Is It Anti-Intuitive to Have Weight-Loss as a Goal?
A few weeks back I wrote two blog posts that are sparking new conversation around intuitive eating (people are asking things like: is weight-loss as a goal anti-intuitive?).
This is a conversation I’m here for, to create space for.
Most women enter into intuitive eating having just come from years of dieting.
Many of these women have a desire to lose weight.
That’s why they’ve turned to dieting for so many years.
So let’s talk about it.
How does intuitive eating fit for someone who wants to lose weight?
Every person has a “natural set point” weight. I refer to this as your “natural weight.” It’s not a SET number, but rather, a range that is completely normal to fluctuate in, without any extremes (most ‘diets’ fall into the ‘extreme’ category).
I don’t weigh myself (it’s something I gave up years ago in an effort to take focus OFF weight – it has hugely benefited me) but I likely have a 5-10 lb window I fluctuate in. It is normal for anyone to have a range that you fluctuate in depending on the season of life that you’re in, the actual weather season, etc…
You can find your own setpoint. How? By listening to your body and eating normally.
Are You Above Your Setpoint?
Wondering if you’re above your own setpoint? Then answer these questions:
Do you have difficulty recognizing when you’re hungry and when you’ve had enough?
Do you routinely eat beyond a comfortable level of fullness and feel lethargic, stuffed, and uncomfortable after meals?
Do you go through periods where you eat out of control, anticipating you will soon start to diet?
Do you skip meals in an effort to lose weight, then overeat because you are so hungry?
Do you skip meals to “save up” for a big feast?
Do you often eat as a coping mechanism? For example, when you’re tired, angry, or nervous? How about killing time when you’re bored?
Do you often feel guilty about some of the foods or theamount of food you eat?
If you overeat, do you figure you’ve blown your “diet” andend up eating even more?
Do you often eat quickly without taking the time to focus on the taste of your food or to savor and enjoy it?
Do you fluctuate between periods of sensible, nutritious eat-ing and then eating out of control?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are likely above your setpoint. Don’t feel bad! Most people aren’t at their set- point.Excerpt from Bacon, Linda, Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight (www.HAESbook.com). Copyright © Linda Bacon 2008.
On the other hand, you might be wondering…
Are You Below Your Setpoint?
Some people are chronically below their setpoint. You’ll know this is you if:
You’re often cold.
You feel like you’re constantly preoccupied with food and often feel desperately hungry.
You wake up with an overwhelming urge to eat.
You have difficulty sleeping because of gnawing hunger.
You have a very low sex drive.
For females, you have infrequent periods or skip them entirely.
You suffer from any of the following: apathy, fatigue, irri-tability, and/or depression.
If you are below your setpoint, learning how to respond to your body’s signals will help you to normalize your eating habits and feel better. It may result in a slight weight gain, but this is a good thing, I assure you!Excerpt from Bacon, Linda, Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight (www.HAESbook.com). Copyright © Linda Bacon 2008.
I would have answered “yes” to every single one of the “are you below your set point” questions while I was dieting so extreme.
When I discovered intuitive eating, my body needed to GAIN weight. I had dieted myself down in weight from counting calories and it took MASSIVE effort on my part to stay at that low-weight. Thus, entering very disordered eating patterns. (That, by the way, didn’t make me any happier, but simply made me feel more trapped in an identity that I never meant to create.)
It took me years to get out of those disordered eating patterns, but intuitive eating and focusing on how I felt, versus how much I weighed, is what saved me.
Here’s what I hear from my clients when I ask the question “what would you like to get out of the next six-months together?”:
- “If I’m being honest, I know I’m not supposed to want this, but I’d really like to lose weight. BUT, I know that’s not the main goal and what elllllseeee I want is to feel calm, confident, and just NORMAL around food.”
Immediately, when they bring up they’d like to lose weight it’s like they have this fear I’m going to judge them. To shame them. To tell them they don’t have a right to how they feel or what they desire. Simply because I am an intuitive eating teacher.
I hear SO many versions of this and I rarely have a phone call with a client who DOESN’T express concern around her weight. This has some to do with societal pressure/expectations and some to do with the fact there are many women, who have been dieting for years, don’t feel healthy or at home in their bodies. They want freedom and they want to feel/be healthier.
For some, it’s that they want to have a second or third baby and are terrified of gaining more weight during their next pregnancy (when they already feel they’re holding onto extra weight and don’t feel like themselves) and never losing it.
For others, they’ll express that their weight keeps them from doing the things they love. For example, one of my clients LOVES to dance. She tries her best to engage with her hobby but when she starts dancing, she has to stop after a short time because her knees begin to ache from the weight of her body. Mentally, she wants to keep going. Physically, she can’t. For this reason, she’d like to lose weight.
This particular client feels there’s a lot of room for the women who “want to lose 5 lbs” in the intuitive eating community and says she understands those women don’t need to focus on weight-loss. But does she? Can she? What about the women who literally don’t feel at home in their bodies because they’ve gained so much weight from cyclical-dieting-and-bingeing that it’s stopping them from being able to fully show up for what they love?
Is there room for those women to “have weight loss as a goal” and eat intuitively? To be a part of this community? To call themselves “intuitive eaters”?
The short answer is YES. But let’s dive deeper…
I think it’s important for the intuitive eating community to CREATE space for women who do have weight-loss as a goal. Where else would you like them to go? Back into the dieting community?
As I say this, I am aware that there’s loads of stigma out there around weight-loss and that for health, weight-loss is not always necessary. These women are likely aware of this too. And yet, they’d still like to lose-weight.
I’m talking about them. What is available for them? For the women who KNOW that weight-loss doesn’t need to be the only goal. That it’s not going to “make them happy.” They have loads of other things they’d like to gain and focus on. They don’t want to do anything restrictive, but they’re simply wondering if there’s room for them in the world of intuitive eating.
We need to create safe spaces for women to be able to talk about the fact they’d like to lose weight – preferably in private, one on one settings. To explore what that means for them. To figure out what feels right for THEM.
All too often the images/posts I see on Instagram are so anti-weight-loss focused they (unintentionally) make those who want to lose weight feel un-included or un-welcome in this community.
Friend, if you have a goal to lose weight, hear me now. Join us! You’re welcome here. Please, come and reconnect to YOUR inherent ability to listen to your body and her needs.
Intuitive eating teachers, I find, can get so focused on talking about how much they hate diets they can sometimes come off like they’re sending hate to the diet-ER (if I’ve ever made anyone feel this way I strongly apologize because that is NOT my message). I assure you, that wasn’t their message either.
Teachers, coaches: we know that the “diet-ER” is not a “diet-ER.” She’s a human, on a diet. We know this. But let’s make sure to make HER feel welcome. Whether or not she’s on a diet. That’s her business. You be there to support her.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post called “Is It Anti-Intuitive to Pursue a Goal?” and my perspective was/is NO.
Then I got this question: “Could you have weight-loss as an ‘intuitive’ goal?”
And in response, I want to ask a question back…
If I were to say “No, weight-loss cannot be an intuitive goal” what would you do? Join me in learning to eat intuitively? Or go back to dieting to try and lose weight first, and then come back to intuitive eating?
I’m going to guess the second. Because those who are not at their natural body weight, who do not feel at home in their bodies, don’t want to stay stuck. And right now they feel stuck. And they believe a main reason they’re stuck IS their weight.
We need to create safe spaces to talk about these things. Not to just AVOID talking about weight-loss all together like it’s a bad word or is “taboo.”
There’s a lot of information online about how to REMOVE weight-loss as a goal when you’re eating intuitively. So much information about “putting weight-loss on the back-burner.”
As a result, women who are trying to eat intuitively have this underlying belief if they want to lose weight, they’re bad. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.
The whole reason intuitive eating was created (other than the fact it IS here to promote health and freedom and a reconnect with your own body) was to help people STOP labeling themselves as “good” or “bad” based on their food choices.
You’re NOT bad if you want to lose weight! Not even your desire is “bad”!
All said, those “put weight-loss on the back-burner” messages are there for a reason. Those messages are there to HELP you feel healthier. Not to take your opportunity to feel healthier away.
I’ve seen, time and time again, when my clients try to subconsciously or consciously focus on weight-loss as a primary goal, it ends up backfiring for them.
It keeps them in a place where they feel guilty about their food choices. It clouds their ability to really tune-in to their bodies wants and needs. Are they biologically hungry? Have they eaten enough today? Is there something else going on?
When weight-loss is the primary goal, food choices circulate around: “Well, what choice will help me lose weight?” (based on what you’ve learned before from previously failed diets – that’s not what we want to repeat!) or “I skipped lunch, go me! Maybe that will amount in weight-loss.”
In my personal and professional opinion, focusing on weight-loss as your goal with intuitive eating will rob you of the joys and benefits of intuitive eating.
It will also keep you stuck in semi-dieting because you’ll still be practicing behaviors and methods you learned while dieting. Remember, those diets failed you. We’re wiping the slate clean and we’re trusting YOUR BODY instead.
Now that being said!
THERE IS A PLACE IN INTUITIVE EATING FOR WOMEN WHO WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT.
Do not resort to dieting. Dieting is likely what got you here in the first place. What got you to a place of obsessive thinking around food. Of binge eating. Of not being able to trust your own body.
THESE BEHAVIORS all include ‘symptoms’ of weight-gain, likely carrying you out of the natural set-point range.
If you believe you are not at your natural bodyweight because of years of dieting, you’re welcome here!
Yes, if weight-loss is something you desire, you’re welcome here.
If you work with me in coaching, I will walk you through putting weight-loss on the back burner SO THAT you can create a normal/intuitive relationship with food and movement.
Most of us have an “ideal weight” 13-19% (yep!) BELOW what our natural body weight is. If you are remembering your body from a time where it was it’s smallest because of, say, the first diet you ever went on, this is NOT realistic.
Doesn’t that feel so much better than the pressure to lose weight? Isn’t there some relief in knowing your “ideal weight” MIGHT BE 13-19% lower than where your body actually wants to be? Some relief in knowing maybe you’re doing better than you thought or you’re closer to where your body wants to be?
You may be closer to that set-point after all and that doesn’t mean anything bad. In fact, if you’re struggling with this meaning something “bad” than there’s probably a lot to dig into around your beliefs about yourself.
We have to shed our ideal/fantasy weight and give our bodies the space and room to arrive at our natural weights instead (which yes, you have the space to do with intuitive eating – don’t go back to another diet).
Hear it directly from the Intuitive Eating authors:
“…we use the concept of natural healthy weight. This is the weight your body will maintain with normal/intuitive eating and normal movement.
The problem with most people we see is that their eating relationship is not normal, due to years of dieting. If you fluctuate between periods of dieting and overeating, it is likely you are not at your natural healthy weight. If you’ve been coping with life’s ups and downs with food, it’s also likely you’re not at your natural healthy weight.
But your natural healthy weight may not match what you have in mind.”
Let’s bring this full circle.
If you believe you’re not at your natural healthy weight and weight-loss is a goal, that’s okay. (In a way, yes, this is ‘intuitive’ because you believe without conscious reasoning that your body doesn’t feel at it’s natural weight.)
Understanding this is a goal and not shaming you for having this goal, we will then intentionally put the goal on the back burner (for your mental, emotional, and physical health benefit). We will acknowledge it and we will acknowledge if you are not at your normal healthy weight it’s likely because of the behaviors created by dieting (binge eating, not listening to your body, feeling very confused about what it means to be intuitive and consistently choosing options that don’t leave you feeling good, etc.) and we will work on creating a normal, healthy relationship with food, your body, and movement.
Therefore, we give your body the space to arrive at her natural weight WITHOUT any pressure on what that looks like or how quickly it should happen.
Instead, we will focus on HEALTH and FEELING GOOD. We will focus on creating behaviors that will last a lifetime and tools you can use on any given day to check-in with yourself.
To give you an example, as a client of mine, instead of focusing on weight-loss, weigh-in’s and pushing yourself toward a small number… you’ll:
- rediscover your inherent ability to listen to your body’s true wants and needs
- discover a place where you don’t feel guilt or judgment around anything you eat — you’ll simply see food choices as feedback; as signals and cues for self-exploration
- develop an unshakeable trust in yourself and discover the confidence to create the life of your dreams (whatever that means for you)
- set and accomplish personalized goals hand-tailored to your growth, in an empowering and exciting way
- understand and reduce your cravings for foods that don’t serve you, so they lose their hold on you for good
- finally feel confident, beautiful, and joyful in your body
- improve and deepen your personal relationships and the relationship you have with yourself
- practice treating yourself with kindness and love as you develop a personal self-care practice
- work to achieve and maintain your natural weight, without restriction or rules
These are all objectives and goals you can focus on creating/learning while you put weight-loss on the back burner. There’s so much health here. So much freedom. So much feeling good! So much reclaiming your life!
I will never shame a client for her desire to lose weight. She’s allowed to have this desire, and I’m not going to tell her she shouldn’t have it or she “can’t” have it. She’s welcome here and so are her desires.
That said, I will create a safe space to remind her weight-loss alone isn’t the “end all, be all.”
I will remind her she could lose weight and still feel poorly about her self-image. She could lose weight and still feel unfulfilled, unloved, or be highly self-critical in a negative, non-productive way.
“How you get there is where you end up.”
If you journey toward weight-loss on a path full of restriction, limitations, and pressure, when you arrive at weight-loss you will feel restricted, limited, and pressured. Is that what you want?
If, instead, you arrive at weight-loss on a path of freedom, self-love, self-care, and tuning into what your body truly needs to feel her best… you will arrive at self-love, self-care, and knowing what your body needs because that’s the path you took, the entire way, to get there.
So you choose. Which do you want?
We lie to ourselves, my friends. We tell ourselves life will be magic and sparkly if we just lose weight. That we’ll finally feel like “ourselves.” That we’ll be able to wear everything we’ve ever wanted. That we’ll feel sexy.
It just isn’t true. Weight loss isn’t as glamorous as we draw it up to be.
If this post resonates with you, if you’re someone who feels you are NOT at your natural weight and would like a safe space to talk through this with someone who will NOT shame or judge you for having weight-loss as a goal (I will help you look at it in a different way), I’d love to help you.
Your next step is to book a free Discovery Session which you can do on this page (scroll down and find the form to fill out).
I hope this helps you!