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Intuitive Eating is a growing health movement that aims to revolutionize how we think about weight loss, wellness, nutrition and health.
This article will give you an introduction to Intuitive Eating, give you some reasons to consider Intuitive Eating, and list a few steps to get started.
Brief Introduction To Intuitive Eating
I first stumbled into the science of Intuitive Eating years ago when I worked as a Personal Trainer at a gym.
I’d been an athlete my whole life and was very passionate about health and fitness. So it was pretty natural for me to become a Personal Trainer where my job was to help clients lose weight, get stronger and eat better. I worked as a Personal Trainer for years until my entire world got flipped upside down.
One day I was talking to a woman who had never been to the gym where I worked before. I welcomed her into the gym and we would have a short but impactful conversation that would change my life forever.
After I welcomed her into the gym she said that she was looking to potentially work with a Personal Trainer. She said, “I’ve had a dozen personal trainers before, and I always gain back the weight. I read some science recently that said diets for weight loss don’t work. Have you heard about this?”
I replied, “No, diets work if you stick with them. There’s plenty of evidence that weight loss works.”
She replied, “Well, I think you should check out Intuitive Eating, it might be really eye opening for you.” Then she turned around and left the gym.
Intrigued and a little frustrated, I decided to look up Intuitive Eating.
The Science Of Intuitive Eating
The backbone of Intuitive Eating is based on the science of long term weight loss.
Before telling you more about Intuitive Eating, I just want to make sure you know the difference between long term weight loss and short term weight loss.
Short term weight loss is where you start a diet or cleanse, work out a bunch, and lose weight. But then a few months later the weight is back and you need to start all over again. On the other hand, long term weight loss is where you lose weight, and keep the weight off forever.
According to long-term science which looks at weight loss over the course of 5+ years, only 5% of people succeed in long term weight loss. The other 95% of people who try to lose weight end up gaining the weight back a month or a few years later.
So, the first part of Intuitive Eating is realizing that dieting and weight loss just doesn’t work for many people.
Intuitive Eating also presented a bunch of other science articles which highlighted:
- Yo yo dieting often occurs for people who try to lose weight and gain the weight back. People keep going on and off diets trying to lose weight, but never succeeding.
- Yo yo dieting is terrible for your health, like absolutely horrible for your health. When you lose weight by using dieting, you can slow down your metabolism and change your body weight to be naturally higher.
- Dieting is often the cause of binge eating. You starve yourself on a diet, and the binge eating is what happens when you diet. Often people think they lose control when they binge eat, but Intuitive Eating teaches that binge eating is what happens when you are starving yourself by dieting.
- There are over 100 scientific articles on Intuitive Eating. Intuitive Eating has been around since the 1990’s but has gained in popularity as people have begun to realize the lack of success and dangers of dieting.
Why You May Want To Learn More About Intuitive Eating
Intuitive Eating can be too controversial and different for some people, and that’s okay.
If you are fine and happy with your health you might not need to worry about learning Intuitive Eating. If you are good with your body then I don’t think you need to change anything.
But, if you have tried weight loss dozens upon dozens of times before and never succeeded, Intuitive Eating offers a tremendous hope.
Intuitive Eating says essentially, it’s not your fault that the diets and programs didn’t work.
Diets are broken. Diets aren’t meant to work. Instead of blaming yourself for lacking willpower or motivation to ‘stick with the diet’, you need to realize that diets themselves are to blame.
Hearing this message can be tremendously important for someone who has tried their whole life to lose weight the traditional way but never succeeded. This person may have incredible shame, low self-esteem and a whole host of health problems caused by yo yo dieting which is terrible for your body.
When this person begins to hear about Intuitive Eating and begins to adopt the Intuitive Eating guidelines, they can make a tremendous transformation. But, Intuitive Eating helps people with holistic health, not specifically weight loss.
Here are some of the health benefits which have been measured by scientists:
- Improved cholesterol levels
- Better body image
- Higher self-esteem
- Improved metabolism
- Decreased rates of disordered and emotional eating
- Diminished stress levels
- Increased satisfaction with life
Now isn’t that awesome? And you can get these benefits without wasting time, money or energy on dieting! This is stuff that actually works!
But … notice that Intuitive Eating does NOT mention that you’ll lose weight. This is an important concept that needs to be talked about specifically.
Will Intuitive Eating Help Me Lose Weight?
Intuitive Eating presents a radically different approach to weight loss and health that goes against conventional wisdom.
Intuitive Eating says that we live in a society that discriminates against people who live in bigger bodies.
Intuitive Eating says that the real dangers to health are weight stigma and yo yo dieting.
For example, some people are naturally born with genes that make it so they have bigger bodies. Having a bigger body doesn’t mean that you are automatically ‘fat’ or ‘unhealthy’.
It depends on the person. There are certainly unhealthy fat people, but there are also plenty of people who are big but are plenty healthy.
There are also skinny people who need to gain weight and aren’t healthy.
(I work at an Eating Disorder clinic with Anorexic patients. These clients desperately need to gain weight. So just because you are skinny doesn’t mean you are healthy.)
But, our society is fat phobic. Our society discriminates against people who have bigger bodies. So we, from a cultural perspective, say that ‘all big people are fat and unhealthy.’ This isn’t true, but we as a society believe it to be true.
So bigger people then try to lose weight because our cultural body shames fat people and bigger people. But, as we discussed earlier, trying to diet and lose weight actually backfires! Most people who get body shamed and try to lose weight just end up yo yo dieting which is terrible for your health.
That’s why Intuitive Eating doesn’t talk about weight loss.
With Intuitive Eating, your body will find it’s natural weight. For some skinny and unhealthy people, when they learn to intuitively eat they will gain weight. For people who are bigger and unhealthy they will lose weight. So weight loss depends on the person.
Another reason Intuitive Eating doesn’t talk about weight loss is because your body has a natural weight which is healthy for your body and genetic blueprint.
Oftentimes when I worked as a Personal Trainer I’d hear people say things like, “I want to lose 100 pounds.”
This type of comment assumes that weight loss is something you have total control over. But intuitive eating recognizes that we each have different bodies that naturally weigh different amounts. So if you learn Intuitive Eating, your body will adjust to what is healthy for your body.
But, your natural body weight might not be the Instagram thin model. Your natural body weight might not be skinny.
So instead of like most weight loss companies which promise that you’ll lose tons of weight, Intuitive Eating is honest with you. It says, you may lose weight. But, you may gain weight too. Either way, you’ll be healthier, happier, and feel way better in your body.
How To Get Started With Intuitive Eating
Intuitive Eating presents such a radically different view of the world that if you’re intrigued, I believe you should go and study this novel and revolutionary health approach.
It’s kind of like discovering a new world. There are new perspectives, behaviors, guidelines, beliefs, communities, and it’s just really different from your traditional diet and exercise approach to health.
Intuitive Eating is very complex. It’s not simple. It’s very nuanced and it can be difficult to comprehend.
This complexity may scare some people away, but if a simplified version of health – where you basically follow someone else’s meal and exercise plan hasn’t worked for you – then perhaps you’ll be willing to invest some time and energy into learning Intuitive Eating before spending time and energy on yet another diet plan that is familiar, but simply doesn’t work for you.
I’d like to provide one exercise which hopefully can give you a taste of Intuitive Eating.
The Stop Eating Flavor Exercise:
- Step 1: Before you eat your next meal, set an intention to slow down and really be present.
- Step 2: Notice the flavor of the first bite. On a scale of 1-10, how delicious is this first bite?
- Step 3: Take your second bite, and then pause. On a scale of 1-10, how delicious is this second bite?
- Step 4: Keep going bite by bite, until you reach the point where the flavor begins to decrease. This could be 10, 20 or even 30 bites in, but usually people experience this around chewing and swallowing several mouthfuls. (At some point the flavor will begin to decrease quite naturally. Just think about it, a holiday meal seems delicious at first, but after you stuff yourself food no longer seems as appealing.)
- Step 5: Stop eating when the flavor is barely noticeable, or if you simply want to stop eating, whichever comes first.
Do you see how you can rely on the signals from your body to tell you when to stop eating?
Instead of following a Personal Trainer’s plan to eat this much broccoli, this many grams of chicken, and this many calories of brown rice, you can decide for yourself by listening to your body and how the food tastes.
For people who have been following various diet plans their whole life, this may feel very weird, but if you can master Intuitive Eating, then your whole life will change.
For more information on Intuitive Eating, simply Google “Intuitive Eating”. Everyday it’s becoming more and more popular, and I welcome you to try it out for yourself!
Below is an image of the 10 guidelines of Intuitive Eating. Hopefully these guidelines connect with you and motivate you to do more research on your own!
Jared Levenson is an Intuitive Eating blogger and counselor at https://eatingenlightenment.com.