Stop the Abuse. Self-Care Through Intuitive Eating

The first letters of the words ‘Intuitive Eating’ are capitalized. Programs and brands always are–think Weight Watchers, the Zone Diet and the latest craze, the Ketogenic Diet.

Nevertheless, the capitals are a bit disappointing because I think of Intuitive Eating as the anti-program. It is the light at the end of a long soul-sucking tunnel of diets and food plans.

What’s Your Dieting History?

Most of us have tried something, often lots of somethings, to lose weight.

In my twenties, my weight was fine but I didn’t think so. I remember the soup diet, and the one based on bananas.

My thirties, when I had maybe fifteen pounds to lose, I was sure I needed to drop fifty. I tried the Zone Diet, eating by Canada’s Food Guide, and the first of three times with Weight Watchers.

My forties were disastrous. Those were the years when both work and food consumption were relentless. My thyroid was failing, but I pushed on, fueled by sugar and bloody-minded determination. It was the decade when I started to seriously fail myself, determined to be perfect at some diet plan or other each and every morning or Monday or first of the month, only to blow it within a couple of hours and start bingeing. My weight climbed. A few multi-day detoxes only pushed the body abuse into the stratosphere.

In my fifties, where I am now, the carnage continued for a while, then abated for a bit when I retired, got some sleep, and started to slowly recover from burnout. I lost twenty or more pounds and felt great. People started complimenting me on the weight loss, resistance kicked in for some still-unknown reason and, with more of that bloody-minded determination, I worked hard to quickly pile those pounds back on. I didn’t understand resistance or the many ways to counteract it, so I berated myself for my  slovenly ways, and kept eating.

Does any of this resonate? Have you ever worked so hard at weight loss, or anything else for that matter, and failed so repeatedly that you got to the point where failure was simply a foregone conclusion?

Why Don’t Diets Work?

Geneen Roth is the author of many wonderful books about the relationship between compulsive eating and personal and spiritual issues that, in the end, have nothing to do with food, weight or body image.

The promise of diet is not only that you will have a different body; it is that in having a different body, you will have a different life.

Geneen Roth

A  favourite of her books,  When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair, gives four reasons for not going on a diet. I’ve abbreviated them here as:

  1. You will rebel and, when you do, you will gain more weight.
  2. The basic message of a diet is that if you let yourself go, you will devour the universe. But you can’t say anything to yourself physically that doesn’t also affect you emotionally.
  3. Deprivation, fear, shame, and guilt do not now, and never will, lead to long-lasting change.
  4. Long-lasting change can only come through kindness to yourself, curiosity about what you do, and a willingness to act on your own behalf. (p.9)

In their Intuitive Eating Workbook, authors Tribole and Resch add these interesting pieces of research evidence:

  • A six-year follow-up study of contestants on The Biggest Loser showed that contestants gained back a significant amount of their weight.
  • Since the late 1940s, a large body of research has shown that the act of dieting promotes weight gain in a variety of age groups.
  • High-quality studies on millions of people show that being at a lower weight does not confer better health or outcomes.

What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive Eating collage
I called this collage “Wisdom #2” but I could have called it “Intuitive Eating.”

When the choices are to think of yourself as a weak and undisciplined failure, or to blame the diet industry for failing to deliver on its promises, the sane and healthy response is to take a hard look at diets and at the culture that promotes them. That’s what Intuitive Eating does.

Intuitive Eating is not a diet. There is no promise of weight loss. In fact, many people gain weight when they first start to eat intuitively. I have. However, for the first time in my life, I’m fine with the weight gain. I trust that by the end of this process, my weight will normalize to whatever is right for me.

The basic premise of Intuitive Eating is very simple. There are no good or bad foods. When you are physically hungry, as opposed to emotionally hungry, you eat whatever your body is craving at that time and you stop eating when you are satisfied. When you are emotionally hungry, you figure out what you need that isn’t food and provide that. The goal of Intuitive Eating is to get you back in touch with your body’s wisdom and back to enjoying food.

What Makes Intuitive Eating So Difficult?

Intuitive Eating is a change of mind, a change of belief, and while it is very simple to understand, it is also very difficult to do, especially in our society. As authors and dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch explain,

“Fearmongering, in the name of health, in front of the backdrop of an appearance-based culture, has triggered the perception that we are one bite away from a disaster. It’s a cultural neurosis; the fork has become akin to a loaded gun–just one wrong move pulls the trigger.”

We are surrounded at every turn by experts, celebrities, friends and family telling us what are bodies should look like, which food are good for us and which ones are bad. Those external voices become internalized ones and they scream, shout and nag at us (well, me) relentlessly. Intuitive Eating requires that we stop participating in negative body talk, out there in the world and inside our minds. That’s incredibly hard to do.

Finally, Intuitive Eating relies on you recognizing the physical cues that tell you when you are hungry and when you are satisfied. While you’re taught how to recognize these cues through various Intuitive Eating resources, it’s not easy to reinhabit your body years or decades after leaving it.

Does Intuitive Eating Have Rules?

Rules, no. Guidelines or principles, yes. Sensitive to the fact that some of us will rebel at anything that smacks of a rule/guideline/principle, Roth titles her list, “If love could speak.” I like that.

Roth has seven guidelines, while Tribole and Resch offer ten. If I were to boil them all down to a single word, it would be my word of the year–NOTICE. Notice what you feel,  and where the sensations are in your body. Notice the moment of the last bite you need to take to leave you satisfied, and the kinds of food that feel good on your taste buds and in your body.

To do the difficult work of noticing, be patient, keep practicing, get rid of distractions that would prevent you from noticing, and ramp up your self-care efforts.

What Does Intuitive Eating Have to Do with Self-Care?

Self-care is both a prerequisite and a result of eating intuitively. It is a prerequisite because not all compulsive eating is emotional eating. Sometimes it’s a direct result of lack of self-care, or even outright deprivation.

Have no fear of perfection–you’ll never reach it.

Salvador Dali

It is much easier to become an intuitive eater if self-care is in place. A basic level of self-care includes: adequate sleep, time in nature, time for reflection, and some life balance. Ramping up those self-care efforts means being extra nice to yourself with activities like buying yourself flowers, enjoying hot baths, taking walks in the woods, reading for pleasure, or whatever else makes you feel cared for and valued.

Self-care becomes a result of Intuitive Eating because learning how to eat intuitively requires that you shut down your Inner Committee and replace those voices with self-compassion, kindness, and curiosity.

What Can You Expect When You’ve Mastered Intuitive Eating?

Since Intuitive Eating is difficult to do, and often results in some weight gain, at least in the short-term, it’s reasonable to wonder if Intuitive Eating isn’t just a sanctioned way of giving up on ourselves. 

Sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.

Galway Kinnell

But, as Roth explains, “Not dieting does not equal bingeing. Not dieting does not equal going numb or unconscious.” And later, “We think we’re miserable because of what we weigh…But if we’ve spent the last thirty years obsessing about the same fifty pounds, something else is going on. Something that has nothing to do with weight.” (p. 49, Women, Food and God)

I am at the very beginning of this process, but I’m looking forward to three things that have been promised when I master Intuitive Eating. I can’t wait to:

  • truly crave nutritious foods.
  • make food choices that will increase my energy levels and my body’s performance.
  • this is the big one–live life without the drama of feeling like a fat failure.

Where Can You Learn More About Intuitive Eating?

Tribole created the term Intuitive Eating. There’s the third edition of a book–Intuitive Eating (2012), an online community you can apply to join (I’m a member), and a counselor directory if you would like one-on-one assistance. They’ve also recently published an Intuitive Eating Workbook that I’ve been working my way through for the last two months. The workbook is a stand-alone. I highly recommend it.

Roth also has a website where you can read articles and blog posts, and watch videos. You’ll also find a list of her books here. I’ve read three of them and will be ordering the rest. Roth’s writing is so understanding, supportive and real that I consider it ideal self-care just to bathe in her words.

Mindfulness, as I’m sure you’ve realized, is a powerful part of Intuitive Eating. Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey are re-offering a free 21 day meditation series called Shedding the Weight: Mind, Body and Spirit. This was the first free meditation series I did with the dynamic duo and it was excellent. It starts March 19th. If you’re interested, sign up and you’ll get a link in your inbox early each morning for 21 days. Each day’s session will be live for five days so you don’t have to worry about missing out if you’re too busy to get to meditation one day.

Comments are always welcome and appreciated.



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  1. Great post, and so much research. Good for you not going with all the commercialization about weight and foods you shouldn’t eat and foods you should eat. Years ago, I don’t remember everyone being so fixated on food products or expensive health products. I find it hard to keep up with all the new items or ideas coming out. I think people would be a lot healthier and happier if they didn’t worry about what they are eating

    1. I agree! While there are some basic truths – like more veggies and fruits, and fewer processed foods – I often wonder if the relentless focus on exactly what to eat and what not to eat, when and in what quantity, isn’t just making us a whole lot more anxious, but also less healthy. Deprivation and ‘thou shalt nots’ just can’t be good for us in the long run.
      And the expense! You’re so right again. Expensive health products and expensive foods abound. I’m weary of it all.

  2. The beginning of this post is one I could I have written about my life – practically word for word. I particularly liked the description “long soul-sucking tunnel of diets and food plans”.
    … and yes, after I retired I thought I would finally be able to focus on me, me, me and start to shed the poundage that has plagued my self-esteem for as along as I can remember. But in fact the opposite happened and I got fatter!!

    The more you talk about your word for the year “notice”, the more it is resonating with me, especially now relative to intuitive eating. I’m finally taking the time to stop and ask myself what I really want. More often than not, it’s not food at all. The aha moments just keep coming.

    This reminds me of something I read a long time ago that stuck with me – that it’s important to feed your soul rather than your appetite. I discovered it’s easier said than done, but since your blog post on overcoming resistance, I feel like I’ve finally found the magic key.

    1. I love that statement, Joanne – It’s important to feed your soul rather than your appetite. Thanks for sharing that; I think I will use it as a mantra going forward.

      I have to say that I’m only just starting to realize how absolutely perfect ‘notice’ is for my word of the year. I haven’t been attending to it the way that I want to, so as of today I’m vowing to do some writing each day about what I noticed in that day.

      I’m so glad my post on resistance helped you, Joanne. I think I’m going to have to reread it a few dozen times myself because it’s still not kicking in. A perfect example – I went for breakfast and a good hard walk on an indoor track with a friend this morning. I didn’t worry about what I was eating at breakfast, enjoyed myself and the time with my friend completely. Then I left the track, drove a short distance to a day spa where I had a 15 minute appointment to have hairs waxed off my chin and upper lip (an act of self-care necessary only at this time in my life – aargh) and I ate two wrapped dark chocolates that were sitting in a bowl on the counter. Not that there’s anything wrong with eating them. The problem was they made me feel sick, I ate them completely mindlessly and, most especially, as soon as I ate them, I thought “Well, I’ll start noticing tomorrow.” This damnable delay for the big ta-da start where I will be perfect is doing me in. And it’s all about resistance.

      1. good luck Karen. I hope you find the same power in your own words that I found. This is working for me right now and I’m thrilled – not because I’ve lost a ton of weight, but because I feel so good.

        If it helps you, the big aha moment I had from your post was to use a technique I learned in problem solving at work. It’s called the 5 Whys. Whenever I feel the urge to feed something, I ask myself why. Why do I want this … and then ask why again to that response.

        The more complicated the problem, the more whys that need to be asked, but usually it takes only a maximum of 5 whys to reach the root of whatever problem you’re trying to solve.
        In this case, the problem is what do I really want/need … and it’s often not food, although sometimes it is, and then I REALLY enjoy what I eat because I’ve thought through what I needed.

        I’ve taken myself off of autopilot and started devoting energy to noticing what I really need … and the beauty of it is, since the technique has nothing to do with food, you don’t have to wait until tomorrow to try it 🙂

        1. Brilliant, Joanne. And a bit of an embarrassing head shake on my end. I actually wrote about the 5 Whys technique in a couple of my books. Can’t believe I forgot it. So no more delays. I start NOW!

  3. Hi Karen! Good for you for trying something that will be so much better for your heart, soul and body than merely focusing on losing weight. I have NEVER been thin (well maybe for a short time late-teens/early twenties but only because I was starving myself.) But somewhere along the line I decided that being happy was more important than worrying about my weight. My husband was also suppportive. I grew up with a mom who was obsessed about weight and I didn’t want to do that. So yeah, I carried extra weight and still have some, but it never got out of hand. what’s changed recently is that as I’ve gotten older I simply can’t eat as much or the same types of food. So gradually I have backed down. Plus, as an information junkie, I could NOT ignore all the messages of eating more healthily. My husband and I started doing morning smoothies 3 years ago and LOVE them rather than any other type of breakfast (and I used to love my bacon and eggs!) Then we started upping the salads…and now I feel weird if I don’t have at least one BIG salad a day. And then a year ago we gave up nearly all grains and most sugar and that helped us both lose pounds and inches without cutting back on quantity at all. But behind it all is a similar message to what you say in this post. The idea of self-care and awareness is key. I’m not sure I would call it intuitive, but definitely mindful. And as with so many things, learning to love, accept and appreciate ourselves exactly as we are today is so very important. Thank you for the reminders and may your intuition continue to guide you toward great good health and awareness! ~Kathy

    1. Hi Kathy. I’d forgotten all about morning smoothies! I did do them for quite a while a few years ago and I absolutely loved them. Then I stopped because I was doing Weight Watchers and they assign tons of points to smoothies, apparently because, being liquid, they don’t satisfy us as easily or as quickly as eating the fruit. I think I need to give them another try.
      How did you give up grains and most sugar? I’ve tried and tried to do that, especially the sugar, but there’s sugar in so much and even a taste of it keeps the craving alive and kicking for me.
      But see, there I go – looking for the magic answer. I will instead focus on the most important sentence in your comment – “learning to love, accept and appreciate ourselves exactly as we are today is so very important.” Thank you, Kathy.

  4. Thank you Karen! I had the first edition of Intuitive Eating, and it really resonated with me. It didn’t survive one of my moves/book purges so today I downloaded the 3rd edition to refresh myself with its principles. I’ve had great health success in the past with eating a Paleo diet, but since being widowed/menopausal, I have relaxed this as I now have more of a social/traveling life and Paleo can be very difficult in those situations. And gained back 20 pounds (ouch). Time to look at a more intuitive and mindful approach to eating!


    1. Sounds like now is indeed the perfect time for lots of great self-care and an intuitive/mindful approach to eating, Deb. If you haven’t tried Deepak and Oprah’s free meditation series, I also found that incredibly useful. I’m not good at meditating, but the combination of information provided and ten minutes of peaceful relaxing to music works for me even if I don’t think I’m actually truly meditating.
      A Paleo diet – whew! My trainer and her husband eat that. It scares me – feels very hard core athletic. Crazy isn’t it, how different diets and food plans can activate a whole host of feelings.

      1. Yep, I still eat Paleo-ish because it gives me the immune system of a goddess…I can’t tell you the last time I had a head cold or the flu, even when everyone around me is sick as hell. I credit it with me surviving the time period where my late husband was dying of cancer and I practically lived in hospitals and functioned without sleep. But now I do enjoy rice and oats and ice cream and yogurt and cheese and oh my, no surprise there that I gained 20 pounds over the past 4 years. I eat mostly “real” foods, still. But I do find myself eating mindlessly or for the wrong reasons (not real hunger) and that I need to work on. Thanks for this post and the suggestions within – very timely!

  5. This sounds like it has real potential, Karen. You are so right in pointing out the failure of ‘diets.’ Americans have watched their waistlines grow while reducing their bank account, spending gobs of money on diets. I’ve noticed something interesting since I’ve been semi-retired. I don’t eat as much and during my busy days at home, I forget to eat. On my work days, I want to eat all the time. I’m sure it is stress. Today I ate a hard boiled egg and then shoveled snow for an hour, went to a funeral and realized I had not eaten another thing since my early morning egg. I was grateful they had snacks after the funeral! But until I thought about it, I wasn’t hungry. I’ll be interested in your journey as always. XO

    1. Oh, I long for a day when I forget to eat, Molly! I’m a touch hypoglycemic so if I don’t eat every 2-3 hours, I get lightheaded, foggy, and incredibly irritable. It’s not pretty. People who know me start shoving food at me and, of course, the more sugary the food at that point, the faster I seem to recover.
      I so appreciate you being interested in my journey 🙂

  6. I have only once gone on a weight loss diet, at the end of my first year at university. I had “ballooned” to about 9 stone or something. I wish I had this problem now! I went vegetarian in my early 20s and my diet hasn’t changed all that much since, it’s pretty healthy, but I still put on weight. I know the only times I have lost a lot of weight have not been to do with food but when i’ve exercised more. I think there’s a message for me there ……

    1. Crazy isn’t it, how we were so convinced in our 20s that we were huge.

      I used to believe that vegetarians never had to worry about gaining weight. I learned a few years ago that wasn’t true, but it still boggles my mind because I put vegetables in the healthy, eat as much as you want and don’t gain an ounce, category. I know there are other things in a vegetarian diet that contribute to weight gain, but that just seems so unfair to you vegetarians. Talk about an eating plan where it seems you do just about everything right!

  7. Karen, I had to think back about dieting and food plans. I don’t think I ever really did a special diet in my life! I cut back on salt and red meat when my dad had his first heart attack; that was the thing then. I’ve never really added either back big time, but I don’t avoid them totally either. Switched to low-fat milk and non-white bread then also. That’s the biggest diet (shift) ever in my history! No Weight Watchers, no Atkins, no cleanses, nothing.

    When I think about dieting now, I think about more fruits and veggies, portion control, and getting off my butt more. Since retirement, all of those seem to be happening…but still I have not lost the 35 pounds that would put me back to my weight at age 25. I did lose 20 pounds last year with a combination of better eating and then house moving (do it your self means a lot of exercise!), but then gained 10 back last 2-3 months (post surgery non-movement). Hoping to get moving again this spring and slide it down again. I like how my body feels with less weight on it … and since I’m fighting some body image issues with the breast cancer impacts and dealing with arthritis in my knee, a lower weight can help right now. I’m never going to be slim, but less fat and more muscle-tone will be good for my longevity.

    What I take from the idea of Intuitive Eating is to be aware of what I’m eating. (Notice!) Not mindless eating. I think I am doing that, but can definitely do more. I am choosing fruit versus chips as a snack, having a cup of tea if I think I’m hungry (when I’m really not), having salads in the house regularly. If I do snack, I use my beautiful (made by me) small snack bowl – no eating direct from the bag/container.

    One I think I’ll start to focus on is “eat until I’m satisfied” and then stop… especially when eating out. Too often I over eat when dining out. We go to places that have amazing food and I want to try so many things. And yes, I was raised to clean my plate…. that is such a challenging habit to break! When I see others leaving half their food on their plate (and not asking for a to-go bag even!), there is such a strong internal negative reaction!

    Very interesting topic…. and one so many of us can relate to. Thanks for sharing it and hopefully you’ll give us an update in a few months on how its going for you.

    1. I can’t even begin to imagine getting back to the weight I was when I was 25 – if I could even remember what that number was! But I do think it’s possible for you, if you want that, because you didn’t ever diet. That’s awe-inspiring, Pat. How absolutely wonderful to not have weight be an issue, especially since when it is, it’s often tied into worries about ‘what do other people think’.

      I’m going to try to be your twin in this regard too, Pat. Logical, rational, not buffeted about by my emotions. I’ll definitely provide an update!

      1. Karen, I think part of my reason for weight not being that much of an issue is I’m the “skinny one” in my family. And I am NOT skinny. My family are all very heavy in weight and have always been that way. I do worry about what people think, but I tend to “hold my weight” well – meaning in clothes it’s easy to hide. Summer or Florida in bathing suits make me even more conscious of my weight. (In FL now and feeling it coming on!)

        I also know I do emotional, mindless eating. Awareness is key! That’s what my focus is on now. Not necessarily stopping it, but moderating it. If I am doing mindless eating, it’s from the small snack bowl and only a handful of chips. I found a great Asian blend snack as well. Small bites that are very satisfying…and I’ve been pushing myself to just a half bowl and one small bite, fully chewed for each morsel. I’ve decided not to fight the mindless eating as much as modify it! LOL.

        This has generated some great conversation … I’ve loved reading both the comments and your responses. Made me think even more.

        1. You are moderating your mindless eating by becoming more mindful. I think that’s exactly how it’s supposed to work, Pat. Kudos!

          It was good of you to follow up with your comment while in Florida. Thanks, Pat. And I hope you’re having a great time and overriding or ignoring any body image concerns.

  8. Great post with so much research, Karen. I think the self-care message is key. A lot of it is habit, whether it’s mindful or mindless habit, it’s hard to break once you get into it. That’s when “notice” is going to help let go of the poor habits and develop healthier habits.

    1. So true, Natalie. Habits operate on autopilot. When they’re good habits, that’s great. When bad habits, look out! I’m going to start applying my word ‘notice’ every day.

  9. Somewhere we’ve lost sight of intentional eating (I agree that it should be lower case – it’s really a way of eating, not a branded program) in our day-to-day lives. The food makers have learned how to put together just the right ingredients and tastes to make their products both tempting and addictive. Often, cheap and easy too. Even though I am happy with my weight, I have a hard time making smart choices when I eat (too much mindless eating, often satisfying cravings for salt or sugar, rather than choosing healthy foods).

    Although I have practiced intermitted fasting (and regular exercise) for the last five years as my preferred way to keep the pounds off, intentionally eating food that is good for us is the path to getting and staying healthy, regardless of our weight goals.

    1. Hi Janis,
      I know that intermittent fasting is a big part of the Ketogenic Diet and I’ve read that it is extremely good for your body. Unfortunately, if I were to ever try it, I’d have to be away from people for the duration. I’m a touch hypoglycemic. If I don’t eat regularly, I get extremely irritable, like every nerve in my body is vibrating.
      I fixed the auto-correct thing and deleted your second message. No worries about that – I’ll always go in and fix those little things. I know too well that ‘Oh darn’ feeling when I hit send, see a problem, and have no way to get the message back to fix it 🙂

  10. This Intuitive Eating thing sounds interesting Karen, but my concern is not knowing what is classed as emotional eating as opposed to true hunger. Even if I am stressed out to the max I would swear I am just hungry. I have done tons of diets and even diet pills, like Dexatrim, over the years. None of it really touched the weight I was carrying (other than maybe adding to it!).

    I bought a weigh scale for under $20. a few years ago and it is the best thing I ever spent money on. I am not obsessed with weighing myself every day or anything but I can keep an eye on my numbers maybe once a week. I am in my 50s too now and my doctor called my attention to needing to drop some weight about five or six years ago. I was 205 lbs. then and at 5’2″ that is obese (grrI HATE that word). He did this during my yearly physical when I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes; his orders were to stop smoking, lose weight, get more exercise. I knew trying to change too many things at once was just inviting failure on all levels so I chose to tackle one at a time. First to go was the cigarettes since Type 2 does mega damage to the small blood vessels (like the ones in our lungs). Right, conquered that…next it was the weight I had to drop. Just by cutting down my portions and trying to get better rest I went from that 205 lbs to my current 166 lbs. I have managed to keep that off for a few years now. My concentration now is to get that lower yet. I have not started focussing on exercise yet but it is coming. My landlady has asked me if I am interested in joining her on a walk down the road and back after dinner on occasion and I said Yes! There I go committing myself so I have to follow through, again. Also, there is this woman named Misty Tripoli who has DVDs out and you can watch her stuff online for free, that I am interested in exploring more. She does what she calls Body Groove. Here is a link to her website so you can see what I mean. This to me is my kind of “exercise” – it seems so simple but a movement of any kind is miles better than what I do now. I am sure even my doctor would approve of me trying anything to get me moving and my heart rate up.

    Thanks for sharing all the research on Intuitive Eating, Karen. I especially appreciate all the links sprinkled through this post so we can remind ourselves of a particular topic if we need it. For me, right now at least, I think I will try Body Groove and walks down the country road and get this whole exercise thing kicking in now that I have both quit smoking and dropped 39 pounds and kept it off.

    1. Hi Susan,
      I sure understand the concern about not recognizing the difference between emotional and physical hunger. There is a process of inquiry for doing that where you locate where the hunger is in your body. If it’s in your stomach, it’s physical hunger. In your mouth or heart, it’s emotional hunger. It takes a while (I’m told) to get it figured out, but once done it releases the grip of emotional eating forever.

      However, doesn’t sound as if you need it. Congratulations on your successes – quitting smoking AND losing weight and keeping it off. That’s really terrific!

      For your next challenge, it sounds as if you already have a great plan for increasing movement in your day. Another good movement idea that Tribole suggests is to simply stand and walk around the room every hour. Those country walks, though, sound like the best idea – movement in the fresh air with good company and the opportunity for conversation. I love my walks. I hope you’ll enjoy yours too.

  11. Hi, Karen – Thank you for another thought-provoking post (that could easily be applied to many things other than weight). Once again, Janis took the words out of my mouth. I agree that “intentionally eating food that is good for us is the path to optimal health”….I do also agree that this is easier said than done (at any weight)!

    1. I agree, Donna. Noticing and being intentional about our choices applies not just to food, but to so many aspects of life. I’m really trying to learn how to do that. As you say it’s not easy, but it is so worthwhile.

  12. Thank you for this thoughtful post. You might also like the book The Yoga of Eating by Charles Eisenstein. Despite the title, it’s not about doing Yoga postures, but again, about being mindful of what and how we eat. Eisenstein is an ecologist so his perspective is holistic and gentle.

    1. Hi Cherry,
      Thank you so much for leaving a comment, and welcome to Profound Journey! I appreciate your book recommendation. I’d normally ignore any book with the word ‘Yoga’ in the title (not there yet), so especially appreciate you drawing it to my attention as a book about mindful eating. I’ll definitely give it a read.

  13. Intermittent fasting is definitely not for everyone, especially if you’re hypoglycemic. It works for me because it allows me to eat pretty much what I want (here’s where intentional eating would benefit me) on the other days; it’s very easy for me to say “no,” knowing that tomorrow I can say “yes;” I don’t have to measure anything, weigh anything, count anything, or write anything down; and my fasting days can actually be a welcome respite from my “normal” days.

    The key is to find a way of nourishing ourselves that works for us.

    1. Thanks for following up, Janis. I appreciate the different perspective on intermittent fasting. I’d always thought of it as deprivation, but since it allows you complete freedom on the other days, I can see the benefits.
      And you’re right – it’s all individual. Finding out what works for each of us is what matters. I’m looking forward to discovering that for myself.

  14. I think the hardest part about intuitive eating is defining the difference between being physically hungry and being emotionally hungry. I used to be tall and skinny when I grew up and never had to worry about my weight, until my thirties and forties. Even then, I’ve never been on a diet, and I envied people who could actually stick to a diet. I wasn’t overweight, but the extra belly and upper thigh fat bugged me (and still does), but I’m not one to deprive myself if not really necessary.

    Mark and I ate relatively healthy since we met 13 years ago (looked at the ingredients to avoid corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soybean oil), but I always stuffed myself and, until a few years ago, I pretty much ate what I desired.

    Then, Mark got sick and we did a lot of research and started following a “plant-based diet”, cutting out red meat, processed meat, certain oils and sugar. And, I tried to stick to one portion and not have seconds or finish the leftovers. Surprisingly, my body got used to the healthier food and now, when I eat certain oils or more sugar than usually, my stomach protests and I immediately regret it. Who would have thought? I used to love a big portion of fries with mayonnaise!

    Without effort, we stick to this “diet”, because, seriously, that’s what our bodies want! And, because we are careful when we eat at home, we are allowed to splurge and still eat anything when eating at a restaurant or when invited by friends or family. A real treat. Sporadically. Or, sometimes, we even stick to plant-based when out of the house.

    You will get there, Karen, because I do believe once your body has some practice, it will get used to it and things will be easier than you now think. Sugar is a biggie, though… Sodas are so bad… And, as you know, it is very difficult to find food items without sugar. Once you do, though, you just keep buying those brands.

    We found sugar free bread at Trader Joe’s, sugar free ketchup and sugar free Snyder pretzels (the sourdough nibbles or something like that). TJs also has chips with olive oil, and ordinary peanuts cooked in peanut oil are the healthiest.

    Wishing you success and determination, and practice!

    1. Thanks for your support and encouragement, Liesbet. I appreciate you sharing your story and reminding me that practice is necessary for my body to get used to a new way of eating.
      I’m not going to try to delete sugar just yet. Anytime I’ve done that from the get go, I rebel like crazy and go on a major sugar binge. But I think if I focus on more of the healthier foods, alongside the sugar, and on paying attention to how my body feels when I eat different foods, my body will tell me what it prefers just as yours did for you. Today’s the start. Onward!

  15. I purposely left your post for today when I would have the time to “digest” it and reflect upon it. I too slowly gained weight over the years, and I also went on a couple of diets in my life. The first time was after pregnancy when I went on a Weight Watchers program and lost 40 pounds. However, it slowly crept back on over the years. The second time was when we were living in South Carolina where we thoroughly enjoyed southern fried cooking. Later both Walter and I followed the low carb diet and both lost significant poundage. Then on to other locations to partake in local cuisine. Egypt wasn’t too bad because some of the food was not to my taste. England was a feast! So many good restaurants led to so much weight gain. We did some exercise at the local gym and also met with a nutritionist who provided good advice. Unfortunately, we didn’t follow it. Then on to Uzbekistan again with a lot of restaurants combined with local food which involved consuming a lot of carbs and fat. Very little exercise other than walking because we didn’t have a car. Finally, back to Canada with its selection of fast food restaurants where we rapidly gained weight.

    A trip to a doctor gave me the news that for the first time in my life my blood pressure was getting up there. I had always had borderline low blood pressure. He wanted to put me on medication. I argued my way into not partaking in the medication routine and focussing instead on weight loss.

    We gave up wheat, sugar and on visiting fast food restaurants regularly. I did join Weight Watchers about a month ago mainly to get the information they give and also the weekly weigh in. Coupled with exercise and with the mindset of keeping moving even if it isn’t traditional exercise both my blood pressure and weight are down. Each week’s weight loss isn’t monumental but it is steady.

    I do believe that whenever something works for you, it works because you believe in it. Another belief I have is the mindset. I no longer think I am giving something up when I am eating correctly. Instead, I am getting something – weight loss and better health. I still go to restaurants. I still once in a while choose breads, pastas, rice. I just do not do it all the time. The interesting thing though is when I do eat carbs or fried foods, I feel sluggish. I actually find I sometimes crave a salad, in fact, we sometimes have it for breakfast.

    That’s where I am anyway in terms of eating and gaining/losing weight, doing more and living a more healthy lifestyle. As I read your post on Intuitive Eating, I can see elements of my mindset and feel somewhat affirmed.

    Thanks for doing the research and providing such worthwhile information Karen.

    1. I’m really glad you’ve found something that is working for you, Fran. When I lost a bunch of weight a couple of years ago, it was thanks to WeightWatchers. I thought I was away to the races and probably would have been, but my mindset changed radically after WW made a big switch in their program and deleted all of the body measurements I had on file and that they had encouraged me to track. Suddenly this company that I’d thought of as my partner and mentor became, to me, just another corporation after my money. I rejoined again at the end of August last year, lost 10 pounds in a month, but my heart wasn’t in following their plan so I wasted the remaining five months I’d purchased.
      In other words, you’re so right. What we believe in affects what works and the mindset we have going into whatever we’re doing makes a huge difference to our success.
      Onward for both of us, Fran! Different paths with the same goal.

  16. I am one of the few women I know who has never been on a weight loss diet. I feel angry with the big food corporations that make and try to convince us to buy unhealthy packaged foods, as well as the diet industry that tries to make us feel bad about how we look so that they can sell us weight loss products and programs. All of this is nested, of course, in a culture that tells us that the most important thing for a woman is to look a certain way.

    In general, I eat what I want, when I am hungry, and I love food. I am very interested in cooking, eating, and health. I was slender and small as a young woman, gained a few pounds with each of three babies in my thirties, then stabilized. A move into stressful administration, paired with long hours sitting at my desk, coincided with menopause, and my weight began to creep upward. In the last five years of my career, I was spending 10 to 14 hours a day mostly at my desk, and I snacked a lot because I didn’t have time to go home and have proper meals. I packed on 15 extra pounds in those 5 years. According to my BMI, I am overweight. Yet, I have no plans to go on a weight loss diet. The research is clear — weight loss diets don’t work, overall.

    As I have written about on my blog, I have adjusted my eating patterns twice, both times because of a physician’s recommendation. About 5 years ago, my cholesterol had become marginally elevated and my blood lipid level was high, so I adjusted some of my eating habits (Dr Sock’s Heart Health Habits for Life), and recently I tried a low FODMAP diet for 6 weeks to see if it would make a difference to the abdominal pain I have been experiencing. It didn’t, and I am happily back to eating everything.

    1. Good for you for being true to yourself and resisting the siren call of weight loss programs, Jude. I wish that I had behaved that way from the beginning, especially since weight cycling (loss then gain) is really hard on a body. Hopefully intuitive eating will teach me what you already know – to take pleasure in food by eating what I want, when I want.
      A naturopath gave me a copy of the FODMAP diet. It was so restrictive I resisted even trying it. I’m glad you’re back to eating everything.

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