One study confirms that there's a way to lose weight that's far from having to follow a low-calorie diet. Instead, it focuses on the individual needs of your body. Researchers from Brigham Young University in Utah coined this as "intuitive eating."
The study, carried out by a group from this university and published in the magazine American Journal of Health Education, showed that intuitive eating, which is based on controlling hunger and the feeling of fullness, is an effective method for lowering body mass index (BMI) and cardiovascular risk.
Researchers explain that the philosophical foundation of the trend lies in learning how to recognize what our body needs instead of manipulating what we eat by going on different types of diets. This way, we can control our eating habits with the brain mechanisms for hunger and satisfaction. For example, Steven Hawks, the lead researcher of the study, explains that hunger is a primary response that occurs when the need to eat arises. Its objective is to obtain the nutrients necessary for the body to function properly, and the body has biological mechanisms to control this impulse.
The hypothalamus is a region of the brain that is responsible for controlling our appetite. The center for hunger and satisfaction is found within this brain structure. The hypothalamus controls the feeling of hunger and stimulates or stops our urge to eat depending on the signs both centers receive from the rest of the body that are related to eating (glucose levels, stomach contractions, and amount of lipids).
But of course, there are other factors that control hunger and influence the act of eating such as the appearance, smell, and taste of foods. Our food consumption is also influenced by eating habits learned during childhood, as well as social influences, and emotional factors such as anxiety, stress, or depression.
According to the study team, a person can learn how to control this impulse to eat and eat well without having to follow restrictive diets. In order to achieve this, you must have a positive attitude and learn to have a good relationship with food. And this, they acknowledge, is the most difficult part.
First of all, it's absolutely essential to accept your own body. Next, you must learn how to eat by listening to the signs your body gives instead of letting external, social, or emotional inducements control your eating habits. Know the difference between appetite and hunger, and respond in a healthy fashion.
The scientists that conducted this study, divided university students into two groups: one group was made up of "intuitive eaters" and the other consisted of low-calorie dieters. To evaluate the first group, an intuitive eating scale was designed in order to define the profile of the experiment participants. The results were enlightening as the dubbed "intuitive eaters" had a lower BMI than those in the other group.
Conclusions of the study showed that the intuitive eaters maintained the weight they reached during the treatment for more than two years and managed to consolidate changes to their eating habits. People who went on traditional diets started to gain back the weight one year after the treatment had ended and didn't maintain substantial changes to their eating habits.
Once published, this theory reverberated on both sides of the Atlantic. At the moment, the University of California Agricultural Experiment Station is studying groups of women who suffer from obesity to find out which works best: classical diets or "intuitive eating."
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