Saturday, September 01, 2007

Why intuitive eating works

This just in from an article published in today's edition of the Journal of Physiology: ". . . during a reduction in energy stores or circulating nutrients, the brain initiates responses to restore and maintain energy and glucose homeostasis. In contrast, in times of nutrient abundance and excess energy storage, the brain promotes reduced food intake and increased energy expenditure."

In other words, deprivation makes your brain and body store fat. But having access to plenty of food can lead to eating less and moving around more.

This has always been my experience. When I give myself permission to eat what I'm truly hungry for--and stop eating when I'm satisfied--I eat less than when I go into deprivation mode.

It's interesting to know that there's neurobiology at work. The human body is a wonderful thing.

7 comments:

marcella said...

It's interesting. Many programs for those with eating disorders rely on the opposite - regular meals and rigid meal plans. I think this may well be necessary when the brain and body have lost their natural intuitions (or in the case of my daughter never really developed them) but can cause problems and aren't a way to live long term. On the other hand, in the western world of plenty and waste, it may well be far more difficult to rely on one's intuitions than it was say in war time Great Britain when rationing actually meant that many people ate better (and considerably more) than they'd ever done before.
Intuitive eating must be the aim for all, but some of us (me included) find it difficult.

Laura Collins said...

You are so right!

Letting myself be satisfied by and delighted again about food was a really lovely part of my OWN recovery from my daughter's eating disorder.

Intuitive eating is a lost art!

Deja Pseu said...

It's interesting; the data to support intuitive eating has been out there for decades now, yet the medical community has sidestepped around it like a pile of dog poop on the sidewalk.

We're a culture that's so much about Control, that this approach to ED recovery can be intensely frightening. Especially for women like me with a history of bingeing, letting go of the reins at first seems like sheer insanity. What amazed me, though is that the first time I stopped restricting my food, I stopped bingeing almost immediately, and within weeks noticed I was eating less than my still-dieting friends.

mary said...

I agree! I never read about neurobiology when I was born and somehow I instinctively knew how to eat.
Some brilliant Dr., long ago, decided that if we wanted babies to sleep through the night we needed to put them on a schedule, shove white cereal in their face, and not pick them up if they cried. By the time I had more than one child I didn't care who hopped in my bed at night if it meant everyone getting rest!
I bring up the topic of babies because how we raise them affects them later, I think.
What if these 'experts' contributed to the breakdown of instinctive eating and it needs to be learned for some people?
What if someone is more interested in being noted in history for setting a trend is whom we are allowing to lead us? He says, she says, type of propaganda. These aren't the first centuries that it's been happening...we've always had some type of rule to keep us in line.
Why do we need their opinion when our body was designed to work well on it's own?
It's like knowing there is more than meets the eye but refusing to believe it till some scientist finds out there is a spiritual side of life and maybe blows it up in the process of seeking it. Hah, but he/she can't! I'd prefer my beliefs without permission from mister science.

I think we need to start asking these scientists to answer the 'right' questions. What if we were allowed to follow our instincts? Would there really be the complete chaos and rioting they fear or are we civilized enough to actually evolve if we take back control of our own clocks? Some people have done this.
And do we care what their answer is?

Harriet Brown said...

The human body is an amazing thing.

Seems to me the more we try to micromanage its functions, the more we muck it up.

Marcella, it is hard in this culture, with food not only abundant but pushed on us all the time. Still worth doing, though.

Laura, I know what you mean--that's been true for me too.

Deja, I noticed the same thing. Interesting, no? I eat far less now than I did in the days when I was always about to begin a diet.

Mary--too true, as usual!

Michelle said...

Intuitive eating doesn't work for me, at all. I give myself permission to eat what I feel like eating at any given time and the result is that I binge almost nonstop. It's very distressing because I hear how freeing it is, but I'm stuck on the same hamster wheel, instead of restricting my food, I eat as if I'm going through a drought. I think one of the big problems is that I'm NEVER FULL, NEVER. I just don't get full, bloated, an icky feeling, any of that, help!!!

Harriet Brown said...

I wonder, Michelle, if you've given yourself that permission over a long enough period of time. What I've found with intuitive eating is that it took more than a day or a week or two. It took weeks and months of allowing myself to eat, partly because I had become so cut off from my own sense of hunger and satiety. It took a while to reestablish that. If you start to reconnect, then panic and pull back again, that will prolong the process.

At least that's been my experience.