Eating when you are hungry is the best way to LOSE weight, survey suggests… and it’s better for your psychological health too

  • Scientists say ‘eating intuitively’ is better for psychological and physical health 
  • 6,000 young adults from eight countries responded to a survey of eating habits
  • Those who followed body’s hunger ‘signals’ were less likely to overeat, it found 

We’re often told to ignore our hunger pangs or risk piling on the pounds… 

But it’s actually better to listen to your body when it tells you it’s time to eat, say scientists. 

Many popular diets are grounded in ignoring feelings of hunger – for example when counting calories or only eating during certain times of the day. 

But trusting our appetite and eating when we feel hungry – called eating intuitively – is better for our psychological and physical health, research suggests. In a study, those who ate intuitively were more likely to weigh less and feel happier with their body than those who restricted their food intake. 

Eating when you are hungry is the best way to LOSE weight, a new survey suggests

 Eating when you are hungry is the best way to LOSE weight, a new survey suggests

Researchers said being in tune with our body’s signals was more important than following ‘the latest trendy diet or eating plan’. 

In the online survey, more than 6,000 young adults across eight countries answered questions on self-esteem and body mass index (BMI), a measure of whether an individual is a healthy or unhealthy weight. 

Researchers looked at three eating styles – intuitive, emotional and restrained. 

Emotional eating is in response to internal cues such as feeling stressed or sad. Restrained eating is rigidly restricted with the aim of losing or maintaining weight. Analysis found the more people ate intuitively, the happier they tended to be with their body. 

They also had higher self-esteem and lower weight.

On the other hand, higher levels of restrained and emotional eating were associated with lower body satisfaction and self-esteem, and being heavier. 

Lead researcher Dr Charlotte Markey, from Rutgers University in New Jersey, said: ‘Cultural messages constantly suggest that it’s important to ignore our bodies’ hunger and satiety cues, but trusting our bodies and eating when we feel hunger seems to be better for both our psychological and physical health. 

‘This research is in sync with evidence that dieting is ineffective for both weight loss and body satisfaction and often counterproductive. We should aim to be more in tune with our own physiology than the latest trendy diet or eating plan.’ 

Writing in the British Journal of Health Psychology, the scientists said eating styles are likely to be linked to how people feel about themselves. ‘We can deduce that these eating styles may affect individual’s actual consumption, given the association sometimes found with weight status,’ they added. 

Last month, researchers discovered that feeling ‘hangry’ – a mixture of hungry and angry – is a real phenomenon. 

The expression has become popular in recent years but had not been widely explored by science. 

A study found that hunger is associated with greater levels of anger and irritability, as well as lower levels of pleasure.

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