Is Intuitive Eating Anti-Health?
Updated: May 10
Hearing about Intuitive Eating (IE) brings up a lot of questions for people. How does it work? Doesn't IE just mean eating whatever you want whenever you want? How could that be healthy? Does it mean eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full? If I tried this wouldn't I just eat junk food all day and never exercise again? My Doctor told me I need to lose weight for my health but IE says I can be healthy at any weight, how does that work?
First let's go over what IE is all about. IE is about listening to your body to be your guide on how much you eat, move and rest. It is about rejecting the weight loss mentality and learning to respect your body at its natural weight.
IE is in fact all about health, but it is NOT about losing weight. IE separates health and weight because they are not the same thing. IE accepts health looks different on everyone. Your weight does not determine your health. You can work on your health without trying to lose weight.
The pursuit of weight loss is not healthy for your body at all. Intentional weight loss puts your body into a state of starvation, and this causes your body a ton of stress. Being in a constant state of trying to lose weight (which is most of our society) means putting your body through undue chronic stress, which can actually lead to chronic disease.
-Decreases your energy levels
-Decreases your body temperature
-Causes cravings for energy dense foods (high calorie foods)
-Decreases total amount of muscle tissue
-Increases fat storage enzymes
-Decreases fat release enzymes
This starvation mode actually does the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. Your body does all of these things as a protective measure to protect you from the next famine.
Weight cycling (the cycle of losing weight, then gaining it back and trying again) actually contributes to cardiovascular problems including heart disease.
Weight stigma (discrimination or stereotyping based on someone's weight) also contributes to chronic inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, and mortality.
"Weight cycling and weight stigma account for much, if not all of excess disease risk in higher weight people." (Bacon and Aphramor, 2011).
Higher weight itself may not be the issue at all, but rather weight stigma and efforts to escape being higher weight.
Compared to dieters, Intuitive Eaters have:
-Decreased rates of disordered eating and Eating Disorders
-Decreased rates of depression
-Decreased food-related anxiety
-Decreased likelihood of feeling out of control with food
-Decreased levels of body dissatisfaction and shame
-Greater body satisfaction and appreciation
-Greater enjoyment of food
-Higher levels of self-compassion
-Greater psychological wellbeing and self esteem
More physical health benefits of IE:
-Decreased LDL cholesterol levels ("bad cholesterol")
-Increased HDL cholesterol levels ("good cholesterol")
-Decreased blood pressure
All of these factors combined creates lower heart disease risk. (Tylka et al. 2015)
IE is in fact all about health, but it is NOT about losing weight.
People that have adopted IE principles have found they are more able to connect with people, they are more spontaneous, and have a greater sense of autonomy.
IE focuses on improving your physical, emotional, and mental health which is a lot more important than focusing on the number on the scale. To learn more about the nitty gritty of Intuitive Eating, watch for my next blog post!
Ready to start on your Intuitive Eating journey? Let's chat!