Can You Lose Weight with Intuitive Eating?
One of the most popular blog posts on VM is written by one of my amazing dietitians, Kelsey, at Nourishing Minds Nutrition.
The blog post is titled, “Intuitive eating sounds great...but what if I still want to lose weight?”
I HIGHLY encourage reading the blog post to help you reconcile with the desire to lose weight, as its such a normal part of this process. Since its such a common question we get at NMN, I wanted to give you more insight as to when and where that might occur. This is NOT a blog post to tell you you can lose weight through intuitive eating, manipulating it in to some form of dieting in order to do so. This is instead a conversation about where you currently are with your relationship with food and how that affects your set point.
I’ve written a blog post on set point theory before, but basically think of it like this: your body has a 15-20 lb weight range it prefers to stay at. Our bodies prefer homeostasis, and is rare for your body to gain or lose beyond that set point.
But when we do behaviors that affect our intake drastically, such as very restrictive eating or on the other side of the spectrum, binge eating, our body could go below or above our set point.
In addition to those factors, Health At Every Size and Intuitive Eating also discuss our food systems as well. Hyperpalatable food and the way it is processed affects our self regulation mechanisms. This isn’t saying we shouldn’t or we are not allowed to eat processed foods. But it is saying that if these foods were found in high quantity in our diet, like the Standard American Diet (SAD), this may be affect your body’s ability to tell you hunger, fullness and satisfaction levels. This could, possibly, make us above our set points.
Non-diet dietitians, like myself, don’t really talk about weight loss when it comes to intuitive eating, and I think that is for a couple reasons. For one, we live in a culture obsessed with thinness and weight loss. We don’t really need anything else or anymore messages encouraging this. Also, it’s typically rare for weight loss to happen. It is possible, yes. Is it as likely, no.
Since we live in a world where thinness and restrictive dieting is encouraged, promoted and idolized, it’s rare to see weight loss as a product of intuitive eating. It is possible, if you are above your set point, due to some of the factors I mentioned above like binge eating, emotional eating (more on that here), or if you are unable to tune in to your body’s needs.
But for most of us, most women especially, we eat a chronically low level of calories and amounts of food, restrict food and food groups and it is more likely maintenance or weight gain will occur.
My encouragement to you today is to try to make peace with your natural body size, trusting that if you are above or below your set point, intuitive eating will help you discover that.
Try not to get fixated on what’s going to happen to your body size, and trying to predict if you will lose or gain weight. Instead, try to focus on going through the principles and finding ways to take care of your body that have nothing to do with weight loss.
That’s why I created resources like the Body Image Reset, to support you through that process to letting go of the desire to change your body and instead make peace with your now body.
I have so much compassion for you if you are having a challenging time embracing intuitive eating because it’s more likely you will gain weight than lose weight. But please don’t ever give up! I promise intuitive eating is so worth the journey.