Question from a reader: “What if I am just not happy with my weight? Should I lose weight and THEN focus on intuitive eating?”
You girls know that I am a firm believer in intuitive eating. In fact, I’m over here celebrating because I just finished earning my training to become a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. Wahoo! It doesn’t feel much different since I’ve been doing this work as a “Health Coach” for the past five years (still am!), but it IS exciting.
So, this question… “What if I am just not happy with my weight? Should I lose weight and THEN focus on intuitive eating?”
Such a good one, and I can seriously relate. You guys… I was going through my journal entries a few nights ago and I came across one that just broke my heart. I remember this moment like it was yesterday. It was early in the morning, I’d just poured my coffee, and I was sitting at the edge of my parents dining room table journaling.
“God, I just KNOW I can’t be happy at this weight. I am so uncomfortable. I don’t feel like myself. I know I should just love myself where I’m at and appreciate my body, but I just can’t. I think if I lost about 10 lbs I would be so much happier. I’d feel like myself, want to get dressed up for the day, I’d feel pretty. I can’t at this weight.”
Ever been there? In this spot right now? Crud, I know how hard this feels. But it won’t last forever.
You know what’s most interesting to me about this story? I weigh more now than I did writing this post (I think). And? I’m so much happier. I’m so comfortable in my body. It’s not “perfect” but it’s mine, it’s natural, and my weight no longer fluctuates like it used to (ex: eating a burger and feeling like I’d gained 10 lbs overnight).
I haven’t weighed myself in years (see this post on how I stopped weighing myself) but I know that I either weigh exactly the same or a little bit more today than I did when I wrote that in my journal based on how I feel.
I can hardly express to you the immense difference I feel today. Today, I feel calm around my weight. If I don’t feel my best, I am able to gently care for myself through that. I don’t feel like I’m falling into a pit of despair that I will not be able move out of unless I were to lose weight. I swear, that’s how it felt before.
You’ll never hear me tell my six-month coaching clients that dieting is the answer. There are so many times I look back on my life and see how much I could have enjoyed had I not been so wrapped up in always trying to diet, restrict food, and eat perfectly clean (however, I’m thankful for the journey because it brought me here).
Dieting takes away from so many things and consumes your life. It’s my mission to break the diet mentality that is so prevalent in our society and being shoved in our faces everyday, everywhere we look. (Thankful for more on mindfulness these days.)
We’ve been taught that in order to lose weight we have to meticulously count calories (take in less that you expend – psssh), restrict our food intake to unhealthy amounts, and never enjoy treats. We’ve been taught that we should be “really good” most of the time, and if at all, give ourselves treat days/meals to enjoy pleasurable foods.
I believe this is why so many people think they “LOVE SUGAR!” When they do allow themselves to have it, it’s the most pleasurable thing they’re eating. They focus so much on eating “clean” and good foods that when they get a taste of sugar the flavor is SO full and powerful compared to say, boiled chicken, that they don’t want to stop.
I used to be one of those people. Give me a piece of chocolate? I’d devour that and anything else with a hint of sweet in it. Today? I could care less. If I want chocolate I’ll enjoy an amount that I want, and if not I’ll pass it up without a second thought.
I heard quote recently that said (and I can’t remember where I heard this) “humans eat until their pleasure tank is full.” YUP! But listen. Food is allowed to be pleasurable. Food should be pleasurable. We should enjoy it! However, it shouldn’t be our only pleasure.
Should I Lose Weight Before Learning to Eat Intuitively?
Short answer: please don’t.
You’re setting yourself up for disappointment if you do this.
Here’s why: Your current self is at this weight that you don’t like. So you hop on some intense plan to change that weight and IF it changes and you are THEN happier with yourself, what’s going to happen when you go off the plan and re-gain the weight (and usually more) after that? How is that setting up your future self?
If you DO lose weight, then you’ve got this new standard of how thin you want to be. Then you’ve made it even more difficult to accept where your body wants to be, and now you’ve got this new weight to compare yourself to. It’s no secret that more than 90% of diets lead to weight GAIN over time.
Have you done this before? Gone on an unsustainable diet only to lose a bit of weight and then gain it all back (if not more)? How did that feel? Did you end up feeling overly concerned with your food and what you were eating? Eventually bingeing or overeating because your body felt so deprived? So did the diet really help?
This is why intuitive eating and breaking free from diets is SO important.
If you do NOT go on the diet you can simply work on becoming a better caretaker of yourself. So often we’re GREAT caretakers for others, and lack in this area for ourselves. Tuning IN to what you need, eating intuitively, learning to respect ourselves no matter what (aka, even when it’s hard), and leaving the weight loss piece up to our body’s.
If our body wants to lose weight, she will.
All you are responsible for is taking good care of yourself.
If you’re reading this blog post you might be wondering, how do I lose weight then, if I’m not going to diet? How can I trust that my body will lose weight? So let’s dive into that:
- Put weight loss on the back burner and release judgement. It’s not bad that you want to lose weight. It’s also not necessary to focus on it. You can acknowledge this desire and put it on the back burner at the same time. Focusing on weight loss will cloud your ability to listen to your body, so put it away. Remember that you’re leaving the results of what your body chooses to do UP TO your body – not your own control/power.
- Respect yourself. Even if you want your body to change, begin loving and respecting her now. You deserve this. You’ll be happier and so much more grateful for it. And honestly? I think this is what you’re craving anyway if you’re being honest. To love and respect yourself even when you don’t feel perfect. Even when you feel raw and perfectly-imperfect. Am I right? Once you begin to respect yourself and live life as if you already are okay with your body (she deserves this), you will become happier overall. That pleasure tank that needs filling? It will naturally become more FULL each and everyday. Which is essential to making peace with food and not using food as your only or greatest source of pleasure.
- Sleep. Sleep is SO important for our sanity. I don’t know about you, but I feel so sluggish when I don’t get enough sleep. Our body’s (including our minds, hormones, etc) recover and repair while we sleep. When we deprive ourselves of that essential sleep, not only does our metabolism slow down, but our appetites rev up and start craving quick sources of energy – aka lots of sugary foods – simply because we’re tired. So, do yourself a favor and begin making things easier on yourselves by sleeping more whatever that looks like for you. You know what feels best.
- Live your best life now. If what you’re currently doing is not working for you, start thinking about what needs to change. What do you really want? What does your ideal day, week, month, year look like? What’s missing? What do you want more of? Being more fulfilled is key to not using food for emotional comfort, which is so easy to do when you feel down and unhappy with a current situation. Are you in a relationship that you feel is toxic? What needs to happen here? Do you hate your job and dream of doing something different? Work towards making it happen!
- Move your body how it wants to move. We all know exercise is important, not only for our physical well-being, but for our minds as well. However, exercise should be something we enjoy, not a chore we dread. This is where we need to listen to our bodies; she knows what she needs. I used to think that if I didn’t complete an intense workout each day, it wasn’t a workout. Now, I love going for walks around town and enjoying the beautiful, fresh air and moving my body. So many people start intense exercise regimens hoping to lose weight and end up burning themselves out and (sadly) learning to despise exercise in the process. Find something you love doing.
- Enjoy treats. You do not need to deprive yourself of food that you truly enjoy. Is your favorite food in the entire world your mom’s special coffee cake? It’s okay to enjoy this! Simply cut yourself a piece, sit down, perhaps with a hot cup of coffee, and slowly enjoy each bite. Savor it, appreciate your mom for being the worlds best coffee cake maker, taking sips of coffee in between bites. If you’re with your mom, strike up a loving conversation. Engage. Have fun. Fill your pleasure tank. Soak in every bit of enjoyment that you can.
- Listen to your body. She is SO unbelievably smart. I know many of you are hesitant to break free from a diet. It lays out exactly what to do/eat and if you haven’t realized how damaging diets are, they feel like your safest bet. I totally get that! I used to be there. However, again, your body is smart and you CAN trust her. I believe this is the best way – even the healthiest. If you don’t crave raw foods (for example) for a while, that’s okay! Perhaps it’s because your tummy isn’t digesting cold/raw foods well right now and she’s letting you know that cooked foods would be better. Craving loads of sugar? Perhaps you need more pleasure or fun in your life. Listen to and learn from the signals that your body is sending you. And if you need help, reach out (my info here – I’d love to talk with you) to get that support.
So, my A to this Q is that NO. You should not diet before you begin eating intuitively to lose weight. I believe in doing so that you’re only setting your future self up for disappointment.
With intuitive eating you want to START by learning to care for your future self; the you 10 minutes from now, 1 hour from now, 10 days from now, 1 year from now. You want to begin acknowledging her and setting up a future that feels BETTER for her. I love living to support my future self. In doing so, I support my CURRENT self.
As you’re taking better care of yourself (this takes a lot of time – years) your body MAY decide to lose weight alone the way. You will be so much better off and feel so much more at peace if you leave that choice up to HER instead of forcing it.
If you relate to this post, the easiest way to get started working with me is to check out my services and book a free Discovery Session here.
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