Now that we've worked through all the principles of intuitive eating, it's time to talk about some of the lingering things that might be tripping you up.
I recommend completing this module over the course of a week, taking some time to review the material a couple of times, and to complete the journal exercises and audio meditation each day.
Start by listening to the talk below. When you're done, scroll down for the notes, journal exercises, and infographics.
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Module 12 Notes
So we're nearing the end of the course, and hopefully the materials have helped you work through any stumbling blocks along the way, but I want to take this week to troubleshoot any lingering issues that may be coming up for you.
First, if you haven’t already, please go check out the library of monthly Q&A podcast episodes here. These episodes contain my answers to dozens of questions from your fellow course participants as they made their way through the material, and I’m adding to it every month. This is a great place to start with your troubleshooting, because your question may already have been answered!
If you have questions that haven’t been answered and you’d like to ask me, please click the button below to ask now! I’ll be sure to answer all the Module 12 questions right up top in the next Q&A episode.
In addition to these Q&As, I wanted to talk through the main area where I see people get stuck with intuitive eating and need help: weight and body size.
This is the biggest stumbling block because it can take a LOT to undo the societal messages around weight. So here I’m going to dig into the science on weight a little more deeply.
First of all, what if you are in the “overweight” or “obese” category? What if your doctor tells you to lose weight?
Then your doctor is using outdated science, because research overwhelmingly shows that BMI is not actually a measure of individual health and shouldn’t be used to prescribe weight loss to individuals.
Health professionals need to promote a Health At Every Size approach. We need to push the medical community to acknowledge the harm caused by promoting weight loss, and offer care that is truly health-promoting and non-weight-based. If we truly care about the health, wellbeing, and nourishment of our clients and patients, we cannot in good conscience recommend weight loss. From the mental health impacts related to guilt and shame, to the inevitable chronic weight-cycling patterns that occur with each attempt, nothing about dieting or intentional weight loss is health-promoting, and we need to start recognizing this across the board. (Thank you to @eatwithknowledge AKA Jennifer McGurk for being on the podcast this week, and for this kickass quote! If you want to hear more about HAES, intuitive eating, and body positivity, head on over to wherever you get your podcasts and download the latest episode of Food Psych today! P.S. Be sure to leave a review if you love it, it really helps us reach new listeners and allows the show to grow. Thank you for all of your support <3 And don't forget to join the BRAND NEW Food Psych Listener Facebook Group by going to christyharrison.com/community ... Join the family today!) #haes #intuitiveeating #edrecovery #antidietproject #antidiet #riotsnotdiets #effyourbeautystandards #losehatenotweight #nourishnotpunish #recoverywarriors #balancednotclean #foodisfuel #prorecovery #bodyposi #bodypositive #bopo #foodpsychpod #foodpsych #feminism #healthateverysize
Check out the “further listening” episode above to learn about the latest study that researchers have called “the last nail in the coffin of BMI” (link below in the "further reading" section).
And just a bit about the history of BMI, to show you why it's so flawed: The equation was first created by a statistician and mathematician named Adolphe Quetelet in the 1830s as an index of weight adjusted for height. It wasn’t even called BMI at the time. The equation was supposed to be a way to define the the typical proportions of the human build that were seen in the population.
In other words, it was meant as a descriptive, population-level statistic showing the diversity of sizes that exist—and it was never meant to define individual health or tell people what size they “should” be.
It was, of course, later twisted into exactly that, because insurance companies in the early 20th century started looking at their policyholders’ heights and weights and found that "overweight" people were essentially spending more money on healthcare than people of supposedly normal weight.
They didn’t know why, or what the cause-and-effect relationship was, if any, between weight and health, but obviously money was at stake, and so the theory that higher weights predicted worse health started to take root.
In the 1970s this equation became really popular among epidemiologists, or researchers who study the health of populations. Suddenly there was an explosion of epidemiological research using the newly named body-mass index to look at correlations between body size and health in centuries’ worth of data.
But then, BMI started to be used not just by epidemiologists but by doctors who wanted to use the equation with individual patients. And by 1985, the National Institutes of Health began to spread the (false) idea that body mass index cutoffs should be used by doctors to counsel patients to lose weight.
The researchers who developed BMI had never intended for it to be used in this way. The original paper that named the equation BMI actually warned against using it for individual diagnoses.
As if that weren’t enough, in 1998, the National Institutes of Health changed the BMI cutoffs, so that overnight millions of people went from being supposedly “normal” to supposedly “overweight.” Overnight! They didn’t gain weight, the cutoffs just changed! And it’s no coincidence that the new cutoffs were nice round numbers that could be easily remembered by doctors and patients.
That’s a really abridged version of the history of BMI, but as you can probably tell just from that, there are so many politics in how BMI came to be used to tell people what they "should" weigh.
The reality is, your body has a set point (or really set range) of weight that it wants to stay at. This is actually controlled by a part of your brain called the hypothalamus, which regulates feelings of hunger and fullness. So when you’ve been tuning in to those internal cues throughout the course, it’s really the hypothalamus and its signals that you’ve been listening to.
If you've ever been on a diet, odds are you've felt like a diet failure at some point. We've all been promised that this time, this diet trick is going to be the answer to our "unacceptable" bodies. But these are downright lies, and we haven't failed a thing. The diet industry--which is set up to have us buy product after product, miracle answer after miracle answer--has failed. It's failed each and every one of us, and it's set up to fail from the beginning. If diets worked, the diet industry would have nothing new to sell! So the next time you're tempted by the newest fad, the next time a diet starts to pull you in with its insistence that you just didn't do it right last time, and THIS time it's going to be a "lifestyle change" and not a diet, just remember: you are not a failure; diets are. (If you want to hear more about HAES, intuitive eating, and body positivity, head on over to wherever you get your podcasts and download the latest episode of Food Psych today! P.S. Be sure to leave a review if you love it, it really helps us reach new listeners and allows the show to grow. Thank you for all of your support <3 And don't forget to join the BRAND NEW Food Psych Listener Facebook Group by going to christyharrison.com/community ... Join the family today!) #haes #intuitiveeating #edrecovery #antidietproject #antidiet #riotsnotdiets #effyourbeautystandards #losehatenotweight #nourishnotpunish #recoverywarriors #balancednotclean #foodisfuel #prorecovery #bodyposi #bodypositive #bopo #foodpsychpod #foodpsych #feminism #healthateverysize
The hypothalamus works hard to keep you as close to your set-point weight as possible, whether or not you consciously listen to it. So if you go on a diet and lose weight through some conscious effort in other parts of the brain, your hypothalamus gets activated by the weight loss.
And then it does everything it possibly can to get you back to your set-point weight, because it has alarm bells going off saying that you’re in danger of starving. The hypothalamus releases hormones to increase your appetite, lowers your metabolism so that you can survive on less food, and even makes you feel more sluggish and less likely to move around, even at the subtle levels like tapping your feet, or fidgeting, or getting up out of your chair.
And as we talked about in module 2, about ditching the diet mentality, repeated dieting can eventually reset your set-point weight to be higher, which is meant to protect your body from starvation. Your hypothalamus perceives a threat every time you diet, so it’s doing its job if it makes you gain more weight to protect against the next famine.
So try to appreciate these things about your body, and if you see friends and family dieting around you, remember that their hypothalamuses are affected by any weight loss in their bodies, too—maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but in a year, two years, five years down the line, they will most likely be right back where they started, if not at a higher weight.
And if they’re not, I’d be concerned—because it could mean they have an eating disorder. Anorexia and other restrictive eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, and their real hallmark is not emaciation but a severely restrictive mindset around food and movement. (Obviously this is not meant to diagnose anyone, but it's just something to keep in mind if you know someone who seems to be an exception to the rule that diets don't work.)
Speaking of friends and family, remember that you can be a role model for those around you who may not know that intuitive eating is an option. It may cause resistance and friction at first if you try to drop your anti-diet knowledge on them, but if you can just keep doing your best to honor your body’s needs, eventually some of the people in your life may get curious and ask what this whole intuitive eating thing is all about.
That may not happen right away, or even at all with some people, but in the meantime you’ll be taking care of yourself—and you deserve that, no matter what anyone else around you is doing!
- The 2016 BMI study by Tomiyama et al. (the "last nail in the coffin of BMI")
- The Diet Survivor's Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance, and Self-Care by Judith Matz, LCSW, and Ellen Frankel, LCSW
Journal Exercise 1: Return to Self-Compassion
As you think about the aspects of intuitive eating that are still challenging for you, it's common to have some frustration toward yourself. This exercise is meant to help you process that with compassion.
Start by writing down one aspect of intuitive eating that you're still finding to be difficult or challenging. Now reflect on the following:
- What are you saying to yourself about your challenges? What are the specific thoughts and beliefs that go through your mind when you think about this aspect of intuitive eating?
- Are these thoughts and beliefs coming from a self-compassionate place, or from your inner critic? Or is it a mix of both?
- If your inner critic is involved, what does your self-compassionate side say in response? See if you can draw upon all the tools and ideas we've discussed in the course to refute the inner critic. Go back through previous modules and review if that helps!
- If your inner critic doesn't seem to be involved, and your thoughts are more along the lines of "I wish this were easier" or "it hurts to still be struggling with these things," try to offer yourself compassion for these struggles.
- Ask yourself what would help you to feel better in this moment. Maybe it's simply some acknowledgment of your feelings, or a hug from a loved one, or cuddles from a pet, or a nap, or a good cry. Whatever it is, give yourself what you need, and make comforting yourself a priority.
- Repeat this exercise as needed with any additional aspects of intuitive eating that you find challenging.
Journal Exercise 2: POST-LESSON REFLECTION
In your journal, reflect on what you learned in this module.
- Is weight still a remaining challenge for you? If so, what did you learn in this module that you can use to help overcome this challenge?
- Did you discover info in the monthly Q&As that helped you work through any other challenges you've faced?
- Was anything about this troubleshooting process easier than you'd expected?
- How will troubleshooting your remaining issues with intuitive eating help you move closer to your goals and intentions?
Please provide your feedback to help us improve this module.