You may – understandably – be simultaneously interested in trying a new approach to your relationship with food but also curious and cautious if you can lose weight with intuitive eating.
You’ve come to the right place!
This post will cover everything you need to know about intuitive eating and how it could affect your weight.
What is intuitive eating?
The short of it is that it’s an evidence-based wellness approach developed by two dietitians named Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole in 1995.
My summary is that it allows you to:
a.) stop dieting
b.) learn how to listen to your own body when it comes to feeding yourself
c.) create a joyful, balanced, empowering relationship with food, your body, and exercise
If you need a quick refresher or are new to intuitive eating, check out my post on the 10 principles of intuitive eating and how they can work for you. It covers:
- What is intuitive eating
- Health benefits of intuitive eating
- 10 principles of intuitive eating
But for now, here’s a comprehensive response to the #1 question I get about intuitive eating which is…
Can I lose weight with intuitive eating?
If you’re new to intuitive eating you may be thinking, obsessing, or worrying with the question “but can I lose weight with intuitive eating?” I first want to normalize this desire! Of course it makes SO much sense this question is on so many people’s minds.
Let’s discuss why this is the #1 concern people have when considering intuitive eating.
Why is weight loss so important in our society?
We live in a society and culture that glorifies thinness at ALL costs. From a very young age we’re taught that to have a body – specifically as a woman – means you’re a never ending project to be worked on.
People are weight shamed, bullied, receive poor medical care, experience a wide variety of weight stigma, and WAY more as a result of just existing in a larger body.
We’re sold the lie that in order to be happy (or healthy) we must be thin. But, weight loss and the pursuit of thinness often does not deliver neither health nor happiness.
There’s TONS of reasons we’ve gotten to this point in society. Learn more about the racial origins of fat stigma for starters.
It makes perfect sense why you’d be open to a new concept but curious if you could still lose weight with intuitive eating.
Health does not equal weight
Often times, weight loss is encouraged “for the sake of health” but the absolute truth is that weight does not equal health. I wish I could scream this from the rooftops and yes, I will die on this hill!
As a dietitian for over a decade working in ALL types of healthcare settings I can attest to this. Health is about SO much more than weight. Think of it this way. Are there not thin people with poor health? Or larger people with good health?
The equation of fat + body = bad health just doesn’t equate. Plus, no one owes anyone else their “health.” Healthism is the idea that a person’s health is entirely in their control, or that it’s owed to others.
Aubrey Gordon wrote a great piece in Self about how we have to stop thinking of being healthy as being morally better and this is such an important piece of the equation.
Healthism gives people the (false) assumption that it’s okay to “concern-troll” other people’s health, weight, or food habits and it’s not.
We don’t want to just assume that weight loss is good and weight gain is bad
It’s a lot deeper than that.
With intuitive eating, we prioritize developing a healthy relationship with food, your body, and exercise and honor whatever happens with your body weight as a result of that.
We do NOT go to extremes to force your body to lose weight – extremes that often sacrifice your mental health – because that’s not healthy.
Also – even if weight DID equal health, does that give you or anyone else the right to be assholes to other people or yourselves because of their or your weight? No, of course not!
(You can read more about this here where I dive more into why we focus on wellness rather than weight and what that might mean for you.)
How the pursuit of weight loss MIGHT be bad for your health
Think about the diets you’ve done. You may have lost weight but were they actually healthy for your mental or emotional health?
If you have to cut out a bunch of foods, over-exercise, say “no” to dinner parties, work functions, birthday cake, and more – is that truly healthy?
Weight loss does not equal happiness either
If you did lose weight with these methods, you also probably lost a lot more. Like joy, being present, happiness, feeling satisfied with food, etc. The process of intentional weight loss in our culture is often not realistic, sustainable or enjoyable.
The process is often miserable – so you’re miserable DURING the attempt and then if you DO lose weight you have to keep doing those miserable things to stay small, so where is the happiness that’s promised?!
Your body is not meant to be at a weight it can only maintain through severe restriction.
Important note: sometimes people lose weight in what we might consider a “healthy” way. Meaning, they pursued health behaviors (drinking more water, reducing inflammation in their body, eating more plant based foods, exercising more, getting more sleep) and they lost weight as a result.
This is why this conversation is so nuanced. And which is why I say the pursuit of weight loss “might” be bad for your health.
An important piece: developing more positive body image
But you might be thinking, “there’s no way i’ll be happy or okay with THAT weight though.”
And I beg to differ! Because we work on developing more positive body image alongside the intuitive eating eating process.
Developing more positive body image doesn’t mean you necessarily believe your body looks good all the time. It’s moreso understanding your body IS good, regardless of how it looks.
I explain this to clients as, “we’re going to turn down the volume of importance in your brain around what your body looks like, and turn up the volume of importance on your life purpose and what you’re here to do.” Which, let’s be real. Isn’t to be a size ___.
And it works! So many of my clients start out saying, “but I won’t be happy unless i’m __ size or my body changes in __ way.” And almost every single time they find true happiness, health, and a great life EVEN IF their body didn’t change.
What intuitive eaters say about their body image
“I’m much more content in my body, even though my body hasn’t changed.” – Sarah
“I’m able to actively stop negative thoughts about my body when they come on!” Anonymous
“My anxiety about my body image and my relationship with food is so much better – I no longer overthink about either.” – Maria
So now, what you’ve been waiting for!
Can I lose weight with intuitive eating?
There are essentially 3 outcomes for your weight when it comes to healing your relationship with food through intuitive eating. There’s an assumption that intuitive eating leads to weight gain and although that may be true for some, there are also a couple other options.
- You *might* actually lose weight with intuitive eating. If you have a situation where you’re constantly eating past fullness, bingeing, overeating, etc. and you find a more balanced relationship with food through intuitive eating, you MIGHT lose weight.
However, this is not promised. Sometimes people who were previously bingeing and no longer are don’t lose weight because that’s just the weight their bodies want to be due to genetic factors, their natural build, muscle mass, etc.
- You *might* gain weight. If you were not eating enough before, and now you are eating enough you MIGHT gain weight. Most restrictive diets are just severely restrictive cutting out food groups and calories that aren’t sustainable.
So then when you DO start eating normally again, you may gain weight as a result. This is NOT a bad thing even though it will likely feel that way given the messages around weight gain in our society.
My question is always, “what else do you gain by gaining weight?” i.e. presence, joy, empowerment, happiness, ice cream with your kids on a hot summer day, being able to go out to eat and order whatever you want, etc.
One last and final option for your weight with intuitive eating
- Your weight *might* stay the same. No long explanation here! It’s just the third possibility we see with intuitive eating.
The truth is, there’s no simple way to predict what will happen to your weight and body size as a result of healing your relationship with food.
But I can *almost* guarantee that as a result of healing your relationship with food and developing more positive body image, you can finally live the life you desire and deserve. And stop measuring peanut butter!
Intuitive eating can help you live a full, healthy, happy life
If you’re willing to finally give up the fight with food and your body, have an open mind, and try something new, I highly recommend committing to intuitive eating and body image healing.
Other ways I can help:
- Grab my free befriend your body ebook to start being kinder to your body TODAY!
- Follow me on Instagram for more tips and tools on your intuitive eating and body image healing journey!
- Check out my Ultimate Intuitive Eating and Body Image Resource Guide