15 Myths About Intuitive Eating

If you are a regular here, you know well by now that I am a huge advocate of intuitive eating. It’s what saved me from my eating disorder, there’s tons of reasons to do it, and it’s the entire premise of my 100-day guide to eating disorder recovery.

READ: 43 Reasons Not to Diet…

However, with every “radical” approach comes a plethora of ways to misconstrue the truth or even purposefully spread lies. And intuitive eating is no stranger to this. It seems for every post on social media I come across in which someone is explaining why intuitive eating is so great, there are about four others written by people pushing a weight loss agenda or just totally clueless about the principle.

For this reason, today we will be looking at 15 of the most pervasive myths surrounding the intuitive eating approach. For each one, I will explain the myth, where/how you might see it, and then unpack its inaccuracy so we can arrive at the truth.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ve broken these myths up into 3 categories, based on who is perpetuating the myth: IE disbelievers, IE false prophets, and then just confused advocates. So, let’s dive in.

The disbelievers will tell you…

1. Intuitive eating is lazy

By far the most common attack against intuitive eating is that it’s somehow “lazy.” Being an intuitive eater must just be an excuse to eat whatever you want and not have to practice any dietary self-control. Sounds reasonable enough, right?

Make sure to  follow me on IG  to catch more posts like this!

Make sure to follow me on IG to catch more posts like this!

Explanation: This one comes from those who feel personally attacked by the fact that there are people out there who dare enjoy eating without constantly berating themselves for not being “good enough.” Oftentimes, those who are on strict diets who like to preach to others about how superior they are will feel they need to knock others down and make them feel personally bad about their eating decisions. No better way to persuade someone to leave their lifestyle behind and follow yours than to personally ridicule them for it.

Where/how you’ll encounter it: As I said, this most often comes from staunch diet advocates, pushing their Whole 30 or keto or juice cleanse lifestyles. It’s usually pretty straightforward:

“Intuitive eating? That’s for lazy people who can’t commit to eating healthy.”

The truth: As I said in my IG post a while back (pictured here), intuitive eating is just an excuse to eat whatever you want, much like how breathing is just an excuse to not suffocate and die. In all seriousness, my point here is that, yes, it IS an excuse to eat whatever you want. But why should we need an excuse for that? I’m a firm believer in the paramount role of dietary autonomy in one’s health efforts. This means that the most important health decision you can make is to decide that you, and no one else, get to decide what you eat. This strips the power from the diet industry’s tactics, which strategically lock you into the yo-yo dieting cycle.

For more, familiarize yourself with the Health at Every Size philosophy and what this means.

LISTEN: My second guest appearance on the Sigma Nutrition podcast, discussing IE, HAES, and ED recovery!

2. Intuitive eating causes weight gain

Another snapshot from  my IG .

Another snapshot from my IG.

While this one is false (in the sense that it doesn’t always cause any specific change in weight), I would be remiss not to preface this by saying that being heavier is not necessarily unhealthy in the first place. If you’re confused by that statement, I’ll reference another IG post of mine here, regarding the “obesity epidemic.” It’s pictured here, and below is the caption I included in it:

Angers me whenever I hear the cop-out "But obesity is correlated with..." Yes it's CORRELATED with those things. The obesity itself is not the epidemic, and labeling as such has only led to more rampant dieting and fatphobia (and as a function of that, less fairness in access to healthcare for people in larger bodies) and - here's the kicker - more obesity.

Explanation: The thinking here, which will expand upon when we get to Myth #4, is that intuitive eating must lead to eating all the tasty foods you otherwise wouldn’t be eating on a diet, which could ostensibly only result in one thing: weight gain.

Where/how you’ll encounter it: This will often accompany the claim that intuitive eating is “lazy,” a tactic that allows the offending party to simultaneously insult you for how you eat and perpetuate the “fat = lazy” lie, all in a day’s work!

The truth: The reality is that it’s anybody’s guess how your body will respond to intuitive eating. Assuming we are talking about true intuitive eating (which you learn in depth in my 100-day guide to Food Freedom), what will actually happen is this: You will start eating in accordance with your body’s natural hunger and satiety cues, which will let the hypothalamus (your appetite and weight regulation region) take over and “restore order.” Your hypothalamus has determined a healthy “weight set point” for you, a weight range in which it is happiest, regulatory processes can carry on with ease, the least amount of stress is placed on organs, and your mood is appropriately moderated. Theoretically, true intuitive eating will take you to this rough range of body weight.

3. Intuitive eating is unhealthy

Explanation: The basis for this myth, once again, revolves around the idea that intuitive eating allows all foods (which is true). If all foods are allowed, that must then include all the junk food goodies, too. Pizza, ice cream, brownies, cake, cookies, candy, bacon, corndogs, oh my! And, moreover, since we humans have a hijacked appetitive drive to seek out these foods, intuitive eating must then lead to us eating even more of them. In what world is that not unhealthy?

READ: Is Sugar Addiction Real?

Where/how you’ll encounter it: This point may be relayed as blatantly as “You do intuitive eating? You know that’s not healthy, right?” But it could also be more subtle and come across as an implication, which might sound like “Yeah, I hear your point about why dieting is unhealthy, but still, you need to have some self-control and not just pig out on whatever you want!”

The truth: The reality is that, when it comes to intuitive eating, there are no asterisks. What you see is what you get. The basic principle behind intuitive eating is that you get total, unconditional allowance to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and however much of it you desire. No ifs, ands, or buts about it!

So, is that unhealthy? This depends on what we characterize as “unhealthy,” an extremely vague and easily manipulated term that really doesn’t tell us much. So, what do we actually have to go off of?

Well, if you believe the well-designed studies that showed that, between obese, healthy, and yo-yo dieting participants, the yo-yo dieting group was by far the least healthy, then… sounds to me like the dieting is the problem.

And if you buy into the established psychological phenomenon known as cognitive dietary restraint, you’d once again be led to believe that it’s dieting that leads to the most adverse health outcomes.

And if you consider that almost everyone who moves into a truly intuitive style of eating ends up practicing moderation and eating lots of healthy fruits and vegetables without even having to try, you’d be hard-pressed to make a case for intuitive eating being unhealthy by any stretch of the imagination.

(And what do intuitive eaters eat? Well, I’ve recorded a video on just that, which you’ll find here.)

4. “If I ate intuitively, I’d eat everything in sight!”

Almost like clockwork, when a male friend or acquaintance asks me about intuitive eating, this is their immediate response to whatever I have to say. “Okay, okay, that all sounds fine, but you don’t know how much I eat. If I tried this whole ‘intuitive eating’ thing, I’d empty my kitchen in two days flat!” While I understand the thinking here, this to me represents the very issue intuitive eating exists to fix. Let me explain.

Explanation: The thinking here originates from the premise that your body (really, your brain) desperately wants to eat as much as humanly possible, and the only way to prevent yourself from acting on this desire is to consciously restrain yourself, via diet or drugs.

Where/how you’ll encounter it: Exactly how I stated it above. For some reason, this is most commonly stated by guys. But anyone with binge-eating tendencies might be led to believe something similar about their natural eating inclinations.

READ: 8 Tips to Stop Binge Eating

The truth: This is extremely misguided on two counts. First, unless you have some rare leptin deficiency syndrome that prevents you from ever feeling full and satisfied, chances are your brain - left to its own devices - does not actually want you to eat excessively large amounts of food. As I discussed in my controversial video on the pathophysiology of anorexia nervosa, the brain’s weight regulation system tries to keep us away from both predation on one extreme and starvation on the other. The hypothalamus decides on a happy medium, where your bodily processes will work at maximum capacity, nutrient stores will be appropriately filled, and organ stress will be kept to a minimum. This, once again, is called your “weight set point.”

Second, even if this was how your brain functioned, willpower and dieting are markedly ineffective ways to act on this in the first place. This is why diets so often fail (a fact you can easily show off to others by rocking the 100DOFF “D1ETS D0N’T W0RK” T-shirt) and dieting is the #1 predictor of weight gain (yep).

What is much more likely to happen once you’ve learned how true intuitive eating works is that you’ll eat all the stuff you’re hungry for and then stop when you’re comfortably full. That hardly means running through your entire kitchen within 48 hours.

READ: Can Intuitive Eating Ever “Go Wrong”?

5. Intuitive eating has no scientific basis

I get it. Eat whatever you want? Eliminate all food rules? Just eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full? Sounds like a five-year-old came up with this. How can there be any sort of empirical backing to any of this?

Explanation: Intuitive eating seems way too simple of an approach to actually be effective. The “more is more” philosophy seems to be rampant in the diet world, and a mode of eating that gives you no rules at all just doesn’t fit the mold.

Where/how you’ll encounter it: Oftentimes scientific communities will reject implications of the efficacy of intuitive eating, usually in favor of something more detailed or “science-y.” For example, when looking at the reason diets so often fail, I might throw in my $0.02 and say, “Because they’re designed to fail, so that people are kept in the system, a system fueled by body hatred and insecurity, that keeps you coming back for more.” But this sounds too social justice-like, so most people who pride themselves for being “in the know” with nutrition science might reject this and seek out a more nuanced rationale.

The truth: In fact, the idea that intuitive eating sounds like the brainchild of a young child asked to create an eating philosophy is a good thing and is a testament to its strength. Intuitive eating is meant to be a return to basics. It is handing the power you and your brain have to make dietary decisions back into the hands of its rightful owner. But this still avoids the question. Is there any scientific basis?

As it turns out, Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole (the authors of Intuitive Eating, the book that started it all) have, on their site, curated a list of updated scientific studies that back the concepts behind intuitive eating. You can check that out here.

The long and short of it? It works. It decreases cognitive restraint, stress, and metabolic health consequences, while increasing mood, energy, and other important health markers.

The false prophets will tell you…

6. Intuitive eating is easy

So now we’re getting into myths you hear not from the opponents of IE but those who are feeding you falsities or exaggerated truths, often because they want to sell you something or somehow distort the meaning of IE to push their agenda.

Believe it or not, the claim that intuitive eating is “easy” is actually quite misleading. To be sure, before true intuitive eating advocates come at me with pitchforks, this is not always malicious. I’d say 50% of the time you hear this soundbite, it’s because they want to sell you something (which is fine, unless it’s a lie to draw you in), and 50% of the time, what the person means to say is “intuitive eating is simple.” Not easy, but simple.

Explanation: With every new approach (though the intuitive eating concept is now almost 30 years old) comes a plethora of gurus and marketers looking to make a quick buck. And intuitive eating, something that can so easily be made to look like an “all you have to do is [XYZ] and you’ll [insert audience’s desired goals] in no time!” is no exception.

Where/how you’ll encounter it: This is often seen in sponsored ads and promotional content on social media, with nutrition “coaches” pushing the message of this super easy “diet trick” (we’ll address that myth next) to play off people’s fears.

The truth: The reality is that realigning your eating behaviors with your true intuition and biological hunger/satiety cues is no small feat. That’s why my 100 day journey is 100 days, not 10. On the path to becoming an intuitive eater, you need to relearn normative eating cues, bring mindfulness to each meal (which does require targeted practice), slow down your eating, work on tracking satiety levels around meals, remove all diet triggers, learn how many meals a day your body wants, make nutritious decisions without letting disorder seep in, etc. That is not an easy process, but it can be simple and straightforward.

7. Intuitive eating can work for weight loss

This has to be one of the most rampant myths when it comes to intuitive eating claims. As weight loss has sadly been hailed as the be-all end-all of health and fitness goals, intuitive eating has been bastardized by many and made into the very thing it was created to end: a weight loss diet.

Explanation: As explained earlier, every popular eating approach carries with it the potential to be turned into a tool of the multi-million dollar diet industry complex. And just because intuitive eating literally exists to save us from toxic dieting doesn’t mean people will refrain from trying. Plus, if we go off the “weight set point” discussion mentioned earlier, it wouldn’t seem like too much of a logical stretch to conclude that intuitive eating can help you lose weight.

Where/how you’ll encounter it: This is often tagged along in health/fitness coaching packages. I would encourage you, the next time you see any discussion of intuitive eating written by someone you’re unfamiliar with, to scan closely and look for non-HAES identifiers. If you see talk of “weight loss,” “fat loss,” “body transformation,” etc., you know it’s a sham.

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The truth: While, technically speaking, intuitive eating can lead to weight loss, it is hardly a “weight loss tool.” In fact, part of the intuitive eating philosophy is that any dietary approaches aimed at losing weight will lead to undue psychological distress, and will ultimately be unsustainable, leading to an inevitable binge and period of depression.

READ: The #1 Reason You’re Stuck in the Binge Cycle

8. You can count macros and still be an intuitive eater

Explanation: Similar to the previous myth, the assumption here is once again that intuitive eating can be used for weight loss (or weight change) purposes. The idea is that macro-counting, something many dieters consider a “mild” and “less restrictive” form of dieting, can still slide into the intuitive eating framework. You can still eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full, and eat whatever you want, while counting macros.

Where/how you’ll encounter it: This is about as simple as it sounds. You’ll come across this in the form of “Yeah, I eat intuitively eat, but I still cap the day by checking my calories, but it’s just to make sure I… [insert non sequitur excuse].”

READ: Is It Safe to Lose Weight if You’ve Had an Eating Disorder?

The truth: While it’s true that you could theoretically follow all the principles of intuitive eating (the unconditional allowance to eat whatever whenever and in whatever quantities you want, along with using hunger and fullness cues to guide your eating decisions) and still count up your macros or calories at the end of the day, we still run into a major problem here. As I’ve been mentioning repeatedly, intuitive eating is more than just a way to eat. It’s also a philosophy, and one that emphasizes dietary autonomy and an abandonment of diet culture.

Photo credit: Flickr user Jessica

Photo credit: Flickr user Jessica

To make a crude analogy here, this would be like a recovering alcoholic refraining from drinking at all during the day but then capping off his or her nights by walking through a liquor store. Technically they are avoiding alcohol, which is the whole idea with recovery in that realm, but they are mounting undue stress and allowing way too many temptations by exposing themselves to this stimulus each day.

In much the same way (though I know eating disorders and alcoholism are fundamentally distinct ailments, and I don’t mean to conflate them with that analogy), continuing to obsess over numbers (i.e. macros and calories), even when ostensibly eating intuitively, adds a toxic element to this that can only end in disaster. There’s no need to tempt yourself or send inappropriate signals when you should be working on trusting your body.

And there’s one more point worth making here. Why would you continue to count calories or macros if you are totally bought into the intuitive eating approach? Since intuitive eating preaches radical trust of your body’s hunger cues and a refusal to use external rules to guide your eating, knowing how many calories or macronutrients you consumed would provide you no benefit at all. All it could possibly do is trigger you to one day slip back into old habits, or - at the very least - mount constant stress on you that you don’t even realize you’re shouldering.

READ: 11 Things NOT to Do After a Binge

9. Intuitive eating is all about “moderation”

Explanation: One word that tends to slither into these conversations without much notice is “moderation.” Though on the surface it seems reasonable and nothing too toxic about it stands out, its risks are quite insidious.

Where/how you’ll encounter it: Statements such as these exemplify the proverbial poison drop of “moderation” I’m talking about:

“I’m all about intuitive eating, but I still make sure to eat sugary foods in moderation.”

“There’s nothing wrong with having a slice of cake at a birthday party, as long as you practice moderation and don’t have too many.”

The truth: While talk of eating with “moderation” might sound benign at first, we have to dig into the implication here. And trust me, it’s more than just a matter of semantics. When we say “moderation,” the implication is that we are purposefully instilling rules such that we “moderate” our eating behaviors. “Just have one cookie instead of five,” something I’ve heard way too many times to count, carries with it the suggestion that your solution is to restrain yourself - even if just a little - from eating what you want.

But intuitive eating doesn’t work like that. It really is a matter of going all in, or else the whole thing is soured. This is why we devote an entire day in the 100 day journey to identifying your deeply held food rules, so that you can uproot them right from the beginning and disallow them from ever getting in the way of your recovery.

Intuitive eating works like this:

Unconditional allowance —> reduced diet stress and improved QOL —> healthy dietary decisions made without trying

…Not like this:

Slightly conditional allowance —> healthy dietary decisions —> reduced diet stress and improved QOL

READ: Are There Any Foods You SHOULDN’T Eat?

10. You can be “good” or “bad” at intuitive eating

Explanation: It can be tempting as you’re entering the mystifying world of intuitive eating to start [unknowingly] assigning labels and judging your performance. Since most fad diets will judge you for your execution of their rules (i.e. eating carbs on a keto diet or drinking milk on a Paleo diet both mean you’re doing poorly), it would make sense that intuitive eating would work similarly… right?

Photo credit: Flickr user Paul Townsend

Photo credit: Flickr user Paul Townsend

Where/how you’ll encounter it:

The truth: Not unlike the maxim in meditation practice that “you cannot have a bad meditation session,” intuitive eating is not meant to be a goal-oriented exercise. It is a way of eating that embraces self-compassion and self-respect, and an important element of this is forgiveness and a giving up of perfectionist ideals. As tempting as it can be to try to “master” this new style of eating you’re learning, part of the journey is simply bringing mindful awareness to your eating patterns.

I have days where my mind goes to thoughts of “wow, I’m really doing well with this whole intuitive eating thing” and days where I look at the two cookies I just ate and start thinking, “Oh God, what did I do?” Yep, that still happens deep into recovery. But that’s perfectly alright. The difference between my worst days when I was binge-eating and my worst days now is that now when these things happen, I’m able to mindfully tell myself, “Okay, you’re not happy with the food decisions you made. That’s alright, everything is okay.” And, though it seems overly simplistic, I’m able to go about my day and not let it affect me nearly as much.

Once you get caught in the trap of trying to be a “perfect” intuitive eater, you spoil the bunch, so to speak, and turn what could be a practice of self-love and self-care into one of punishment and rigidity. Avoid this at all costs!

WATCH: You Are Enough.

The confused advocates might tell you…

11. It just means eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full

This might sound like one of the most reasonable premises here, but I still think its [albeit slight] misunderstanding provides a teachable opportunity for us.

Explanation: Intuitive eating is often sold with the reductionist explanation that it only entails “eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full.” Admittedly, this is a huge aspect of the intuitive eating approach, and it’s not entirely incorrect to use this for the purposes of explanation.

Where/how you’ll encounter it: This is often passed off as the reductionist motto of “eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full” or “just eat to sensible fullness.” It usually comes in the form of a single-sentence response to the “So what exactly is this whole ‘intuitive eating’ situation?” question.

The truth: There are two misconceptions within this statement that deserve clarification. First, intuitive eating does not just mean eating to comfortable fullness. While that is a huge element of it, we would be remiss not to clarify the unconditional allowance piece (no foods are off limits), the importance of intuition not only in meal amounts or types but also meal timing, and the self-care component. While I do believe Tribole and Resch’s Intuitive Eating could have conveyed its original message in one-third the pages they actually used, it is still true that a lot goes into intuitive eating. The “intuitive” in intuitive eating can be pretty misleading for those new to this concept.

The second issue, though slight, is the implication that by eating beyond your biological fullness you’re doing something “wrong.” While the goal with intuitive eating is to get you to a place where you can comfortably stop when you’re about 80% full, this is decidedly not a “diet rule” required from the start. Just as with every other futile dieting attempt, telling people they are only following your diet approach of choice when they do things “right” and stop eating at a certain point is ineffective and misses the point.

Rather, I’d prefer that advocates of this approach go into greater depth when explaining what this entails and actually leave out the “stopping when full” piece. Or, you can keep it in while ingraining the message that that is an outcome of intuitive eating, not a requirement. “Intuitive eating is so awesome because it’ll get you to a point where you can comfortably stop eating when you’re at normal fullness” is so much more inviting (and truthful) than “Intuitive eating means stopping when you’re full,” something I know for damn sure myself and many others have struggled with immensely during periods of binge-eating.

READ: 51 Healthy Habits to Start Building Today

12. Intuitive eating is only for people with eating disorders

Explanation: Since intuitive eating is all about self-compassion and removing stringent diet rules, it’s easy to think this is an eating disorder recovery tool… and nothing else. Intuitive Eating is also listed as a book on eating disorder help on most sites, and surely the approach is prescribed frequently by dietitians working with patients struggling with eating disorders. So, it must just be a strategy to treat them then, right?

Where/how you’ll encounter it: This can often be heard in some form of the sentiment that “Since I’ve never had an eating disorder” — something disproportionately uttered by those unknowingly dealing with eating disorders or disordered eating — “I’m fine with some rules and structure in my diet, but I totally understand why they might need this.” The implication is generally that this might work if you’ve gone through a severe bout of disordered eating, but it has no applicability to anyone who “eats normally.”

READ: Disordered Eating vs. Eating Disorders

The truth: Oh how wrong this one is. In fact, let me start off with something you might not have guessed: Generally speaking, intuitive eating is more appropriate for those without eating disorders than those with eating disorders. What?

Especially when it comes to restrictive eating disorders (like anorexia nervosa or ARFID), intuitive eating is usually not called for early on in treatment. Patients in need of weight restoration will require a meal plan devised by their dietitian (and this is the case not only in residential and inpatient treatment, but also PHP and potentially IOP levels). And even patients at a safe weight who display restrictive behaviors will often need an approach more structured than intuitive eating. The reality is that this “unconditional allowance” aspect all too easily allows disordered thoughts and urges to come to the surface.

Photo credit: Flickr user Eric Lewis

Photo credit: Flickr user Eric Lewis

Until someone is recovered enough that they can begin to trust their intuition again (a process which still requires some early supervision and guidance, so as to remain vigilant and catch disordered tendencies early on), intuitive eating is not advisable. Rather, most centers will use some form of exchanges, pre-selected meals, or other replacement for calories. For obvious reasons, using calories (at least, in front of the patient) is almost never smart, but inpatient and residential centers will frequently use the diabetic exchange system (or some variant of it) to ensure proper food intake.

On the other hand, those who are not in acute or residential care for diagnosed eating disorders are the ones who can benefit most from an intuitive style of eating. This is because intuitive eating exists to help you realign your natural hunger and satiety cues, regain enjoyment of eating, and stop the war on your body (constantly fighting against deep-seated biological drives to eat is not just mentally taxing but physically exhausting as well). These are pretty important for anyone, regardless of where you lie on the disordered eating continuum.

READ: Do I Have an Eating Disorder? (EASY TEST)

13. Intuitive eating means intentionally eating “unhealthy” foods

Explanation: When you see a dietary approach whose followers are bragging about getting to eat donuts, ice cream, and pizza, it doesn’t take a huge jump in logic to arrive at the conclusion that intuitive eating must somehow promote or even demand eating “unhealthy” foods (which I’ll be referring to as “fun foods”). Surely, with all this talk of the toxicity of dieting and dangers of food rules, one cannot be an intuitive eater unless they’re eating a donut a day and washing it down with an extra large soda, right?

Where/how you’ll encounter it: You might come across this as an underlying implication present in the aforementioned “this is just an excuse to eat whatever you want” assertion. Or, advocates themselves might think they have to eat these types of foods in order to prove to themselves (and maybe others, via social media) that they are true intuitive eaters.

READ: Do You Absorb All the Calories During a Binge?

The truth: To be sure, I’ve gone through periods during my intuitive eating journey where I’m not eating many “fun foods” at all, and I’ve started to question whether that’s indicative of a slipping back into old orthorexic patterns. This is a tough distinction to make, so we need to do so carefully.

Let’s be clear: Intuitive eating does not mean intentionally eating any specific type of food in greater (or lesser) quantities. It is a purely internal process, in which you dig deep and look at what you’re truly hungry for (or whether you are hungry in the first place). If that means donuts and whole milk, then that means donuts and whole milk. If that means pork loins and green beans, then… you get the picture.

But this isn’t nearly as simple in practice as I’m making it sound. Especially when you’ve been caged in the prison of diet rules and body hatred for so long, learning to trust your intuition can be an arduous undertaking. For me, this required radical amounts of self-trust in the beginning, even when that led to eating decisions everything in me wanted to reject and stray away from. But after weeks and weeks of allowing myself to eat according to my intuition (along with some other important recovery tools, of course), my food decisions finally started to balance out a bit. But like I said, intuitive eating and meditation both share their sometimes frustrating “no-goal” quality, and this can be a huge mental hurdle to clear.

WATCH: How to FINALLY Stick to Your Meditation Habit

14. Intuitive eating means never eating diet food ever again

Explanation: This is not unlike the last point. The thinking here is effectively the other side of the coin from #13. If intuitive eating means intentionally eating “unhealthy” foods (which, you’ll recall, it doesn’t), then it must also means intentionally avoiding “diet” foods. Sound logic, right?

Where/how you’ll encounter it: Oftentimes intuitive eating advocates will fall into the trap of demonizing diet foods, something borne purely of good intentions but which contributes nothing to our cause.

The truth: I know this is a contentious point to make, but please consider that those going through an intense bout of restrictive eating, who are only letting themselves “indulge” on these diet foods, do not always see these efforts to demonize diet foods as lighthearted and revealing of how unsatisfying the foods really are. Sometimes, instead, this comes across as aggressive and unwelcoming. If I’m sitting here only allowing myself to eat vegan protein cookies and drink kombucha, a post from an ostensibly pro-IE account cracking jokes about how nasty those foods are is unlikely to elicit a smile from me, let alone any serious consideration of moving towards this approach.

So, to return to the myth at hand, no, intuitive eating does not have to mean total removal of diet food. While I do advocate for this in the early stages of recovery from one’s eating disorder (as you’ll see in Week 2 and 11 of 100 Days of Food Freedom), I caution anyone from seeing these as foods to never include in your diet.

Photo credit: Flickr user Miles Cave

Photo credit: Flickr user Miles Cave

To give you an example: Early on in my intuitive eating journey, something like “protein pancakes” or even diet soda would not have been helpful for me. It would be easy for me (and mileage may vary here, depending on your disordered eating experiences) to start justifying having more and more of these foods on the premise that “I can eat whatever I want,” unknowingly allowing disordered intentions to take over again. But now, years into my recovery, in a place where my eating disorder no longer has any role in my life, I can - and often do - drink diet sodas, opt for higher protein foods, and make sure to have veggies at my main meals. I don’t always do these things, and when I don’t, I feel absolutely no guilt about it, but when I do do them, it’s not coming from a place of restriction or food fear.

READ: 3 Essential Keys to Recovery from Your Eating Disorder

15. Intuitive eating only works for certain people

Explanation: This one is difficult to explain, as it could have any number of motivations or causes. It suffices to say this generally comes from an underlying belief that “yeah, it could work for others, but I’m different because… [insert example of the uniqueness fallacy].” We like to think we’re unique in every way and things that are true for most people are rarely true for you or me since, you know, we’re cut from a different cloth or something.

Where/how you’ll encounter it: This is just another underlying belief found in the previously mentioned “Since I’ve never had an eating disorder, I can get away with doing [insert fad diet du jour] and it won’t psychologically affect me.”

The truth: As you’ll probably have picked up on by now, intuitive eating is a super effective strategy for almost everyone (with the exception I mentioned earlier, regarding those in clinical recovery from an intensely restrictive eating disorder). I understand cognitive dissonance is painful, and I understand how hard it is to part ways with whatever dietary approach you’re used to relying on, so I won’t use this time to berate you or belittle you for following a diet you think is correct for you.

However, I would ask that you do yourself the favor of looking just a bit more into intuitive eating. Read Intuitive Eating or Body Respect or my book, and immerse yourself in this world just a little. And do some brief inventory into how your current dieting effort (and past efforts) is really serving you. How happy are you really with the diets you’ve tried? And what does it say about them that I can so easily guess that - if you are following a diet and reading this - this is not the first one you’ve tried?

The bottom line is this: Intuitive eating virtually saved my life. It doesn’t purport to work through any magical “biological hacks” or by “tricking your body.” All it promises is a return to your body’s natural state, where it is happiest and healthiest. Give it the leap of faith it deserves and you won’t look back; I damn sure didn’t.

If you’re interested in plunging way in and embarking on the 100 day journey that guarantees to take you to a place of true Food Freedom, get the book here for a low price!