Podcast Episodes

How to Redefine “Success” With Eating and Weight with Intuitive Eating

April 25, 2022

Self-Paced Course: Non-Diet Academy


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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

I want you to ponder an important question:


Most people have one very specific way of measuring success when it comes to their eating and their bodies, and I think you can probably guess what that is…the scale. 

But here’s the problem with that – the scale doesn’t actually measure health or success.

It simply measures your gravitational pull. (Which really isn’t very exciting when I put it that way, huh?)

If you’re looking to transform your relationship with food, there are some other variables we need to look at. Things that will *actually* help you measure your progress along the way. 

I’m talking about things like:

  • Being able to eat ALL types of food without guilt or shame
  • Not obsessing about your weight
  • Tuning into your body’s signals for hunger, fullness and satisfaction
  • Knowing the difference between fullness vs satisfaction
  • Your flexibility around food, and your ability to be spontaneous with eating while still listening to your body
  • The amount of PEACE and FREEDOM you feel towards food and your body

That list is just a sampling of what is possible when you choose to heal your relationship with food. And none of it is measured on the scale.

On Episode 07 of the Rebuilding Trust with Your Body podcast, I talked about how I measure “success” with my clients and students (so that you can learn what to look for within yourself). I covered:

  1. The faulty ways in which we tend to measure progress, and the pitfalls that this creates
  2. How to redefine “success” with intuitive eating (hint: it’s not measured on the scale)
  3. How to and *actually* measure your progress along the way 


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Search for episode 7 – How to Redefine “Success” With Eating and Weight with Intuitive Eating

Key Quotes

“Weight doesn’t give us any information about the functioning of their internal organs, their mental health, their genetics or anything else. Your weight is simply a measure of your gravitational pull.” – Katy Harvey 

“The weight is not the point of intuitive eating because Intuitive Eating is not for weight loss.” – Katy Harvey 

“It’s time to ditch the scale as a measurement of progress and as a measurement of your self worth.” – Katy Harvey 

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Show Notes:

Most people have one very specific way of measuring success when it comes to their eating and their bodies, and I think you can probably guess what that is…the scale. 

And it goes something like this, imagine yourself getting on the scale today and it’s lower than last time you weighed yourself, and you feel like you are succeeding and are making progress towards your goal. You might even feel like a better or healthier person. There’s a little bit of a high that comes with this, right? 

Now imagine yourself getting on the scale and it’s the same as last time – you might feel disappointed that it didn’t go down, and also relieved that it didn’t go up. But you definitely feel like you didn’t make progress and therefore you aren’t succeeding. You probably feel cautious and like you need to tighten the reins.

And then imagine yourself getting on the scale and you’ve gained weight and you feel like a total failure. Cue the shame spiral. We all know that feeling. You get that pit in your stomach, you feel a hatred and blame towards yourself. You start thinking about all the things you ate or didn’t eat, and whether or not you exercised enough, and what you need to do differently to make sure you don’t gain anymore weight. You might even be tempted to basically punish yourself for gaining. 

Does any of this sound familiar? I get it. I can remember having that relationship with the scale myself many years ago.

And now I don’t even weigh myself, so there is no way for me to measure my success in that way. It’s VERY freeing.

Now, I do want to acknowledge that my experience is very privileged in this regard, because I live in a body that isn’t severely scrutinized for my weight in social settings, or at the doctor’s office. I don’t have doctors telling me that I need to lose weight in order to be healthy. So I have the freedom to not weigh myself and to not stress about that, but I totally understand that many of you listening have the lived experience of your body being VERY scrutinized by family, friends, society, and doctors. And that for some of you your weight has been seen as a problem that needs to be solved, and that it’s basically your moral obligation to do so.

In fact, just the other day in my IEME FB group we were having a discussion about an article that I shared from NPR called “Diet Culture is Everywhere, Here’s how to Fight it.” I’ll link to it in the show notes. I’ll also link to the FB group if you want to come in and hang out with us there.


And our discussion was around the idea that it’s not our moral obligation to make health our primary value and priority in life. Yet diet culture tells us that we should all be trying to achieve and maintain a so-called “healthy weight” and that if we aren’t doing so we are failing and aren’t trying hard enough. (Because if we all tried harder we could achieve the weight of our dreams according to what diet culture tells us.) This is especially true for people at higher weights who are marginalized and their bodies are pathologized because of their weight. And of course, we are also taught that we should measure our HEALTH by our weight. Which is a misleading and problematic way of thinking in the first place. Because weight actually doesn’t tell us anything about a person’s health – it doesn’t give us any information about the functioning of their internal organs, their mental health, their genetics, or anything else. Weight is simply a measure of our gravitational pull. 

So here’s what I want to break down for you today:

  1. The faulty ways in which we tend to measure progress, and the pitfalls that this creates
  2. How to redefine “success” with intuitive eating (hint: it’s not measured on the scale)
  3. How to and *actually* measure your progress along the way 

Make sure you stick around until the end because I also have a free resource that will help you assess where you are at now and your action steps moving forward. 

Ok, so here we go…

The faulty ways in which we tend to measure progress, and the pitfalls that this creates

Like I was saying earlier, most people tend to measure their progress and success on the scale. If their weight is down they are succeeding, and if their weight is up they are failing.

It’s a very all-or-none way of thinking, and it represents what we call a “cognitive distortion” or a “thinking error” in the world of psychology. We ALL have thinking errors, myself included. It’s just part of being a human being, so I don’t want you to feel bad about this at all. It’s all about becoming aware of our tendencies so that we can catch ourselves when it’s happening and help ourselves think in more helpful and compassionate ways towards ourselves and others.

Another way that people tend to measure their success is by whether or not they feel they’ve been eating “healthy.” I put this in air quotes because that’s such a subjective term, and it means something different to each person – because there is no one right or healthy way to eat. 

It’s really easy to feel like you’re failing if you think that you’re not doing intuitive eating the “right way.” I’ve had clients say that they aren’t doing it right because they snacked when they weren’t hungry, or they ate to the point of uncomfortable fullness. What’s interesting here is that people tend to be critical of themselves when they feel like they’ve eaten “too much” but they don’t see it as an issue if there were times they didn’t quite eat enough. We are SO freaking conditioned to see under eating as a positive thing. But if we are truly looking at giving your body what it needs, under eating should theoretically be just as concerning as overeating. Yet in our culture these two things are not seen as morally equivalent. 

We assign so much morality to food, which is part of that good/bad all or none thinking that keeps us stuck in a cycle of battling food and our bodies.

So the two ways that people tend to measure their progress with IE are the scale and whether or not they feel like their eating is “healthy.” 

As a dietitian specialized in intuitive eating, I intentionally DON’T use these things to measure my clients’ progress. And here’s why: 

  • Weight is not an effective measurement of whether or not intuitive eating is “working” for a person. Some people will gain weight with IE, some will stay the same and others will lose weight. Weight is not the point. IE is NOT for weight loss. The creators of IE, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, have flat out said that.
  • It’s actually really normal for weight to go up particularly in the early stages of IE because most of the time a person is learning how to give themselves unconditional permission to eat without restricting. I think it’s important to tell my clients that because many of them freak out if they see that their weight is up and they assume what we’re doing “isn’t working.” 
  • We also can’t use food variety or balance or “healthiness” to measure success, because that’s going to look SO different for each person. In the early stages of IE most people’s eating doesn’t actually look all that balanced. They often find themselves craving their formerly forbidden foods over and over again, and they usually DON’T want the things they were forcing themselves to eat in the name of “health.” I’ve had people repeatedly tell me that they can’t stand the thought of eating a salad, or eating a meal of chicken, brown rice and broccoli ever again. Now, a lot of times that shifts in the later stages of IE where ALL types of food start to sound good at times. But rebelling against those diet-y foods is very important along the way. The further along you get in IE, the less you’ll find yourself eating your formerly forbidden foods just because you can, and the more you’ll find yourself able to truly tune into and listen to your body and what it needs and what will make it feel good on any given day.

So if weight and so-called “healthiness” of food aren’t measures of progress, then how do we define “success” with IE? 

That’s a really important question. Because how do we know if what we are doing is working if we don’t have clarity on what we are aiming for. 

Here are some of the things that I’m usually aiming for with my clients and my students in my online programs:

The #1 thing is acceptance: ACCEPTANCE of their body’s naturally genetically predetermined body size and shape. ACCEPTANCE of the fact that a balanced and flexible relationship with food is healthier than a rigid and judgmental relationship with food. ACCEPTANCE of our feelings and life circumstances that are hard, and not using food or dieting behaviors to numb or distract from this. That’s a lot, right?

 The other things that represent success with IE – it basically boils down to the 10 principles of IE that are defined in the Intuitive Eating book by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

We look at how are you doing with:

  1. Rejecting the diet mentality
  2. Honoring your hunger (And do you even know what hunger feels like?)
  3. Making peace with food
  4. Challenging the food police
  5. Allowing for satisfaction with food
  6. Feeling your fullness
  7. Coping with emotions with kindness
  8. Respecting your body (this is the body image piece of IE)
  9. Moving your body in ways that feel good to you (rather than forcing yourself to exercise as a chore)
  10. Gentle nutrition

As you can see, this is a lot that we are aiming for, and it’s complicated. This will take time – years for most people – and it’s important to give yourself the grace and patience to work through the process. And note that nowhere in there are we assessing success via weight. 

So now that we know what we are aiming for, how do you actually assess your progress along the way. How do you know if it’s “working” or not? 

This is where it gets a bit more subjective. We look at how are you feeling along the way. How are you feeling about food, about your body. And of course there are going to be times that you aren’t feeling great about these things because we are rebelling against diet culture, but there will also likely be part of you that feels more connected to your body, and more free to listen to what your body is telling you, and more free to be able to enjoy food and to be able to participate in life situations that involve food without being so stressed out about it.

This last round of holidays there were SO many people in my FB group that were saying how much better they felt about the holidays now that they aren’t stressed out about the food. It was a true celebration of how far they had come in their food freedom journeys.

There doesn’t have to be specific ways of measuring or assessing yourself along the way. In fact, I usually encourage people to move away from that. We aren’t here to grade ourselves – that creates judgment and shame, which aren’t helpful when it comes to eating.

If you are someone who is very data oriented though, I can understand that. And you certainly can play around with things like the IE workbook where they have some short quizzes and self-assessments where you could periodically re-take it to see where you’re at and if your answers are changing along the way.

The workbook is great because it also gives you a lot of activities and writing prompts to use. So I highly recommend.

For some people they are able to see positive changes in certain biomarkers in their bloodwork. I want to be really careful with this though. Because let’s say that you have pre-diabetes or diabetes and you don’t see your A1c come down with IE – that doesn’t mean you are failing. Same thing if your blood pressure or cholesterol doesn’t come down. So many of those health parameters are driven by our genetics and social determinants of health, that we can’t chalk it all up to food and movement. But for some people, those things do improve with IE, especially when we apply some of the gentle nutrition strategies – which are going to look different for each person based on their body’s medical and genetic needs. 

So I don’t mean to get too vague or in the weeds about all of this. My point here is that the way you’re going to be able to assess your progress along the way is going to be more about the quality of your life. Are you feeling more at ease with food, more comfortable around food, less obsessed about food, less obsessed about your weight, less judgmental about your eating. Those are the things that we are looking for. 

And to bring this full circle, we want to step away from defining “success” with this process as a number on the scale. We are WAY too conditioned to think that way by diet culture where you can measure if the diet is “working” by what’s happening on the scale. IE doesn’t work that way.

With IE we are going to look at the way that you are existing with food and existing in your body, and the amount of peace and freedom that you are gaining along the way. Those things are hard to measure and quantify. And part of the healing process is to be able to tolerate this ambiguity and the fact that we aren’t going to have this specific way to measure whether you are succeeding or failing as a human being the way that the scale does. It’s time to ditch the scale as a measurement of progress – and of your self-worth.

And I mentioned that I had a free resource for you here at the end. It’s my guide to the phases of becoming a non-dieter and an intuitive eater. It breaks the process into 5 phases, with specific things you can work on at each step along the way. I covered all of these phases in depth in episode 2 of the podcast, so go back and listen that if you haven’t already. And you can grab a free copy of the guide at nondietacademy.com/phases.

Let’s get connected! 

Instagram: @katyharvey.rd

Facebook: KatyHarveyRD

Website: https://nondietacademy.com


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