Intuitive Eating And Weight Loss

by Golda Poretsky, HHC

I want to make something really, really clear.

If you’ve been practicing intuitive eating, and it hasn’t resulted in weight loss, it is not your fault and it doesn’t mean that you’re doing it wrong.

When I first heard about intuitive eating as an alternative to dieting, I read everything that Geneen Roth ever wrote.  And although she has a lot of good things to say, she also implies, again and again in each of her books, that if you eat intuitively you will lose weight.  She even uses that trick that every diet marketer in the history of diets uses, writing things like:

“By May I had gained 15 pounds.  From May through September, my weight stabilized.  In October, still eating what I wanted, I began to lose weight, and over the next two years, I lost 30 pounds.  That was five years ago.”  [1]

What Ms. Roth doesn’t tell you is that she is an anomaly.  There’s no “results not typical” even though they are.  There’s no mention of the fact, in any of her books, that dieting wreaks havoc on your metabolism such that intuitive eating may not have much of an effect on your weight at all.[2]

And, perhaps most perturbing, is the fact that practicing intuitive eating with the expectation of weight loss really screws up your ability to eat intuitively.

The truth is that you can’t be intuitive when you’re looking for a particular result.

It’s like reading tarot cards to find out if someone who you want to date likes you back.  If you’re feeling desperate enough, you will read all manner of loveliness into cards that say that this person has no interest in you.

It’s the same with intuitive eating.  If you’re doing it to lose weight, you will convince yourself that you just want to eat celery sticks when you’re body is jonesing for some protein.  You’ll convince yourself that you’re not hungry when you are.  You’ll keep yourself in the dieting framework of punishment and reward and restriction.  You’ll be reading the cards all wrong because you don’t want to believe what you see.

Intuitive eating is not about control, it’s about trust.  It’s about trusting your body’s signals of hunger and fullness, desire and satisfaction.  It’s about trusting your body enough to know that it needn’t be so controlled.

When you allow yourself to eat intuitively, you will get results. Those results may or may not include weight loss, but they will definitely include something more.  They will include a letting go of the daily stress of worrying about food and weight.  They will include feeling at peace with your body and it’s needs.  They will include a new spaciousness in your life for joy, an openness to possibilities, a willingness to love and approve of yourself and be the fully-embodied person you were born to be.

If you’re ready to experience these beautiful, tangible results, I invite you to join me for How To Heal From Emotional Eating, a 3 class teleseries which starts in just a few days.  Click here for more info:

Get great intuitive eating tips and more when you subscribe:

Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. To learn more about Golda and her work, click here.

(Listen to this post here, or subscribe on itunes.)
  1. [1]Geneen Roth, Breaking Free From Emotional Eating (New York: Plume, 2003) 19
  2. [2]  This is one of the many things I loved about Dr. Linda Bacon‘s book, Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight.  Linda disclaimed her own weight loss by writing the following.  “You’ve heard this before.  Every book about weight starts with the weight loss testimonial.  It gets your hopes up and sells books.  And when it doesn’t work the same way for you, that’s always your fault–you must have done something wrong, if you didn’t get the same results.  So let me be clear: My weight-loss results aren’t typical, and I don’t mean to use my experience to promote any weight loss technique.”  (Dallas: BenBella Books, 2008) xxii

28 thoughts on “Intuitive Eating And Weight Loss

  1. Oh wow thank you! But boohoo…it is as i have begun to suspect i’m probably not ever going to lose weight : ) It is so seductive isn’t it? It’s everywhere!! My beautiful neighbour who is 5 foot 5 and probably not even 60 kilos is dieting…unbelievable! I am at the beginning of my journey into HAES and intuitive eating and it rings so very true for me. I have come to understand it’s about trust too, which is such a different mindset from where i have been lol. So thank you for that most important word : TRUST.

  2. Yep, I absolutely agree. If you start to think about IE in terms of weight loss, you’re on another diet. I fell into this trap and it can be hard, especially at the moment when the waistband of my trousers is becoming looser. In the past, I would have celebrated this, nowdays it hardly registers. I’m due my monthly shortly, so it’s likely my waistband will get tight again – so what, my life amouts to more than the size of my jeans.
    My sucess with IE means I eat really well (mainly unprocessed, I do a lot of home cooking but I will always love a Chinese take out) and in 2009 I managed to quit smoking at long last, which to me is FAR more important for my health.

  3. Yah intuitive eating is a pretty big deal specially when you are trying to break a cycle of constant dieting and emotional eating.
    there are some days when I do so great! but some others I go back to the cycle, sometimes is so easy to listen to your mind instead of your body.
    I try not to be very hard on me, after all it is a process,and work, not magic.

    Gina I totally understand I am too short for most clothes too but I tend to be very curvy. so this has been a problem for me most of the time.
    I’m 5 foot 2 1/2inches and I do weight around 70-72 kilograms (haven’t weight myself much for my own good)meaning that sometimes Large is too small in some stores and Extra large too big for me.
    but you know, I discovered the joys of sewing your own clothes and modifying store clothes. and you are right intuitive eating brings much more joy than striving to fit in the “common size” which I had discovered with many women of all shapes and sizes that the clothes in store are everything but common in proportions.
    When I was smaller ( which I could never be less than at 8, at 50 kg) I used to wonder how did the clothes designers supposed that I should squeeze my boobs and bottom on a fitted “M” and after a big breakdown with my weight I realized that the clothes should FIT MY BODY not the other way around, so I learned how to modify my own clothes(of course I am no expert but I do some basics) and start this beautiful journey on intuitive eating and loving my self instead of hating myself.
    my best wishes for all!

  4. This is a really important point. Thank you for writing this post. For me intuitive eating is about overcoming disordered eating and nothing whatsoever to do with weight loss. After a life time of hating myself for not being ‘little’ which included eating my way to 117.5 kgs then starving myself to 44 kgs, my weight has been stable at 76-78ish kgs (the weight I was the last time that my nutritionist weight me – I don’t weigh myself anymore). At 5 foot 3 and 3/4 inches (the 3/4 inch is every important you know!!!) this means I can’t find clothes in mainstream stores because I’m too big. It also means most people would consider me ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ (Techically I probably wake up every morning ‘overweight’ and go to bed each night ‘obese’ -how ridiculous is the BMI?.) I consider myself to be MY weight. MY weight might be fat but I don’t have to explain or apologise to anyone for my weight or what I eat and I definitely don’t have to feel guilty about what I eat or punish myself for eating. Food is no longer my enemy or something that has control over me. I can now take the time to saviour food and actually REALLY taste and enjoy it. THOSE are the wonder things intuitive eating has given me and I don’t intend to swap them for something as meaningless as smaller dress size. Ever.

  5. Yes! When I first tried to eat intuitively as a means to weight loss, I just couldn’t “get it.” Once I let go of the need to drop pounds, I got all sorts of wonderful results and benefits from intuitive eating, but weight loss wasn’t one of them. I appreciate you acknowledging this, and also acknowledging that some folks do lose weight, and that’s great, too. It’s all about letting our bodies do whatever they need to do. As you said, it’s about TRUST. Thanks for another great post, Golda! And I’m loving the tele-summit, too!

  6. I’m a huge believer in Intuitive Eating (even went to see RD Tribole for a while). But, I haven’t been losing weight. This isn’t a big deal to me because I understand the process. However, I document my IE and weight loss journey on my blog and feel like my readers want to see more progress to “believe”.

    Thanks for the reminder :)

    1. @Runeatrepeat, Thanks for your comment. Perhaps it would be a really powerful thing for your readers (and you, of course) if you let your blog just be a journey about your experiences and not a weight loss journey. Then your progress doesn’t have to be about weight loss but about your progress with self acceptance, intuitive eating, running, and whatever else comes your way!

  7. YES!! I appreciate this post so much. I had a similar experience the first time I encountered intuitive eating. I thought that if I was just “intuitive” enough, I could still lose weight. I call it “intuitive eating without intuition.” That’s why I love what you say here: “The truth is that you can’t be intuitive when you’re looking for a particular result.” So true. Thanks for this!

  8. This information is very important. As hard as it is to hear, intuitive eating does not always result in weight loss; you can however lose the obsessiveness of not trusting and hating your body and of believing you can control what is your healthy, natural weight.
    I love the Geneen Roth books as well, thouugh always use a disclaimer in recommending–that was her journey.
    Thanks so much and take care

Comments are closed.