Body Image

What they Won’t Tell You About Intuitive Eating That I Will

June 4, 2024

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

Welcome back to Rebuilding Trust With Your Body, I’m Katy Harvey your host. Today on the show we are going to be getting real, spilling the tea as they say. This episode was inspired by a recent conversation I had with one of my previous Non-Diet Academy clients, and she told me that there were a few things that I was really honest and transparent with her about that she hasn’t heard in other intuitive eating spaces, and how much she appreciated me setting realistic expectations for her in this process. So essentially, I’m here to tell you the truth about some key elements of intuitive eating today, without sugar coating it. It’s easy for social media to paint a picture of food freedom being all about eating donuts and pizza and not caring what others think, and loving your body, and all this pollyanna stuff – but that’s not actually how it’s intended to work. 

It’s normal to gain some weight in 1st 6 months and then it stabilizes

This might freak some people out, but I believe it’s helpful to know what to expect so that you can work through the fear and discomfort rather than freaking out and bailing on the intuitive eating process. In my experience, it’s pretty common to gain some weight in the first 6 months, which makes sense because you’re coming out of deprivation and you’re bringing back in those foods you weren’t letting yourself have, and you’re getting reacquainted with your hunger and fullness signals. It’s a lot to juggle, but your body truly will figure it out and you’ll find that balance and homeostasis with your eating and your weight if you give it a chance. 

As a loose rule of thumb, if you’re continuing to gain weight past about 6 months, there’s a good chance that something’s not clicking quite right, and we’d want to take a look at that to see where you might not be applying the principles of intuitive eating as they’re intended. If that describes you, feel free to reach out and shoot me a DM and we can chat. I can usually tell pretty quickly when I’m working with a client what’s not working and what we need to hone in on, and that’s the benefit of working with an intuitive eating dietitian who has done this for a while, because we have good spidey senses for things based on the work we’ve done over and over with other people, so we have a good sense of the pitfalls and mistakes that people tend to make, or the things that will trip people up. 

Self-acceptance of your body happens slowly, and it’s normal to still yearn to be a smaller size on some days

It’s easy to look at all the intuitive eating stuff online and to hear people talking about how they let go of dieting and now they accept their bodies. I know this is hard to wrap your mind around, and especially if you’re seeing one thin white woman after another talking about how she accepts her body, and you’re not in a thin body, it can feel like they don’t know what they’re talking about, or it’s easy for them because they fall into society’s standard of what’s acceptable. (Elephant in the room, I am a thin white woman who talks about intuitive eating – and I try to be really mindful of how I talk about my body and body acceptance because I know it can come off as tone deaf for people who live in larger bodies.) 

We can’t have this conversation without talking about the fact that weight stigma and anti-fat bias are very real things. And it’s one thing to try to accept your body internally for yourself, but it’s another thing to have to exist in a fat body in a world that hates fat people. 

When it comes to self-acceptance of your body, it’s often one of the longest and hardest parts of the process. There might be grief work that comes with it. You may need to grieve the fact that you spent so many years (even decades) of your life dieting and trying to shrink your body, only to end up here. What I can tell you is that you will be glad that you worked on self-acceptance in the long run. It’s hard, and there absolutely will be days that you still yearn to be in a smaller body, but the further along you get in this work the more you’ll realize that you truly are worthy of love, acceptance and belonging in the body that you have on any given day. This is some deep healing work, because it’s not just about the appearance of your body. It’s about the deeply held beliefs you have about yourself and your worthiness as a human being. Be patient with yourself as you work on this. 

Intuitive eating is not, “eat whatever you want, whenever you want.” That’s impulsive eating.

This is the #1 mistake that I see people making over and over again. The social media version of intuitive eating often makes it sound like we should just eat whatever, whenever, and call it intuitive eating and food freedom. Now, yes, you do have unconditional permission to eat what you want to eat, without feeling guilty. That’s absolutely 100% true. AND if you’re actually eating intuitively and listening to your body, you’re not going to be having a free-for-all with food. 

Listening to your body means honoring your hunger (which also means NOT eating when you’re not actually hungry), and honoring your fullness. It also means slowing down choosing food that’s genuinely satisfying and also makes your body feel good. If we’re just having a free-for-all with food we’re usually not paying attention to how our body feels. We’re only focusing on what tastes good. That’s not how intuitive eating is intended to work. Intuitive eating is about slowing down and being in tune with your body, your thoughts and your emotions, and making choices from a place of self-care and self-compassion – rather than just eating whatever pops into your head.

My client said, “I don’t think anyone should start intuitive eating based on the book alone. Your Non-Diet Academy and FB group, along with my intuitive eating dietitian made all the difference.”

I’m not saying this to brag about myself or my programs, although I do obviously think Non-Diet Academy is pretty awesome. The part of this I want you to soak in is where she said, “I don’t think anyone should start intuitive eating based on the book alone.” 

In looking back on my own intuitive eating journey, I did it with just the book, and at the time podcasts, online courses and FB groups weren’t a thing. Intuitive eating dietitians also weren’t a thing that I had ever heard of, and even if I had I’m not sure that I would have been open to seeing one. I think my ego would have gotten in my way and I would have told myself that I am a dietitian so why would I need to work with one – which is so naive and short-sighted. I LOVE working with other dietitians as clients. We get to geek out and use our shared expertise to help them on their journey, and I wish I would have been open to some type of support like that. 

I have had numerous clients come to me and share that they wish they would have sought out coaching and support sooner, because they tried to figure out intuitive eating on their own for a couple of years and they ended up spinning their wheels. Definitely do read the book – I think that’s essential and foundational for understanding what intuitive eating actually is, but I also don’t think it’s sufficient on its own for most people to be able to find the peace and neutrality with food that they’re looking for.

Healing your relationship with food is probably going to take years, not months.

I know that this might be deflating to hear, but I want you to pace yourself and have realistic expectations. I frequently see people online talking about how they’ve been doing intuitive eating for X months and they’re frustrated that they don’t have it all figured out yet. This is a byproduct of diet culture promising us quick results. That’s not how this works. If you’ve spent years (or even decades) dieting, trying to lose weight, going back and forth between restrictive eating and binge eating, and you have a stressful relationship with food – it’s going to take time to undo this. My client told me, “I’m so glad you tell people it’s a much longer process. I wish I’d known at the start to take it slow and gentle.” 

You might be wondering, “How many years are we talking? 1, 3, 5…10?!” I can’t tell you for sure. I would never lie to you about this, and I’m not going to sugar coat it. What I can tell you is that it’s a process of ups and downs, and truth be told you learn more from the challenges than you do when things are going well. If you can embrace this journey as one of deep inner healing and self-discovery you’ll start to see that you gain so much from the process, and it’s worth it to allow it to unfold at its own pace. Our relationship with food is often symbolic of the relationship we have with ourselves at a much deeper level. When we feel guilty about eating that slice of cake, or undeserving of eating that bagel, we feel that way because we don’t feel worthy as a person, as we are in that moment. I encourage you to give yourself the space to go at your own pace. 

Now, are there ways that you can speed up the process so it doesn’t drag on forever, and you don’t get stuck? Yes, absolutely. The process of healing your relationship with food and your body image will go faster if you have support, strategies and tools, and a way to get feedback on what you’re doing and what you’re struggling with and guidance on how to make adjustments or look at things differently. 

It will go faster when you have support, and you’re much less likely to get frustrated and defeated and to give up if you have support. A lot of people give up on intuitive eating because they feel like it doesn’t work for them, when they could have worked through their challenges and roadblocks had they had the right guidance. So don’t give up on yourself or this process. It’s not easy, it’s not quick, but it absolutely is worth it, and I believe that in my soul.   

You don’t have to eat exactly what you’re craving every time you eat. 

There are 2 pieces to this:

1) The first is that sometimes when we eat food will be just ok, nothing exciting, just good enough. It will be a 3/10 instead of a 10/10, and that’s ok. I had a client once who had this lightbulb moment when she realized that she was doing what she called “emotionally NOT eating.” What she meant by this was she would be hungry and wanting to eat, but if the exact thing she was hungry for wasn’t available she wouldn’t eat anything. She had this emotional attachment to ONLY wanting to eat things that sounded good in the moment. 

Now, yes, when possible we want to eat what sounds good, and it’s great when an eating experience can be a 10/10. But that’s not realistic to expect every eating experience to be this way. Sometimes food is just going to be fuel, and we have to be flexible with that. 

We sometimes have to fuel up with what’s available even if we don’t want to, and even if it’s not the food we would have preferred. This is part of taking care of our bodies and honoring our hunger.

2) The second piece of not eating exactly what you’re craving every time is that just because you have a craving for a food doesn’t mean you have to immediately honor that craving. I know this sounds counter to intuitive eating, but it’s not. This is related to “impulsive eating” that I mentioned earlier. 

Let me give you an example. The other day I was catching up on some episodes of The Voice (one of my favorite shows), and there was a commercial for Burger King and the sandwich they were showing looked really good. I had the thought, “Oooh that sounds so good right now!” But that doesn’t mean that I needed to get in my car and drive to Burger King, or that I’m depriving myself if I don’t. If I truly wanted it, I could plan to get it sometime in the upcoming week. By the next morning I wasn’t even thinking about it anymore though. 

Just because something looks good, or sounds good, doesn’t mean you need to eat it immediately. Intuitive eating means slowing down and checking in with our bodies to see if we are hungry, and if so, what we are hungry for AND what’s going to make our bodies feel good and function well. 

I hope that this real talk has been helpful for you today. I know it’s not the “woo hoo” side of intuitive eating, but it’s important for us to have these authentic conversations about what it looks like to actually do this work to heal your relationship with food. There’s so much misinformation out there from diet culture and wellness culture – and there’s also a lot of misinformation about intuitive eating online too. I’m so grateful to have people like you who listen to this podcast and who are in my world who are dedicated to going deeper and sifting through the messiness of it all. 

If you are looking for some additional support, feel free to reach out to me via email, I’m at, or shoot me a DM on IG or FB. My inbox is always open and we can have a chat about what you’re struggling with and what you need some support on. I’ve got several ways we can work together in varying capacities and at various price points, so just reach out if you’re interested and we can figure out what would work best for you. 

In the meantime, as always, be gentle with yourself, and we’ll talk again soon!

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Search for Episode 129: How to Increase Your Odds of Binge Eating and Gaining Weight

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