If you want to practice intuitive eating and are interested in weight loss, there is still room for you. Wanting your weight to change does not exclude you from improving your relationship to food.
Intuitive Eating to Lose Weight
Can intuitive eating cause weight loss? Yes, but it's also possible that your weight will stay the same or increase.
We have no way of knowing exactly what your body will weigh for the rest of your life. And our bodies are all meant to look differently. Plus, your body weight changes throughout life (because that's what bodies are supposed to do).
Addressing the Desire for Weight Loss
It is possible that you are interested in eating intuitively and healing your relationship to food, yet you also want to lose weight. This is very common, and it can be a tricky topic to navigate.
You will often hear that practicing intuitive eating and healing your relationship to food + your body will not be possible if you focus on your weight.
And while there is truth to this statement, I don't believe that it is entirely true.
There is room for you to work on your relationship to food and your body as well as practice certain parts of intuitive eating even if you are interested in weight loss.
You are not excluded from improving your relationship to food simply because you want your weight to change.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I do NOT promote weight change, and I do not know what weight your body will ultimately land. No one does, and your body will likely change throughout life. I trust you to do what is best for your body, and I want to make sure you have the most helpful, accurate information possible to do that.
Here are some ideas to consider if you want to heal your relationship to food & your body and also have a desire to lose weight:
It’s ok to feel this way. In fact, it's completely normal and understandable.
We live in a world obsessed with weight loss, where the importance of having an "ideal" skinny body is stressed, and good health is equated to a smaller size.
It makes sense that you would possibly want to lose weight for many reasons:
- Trying to control your body gives you the feeling that you are more in control.
- Weight loss often promises to give you fewer health problems, an improved life, less body hatred, or less anxiety when eating.
- If you are fat or have a larger body, dieting or trying to lose weight signals to others that you are trying your best not to stay in this "broken" or "unhealthy" body signaling that you aren’t "lazy" or "bad" or whatever.
- Losing weight helps you feel safe from being stigmatized at the doctor's office, at work, in school, with family & friends, literally everywhere.
Acknowledging that you have these feelings about weight loss will help you process them.
If you continually avoid or ignore your reasons for wanting weight loss, they will not go away and you will have a more challenging time understanding your motivation and how you would like to meet your goals (whatever they are).
As referenced in this post dedicated to self-compassion and intuitive eating or one on what to do when your body changes, self-compassion is highly important in working on your body image and how you feel about food.
Practice offering yourself some kindness because this tricky subject of opposing ideas can be very confusing. Acknowledge that you are not alone in wanting to heal your relationship with food while simultaneously feeling the desire or need to lose weight. Finally, know that it is perfectly understandable to feel this way, and you are not wrong or bad for having these desires.
Analyze Your Motivation
This has two parts. Consider:
- Why do you want to heal your relationship with food?
- Why do you want to lose weight?
There are no right or wrong answers, but it will help you when making choices on what, when, and how much to eat and how to treat your body if you understand your motivation behind your goals.
Remember that there is no perfect answer, and the best answer is the one that is honest to you.
If thinking about why you want to heal your relationship with food, you might be motivated by the thought of feeling less anxiety & preoccupation with food, less body discomfort or hate, fewer cravings, less stress with emotional eating, and more enriching experiences because you aren't micromanaging what you eat.
Some examples for wanting to lose weight include feeling less discomfort in your body, the desire to fit into your clothes, someone (like a doctor or family member) told you to lose weight, or life feels out of control so you try to control your body or your diet or how much you exercise.
No take the answer and go deeper. Is there something underlying here?
If you want to fit into your clothes, is there a reason why? Are you afraid of gaining weight because of the stigma and oppression fat people receive in our culture? Is it because you think you need to "lose the baby weight" after having children?
It's understandable to want to avoid shame, stigma, and discrimination! Again, this is where it helps to validate the situation so you aren't skating over these challenging topics.
Additionally, it makes sense to want to lose the weight you gained after having children because you are bombarded with messages that you need to lose the baby weight. However, it might be helpful here to note how you are fed this message by people who want to profit off of you (like beauty companies selling you creams to minimize stretch marks, weight loss companies selling you plans or shakes, or gyms selling you their exercise services).
It's ok if your deepest motivation isn't thought-provoking. But simply investigating your driving force to want to lose weight and/or heal your relationship to food can help you make more informed choices that feel good to your body.
Broaden Your Attention
While you are certainly free to have any goal that you'd like, is it possible to take a more bird's eye view of the situation? Can you try to include a non-weight or appearance goal?
A goal only based on the outcome of weight or body change will likely be less inspiring. Plus, it could cause you to make choices that don’t help you feel better physically or mentally.
The goal isn’t to stop wanting weight loss. It’s simply to share the focus with behaviors instead of outcomes.
Focus on Behaviors
Let's make the analogy of your daughter applying to college, and she is striving to be accepted into a specific school.
Your daughter joins a few clubs at school, participates in sports and extracurricular activities, keeps up with her school work, and makes high grades.
You notice that she is coming into her own, growing as a person, and figuring out her likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses. It is an enjoyable evolution to observe.
However, even after so much hard work, she finds out that she didn't get into her goal school, and she is rightfully crushed. Disappointment blocks her from seeing all the progress she has made and the fact that she was accepted into many other great schools.
Would you tell her to give up completely if she wasn't accepted? Probably not. You'd likely remind her to acknowledge all her growth, the benefits, and the schools where she was accepted.
Continuing with this analogy, let's say that your daughter is so determined to get into this school that she starts making choices that will likely get her accepted but will also be detrimental to her physical and mental health.
For example, maybe she takes all AP classes so she is loaded with homework and challenging exams. On top of that, she is a cast member in the school play, has a part-time job, and plays two sports. She is so busy that she rarely has time for family meals, fun with friends, or rest/sleep.
Similarly, someone who is solely focused on losing weight might take up activities that are destructive to their health and wellbeing like cutting calories or carbohydrates, over-exercising, or controlling what they eat and missing out on enjoyable experiences.
When you only focus on the outcome, you miss all the benefits. If you only focus on the outcome, you might make choices that are not life-enhancing or health-promoting.
Revisit your motivations and see if you can come up with one or two goals that are based on behaviors that will help you feel better in your body or build trust in your body without a focus on weight or appearance (if possible).
Some examples of behavior-based actions that can be goals are:
- getting adequate sleep
- eating fruits and vegetables
- managing stress
- moving your body regularly
- not smoking
To go even deeper, some non-appearance, fitness-based goals are:
- increased energy
- build stamina
Remember to incorporate these slowly, so you are not overwhelming yourself with too many goals and changes.
In the end, the goal is not to stop desiring weight change. It's to boost your health, happiness, or satisfaction in life.
If losing weight is something that you want to do, feel free. You are in charge of your own body, and I trust and support you in the choices you think are best for you at this time.
You can always revisit your feelings, goals, and choices and update as desired.
Intuitive Eating Weight Loss Lies
No one can guarantee weight loss while practicing intuitive eating. If you find someone or something promising weight loss, then you immediately know it is a lie. These are false promises.
Intuitive eating does not focus on weight. At all. So avoid anything that claims you can practice intuitive eating and lose weight.
There is no way of knowing whether you will lose weight, gain weight, or have no weight change when practicing intuitive eating.
And many of the promises of weight loss like having fewer health problems, an improved life, less body hatred, or less anxiety when eating are not actually the result of weight loss. These benefits are usually tied to the behavior changes you make that might not result in weight loss for everyone.
As a registered dietitian and intuitive eating counselor, I trust that your body will do what is best for you if it is allowed to be in charge.
With the permission to feel and honor your hunger and fullness cues while seeking satisfaction and employing body respect, I believe that you will feel better mentally and/or physically, regardless of your weight.
Disclosure: I have a straight-sized body, so I do not experience the shame, suffering, and unfairness that someone with a larger or fat body receives. It makes sense that you'd want to lose weight if this is your experience or potential experience. Our world is not safe for those with fat/larger bodies, and losing weight can protect you (since you are seen as trying to be "better" or "healthier" -- and this whole situation is so incredibly sad, traumatic, and incorrect!)
I hate that this is the state of the world, and I believe that every single human being regardless of their weight, body size, or health status is deserving respect, equal care, and compassion.
Want to watch the video about wanting to practice intuitive eating and have weight loss? Watch it on Instagram or here: