The “Healthy Version” of Intuitive Eating

  1. MarieW says:

    This is great but I need to lose weight! Being about 100 lbs over weight is not pretty nor healthy – have osteo-arthritis and sleep apnea starting so I am not a member of the “fat and happy club” just because I don’t obsess over food anymore! I’d rather obsess than become physically disabled, be hooked up to a C-Pap machine, diabetes and heart problems, etc.!!! I have tried this way of eating for a long while and have either gained or not lost anything! I exercise – not crazily – also. I know there can be a period of adjustment where you might gain wt or not lose any but to gain and not lose after about 6-8 mons eating this way is going to drive me back to diets! Any suggestions?

    • C says:

      I really empathize! But think how long you ate the way you did before! I think it will take even more time. That being said, you are not even minimally happier now that you don’t obsess over food?

    • Liz says:

      Hi Marie,
      Have you really accepted the concept of intuitive eating, that you can eat cake when you want it and a salad when you crave it? Until we really say goodbye to diets and really know that we will never restrict again, we subconsciously say to ourselves “I’ll try this ‘eat what I want’ thing, but then I’ll probably be on a diet again later.” There’s a great post about this on this blog.

      • Yes, I have known about the concept of intuitive eating since the 70s-80s so no, I am not new to this and have waited to long. I’ve had and read when they first came out like eons ago the “Thin Within”, Geneen Roth, and so many others and including some newer people on this topic like Nina V. and Josie Spinardi, Paul McKenna, etc.

        When you’re about 100 lbs overweight, and have OA it is very painful, you have no energy, no motivation to even move usually! But when you do and try to do intuitive eating and you lose NO wt but gain and then don’t lose that, it gets to disheartening to continue. If I had a choice over food freedom and losing this wt, I’d pick lose the wt because just being “free from food” doesn’t mean anything if you are NOT losing the weight, getting healthy, looking nice, raising your self-esteem/confidence, etc. You don’t have any desire to buy new clothes and all the rest. I was size 7, 118-120 lbs once for most of my life so I know the difference in appearance and how I felt and how I lived my life and so to settle with being fat, unhealthy, looking awful is NOT something I will do.

        Just as in all diets/way of eating, everyone and everybody’s body is different and responds to diets/ways of eating differently and some of these ways/diets just don’t work for everyone. I must be be one of these!

    • bigjoe23294 says:

      Hi marie,

      This is just my experience so take what you will from it. I released 106lbs so far doing 3 things. I joined Overeaters Anonymous, I followed intuitive eating (with many binge/restrict relapses which I learned to accept as part of the process) and I weight lift/do fun cardio. I enjoy weightlifting. I don’t advocate doing exercise that isn’t fun. There are two “boundaries” I’ve had to have in place due to my history of eating large quantities. I only bring 1-2 servings of sugary/snack foods in my house. Whatever my body wants that day, I let myself have. But instead of buying a pint of Ben and Jerry’s I go to an ice cream shop and get a high quality ice cream. Boundary 2, I do not purchase items in bulk except for meats, veggies and things like spices/oil.

      I think that it’s more important to focus on how you feel emotionally and physically after eating a food or meal. I realized that I’m probably lactose intolerant and gluten bothers me. I do take digestive enzymes an eat these foods on occasion but I also note this in my choices. I believe paying attention to how one feels after eating I more important that focusing on “fullness” at first.

    • graphxgrl says:

      Marie! I know you left this comment almost a year ago, but it sounds like you have some hormonal issues if you have embraced Intuitive eating already. May I suggest reading “Weight Loss Apocalypse” by Robin Woodall? She pairs hormonal repair therapy with intuitive eating. She also has a youtube page under the name of the book with many helpful vlogs and also a blog. Best of luck to you!

  2. Matt says:

    I like the sentiment the article portrays and it would be so wonderful to say, “to hell with it, I will just eat whatever, whenever!”, but do you truly believe what goes in our mouth has NO correlation to the health of our body?

    • C says:

      Hi Matt. I absolutely do think that, quality, especially, has a lot to so with health.

      But I also think body image does, and stress …and that health can be benefitted by being truly truly in tune with what you want and what your Body needs. After restriction or obsession it is nearly impossible to go straight from fear to trust, so eating more “junk” is part of the learning curve. Also learning to not intensely fear being “overweight”. Sure maybe it’s not your favorite way of going through life, but to fear it is pointless. Seeing it won’t kill you can give you a strange strength.

      Also after restriction or restrictive fearful mindsets, your body literally craves calories. It speeds your system and repairs you.

      Sure I would recommend real and organic if you can, but in the beginning that can be besides the point.

      Is that more clear?

      • Thanks for your thoughtful reply and yes that is an interesting way to look at it. I guess the mental angish of stressing out about what goes in our body CAN be more detrimental to our whole state of health than the actual food stuff itself, especially when it is continually dominating our thoughts and affecting moods and social interactions. I like the idea of real and organic 🙂

      • S. says:

        ” the mental angish of stressing out about what goes in our body CAN be more detrimental to our whole state of health than the actual food stuff itself, especially when it is continually dominating our thoughts and affecting moods and social interactions.”

        <<This is the WORST part of what restriction can lead to. It isn't what the food will do to you…not at all, it's the mental control that you feel that makes you feel like you can not eat anything outside of your comfort "safe" foods or else you will suddenly be "unhealthy" or gain weight. This has been THE WORST PART of my restriction. And even when I have been eating 2800-3000 a day….the mental control still has stuck around. It is horrible when it leads to controlling what we eat, how we eat, not being able to eat home-cooked meals, and interrupting social relationships…..I wish I could get rid of it all and eat everything I crave all the time. I can…and should. yet, something holds me back most of the time. And when I do feed into my cravings, then WOW do I feel great and happy, and proud of myself and just happy and satisfied. To me, its the mental control that knocks me down.

    • I loved the line about “neutralizing” food. One of the things that drives me right up the wall is polarizing foods as “yummy” and “gross”. Why do healthy foods have to be the opposite, taste-wise, of junk food? Healthy foods taste “bad” mostly, I am convinced, because we’re raised to think they taste bad. No dessert unless you eat your vegetables, right? So vegetables must be the opposite of dessert; the trial before the reward.

      Don’t get me wrong: I have a package of chocolate TastyKakes waiting for me after lunch. But FOR lunch I have awesome roast chicken tacos with onions and bell peppers. There will probably be spinach tonight. Spinach is not the opposite of TastyKakes; They are both on the Foods I Love list.

      There might be ice cream after that. Or not. I’m not always in the mood for ice cream. But knowing that I can have ice cream if I feel like it frees me up to not want it today.

  3. hybrid756 says:

    Ok, here’s an idea. I’m trying it, and it’s working.

    I have been doing IE for 3 months (plus the preparatory stage of eating nothing but donuts and feeling awful). I lost 16lbs in the first 2 months, and plateau’d in the third. The first, and most important reason I LOST weight while doing it, was because before I started (after the donuts bit) I cut sugar out of my drinks (I have a lot of drinks, so it’s a big factor).

    On reading up on this, I’ve found that sugar in excessive quantities screws up your hunger signal, controlled by leptin, ghrelin, and various other things. Only once I did this, could I get rid of “empty hunger” and actually HEAR what my body was telling me it wanted to eat. So, I’d propose that you may need to tweak the kind of foods you’re eating, first, to allow this to happen. Now I can have a donut if I want one, and it’ll be delicious, and 5hrs later I’ll be craving a salmon salad. So far so good.

    One issue: stress eating. Under extreme chronic stress, I can’t hear my instincts as well, and begin acting irrationally around food. Right now I’m on a 1400 per day calorie restriction, but… I don’t feel deprived, I eat what I want, when I want, according to the principles of IE. But it forces me to look closer at whether it’s my body or my mind that’s telling me I want that third brownie when I’m under stress, if I don’t have a lot of calories to play with.

    In summary, what worked for me and might be worth a try:
    1. Cut back (gradually is good, if you like) on refined sugar & processed food.
    2. When you can feel REAL hunger (I find I feel it below the waist, and “false” hunger above for some unknown reason), start on IE.
    3. Add bolt-ons from diets as works for you, but always use the principles of IE as your “base” way of eating.

    It’s a balancing act, but now I’m breaking my plateau, and with 85lbs left to get shot of, I’m happy with that. Sorry this is so long-winded, but it’s the only way I could think to explain it.

    I should point out that I’m not bashing IE, I LOVE it, it’s the only thIng that’s normalised my relationship with food in my 31 years. I’m glad you’re talking about it, as many people don’t seem to know what it’s about, or why it’s do excellent. But for anyone trying to lose a significant amount of weight, we don’t necessarily feel we have time to go through all the mental work straight off the bat and lose weight whenever. But it’s totally plausible to develop an IE way of eating, transitioning through some more traditional diet approaches along the way as needs dictate.

    • C says:

      I am not going to argue against anything you feel is helping you. It sounds like what you are doing is a far cry from dieting (though I would argue that 1400 is too low for anyone). But I have actually done this, intuitive eating for weight loss. It worked. I was very skinny. But my health wasn’t great actually. And I slept poorly. And looking back, it a an extension of diet and fearful mindset. I neer ate anything sweet. Maybe one bite, and I had convinced myself I HATED IT yet I’d be very very hungry at night and have to eat some snacks (fearfully, I didn’t want to overeat and get FAT). Looking back, this was just a skinnier and less miserable way to go through life with some disordered views about eating, nourishment and body image.

      If you feel it is working for you, that is great! But currently, i am building from the ground up… And I finally sleep well 🙂 but everyone is different.

      (Sorry but to any other readers, 1400 is not enough. Gwenyth Olwyn recommends at least 2500 on your eatopia)

      • S. says:

        I completely agree. !400 is FAR too low. The average woman can maintain on average of 2750-3000 calories. Most people just dont because they dont trust their bodies enough to do so. Restriction is not a way to live.

        After coming across Gwen’s site 5 months ago, I have been eating 3000 every day since and feel great, I am healthy and I eat this much every day to maintain. It’s about trusting your body and not “dieting” you can not diet or restrict your entire life.

  4. S. says:

    I just wanted and need to say thank you so much for this post and especially this right here:

    “No, intuitive eating allows you to EAT. For God’s sake EAT. Eat the things that nourish you and please you. The things that make your mouth water and that you only let yourself eat in your dreams.

    That is the food your body is asking for.”

    I did this tonight. As recovering from an eating disorder (exercise addiction) I developed a large fear of fatty foods and the like, so I tore myself from eating the foods that I craved and that I enjoyed….and it led to making my ed worse and worse and worse and worse.

    I have to say tonight, I woke up and craved pizza. I wanted it so bad. Clearly, at first I tried making my own “healthy homemade pizza” (which was good, but not what I craved)

    Later, I gave into my craving and had real pizza and it was so fulfilling and just….made me happy knowing that I conquered my ED and my hear of the fat. It is always the ED that has won over my food choices for the last 4 years, and I am proud to say that I actually ate what I craved. I learned that I will be stuck in restriction as long as I continue denying myself the foods I deserve and crave….and I dont want that (I can’t live that way anymore)

    Thank you so much for your post.

    • C says:

      I am so glad. It’s so true. It takes time to really let yourself.

      I have felt like there were so many layers to is healing process. Just when I thought there wasnt more, There was a whole other layer!

  5. hybrid756 says:

    1400 is working for me, definitely. I try for 1400, some days it’s 1800, some days it’s 2500 (rarely), the important thing is I don’t hate it. I actually love it. When I wasn’t counting, I was under 1000 most days I took it upon myself to check! I am definitely NOT recommending that. I felt fine, but if I don’t continue to lose at 1400 I am going to the doctor to find out why, as I am not making myself go below that, despite having done it accidentally several times in the past.

    Now I’m eating lots more fresh food, less processed food, and I have a box of chocolates and 3 chocolate deserts in the fridge I can have whenever. I honestly do love this.

    Out of curiosity, what makes you say 1400 is too low for anybody? The counting add-on is new-ish to me, and if I’m missing some information and doing myself some kind of damage, well… That’s worrying.

    • C says:

      I am not a doctor, but, from everything I have researched, that is WAY lower than what a healthy person burns in a day, regardless of activity level. I would worry you are continuing a starvation mode in your body, which may backfire later…. I am not law though! I still think listening to you body is the most important.

      Have you read some of Matt Stone’s stuff on speeding out metabolism?

      • hybrid756 says:

        I haven’t, but I’m going to 🙂 thanks! I don’t know if I believe in starvation mode any more than I believe in set points, but I’ve experienced one of those, so… Anything is possible 🙂

        And I want to point out AGAIN that I’m not depriving myself, I am HAPPY. I am not about to stuff myself just because I “should”. Fuck that. But if I go up in calories sometimes, do I care? As long as I’m losing weight overall, no. And my BMR is around 2400, so I’d need to do a power of exercise every day to get through 3000. Even if I wanted to.


      • Amanda W says:

        It’s probably not a good idea to make blanket statements like that… I personally have a TDEE of 1800 (what I burn in a day), so 1400 is a perfectly acceptable number for a cut.

  6. PartlyPixie says:

    Thank you so much for this. So so much. I want to print it out and tape it to everyone’s refrigerator, and make them read it every time they decide to eat “healthy” food first.

    After 3 months of finally eating intuitively, no restraints and no denial (I thought I was before that, but I wasn’t truly letting myself have whatever I wanted – stopping at one cookie, trying to eat gluten free, etc.) I am starting to really experience food neutrality for the first time.

    I can’t believe how hard it was to live before. Seriously, every meal was a dilemma, going hungry was virtuous, denial of cravings was like some kind of competition, me vs. biology. I’m heavier now, a little, but I’m also healthier and happier than any other time in my life. Now, I eat what I want. Period.

    Yeah, fuck diets.

  7. Shannon says:

    Wow, did I need this today. I was just thinking that I probably needed to start restricting again because I really want to lose weight (despite the fact that my weight has been fairly stable for the last 2 years). I have struggled with disordered eating for most of my life and I think a lot of the distorted thoughts are still entrenched in my poor little brain. I just want to be able to get out of my head and enjoy eating and not worry about it so much.

  8. graphxgrl says:

    Learning to trust my body has been my theme this week, so perfect post! I’m in my second week of IE thanks to you and your blog…in addition to Margaret Cho’s blog you reviewed and the wonderful youtube videos on weightlossapocalypse channel. I can tell I’ve already put on weight and I am not even eating as freely as I had hoped to. grrr. Mentally I’m totally doing the work, but if I had really let myself go with it like you do, I can only imagine how big I would be already.
    Yes, I have trust issues with my body, but I also have a record of my body gaining at the drop of a hat LOL. I will press on and continue to push the boundaries ditching deprivation but damn I really don’t want to gain 20 lbs in the process!
    I do realize that if I fear the gain, I’ll never completely let go. Finding the balance between letting go of it all and dealing with the anxiety of gaining weight is very very difficult.
    Thank you for putting yourself out there. I was so excited to see a new entry.

  9. Carolina says:

    Hi, Caroline!

    I just now found your blog, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m a 40-year veteran of the dieting wars, and have made a commitment to stop riding the diet crazy train. I’ve been at it for nearly 3 years, and it still poses a challenge. Still, I’m a big believer that the fuck it diet is the way to go. I’m working on the trust issues. I’m working on overcoming more than a decade of low-carb bias. I’m working on eating ENOUGH, in addition to eating when hungry. I’m working on FREELY choosing my foods, without judgment based on my perceptions of their nutritional value. Because, ultimately, if what I’m craving is chocolate chip cookies, no amount of steak and broccoli is going to cut it, so I might as well have the cookies already, and move on with my life.

  10. Sue says:

    I am only 5 ft tall, and 42 mum. Does the 2,500 calories per day still stand for shorter people? I have restricted for many years now, only eating one meal per day. On other days l would eat much more than that. I know for sure if l eat 2,500 calories a day l would have more energy, but l also know would gain. So l need to get my head around this.

    One day l will free myself, l just need to let go of it all.


    • iejod says:

      I’m 4’11 and maintain on probably somewhere around that, maybe a little more or less, I don’t actually count anymore.

    • iejod says:

      I’m 4’11 and maintain on about that much. The GO site says 2200 MINIMUM for us but I know I eat more than that easy.

    • Amanda W says:

      No it doesn’t always. I’m 5’0, and I burn 1800ish per day. 2500 a day would put me in a 700 calorie surplus, so I would gain 1.5lbs a week at that rate. I recommend looking up your TDEE online. Fat2fitradio,com has a good one.

      • Caroline says:

        Amanda, I will never claim to know EXACTLY what YOUR body needs.

        BUT, I am going to rebut this by saying, first of all, I do not even support Calorie counting. Secondly, I am not a weight loss supporter or writer. Thirdly, I am not writing for people to lose weight in restriction, I am talking about people who need to restore their bodies to a healthy metabolism by eating. You need Calorie surplus for that. FOURTH! I do not believe that those calorie counters are very accurate. We aren’t robots. Metabolism vary so much. It is more than in-out=health and weight.

        1400-1800 is probably too little for recovery and restoration to a healthy body and metabolism- even for your height, but it doesn’t sound like that is what you are going for anyway.

  11. Sue says:

    Just read the worst book ever and now l have gone backwards. Why, did l read thus book. It works for weight loss for others but it’s not what l needed to read. Just because l,have gained some weight l thought l,would try it and now have lost weight again, but this is exactly what l didn’t want to do. I just know that l need to eat freely and listen to my body but l,am so scared.


  12. Dara says:

    Is there anyone out there who has to restrict their eating because of health issues? I have severe autoimmune thyroid disease (and Lyme) and need to eat real, organic “healthy” food – gluten and dairy free, low sugar and refined carbs, etc, etc. Losing weight is practically impossible now which has forced me to accept my body since hating myself and my 30 lbs of extra weight is crazy-making and stressful. My bloodwork improved dramatically on Paleo but I couldn’t sustain it – in fact gained 5 lbs from eating so much fat and protein to make up for the lack of carbs. The good news is that I’ve lost my taste for junky, sugary crap – so maybe that’s the answer. Would love to hear from someone in a similar situation. Thank you for this blog!