Putting weight loss on the back burner
Many people start intuitive eating counseling at a time when they’re uncomfortable with their current body shape. Sure, they’re pretty much convinced that diets don’t work in the long term (since they’ve likely experienced this first hand), but they still really really want to lose weight. So it can be discouraging to hear that the focus of intuitive eating isn’t on weight…that they need to put weight loss on the back burner. You might end up losing weight, especially if you’ve been eating in a way in which you are not honoring your hunger and satiety cues, or eating emotionally on a regular basis, but focussing on weight loss will distract from the process of becoming an intuitive eater, and ultimately sabotage you.
A recent study actually demonstrated this phenomenon. In the study, a group of college-aged women read an article about how being overweight could affect their chances of employment, while another control group read an article about smoking and getting a job. After reading the articles, and participating in a discussion, they were taken to a room for a break, and given access to candy and crackers. Those women who were overweight and had read the article about weight and employment consumed significantly more calories than those who had read the article about smoking. The researcher argues that these results “suggest that public-health messages need to emphasize the importance of health and exercise, and not focus on weight.” This is exactly what we do with intuitive eating, and I believe it’s why we see improved health and psychological well-being, and yes, even weight loss, in many who follow the philosophy. It may seem that taking your focus off of your weight can result in weight loss, but it really can happen!
The article also brings up the fact that in order to lose weight you need to first stop blaming yourself for your weight problem, as this affects self-esteem. Sure, you might not love the body you’re currently in, but it’s important to be gentle with yourself, and stop beating yourself up for having gained weight. If you got where you are because of years of yo-yo dieting, recognize that you were doing what you thought was best for you and your health, and now that you know that diets don’t work, you’re moving on and trying something different. And if you’re at your current weight because of emotional eating, give yourself credit that you’ve managed to make it through all the difficulties you’ve encountered in your life using perhaps the only coping mechanism you had available to you at the time. Lots of super smart, extremely accomplished people come in larger bodies, so being something other than a so-called “ideal weight” doesn’t indicate anything negative about you as a person.
So try to be patient. Eating intuitively isn’t a quick fix like many diets, although unlike a diet, you will reap the benefits of following this philosophy for a lifetime. When you focus on satisfaction, and eat based on hunger and satiety your body will eventually normalize and you’re find yourself at your set point weight, which, as I said earlier, may very well be lower than your current weight. All of this takes time, though, so hang in there and focus on treating yourself and your body with the respect and love it deserves.