Is Intuitive Eating the Answer to Weight Loss?

scale and tape measurer for intuitive eating
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Wondering if intuitive eating will help you lose weight? If you’re hoping you’ve finally found the solution to weight loss…. you’re not alone. But before I answer the question, let’s clear some things up.

As a Certified Weight Neutral Health Coach and a Certified Diet Recovery Coach, I’m anti-diet. This means I do not support the use of diets or other behavior changes where the purpose is to lose weight. My goal is to help people separate their weight from their health. I help them understand their weight doesn’t define their health, their value as a human, or their ability to be loved.

Taking weight out of the equation is key to healing our relationships with food and body.

Does That Mean You Won’t Lose Weight When You Start Intuitive Eating?

You might not like this answer. It may even seem like a non-answer. The truth is: some people will lose weight when they transition to intuitive eating. While others will gain weight through the process. And some people’s weight will remain stable. 

Simply put- you cannot know what will happen to your weight once you practice intuitive eating.

That’s because we each have a set point weight our body is most comfortable at. Everyone’s set point weight is different. And it’s impossible to know someone’s set point weight as long as they’re dieting or attempting to manipulate their body size. When we diet, our bodies constantly fight to get back to their set point weight.

I understand this answer may be frustrating. If you’ve found intuitive eating with hopes of weight loss- you’re in good company. In a world where thin folks earn privileges and people in larger bodies are treated poorly and oppressed, it makes sense. 

The problem is- we’re not meant to control our body size

And most attempts at controlling our weight backfire. For some, this means riding the diet-binge roller coaster. For others, it looks like yo-y0 dieting for decades. While sometimes it means falling down the slippery slope to a clinical eating disorder. For most, obsessions with weight, food, and body size increase while self worth dwindles. All the while, any weight loss is almost always brief. In fact, weight gain is the most likely outcome of dieting. For more details about the risks of dieting, check out chapter two of Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

When we pursue intuitive eating with the goal of weight loss, these same negative side effects occur. My mentor, Isabel Foxen Duke coined the term “the intuitive eating diet” to refer to this common trap many fall into. Intuitive eating is about reconnecting with our bodies. Listening to their signals. Trusting their instincts. But when we turn it into a diet with rigid rules, and add weight loss as the goal- the result will be the same as any other diet. (Hint: it’s won’t be good). After all, if dieting worked… would you even be reading this article? Or searching for the next diet hoping this one will finally work…

So Why Even Pursue Intuitive Eating?

While intuitive eating can’t guarantee weight loss, it CAN help you develop a deeper connection with your body. Learning to listen to and trust signals your body sends can help deepen your intuition in all areas of life. It can bring freedom from food and weight obsesssions. And help you heal your relationship with food and body.

Since Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch first published the book Intuitive Eating in 1995 (which has since been revised mulitiple times), many studies have looked at the benefits of intuitive eating. Not only is it correlated with greater life satisfaction, psychological hardiness, and greater body appreciation. But intuitive eaters were found to also eat a wider variety of foods, have higher HDL (good cholesterol), as well as many other health benefits. (For more on this, check out chapter one of Intuitive Eating – Fourth Edition).

Letting go of dieting in our fatphobic world is terrifying. Intuitive Eating can be a framework to help us through this process.

If giving up on dieting feels like you’re walking off a cliff, intuitive eating can be the parachute that guides you gently to the other side.

While it cannot guarantee weight loss, intuitive eating CAN help you relax around food and get on with your life.

Still Hoping for Weight Loss?

If you’ve made it through this article and are still hoping for weight loss- please be gentle with yourself. The desire to shrink our bodies is a strong one reinforced by our culture. By our mothers, aunts, friends, celebrities. I could go on and on. 

The truth is- you have body autonomy. The right to do with your body whatever you choose. If weight loss is your main goal right now- you’re free to pursue it. I’d just ask you to consider a few questions first:

  • Have you ever been able to achieve weight loss for longer than five years?
  • Is your sense of worth attached to your ability to lose weight?
  • When you’re pursuing weight loss, do you feel obsessed with food?
  • Have you ever hated yourself because of your food choices?
  • Can you imagine a life free from obsessing about food, weight, and body?
  • At the end of your life what do you want to be remembered for? Is your weight part of the equation?

It IS possible to live free from food, body, and weight obsessions. Stepping off the dieting roller coaster is a very real option. Although counter culture, learning to connect with, trust, and accept your body can improve your entire life.

If you’re interested in letting go of weight loss hopes, I can help you with that. This work is a process. But it can be done. And along with it comes true freedom. 

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