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Followers of mindful eating strive to recognize feelings of hunger and desires, listening to what their bodies want to eat while keeping in mind basic nutrition tenets like protein intake.
There’s no calorie counting, no banned foods, and a lot less obsessing. “Counting calories, macros, or points is not only exhausting but can be tedious. Listening to your body is more realistic,” says Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., R.D.N.
Even though it sounds counterintuitive, you’ll probably experience less cravings and less binging. “When you start listening to your internal cues, you won’t just eat everything in sight, because you’re paying attention to what your body craves—and it’s probably not actually a box of cookies,” Young says. You do have to make sure you’re eating protein with every meal to maintain muscle.
Intuitive eating takes time to learn—and that learning curve may involve some initial weight gain. And the diet works only if you really take the time to listen to what your body needs—if you don’t have the patience to learn to recognize your internal signals, the plan’s not going to be successful, Young says.
Mindful eating may not be a good idea for bodybuilders or competitive endurance athletes in-season, when they need to be hitting specific macro goals to build bulk, shed fat, or fuel miles, she adds.
Guys who are exhausted by the rigidity of counting macros and following a plan to the T—the man who has failed with traditional diets and is ready to let go of the reins, regain his sanity, and be at peace with where his body is going to go based on what his hunger cues and healthy cravings are telling him.