Contributor: Courtney Howard, B.A., Executive Assistant at Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope
Ever since Intuitive Eating, 2nd Edition: A Revolutionary Program That Works came out in 2003, intuitive eating has become the end goal for many in eating disorder recovery. Those who have waged war against food and their bodies for months or years often yearn for the ability to make peace with both through the principles of intuitive eating.
The concept of intuitive eating is the antithesis of what so many within the fitness industry promote today. So, it is no shocker that a recent article in the New York Post slamming intuitive eating was authored by a personal trainer based out of New York City.
What is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is essentially listening to your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues to determine when to eat and when to stop eating. This concept rejects fad diets and other restrictive meal plans, instead encouraging individuals to honor their hunger and not deprive themselves. Deprivation leads to disordered thoughts and behaviors surrounding food.
Self-acceptance and body positivity go hand-in-hand with the principles of intuitive eating. The idea is that if you stop spending so much time trying to control your appetite and weight and instead put that energy into respecting what your body is telling you it needs, you will soon reach a natural weight that is healthy for you.
Making peace with food and your body frees you from a seemingly endless cycle of dieting, body dissatisfaction, and using food as a coping mechanism.
A Personal Trainer’s Perspective
The recent New York Post article titled “Intuitive Eating is for People Who Have Given Up” comes from the point of view of Brandon Drenon, a personal trainer who heavily implies that accepting and loving your natural body type is the same as “giving up.”
The author states that intuitive eating is for people who have “given up on accomplishing any real weight loss goals.” What he seems to be missing is that not being obsessed with weight is a good thing. Intuitive eating is most often encouraged among those who have dealt with some form of disordered eating in the past. Whether these individuals are chronic dieters, emotional eaters, or those with full-blown eating disorders, intuitive eating provides a much-needed, often lifesaving escape from an obsession with these “weight loss goals.”
Similarly, Drenon articulates that, in his opinion, “The message of Intuitive Eating is self-acceptance and self-awareness, but what seems to be lost is self-discipline and self-control.” He strongly advocates food rules and calorie-counting. Of course, we in the eating disorder community know that applying extreme “self-discipline” to food choices and engaging in related obsessive behaviors just paves the way for disordered eating.
The views on food and exercise voiced in the New York Post article are common among the fitness industry. Though some professionals within the field are more aligned with our philosophies on body positivity and intuitive eating, Drenon’s voice seems to be that of the overwhelming majority. This is unfortunate since fitness professionals have the great power and great responsibility to change the current gym culture.
Why This View is Skewed
Intuitive eating, when truly embodied, is no easy feat. It involves giving yourself the freedom to eat what you want and listen to your body while practicing shameless self-acceptance in a society constantly telling you to eat this, don’t eat that, and always strive for the perfect bikini body above all else. In fact, intuitive eating might not be realistic for some individuals who struggle with extreme disordered eating to ever truly achieve.
As opposed to a last resort or sign of having “given up,” intuitive eating is something to be admired. While painting intuitive eating as a free-for-all composed of eating hamburgers with glazed donuts as buns, Drenon conveniently ignores that one of the principles featured in Intuitive Eating, 2nd Edition: A Revolutionary Program That Works is “Honor Your Health.” This principle talks about the benefits of balanced meals, educating yourself on food groups, and eating quality food that give your body the strength it needs to get through the day.
Drenon compares food choices to financial choices, stating you wouldn’t just spend money whenever and however you want depending on how you feel. That is an entirely accurate statement, but comparing food and finances is highly misleading.
Though there is an undeniable relationship between food behaviors and money when it comes to eating disorders, what Drenon is talking about completely skews the ideals behind intuitive eating. Intuitive financial planning is a silly concept that he uses in this case to poke fun at intuitive eating in a dangerous way. Those reading the article might see that device and come to the author’s own misguided conclusion that intuitive eating is not realistic or advisable.
Practicing Intuitive Eating in a Disordered Society
Disordered eating and compulsive exercise have gone mainstream. Practicing intuitive eating is a revolutionary idea that truly has the power to change your life and your relationship with yourself.
Cultural obsessions with fad diets and extreme exercise often trigger a general fear of food. This can translate into an inability to trust your own body. When a diet or workout regimen is built from a foundation of self-hatred and distrust, how is it going to be successful? No relationship can survive those conditions, especially not one you are building with your own body and mind.
Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!
What has been your experience with intuitive eating? What are your thoughts on the New York Post article?
About the Author: Courtney Howard is the Executive Assistant for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from San Diego State University, holds a paralegal certificate in Family Law, and is a Certified Domestic Violence Advocate. After obtaining her certification as a life coach, Courtney launched Lionheart Eating Disorder Recovery Coaching in 2015 and continues to be a passionate advocate for awareness and recovery.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 22, 2016
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com