Can You Lose Weight With Intuitive Eating?

by | Oct 5, 2022 | Intuitive Eating

Are you keen to give up dieting and want to know… can you lose weight with Intuitive Eating?

Healing your relationship with food and freeing yourself from chronic dieting sounds great and all. But if you’re honest, you’re still hoping it will help you drop a couple of dress sizes?

If these sound like you, then this article is for you. We will answer your questions and go into detail about:

  • The nuances of weight loss with Intuitive Eating
  • Reasons to put weight loss on the back burner in order to heal your relationship with food and body
  • Ways to measure your progress and results with Intuitive Eating

So…can you lose weight with Intuitive Eating?

The short answer is yes, you can lose weight with Intuitive Eating. But the framework doesn’t focus on this. I will explain this further in the article. 

Many people do lose weight when they apply Intuitive Eating principles. And many people don’t.

Some of our clients lose weight, some will stay the same, and some gain weight. And often they might gain weight, then lose it, then steady out (or the other way around). And all these people are doing Intuitive Eating correctly.

Because weight loss is not ever meant to be a goal of Intuitive Eating, for many important reasons which we will explain below. Instead, the goal is body respect, learning to trust your body, disentangling yourself from misinformation around food and weight, honouring your needs for nourishment, and letting your body weight go where it wants to when this happens.

Evelyn Tribole (award-winning Registered Dietitian and creator of Intuitive Eating) likens body size to shoe size when explaining this concept. You wouldn’t try to squeeze a size-8 foot into a size-5 shoe, right? For the most part, we accept our shoe size and get on with our lives. So why expect anything different from our bodies? We’re sold the idea that a size 6 is somehow better than a size 10, a size 16 is better than a size 22…and so on. And smaller isn’t just better; we’re told it’s “healthier”. But the reality is that, even when it comes to health, a size-12 person isn’t inherently healthier than a size-18 person. Read more on that here. 

Letting go of weight loss is scary, but isn’t a lifetime of never feeling at home in your body scary too?

We get it…letting go of weight control and weight loss as a goal can sound super scary. And we’re not here to tell you what you can or cannot do with your body or dig at you for wanting to change your body. After all, diet culture is a destructive system of oppression, which bombards us with subliminal messages that we will be healthier and feel more worthy, valuable, loveable and attractive if we are smaller. And this is the problem. Not you! And for some, dieting can be a form of safety, and survival. We understand that.

The number on the scale is an easy, seemingly objective way to measure “progress” towards “healthy”. Many of us have derived a sense of accomplishment and comfort in being able to control the scale. And we also know it’s possible to feel worthy in any shape or size. These aspects of self-esteem are an inside job, not an outside one. Don’t believe me? Hear it from dozens of our clients who have already been through the process and found peace with their food and bodies here.

2 reasons to put weight loss on the back burner if you want to be an Intuitive Eater

1. Focusing on weight loss interferes with your ability to be truly intuitive with your eating.

When you focus on losing weight, at some point you will likely make decisions with food or exercise that override your body’s cues of hunger, fullness and satiety. Perhaps you skip dessert even though you know you won’t be satiated without it. Or you try not to keep chocolate in the house because you feel like you will lose control if you do. Or you don’t honour your hunger as you’re worried about whether doing so will be “extra calories”. These are the sorts of things we have seen in our experience of working with clients through this work. 

This contradicts the core principles of intuitive eating, including “reject the diet mentality”, “honour your hunger” and “make peace with food.”  For example, making peace with food involves giving yourself unconditional permission to eat. Because if you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing.” When we are trying to lose weight, we often end up micromanaging our food intake and losing touch with our internal wisdom.

2. Science strongly suggests that intentional weight loss pursuits do more harm than good (and may result in weight gain over the long term)

Many of us are led to assume that diets are safe and harmless. What we’ve come to learn through research and experience is that dieting and restriction for the purposes of weight loss, don’t work for the majority. And they can also cause physical and psychological harm.

A systematic review of 12 studies (which is a high-quality study that reviews a group of studies) found that in studies of weight loss programmes with both exercise and calorie controlled diets, half of the studies demonstrated no weight loss. And in those studies that shower weight loss, the amount loss was small, and not considered to be “acceptable weight loss”, as it was not sustained in the longer term (more than 18 months).  

A number of studies show that dieting can:

🥀increase disordered eating

🥀make us gain weight

🥀 lead to binge eat

🥀become totally preoccupied with food

🥀lower our self–esteem

🥀decrease our overall mental health

But let’s turn it to you… 

Have you experienced any of this yourself?

I want to clarify that just because Intuitive Eating asks you to put weight loss on the back burner, this does not mean the desire to lose weight will suddenly go away.

The desire for weight loss is so normal given the culture we live in and part of the journey of intuitive eating is to explore those desires, learn about weight, weight science and how this related to your own experiences.

Can acknowledge and hold space for this desire, whilst simultaneously focusing on what you CAN do to improve your overall health and well-being?

How to measure the results

If you’re used to diets then you may be wondering how you will be able to measure your progress with Intuitive Eating, if not by the number on the scales.

Whilst you may desire weight loss, I am guessing that if you are exploring the framework of Intuitive Eating, you are interested in other outcomes too. Such as an improved relationship with food, improved self-esteem etc. 

Studies show that Intuitive Eaters have:

  • More favourable blood fats profile
  • Lower disordered and emotional eating
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Higher optimism and wellbeing
  • Greater body appreciation and acceptance
  • Greater variety of foods eaten
  • Increased body trust and awareness

Dieting can affect physical, social, psychological and behaviours. How have they affected you?

You can measure progress with markers like… How do you feel about yourself? How are you doing against the above? How are your energy levels? What are your blood markers doing? How well are you taking care of yourself? How are your eating patterns?

In Summary…Can you lose weight with Intuitive Eating?

Yes you can, but you might not. In order to truly become an Intuitive Eater, you will have to put the pursuit of weight loss on the back burner. This is because focusing on weight loss interferes with your ability to be truly intuitive with your eating.

This is all a massive mindset shift if you’re coming from the dieting world and can sound foreign or even scary to begin with.

If you’re struggling and would like some more support you may find the FREE audio guide and actionable workbook helpful as a starting point, which provides 7-steps to find food peace and food freedom, or take our quiz to assess your relationship with food and get personalised feedback! 

Do you want to work with a qualified professional who nurtures a good relationship with food? You can read more about what that looks like here.


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