It’s no secret that dieting sucks. You hate it because it makes you feel grouchy, out of control, and deprived. Your partner hates it because it typically involves a hiatus from visiting your favorite restaurants together, your fuse gets shorter, and meticulous meal prepping cuts into your “Netflix and chilling” time. Even though we all hate it, we find ourselves going back to dieting again and again. What gives?

We are surrounded by messages that make us question our judgment when it comes to food. That’s where intuitive eating comes in. This style of eating promotes listening to your body and learning the difference between physical and emotional hunger. The basic principal is that you eat when you’re hungry and stop when once you’re full. Accepting that your body is the greatest authority on when, what, and how much to eat is countercultural at this point. Deciding to go your own way and develop a trusting relationship with your body isn’t as simple as body-positive influencers might have you believe. But, if you’re bored with all the drawbacks of dieting and wonder if intuitive eating could be right for you, here are a few things you should know.

  1. Intuitive eating is not intuitive for most people, especially for those of us with a history of dieting.

Contrary to popular belief, intuitive eating is more complicated than eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full.  After a lifetime of being taught to fear “tempting” or “bad” food, it takes real effort to learn to trust yourself with food. This takes time and will usually require support from like-minded folks.

  1. Intuitive eating is a sure way to improve your confidence issues.

What do I mean by confidence issues? I’m talking about the fear that you are unlovable, unworthy, or unprepared for what life throws at you. When you look to your body several times a day to decide what is right for you, your self-trust naturally grows over time.

You will learn to stop putting your happiness on hold and start trusting that you’re capable of making independent decisions. You will learn to trust your own judgment, whether it’s choosing a cookie over a salad or staying home and relaxing over going out with friends.

  1. Practicing intuitive eating doesn’t mean you’ll see weight loss.

Even though intuitive eaters are more likely to have stable weights over the long term, eating intuitively doesn’t mean you’ll lose weight.  Some people experience weight gain while learning to trust themselves around food. This can be upsetting and scary to people that have spent years pursuing thinness.

What intuitive eaters actually do is learn to notice what they need, respect that need, and then listen for the body’s signals before making food decisions. While intuitive eating is not about ignoring hunger or green-lighting binges that make you feel sick, remember that what you believe is your ideal weight and what your body knows is your ideal weight aren’t always the same. Eating in a balanced way may lead to a body shape you’ve been trained to reject.

  1. Intuitive eating may set off some traumatic associations with dieting and body image for you.

Learning to accept your body type can be a long road. If you have a history of disordered eating, this will not be a journey to embark on alone. If you feel triggered while you are experimenting with intuitive eating, go slow and enlist support from a weight-neutral therapist or dietitian trained in intuitive eating.

Not everyone is at a point in their lives where intuitive eating is for them and that’s okay.

  1. Intuitive eating can completely change your life.

You can be assured that friends, family, and casual acquaintances will freely share their opinions about your intuitive eating journey. Learning to maintain boundaries and doing what you think is best will connect you with yourself in a way that most will never experience.

Even though it takes time and isn’t easy, the level of freedom that you experience when your gut/intuition makes the final call on all your life decisions is priceless.

Intuitive eating is a healthy, sustainable alternative to dieting and weight cycling. Getting started comes with its challenges but adopting this approach long-term can have massive pay offs. This year, try it for yourself!

Dahlia Kinsey

Dahlia Kinsey

Dietitian
Dalia Kinsey is a queer Black Registered Dietitian, keynote speaker, the creator of the Body Liberation for All podcast, and author of Decolonizing Wellness: A QTBIPOC-Centered Guide to Escape the Diet Trap, Heal Your Self-Image, and Achieve Body Liberation. On a mission to spread joy, reduce suffering, and eliminate health disparities in the LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC community, Dalia rejects diet culture and teaches people to use nutrition as a self-care and personal empowerment tool to counter the damage of systemic oppression. Dalia works at the intersection of holistic wellness and social justice, continually creating wellness tools and resources that center the most vulnerable, individuals that hold multiple marginalized identities. Dalia’s work can be found at https://www.daliakinsey.com/