchy looking oatmeal concoction…

Exercise: ran 4.5 miles, walked 5 miles

Breakfast:

  • Chocolate banana pb2 raw oats
  • Coldbrew coffee with soymilk

Lunch:

  • 2 red potatoes with chili lime seasoning
  • Puerh tea
  • Apple
  • Half a clif bar
  • Handful of crackers

Dinner:

  • Lentil veggie curry with basmati rice
  • 3.5 banana oat cookies
  • Mini japanese sweet potato

Check out my Instagram for more photos!