So, I May Not Lose Weight with Intuitive Eating?
Congratulations, you’ve decided to ditch dieting and start practicing Intuitive Eating! Becoming aware and understanding the stages you’ll likely experience during this journey is essential for your long-term success and happiness. Mourning the thin ideal (the perspective of what the ‘perfect’ body type is) is the biggest hurdle my clients experience when we first begin coaching together. Knowing what to expect during the transition from dieting to Intuitive Eating makes it much easier to embrace.
- Denial— You’ll find yourself saying “Why not me?”. Even though you may already know that only 5–7% of the population is able to lose weight and keep it off, you’re still holding out that if maybe you just tried a little “harder” the outcome would have been different.
Believing that you cannot successfully control or manipulate your weight long-term is painful because you’re forced to let go of the thinner, “better” version you’ve had for your body. And, if your family and/or friends are not supporting your new approach, it can be even more challenging.
Tips to move forward: The sooner you can overcome these feelings and find the support you need, the easier it will be to move forward and experience the freedom you’re seeking. Become a sponge by reading, listening, and joining as many no-diet approach groups as you can find on social media. Educating yourself is food for the soul.
2. Anger — You may experience anger that you aren’t “naturally” thin or fit. You may even question why some people can eat whatever they want and not gain a pound and you gain weight just by looking at donuts!
Tips to move forward: Remembering that our bodies are all unique in their shape and size will go a long way in moving past this phase. This is mainly due to genetics. This holds true to how we metabolize and utilize calories too. So, while some people are able to eat whatever their hearts desire with little or no weight gain, that’s not due to anything you’re doing wrong or they’re doing right. Genetics play a significant role in this. Remaining in a space of gratitude and appreciation for your body beyond just what is looks like and taking a more body neutral approach goes a long way in navigating these uncomfortable emotions.
3. Bargaining — In this next phase you bargain with yourself even though there is overwhelming evidence that dieting isn’t going to keep you at your “ideal” weight long-term. So, you may contemplate making radical lifestyle changes or just try to be “more careful” about your food choices. Somehow, you’ll believe that by doing this you’ll never again binge eat or emotionally overeat because you’ll be living a more balanced life. While I’m in full agreement that life balance is important for overall well-being, “being careful” is still food restriction incognito. During this phase, expect lots of self-blaming and reminiscing about previously failed dieting attempts. You’ll likely convince yourself that the reasons why previous weight loss/maintenance attempts failed was because you weren’t in the right mindset or had too much going on at the time.
Tips to move forward: Understanding that weight gain after weight loss is your bodies way of protecting you from perceived starvation. The weight gain isn’t your fault. It’s your body responding to the calorie deficit and trying to restore its natural weight (where your body is comfortable remaining). Sure, as I mentioned earlier, there is still that small percentage of dieters who do keep it off. However, what they need to do to maintain that unnatural weight is very likely steeped in constant food restriction, excessive/militant movement, and lots of obsessive/compulsive thinking about food. Does that sound like freedom to you?
4. Sadness/Depression — Don’t be surprised if you feel sad or even depressed at times. Remember, you are letting go of a vision you may have been holding for yourself for years! You may also have some concerns that if you continue practicing Intuitive Eating that you’ll gain more weight. While weight gain or weight loss is a possibility, focusing on weight isn’t wise. Instead, focus on healing the relationship with food and body and let the weight take care of itself. This can be especially challenging for those who have battled their weight for a long time or been teased for being fat as a child. When unhealed wounds are exposed, it’s painful!
Tips to move forward: While I certainly understand the pain and worry around this, the most loving and self-compassionate long-term solution that will benefit your emotional, physical, and spiritual health is to continue practicing Intuitive Eating. If you remain in this stage longer than you care to tolerate (and only you know the answer to this), it’s best to find a weight-neutral therapist or other professional who’s knowledgeable about Intuitive Eating and/or HAES to support you during this phase.
5. Acceptance — This is the stage when you’ll jump up and down and celebrate! You’ve accepted and committed to caring for your body and have allowed it to find its natural weight on its own. Understand that even though you’ve reached this stage, this doesn’t mean that you won’t have occasional setbacks. For example, if a close friend or family member loses weight, don’t be surprised if you get a sudden urge to ask them how they did it. In fact, for a moment, you may even doubt what you’re doing. Know that this is natural and expected.
Tips to move forward: My advice to you is to stay in your own lane! Continue to focus on improving self-care and tuning in to your bodies needs while remaining true to yourself. Freedom is now yours…revel in it.
With time, patience, self-compassion, and proper support, food freedom is possible. Trust me, once you let go of the thin ideal and allow your body to find its natural weight on its own, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to try Intuitive Eating.
Michelle Vina-Baltsas is a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Body Positive Psychotherapy professional and Certified Holistic Health Coach. She compassionately coaches her clients so they can recognize that their value isn’t tied to the number on the scale or to the size of their jeans. After suffering with an eating disorder during adolescence, followed by years of chronic yo-yo dieting and profound body hatred, she finally discovered peace with food and her body by practicing Intuitive Eating. Her life’s purpose is to educate, empower and guide women who crave to break up with dieting and embrace their bodies as they are so they can live more satisfying and purposeful lives. Join her in The No-Diet Sisterhood on Facebook or enroll in her self-paced video online course Intuitive Eating Fundamentals for guidance and support.