For the Intuitive Eating Haters…this post is for you :)
I wanted to write this post for your family members, friends, and loved ones who care for you, but are critical of intuitive eating. Or maybe even this post is for YOU, because you are critical of intuitive eating.
I’m going to mention some criticisms I’ve heard of Intuitive Eating and then respond. If your family/friends/you have other issues with Intuitive Eating, feel free to comment below and I or a reader who is on their own intuitive eating journey will be happy to contribute our thoughts.
Intuitive Eating Hater says…Intuitive Eating is just an excuse to eat whatever you want.
Umm. YES! That is exactly the point. To stop having a plethora of food rules that dictate every bite of food that goes into my mouth and just be able to eat.
Intuitive Eating Hater says…My intuition would tell me I want to eat brownies, ice cream, cookies, etc. all the time.
We all like highly palatable foods like brownies, ice cream, cookies, etc. Intuitive eating allows you to move away from eating an entire gallon of ice cream while standing up in your kitchen at midnight and then throwing away the container in the outside trashcan so people are less likely to notice. Intuitive Eating teaches you how to be around highly palatable foods. For instance, how to be around cupcakes without feeling compelled to eat 5 of them.
There is nothing wrong with eating highly palatable foods on a regular basis. I love and savor and enjoy these foods regularly. In the later stages of eating disorder recovery, a mark of recovery (whether you’re struggling with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, for those in a smaller bodies, or for those in a larger bodies) is to incorporate at least two “fun” foods a day. “Fun” foods being foods that are highly palatable, delicious, and probably aren’t brimming with vitamins and minerals. It’s about realizing food is supposed to provide satisfaction and pleasure.
Dieting doesn’t make you feel more competent around highly palatable foods. Dieting teaches you how to deprive yourself of these foods and eliminate them from your life (hmm. how long is that gonna work for? Probably until you find yourself in the middle of a binge/overeating episode), while intuitive eating allows you to eat these foods in a nourishing amount when you are craving them.
You won’t always crave brownies, ice cream, cookies, burgers, nachos, etc for every meal and snack, but you will continue to crave them ALL THE TIME until you give yourself permission to eat them whenever you want them. In the beginning of your intuitive eating journey you may feel like all you want are these foods. Be patient. Give yourself time. If you are highly distressed about what you are eating, find a non-diet dietitian or intuitive eating coach to walk beside you in your intuitive eating journey.
Intuitive Eating Hater says…You are less valuable if you are fat.
While a family member might not come right out and state it like that. They will probably say…”I don’t think you are less valuable if you are fat, I’m just worried about you health. You can’t be healthy in a larger body.”
To which I always want to mention…do you think shaming a person for eating a brownie or for being in a larger body makes them a healthier person? I SOOO strongly believe that person having to carry around your judgement of their body makes me a less healthy person! And you CAN be healthy in a larger body. We aren’t all iPhone 7s. We are made to be a variety of different shapes and sizes. It is so hard to be in a larger body in our society. Those in larger bodies are judged for what is or isn’t in their shopping carts, what they do or don’t order at a restaurant, AND they are limited at what clothing stores they can shop at. Like seriously, do you think your judgement helps them live a better life?! Nope. It typically makes them feel more isolated and shameful and more likely to engage in disordered eating behaviors.
Just because you are in a larger body and/or you are gaining weight doesn’t mean you are doing intuitive eating wrong and that you are unhealthy.
Intuitive Eating Hater says…Your goal needs to be weight loss. Why would you do something if it’s not about weight loss?
The goal isn’t weight loss because hating one’s body and trying to change it hasn’t gotten them anywhere. If dieting and a focus on weight loss was the answer, wouldn’t it have worked by now?! They are finally TRULY trying to improve their quality of life through following an intuitive eating approach and your judgement could be keeping them from that. Sometimes weight loss is a consequence of intuitive eating. Sometimes it’s not. And both of those outcomes can lead to a healthy individual.
Intuitive Eating Hater says…Umm. But sugar is addictive. If you have a little you’re going to want more and more.
Sugar isn’t addictive. Drugs cross the blood brain barrier, meaning they enter into the brain and activate the reward system by direct neurochemical action (aka they change yo’ brain). With food, nothing is entering the brain to change cells and networks in the brain. This right here is why I set a firm boundary and don’t see Overeaters Anonymous’s HOW members. If you’ve never heard of OA’s HOW program, it’s the closest thing I’ve seen to a dieting cult and they “brainwash” (for lack of a better word) members into believing sugar is toxic. I’m happy to work with OA HOW members if they are taking steps to distance themselves from the OA HOW organization. Sorry for that tangent. OA HOW freaks me out like no other diet. While Weight Watchers and Beach Body suck, OA HOW messes people up and it’s terrifying. I really just mentioned in here so that other non-diet RD’s who are reading this can be aware if they ever come across it.
Back to sugar addiction. If one experiences withdrawal symptoms of shaking, etc. when stopping eating sugar, that is likely from low blood sugar and is not the same as a drug withdrawal.
Another thing to show that food addiction is not a thing is that ALL carbohydrates you eat, whether from quinoa or skittles, get broken down to glucose in your body. If you are addicted to sugar, you are addicted to glucose. So with that line of thought, if eating skittles makes you crave more and more skittles, eating quinoa should make you crave more and more quinoa. If you feel you’ve given intuitive eating a shot and you just craved more and more sugary foods, you didn’t give yourself full permission to eat all foods for a long enough time period.
It should be noted that sugar is soothing to the brain. No doubt! But so is being in nature, listening to pleasing music, laughing with loved ones, etc. You have to be open to realizing there are ways to soothe yourself without food/sugar (this is for those who’s only coping mechanism for life stress is going to food. Occasionally going to food for comfort and soothing is 100% normal and nothing to judge.). This is something I had to work through and something I work with clients on all the time. Also, there is something called a process addiction, where you have formed a habit that says, “we soothe ourselves with sugar every night.” That isn’t a chemical addiction…that’s a habit you can change, but you may need support to change it. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with enjoying sugar every night or every day, I’m just saying if you are regularly numbing away from uncomfortable emotions with food…you may want to find someone to talk to about it :)
Intuitive Eating Hater says…Intuitive eating is not for me because I know I am above my set point.
You can’t know you are above your set point range. You aren’t God. And quite honestly, I bet God doesn’t care about your body weight. You got stuff to do in this life that shouldn’t be affected by the size of you and I truly believe God never meant for our body size to limit us so and occupy so much of our brainspace.
Your body is fine. Your judgement of your body is what is not fine. But anyways, all I will say here is it took my weight about 2 years to settle in the place it was meant to be. Two years of fully embracing intuitive eating with no restrictions on what I did or didn’t eat and a huge step away from exercise. When I was doing such vigorous exercise, I found it difficult to be aware of my hunger and fullness cues. Mindful movement, like yoga and walking, is what helped me tune into my body cues more and more.
In this 2 year phase of finding my set point, I was aware of my weight fluctuating, but wasn’t micromanaging it. I had a daily positive affirmations practice to keep myself calm (and a body image practice, here’s the video). To stay at the same weight, you have to be obsessed with your weight…and that is not inline with intuitive eating at all.
Would love to have a conversation in the comments about other criticisms you have or you’ve heard about intuitive eating :)