I wanted to address one of the biggest questions I receive about Intuitive Eating. Honestly, this is one of the biggest questions that I personally had before I fully embraced IE myself – can you lose weight as an Intuitive Eater? The answer is yes you can and I’m going to share a bit about my personal weight loss as an intuitive eater, but it’s not all as straight forward as you probably would like. If you have been in the restrict/binge dieting cycle you may gain weight, lose weight, or maintain your weight as you become an intuitive eater. You also may gain weight and then lose weight. The thing is though that you never know until you do it, because with intuitive eating your body will end up find it’s happiest healthiest weight – and this takes time!
In Intuitive Eating we ultimately need to put weight on the back burner.
This means that we are not focusing on our weight at all and instead we are turning our focus inward to get more in touch with our body. When we are focusing on weight and trying to lose weight, we are making decisions based on the number on the scale which is an external distraction from what is going on in our body. It is important to remove these external distractions in order to increase our interoceptive awareness more.
If this doesn’t make much sense as to why for you, think about this for a moment – when you are trying to lose weight you are likely sticking to some eating plan right? Whether it is simply counting calories, macros, points, or portions – or maybe a more structured meal plan that has been given to you by a weight loss coach, or something more intense like keto where you remove carbohydrates – either way with any of these you are making your food choices for the day based on that weight loss plan, not how you actually feel. These external factors (weight loss plan, number on the scale, etc) takes your focus there rather than inward and onto how you are actually feeling.
An example of weight fluctuations as an Intuitive Eater
For an example of how that may look, when I first quit dieting and began my journey to intuitive eating I was already up on the scale. I had already gained back most of the weight that I had previously lost due to my eating disorder. When I first quit dieting, I went pretty crazy on all the foods that I had previously restricted (which is totally normal!) and I gained a bit more weight.
My eating balanced out after the first few months, but I still wasn’t quite ready to fully embrace listening to my hunger and fullness. Then the pandemic hit and I was turning to food and alcohol is cope a lot. As a result, I gained a lot of weight in a short period of time. That weight gain was uncomfortable, but ultimately it was so much easier to go through as an intuitive eater, without any strong emotions around my body size, then if I was still stuck in the diet culture world.
Last summer I was ready to embrace Intuitive Eating more, meaning I was ready to pay more attention to my hunger and fullness and how my body felt with certain foods. I started taking half or three-quarters of the food servings that I was typically taking to help myself force a pause mid-meal to see where I was on the hunger and fullness scale. Most of the time I was done and satisfied after that half serving. Sometimes I was still hungry so I would grab more food, or I’d be full but just want more anyways because I was enjoying it so in that case I’d grab more too. Remember intuitive eating is not simply a hunger-fullness diet either!
Shortly after this change, I also quit drinking because I noticed how much alcohol was quieting my hunger and fullness signals (alcohol numbs us, so this makes sense). Since this I have experienced weight loss. It’s interesting to experience this while not focusing on it, or trying to lose weight.
Intuitive Eating is a process and takes times
The main takeaway from all this that I’d hope you would take with you, is that, first off, IE takes time and it is a process. It is important to ultimately respect where you are currently at in the journey. You need to have patience and compassion with yourself all throughout the process. I wouldn’t be where I am at now with food and my body, without going through what I had previously gone through. It’s also important to remove any “good” or “bad” labels from weight gain or weight loss. Weight fluctuations are a normal part of human life.
Once you’ve removed the “good” and “bad” labels from food and weight, you are able to start fully embracing Intuitive Eating.
In summary, yes you can lose weight as an intuitive eater, but ultimately you can’t focus on it or intentionally try to manipulate what you’re eating or how you’re exercising with weight in mind. Always remember that weight needs to go on the back burner in Intuitive Eating.
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