If intuitive eating is so great, why will most keep dieting? A comment on a forum I participate on prompted me to ask this question.
First of all, I’m not sure anyone has claimed that intuitive eating will magically make all your problems disappear. In fact, if you’re expecting that throwing diet mentality out will mean your life becomes problem-free, well, you may be delusional. Just read my last post. The irony is, many people believe that being a certain weight will “fix them”. They believe they will finally start living when the scale says what they want it to. I can attest that this is completely ridiculous. I actually think I was more miserable when I was at goal weight because I now had to maintain it… doing what I was doing before… dieting. If you diet to reach your goals, you have to continue dieting to hold onto them.
So, why isn’t everyone doing IE? I think that’s really simple. For one, many don’t believe it will work. I can’t even begin to list all the reasons someone might not believe it, but I know I was one of those people years ago when I first read about “dumping diets”. We’ve been so ingrained to mistrust our bodies (much like we’ve been indoctrinated to believe that “milk does the body good”). I thought that only lucky people ate intuitively and I certainly didn’t believe I could undo the damage I had done with years of dieting.
The second reason I think everyone isn’t doing IE is because it’s hard. It sounds really simple, but it’s not. It involves exercising your faith in something you can’t physically see. Diets parade “testimonials” as tangible evidence that they work. People who eat intuitively aren’t usually broadcasting it because, well… it’s just what they do. Their lives don’t revolve around food and weight so they aren’t walking about going “I’ve lost so much weight”. In fact, the people I’ve known in real life who lost a lot of weight doing IE, I thought they were just some of the lucky ones who were naturally thin… until one day I brought up dieting and they said they had stopped doing that to themselves.
Eating intuitively is also difficult because it requires the veteran dieter to throw out old belief systems (diet mentality). Throwing out beliefs isn’t like getting rid of garbage, it’s like performing surgery on yourself. It also requires behavioral changes. Because I spent years obsessing about food and weight, it takes a conscious effort to change my thought processes. Not only that, because I’ve ignored my body’s signals by trying to force change on myself from the outside in (diets are external forces), I have to focus really hard to hear what my body is saying from the inside out. We’ve heard the saying, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.” Well, intuitive eating is dependent on what’s on the inside to work. Unfortunately, most of us are so focused on the external that we can’t hear the internal.
The third reason is the most difficult to swallow. Beginning IE doesn’t guarantee weightloss. Yikes. Since this is the goal of dieters (because remember they are focused on the external, and thin means happy), it is almost guaranteed that they will freak out if they gain weight in the beginning. This weight gain can really challenge the resolve to give up diet mentality, and generally, it is way too much for the dieter to take. So they quit. I quit twice in the past when I attempted to give up dieting. This time I’m not quitting. And guess what, I’ve made it past the gain phase. No, I’m not weighing, but my clothes are telling me that I have definitely stopped gaining weight (and I had chocolate cake last night). In fact, right now my pj pants may even be saying I’ve started losing weight. However, this isn’t the focus of IE and most dieters can’t let go of that.
And lastly, diets are addicting. I still remember my best weightloss week with visions of grandeur and pride. I “was so good” and I lost a whopping 13 pounds… in one week. Of course, I’ve regained that 13 pounds and more… many times. If you’ve dieted, you know the giddy feeling you get when you start a diet. There’s so much hope wrapped up in that “new beginning”…. “this time will be it, this time I’ll lose the weight for good.” You feel a sense of pride in “controlling” yourself. You feel pride in that massive workout burn. You crave the attention of people noticing you’ve lost weight. Your entire identity may be wrapped up in the weight loss scene. It’s who you are… it was who I was. I was a dieting diva.
So, if IE is so difficult, why do it? Freedom. I want to be free at last.