Is intuitive eating the simplest diet plan?
Here's the theory behind it: You eat what you want, when you want, all while being mindful of your body's needs. You eliminate the traditional idea of dieting that categorizes foods as "good" and "bad."
It's actually not even a diet at all.
"It is a mindset about the experience of eating," said Audrey Heist, registered dietitian and director of health engagement at AtlantiCare in New Jersey. "It is an approach to eating in a healthy way as part of a balanced diet."
Desiree Nielsen, a registered dietitian and host of "The Urban Vegetarian," says that intuitive eating focuses on a more positive relationship with food and making peace with your body.
"It is also about tuning into your true appetite and relearning how to recognize both hunger and fullness and taking steps to better listen to your body’s signals," Nielsen told USA TODAY.
Instead of eating based on our emotions — boredom, sadness, stress or any other external factors — intuitive eating encourages eating based on your body's needs.
"When we eat intuitively, we eat because we are hungry, not regardless of whether we are hungry. We stop eating when we feel full," Heist said. "We should still eat mindfully when we eat intuitively. This means paying attention to physical and emotional senses, feelings and cues when we eat and being aware of how, why and what we consume."
Nielsen says that adopting this style of "dieting" helps people rediscover the pleasures of food and relieves people of the stress associated with feeling guilty for eating something "bad."
This doesn't mean eating donuts and pizza for every meal because you feel like it, though. Heist says people should focus on nutrient-rich foods.
"Eating intuitively is responding to our body’s need for fuel. We will be less likely to overeat or to be malnourished," Heist said. "It also encourages us to listen to our body. For example, having a lack of appetite or being excessively hungry or thirsty could signal health issues."
Nielsen recommends turning to how kids eat before "societal programming takes over" as a way of practicing intuitive eating.
"When they are hungry, they want to eat, and when they are done, they are done. They can eat ice cream and pasta without labeling either experience," Nielsen said..
Nielsen notes that regular diets are restrictive and don't end up being sustainable or fostering a healthy mindset about food. She said that depriving yourself of a certain food can lead to binge eating, which in turn can make you feel like you "ruined your diet" with a single meal or snack.
"A single meal doesn’t make or break your health, it’s what you do consistently that counts," Nielsen said."In my own life, I’ve found that my intuitive-eating journey has actually led met to a much healthier dietary pattern than ever before."
"American Horror Story" star Kathy Bates lost 60 pounds with mindful eating.
"My niece told me this little secret -- I guess it’s no secret, it’s a biological thing - that at some point when you’re eating, you have this involuntary sigh and that’s really your brain and your stomach communicating that you’ve had enough," Bates told Us Weekly. "The trick is to pay attention to that and push your plate away."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Intuitive eating: How eating what you want can be better than dieting