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How to Adjust Your Intuitive Eating Habits for Weight Loss

First, throw away everything in your pantry or fridge that has carbs, fats, sodium, or sugar in it. Next, don’t let yourself eat before 12 pm or after 5 pm. Also, make sure you’re using fat-free and sugar-free everything. Oh, did I mention that you need to chew each bite of food 25 times to trick your mind into thinking you’re full sooner? One last thing, for the sake of your physical and mental health, please stop buying into fad diet tricks like this.

Despite everything that the diet industry is trying to tell and sell you, there is only one way to adjust your eating habits for weight loss: eat in a caloric deficit. Crazy, right? Crazy that with all of these weight loss hacks and fat burning secrets floating around the internet, there’s only one true way to make sure you’re eating for weight loss, and that’s consuming less calories than your body burns in a day.

Regardless of what foods you do or do not eat, as long as you’re consistently in a caloric deficit, you will enter a weight loss phase. For a person who does track their food, it’s pretty easy to put yourself into a deficit. You’ll slowly reduce the amount of calories you’re consuming each day until you find a deficit that is large enough to trigger weight loss, yet small enough to still provide you the energy you need to get through your day and workouts.

However, as you probably know by now, I don’t track my food intake at all. I’m a huge advocate for intuitive eating, as I think it is the healthiest approach to nutrition from a mental health standpoint. So the question is posed: how can I ensure I’m in a deficit if I don’t track my food? The straightforward answer is that you can’t. You can’t guarantee that you’re in a deficit while eating intuitively, but you can be so in tune with your body that you can tell if and when you’re in a weight loss phase.

There are two things I do when I want to intuitively enter a caloric deficit / weight loss phase, 1) I pay more attention to eating whole foods in smaller portions and 2) I incorporate more cardio into my workouts.

Let’s breakdown number 1 first: I pay more attention to eating whole foods in smaller portions. When you eat intuitively, you’re listening to your body’s hunger cues to determine what you want to eat, how much of it you want to eat, and when your body is full and needs to stop. That does not mean that you’re eating whatever you want, though. You should still be fueling your body with nutrient-dense foods every single day, it just means you’re not attaching numbers to those foods. So, if you are wanting to intuitively enter a weight loss phase, you need to put even more emphasis on eating those nutrient-dense foods and eating smaller portions of them.

Personally, if I want to put myself in a caloric deficit food-wise, I will cook the same foods that I normally do, but just in a slightly smaller portion. Since I use the same plates for every meal, it’s easy for me to tell if I’m eating more or less of that food than I normally would. I’ll also adjust my portions to be filled with more high volume foods that have lower calories, my personal favorites being fruits and vegetables. So if my plate is usually equal parts fruits/veggies and carbs with a small portion of protein, I’ll maybe adjust it to be mainly fruits/veggies, a larger portion of my protein, and a slightly smaller portion of my carbs.

I still eat until I’m full, of course, but I am just making small tweaks to my eating habits that will lower my overall intake of calories. Plus, since I also incorporate increased cardio into my workouts, I only have to adjust my food slightly to put myself into that deficit, as I’ll be burning more calories each day through cardio already. So, let’s talk about increasing cardio.

I usually do 1-2 days of cardio per week anyways to keep myself in a maintenance phase; which is a phase of maintaining my current weight without trying to gain or lose any. So, if I’m wanting to lose weight, I’ll up that cardio frequency to 4-5 times a week to increase my daily expenditure of calories. As for what type of cardio you should do, it truly depends on whatever type of cardio you prefer.

I like to do steady-state cardio by doing 20 minutes on the stair stepper or 20 minutes of a high incline walk on the treadmill, whereas you might prefer 10 minutes of sprints or 15 minutes of HIIT. Either way, you’re doing it right. As long as you’re getting your heart rate up enough that your breathing increases, without getting it so high that you feel like you need to stop, you’re doing cardio right.

Plus, despite all of the weird information on Instagram, you can do cardio before or after your lift, whichever you choose to do is perfectly fine. I’m a cardio before type of person, but so many of my friends are cardio after people. Do what works best for you because this journey is no one else’s but your own. As long as you’re getting your cardio in, you’re doing what needs to be done.

It’s important to take some time to listen to your body and see what it needs when you’re losing weight- are you eating so little that your mood or workouts are being affected? If so, increase the amount of food you eat. Is doing more cardio making you lose your love for the gym? If so, reduce your cardio and just reduce your food a little bit more, too. It’s just a matter of adjusting your give and take into something that fits you and your lifestyle.

I truly believe that eating intuitively is all about finding what works best for you, despite what may work best for others. No one should be absolutely miserable while they’re losing weight. While you may have adjustment periods of being a little hungry here and there, you should still be enjoying your food, workouts, and life while doing it. 

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