This post has been on my mind for awhile now.
I want to answer a question I get all the time from new clients and readers. It taps into what's probably the biggest barrier and fear stopping people from ditching the diets embracing a non-diet life.
Am I too fat for intuitive eating?
Last week I got an email from a client asking about working together. Something about her words really pulled at my heartstrings - you could almost feel the pain she was in. She had read about intuitive eating and wanted to feel free around food, but was worried that it was only for people who were naturally thin or were content to stay the same larger size. Her words made me pull out my journal and write in big letters so I would remember to write this post.
Intuitive eating is for everyone.
I want to note that I've never worked with anyone, at any size, who has started working on intuitive eating while completely satisfied with their current body size. Feeling content in your own skin is not a prerequisite for intuitive eating. If it was...umm, I'd need to find a new specialty area or be out of a job.
If you're reading this right now in a place where you're completely immersed in diet culture and suffocating in body hatred, it probably feels impossible to imagine yourself one day feeling content with your body. Or just not hating your body for that matter! That's okay. That doesn't mean you can't start treating it with more kindness and respect now while working towards a more positive body image.
When people hear food freedom and ditching diets, I'm pretty sure this is what they imagine:
Or maybe this...
And to be honest, it might feel a little bit like that in the beginning, especially when you first start giving yourself permission to eat what and how much you want. But in the long run, intuitive eating teaches healthy habits that stick, because it's coming from a place of compassion, not control and self hate. Instead of using measuring cups and points and calories to control portions, you'll use your hunger and fullness cues to guide you to the right amount for you, which may change from day to day. Instead of controlling your diet with complicated food rules and good/bad food lists, you'll pay attention to how food makes you feel, which generally makes you want to eat healthier foods, because we all want to feel good. Instead of engaging in unhealthy behaviors to get to an arbitrary ideal weight, you engage in healthy behaviors and let your body settle at what actually is your ideal weight.
Still holding on to the idea of dieting? Sometimes people say they want to diet to their goal weight, then work on intuitive eating. I can understand why that seems appealing - the best of both worlds. But so many factors that would have to go just right - your goal weight would have to be your body's natural weight (it's probably not), you'd have to diet in such a way that you didn't slow your metabolism (that's almost impossible), you'd have to not restrict so much that you trigger major backlash eating when you go to intuitive eating.
Imagine I had someone in my office for counseling right now. Let's say it was a young woman with a very thin body, trying to lose even more weight. She's counting all of her calories on MyFitnessPal, aiming for less than 1,000 a day, 1,200 max. She's cut out sugar and white flour. She works out 6 days a week for usually an hour, mostly intense cardio on the treadmill or a spin class. Each weekend she sets aside hours to meticulously plan her meals. Every day she spends hours in the kitchen cooking and prepping her meals, missing out on dinner with friends because there's nothing she can eat at the restaurant.
You probably think she has an eating disorder, right?
Now imagine this woman had a bigger body, maybe a BMI in the "obese" range. How does your perception change? Society would praise her dedication and willpower. They would cheer her on for showing up to the gym every day. Her behaviors would be held up as an example.
But if those behaviors are unhealthy for someone who is thin, why isn't unhealthy for everyone. Why does society essentially encourage larger people to develop an eating disorder, especially when research shows that 95% of the time, it won't even result in it's desired outcome?
I know it's really scary to give up that weight loss focus, especially if other people are encouraging you to lose weight. But dieting and restriction isn't going to get you to where you want to be physically, and it sure isn't going to make you feel good mentally. Whatever you weigh, you deserve to feel free around food. You deserve to have a life outside of the gym. You deserve to choose food that satisfies you in amounts you need to feel good and energized.
Whatever you weigh,whatever your size, intuitive eating is for you.
Have you hit diet rock bottom?
Are you done with diets and sick of feeling crazy around food? Are you ready to make peace with food and learn how to eat in a way that nourishes your body and soul? If so, I work with clients one on one building a healthy relationship with food and would love to help you. Click here for more information.
Joyful Eating, Nourished Life
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