I’m writing this post for those of you who want to eat intuitively but are wondering if it’s okay to try and lose weight along the way. I’m also talking to those of you who are already intuitive eaters but still have weight loss as a goal.
To cut the shame right from the start and to level the playing field, the answer is YES. It’s okay to have this desire. No one can/should shame you for this.
Now let’s dig deeper into this…
Desiring weight-loss in itself is not bad. You are not bad. You are not wrong.
And even so, there’s more to it. Like…
Does your body need to lose weight? Is her natural weight lower than where you are right now?
Maybe, but maybe not. Many of us are so hard on ourselves. We stop dieting and go up one size. And we call it bad. We call it wrong. We feel like we need to get back to that smaller size.
But friends, if you had to hardcore diet to stay at that size, then doesn’t it make sense that if you were not dieting any longer your body size might shift?
If this is the case for you, here’s what I encourage you to look at: What was the cost of dieting for you?
Perhaps you might say…
Well, it took a LOT of focus and energy. I was so strict. I had to cut out tons of food. I thought about food 80% of the time, always wondering if my meals were packed and portioned, always expending energy before eating out with friends to make sure the “right” foods were available. Saying no to dinners with friends I would have loved to hang out with. Counting, portioning, weighing, tracking, feeling restricted.
And then I would ask, is it worth the cost? What are your goals and values now?
Perhaps your values now are that you want to feel healthy, energized, good. You also want to say YES to dinners with friends. You want to be able to share a dessert if it’s something that actually sounds good. You don’t want to feel restricted around food. You want to appreciate food, you want to enjoy the taste of it, but you don’t want to obsess over it. You want to eat when you’re hungry and leave it when you’re not. You want your life to be full of other things that you care about.
Here’s where weight-loss and the focus on it comes in…
Focusing primarily on weight loss often causes us to manipulate our instinctual body cues. For example, you’re hungry, but you feel like you shouldn’t be because you just ate two hours ago… so you try and push back and wait to eat so that hopefully, you can lose some weight. Or, you would really love to split a dessert with a friend, but you want to lose weight, so you choose to forgo it. You don’t listen to yourself and your body in that moment. Maybe your body was saying “This would be a great time to share dessert! You’re calm, you’ve just had a meal, you’re feeling peaceful, you’re not stressed, and I would happily digest some ice cream for you right now. I know you’ll be slow and loving about it.” But because you’re focused on weight loss you deny yourself the treat. The craving builds, and after a few days you end up eating a handful of Hershey’s kisses at the office, and you don’t even like those. Shame settles in. Sigh, why is this whole weight loss thing so hard?
Studies have shown that even just contemplating your next diet can cause more cravings and thoughts about the foods that you might soon forbid. Dieting causes more focus on food. More obsession with it. More cravings. More hunger.
Imagine a pendulum. As far as you swing it to one side, it will swing to the equal extreme to the other side. Most diets focused on weight-loss are faaaaar left and faaaaaar right. Intuitive Eating – learning the steps to reconnect to your own body and her cues – is steady. Middle. Middle. Middle. Grey area. Grey area. Grey area. Sustainable. Calm. Neutral. Listening to your body, moment by moment. Subtle.
If you’re trying to lose weight, sure, intuitive eating will feel slow. Like you’re not doing it right or fast enough. However, if your body needs to lose weight, she will. You don’t have to force it. And if you do force it, chances are… pendulum… Is it worth it? Chances are, if you’re trying to lose weight now it’s because you’ve lost weight before on a diet… but what happened after the diet? Why are you here, trying to lose weight again? This isn’t to shame you… this is just to give you some perspective that diets actually are not good at providing long term weight loss.
So the question is: Do you want short term weight-loss and then weight gain (often more than you lost)? If not, then why diet? This is the result of 95% of all diets.
Instead, give yourself permission to put weight-loss on the back burner so that you can really get in touch with your body and her cues. So that you can create the best relationship with her, food, and movement possible. So that you can live your life, enjoy it, and tune in to what you actually want. If weight loss comes, then it was supposed to. If it doesn’t, then maybe we have some work to do on loving THIS body that you have, very well.
Focus on what you can control: which is taking care of yourself, making loving choices, practicing self-compassion, setting a goal to learn to eat intuitively… and let your body do the rest.
And, it’s worth mentioning… if you have some sort of allergy or behavior that is causing weight gain, tuning into your body and how she responds to different foods (INTUitive eating – think “into” and internal) and getting some feedback there is more powerful than subscribing to a random set of rules that you have no idea of how they will affect you and your body. What works for one person, doesn’t work for everyone (otherwise we’d all have “the answer”).
The truth is, we can’t control our weight long term. It’s why you know so many women (or are one) in their 50/60’s still dieting and trying to lose weight. I coach many of them! It’s just not sustainable.
My encouragement: Eat intuitively. Learn to listen to your body. Be patient with yourself. Pour on the grace. Find sustainable habits and behaviors that you love and that leave you feeling great. Get support in creating these new habits and behaviors. Take a gentle approach with nutrition: nutrition without judgement. Listening to your body, observing, experimenting. Gentle. All gentle.
To wrap up this post, I want to say: Wanting to lose weight is not a bad desire. You’re not bad for wanting to lose weight. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re not bad. Nobody, not me, not anyone… can shame you for your own desires, tell you not to have them, or not to follow them. You do you, friend! This post is more so just helping you to question if focusing on weight-loss is helping you to feel any better… or if there’s another way of learning to care for and love yourself that would feel better.
Have a question? Feel free to post it below in the comments. I’m happy to discuss this with you!
Looking for support? Here are two ways you can work with me: