When you’re trying to create a better relationship with food, intuitive eating is one of the most common routes. But one of the biggest fears is does intuitive eating cause weight gain!
The short and unhelpful answer is no.
The longer, more helpful answer, is that in some circumstances it can. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.
What Is Intuitive Eating?
I have written about intuitive eating and binge eating disorder before. But let’s define it again so we’re all on the same page.
Put simply, intuitive eating is breaking free from rules or limitations that are imposed on the way you eat. You may have ended up with those rules from an eating disorder, from previous diets, or from well… pretty much anywhere really.
Instead of following those rules, you learn to trust your body’s signals and eat when your body is asking for something.
You can do this without judgement, without an emotional response, and without feeling like you need to “make up for it” or “burn it off”.
It overlaps with mindful eating, where you learn to enjoy and appreciate the taste and texture of foods, and derive genuine joy and pleasure from being able to eat.
Intuitive Eating Is Not A Weight Management Tool
Before we talk about how intuitive eating can impact your weight, you need to understand that it is not designed with weight management in mind.
If you think you’re using intuitive eating as a weight management tool, you’re not following intuitive eating. You’re dieting.
When I make a statement like that, I always add the disclaimer that it’s not my place to tell anyone how to live or how to eat.
But when you mis-label a tool or don’t use it for its intended purpose, you do yourself a bit of an injustice and miss out on the benefits of that tool.
I mean you wouldn’t use a screwdriver to hit a nail into a wall, would you? You’d use a hammer.
Intuitive eating is an important tool for healing your relationship with food and getting past eating disorders.
So Does Intuitive Eating Cause Weight Gain?
I started this post by saying the short answer to this is “no”.
And I stand by that. Intuitive eating doesn’t automatically cause weight gain.
But if you take a more nuanced approach, then yes it is indeed possible that you will gain weight from eating intuitively.
I say it is possible because we’re all unique and coming from different backgrounds.
If, like me, you have struggled with binge eating disorder, and from eating intuitively you end up with less frequent binges, you may end up losing weight.
If you’ve been under-nourishing yourself, and you start to eat more when you eat intuitively, then yes it is possible you will gain weight.
That can sound scary. Downright terrifying in fact.
But you need to understand that weight isn’t a bad thing. Weight gain is also not an inherently bad thing. Especially when your body has deprived of the nutrients you need in order to thrive.
By the same token, weight loss isn’t automatically a good thing, especially if it is going to leave you under-nourished.
There Is More To Think About Than Just Weight
As a standard disclaimer, please remember that I am not a doctor or dietitian. If you have any questions or concerns, or would like specific advice for your circumstances, please contact a trained and qualified professional.
Weight is just one part of just one measure of your health and there are more things to consider.
Your mental and physical health can both be impacted by your relationship with food and intuitive eating is one of the best ways to stabilise that.
This means you can get the right nourishment into your body, you can enjoy food without feeling guilt, and you can allow yourself to thrive.
If you’re asking “does intuitive eating cause weight gain”, you’re probably asking the wrong question.
Instead, ask if your relationship with food is supporting your health. If the answer is “no”, then maybe directly being concerned about weight isn’t the top priority.