Can Intuitive Eating be used for weight loss? This is, not surprisingly, one of the most common questions asked regarding Intuitive Eating.
It makes sense that when learning about Intuitive Eating, weight loss is a common concern. However, if you’re seeking out Intuitive Eating, you’ve probably struggled with weight, dieting, and body image, or you wouldn’t be looking into Intuitive Eating in the first place.
Almost everyone who is looking into Intuitive Eating desires weight loss, at least to some extent. If they didn’t, they’d already be an Intuitive Eater.
We live in a society where we’re constantly evaluated and judged based on body size, from the media to healthcare. Understandably, weight is a concern for many people. The desire for a “culturally- appropriate” body is almost ubiquitous in our society.
So, the question is then, can Intuitive Eating be used for weight loss in a healthy way?
In this post, I’ll answer this question, what happens to your weight when you start Intuitive Eating, weight loss for health reasons, and everything in between!
Table of Contents
What is Intuitive Eating?
First off, what is Intuitive Eating?
You’ve likely heard of Intuitive Eating, as it seems to be a snowballing trend. However, with the rise in popularity, is a rise in misinformation.
So before we dive into everything you need to know about Intuitive Eating and weight loss, it’ll be helpful to define it and clear up any confusion.
Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based, weight-neutral approach to eating that works to heal your relationship with food and body image.
What does that mean? Instead of a goal of weight loss, Intuitive Eating is about health gain.
Weight loss diets use restrictions and rules to change your body into something “better” and are typically driven by self-loathing and shame.
In contrast, Intuitive Eating is about tuning into your body’s internal wisdom to honor, nourish, and respect your body and is driven by self-compassion and values.
Can I Use Intuitive Eating for Weight Loss?
In short, no. Intuitive Eating can not be used for weight loss. Intuitive Eating for weight loss is an oxymoron.
Focusing on weight loss means you will be applying some level of restriction to control how your body looks. This impedes your ability to become an Intuitive Eater.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t do Intuitive Eating if you want to lose weight. More on this later.
So, why are so many people promoting Intuitive Eating for weight loss? They either don’t understand what Intuitive Eating is, or they’re co-opting the language to sell their weight loss program due to a rise in the popularity of Intuitive Eating.
If you are unsure of someone’s motives, you can check to see if they’re actually a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor or if they’re just trying to make a quick buck by staying on trend.
Reasons Intuitive Eating Can’t be Used for Weight Loss
So why can’t Intuitive Eating be used for weight loss, then?
Reason 1: Focusing on Weight Impedes your Ability to Become an Intuitive Eater.
This is one of the main reasons.
When weight loss is a goal, there will automatically be a level of restriction and control, a heightened focus on the body, and a mistrust in your body’s internal knowledge.
These all impede your ability to heal your relationship with food and body to become an Intuitive Eater. I’ll explain:
- Diet rigidity is one of the maintaining mechanisms of disordered eating.
Diet rigidity is defined as inflexible and strict diet rules developed to control weight. Dieting rigidity perpetuates disordered eating for a couple of reasons.
First, maintaining diet rules requires a lot of cognitive control, which is not sustainable. So when something inevitably happens, like a missed meal or stressful occurrence, it can lead to a feeling of loss of control when eating.
Second, physical restriction leads to increased hunger. Physiological hunger will almost always override any “control” you have over your food rules.
- Tuning out physiological cues like hunger and fullness can cause them to be muted over time.
This can lead to even more mistrust in the body and a reliance on external cues like counting calories or macros.
Over time, this makes it difficult to tune into and trust your body’s internal wisdom, a foundational principle of Intuitive Eating. The good thing is that hunger and fullness cues can come back with practice.
- When the focus is on weight loss, it keeps the focus on rejecting the current body for something “better” rather than addressing body insecurities.
This perpetuates the overvaluation of weight and shape, which is another driving factor for disordered eating. Intuitive Eating is about respecting, caring for, and nourishing your body regardless of appearance.
Reason 2: Promoting Intuitive Eating for Weight Loss Perpetuates Diet Culture.
Diet culture is the system of beliefs that assumes that weight is directly correlated with health and that body size and appearance are more important than mental and physical health. Diet culture is highly pervasive in our society.
Promoting weight loss through the use of any other body-focused marketing, such as before and after pictures or using one certain body type to sell, insinuates that one body type is better than another and focuses on rejecting your bigger body.
It creates shame and urgency in people who don’t fit the standard beauty ideal. It can cause people to lose focus on being healthy and happy in exchange for being thinner.
Why is it harmful? Consider the following story.
A person starts a low-calorie diet that cuts certain foods to lose weight. They lose 20# quickly, but they start to feel tired and sluggish. They used to be able to run a 5k easily, and now they can’t get through their warm-up.
The diet is making them feel worse. However, because of diet culture, they start getting compliments on how great and “healthy” they look now that they’ve lost weight.
So, they continue on this popular diet. After time, their hair begins thinning, sleep quality diminishes, they can’t focus at work, they have low libido, and they develop nutrient deficiencies.
The diet is affecting all aspects of their life, from work to relationships, but their appearance is continually being praised. They feel like they can’t quit this dangerous diet, but they don’t want to continue on it. They feel stuck.
This is just one example of how diet culture can cause harm.
Reason 3: There Are SO Many Programs for Weight Loss, but Very Few for Weight-Neutral Approaches.
Weight loss diets and support groups are a dime a dozen. How many tools and support systems are there for weight-neutral approaches? A lot less!
Intuitive Eating is not just a tool, it’s a community and support system for people who are trying to heal from diet culture. People deserve to have something to help them heal their relationship with food and body without a fear of weight loss being thrown in their faces.
Reason 4: There are Potential Physiological and Psychological Harms to Undereating.
In order to lose weight, you have to be in a calorie deficit (no matter what any other influencer or “wellness guru” says, this statement is a fact).
Being in a calorie deficit means eating fewer calories than your body needs. Creating a calorie deficit may come in the form of eating fewer carbs, fasting or skipping meals, or whatever trend is popular at the moment.
There is nothing magic about any of these diets. They are just different means of creating a calorie deficit.
Essentially, you have to undereat to lose weight.
However, undereating does not come without consequences.
Our society is SO focused on overeating that the negative effects of undereating are overlooked. Even though undereating can arguably be more serious.
I won’t get into all the side effects and physiology of undereating here, but here are some of the common symptoms of chronic undereating:
- Low energy
- Preoccupation with food and body image
- Increased risk of osteoporosis
- Hair loss
- Loss of muscle mass
- Amenorrhea (loss of period)
- Digestive issues
- Low libido
- Irritability and poor mood
- Poor sleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Avoidance of social events or eating with others
- Social anxiety
These effects of undereating can happen to anyone, regardless of weight, and they almost all resolve as soon as undereating is corrected.
As a practitioner, we abide by a code of ethics that includes “do no harm.”
Unlike dieting for weight loss, Intuitive Eating is an ethical, evidence-based approach that takes out all harm.
Intuitive Eating focuses on adding nutrition in a way that is personalized to an individual’s preferences, lifestyle, goals, genetics, health history, accessibility, and more.
Reason 5: Weight Loss Doesn’t Work for Everyone.
Another aspect of diet culture is selling the newest and most cutting-edge diet trend “that actually works.”
It keeps people coming back and spending more money by creating false hope.
Ever wonder why most diets never stay popular for very long? Because they don’t work!
For the sake of brevity, I’m not going to get into the science and statistics of weight loss.
For people who have tried countless diets, spent tons of money on supplements and products, and are feeling burnt out, Intuitive Eating gives them back their agency.
Using Intuitive Eating for weight loss just provides a false sense of hope and keeps people stuck in the diet cycle.
Reason 6: Weight Does Not Equal Health.
Weight is often thought of as the main determinant of health in our society. It’s assumed that someone who is ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ is unhealthy and losing weight will improve health.
This view of health is incredibly simplistic and presents some problems.
When weight is the main focus, health factors such as physical movement (regardless of weight), the nutrient density of diet (regardless of weight), social support, and mental health support get overlooked.
Additionally, it places all the ‘blame’ on the individual, and systemic factors such as socioeconomic status, stigma, access to affordable health care, and environmental factors get ignored.
Reason 7: Intuitive Eating Challenges Societal Appearance Ideals.
Societal appearance ideals exist because they are profitable.
The beauty and diet industries are each worth billions of dollars. Their goal is to keep you unhappy with how you look and create an ever-evolving beauty standard that, let’s be real, is impossible to reach. They create new “problems” that only their product can “fix.”
Diet and beauty companies don’t want you to be happy with your body because then they lose out on profits.
Instead of “fixing” your body or trying to change it, the goal of Intuitive Eating is to expand your identity and your worth beyond your appearance. How you look is the least important and interesting thing about you.
Your identity encompasses your goals, your values, your dreams, your passions, your strengths, your interests and hobbies, your ideas, your insights, how you treat other people, and what you do in this world. Appearance is just one tiny aspect of that.
If your body and beauty goals are taking up all your energy, time, and brain space, it’s so much harder to accomplish your life goals. Your purpose in life is way greater than trying to take up less space and conform to societal beauty standards.
Intuitive Eating and Weight Loss Misconceptions
With all of that being said, there are a few things I’d like to emphasize.
- Intuitive Eating isn’t anti-weight loss.
Rather, it’s about accepting and respecting that there is a wide range of body shapes and sizes and that less weight does not directly correlate with better health.
If someone loses weight with Intuitive Eating, it’s not shunned or discouraged, but it’s not celebrated either. It’s a neutral experience.
Complimenting weight loss perpetuates the idea that certain body sizes are better or more attractive. It keeps the focus on appearance rather than health. It creates a pressure to maintain that body weight, which may lead to unhealthy behaviors.
- Intuitive Eating is not “giving up on health.”
We’re also not claiming that weight and health aren’t related at all. Instead, Intuitive Eating acknowledges that weight is largely genetic, bodies come in all sizes, and that weight alone can not be used to determine the status of someone’s health.
Intuitive Eating aims to support the health of people of all sizes by rejecting the idealizing or pathologizing of certain body sizes. It aims to reduce stigma and increase access to inclusive care for people of all sizes.
- Intuitive Eating isn’t claiming mindfulness or body cues.
We’re not saying you can’t implement mindful eating or tuning into body cues for weight loss. However, that is not Intuitive Eating then, it’s just another diet.
There will still be a sense of restriction and control, and it will likely keep you stuck in the diet cycle. You will not get the same benefits of Intuitive Eating.
Is it Possible to Lose Weight With Intuitive Eating?
While it is possible you may lose weight with Intuitive Eating, as I stated above, it’s not the goal. Your body will settle in at a comfortable and healthy weight for you.
For example, if you’re currently stuck in the binge-restrict cycle or doing a lot of emotional eating, you may lose weight with Intuitive Eating.
The key is that it’s not about intentional weight loss or celebrating weight loss, but rather it’s just a natural occurrence that may happen if that’s what your body needs. It’s not a positive or a negative thing.
Praising weight loss perpetuates the societal ideal that a smaller body is better than a larger body and creates a pressure to maintain that smaller body at all costs.
What Will Happen to My Weight When I Begin Intuitive Eating?
There’s no way to tell what will happen to your weight when you start Intuitive Eating. You may lose weight, you may gain weight, or you may stay the same weight.
You may also gain weight initially as you heal from restriction and then begin to lose weight as your metabolism recovers.
There’s no way to predict, and all of these are appropriate outcomes.
Your weight is likely to fluctuate at first as you explore your appetite and different eating patterns, but it will stabilize.
It’s perfectly normal to be concerned or uncomfortable with weight changes as they occur. I recommend having a solid support system or working with an Intuitive Eating Dietitian to help you process any body changes.
Research on Intuitive Eating and Weight
In research, Intuitive eating has consistently been correlated with a lower BMI (1, 2, 3, 4). However, it’s important to note that this is a correlation, and it could be due to the fact that people in smaller bodies feel less pressure to diet.
Additionally, researchers have found that Intuitive Eating or weight-neutral interventions result in weight maintenance or weight loss (5, 6) and result in attenuation of weight gain over time (7, 8).
Reach your Ideal Weight with Intuitive Eating?
Yes, you absolutely will reach your ‘ideal’ weight with Intuitive Eating.
However, this may not be what you’re thinking. You may have an idea of what you want your ideal weight to look like based on celebrities you see in TV shows, models in magazines, or the latest social media influencer. Or maybe your doctor gave you some arbitrary number based on BMI.
However, this is likely not your ideal weight. Your ideal weight is the one that you feel your best at. You’re not preoccupied with food, feeling the need to binge, constantly hungry or overstuffed, or dreaming about “cheat meals”.
Your ideal weight is the one that your body is energized, fueled, and functioning optimally at. This occurs when you’re eating in a way that makes you feel your best.
With Intuitive Eating, your weight will settle in and stabilize at a weight that your body feels best at.
What if I Still Want to Lose Weight, Can I Practice Intuitive Eating?
If you still want to lose weight, that doesn’t mean that you can’t practice Intuitive Eating or that you’re wrong. To be able to give up the desire for weight loss completely is not very realistic in our appearance-driven society.
Weight loss is not only universally accepted in our society, but it’s also praised. There’s almost a sense of comradery that comes with agonizing over the latest diet trend.
Beyond that, there is a high level of oppression and stigma for people in larger bodies. Dieting has likely become a way to protect yourself from the societal harm that comes with being in a larger body.
It may also be a tool or coping strategy that provides a sense of control and acceptance. So, it’s absolutely understandable to desire weight loss.
However, if you’re seeking out Intuitive Eating, you’ve likely tried the weight loss diets, and now you want to heal your relationship with food.
If you still desire weight loss but want to try Intuitive Eating, my suggestion is to work with an Intuitive Eating dietitian to help you explore and understand this desire.
Can I work with an Intuitive Eating Dietitian on Weight Loss?
As an Intuitive Eating counselor, for ethical reasons, I’m never going to promote weight loss. Does that mean I’m going to turn you away if you want to pursue weight loss? This might be controversial, but no.
It’s also okay if you’re not ready for Intuitive Eating and want to pursue a weight loss diet. It doesn’t make you a bad person if you want to try to lose weight.
I believe in body autonomy and informed consent.
If you know all the risks and reality of dieting and would still like to try it, a registered dietitian is best equipped to help you.
You have no moral obligation to give up dieting, just as you don’t have an obligation to quit smoking or start running. I will never judge someone’s reason for pursuing a weight loss diet because reasons are usually complex and deeply rooted.
However, know that:
- Pursuing weight loss is NOT Intuitive Eating, and it cannot be done simultaneously.
- If you want to improve your overall health, body image, relationship with food, and/or self-worth, Intuitive Eating is the way to accomplish this.
- Dieting comes with risks, and it’s important to sign a waiver acknowledging that you understand the harm that may come from it.
- Weight loss will not result in feeling better about yourself and, on the contrary, will likely have the opposite effect since it causes you to hyperfocus on your body and weight.
- You can improve your health without pursuing weight loss, no matter what your current body size is.
If It’s Not About Weight Loss, What’s the Point of Intuitive Eating?
Weight loss is not a behavior, and it’s not a controllable factor for many people.
When weight loss is the goal, it can be hard to acknowledge beneficial health behavior changes or improvements in health markers if weight loss isn’t accomplished. It’s also easier to give up on these healthy habits because “they aren’t working” if weight loss is not accomplished.
Weight loss can also cloud out the true reason for our goals. For example, if the goal is to improve health and weight loss in the means of achieving that, someone may resort to harmful measures such as using unregulated supplements, doing extreme diets and exercise, purging, or even smoking cigarettes.
These behaviors all lead away from improved health.
With Intuitive Eating, the focus is shifted from weight loss to controllable behaviors such as eating a more nutrient-dense diet, incorporating regular movement, attending to mental health needs, doing regular preventive health checkups, creating a better sleep schedule, etc.
Since Intuitive Eating is a personalized approach, this will look different for everyone. We all have different goals, lifestyles, genetics, and health histories.
For someone, the goal of Intuitive Eating may be improving their relationship with food and body after years of restriction and diets. Their initial focus may be giving themselves unconditional permission to eat all foods.
For other people, reducing their risk of heart disease may be the focus, so they set goals around fiber intake, enjoyable movement, and reducing stress.
How do You Know Intuitive Eating is Working if You Don’t Measure Weight?
There is no right or wrong way to practice Intuitive Eating. As I mentioned above, your goals for Intuitive Eating will be dependent on many different factors and will likely change over time. So as you adjust your goals, you may measure your progress and successes in different ways. Some outcomes of Intuitive Eating Include:
- Less binge eating
- Less preoccupation with food
- Improved health markers
- Incorporating consistent and enjoyable movement
- More energy
- Higher self-confidence
- Less boredom eating
For more information on this, check out Why Intuitive Eating Doesn’t Work: An Expert’s Perspective
Intuitive Eating Weight Loss Success Stories
Weight loss is not a measure of success for Intuitive Eating. So, what’s the deal with all the Intuitive Eating weight loss success stories, then?
These are likely from people who don’t know what Intuitive Eating is, are misinformed, or are intentionally using the language of Intuitive Eating to sell their weight loss program (which is not Intuitive Eating at all).
Why are people using Intuitive Eating to sell weight loss?
Because weight loss sells. Diets create a sense of insecurity and a problem (your body) that needs to be fixed with their solution. Diets create a sense of urgency and shame with your current look. While this method sells well, it is quite unethical.
But let’s be real, Diet companies don’t care about your well-being or the harm they cause by creating insecurities. They care about making you feel bad and then presenting a “solution,” so you spend your money.
As a registered dietitian, I don’t care how you look, but I do care how you feel about how you look. I also care about your quality of life, physical health markers, and mental health.
That means helping you value and respect your body no matter how it looks, not just chasing an unrealistic beauty standard. I know that doesn’t sell as well, but I will never sacrifice your well-being to make money.
What if I Need to Lose Weight for Health Reasons?
If you have been told you need to lose weight to improve your health, here is some food for thought (pun intended):
- No matter your size, you can improve your health through behaviors such as incorporating more movement, eating nutrient-dense foods, getting adequate sleep, managing stress, attending to mental health needs, getting preventative health screens, setting boundaries, abstaining from drug and alcohol use, creating and nurturing social connections, and so much more.
- Conversely, studies on liposuction show that simply losing fat does not automatically improve health markers (9, 10, 11). Weight loss alone doesn’t lead to better health; health behaviors lead to better health outcomes.
- Pursuing weight loss does not come without health risks. Regardless of size, weight loss can be harmful to people susceptible to eating disorders and disordered eating. If you’re trying to improve your health, doing it in a way that comes with health risks is probably not the best way.
- People with thin bodies can be diagnosed with health problems, too. Although some health problems are less common in smaller body people, people are not protected from different health outcomes just because they have less fat.
- Long-term weight loss may not be attainable for people. They are still deserving of adequate healthcare that doesn’t focus on weight. What has your experience been with trying to lose weight?
If someone in a smaller body is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, we don’t say, “lose the weight first, and then we will talk about lifestyle strategies.” We talk about dietary and lifestyle interventions to manage blood sugar. So, why would this be any different for someone in a large body?
Intuitive Eating aligns with the principles of Health at Every Size®. That’s not saying that people are healthy at every size, but rather it acknowledges that weight is not a personal choice that can be controlled and that body diversity exists.
It acknowledges that weight alone cannot determine health and that people of all sizes still deserve equal access to non-stigmatizing care. It’s about finding methods to achieve better health that are more accessible, effective, and safe than weight loss.
I’m not saying weight loss doesn’t work and is harmful in 100% of cases or that you’re wrong if you desire weight loss.
But before starting a diet, someone should at least know the risks and realities of pursuing a weight loss diet and know that they can improve health and body image with more adaptive practices so that they can make an informed choice.
What if I feel More Comfortable at a Lower Weight?
There is a lot to unpack here.
First, people in smaller bodies experience discomfort, too.
When you were at a lower weight, did you never feel aches and pains? Did you never have bad body image days? Did you never feel tired or deconditioned during physical activity? Did you never have a poor mood? My guess is the answer is no.
It’s not realistic to never feel discomfort. It’s a normal human experience that everyone faces from time to time.
The goal (for anyone) is not to never feel discomfort or absolve it completely. That’s not realistic. The goal is to acknowledge that no matter how you look, your body deserves to be respected and cared for.
There are ways to ease discomfort at any size.
The first step is to explore the context of where this discomfort is coming from. Dig deep and be completely honest with yourself. This isn’t always easy to do.
The feeling of physical discomfort in our bodies is often a mask for poor body image. A lot of times, discomfort is related to internalized fatphobia rather than or in addition to actual physical challenges.
Discomfort may also come from the societal pressure to be in a smaller body. It’s completely understandable to feel uncomfortable in a larger body in this society.
Our society isn’t built to accommodate larger bodies, from the size of chairs in movie theaters to how larger people are portrayed and talked about in media. It makes sense that people would want more cultural privilege and less bodily oppression.
The next step is to identify some solutions to ease any discomfort you are feeling.
Here are just some examples:
- Are you feeling out of breath during movement? Physical deconditioning can happen at any size. The way to improve this is the same for any size. With clearance from your physician, you can start incorporating cardiovascular activity and build your endurance over time.
- Are you experiencing chafing? There are some great products on the market that can help with this.
- Are you experiencing painful joints? A size-inclusive physical therapist can help develop a routine to help with this.
Can I lose weight before starting Intuitive Eating?
Although I understand the desire, I wouldn’t recommend this.
Going into intuitive eating in a restrictive state will feel very out of control. When you restrict your intake, there are psychological and physiological changes that occur in your body that lead to more hunger, preoccupation with food, increased food cravings, and more.
Starting Intuitive Eating in this state will feel very out of control and unattainable, especially if you’re attempting it on your own without an Intuitive Eating dietitian to help you work through the challenges.
With that being said, you don’t just become an Intuitive Eater overnight. Everyone has a different process and journey with Intuitive Eating, and a lot of people feel best starting slowly.
If you’ve spent years dieting or following diet behaviors, these are likely ingrained habits. It takes time and small steps every day to let these go. So, when you first start Intuitive Eating, you may hold on to some of your diet behaviors, and that’s okay.
It might feel best to just explore your desire for weight loss and work on improving body image before changing any eating and movement habits. That is perfectly OK.
Everyone goes at a different pace and has a different journey with Intuitive Eating.
Why is it So Hard to Let go of the Desire to Lose Weight?
Most of us are taught to hate our bodies, usually starting at a young age. Big companies literally make up “flaws” that are really just normal parts of the human body and present us with a “solution” that only their product can fix.
Case in point: wrinkles and cellulite. These aren’t flaws. These are normal parts of all bodies. Yet there are millions of different creams, products, and procedures to fight against these things. Why? Because it makes money.
There’s almost a bonding amongst people when they pick apart “‘flaws’ with each other stating the things they wish they could change. It’s a cultural norm to hate your body and go on the latest diet.
This is not even getting into the oppression that marginalized bodies face in this society. It is no wonder so many people want to change their bodies!
Dieting, for some, provides a sense of control, belonging, acceptance, comfort, and/or excitement. Giving it up can bring on a fear of being judged, shamed, and oppressed. That is not easy to do and definitely doesn’t happen overnight.
How Do I Let Go of the Desire for Weight Loss in a Fatphobic Society?
Honestly, this is not an easy process. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say, “If you follow my 3-step framework, you’ll wake up and love your body!” That’s bullshit. No one can promise that. It’s tough work, and some days will be easier than others.
We have been conditioned for generations to believe that our bodies are flawed, that we should look a certain way for others’ viewing pleasure, and that our appearance is the most important thing about us. So, we can’t expect these changes to happen overnight.
The foundation of Intuitive Eating is body acceptance (12).
Body acceptance isn’t just about accepting our own bodies but perceiving that others accept our bodies and that we are valued for our inner qualities instead of our external appearance.
When we perceive that we are valued for more than our appearance, we are more likely to appreciate our own bodies, experience less self-objectification, and in turn, become Intuitive Eaters.
As I said, this is not easy to do, but here are some tips to get you started:
- Be clear on your expectations.
Body acceptance isn’t about always loving the way your body looks. For one, that’s not realistic, but it also keeps the importance on appearance.
While loving your body no matter how it looks is, of course, better than hating it, this maintains that our bodies are objects to be looked at and that our appearance matters more than or as much as our inner qualities.
Instead, body acceptance is about recognizing that your thoughts, feelings, goals, skills, purpose, comfort, dreams, passions, etc., are so much more important than how you appear to others.
It’s about acknowledging that your body deserves respect and care no matter how you look or how you feel about how you look.
- Put dieting on the back burner.
This can be helpful for some people when they start Intuitive Eating.
It can be so hard to give up weight loss. It’s unrealistic to think that once you start Intuitive Eating, you’ll just be able to accept your appearance and give up all dieting behaviors.
When first starting Intuitive Eating, many people have a stage where they hold on to old habits and thoughts while trying to adjust to a newer method.
These old ways of thinking are ingrained, and it takes time to change those neural pathways. It’s OK if you aren’t ready to fully give it up yet. You can put weight loss and dieting on the back burner.
- Complete a decisional balance grid.
List out all the consequences and benefits for you if you continue dieting. Then, list all the consequences and benefits of adopting a new way, Intuitive Eating.
To see all the aspects of your decision laid out in front of you can help you work through a tough decision and gives you the autonomy to choose what is best for you.
- Work on building Self-Compassion.
Self-compassion is showing yourself respect and care during challenging or difficult situations in which you feel inadequate.
It’s extending the same sentiment to yourself that you would a close friend or family member.
Studies have shown that self-compassion is a trait that can be learned.
Self-compassion is associated with higher body appreciation and is inversely associated with disordered eating and body concerns (13).
Intuitive Eating and Weight Loss Journal Prompts
If you want to improve your relationship with food and body with Intuitive Eating but feel stuck on wanting to lose weight, journaling may help. Here are some journal prompts and questions to think about:
- In what ways has dieting and obsessing over food and weight loss impacted your life?
- How has dieting worked for you in the past? Have you had long-term success? Do you want to diet for the rest of your life?
- How much time, energy, and mental space has dieting taken up? Is that how you want to spend your time and energy?
- What do you hope to accomplish by losing weight? Does losing weight actually help achieve that outcome? Can that outcome be achieved in other ways? I.e., better health, more confidence, improved fitness
- What are your core values? Does dieting help you live in alignment with your values? Does it move you further from your values?
- In what ways does dieting serve you? Why do you come back to it? Are there other ways to meet these needs that don’t contribute negatively to your life?
- In what ways have you experienced weight stigma? How can you deal with weight stigma or other variables out of your control in a more positive way?
- Who is in your support system? Do you surround yourself with people who accept your body as it is and value you for qualities outside of appearance? Do you have ways to cope when people make comments on your appearance?
- What steps can you take to make it easier to feel accepted? I.e., block all weight loss ads or only follow body-positive Instagram accounts.
Remember, you’ve lived in a society entrenched in diet culture and fatphobia for your whole life. These beliefs and practices run deep and don’t change overnight. It’s not easy work. Have self-compassion and patience.
If it feels overwhelming or daunting, it can help to reach out to an Intuitive Eating and body image dietitian for extra support and to help you work through the challenges. You don’t have to go at this alone!
Final Thoughts on Intuitive Eating and Weight Loss
Intuitive Eating, dieting, and weight loss are complex issues with no straightforward or one-size-fits-all answer. It’s completely normal to desire both Intuitive Eating and weight loss at the same time.
While Intuitive Eating cannot be used for weight loss, it can be hard to let go of this. Intuitive Eating is a journey, and an Intuitive Eating dietitian can help you navigate any challenges that arise.
If you’d like to learn more about Intuitive Eating, check out my free Beginner’s Guide to Intuitive Eating, or if you’re looking for one on one support and guidance, head over to my Body Image and Intuitive Eating services page to learn more.
Kristin is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, and Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Dietetics with a concentration in Biology and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She has experience conducting systematic reviews and writing and evaluating scientific literature in peer-reviewed journals. She has a goal of making evidence-based nutrition information accessible and easy to understand.