I admit there are times when I am describing intuitive eating to people that I feel a little nervous. I know the amazing sense of freedom that has come to me since I started intuitive eating and yet I can feel the tension and resistance coming off of people's bodies when they consider the idea of not dieting or easing up on how they exercise. I can also feel the judgment and a microburst of shame when they look at my body and consider their options. I get it. It's not the easiest concept to grasp. When you tell people that they can trust their bodies to know what to eat and when and how to move and when, people don't believe it. They are skeptical. I know people are worried about either gaining weight or being unhealthy. That makes perfect sense since we are told from the time we can understand language that you need to watch what you eat and workout in order to be thin and healthy. We are also told that if we are thin and healthy then everything will be perfect.
It turns out that pretty much everythingwe have been told is not true. Dieting doesn't make you thin, it actually makes you fatter. Being thin doesn't mean you are healthy, you can be fat and healthy too. Not to mention that no matter what you do, health is never a guarantee. Just look at Bob Harper. And life is never perfect no matter what size you are.
So if you are considering intuitive eating and are afraid of weight gain, and if the diet mentality devil hops onto your shoulder to taunt you with the thin ideal's perspective. "Just eat less and move more, just eat less and move more, works for me, works for me", here are a few things to keep in mind.
First, when intuitive eating, you may lose weight, gain weight or stay the same. The same thing doesn't happen to everyone and it depends on where you were on your journey before you started intuitive eating. In my case, I was dieting before I began eating intuitively so my body is restoring itself to the weight it has wanted to be at since my first diet at age 12. I don't know where my body will land or how it will change over time from here on out. I only know where it is at now. It's all we ever know.
Second, it's fucked up that we have been conditioned to fear weight gain or fat. Fat is a body type, just like short or tall. It's normal andis all around us. Fearing fat is actually fat bias and fat phobia and something to look at within yourself. It's also something to realize we've been taught to fear and that we can change that way of thinking and make the world a more accepting place for everyone.
Third thing to remember, to continue dieting puts you at higher risk for continued weight gain than intuitive eating so if you are fearing weight gain in the first place, to continue dieting seems like a pretty stupid idea. I hate including this on the list, because it preys on our fear of fat that I just mentioned, but I know the part of me that was conditioned to fear fat appreciated this truth.
dieting ---->misery ----->weight gain
intutive eating ----->finding joy in living------>possible but not definite weight gain
Is there really any question what to choose?
Fourth, even if you do gain weight, your health is not necessarily suffering, it can actually be improving. Remember, your weight is not a sign of health. With a health at every size approach to living, you can stabilize your weight once it's been restored to it's natural state, improve blood pressure and blood lipids, reduce eating disorder behavior, improve energy, and improve self esteem and body image. Studies have shown that ALL of these outcomes occur in women practicing health at every size and intuitive eating and even more importantly, they are sustained. In dieters, these things may improve in the short term until the weight is regained and then they may become worse than before.
As for me, the "worst" thing that could happen, did. I gained weight. And the world didn't end and nothing changed.
Nothing at all unless you count more fully engaging with life for the first time in 35 years. Nothing unless you count the fact that I love restaurants again. I love family parties again and I don't eat until I want to puke anymore. I wear comfortable clothes that are no longer damaging my internal organs. I don't dread social interactions because I know that there is nothing wrong with me. I talk to myself kindly. I anoint myself with essential oils. I move my body in ways that feel good - some days it's challenging movement and some days it's soothing. On some days I simply rest and am grateful for the opportunity to do so. I prepare and eat delicious meals with my family that we all enjoy.
And nothing changed unless you count how I woke up to how women are oppressed and realized I could take a stand against that. I woke up to how fat people are treated and realized I could take a stand against that too. I realized my internalized fat phobia was making my life miserable and other people's lives miserable and it didn't have to be that way. I realized freedom was up to me and that is was possible. I realized I didn't have to change my body, I only had to change my mind.
I'm free and "you know what tastes even better than freedom? Cheeseburgers".
(Quote Courtesy of Lost Season Two.)