Am I Anti-Intuitive Eating?

I recently heard from a new reader, concerned that I am negative about some of Intuitive Eating’s guidelines.

Intuitive eating, at its core, is about listening to your body and trusting your body to lead the way with eating, as opposed to listening to diet rules.

Your body will naturally lead you to the kinds of foods, and amounts of food, that you eat.

That’s excellent! Being an intuitive eater is the goal!

However, the way many people teach and practice intuitive eating, including the famous book of the same name, focuses on rating your hunger on a scale of 1-10.

I read the book and used that method for years before the Fuck It Diet, and though I had times when I thought I was healed and normal with food, I was not. I was concerned with amounts, I ate crazy slow, and when I didn’t I thought I was “doing it wrong”. But most importantly, I was afraid of gaining weight.

It always blew up in my face. And I still thought about food all the time.

The good thing about the hunger scale, is that any attempt to bring people into their bodies, and teaching them to feel their bodies, is good.

But here are my major issues with it:

  1. ‘Rate your hunger/fullness level’ easily feels like a rule to people coming from a diet mind-set
  2. This rule easily becomes obsessive and a way to eat “correctly” or “incorrectly”
  3. It makes being “too full” seem like a negative thing, therefore there is still a way to “fail”
  4. The goal is still “eat less” to “control your weight”

That is still a diet.

People’s goals with this “rate your hunger” version of intuitive eating usually means they are keeping their old diet goal of eating less, for the purpose of controlling or losing weight. And this means that you won’t be healing the biggest cause of food dysfunction: fear of weight.

Our dysfunctional relationship with our bodies and our weight is the reason we are dysfunctional with food. It is the reason we do not trust our appetites. We judge our choices and we think we are gluttons and food addicts. We don’t realize that our bodies and minds are reacting to any sort of restriction as a survival mechanism. This survival response is not healed by rating your hunger or trying to make sure you don’t get too full. That is just more of the same with a different name.

I consider that a temporary bandaid.

So yes, I am negative about rating your hunger, and judging your success based on that.

Rating your hunger for the casual awareness of “eh, I’m not that hungry”, or “yea Im really hungry” is fine, but like, why do you need a number? Just use words.

4 comments

  1. Annabelle says:

    Thank you for this post Caroline.
    I am now realising that I am doing the “intuitive eating” diet and not thefuckitdiet. If I am obsessed with food still, it is because I am on a diet…

  2. Lola says:

    Thank you Caroline!
    I’ve tried IE a couple of times but every single time I had to evaluate if I was at 3 or 6 or 5 on that hunger/fullness scale I rebelled against it, it remainded me of WW Points, so I gave up IE. Now I’m leaving that part to others and try to evaluate if I’m hungry, famelic, a little hungry ecc without numbers or sheets.

  3. J. says:

    The Intuitive Eating communities I frequent don’t have the Hunger/Fullness Scale “hang up” as much as they have the “gentle nutrition” hang up. When someone wonders (since her pants are getting tighter) if she should start incorporating “gentle nutrition” they all pat her on the back and call it “good self-care”.
    This is my biggest issue with the book – nine chapters railing on about how “there are no good or bad foods” followed by an entire chapter encouraging you to incorporate *more* “good foods”.

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