breaking down 4 aspects of Intuitive Eating you might not know.
There’s a lot of information floating around about Intuitive Eating (IE) these days, some of it is really good and some of it…not so good. So I wanted to share 4 things you might not know about it (which will hopefully also help clear up some of the misinformation).
1. No one can tell you what will happen to your weight.
Anytime you see messages about how Intuitive Eating is a plan for weight loss, you’re being misinformed. Intuitive Eating was developed as an approach to heal your relationship with food and help you break free from the diet cycle.
The framework itself actually cannot be successful if weight loss is your primary goal because a focus on weight loss pulls you away from listening to your body. Weight loss MAY occur, but your weight may also stay the same, or even go up depending on what your body needs.
If you’ve been dieting or working to control your weight for a while, it will likely take time for your desire to lose weight to lessen, but that’s okay. The founders of the approach simply ask that you put that desire on the back burner in order to work through the principles. (And chances are, by the time you’ve gotten through all the principles, you’ll be so happy with your improved relationship to food that the desire for weight loss will naturally fade into the background).
2. Nutrition is a part of it, but should be tackled last.
While there’s no true order to the 10 principles laid out in the Intuitive Eating approach, it is encouraged that individuals save any focus on nutrition until after they’ve really worked through the other 9 principles. This is because it can be all too easy (especially when we come from a place of being deeply steeped in diet culture) to turn any nutritional advice into a hard & fast ‘rule’ (aka – another diet). Again, the goal with IE is to focus on building back trust in your body and its signals, as well as repair your relationship with food. In order to truly do this, nutrition (in addition to weight loss) cannot be the main focus, as both have potential to cause you to make food choices based on external, rather than internal factors. That said, the co-founders DO cover nutrition and how to incorporate it in a gentle, rather than strict and rigid, way. It’s just most helpful to tackle once you feel you’ve gotten to a good place with the other principles.
3. Progress is not likely to be a straightforward path.
Another misconception about Intuitive Eating is that you start at principle #1 and seamlessly move forward through each successive principle until you’ve completed all 10. In reality however, you can make a lot of progress with one principle, only to find that tackling the next one brings up things that may set you back in that principle you thought you had mastered. Know that this is completely normal and that working through these principles is a completely individualized process. Everyone goes at their own pace and no two experiences of this journey are going to be exactly alike. The good news? There’s no “getting it wrong” – every experience you have is one that helps you learn more about yourself, which is progress in and of itself.
4. It’s not just about hunger & fullness.
Diet culture loves to co-opt Intuitive Eating and make it all about ONLY eating when you’re hungry & stopping RIGHT when you’re full. However, true IE is a dynamic interplay of emotion, rational thought and instinct. There will be times when we can’t access our hunger or nothing sounds good (due to things like illness, stress, anxiety, etc.). However, not feeling hunger doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need nourishment. When our hunger is offline, eating becomes an act of self-care – fueling every several hours because we know our bodies require it. In the instance where you can’t access your hunger but know you need to eat for the sake of providing your body with energy, it’s helpful to have some easy food options (ones that you know will taste good and you can tolerate) in your back pocket.Conversely, there may be times when you want to eat despite not feeling particularly hungry (partaking in a family tradition, a birthday celebration, an impromptu bakery date with friends, eating to pass the time or eating food you might not otherwise have the chance to experience). This is completely normal behavior and doing this does not mean you’re ‘failing’ at Intuitive Eating. The ability to do this and not feel guilty is actually a critical part of finding food freedom.
Finally, when someone is in the throes of malnutrition, they may experience early and prolonged fullness. This means they will feel full before their bodies have had enough food to nourish them. This makes the signal of fullness unreliable on its own.
So yes, we listen to the cues of our body, but we also use our wise mind and emotions to guide our eating.
Of course there are so many more nuances to Intuitive Eating but these are some of the most common messages I see that spread misinformation with regards to the approach. The bottomline is that when you see information about Intuitive Eating that indicate there’s a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to experience your journey, it’s not true to the actual spirit of the approach. It’s more often than not Intuitive Eating through the diet culture lens, which isn’t actually Intuitive Eating at all.
I hope this helps offer some clarity to those of you who needed it! If there are other aspects of Intuitive Eating that you struggle with, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email!
If you feel like you need help in your journey toward food freedom and non-restriction, check out my FREE non-restrictive nutrition guide.
disclaimer: the content that I share in this space should be used for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for medical or mental health advice and does not constitute a client/practitioner relationship.1