3 Myths about “Intuitive Eating”

MythIf you’re new to the concept of “Intuitive Eating” — Intuitive Eating is, in essence, the practice of listening to one’s own body signals when making decisions about food, rather than taking direction from an external source (like Dr. Oz or a traditional diet). As it becomes more commonly understood that traditional diets directly cause binge-eating, Intuitive Eating is more often being recommended as an alternative “non-diet approach” to eating, particularly when dealing with binge-eating, emotional eating or other dysregulated behaviors around food.

I’ve written extensively about how Intuitive Eating, while very helpful, is not always in and of itself enough to heal women’s food issues entirely — since diet-mentality (that is, diet-like, black-and-white, fail-success, thinkingcan easily be applied to it accidentally.

Today I want to continue this conversation…

Here a few common myths (or misunderstandings) about Intuitive Eating, that I often see come between women and their greatest freedom from binge-eating and other forms of dysregulated eating: 

MYTH #1 — “Successful” intuitive eaters will be thin and/or lose weight. 

While intuitive eating is often sold to women as a weight loss tool, the reality is, that no approach (intuitive eating, or dieting alike) has been proven to successfully force any particular body-type into the arbitrary ideal of thinness that society dictates in the long term. We are not all iPhone 6’s designed to look (and eat) exactly the same. Body diversity — that is, the idea that different human bodies are naturally inclined to be different shapes and sizes, with different body fat percentages, different BMIs, etc. — is a real thing, that we, as society, need to embrace.

Why? For starters, ignoring the existence of body diversity is one of the biggest problems in our current health care system, society as a whole, and certainly our current understanding of “food issues” like binge-eating. Putting aside the fact that ignoring body diversity (rather than celebrating it) is systematically oppressive, arguably discriminatory, and does nothing but keep people obsessed with attaining a body shape that we’re not even sure is possible or healthful for them, it also encourages diet-binge cycling, rather than heals it. More on this here…

MYTH #2 — A person’s “success” in managing a problematic relationship with food, should be based on their ability to diligently “eat intuitively” (that is, eat only when hungry, and stop when full). 

I personally think emotional eating is overly vilified in our society (it’s not heroin guys…it’s just food), and that vilification is creating a lot of problems in how we address binge-eating. Most notably, vilifying emotional eating often keeps people in a special version of the diet-binge cycle that I call: “the-don’t-eat-emotionally-diet” followed by crazy binges when we inevitably fall off the wagon.

I’d much rather measure someone’s “progress” by their personal feelings of freedom from obsessive thoughts, self-judgement, body shame, and generally feeling crazy around food and weight — which, interestingly enough, is often correlated with declining instances of emotional eating anyway. You are infinitely less likely to turn to food for comfort if you’re not obsessed with food and weight in the first place. Interesting right?

MYTH #3 — Intuitive Eating is something you can “fail” or “succeed” at to begin with. 

Intuitive Eating is not a test — you can’t “fail” or “succeed” at it inherently, and thinking about it in those terms only keeps you in the self-judgement that created this “food problem” to begin with.

In my observation, the most sane and happy intuitive eaters are generally those who view intuitive eating as a tool for understanding their bodies’ needs, rather than as a yardstick for measuring their “success” or as a set of boundaries by which to boss themselves around.

Anytime you think you’re “succeeding” or “failing” at eating, you’re likely in diet-mentality thinking — and likely going to end up with the same results as every other diet you’ve tried… *ahem* BINGE-EATING *ahem.* 

You can read more about the effects of “diet thinking” on binge-eating in my video series here!

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