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Eat, play, laugh

You may have tried every diet known to man but are always defeated by hunger and urges, like say a sudden need to wolf down McNuggets. Sticking to no-dairy, no-meat, no-sugar plans is as difficult as it gets. Fad diets typically promise quick and easy weight loss, but they seldom live up to their own hype due to their extreme approach.

Amid all the emotional carnage wrought by these diets, a new method to manage wellness without having to starve yourself and make health goals achievable shines through. It’s called intuitive eating, and it reworks your relationship with food, leaving you well-fed and not craving for more.

Mindful Eating

Is eating important only when you truly feel hungry? Celebrity nutritionist Karishma Chawla says, “Food freedom means moving away from calorie counting and diet for optimal wellbeing, without wanting to suppress feelings about food. That’s mindful, intuitive eating for better health. It means relieving yourself of usual diet norms including body shape, diets, emotional guilt and so on. Food freedom is soul freedom for me – eating foods that align with my soul. Understand that eating healthy isn’t a punishment but a reward for your body – it keeps you healthy, and makes way for growth.”

Now, instead of leaping for that pack of pumpkin seeds, pause and ponder. Understand your body’s signals. “Intuitive eating is about disciplining your body to ensure it sends out signals for your better health. You eat without guilt but mindfully, completely aware of the portion size and the composition of food you are putting inside your mouth, for a healthy body and lifestyle.

Food freedom means dropping fad-following, and taking full control of your food habits,” explains nutritionist Deepalekha Bhattacharjee. “This means when you eat, what you eat and how much you eat, rests in your own hands. Rather than blindly listening to your mind that can delude or pamper you by tempting you to eat whenever it feels you wander off-track (read: poor sleep, stress, extreme emotions, binge eating, hectic travel schedules, peer pressure).”

She vouches for the time-setting mechanism for meals to train the mind and body to stick to a schedule that you set for yourself, as “feeling hungry” can be only 10 per cent reliable. “After few months you will start feeling hungry at the timings set by you. That is food freedom in the true sense when you are in full control of what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat,” says Bhattacharjee.

Happily Healthy

Trust your own self, and be happy with your responsible choices. This includes making way for a balanced intake, based on what works for you. “Enjoy a wide variety of options across the five food groups, without guilt or constraints, maintaining a healthy relationship with your food. This attitude is a trust-builder, and helps you to respond responsibly to food and make decisions that support your own health index. Find your own happy and healthy relationship with food,” says Dr. Rohini Patil, nutritionist and founder of Nutracy Lifestyle.

Intuitive eating helps you get rid of your unhealthy obsession with weight issues. You can live and eat in peace while setting your own boundaries. Sounds complicated? It isn’t. You begin to nourish yourself better, respect, enjoy and savour what you eat. This also translates into a healthy lifestyle as you bring in ways to nourish yourself in many more ways that go beyond eating.

“Once you shrug off those rigid rules, or guilt, you begin honouring your hunger, and your fullness cues,” says Madhavi Avate, functional nutritionist. She explains the wisdom in listening to personal body cues and choosing your foods. “An intuitive eating plan is built on three fundamental elements: listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, allowing yourself to eat when genuinely hungry and stopping when comfortably satisfied. Secondly, it encourages honouring your cravings without judgement, nourishing a balanced relationship with food by embracing a wide variety of choices. Lastly, practising mindful eating is essential: focusing on being present during meals to savour and appreciate food fully, enhancing satisfaction and self-awareness in your eating habits.”

Win-Win

If you have been accused, of body-shaming your kidults when suggesting or imposing a ban on the quick fix Swiggy culture, then this is your solution. “Intuitive eating concepts can support a positive body image, a balanced connection with food, and avoid eating disorder in kids and teenagers,” says Rohini. “By encouraging kids to pay attention to their hunger and fullness cues, bringing in a range of nutrient-dense foods, and setting an example of balanced eating habits, parents can promote intuitive eating in children,” she adds.

“Listen to your gut—a healthy gut is very intuitive by nature. If you take care of your gut microbes, they will only call out when they are truly hungry. Feed them with a wrong environment like stress and junk foods, then the overgrowth of the bad microbes will create rogue cravings,” Karishma adds.

Keep in mind that food freedom of this kind may or may not bring dramatic weight loss, but it will certainly make you feel happier and healthier.

Happier Eating

● Eat until 80 per cent full

● Pre-decide portion size

● Enjoy your food guilt-free

● Try eating with your hands

● Exercise daily to curb cravings

● Stay positive, be disciplined

● Nourish your body with balance

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