In short, Yes, IF you know the difference between REAL hunger and cravings and if you stop exactly when you are FULL.
What it is:
Mindful eating or eating-when-hungry is a practice that encourages proper breakdown and assimilation of food by eating when hungry, chewing well and stopping when full. You must know what “fake hunger” and “real hunger” is. You can easily differentiate the two by ignoring the hunger pangs. If it returns after a while, it is real hunger and you must start eating.
Benefits of “mindful eating”:
It has immense health benefits like helping food be digested and absorbed better, better salivary secretion hence better carbohydrate processing ,preventing excess stomach acidity and reflux, improving and curing GERD, improving liver and pancreatic health, maintaining good appetite, avoiding unnecessary fat gain, feeling satiated at the right time, knowing exactly when you are full and enjoying the overall eating experience.
Is Mindful eating new to us?
Not exactly, it was the norm .Humans, regardless of demography had a non-scheduled eating system some years ago. When man was hunting, by the time he found and prepared food, the entire clan was hungry. Remember that we were hunter gatherers for atleast 2 million years.
Civilization grew and as we became an Agrarian community (We have been farming for 12000-23000 years now), we produced and stored food. Even then, there were no hour clocks, physical work was dominant and we either ate telling time looking at the sun or ate when hungry. Rich, sugary and fatty food were rare and occasional. All this changed in the past 100 years or so. Wholefoods became processed and we began ignoring the body’s natural cues. We put nature under a tight schedule, began treating meal-times like an unproductive part of the day. Ever since then, we have paved way for a lot of metabolic diseases largely unknown to our grandparents.
One of the following questions must pop up when we say “eat-only-when-hungry” :
Does it work, if so how and for whom does it not work?
Eating-only-when-hungry aims to maximize nutrient absorption and hence fastens a sluggish metabolism. It follows the same principle intermittent fasting does. It works by utilising your natural digestive cues to prevent you from fuelling up more than you really need. Occassional consumption of food to heart’s content is okay but regularly eating too much in one meal is over working the digestive system.
But like all health practices, there is a catch. For example, it may not benefit people with the following conditions because hunger cues may mean different things for them:
1) People with already low blood sugar.
3)People with low blood pressure.
4) Anaemic and anorexic people.
5) People with any type of ulcer.
6) Pregnant women.
7) School going children.
8) Toddlers and infants ( they already eat only when hungry anyway so don’t force it on them)
9) If your work or travel depends on physical stamina eg. Sports, trekking,
10) If you normally feel faint often.
It is safer, if you either cure or bring these conditions to a manageable level before following the “eat-only-when-hungry” principle.
How does it work?
Remember that fats and carbohydrates get metabolised fast whereas proteins and key nutrients don’t successfully get into the blood stream if the digestive system is not in good shape. The digestive juices and the gut ( intestinal barrier between the blood stream and bowels) need to work harmoniously for proper nutrition.
Again, this has nothing to with counting calories.
So why should I stop when full?
Because everyone needs different food proportions on different days.The body has a different clock as opposed to the 24 hour schedule, some people feel hungry exactly at lunch, some feel hungry just at the thought of food. One cannot eat the same sizing proportion a super model eats and expect good results, one may need more or less that day, and it’s best to let the body decide.
For whom does it work?
We must understand that weight loss(fat loss to be precise) is not the only concern for many people. A lot of people have hormonal and digestive disorders like gall stones,GERD, leaky gut or low stomach acid that prevents them from absorbing important nutrients crucial for normal body functioning. It works for all people, whatever diet or workout you are following. Just wait until you are mildly hungry and you can have your meal.
I am working or traveling often, how can I set meal times that sync with hunger?
Carrying healthy home cooked food packed with you is a good strategy. Try to fit complex carbs, protein and fiber rich food so that you don’t feel hungry just because of low blood glucose, like veggies, eggs and meat combo or falafel, nuts, quinoa black/ brown rice etc for vegans
3) Is it just another popular diet strategy that will disappear soon?
That is less likely, because lesser and lesser people are following fad diets. Everyone is looking into diets methods ( one or combined) suitable to body type that help them reach their goals. When more people want consistent practices, the ages old tradition of eating when hungry will be followed more.
If I am already on a keto/paleo/vegan diet schedule, is this going to hinder my progress?
No, because you are not changing your diet, you are only modifying when you should eat and how you eat.
Try Eating-when-hungry on the days you are at home, like weekends. How you feel will tell you, if you want to follow it on the longrun.