Can You Lose Weight & Eat Intuitively?

Can you pursue weight loss and still eat intuitively? Or does that defeat the purpose? In this blog post we’ll dive into what research says about dieting for weight loss and what happens with weight when you start eating intuitively.

I want to start by saying there are so many nuances to this topic and the answer can be different for every single one of you who reads this depending on you as an individual. But I’ll get into more of why that is later on.

First, I want you to reflect on your own weight loss journey…

What does your own journey look like?

  • Was it sustainable or did you feel deprived?
  • Were you able to enjoy every social situation while you were pursuing weight loss?
  • What emotions did this journey evoke?
  • What happened once you reached your weight loss goal?

Typically what I see as a dietitian is that my clients have tried numerous diets throughout their lifetime and feel very discouraged by the results. They’ve experienced losing weight only to gain it right back. They’ve experienced feeling stressed or anxious about social situations and FOMO from not being able to be fully present and enjoy these moments. They’ve felt guilty, shameful and pressured to do more and lose more. And once they’ve reached their weight loss goal, they’ve tried to let up some and they’ve felt like they were falling off the wagon.

Can you relate?

The goal of intuitive eating is to bring you back to your home – your body. It is to give you complete freedom to eat without guilt and to enjoy life without stress or anxiety. To allow you to live life fully without food being the sole focus of every thought or action. Could you do all of this when you were on your weight loss journey?

If you can relate to all of this and you don’t feel like you are able to enjoy life to the fullest while dieting, you’re not alone. And research has shown that striving for weight loss through dieting doesn’t actually give you the results you’re striving for…

What does science say about dieting for weight loss?

Research has shown…

  • the average person tries 126 “fad” diets throughout their lifetime
  • the average person tries 3 to 4 diets per year
  • 95% of diets fail to provide success
  • 2/3 of people who successfully lose weight on a diet, gain back the weight (if not more) within 5 years

So you’re aware that dieting hasn’t worked for you or else you wouldn’t be here reading more on intuitive eating to see if it’s a fit for you. But, how can you listen to your body and still lose weight?

In order to listen to your body, weight loss has to be put on the back burner… I know, not the answer you wanted to hear, however let me tell you why.

External vs. Internal Cues

When starting to eat intuitively, it is important to focus less on external cues (the scale, fitness trackers, calorie tracking apps, etc) and more on internal cues (hunger, fullness, cravings/desires, and satisfaction). Why is this? Let’s reflect again…

When dieting, what tools did you use to indicate success?

How did they make you feel when they didn’t indicate success? When they did?

How did they impact your thoughts and actions towards food?

Typically, external cues tell you what, when and how much to eat! When you don’t follow that exactly and/or the tool doesn’t indicate success – you likely feel discouraged, disheartened, like a failure and you likely binge.

When you focus on these external cues, they keep you from being able to hear, understand, trust and honor the internal cues your body gives you because you are putting trust into and depending on these external tools to tell you what to do rather than your own body. Which goes against the main focus of intuitive eating.

The Bottom Line

Yes, you can lose weight and eat intuitively, however it is not the overall goal. What typically happens is that your body adjusts to what we call your Set Point Weight, which is based off the Set Point Weight Theory. This theory states that our bodies have a weight range that our bodies feel most healthy at and that they strive to stay around this weight.

The overall goal of intuitive eating is to take the focus away from these external cues and start healing your relationship with food, so that you can feel physically, mentally and emotionally your best!

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