Updated: Aug 27
There are a lot of questions around Intuitive Eating, especially from those who have heard of it, but haven't really looked much further. Is Intuitive Eating even healthy? Wont I just eat junk food all of the time? What will happen to my weight if I stop dieting and pursue Intuitive Eating?
In this post, I have gathered some of the most common questions I get about Intuitive Eating.
Anytime I’ve eaten food I typically restrict, I feel out of control. How is giving myself permission to eat these foods going to help? Wont I just eat junk food all the time?
I know-it's a wide held belief that the only way to control your eating is to have a list of rules, "forbidden foods" and a pantry free of your favorite foods. However, Intuitive Eaters experience just the opposite. You see, something funny happens when we have forbidden foods- it actually INCREASES our desire around it and sends to a spiral of shame and guilt, vowing once again, to never eat said food again. Here's the magic- by giving ourselves UNCONDITIONAL permission to eat previously forbidden foods-over time-they actually lose their excitement!
Imagine a child being put in a playroom and told there is only ONE toy they are not allowed to play with....what toy do you think they will be attracted too? The one that is forbidden. The same goes with food. You will eventually learn what foods and in what amounts feel best—on your tongue, in your stomach, and throughout your whole body. You’ll be able to balance the amount you eat of all foods, subsequently removing the need to binge or diet. It is important to show yourself that you can have the foods you want. Eventually, you will lose interest in eating when you are not hungry, you will no longer be obsessively drawn to “forbidden” foods, your ability to nourish your body will improve, and food will no longer hold power over you.
I’m used to eating according to a plan or meal times. How will I know when to eat or stop eating if I don’t have those guidelines?
Each person has a unique experience of feeling hungry and full. Intuitive eating means listening to your own body’s cues for hunger and satiety, not to someone else’s rules or suggestions about when you should or shouldn’t be hungry or full. This is a skill we were all born with. Imagine feeding a baby. The baby would cry when it needed nourishment or turn their head away when they've had enough. Somewhere along the way, we learned that we can't trust ourselves to make our own decisions when it comes to food. Whether it was a parent "clean your plate rule" (completely disregarding possible satiety cues) or that diet plan you cut out of a magazine when you were a teen. We got the clear message from diet culture that SOMEONE ELSE was more of an expert on our needs then we are...
The good news? We can relearn our own biological cues by becoming more attuned to our needs through Intuitive Eating.
Is Intuitive Eating even healthy? How does eating whatever you want, whenever you want impact your health?
This is one of the biggest misconceptions about Intuitive Eating. Many people who are resistant to this philosophy, I have found- really have not done the due diligence of researching the principle nor the more than 120 studies that support it. But to answer the question, there is plenty of evidence to support Intuitive Eating and health.
First, we have to understand the difference between traditional dieting and Intuitive Eating. Traditional Dieting tells us that we must aim for a certain weight, restrict food groups, quantity or demonize ingredients, and that the purpose of exercise is to lose weight. This results in weight cycling, eating disorder behaviors, increased psychological stress and cortisol production, weight gain, slower metabolism, increased binge eating and emotional eating and heightened food cravings.
Intuitive Eating on the other hand, recognizes that your body will seek its natural weight set point when individuals eat in response to hunger and fullness ques. It allows permission for all foods, because this actually decreases overeating and binge eating, increases satisfaction at meal time and contributes to noticing when we have had enough to eat. It also encourages exercise as something to be enjoyed, instead of a weight loss tool- which leads to more sustainable exercise habits.
In a study that compared a diet group vs. intuitive eating group, participants in the diet group experienced weight loss, improvements in labs and improvements in different psychological tests, but all of these changes returned to baseline at 2 year follow-up. In addition, 41% of the participants didn’t even complete the 6-month intervention.
Meanwhile, the participants in the non-diet intervention had significant improvements in depression, body image, and self esteem that was maintained at 2-year follow-up. They also witnessed improved total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and systolic BP at 2 year follow-up. And all of these positive results occurred despite the fact that there were no significant changes in body weight.
The Intuitive Eating approach enabled participants to maintain long-term behavior change; the diet approach did not.
What will happen to my weight if I eat Intuitively? Will I lose weight?
Eating Intuitively may cause you to lose weight, gain weight, or not change your weight at all. Factors that may influence this would be your genetic weight set point range, as well as your own history with weight loss/weight gain cycling from yo yo dieting. Intuitive eating will help you get to a stable set point weight over time, and will reduce your chances of the harmful weight loss/weight gain cycling that regularly occurs with dieting. Achieving your natural weight set point means listening to and honoring your body in response hunger and fullness cues, finding enjoyable sustainable movement, and having healthy stress management and coping strategies. Note: It's completely normal to experience fluctuations in your weight in accordance with your menstrual cycle (if you have one) and the seasons.
Remember...Intuitive Eating is a process. There is no straight line to success, but every eating experience is an opportunity to better learn how to fulfill your needs. Compassion is key.
If you are interested in getting personalized coaching for your own Intuitive Eating Journey, be sure to check out my program, The Food and Body Confidence Project and book a call to get started.
Katie Valley is a Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor whose goal is to dispel the myths of diet culture and reinforce a holistic, health-focused approach to wellness. After her own experience with disordered eating and poor body image, Katie found true healing by practicing Intuitive Eating and Body Acceptance.
Now she has her own practice, Katie Valley Wellness, where she helps women who feel out of control around food learn to eat intuitively, pursue TRUE health, & feel confident in their own body.
In addition to her private practice, she is an adjunct professor at Monroe County Community College, and frequently speaks at events and for other health professional on the topics of Women's Health, Body Image, Health at Every Size® and Intuitive Eating.
After overcoming her own battle with eating and body image issues, it was clear there was a need for a different kind of conversation around health. She began her virtual wellness practice in 2019 with the goal to spread the truth about taking care of our bodies, regardless of weight, and dispel the myth that health "looks" a certain way. Katie is Health at Every Size Informed® and is ready to change the conversation from eating to control body size and shape, to eating for nourishment & well-being.
She is now accepting new clients for 2022. Apply here.