Today’s episode is going to be pretty powerful. We are going to look at why you might not be making the progress you’d want to see with intuitive eating.
I’ve seen a lot of people get started with intuitive eating and body acceptance and end up feeling really stuck. They’ll choose to stop dieting, and they’ll start trying to listen to their body, and at first it can be really freeing and exhilarating, but then when the newness wears off they start to second-guess themselves. They think, “What am I doing? This can’t possibly be healthy for me!”
Just the other day someone in my FB group said to me, “I’m afraid that I am different, and that I’m not capable of intuitive eating and that I will always eat impulsively.” And someone else said, “My fear is that I’m overweight and will gain more and feel terrible and end up hiding away in shame again.” She also said she’s afraid she’ll be stuck in between intuitive eating and dieting. I really hear that. And that’s EXACTLY where a lot of people do get stuck. But you’re not going to, my friend, because today we are going to talk about this and I’m going to show you how to move through it.
Today you’re going to stop beating yourself up, and you and I are going to get to the root of how to actually make peace with your body.
3 takeaways to getting you unstuck right away
Takeaway #1: Stop labeling yourself as overweight
Your weight is not a personality trait. Yes, you might be objectively fat, and I use that term neutrally. But let’s get rid of the labels of overweight and obese, because they are being used to pathologize bodies based on their size, and it’s not a helpful way to think about your body. Think about it this way: When you say “I’m overweight” – over WHAT weight? If you’re categorizing yourself based on the weight ranges that we acquired from the BMI then we’ve got a problem, because the BMI is junk science to begin with. Your weight is a measure of your gravitational pull, not a measure of your character. You might be at the point right now where your weight is impacting your mobility, or where your doctor is telling you that you have to lose weight for your health. We can address all of those concerns without calling yourself “overweight.” Let’s practice speaking about your body without judgment. Because the judgment is getting in your way of you being able to actually do the things that are going to make you feel better physically and mentally.
Takeaway #2: There are 2 kinds of impulsive eating
There is destructive impulsive eating and productive impulsive eating.
If you’re mostly just eating whatever you want, whenever you want, then you’re not actually eating intuitively. This is the destructive type of impulsive eating that keeps you disconnected from your body, because you’re not actually checking in with your hunger or your fullness. You’re just eating because the thought or the urge popped into your head. A lot of people do this and they call it intuitive eating, and they are frustrated when they keep gaining weight, or when their bloodwork gets worse. That’s because they are still overriding their body’s signals and they’re not actually in tune with what their body is telling them.
Then there’s the productive type of impulsive eating. This is more of that spontaneous type of eating, where you have the freedom with food and trust with yourself to know that sometimes we all eat things just because it sounds good or looks good. Sometimes we pop that piece of candy into our mouth because we wanted something sweet, or we eat the handful of chips because they were sitting there and they looked good. Having the FREEDOM to do this, and to not judge yourself or beat yourself up for it is one of the best and most incredible parts of intuitive eating. This part is essential for having a well-rounded and healthy relationship with food. We don’t want you ONLY allowing yourself to eat when you are a certain degree of hungry, because at that point you’re turning it into a hunger/fullness diet. We want there to be room for spontaneity, while also listening to your appetite cues most of the time.
Takeaway #3: You can FULLY heal your relationship with food
You don’t lack willpower, you’re not lazy, there’s nothing wrong with you. You can learn how to think, feel and behave differently with food and towards your body. You’ve been stuck in a viscous cycle, trying to figure out the best way to eat and how to feel better about your body – and because we were all born into a culture that was already obsessed with dieting, you fell into this trap that was perfectly set for you, and that’s not your fault. As you are learning about the biological and psychological reasons that dieting doesn’t work – and is never going to work – as a lasting solution for body, you now have the opportunity to go all-in with learning how to do things differently. It takes a lot of work and learning, and un-learning, to heal your relationship with food and to get to where you have genuine peace and acceptance towards your body (even on the days you don’t like it and you wish it looked different). You can get to where you have peace with that. I’m not talking about the “giving up” or “letting yourself go” type of peace. I’m talking about genuine, heartfelt peace and compassion towards your body, and the contentment and confidence that you have yearned to have for so long. You CAN get there, and we are going to talk about HOW to do that today.
Why you’re not making progress with intuitive eating and body acceptance.
There are 4 main reasons why this might be happening for you. And I want you to be brutally honest with yourself about which of these reasons describes you. Chances are you’re going to see that you’re doing at least 3 if not all 4 of these things. And if you are, don’t beat yourself up. You’re not failing. You simply didn’t know any better – and we can fix that! Remember how Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” That’s what we’re doing here today. And before we even talk about these reasons you’re stuck, let’s first of all step back and think about how far you’ve come. You’ve already made the decision to step away from dieting, and to start reconnecting with your body. That’s so freaking awesome. Not many people have the wisdom or the courage to do that. The vast majority of adults are hung up on some version of diet mentality, and a significant portion of adults are currently on a diet. So give yourself credit for doing this uncomfortable work in the first place, because it really is counter-cultural in a good way.
Reason #1: You’re winging it without an actual strategy.
If you read about intuitive eating and decided to give it a try without reading the book or having a full understanding of the 10 Principles, you’re going to have issues because you don’t understand what you’re actually supposed to be doing. It would be like trying to cook a pasta dish with a special sauce for dinner by only looking at the picture, and then winging it and hoping it turns out as delicious as it’s supposed to be. You might be able to kind of, sort of figure out how to make it but it’s probably going to be easier and taste better if you actually read and follow the directions.
You see, intuitive eating is more than just hunger and fullness, and it’s more than just eating whatever you want whenever you want. Hunger and fullness are only 2 out of the 10 principles, and like I mentioned earlier the whole “eat whatever you want, whenever you want” thing is impulsive eating, not true intuitive eating. And there are destructive and productive versions of impulsive eating, and we want there to be room for spontaneity in your relationship with food, but if you aren’t fully understanding all 10 Principles and how they work in conjunction with each other, then you’re going to miss out on some of the key elements that make intuitive eating work as it is intended to work.
One of the best and most effective ways to fast track your progress and get you to where you want to be sooner is to work with a trained professional. You see, those of us who are trained in this approach are able to see things from the bird’s eye view, and we also can tell when somebody is misinterpreting or misapplying the principles, so we can help you shift how you’re approaching it so it actually works well for you. In the episode where I talked about things I wish I had done when I was first getting started on my own intuitive eating journey, I shared that I wish I would have worked with an intuitive eating dietitian or had taken a course on intuitive eating. Back then I knew NOTHING about intuitive eating dieticians or counselors, and online courses didn’t even exist.
I went ahead and created the course that I wish I would have had. It’s called Non-Diet Academy and many of you have taken it and loved it. I basically took what I had learned from my extensive training on intuitive eating treating all types of eating disorders, disordered eating and body image issues – and I put it into a course. I thought about what are the things that I do with my 1:1 clients – what’s the progression that I take them through, and what are the essential elements of them fully making peace with food and their bodies. And I put all of that into a course that doesn’t just talk about the principles of intuitive eating. It goes through how to transform the way you look at food, understanding the way your metabolism works, coming up with your own customized eating schedule for your body, how to put together satisfying meals and snacks – and all of that is just in one of the modules.
You see, there’s SO MUCH more to fully implementing all of this. And that’s why it’s important to be a student of the process which we’ll talk about next. But the point I want to linger on here is that you can’t just wing it and expect to get to where you want to be, at least not very quickly or efficiently. It makes WAY more sense to work with someone who has the advanced training and knowledge, and the track record of helping other people become intuitive eaters, so that you can learn from someone who has been there before and who knows what they’re doing.
Reason #2: You’re not being a continuous student of the process, and you’re not going deeper.
What do I mean by that? Well there isn’t a finish line with intuitive eating or body image. You’re not going to have a day where you’re like, ok I’ve checked that box and now I’m done. The thing with food and our bodies is that it’s an ongoing constant in our lives. We have to eat every single day, multiple times per day, which means that intuitive eating is always going to be something we are practicing, just like people who have a yoga practice or a meditation practice.
And we will always have thoughts and feelings about our bodies. We are in a relationship with our bodies. And our bodies are ever changing. Since you were in the womb your body has continued to change each and every day. It changes more rapidly during infancy, but our bodies will continue to be in a state of change up until we take our last breath. So of course we are going to have feelings about existing in our bodies, and about the changes that are happening with our bodies.
If you’re not continuing to be a student of the process, and if you’re not going any deeper in the way you relate to food and your body, you’re going to be stuck at a pretty surface-level understanding of intuitive eating.
Part of going deeper means getting to the root causes of our poor image and self-esteem. It also means continuing to learn and grow beyond the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating. A lot of people stop there. (Heck, a lot of people don’t even read the book Intuitive Eating.)
The 10 Principles are the foundation and the starting point, but in my experience they aren’t sufficient on their own to help you fully make peace with food and your body. A few episodes back I talked about advanced strategies for intuitive eating. If you haven’t listened to it, go back and listen to episode 62 where I cover 4 of the key advanced strategies above and beyond the 10 principles.
I’ve been practicing intuitive eating myself for about 15 years now, and I’m still learning. I’m still going deeper. I’m still a student of this process. One of the things that has helped me the most is to continue to learn from experts in the industry. Back in December I did a deep dive training on how to help clients with body image, and I happily paid about $400 for this training because I knew that the dietitian teaching it could help me up-level my skills. I also am a huge fan of taking courses to learn specific things that I’m working on. A couple years ago I took a course on using weight-neutral approaches for diabetes, and recently I took a course on how to keep myself organized on my computer. In fact, this is so meta, but I have taken courses on how to create courses so that I can be the best and most effective teacher possible for my students. In fact, go listen to episode 63 where I interview my own business coach, Amy Porterfield.
And THAT’S how I encourage you to approach your intuitive eating and body acceptance journey. If you aren’t willing to invest your time and energy in continuing to learn and go deeper, then you’re going to stay stuck at a very surface-level understanding of how this all works. This is exactly why I created my course Non-Diet Academy – to help people go deeper than just reading the Intuitive Eating book. My course is designed to help people fully heal their relationship with food and with their body, so that they don’t ever feel like they want or need to diet ever again.
And truly, one of the most mind boggling and INCREDIBLE parts of this whole process is the ways that you will connect more deeply with yourself as a human being. The potential for self-growth and inner wisdom is more than you can fully imagine.
So I want you to decide what you can do to be a student of the process right now. Listening to this podcast every week is a great start. Maybe the next thing you can do is pick a new book to read that’s related to intuitive eating and body acceptance, or sign up for Non-Diet Academy and do some coaching with me. I only open the doors to Non-Diet Academy 2 times per year, so depending on when you are listening, the course may or may not be open for enrollment. If you’re listening to this the week the episode airs, I’m opening enrollment next week. You can put your name on the waitlist and I’ll email you as soon as I open enrollment. Just go to nondietacademy.com and you can check out the details there.
Whether you learn from me or someone else who teaches this stuff, I want you to intentionally keep growing.
Reason #3: You’re not addressing the underlying reasons that you are turning to food
When it comes to struggles with food and body image, it’s kind of a strange thing because it’s about the food and your body – but it’s also NOT about the food and your body.
The issues you’re having with your eating and your body image are the symptoms of deeper issues. The reasons that you have decided to diet or to try and lose weight, and the reasons that you have sometimes found yourself chain swallowing oreos aren’t about the food. It’s about the underlying reasons that you feel inadequate, unworthy, unfulfilled, or unable to cope with difficult emotions in your life.
If you don’t ever examine these deeper reasons, you’re not going to fully heal. It would be like putting a bandaid on a broken arm. It’s not going to work. The eating and body image issues are the tip of the iceberg.
The root of your issues is what’s beneath the water.
What does that mean? Beneath the surface is things like being unsatisfied in your marriage, or yearning to have a partner but being terrified to date, wondering if you chose the right career path, worrying that you might not be a good parent, unresolved trauma, a difficult relationship with your parents or siblings, feeling unworthy at your core. It might be unmet needs that you have, or the ways in which you are so overextended that you are one moment away from freaking out. You might have untreated depression, or anxiety, or alcohol dependence, or ADHD. You might be drowning in debt or financial stress that feels neverending. The list of things that might be beneath the surface for you is infinite.
This is where it can be immensely helpful to not only work with a professional who is trained in intuitive eating, but to also have a community of other people who are doing their own work to heal. What I have seen time and time again over the past decade of doing this work is that healing is accelerated by connection with others. That’s why I offer group coaching as part of Non-Diet Academy. I do have a self-study option for people who just want to do the course and not the group aspect, but I do have the option of joining in on group coaching and it’s a game changer.
There’s actual research about the way that talking with others about these things increases our oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is the chemical in our bodies that we secrete in response to love or connection. We get it from being with people we love, our pets, and from being in a group of other people who see you and get what you are going through. There’s also research showing that oxytocin is helpful for eating disorder recovery. And a lot of what we know about healing a person’s relationship with food and body image actually comes from the literature on eating disorders. So even if you don’t have an eating disorder, these same concepts apply because we’re still talking about your relationship with food and your body. Makes sense, right?
The power of community is also why I love my Facebook group. It’s called Intuitive Eating Made Easy, and if you aren’t already a member I encourage you to join. Inside the group we talk about the struggles and what it’s like to try and make peace with food while still existing in diet culture. Having that community of people who fundamentally get what you are going through is powerful beyond words. I wish I had that when I was first starting out on my own journey. Inside the group when you are struggling with something like how to navigate challenging family or friendship dynamics with food, or when you’re nervous about an upcoming social event, or if you binged and feel terrible about yourself – these are all things that people will bring to the group and they’ll get tremendous support and feedback. The other thing I love inside the group is when people will share wins. They’ll say things like, “I just ate a cookie and I don’t feel guilty. That doesn’t seem like a big deal to other people but I knew you guys would get it!” And we clap them up because we DO get what a big deal that is. Hearing about other people’s successes also instills hope that YOU can find freedom with food too.
Being able to talk through struggles is a fundamental part of the healing process. And for most people, as they start talking about their struggles with food or their struggles with their weight or body image they will realize how it connects to other struggles in their life. They’ll start to see how it stirs up things from their past or emotional wounds that need healed. Talking about these things that have been hidden away and bottled up inside for so long is how the healing occurs. And if you don’t ever get to that deeper stuff, it’s hard to fully have peace with food and your body.
Reason #4: You’re thinking about body image all wrong.
I used to do this too. I assumed that the only way I could ever accept my body was if I lost weight. I convinced myself that the ONLY path to my health and happiness was to look a certain way. I was wrong.
Most people tell themselves the same lie that I did – that they can only accept their body if they lose weight. And I do want to acknowledge my own thin privilege here. I’ve never existed in an objectively fat body (as always I use the term fat neutrally, because that’s what we are practicing here on this show). I wasn’t objectively fat, even when my body image was trash. I get that, and I don’t want any of this to invalidate the way you are feeling, especially if you are in a larger body.
People in ALL body sizes and shapes can have negative body image, and people in all body sizes and shapes can learn to accept their bodies. Notice I said “accept” and not “like” or “love.” Liking and loving your body are not prerequisites for body acceptance. It’s great if you learn to like or love your body. More power to you! But some of you will never feel that way, and that’s ok.
What you can learn to do is to tolerate and accept your body and to treat it with kindness and respect – even on the days you don’t like it.
You can’t make your body acceptance contingent upon weight loss. What I can tell you is that even when people do lose weight is that one of two things happens: 1) they move the goal post and decide that they need to lose more weight or tone up before they can accept their body; or 2) they start stressing and obsessing about their fear of regaining the weight (which let’s face it, is usually what happens because that’s how our bodies work). So even losing weight often doesn’t produce body acceptance.
You know what does? You decide that you WANT to learn to accept your body, regardless of your weight.
Most of you listening to this are probably thinking that as much as you yearn to accept your body, you don’t actually want to accept it unless you lose weight. You don’t want to accept your body as it is right now. THAT’S why you’re stuck.
You can practice accepting your body, and that doesn’t mean you are “giving up” or “letting yourself go.” It means that you are letting go of the rope in the tug-of-war you have been in with yourself for all of these years. You are calling a truce with yourself, and you are learning how to tolerate and accept yourself, as you are. And that’s life-changing. Truly.
Because if you were to peel back the layers on why you so desperately want to lose weight, it probably boils down to wanting to be happy, to be healthy, and to be worthy of love and acceptance. You want to feel good enough. You want to feel good – in your body, and about your body. Of course you want those things. And it’s hard to acknowledge that your attempt to feel this way via weight loss hasn’t worked. But once you can accept that, and once you decide that you are willing to make peace with your body regardless of your weight, everything changes.
Body image healing is a grieving process. Grieving the fantasy of what weight loss would do for you. Grieving the body you used to have when you were younger. Grieving the idealized version of yourself that you’ve held onto for so long.
But you know what’s on the other side of that grief? The happiness and inner peace that you have been yearning for.
You might not ever like your body. Part of you might always wish you were smaller. That makes total sense given the world we live in.
AND you can still learn to accept your body and treat it with kindness and respect.
The key mindset shift you have to make is that you are willing to do that even if you don’t lose weight.
I know it’s hard. I get it. And I’m here to support you. I want you to grab my body image journaling prompts to help you sink deeper into this process. They’re totally free and you can grab them at nondietacademy.com/bodyimage.
Let’s recap the reasons you’re not making progress with intuitive eating and body acceptance:
- Winging it without an actual strategy
- Not being a continuous student of the process, and they’re not going deeper.
- Not addressing the underlying reasons that you are turning to food and dieting
- You’re thinking about body image all wrong.
I encourage you to sit with this, and to even re-listen to this episode and take notes. If you are feeling stuck, do an audit to see where you might be missing some of these components, and lean into that work. And I want you to DM me and let me know where you feel stuck. I’m happy to troubleshoot with you.
Did you know you can listen to all this information in audio format?
I covered it all in episode 61 of the Rebuilding Trust With Your Body Podcast!
LISTEN TO THE EPISODE NOW:
Search for episode 67 – Why You’re Not Making Progress with Intuitive Eating and Body Acceptance
Let’s get connected!
Looking for more support on your journey to food freedom and body acceptance?
- Join my Facebook group & community “Intuitive Eating Made Easy”
- Take my FREE quiz “What’s Your Unique Path to Food Freedom?”
- Save $120 on HelloFresh, my fav food delivery service!
- Check out my course, Non-Diet Academy