Lots of people have been asking me: “Is TFID the same as Intuitive Eating?”
It is and it isn’t. They have the same goal: body trust, appetite trust, and food trust, with different ways of teaching and explaining how to get there.
A lot of my writing over the years has talked about how I turned (what I thought was) “intuitive eating” and “listening to my body” into a diet. I turned it into a weird stressful attempt to eat the smallest amount possible. I interpreted good advice through a fat-phobic, food fearing, diet culture belief system.
Lots of people do the same thing I did: they take good advice and twist it into a diet that they convince themselves is not a diet, because they let themselves eat a few squares of dark chocolate 3 times a week! Moderation is intuition! Right?! (UGH!)
But… the more I’ve been asked to answer if TFID is the same as intuitive eating, the more I realize it’s important to reflect on how I’ve referred to IE over the past seven years of writing this site, as well as in my book that’s coming out in less than a month.
First of all, Intuitive Eating is a book written by two registered dietitian nutritionists, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, that came out in 1995. The book is revolutionary in its genre and field, completely evidence based, and I recommend you read it.
However, my experience with official Intuitive Eating and the official Intuitive Eating book is actually pretty limited, which means the way that I’ve referred to it (or not referred to it) should probably be examined. In fact, the book Intuitive Eating and Geneen Roth’s books are mixed up in my mind at this very moment as I write this. Maybe that’s because there is a hunger scale in both of them? (And I DEF turned that hunger scale into a diet.)
I only read Intuitive Eating book once, when I was 18. And I’m not positive if I even finished it because I became a raw vegan 2 weeks later.
I obsessively dieted as a teenager. I went on every fad diet that existed at the time. It was disordered, it was extreme, and I felt more and more and more out of control with food the more I dieted. When I read the book Intuitive Eating, it was the first time I realized that my dieting was dysfunctional. Before then, I thought that this was just the way it had to be. I remember the book really spoke to me.
But I still didn’t fully understand how deep it all went for me: culturally and metabolically and emotionally and on and on. And I didn’t see how messed up my relationship was with weight, and how that was actually the core of the whole thing.
I needed very, very explicit instructions to F*** IT: f*** all diet and weight loss noise, and be willing to gain weight and take up space and be angry and prioritize my mental health over my desire to be a pretty little thing. But I was also young, and clearly needed to suffer a little more before I really understood that dieting was always going to backfire.
(***I bleep curse words for iTunes)
Weeks after reading the book, and just a few weeks before I went off to college, my mom told me she had cancer, and we both became raw vegan to try and heal all of our earthly ills (it didn’t work) (my mom is fine, but not because of raw veganism, she ditched it soon after starting chemo) (also, I have complex feelings about pharmaceutical companies too, but raw veganism was still not the answer).(Yes I was a raw vegan in freshman year of college.)
I was raw vegan for almost a year – and then after I realized it wasn’t “working” (read: I was less healthy, starving all the time, horrible skin, horrible digestion, and crazier than ever around food), I started trying to “eat intuitively” again… for 6 years. My general idea was that if I could listen to my body, and “not eat too much,” that that was intuitive. But I didn’t revisit the book, instead, for six years I did some version of “listening to my body sooooo closely and constantly trying to eat the smallest amount possible”. My goal was always to be thin. I also stuck my application of French Women Don’t Get Fat into the mix, thinking: ‘this is awesome… I can eat intuitively and frenchly. And be skinny and perfect.’
I turned “listening to my body” into a diet so quickly.
I used to interpret any advice on how to heal my eating through a diet culture lens. I interpreted it all through my belief that the goal of any eating style, was weight loss at all costs. I figured that the point was to listen to my body in order to eat really, really welllll – and that if I was being intuitive, I should crave “balanced” things always and forever.
Disordered eaters can quickly turn the principles of Intuitive Eating (or any version of “listen to your body”) into another diet. You can turn anything into the diet. I turned The f***ing Secret into a diet.
There were big stretches of time when I thought this method was ‘working’. I thought I was eating intuitively… because I ‘ate what I wanted’ (weirdly slowly and in tiny amounts)… and I was skinny (thanks to genetics + semi-starvation).
But I was f***ing starving all the time. I cried a lot. I had weird food rituals to try and make sure I didn’t eat “more than my body needed”. I drank a lot of wine and coffee. And still thought about food nonstop.
Guys. That’s allllll diet. And it’s not intuitive, or intuitive eating, or Intuitive Eating. It’s assuming that being intuitive requires micromanaging. It’s assuming that listening to your body is about curtailing your hunger. It’s still trying to tightly control the size of your body. That’s the antithesis of intuitive.
When I finally started writing TFID seven years ago, I was radically applying a non-diet, pro-calorie, pro-being-full, “f*** all diet and weight noise” approach, pro-gaining weight, plus a Health at Every Size (R) and feminist lens too.
I wrote the way I needed to hear it explained. I needed to hear more about our relationship to weight. And I needed to be less afraid of eating lots and lots of food. (And clearly I needed someone screaming at me with curse words.)
So TFID was developed as a separate way to become a normal, instinctive eater, while also examining why my first attempts at “intuitive eating” had so epically failed. And in my book, beyond talking about the way we eat, there’s a lot of focus on diet culture, on our emotions, and on our beliefs too.
But I also now understand that the goals of Intuitive Eating and of The F*** It Diet, are the same. The goal of both is to get to a place where you trust your appetite and experience instinctive, natural, easy, normal eating.
But, I never revisited the Intuitive Eating book. So what that also means is that for a very long time, I assumed that Intuitive Eating didn’t “work”. And that also means that I really have only ever been referring to the bastardized lower case version of IE, and the wellness coaches who twist it and use weight loss in their marketing, instead of realizing earlier on that the book, authors, and certified practitioners have always been out there being awesome and doing it right.
Years ago, I started noticing that search terms for my site were “why doesn’t intuitive eating work?”. So I wrote more about that: It’s because we’re all turning it into a diet! It’s because we are all still afraid to gain weight! It’s because of all these bullshit beliefs we have about beauty and worth! It’s because we are trying to eat the smallest amount possible! It’s because we are underfed and afraid that eating a lot isn’t intuitive!
But I still never re-read the book to see where my own application and interpretation had gone wrong. I kept thinking I’d figured out something that the book didn’t understand or only half explained. And because I kept seeing so many people market a bastardized version of intuitive eating as a way to lose weight, it just further confirmed that assumption.
I’ve called it “obsessive intuitive eating” or “pseudo intuitive eating.” And sometimes refer to true intuitive eating (good) and obsessive intuitive eating (bad).
And while clearly, many people misinterpret or twist the point of Intuitive Eating, just like I did, what that still means is that I haven’t had the awareness to give the co-authors, and the people trained by the co-authors, the credit they deserve.
The Intuitive Eating book knows what it’s talking about. It’s all there. It’s evidence based. It warns you not to turn it into a diet. And the thing that clicked this all into place recently has been following one of the co-authors, Evelyn Tribole on instagram. Oh… this lady is the real deal.
But to go back and answer the question of whether I teach intuitive eating? No, I don’t teach official Intuitive Eating or their 10 principles. I developed my own tools and lessons and ways of teaching.
But the goal of both is the same: easy, instinctive, intuitive eating.
On my path towards healing, I also needed to read books that talk about our confusion about weight and health (like Body Respect), and a feminist take on our cultural obsession with thinness and beauty (The Beauty Myth) and Fat Positive/Body Positive messages (one example: Lessons From the Fat-o-sphere that I read near the beginning of TFID… more recently Jes Baker‘s books). Maybe that would’ve knocked enough sense into me, more quickly. Or maybe I just needed to struggle and fail for as long as I did in order to write about eating the way I do now.
I only started following lots of certified intuitive eating non-diet dietitians (the people who don’t turn it into a diet, and understand the weight piece) on instagram in the last YEAR, once my book was already written. And OF COURSE, it was only once my book was finished that I realized… oh no…
I don’t even refer to the Intuitive Eating book at all, because my subconscious intention was to not say anything bad about it, but now I don’t feel great about saying nothing about the book either.
I wish I had had this clarity earlier so I could have said all of this way more explicitly in my book. In addition to warning people not to trust random “intuitive eating gurus” who teach what I refer to as “obsessive intuitive eating” and promise weight loss, I should have also mentioned the people who created official (true) Intuitive Eating, and who continue to do amazing and revolutionary work in the nutrition, non-diet, and eating disorder recovery world.
(I will update this in a second edition, with a little line about how the Intuitive Eating book, creators, and practitioners certified in it, understand how important it is not to turn it into a diet. But for now, I link to lots of certified Intuitive Eating dietitians and therapists and coaches on the (soon-to-be-shared) resource list and on the current reference link page, as well as the Intuitive Eating book. I will also will be sending extra resources and some of the content I had to cut from the book for length to people who sign up for the book resources, so it will be easy to clarify this about official/real Intuitive Eating vs. co-opted intuitive eating there as well.
The F*ck It Diet book is the culmination of many, many, many things I learned over the years of dieting, thinking I wasn’t dieting, and actually not dieting.
But I wish my clarity on intuitive eating had come earlier, and I had been way more direct in giving a shout-out to the wonderful people who wrote it and don’t turn it into a diet.