Can You Lose Weight With Intuitive Eating?

Can You Lose Weight With 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.

 

Why Am I Not Losing Weight?

Why Am I Not Losing Weight?

So, you’re doing all the right things but still left wondering, “why am I not losing weight?”

Perhaps methods that have previously led to weight loss are not working this time around?
 
This can be very frustrating but please know you are not alone. We have many clients who come to us in this very situation. With the right questions, tests, counselling and advice we can usually get to the bottom of what is leading to your struggles with body weight.
 
This article will delve into the Top 5 reasons you might not be losing weight. We also discuss a revolutionary & unique way to approach your struggles with body weight. Keep reading for the details.
 
But before we dive into the Top 5 list, let’s get one thing straight. Despite what you may have read and learned elsewhere, this Registered Dietitian is here to tell you…

Weight loss is NOT as simple as Calories In < Calories Out

The media often drive the unproven assumption that body size is controllable through self-discipline and is a personal responsibility. This portrayal is not in line with current scientific evidence, which shows that body weight regulation is not entirely under an individual’s control.
 
That’s right. Cutting back your calories and working out more does not automatically mean you will lose weight. In the same way that eating more doesn’t necessarily mean your body fat stores will increase. This is because determinants of body weight are multi-factorial and include (but are not limited to):
 
  • genetics
  • metabolism
  • stress & sleep
  • illness & disease
  • food intake
  • physical activity
  • social & environmental factors
  • age/life-stage

So whilst some of these factors are within our control, many such as genetics, environment, age and illness are not.
 
Weight loss is therefore, certainly not as simple as calories in, calories out. And even if calorie restriction has worked for you in the past, it doesn’t mean it will continue to work. In fact, it’s likely that it won’t continue to work. We explain why this is below.

Top 5 reasons you’re not losing weight

As discussed above, weight is influenced by a myriad of factors. The factors discussed below are those which we see most commonly in our clinic. Please always discuss your individual concerns with your healthcare provider.

1. Restriction is leading your metabolism to slow down

Dieting, fasting and food restriction can trigger your body to conserve energy for another time. Ie) If you do not meet your calorie/energy needs for an extended period, your metabolism will slow down.
This is a survival mechanism that is hard-wired into our physiology. Your body can’t tell if you’re eating less because you want to drop a dress size or because you’re stuck on a desert island. This is a big reason why restrictive eating/diets do not work for weight loss.
 
In fact, there is a body of research suggesting that most people who lose weight through dieting will regain weight within 2-5 years. Some research even suggests that the cyclical process of losing and regaining weight with weight loss attempts leads people to sit at a higher body weight in the long term (likely, partly due to metabolic changes).
 
So…what’s the alternative to restrictive dieting? It is to find your body’s natural set-point weight (its happy place). More on this is below.
 
2. You’re already at or below your set-point weight
Have you heard of Set Point Weight Theory before? It is a scientific theory that explains why losing weight can be a struggle for many.
 
Many parts of our physical and psychological makeup are determined either in part or completely, by our genes. For example, height is mostly determined by genetics. People generally accept that we can’t change our height, it’s just the way we were born.
 
In the long term, the same principle applies to weight. Genetics plays a large part in determining our body weight. Between 40-70% of human body weight is determined by genetics. Research suggests that each human body has a weight range that it is genetically predisposed to maintain. This weight range is called your “set point” and is usually a 3-5kg weight range where your body naturally wants to stay.
 
If our body weight falls below this range, your body sees this as a threat to your survival. And so regulatory mechanisms kick in to help us get back there. For example, if you eat a little more than you need, then typically your body temperature will rise and your metabolism speeds up to burn off the extra energy. If you eat too little, then your metabolic rate slows down to spare the available calories. Also, if the body is not getting enough energy, you will feel more hungry, and/or be more preoccupied with food.
 
You do not have to meet society’s thin ideal to be healthy. And if your body is larger than this ideal, it does not mean you have to restrict and deny your body food. In fact, this is likely doing damage to your physical and mental health, whilst paradoxically leading you to become heavier in the long term. There is a lot of research that shows that people can be metabolically healthy and fall into the “overweight” and “obese” BMI categories. 

 

3. You are struggling with binge eating

If you are feeling out of control around food or experiencing binge episodes please know, you are so not alone. This is such a common experience and usually, it makes a lot of sense in the context of struggles with body weight.
 
Not eating enough (as with dieting/restriction), naturally leads to binge eating. Again, it’s a survival thing. More on that here
Biologically speaking, the body has a set amount of energy that it needs you to take in from food. This will vary day to day. If you don’t get this, then it is going to ramp up your hunger hormones, which drive you to eat. Often this eating is experienced with great emotional intensity and you may eat more than usual to make up for the lack you have been experiencing.
 
Emotional factors can also lead to binge eating. You can read more about emotional eating here

 

4. You’re focusing too hard on the numbers

Are you obsessing too much over a few pounds on the scale?
 
Did you know that weight can fluctuate as much as 5Ib/2-3kg each day just with fluid shifts, poos, wees, hormones and food intake.
 
Focusing too much on the number on the scale can lead to unhealthy behaviours and obsessiveness. This is why I recommend ditching the scales or at least reducing the frequency with which you weigh yourself. Instead you can measure your progress through your energy levels, how you feel and by noticing how your clothes fit.
 

5. There is something going on medically

There are many medical conditions that can affect body weight. Common ones include thyroid diseases, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Diabetes, Insomnia and Depression. I would recommend discussing any sudden and unexplained weight gain with your GP to rule these out. 
Women eating a meal in restaurant

How to not focus soley on weight loss

How has the persuit of weight loss affected your life thus far? Has it bought you the happiness and health that diet culture promises?

 
For many of our clients, the persuit of weight loss has lead them to become unhappy, disillusioned and less healthy in the long-term.
 
Perhaps it is time to turn away from dieting and any other method of restriction in the pursuit of weight loss.
 
After all, the research proves that restriction leads to further weight gain over time for the majority and can cause a great deal of physical and mental damage along the way.
 
So what’s the alternative?  Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based approach that takes the focus off body weight and instead focuses on nourishment, fulfilling hunger and allowing body weight to settle at it’s set-point. Intuitive eating doesn’t discourage weight loss but rather it takes the heavy focus OFF of weight loss and ON to health. This framework includes the principle of Body Respect, which involves learning to care for your here-and-now body.
 
You can learn more about Intuitive Eating through our article library here and on our about page, here

A big part of Intuitive Eating is relearning how to listen, and appropriately respond to hunger and satiety cues. This is really helpful when trying to stop counting calories. The freebie below has tips and tools that can help you get started with this.

 
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.
Can intuitive eating help with IBS?

Can intuitive eating help with IBS?

Firstly, what is IBS?

Before we answer the question “can intuitive eating help with IBS”, first, let’s get clear on what it is.

IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  Of all the medical diagnoses, this is one that does exactly what it says on the tin.  The bowel is irritated- whether it is gas, pain, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, or a miserable mix of all of them.  

Your experience of IBS can be on a spectrum.  For some it may be mild bloating and multiple excursions to the toilet after a night out.  For others, however, it can be toileting accidents and crippling pain.  A survey by the American College of Gastroenterology found a majority of IBS patients would give up 10-15 years of their life for an immediate cure for their condition.

The symptoms of IBS confusingly overlap with many other diagnoses.  Most notably for women- endometriosis or ovarian cancer are important to rule out.  Other possible diagnoses are thyroid disease, coeliac disease, and microscopic colitis.  It can feel like such a long road to an IBS diagnosis, but it truly is important to go through all the medical tests offered to rule out more serious diseases.

When to seek medical advice

IBS needs to be diagnosed by your Doctor or physician. 

However, if you have an IBS diagnosis, and you have any of the following symptoms, or a change in your symptoms, it’s important to see a physician right away:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Family history of colon cancer
  • Rectal bleeding/bloody stools
  • Night time bowel movements
  • Recurring vomiting

These symptoms indicate something much more serious could be going on. 

What are the benefits of Intuitive Eating when having IBS?

Intuitive eating is a framework of feeding yourself from the standpoint of self care.  While intuitive eating messages of “food freedom” and “eat what you love” can feel alienating when you are grappling with IBS, there is absolutely much value for you with Intuitive Eating. In my experience as a Gastro Specialist Dietitian who works with people on their relationship with food, intuitive eating can help with IBS. 

The first thing an intuitive eating-informed approach can teach you is that you are on the same team as your body. If you have had IBS for years, having negative body thoughts is the default, isn’t it?  “Why am I like this?”  “Why does my body hate me?” The truth is, our body is an extension of us.  Intuitive eating invites you to support your body as a form of self-respect. Our bodies don’t have to work perfectly for us to respect them.  

Another helpful principle from intuitive eating is making peace with food.  I know you might feel like food is out to get you, but I promise you, it isn’t.  The ice cream is just ice cream.  The black bean tacos are just black bean tacos.  Intuitive eating-informed work would have us approach foods with curiosity (rather than judgment).  What IF that food does not trigger you as harshly as you assume it would?  Are you avoiding foods because a food list on the internet said you should? Or is it because it makes you discernibly triggered?

Another tenet of Intuitive Eating that people with IBS can find a lot of benefit from is one that, at first glance, seems 100% inaccessible:  reject the diet mentality. 

IBS affects how you feel, but it can also affect how you look, too. 

It’s helpful to be honest with ourselves- am I avoiding foods because I don’t want to look bigger? Or is it truly because I am feeling so ill?  It may truly be the latter, but I have had scores of clients whose motivating factor to work on their IBS is their poor body image. 

Diet culture has shamed them into thinking their body isn’t good enough unless they have that elusive “snatched waist.”  

Your body is a good body.  Intuitive eating work helps you see that.

So can intuitive eating help with IBS?

Yes, absolutely. These are only three, but there are many other valuable things Intuitive Eating can give you– even if you have a chronic condition like IBS.  I invite you to join in the conversation.  Intuitive eating is for you, too.

If you would like to discuss how healing your relationship with food can work alongside gut related conditions, like IBS, then you can get in touch with us on the button below. Sarah is our gastro specialist Dietitian who can support you with these issues, whilst maintaining or building a healthy relationship with food and you body. 

What If Intuitive Eating Doesn’t Work?

What If Intuitive Eating Doesn’t Work?

What Happens If Intuitive Eating Doesn’t Work?

If you are asking the question “What if Intuitive Eating doesn’t work?”, I am going to assume that you might fall into 1 of 3 camps:
 
1) You have tried intuitive eating and are coming up against sticking points… Common sticking points and potential solutions are detailed further down this article.
 
2) You are interested in Intuitive Eating but not sure it’s suitable for you… Perhaps you have a health concern that is making you doubt if Intuitive Eating is can work for you. See the section below “Does intuitive eating work for everyone?”
 
3) You’re interested in trying Intuitive Eating but have heard negative reviews/ opinions about it… there are many laypeople and health professionals who do not properly understand the ins and outs of intuitive eating.
Unfortunately, these people may claim that intuitive eating can’t/doesn’t work, or even that it’s dangerous. When I read/watch this material it is clear some people are not familiar with the book or the large body of research that supports why intuitive eating is so helpful. In most cases, it seems like they have simply heard the term and reflexively had a negative response. Possibly due to their own perceptions and baggage. And without taking the time to properly understand with Intuitive eating is all about. While I can see through this, people who are new to intuitive eating understandably might struggle.
 
The fact is, Intuitive Eating can work for almost everybody. And if you are guided by the principles outlined in the original book on Intuitive Eating (by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch), chances are it can work for you, too.
 
So you don’t end up feeling discouraged, this article explores 7 common reasons why you may think that intuitive eating won’t or isn’t working for you.
Summer picnic

“But firstly, let’s define what “working” even means

Intuitive eating will look a little different for everyone and there is no one right way to practice it.
“Without diet culture, intuitive eating would just be called eating normally and naturally!”

The 10 principles of intuitive eating should be taken as guidelines, not hard and fast rules. Some principles might not be suitable for everyone, and that’s OK. That’s why intuitive eating is so great. It works to fit your lifestyle, not the other way around.

But that begs the question… if there’s no wrong way to practice Intuitive Eating, how do you know if it’s “working”?
Well, that will depend on your personal goals, lifestyle, and starting point. But some indicators I have learned from years of working with clients include:                                                                                                       
  • You trust your body’s intuitive abilities – it is easy to honour your hunger and respect your fullness.
  • You trust your body to tell you what, when and how much you need to eat and make choices to take care of your body without judgement or punishment.
  • You feel no guilt about food choices or quantities.
  • You can keep foods that were once “forbidden” in the house and not binge on them (you might even forget they are there!)
  • Because you feel good about your relationship with food and savour the pleasure that eating now gives you, you will, for the most part, discard unsatisfying foods and eating experiences.
  • You consistently eat satisfying meals that feel good in your body.
  • Emotionally food is not often used as a tool to cope (often) – you would much rather deal with your feelings or distract from them, than use food to cope.
  • Movement is no longer a burden, rather, moving your body feels enticing to you. It’s not tied up with burning off food.
  • You feel free from diet culture and the burden of dieting. The external pressures to “fix your body into a size” no longer not influence how you take care of yourself.
  • Food is no longer a largely important thing in your life – it has its place, but alongside other important things that matter in your life.
  • Eating no longer gives you anxiety or stress.
  • Your food talk and self-talk are positive and non-critical. 
  • You may find you begin to choose more nutrient-dense foods. Not because you think you should, but because you feel physically better when you eat this way.
  • You’re able to layer in nutrition knowledge from a non-judgemental perspective, to best support your energy, sporting, or medical needs (if you have them).

The list could go on! As Evelyn Tribole says: 

“Intuitive eating isn’t a Nike commercial. You don’t just do it”

Unlike dieting, you can’t just “do intuitive eating” overnight. It’s a process that takes time, patience, self-compassion and support. And that can be challenging.  

If you’re struggling with this, you may like to consider enlisting a Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor to support you. The Nude Nutrition team work virtually with clients from all over the globe to implement. Check out our services and client stories here. 

When Intuitive Eating Doesn’t Work…  7 Common sticking points

1) You have misinformed idea’s about what intuitive eating is and isn’t

When working with clients who say intuitive eating doesn’t work for them, I ask them what it would look like if it was working.
Common responses include:
  • I should be craving foods that are healthy
  • My appetite should be for a suitable amount/portion and no more
  • I am not at a “healthy weight”
  • I should be able to eat at the right times and not feel hungry between meal times
These clients have set expectations about what intuitive eating should be, stemming from internalised food rules, or perceived ideas of health. And they are holding them back from truly discovering their inner intuitive eater.
 
Generally, people interested in intuitive eating tend to be looking for a solution to a troubled relationship with food. Perhaps you have tried different protocols, diets, eating regimens or cleanses before.
 
These prior experiences mean you will have likely internalised various food rules. Rules about “healthy” or “unhealthy” foods, “good vs bad” foods, or rules about specific food timings/eating windows.
 
If you resonate with this, it makes total sense that learning to trust your body again feels hard and confusing.
 
It’s human nature to think in black and white. It’s simpler if something has a “right way” and a “wrong way” to do things. This especially holds true with eating. There’s comfort in knowing that there are clear rules that will lead to a definitive outcome. But eating is innately nuanced, complex and personal.
 
Ultimately, if you are following the cues of your body, you are doing intuitive eating right. You are not doing it wrong. You may be more hungry more often some days – that’s ok.
 
And a particularly common concern is about eating too many “unhealthy” foods. The below point explains more about this.
 

2) You are worried you are not eating “healthily” enough

 
If you are in the early stages of intuitive eating, you might still be making peace with food. You might still be habituating to previously forbidden or limited foods.
 
When going through this process, it’s very normal to go slightly “overboard” on these foods. This is your body testing the waters… “am I really going to get to eat this whenever I want to?”.
 
You have to go through this stage to come out the other side. I once had a client eat cheese toasties for 2.5 days straight. At lunch, on the 3rd day, she realised she was done and didn’t touch another cheese toastie for 6 months! You have to trust the process. And also make sure you’re implementing it properly; with mindful eating and the ability to accurately sense hunger and fullness signals.
 
The goal of intuitive eating is not to come to prefer the taste of broccoli over chips. But what will happen is that the chips will start to lose their power over you. You’ll be able to make your decision based on what your body needs and wants, rather than from a place of deprivation.
 
After all, it’s physically not going to feel too good eating cupcakes and chips all day long.  With time, foods will start to lose that intense appeal and become just tasty food you incorporate as it feels good
 
You could seek support from a certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor if you’re struggling to work through making peace with food on your own. It’s a complex process for many and guidance is often needed to feel safe doing it.
 
Outside of these early stages…it’s very normal for cravings and desired foods to fluctuate across days and weeks. Diet culture says each day of eating must be perfectly balanced. But when listening to our body’s signals, things balance out more over days and weeks.
 

3) You feel lost and like intuitive eating lacks structure

It is so common to feel like this at first. Especially coming from a place of following diets.
 
Dieting starts out easy because you’re told exactly what to eat and how much. There’s a sense of security because you know you’re doing it “right” according to the rules. But it starts to get harder over time. This is largely because these rules don’t consider our lives, preferences, genetics, history, celebrations, trauma, etc. 
 
Intuitive eating is kind of the opposite. It DOES consider all these factors and so at first, it can feel messy and hard. And with time it gets easier, and eventually becomes second nature.
 
Remember, you can’t fail at intuitive eating. There is no wagon to fall off. Everything is a learning experience. Some weeks it may feel like everything is clicking into place, others not so much. That’s ok. Keep going – it’s worth it!
 
If you’ve been dieting and tuning out your hunger for a while, you might not be able to feel your hunger and fullness cues. You might need some eating guidelines at first while learning to tune into your body’s cues. 
 

4) You are still trying to lose weight

 
If you approach intuitive eating with the intent to lose weight, you are setting yourself up to fail. You can’t relearn to connect to your body’s signals whilst simultaneously trying to overrule them. This focus would directly interfere with the learning process of reconnecting with your body. My article “Can you stop dieting without gaining weight” delves further into this.
 
I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to want to lose weight. It’s almost impossible not to in a society that glorifies weight loss and dieting. It is perfectly OK if you still want weight loss. However, it’s best to put these desires on the back burner while you’re working through Intuitive Eating
 

5) You have turned Intuitive Eating into a “the hunger-fullness diet”

This usually stems from struggling to let go of diet rules and black-and-white thinking. You may think you are allowed to eat only when you are hungry. If you are absolutely sure you are hungry, then you can eat, but you must not eat past the point of fullness.
 
As is true for all diets, the goal of the “Hunger and Fullness Diet” is to control your eating in order to control your weight. This is problematic for reasons already described above. And also because intuitive eating does NOT dictate that you can only eat when you have hunger signals. Or that you can NEVER eat past comfortable fullness (you can and this is often a part of a healthy relationship to food when done occasionally).
 
For example, if you are very stressed you may not feel hungry but your body still needs energy. So we apply principle 10 about gentle nutrition and honour your body’s need for fuel, despite the absence of hunger signals.
 

6) You tried to do too much at once

You don’t have to implement all the intuitive eating principles at once. And you likely shouldn’t try to. It may result in you feeling overwhelmed and maybe even out of control. This may lead you to believe intuitive eating doesn’t work or that you’re “failing.”
 
If this sounds like you…take a step back and start slow. Choose 1 or 2 principles to explore and work through, before moving on to others. Don’t know where to start?
 
 

7) You’re not ready for it

 
You might not be ready to give up dieting pr the pursuit of weight loss yes. And that’s okay. It’s hard to go against the grain and defy the predominant cultural narrative. Diet and weight talk are everywhere.  If you’re not feeling 100% ready to embrace Intuitive Eating because you have a fear of weight gain, your food rules give you comfort or you’re struggling with an eating disorder, that’s OK
 
However, if you’re waiting to feel fully ready, I encourage you to consider taking the leap. Most people are not 100% ready when they first start – you don’t have to be. That’s partly why it’s helpful taking baby steps and get support along the way.
 

Does Intuitive Eating work for everyone?

The following situations can make intuitive eating more complicated to implement:

  • Having a history of, or current food insecurity*
  • Past trauma
  • Eating disorders
  • A health condition or medication which means you can’t connect to internal cues
  • Pregnancy/morning sickness 
  • Dietary restrictions for ethical or religious reasons
If you resonate with any of the above, you will still be able to incorporate some principles of Intuitive Eating into your life and benefit from them.
*To practice all principles of Intuitive Eating, you must have access to food and not everyone has that.  Giving yourself unconditional permission to eat what your body needs and is craving is certainly a privilege However, you can still incorporate rejecting the diet mentality, coping with your emotions with kindness, and respecting your body.

In Summary – What if Intuitive Eating Doesn’t Work

The myths and misconceptions surrounding Intuitive Eating can make it challenging to trust the process. But please know that most come from people who don’t understand what intuitive eating is. And all of the nuances and complexities involved. 
 
Intuitive Eating is not an easy or linear process. It can be very challenging but gets easier with time. It is especially hard to implement intuitive eating in our culture which normalises disordered eating and praises the pursuit of weight loss. You may find yourself feeling frustrated and confused at points along the way. That’s ok and normal.
 
If you can find the tools, information and support you need to stick at it … the benefits are huge.
 
Still not sure? Click here to watch video reviews from my clients who have been on their Intuitive Eating Journey.
How to Stop Counting Calories

How to Stop Counting Calories

So, you’re fed up of counting calories?

Well, you’ve come to the right place… in this article I am going to outline actionable steps on how to stop counting calories, once and for all. As a Registered Dietitian (for the last 9 years) and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor, I have worked with 100’s of clients to help them stop obsessing over numbers and find a healthier relationship with food.

If you’ve been counting calories for months or years, you’re likely feeling tired of it. Calorie counting can sometimes be a helpful tool. But for many people, counting calories in the long term can become exhausting and unhealthy. This was certainly my experience counting calories (more on this below). No matter how long you’ve been counting for, it is possible to stop and find a more liberal relationship to food. Keep reading for actionable steps on how to stop counting calories so you can start to feel more normal around food again

My experience with calorie counting

10 years ago, I used to count calories almost every day. Even when I wasn’t actively tracking them in MyFitnessPal or the like, the mental counter was still ticking over.
 
“If you have this snack now, then you can only have a small portion at dinner, otherwise you’re over the limit for the day”
 
And if I went over my self-imposed limit…one of two things would happen:
 
1) I would have to compensate somehow with exercise or less calories the following day
2) I would think “well I’ve screwed it now, so may as well keep going” and end up out-of-control eating and feeling extremely guilty about it
 
Oh, the mental turmoil of calorie counting. It was exhausting. I felt obsessed with food and had little brain space to think of much else. And I felt ashamed. As a Dietitian, I felt I should know better and knew it didn’t feel healthy to count calories. But I didn’t know there was another way. You see, in university we are still taught calorie counting as a bit of a “be-all and end-all”.
 
Luckily, I now realise how disordered all those constant calculations were and enjoy a healthy, nourishing relationship to food with zero counting. I do not miss obsessively tracking my food intake one bit. I now work to help others learn Intuitive Eating and other skills so they can nourish themselves without the obsession and counting. Keep reading to find out how for yourself.

Why is calorie counting so widely used….and is it worth it??

Calorie counting is often used by people use to try to lose or maintain a certain body weight, or follow a diet. There seem to be endless sources that encourage calorie counting, including:
  • Doctors, dietitians and government pamphlets
  • Media and social media
  • Packaged food labels
  • Exercise machines that have electronic displays showing the calories burned off each minute
  • Restaurants that list calories next to menu items
  • Phone apps and watch devices
Actually, it can be near impossible to avoid calorie information!
 
Calorie counting is touted an essential skill for anyone looking to alter their body weight or shape. But the risks and dangers seem to be rarely discussed. Calorie counting may become so habitual that you end up doing it automatically and have great difficulty stopping.
 
Let’s explore some of the risks and flaws of calorie counting in more depth…

Why calorie counting can be problematic

1. Calorie counts are inaccurate

It’s very difficult to determine the total amount of calories needed for an individual. We can take an estimate but the margin of error here is massive. This is because there are so many factors that influence our energy needs, including:

This study out of Stanford University showed that fitness devices including Apple Watch, Basis Peak, Fitbit have a large margin of error when it comes to measuring energy (calorie) expenditure. They showed that the most accurate device was off by an average of 27 percent. And the least accurate was off by 93 percent!

Also, our dietary needs fluctuate across days, weeks and months. Having the same number of calories each day just isn’t how humans are designed. We are not robots.
 
It’s also impossible to precisely calculate the actual calorie content of the food we eat, even with books, apps, and scales! Most calorie counts on food labels are inaccurate. This is because they are based on a system of averages that ignores the complexity of digestion.
 
Recent research reveals how many calories we extract from food depends on:
– which type we eat
– how we prepare our food
-which bacteria are in our gut and
-how much energy we use to digest different foods.
Current calorie counts do not consider any of these factors. Digestion is so intricate that even if we try to improve calorie counts, we will likely never make them perfectly accurate.
 

2. Calorie counting can lead to false attribution

Often, people adjust caloric intake based on daily/weekly weight changes, but this is false feedback. Body mass and fat are affected by many factors. And they fluctuate regardless of calorie consumption (as does the number on the scale). If you limit intake to a certain amount and lose weight, you may falsely assume that the weight loss was because of the calorie rules followed. In fact, it could be down to so many other factors.
 

3. Disrupted body function and cues

Eating according to a calorie limit (rather than internal sensations and drives), disrupts ability feel hunger and fullness cues over time. This makes it harder for your body to regulate intake in the future, meaning we are more vulnerable to eating past comfortable fullness. As well as experiencing increased anxiety about our food intake. Using arbitrary limits can also leave you undernourished. If we are deficient in a nutrient, our body will not function at it’s best and we may experience negative affects on physical and mental health.
 

4. Poor mental health

Strict rules are innately hard to follow. Especially when it comes to fighting our biology and body’s fuel needs as is usually the case with counting calories. When the calorie limit is inevitably broken, this is often seen as a “failure”. This may then contribute to us feeling rubbish about ourselves, and low self-esteem. People who become obsessed with counting calories may calculate and re-calculate figures all day long, and feel anxious about foods when they don’t know the calorie content. They may even avoid situations where this may occur (e.g. restaurants and social occassions).

 
So…. you can see there are many problems with calorie counting. That’s not to say it is a useless tool but in my experience as a dietitian – counting calories is destructive and unhealthy for the majority of my clients. And learning how to stop counting calories is a key step in rediscovering a healthy relationship with food.
 
But, if calorie counting is so flawed, then what’s the alternative? Well, if we let it, your body will do these calculations for you. And communicate the maths through internal signals of hunger and satiety. A non-dieting adult human or animal maintains a stable weight over time, adjusting the body’s intake and performance as needed.
 
The trick is to tune back into your bodies signals of hunger, satiety and fullness – the OG calorie counters!

 

Fruit and Veg at every meal

      5 Steps to Stop Counting Calories

      1. Inform yourself of the dangers/cons of counting calories.

      So you can feel confident in your decision to stop (read the above section on “Why calorie counting can be so problematic”, if you haven’t already)
       

      2. Explore what calorie counting has provided you

      Many times giving up calorie counting may also mean giving up:
      – a sense of control
      – a means of achievement
      – the pursuit of weight loss
      If this is the case for you, it may be worth exploring (with your journal, or in dialogue with a loved-one or a professional) how these patterns came about and healthier ways to cope.
       

      3. Delete sources of calorie information

      Delete the apps. Ditch the fitbit. Avoid reading food labels.
       
      Even if you delete these, you may still find yourself doing sums in your head. That’s ok and it will fade naturally with time as you begin to place emphasis on internal cues to eating (i.e. Intuitive Eating – more on this in point 5). However, if you do catch yourself doing sums, try to distract yourself or interrupt it with a healthier thought.
       

      4. Reduce gradually

      If going cold turkey on calorie counting feels too scary, try cutting down gradually. For example, pick a snack or meal where you won’t count or track and do this for one week. The next week, pick another meal or snack to stop counting, and so on.
       
      If giving up calorie counting is causing lots of anxiety for you, consider seeking help from a registered dietitian or psychologist trained in disordered eating to support you.
       

      5. Learn Intuitive Eating Skills

      Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based approach to rediscover a healthy relationship with food. Using a series of tools and skills, the framework helps you move away from rigid external rules, to finally trust your body and its signals again
       
      A big part of Intuitive Eating is relearning how to listen, and appropriately respond to hunger and satiety cues. This is really helpful when trying to stop counting calories. The freebie below has tips and tools that can help you get started with this.

      Conclusion: How to Stop Counting Calories

      In summary, calorie counting has many flaws, inaccuracies and dangers. If you are feeling fed-up with counting, stopping is certainly possible. Intuitive eating offers an alternative framework for nourishing your body that focuses on hunger and satiety signals, rather than numbers or rigid rules. It provides a structure for you to learn to nourish your body properly, without counting calories.

       
      • Do you want to eat foods that you enjoy without obsessing?
      • Do you want to improve your health through good nutrition, with the most up to date evidence-based advice?
      • Do you want to bin your list of food rules and stop your life revolving around healthy eating or planning what to eat?
       
      If you answered ‘yes’ then Intuitive Eating is right for you! Explore my article on “Intuitive Eating Tips for Those Starting Our” HERE to learn more.
       
      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.
      Is Intuitive Eating Appropriate for Athletes?

      Is Intuitive Eating Appropriate for Athletes?

      Are you an active individual thinking “is Intuitive Eating is appropriate for athletes?” If so, you are in the right place.
       
      It is a common myth that Intuitive Eating and sports nutrition are not compatible.
       
      As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor and Registered Dietitian, let me assure you that they are very compatible. In fact, learning Intuitive Eating skills could potentially benefit your athletic performance.
      From a personal perspective, since implementing intuitive eating, my athletic performance has never been better. My partner is also a gold-medal Olympic athlete and I would certainly class him as intuitive eater!
       
      In short: Intuitive Eating IS Appropriate for Athletes. It just takes some knowledge and practice to know how to use it.

       

      So, how exactly does Intuitive Eating work for Athletes?

       
      Intuitive Eating is often thought of as “eat when hungry, stop when full”. This is a vast oversimplification. Intuitive Eating is using instinct, emotion and rational thought to make eating decisions. In other words, you can use your body knowledge and brain knowledge in unison.

       

      What does this look like in a real world examples for athletes?

      Example 1: imagine you have just finished a training session. You know that having a protein-rich meal or snack soon after will benefit your recovery. But, you’re not physically hungry yet. In this situation you can honour your “brain knowledge” and eat something, despite not feeling hunger. This is coming from a place of self-care (wanting to ensure optimal recovery), which is 100% compatible with Intuitive Eating.
       
      Example 2: It’s mid-afternoon and you’ve already eaten your afternoon snack. An hour later you feel hungry and dinner isn’t for another 2 hours. If you were sticking to a meal plan you might ignore this hunger and wait until dinner to eat. With an intuitive eating approach, you would feel confident to honour your hunger. Energy needs vary day-to-day and hunger is trusted as a reliable indicator that your body will benefit from food in that moment.
       
      Hopefully this helps to demonstrate the nuance of Intuitive Eating and how it can fit with performance goals.

      What are the benefits of Intuitive Eating for Athletes?Benefits of Intuitive Eating For Athletes

      The benefits of intuitive eating in sport include:

        Athletes have high activity levels and high energy expenditures. They also often have little free time on their hands. There are many considerations for an athlete’s diet. These include meal composition, meal timing, and getting enough calories and enough macronutrients.
         
        But, it is certainly possible to do all this AND still be in tune with what your body wants and needs at any given time.
         
        Low energy availability is a common issue in athletes. This is when an athlete is not eating enough to support what they are expending on a daily basis. Lack of dietary energy can lead you to feel pretty miserable. If you are female, you might even be missing your period. This is a big red flag from your body. Trying to get through a one or two-hour practice, training session, or game with a lack of fuel is not going to feel good. It will also negatively impact performance. But low energy availability can be prevented. Intuitive eating may be able to help with this.
         
        Another benefit of intuitive eating is improved body image and body acceptance. We live in an appearance-focused culture. Many people, including athletes, use food and exercise as a way to manipulate their bodies. Diet culture and disordered eating are really common in sports. Intuitive eating is a framework that an athlete can use to step back from this mentality. By honouring body and mind, you may just end up fuelling and performing better than ever! In fact, research has shown that Intuitive Eating may result in greater motivation to train (due to focus being on performance, rather than guilt or appearance).
         
        Intuitive eating can also allow athletes to free up brain space. Worrying about calories burned during a workout or counting food throughout the day gets exhausting. Intuitive eating frees up some of this brain space. You can then use it on other things in life that are meaningful to you such as relationships, career or school.
         

        7 ways you can use Intuitive Eating as an Athlete

         
        Eating intuitively as an athlete involves rejecting rigid food rules. And working out the way of eating that works best for your individual body.
         

        Here’s 7 ways you can begin to do this:

         
        1. Each workout is different. Trust your body. Macronutrient needs differ with each workout. This depends on intensity, duration, injuries, temperature, sleep and so many other factors. A regimented diet plan struggles to account for account for all of this. Listening to your hunger signals and cravings, alongside nutrition knowledge can help you identify how much to eat around workouts.
         
         
        2. Fuel for performance over appearance. As an athlete, you might be abusing food and exercise as a way to manipulate your body to fit a certain standard. Intuitive eating encompasses the principle of Body Respect. It emphasises a positive relationship with food over weight or appearance. To re-gain a healthy relationship with food you may need to gain weight, lose weight, or even stay the same. This can feel scary initially but can be worked through with the correct support. Under-fuelling to fit body ideals harms us physically and mentally. By learning to respect your body, you will feel (and perform) better than ever.
        If you are in a situation where you are required to meet certain weight targets to compete or participate in your sport, then it could be worth reaching our to an eating disorder- informed sports dietitian to help navigate this.
         
        3. Know that all foods fit. An occasional scoop of ice cream or slice of pizza won’t affect your performance goals. Intuitive eating allows you to feel at peace with all foods, whilst honouring your health.
         
        4. Utilise the off-season. Some sports can put pressure on athletes to manipulate physique during the off-season. It is possible to implement intuitive eating all year long. But you can take advantage of this down-time to begin to check in with hunger and satiety cues, and explore food rules.
         
        5. View eating as self-care. View food as nourishment, not punishment. Focus on a way of eating that feels good to you; in body, mind and spirit.
         
        6. Honour your tastebuds. As an athlete you have specific nutritional needs. You can eat intuitively around those needs so ensure eating is still enjoyable! For instance, you likely need to consume protein with each meal. It’s ok to honour your tastebuds and choose the specific type of protein that you enjoy when it comes time to eat. You don’t need to follow a strict diet regimen and can instead eat what makes you feel your best.
         
        7. Free up some brain-space. Spending all day obsessively thinking about macronutrients and calories is exhausting. Applying intuitive eating principles can help you focus on non-sports-related things and free your mind of obsessive food thoughts. This will contribute to a well-rounded lifestyle that positively affects performance and mindset.
         

        That’s a wrap!

        In summary, Intuitive Eating is certainly appropriate for Athletes. Intuitive eating can provide many benefits for athletes. These may include improved performance and a healthier relationship with food and body. If you are interested in individual support from an experienced Dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor, you can learn more about what that looks like here.
         
        Want to read more about intuitive eating? Check out these articles:

         

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