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Struggling with Intuitive Eating? FAQs with Evelyn Tribole

Evelyn Tribole is one of the co-authors of the pivotal book, Intuitive Eating, and is a total science and research badass. I recently got a chance to ask her some critical questions about her work, including topics like: 

1. Common pitfalls and challenges that clients may struggle with early on in Intuitive Eating…and how to move past them.

2. The critical importance of shifting our mindset (and diet-mentality) around food, rather than simply approaching Intuitive Eating like it’s the “hunger-and-fullness diet.”

3. We do some serious myth-de-bunking on the divisive topic of “food addiction” (which I also discuss at length in this podcast), and discuss why shifting our perspective on this issue is critical to recovery.

4. We talk about the highly sensitive topic of “gentle nutrition,” and how to approach this concept safely (and sanely) in recovery, with respect for different health situations and scenarios.

5. For the history nerds out there, we’ll also discuss the historical evolution of Intuitive Eating, and how it’s shifted to include principles like Health At Every Size,  Weight Set Point Theory, and the critical need for body-image work and stigma-resistance work in ED and diet-recovery treatment.

Without further ado, I hope you enjoy the track below!

(You can also find more posts about these subjects in my blog at the top of this page).

Resisting Fatphobia (A Social Justice Perspective on Size)

First, what is fatphobia?

In a highly over-simplified nutshell,

Fatphobia is any number of beliefs, attitudes, or ideas that rest on the assumption that “thin is good” and “fat is bad.” 

Fatphobia includes any actions, statements, exclusions, designs, or policy frameworks that assume this view—rather than respect and celebrate the reality of body-diversity in our world.

Fatphobia is being proliferated around us all the time, affecting so many areas of our lives (individually, collectively; emotionally, physically, etc.), that it is unreasonable to believe any individual could escape this cultural force unscathed, or unaffected, in our current social climate.

Realizing that escape, denial, and/or attempts at assimilation (e.g. dieting) are NOT suitable solutions to the problems posed by fatphobia—we are left with one option: 


We reject those forces, structures and ideas that rank acceptability of bodies on a scale.

We stand up for our right to exist proudly in our own bodies, and for all other persons who have the right to exist in theirs.

We explore, identify and challenge our own fatphobic beliefs on an ongoing basis—reviewing both our own self-judgment, as well as our judgment of others.

We question research, institutions, authority figures, and social structures that uphold fatphobic ideals.

We educate ourselves about alternative paradigms (e.g. Health At Every Size, or weight-neutral Intuitive Eating).

We say no to media, institutions, and in some contexts, relationships that deny the humanity of non-conforming bodies, and/or put our own bodies or recovery at risk.

We seek to understand fatphobia and other systems of oppression (e.g. sexism, racism, ableism, and others) so that we may be more skilled in challenging these ideologies when they become known to us.

We acknowledge our privilege where it exists, and fight for the rights of marginalized people, understanding that “no one is free until we are all free.” (*)

We practice those skills and action steps that dismantle oppressive systems—that serve to protect, liberate, and improve the lives of all affected.

“Resistance,” in a nutshell, is the conscious and intentional practice of these skills—not only for the purpose of healing ourselves but for the purpose of healing the world at large. 

*And yes, I just quoted Martin Luther King Jr.

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When I learn “Intuitive Eating,” will I lose weight?

coachingSmall1Dear Isabel,

I understand that trying to eat intuitively while focusing on weight is impossible, and I also know that weight is not an accurate measurement of health.

But I’d still like to know: if I do get it “right-ish” with food (e.g. heal my binge-eating, and learn to eat “normally”) can I expect weight loss as a result? In other words, will I lose weight in the *long run* through practicing Intuitive/”Normal” Eating?

Good question. The truth is, you might lose weight and you might not.

It all depends on where your body weight currently falls relative to your natural “set point” weight. Your set point weight is the weight that your body naturally tends towards in the absence of interference (e.g. diet-binge cycling, or intentional meddling with your size), and everyone’s set point weight is different.

While a “normal eater” may naturally fluctuate around their set point by 5-10lbs, a dieter (or someone struggling with diet-mentality) may fluctuate more severely—leaving you farther from, or nearer to, your natural set point weight (up or down) depending on where you currently are in your personal yo-yo cycle.

To use myself as an example—at my lowest weight in the diet-binge cycle, I was about 35lbs less than my current natural set point weight (that is, the weight I naturally maintain without effort); and at my highest weight in the diet-binge cycle, I was about 20lbs heavier than my current natural set point weight.

When I chose to stop dieting for real, I happened to be somewhere in between—about 10lbs above my current set point weight, and therefore lost about 10lbs when I healed my relationship with food. That being said, had I stopped dieting at a different point in my weight cycle, that number might be completely different—it all depends on where your weight is now, relative to your natural set point weight.

**It’s also worth noting that when I first stopped dieting, I initially gained weight in the first year or so, and then lost weight over the following couple of years. Not only is everyone’s “end result” different, the road to our set point is not always a straight line—likely because recovery from our “food issues” doesn’t usually happen in a straight line either. It usually looks more like this.**

Also, for those of you dying to know,

the only way to find out what your personal set point weight is—is to work towards developing a healthful relationship with food (both physically and mentally) and see what happens.

Don’t bother assuming or trying to guess what you *think* it is (or ‘should be’)—as that’s a trap that will surely keep you in the cycle. Guessing creates expectationwhich fast-tracks you to self-judgement around food (aka emotional or subconscious restriction; which almost always leads to binge-eating, emotional eating and continued swings for those struggling with diet-mentality).

Guessing your set point range is also pointless because your set point range can change over time. In other words, just because you were 140lbs when you first started dieting, doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily go back to that pre-dieting weight after years of restriction. Some factors that may affect your set point over time include things like age, pregnancy/child-birth, hormones, and diet-history.

Yup—dieting can push up your set point weight range over time—as restriction that leads to temporary weight loss, can also lead to permanent changes in your metabolism in the other direction. This is likely why dieting is the number one risk factor for increased weight over time. 

Ultimately, you will likely always bounce around your set point weight over time, because your body is constantly fighting to get there, and it’s a lot stronger than your will power (for literally 95% of people—hence the phrase, “diets don’t work”). Most people are not capable of “changing” their set point weight, or dieting below it for very long before they inevitably rebound. In other words, your set point weight is your “sustainable” weight by definition

Given this information, the real question is, do you want to embrace your set point weight, stop diet-binge cycling, and eat relatively “normally?”

OR do you want to keep trying to suppress it against all odds, experience more dramatic swings around it (in both directions), with a likelihood of pushing your weight up further and further over time?

I personally chose to cut my losses on attempts at weight suppression—a side effect of which, was that I stopped bingeing over time.

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Dealing with weight as a social issue…

Social Issue PhotoLoving our bodies as they are today requires a commitment to being proudly ourselves in spite of potential judgments by others

There is no denying that weight stigma (that is judgement on the basis of size) is an unfortunate reality of the society in which we live.

That being said,

we have two choices in how we can respond to to this social issue today:

#1 – We can pander to it.
We can stay in on Friday nights.
We can honor the social systems that oppress us.
We can wear pants when it’s 90 degrees.
We can deny ourselves dinner dates because we’re scared of the menu.
We can wear t-shirts during sex.
We can NOT have sex.
We can blame ourselves for behaviors that are direct consequences of dieting and body shame (i.e. emo & binge-eating).
We can fear food.
We can weight-cycle (the technical term for yo-yo dieting that is clinically understood to be far more dangerous for our bodies than fatness of any kind).
We can starve ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually 

…all in the name of prejudice, primarily towards women’s bodies, but increasingly towards men’s as well.


#2 – We can choose to be proudly ourselves in the face of bias;
We can stop hiding.
We can buy clothes we like now;
We can enjoy our food choices;
We can go swimming in the ocean, in a bathing suit, in daylight.
We can make love with the lights on;
We can take a stand for ourselves and all others affected by a culture of weight discrimination;
We can choose health at any size.
We can show up to our college reunion (and even get down with our bad selves?)
We can refuse to participate in body shaming behaviors (including dieting for weight loss, derogatory body talk, and/or “health shaming”).
We can live fiercely today rather than wait indefinitely for a certain body size,

…how long have you been waiting? How many years do you have left on this precious planet Earth?

The choice is yours.  

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