Intuitive Eating & Health At Every Size

Let me introduce you to Intuitive Eating (IE) and Health At Every Size (HAES).

At my core I am a humanistic therapist. I honor each client as inherently worthy and am an anti-diet, body positive, intuitive eating, Health At Every Size Clinician. Let me tell you why.

1) 95%-98% of diets don’t work and within a 5 year period those folks gain back all the weight plus more.

2) Dieting is a risk factor for developing an eating disorder.

3) Eating disorders are the most deadly mental illness (not hyperbole).

4) I started my own recovery from Anorexia, Orthorexia, Bulimia, and Disordered Eating using intuitive eating and therapy. I’ve now been fully recovered for over a decade. This isn’t to say this is all it takes. Recovery is complex and individualized. Many people in ED recovery must stick to structured meal plans. Consult with your Dietician, Doctor, and Therapist as you find the recovery plan best fitted for you.

With that said, I’ve seen a lot of people (dare I say thousands) win the battle against disordered eating, self-hate, and obsession with body size by rejecting the diet mentality and reconnecting to their natural intuitive guidance through the therapy process. Here is a brief overview of both approaches.

Intuitive Eating (Buy the book by Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch):

IE aims to reconnect us to instinct and intuition.  Intuitive Eating aims to get you back in touch with your body’s own signals. No more rules. No more punishment. No more counting. No more black or white thinking.

It proposes 10 principles to guide you (from here).

1. Reject the Diet Mentality Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.

2. Honor Your Hunger Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for re-building trust with yourself and food.

3. Make Peace with Food Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.

4. Challenge the Food Police .Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created . The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.

5. Respect Your Fullness Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence–the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough”.

7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food Find ways to comfort , nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.

8. Respect Your Body Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size. But mostly, respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.

9. Exercise–Feel the Difference Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.

10 Honor Your Health–Gentle Nutrition Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.

Myth: IE means sitting on the couch eating only sugar all day every day.

Myth: IE is anti-health.

Myth: IE is mindless.

Myth: IE aims to make you have a bigger body size.

Myth: IE aims to make you have a smaller body size.

Myth: IE is the eat when hungry stop when full diet.

(Click THIS LINK to read more about Intuitive Eating Myths from my friend and colleague Paige Smathers, RD).

Health At Every Size (Get the book by Linda Bacon) (Direct quotes from the HAES manifesto):

Health At Every Size® is a model of care that addresses physical and mental wellness for everyone, regardless of body size or current health status. HAES acknowledges that well-being and healthy habits are more important than any number on the scale. Participating is simple:

1. Accept your size. Love and appreciate the body you have. Self-acceptance empowers you to move on and make positive changes.

2. Trust yourself. We all have internal systems designed to keep us healthy—and at a healthy weight. Support your body in naturally finding its appropriate weight by honoring its signals of hunger, fullness, and appetite.

3. Adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Develop and nurture connections with others and look for purpose and meaning in your life. Fulfilling your social, emotional, and spiritual needs restores food to its rightful place as a source of nourishment and pleasure.

■ Find the joy in moving your body and becoming more physically vital in your everyday life.

■ Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and seek out pleasurable and satisfying foods.

■ Tailor your tastes so that you enjoy more nutritious foods, staying mindful that there is plenty of room for less nutritious choices in the context of an overall healthy diet and lifestyle.

4. Embrace size diversity. Humans come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Open to the beauty found across the spectrum and support others in recognizing their unique attractiveness.

Myth: HAES supporters claim that everyone is healthy regardless of their weight.

Myth: HAES is just a new approach to weight loss.

Myth: HAES requires adherence to organic, natural foods.

Myth: HAES is just another one-size-fits-all idea that won’t work for me.

Myth: HAES is the “I Give Up” plan.

Myth: HAES is only relevant to fat people and is not appropriate for someone who is recovering from anorexia.

(see THIS LINK for an extended HAES myths discussion)

The following excerpt is from Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight © 2010 by Linda Bacon. May be freely distributed, provided that it remains in its entirety and this copyright message appears. More info at ■ 319 ■


We’ve all heard the weight fears: obesity is said to have reached epidemic proportions, posing drastic threats to public health, increasing morbidity, mortality and health care costs, and lowering quality of life. Many well-intentioned people strongly believe that we need to fight obesity and that people who promote size acceptance are dangerous. But here’s the rub. History shows that admonishing people to lose weight is just plain ineffective. The weight loss literature has been consistent for decades: while many weight loss methods are successful for short-term weight loss, only a tiny minority of people actually maintain that weight loss over the long term. Whether you blame willpower or accept the more scientific argument that biologic mechanisms underlie the resistance to weight loss, the simple fact remains: admonishments to lose weight don’t result in maintained weight loss for the vast majority of people. You can choose to adopt a self-righteous attitude and blame the individual, or, you can take responsibility and acknowledge that for whatever reason, your advice is not achieving the desired outcome. Trumpeting obesity fears and hounding people to lose weight is not just ineffective, but downright damaging. They lead to repeated cycles of weight loss and regain, to food and body preoccupation, self-hatred, eating disorders, weight discrimination, and poor health. Few of us are at peace with our bodies, whether because we’re fat or because we fear becoming fat. Every time you make fat the problem, these are side effects, however unintended they may be. Those of us who advocate for size acceptance care deeply about people’s health. A large scientific literature demonstrates that improved health behaviors can improve health directly, regardless of  whether weight changes. The psychological literature additionally indicates that people make better health choices when they feel better about themselves. The argument for size acceptance doesn’t need to depend on whether you accept the considerable challenges to the current assumptions about weight and health. It’s really very simple: Your strategy has not only failed, but backfired. Shame doesn’t help people make better health choices—though it does contribute to considerable “dis-ease.” I urge you: Lay off the fat people. Science and reason do not support the value of a weight focus. There is a compassionate alternative to the war on obesity. It’s called Health at Every Size and it involves shifting focus from weight to health. For more information, check out Health at Every Size:

Read more at the links below!