Intuitive Eating can be a difficult process, especially in the beginning. There have been a few questions that came through in my private Intuitive Eating and Body Image Support Facebook group (please join if you haven’t already!) that I want to address today. Read on for my answers and tips to help you during your Intuitive Eating journey.
The Ditch The Diet Challenge just ended (join the waiting list for our next one!!) and I’ve been getting a lot of great questions over my Instagram and Facebook pages about Intuitive Eating. If you haven’t yet, you can also check out the other posts in this series: Intuitive Eating Q&A Part 1, Intuitive Eating Q&A Part 3, and Intuitive Eating Q&A Part 4.
These questions and tips below cover weight loss, practicing Intuitive Eating with special health conditions and how to deal with guilt/shame. If you are new to Intuitive Eating, check out my blog post on how to get started. Stay tuned for more Q&A in the future and comment below with any questions you might have in your own Intuitive Eating journey.
I really thought Intuitive Eating would result in weight loss for me (even though I know that’s not the point!). I guess I’m still ever ‘hopeful’ that weight loss might just happen spontaneously, so I’ve been surprised that my weight is the same.
It’s totally understandable that you’re still hopeful for weight loss. Sadly, we live in a society that prizes smaller bodies and that makes it easier for those with smaller body’s to exist. Body and weight acceptance don’t happen overnight, and it isn’t easy, but it is totally possible. I think it’s first important to think about why you want to lose weight – get to the root of that. Continue asking “why?” until you get to the root. We have to know what our objections are with our body as it is right now before ever move forward with changing how we feel about it. A few other things to think about:
- Think about being a caregiver for your body instead of needing to accept your body.
- Think about actionable steps that show your body that you care for it.
- Can you instead tell your body, “I can show you some compassion and kindness”?
Behaviors towards your body change before thoughts/feelings towards your body. You can modify behaviors first, by taking actions towards caring for yourself. So, think about, “How can I be a caregiver to my body, hate it a little less, be less of a bully?” What are some ways this week that you can extend some self-compassion to yourself?
Can you explain why emphasizing Intuitive Eating should be a priority? Is it just for people’s mental health, or because there is an actual measurable health outcome?
Intuitive Eating is important for many reasons and there are definitely lots of measurable outcomes, including mental health benefits. Here are some of the science-backed benefits of Intuitive Eating:
- Higher HDL cholesterol levels
- Lower Triglyceride levels
- Lower rates of emotional eating
- Lower rates of disordered eating
- Higher self-esteem
- Better body image
- More satisfaction with life
- Optimism and well-being
- Proactive coping skills
Intuitive Eating is also important because of all the proven negative outcomes associated with dieting:
- Food and body preoccupation
- Repeated cycles of weight loss and regain (i.e. yo-yo dieting) which is linked to worse health outcomes
- Lower self-esteem
- Eating disorders
- Taking away from other health goals
- Weight stigmatization and discrimination, which leads to people in larger bodies avoiding doctors, getting fewer screenings and receiving worse medical treatment
And don’t forget these dieting/weight facts:
- 95% of diets fail; within 5 years 95% of people who lose weight will gain it all back (and two-thirds of those people will gain back more than they lost)
- Weight (and weight loss) does not equal health! Studies that link obesity to poor outcomes are based on correlation, not causation and what improves health is our behaviors, not our weight (behaviors is what Intuitive Eating focuses on)
So a weight focus not only doesn’t make us thinner or healthier, but it has many negative consequences. Meanwhile, Intuitive Eating has many positive health benefits both mentally and physically. This is why I choose to become and intuitive eating dietitian and practice from a weight-inclusive standpoint.
I work really well with structure and I am able to count calories without feeling restricted. I eat what I want but I give myself a limit. I tried intuitive eating once and I didn’t like how I felt! I didn’t trust myself and after a week I just felt guiltier than I did before. Is it possible to diet successfully?
Intuitive Eating takes time to fully work through. I always say it’s the opposite of a diet, where diets are easy at first – because you’re following structures and rules – and harder as time goes on; versus intuitive eating is really tough at the beginning but gets easier and easier until eventually, you don’t have to think about it at all. It sounds like the guilt and lack of trust made you feel uncomfortable. This feeling is completely normal when adding back in a wider variety of foods that you don’t regularly eat. It is normal for it to feel wrong to eat all foods, when you’re used to thinking of certain foods as good or bad (even if that’s subconscious) or used to thinking about things in terms of calories.
Instead of running away from that uncomfortable feeling, and turning back to the “safe” and “comfortable” behaviors that you know, you have to be ok it being there and feeling this way for a little while. The length of time varies but usually takes at least a month or two, and often longer. Eventually, the uncomfortableness is replaced with a strong connection to your intuition and with that will come feelings of ease and relief, and no guilt. Eventually, you will not have to overthink your food decisions, it will come naturally and easily.
Check out the other posts in the Q&A series:
What other questions do you have about Intuitive Eating? Share in the comments below and I’ll answer them in future blog posts!
Are you interested in learning more about Intuitive Eating?
I work with clients virtually throughout the US, helping people who are frustrated with dieting change their relationship with food and say goodbye to diets once and for all. You can also learn more about my intuitive eating nutrition coaching programs to see how you can find balance and develop long-term lifestyle habits, no diets required.