If you are familiar with intuitive eating, then chances are you are also concerned with your weight. You have been on dozens of diets over the years and you may have even hit ‘diet bottom.’ You are sick of being caught in a vicious cycle of feeling out of control and guilty around foods. Your weight may have increased over the years from yo-yo dieting. You are at the end of your dieting rope so to speak, and then you discover Intuitive Eating. Intuitive Eating (IE), will help you to reject the external rules of dieting so that you can re-gain access to your body’s innate wisdom. This allows space for your internal guidance system to step forward and effortlessly guide you to what and how much to eat. Intuitive eating will restore trust with your body and you will begin to feel a lot less crazy around food.
One area of great concern for most people, is this question:
“Will I ever lose weight as an intuitive eater?”
And to that I always say:
Your weight will do one of three things.
- Gain weight.
- Lose weight.
- Stay the same.
When you let go of dieting and begin to eat intuitively, or normally, your body weight will normalize. Whether of not your body will gain, lose or maintain will depend on how far you are from your genetic set point weight.
Your genetic set point or natural weight is the weight your body will maintain with “normal eating” and “normal exercise.”
Normal intuitive eating over time will restore your metabolism to allow your body weight to also normalize. If you have been very restrictive for any length of time, then your body will eventually return back up to its natural weight. If you’ve fluctuated between periods of dieting and overeating or binge eating, your body will eventually return to its natural weight. If you have been using food to cope with emotions, your body will eventually return to its natural weight.
The trick here is to allow and trust the process instead of trying to control your weight, like you would when dieting. Trying to control your weight during this stage of intuitive eating will backfire. What you appreciate, appreciates. The more you focus on weight, the more weight you may actually gain or attract. Your body wants to be trusted so it is reacting from a deep need to protect as well as reclaim its autonomy. It’s a scary step to surrender to your body. Let go. Trust your body is not broken, and that wherever your weight settles is OKAY.
If you are already at your natural set point weight, and you have an unrealistic view of what you should weigh and are trying to be even smaller, you won’t lose weight through intuitive eating.
For some people, their metabolism has been altered and damaged by years of excessive dieting and weight yoyo-ing. For them, creating a sustainable joyful movement plan and gradually increasing the foods eaten will eventually restore their metabolism. Weight may be restored back to the natural set point weight. Again, some people will lose weight, some maintain, and some gain.
Restoring the metabolism can take months. The goal here should not be ‘weight loss’ but metabolic recovery from within. It’s critical to connect to intrinsic motivators to exercise and eat well. The main reasons are for self-care and pleasure as opposed to compensation and punishment.
What if I can’t lose weight?
If you have been doing intuitive eating and are not losing weight, then chances are you are already at your natural set point weight. Now, this might not be the weight that you want to be. Unfortunately, this is very common in our diet-obsessed culture that worships the “thin ideal” at the exclusion of all other body types that don’t fit this rigid ideal.
Take a closer look at your own internalized weight stigma and fat phobia. It might be time to redefine your own standards of beauty. There is a tremendous amount of peace that is found when one can finally drop this struggle and redefine your own standards of beauty and health.
You don’t have to buy into this system of body oppression. You don’t need to play this game. Because in this game, no one wins. Choosing to not play this game is a powerful act of rebellion against this system of oppression. You are standing up to the $70 billion diet industry that loves keeping people fixated on changing their bodies, shrinking their bodies to represent an ideal that excludes the natural range of human bodies. The diet industry, the patriarchy wants to keep you distracted and playing by their rules.
Body acceptance will ultimately liberate you from these oppressive forces. And, acceptance of your body does not equate to complacency. This is a fear I hear from clients, “If I accept my body, I’ll let it go.” Acceptance means being kinder to your body. Doing nice things to and for your body. It means showing up and paying attention to your body’s needs from moment to moment. When you do this, your body will befriend you and guide you to behaviors that feel good. Complacency is not listening, not caring and is a reaction from some part of you that needs more attention and love.
Also, consider WHY you want to lose weight?
Often times, our desire to be smaller is symbolic of unmet intrinsic needs in our life. Weight loss and the desire are representing some area that is missing or out of balance in our lives. It could be an unconscious longing that has not been identified and expressed, and so it presents itself as the desire to change the body. And our diet culture sends messages that once you have your ‘beach body’, then everything will be perfect and you’ll have x, y and z. This is conditioning for which we need to examine and challenge. Finding the meaning and purpose in your desire to lose weight is important. Be gentle with yourself if you ‘want to lose weight’ but feel stuck in this area. It could be that we need to decode these desires and discover what lies beyond the illusion that weight loss will be the ultimate salvation.
Also, in my experience, most people who say they want to lose weight often want the things that they think weight loss will bring them. If you had to choose between
A) losing weight but everything else in your life stays the same- your health, body image, self-esteem, relationships etc.
B) your weight stays the same, but you get everything that you think weight loss will bring: increased confidence, improved health and self-esteem etc.
What I have found is that most people only want what we perceive weight loss will bring us, those things have nothing to do with our actual weight.
Of course, there are some exceptions to this. I have clients that have done a lot of growth work and love their lives but still have a desire to lose weight for their own valid health concerns. There is a way that these folx can lose weight through the process of intuitive eating but it is done with a very different intention from that of dieting. It is done in a way that is loving and supportive and connected. Weight loss happens in the final stage of intuitive eating. It’s happens naturally without force and deprivation. It does take discipline as most good self-care behaviors do to some extent, but it’s self reinforcing because these behaviors feel good and are rooted in deeply trusting the body.
(Read more on the stages here: https://www.mindful-nutrition.com/how-long-does-it-take-to-recover-stages-of-breaking-free/
What if you could find peace and acceptance, self-confidence and self-love right NOW without actually having to lose any weight?
What if you could feel less body shame and wear clothes you love right NOW?
All of these things are totally independent of weight.
Furthermore, many people who lose weight still don’t feel good about themselves! They still struggle with lack of confidence, low self-esteem, body hatred and so on. Because even though they lost “the weight,” their life is the same, the still have the same internal struggles that weight loss will never solve. So, this importance to lose weight, is actually an illusion. It’s often never about your weight.
But wait, I want to lose weight AND have freedom with foods…
Is this possible? Maybe. Again, as stated above, it depends on where you are from your natural set point weight. Intuitive eating is not about weight loss – it is about letting go of the goal of weight loss. It’s about going inside of yourself – to listen to your hungers, your feelings, your fullness. Dieting relies on external measures to control your food and your weight, such as scales and counting calories. Weighing yourself is the quickest way to undermine your body trust. The number on the scale will only serve to remove you from your own wisdom. The scale, aka, the crying machine is also a guarantee that your will eventually get back into the restrict-binge cycle. Weighing serves to increase obsession with even minor fluctuations in weight. And, of course, the mind loves to focus on the negatives. If your weight is up one day, this causes a panic and a subsequent pattern of restrictive behaviors. And, the 3rd law of physics states, that for every restriction, there is an equal and opposite binge waiting to happen.
The scale also unfairly becomes another source of judgment and the critic only gets stronger and louder with thoughts of, “I suck, I’m a failure.’
If the number on the scale is down, then you feel relieved, but perhaps a bit nervous too. Now you have to be careful to nor gain the weight back. And, this will no doubt lead you right back to the restrict binge cycle.
The bottom line is that closely monitoring your weight on the scale will cause you to do three things
1) overeat and 2) under eat AND, 3) overeat again.
I hope I’ve convinced you that closely monitoring your weight via the scale will undermine your ability to eat in response to your body’s innate wisdom.
In order to fully embrace Intuitive Eating and for IE to ‘work,’ consider throwing out your scale. If you are having a hard time with this, you can gradually decrease how often you weight. For example, if you are weighing yourself daily, decrease to every other day, and then every third day, and then once per month. But if you can go cold turkey, go for it!
Letting go on the scale will cause an internal shift that will dramatically increase your ability to trust your body.
And, trusting your body leads to increased feelings of confidence, which then leads to more peace, joy and ease in other areas of your life.
Lastly – a word on thin privilege.
I don’t want to discount thin privilege because it’s a real thing unfortunately. We live in a super fat phobic culture and thin people are treated better which is totally unfair. But the truth is, shaming fat bodies causes weight stigma which is linked to poor health outcomes, and folx in larger bodies are told to diet. We know dieting causes weight gain and weight cycling which is not health promoting. Instead of going on yet another diet (that will in the long term fail you), consider learning how to trust and befriend your body with intuitive eating. There is so much freedom and relief that comes when we can accept and embrace our own genetics while we show up take good care of our bodies.
Share with me below what your biggest fears are about letting go of weight loss as the goal, or letting go of the scale, or letting of dieting. I would love to hear from you. Thanks for being on the journey with me.