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Why intuitive eating won’t work; From an Eating Therapist’s perspective

Intuitive eating is hailed as the way to eat, the way to eat without having to worry about diets or counting calories. However, is it suitable for everyone? Can anyone follow the intuitive eating way? I don’t think so. In this post I am outlining why intuitive eating won’t work for everyone and how you can make it work for you. 

The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

What is Intuitive Eating?

So, what is intuitive eating? Well, it’s about learning to trust your body and honoring your body cues. It’s about being in tune with your hunger and fullness levels and having a non-diet approach and not restricting yourself. It’s about allowing yourself to eat whatever you want without guilt or judgement. It is letting go of diet culture. Intuitive eating also involves being mindful of why you are eating—for pleasure, for nourishment and for comfort. It is about being tuned in to your bodily needs and understanding what foods it is asking for to feel healthy and alive.

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What Intuitive Eating is Not

Intuitive eating is not a diet, it is not another one of those restrictive diets,  There are no food rules and this is not a way of eating in pursuit of weight loss, though weight loss is a benefit. It is an approach to food that feels natural and as the name suggests intuitive. 

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Does Intuitive Eating Work for Everyone?

However, intuitive eating is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It may work for some people, but intuitive eating won’t work for everyone. We all have different needs and preferences and what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Eating intuitively requires a high degree of awareness and self-awareness that some people have to practise as a skill. 

If you have disordered eating or have an eating disorder like Binge Eating Disorder, it is not something that you can follow straight away. Likewise if you experience emotional eating, you will need to work on the cause of these issues before getting stuck into the 10 principles. 

You can work towards the principles, such as ditch the dieting mentality, which is leaving the thoughts that you must diet behind. It is cancelling the food police which is not grouping foods into good or bad. You can start tapping into your hunger cues and feeling your hunger and feeling the fullness cues. These start getting you intune with your body. 

 Below are reasons why it may not always work for you. 

Why Intuitive Eating won’t work. 

You’re not Ready for It

You have to be at a stage where you are ready, both physicall and mentally able to become an intuitive eater. If you have a very poor relationship with food or are stuck in a relationship with food addiction and even stuck in a yo-yo dieting cycle, you may need to do some mindset work before you start. 

Food is your Main Coping Mechanism For Feeling

Food can often be used as a way to help us manage our emotions. When we are feeling angry, sad, frustrated or stressed we can often turn to food as a way to help us forget or for us not to have to feel. We may eat comfort food, because it does give us comfort. We can get our emotions from food if we are not in tune with ourselves. 

Intuitive eating will not help us to manage or work on suppressed emotions. It helps with our thoughts and behaviours but not emotionally. 

How to manage your emotions without using food. 

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You have chronic dieting, eating disorders or disordered eating

You are stuck in a pattern where food is an emotional crutch for you. Food or eating is not the problem for you, it is the symptom. Underneath in the unconscious you may have suffered from neglect, abuse or some trauma and this has inadvertently caused you to turn to food. The IE principles are great, but they will not heal the patterns of the unconscious. 

Weight loss counseling or therapy is a good place to start here. As you unravel what is keeping you stuck, they can also help you to come away from the ultra-processed foods and help you to find a new freedom with food. 

You are only Intuitive Eating for weight loss. 

You are desperate to lose weight, so this is something new to try. If you want a new diet, intutive eating will not sort out your inner struggles with food. The first point is to lose the Diet Mentality so it is changing your mindset about your desire for weight loss. Instead of thinking about a weight loss diet, switch it to a healthier way of being. Using an intuitive eating counselor can also help you make the switch. 

It is not an end goal destination, it is an intuitive eating journey.

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You are not in touch with your hunger cues or fullness cues

The majority of people who want to start intuitive eating find it hard to feel fullness or hunger. This is because they are not aware or in tune with their body signals. Over time they have learnt to ignore them and now cannot pick them up. 

This means that when they are full they overeat and when they feel the slightest bit of hunger, it turns into fear so they eat. 

This requires starting to build a healthy relationship with yourself first before making peace with food. This is why intuitive eating won’t work for everyone at the beginning, because many people need to learn how to feel and a safe supportive space to be able to learn that.

You’ve Turned the Intuitive Eating Principles into Rules

The Intuitive Eating principles are that, principles. Use them as a set of guidelines but not to follow to the letter. From my own experience, they are guidelines that you can slowly work towards. They are not to be followed in order, just using them all to help you to make better food choices. The principles are more supportive towards your mental health.  The principles are the opposite to a diet, in that it is building your relationship with food and moving towards body acceptance. 

Common Thoughts on Intuitive Eating

There can be a hesitancy with moving towards the principles. It is all based on where we are at the time of our eating. Here are some of the more emotional reasons we may have stopping us. 

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“I Would Just Eat ‘Junk Food’ All Day”

The first principle of reject the diet mentality, can leave us feeling a fear of not dieting ever again and if I am not dieting, then I will just have food cravings for high sugary food and I will have no control around food. 

It can take time to adjust to this new mentality. The first step is to stop dieting, however it is also being able to observe yourself and your eating habits. Years of constant dieting will make it harder to adopt a different approach to weight loss. An eating counsellor or therapist will help you leave the diet mentality. 

How to stop dieting, even when you have put on weight. 

“I Would Never Stop Eating”

At first, once you stop dieting you may fear overeating. You feel you won’t stop eating. Working on your mindset, you will get to learn why you won’t stop eating. What food insecurities are there that are keeping you in your eating pattern. When you discover what thoughts and emotions are keeping you stuck, working with a therapist will help you start treating your emotions with kindness instead of frustration. 

How does weight loss therapy work

You Don’t Have Support

It can be very hard when you do not have anyone in your corner cheering you on. There are so many emotions and thoughts going on in the unconscious that you do not know what is keeping you stuck. An eating therapist can help you see where you are using external rules to dictate your food intake and it is having an influence on the amounts of food that you eat. 

About Vanessa McLennan

Vanessa is an emotional eating expert with a passion for natural health, superfoods and psychology. She helps women from all over the world to successfully lose weight by escaping the diet cycle and end their emotional eating patterns. She holds a diploma in Hypnotherapy as well as qualifications in EMDR, EFT, Emotional Eating, IBS therapist. Check out her free guide to help you break free of the diet cycle