Will Intuitive Eating make me lose weight?

“Okay, intuitive eating sounds great and all but will it make me lose weight?!”

This is one of the most common questions I hear regarding intuitive eating.

And I get it, too! We live in a society that feeds us propaganda suggesting that body size determines worthiness.

The diet culture we live in profits off of getting us to believe that we must shrink our bodies in order to be happy. 

But is it even possible to sustain weight loss long-term?

According to the current body of research on the long-term effects of dieting, 95% of people who lose weight on diets regain all the weight (and often even more) within 5 years. Mann T. et al (2007). Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. Am Psychologist. 62(3):220-233.

This statistic blew me away the first time I learned about it in the book, Anti Diet, by a fellow Intuitive Eating RD, Christy Harrison. And there has since been many more robust studies proving that intentional weight loss is very rarely sustainable longterm. 

So why is intentional weight loss so difficult to maintain?

The answer has to do with a concept called set-point weight. Research continues to prove that humans are biologically wired to maintain a certain set-point weight range.

In other words, all humans have a predetermined weight range in which their body strives to maintain at all times. This is the weight the body is happiest at; the weight where homeostasis, or phisoglocial balance, is achieved. 

Dieting/ intentional pursuit of weight loss often causes a person to dip below their body’s set point range. As a result, the body drives up hunger cues and slows metabolism in an effort to get back to the setpoint range, where it’s happiest and functions most optimally. 

So, in trying to keep the weight off (aka hold your body below its homeostatic range) you will forever be swimming upstream; restricting, counting calories, and obsessively working out. 

According to set-point weight theory, your body size and shape are largely predetermined…but that’s not how diet culture makes it seem. Diet culture feeds you propaganda suggesting that you can simply change your body size by sheer willpower (i.e if you want it bad enough, if you eat clean enough if you are disciplined enough). 

When in reality, your body size has little to do with personal willpower and much more to do with genetics and other factors beyond your control. 

A helpful metaphor

To help illustrate just how much our weight is actually beyond our immediate control, I like to use this metaphor with my clients.

Think about the variety of body size and shape among the dogs species. Take a Pug versus a Greyhound, for example. Both are dogs, yet they are built completely different.

The Pug, smaller and more full, the Greyhound, taller and leaner. No matter how hard the Pug tries to look like the Greyhound– how little it ate or how much it ran around–  it simply never would be able to achieve that body type; it’s not within the range of possibilities for its genetic blueprint. 

And the same is true in reverse. No matter how much the greyhound “tried” to look like the pug, it’s simply not going to happen; it’s not within the range of possibilities given it’s genetic blueprint.

The same logic can be applied to the human species. Some humans are genetically predetermined to have a leaner build while others are genetically predetermined to have a fuller build.

Neither is morally better or worse (though the media likes to convince us otherwise). 

Pugs are equally as valid and lovable as Greyhounds

Larger-bodied humans are equally as valid and lovable as smaller-bodied humans.

Whether you’re built like a Greyhound or a Pug or a Golden Retriever, your body is innately worthy. 

How would your life change if you decided to stop fighting your nature and embrace your genetic blueprint? 

What will happen to my weight when I become an intuitive eater?

Great question. To be fully transparent, we cant really be sure. Diets promise you a certain amount of weight loss in a certain amount of time.

As an intuitive eating practitioner, I cannot promise you anything. I can, however, say this:

If you enter the intuitive eating journey above your set point range (maybe from a history of binging or consistently eating past the point of comfortable fullness) intuitive eating will, likely, in time, result in some amount of weight loss to restore you to your set point range.

If you enter the intuitive eating journey below your set point range (perhaps from a history of restriction) intuitive eating will, likely, in time, result in some amount of weight gain to restore you to your set point range. 

And in many cases, intuitive eating does not impact your weight at all. It’s possible to feel physically better in your body and your mind without your weight changing, and I actually see this happen quite often.

Ultimately, intuitive eating works to restore your body to it’s happy weight- the weight at which it performs physiological functions most optimally. 

But what about my health?? Isn’t it unhealthy to gain weight?

The current body of research has actually disproven the weight-normative approach to healthcare… in other nwords, the idea that our wieght impacts our health actually isn’t true. A person can be healthy at any body size. This means that a person in thin body can be in poor health and a person in a larger body can be in perfect health. Weight is not an indicator of health status. I talk a lot more about this in a post on the Health At Every Size (HAES) framework if you’re interested in learning more.

But what if I’m not happy with my set-point weight? What if I want to lose weight??

These are perfectly valid thoughts. The question becomes, at what cost are you willing to have a smaller body?

The cost of your time, energy, and happiness? The cost of your ability to be present with loved ones? The cost of your ability to be spontaneous and flexible?

You can spend the rest of your life fighting your body, or you can work on accepting and respecting your body at it’s current size.

Interested in learning how to achieve your set point weight through intuitive eating? Click here to learn more about my counseling services.

Note: I recognize that I hold many unearned privileges as a white, cis, heterosexual, straight sized woman. I recognize that accepting your body is easier said than done, especially coming from someone with multiple unearned privileges. I continuously participate in supervision with mentors who hold marginalized identities to help me better support folks with different lived-experiences than me. 

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3 Replies to “Will Intuitive Eating help me lose weight?”

  1. Sig Orne says:

    I’m excited for you that your dream is becoming a reality!

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