The question of weight gain or loss with Intuitive Eating
“But will I gain weight eating intuitively?”
That’s a question most people are concerned with when I introduce the concept of intuitive eating. And my answer is generally something along the lines of… maybe yes, maybe no. Everyone is different. But, intuitive eating isn’t about the number on the scale.
To be honest, the more I’ve learned about the human body, nutrition science, and intuitive eating, the more I realize we, nutrition professionals, don’t really know that much. I will be the first to tell you, “I don’t know… let me research that and get back to you.” Or better yet, “let me write a blog about this!” So, here we are, just trying to chisel a bit deeper than the surface of the ice burg to find out a little more about weight gain, intuitive eating, and the only approach to nutrition I will ever take - individualized care.
Let’s talk about the beginning of time, when intuitive eating is all you ever knew. When you’re born, the only things you really know how to do are eat, sleep, and poop. Those are the most basic survival skills. The most intuitive. It doesn’t take much thought as a baby to find your mother’s nipple, to fall fast asleep when you’re put down, and to excrete waste. You just do these things. You don’t sit there thinking, “I’m hungry, should I eat?” “I’m tired, should I sleep?” “I gotta go, should I poop?” You just do what you have to do and move on! This is the basis of intuitive eating – just eat and move on. Somewhere along the timeline, society swoops in, yanks the simplicity right out from underneath you, and that’s often where you find yourself dieting, restricting/binging, and generally unsatisfied with your body, health, and life.
This is true of most people living in the Western world. Unfortunately, no one is really immune from the lies of Diet Culture and the Food Police. The fear of gaining weight is all too real and in your face. Fat-phobia overtakes us, we lose trust in our body’s intuition, and we white-knuckle grip Diet Culture’s pendulum that swings wildly from no carbs, to all the carbs, to more protein, to all the fat, to no fat, and so on. Are you rolling your eyes with me? I feel like we all need to take a long inhale and exhale and say together, “F*** you, Diet Culture!”
I digress. The greatest concern I hear from non-intuitive eaters is one of weight-gain and a loss of control. But here’s the deal: You’ve already lost all control… the Food Police have shackled you, locked you up in fat-phobia prison, and thrown the keys in the ocean of Diet Culture for you to drown in if you venture searching. Dramatic? Maybe a little, but mostly not.
To answer the question of weight gain with intuitive eating, research has demonstrated that intuitive eaters generally have a lower BMI than non-intuitive eaters (1, 3). Those who are not attuned to hunger and satiety cues and who cope with emotions using food experience binging and disordered eating. In fact, one study found that the group who practiced food restraint actually had higher BMIs and greater disordered eating than those who practiced intuitive eating (2). So, in response to your statement that you will just eat chocolate cake all day, every day if you practiced intuitive eating, I say: you may start out that way as the pendulum swings out of Diet Culture, past intuitive eating, and onto another form of disordered eating… but fear not, with time, gravity will do its job, settling the pendulum neatly in the middle where intuitive eating and body homeostasis dwell.
For some, intuitive eating will mean weight gain. For others, intuitive eating will mean weight loss. No one can accurately predict what weight your body will find homeostasis at. No one can confidently tell you that you will be at your set weight range if you get to a BMI between 20% and 25%. Only time, trust, and patience will ever get you to your healthiest, most well self.
Ultimately, intuitive eating isn’t about weight anyway. It’s about health – physical, mental, emotional. It’s about fully accepting that your body is an incredible machine that knows what it needs and is asking for your trust. Trust that it can function its best under non-restrictive behaviors and thoughts. Trust that it will not explode when you relinquish control and break free from the shackles of Diet Culture. Trust that it is fighting for your well-being – it has only to feel safe to do so. Listening to Diet Culture does not create a safe place for your body to do its thing. Dieting is the least trusting thing you can do for your body.
Intuitive eating is about ditching the diets and rediscovering your love for yourself and the nourishment of your body. It’s about making peace with food. It’s about letting go of that white-knuckle grip and trusting your body’s incredible, innate, inherent intuition.
Do you want a better relationship with food?
Do you want to love your body and feel confident in your skin?
Do you want to find satisfaction in the nourishment you give your body?
If you said yes to any of those questions, it’s time to DO SOMETHING about it! Book a FREE discovery call with me and let’s get this show on the road!
(1) Camilleri, G., C. Méjea, F. Bellisle, V. Andreeva, E. Kesse-Guyot, S. Hercberg, S. Péneau. 2017. Intuitive Eating Dimensions Were Differently Associated with Food Intake in the General Population-Based NutriNet-Santé Study. Journal of Nutrition. Jan;147(1):61-69. doi: 10.3945/jn.116.234088
(2) Anderson LM, Reilly EE, Schaumberg K, Dmochowski S, Anderson DA. (2015). Contributions of mindful eating, intuitive eating, and restraint to BMI, disordered eating, and meal consumption in college students. Eat Weight Disord. Aug 5.
(3) Madden C.E., Leong, S.L., Gray A., and Horwath C.C. ( 2012). Eating in response to hunger and satiety signals is related to BMI in a nationwide sample of 1601 mid-age New Zealand women. Public Health Nutrition. Mar 23:1-8. [Epub ahead of print].