Eating Disorders

Is Intuitive Eating Second Best?

In reality, there is no difference between the amount of self-discipline and control needed to stick to intuitive eating and to stick to a diet.

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It’s easy to get caught up in the misconception that intuitive eating is giving up self-control and self-discipline. All too often we perceive this eating style as a concession – as the “next-best thing” to diets. As if it must be accepted begrudgingly because it, while not the healthiest eating style, is the best we can do when we lack self-discipline.

The thing is, intuitive eating isn’t easy. Rejecting the diet mentality and emotional eating is very difficult. It is especially difficult when we have relied on rules, numbers, and other people’s directions for our eating, and on restriction or overeating for “self-medication.”

It requires a lot of self-awareness, self-discipline, and hard work to get back in touch with our body’s signals.

To only use food (and the control of food intake) for what it is intended, instead of as a salve, is not easy.

It takes a lot of discipline to stop eating when we are full, and to only eat when we are hungry. It’s hard to make choices that make us feel best when it means giving up the body we think we want, or putting away a piece of delicious cake that tastes delicious, once our bodies are satisfied.

In reality, there is no difference between the amount of self-discipline and control needed to stick to intuitive eating and to stick to a diet.

Why, then, can intuitive eating be adopted as a lifestyle change, while diets inevitably fail by the pendulum swinging into a binge or deteriorating into an eating disorder?

The answer lies in the view each takes of physiology.

Intuitive eating recognizes one’s physiological cues and processes as the health-and survival-seeking body’s method of communicating its needs with us. These are valued and upheld as the supreme source of direction in eating and exercise related activities. Dieting, on the other hand, makes these cues and processes the enemies, demonizing them as the supreme force to be denied and overcome.

When you are eating intuitively, you are free to use your self-discipline as a way to feel the very best you possibly can at every moment, with your body working with you each step of the way. You can use your self-control to listen to your body and honor it with a healthy, balanced intake, made up primarily of nourishing foods.

But, when you are on a diet, your “self-discipline” gets used up on the battle with your body.

This leaves you unhappy, unhealthy, and unkind to your body. You attempt to either punish it or numb its cues with unnourishing diet foods, disrupting your body’s natural satisfaction system. With a much too heavy-handed portion of self-hate and self-distrust, you disrupt your body, heart, soul, and mind’s natural system of collaboration.

So, recognize your body and its physiological cues as your partner in the pursuit of health. Listen to it as an expert on your nutrition. When it comes to health, we have to work smarter, not harder. We have to work with our bodies, not against them. We have to use our “self-discipline” to pursue our own wellbeing, instead of to chastise and sabotage our bodies and health.

We have to recognize many people will judge us, look down on us, and consider themselves more disciplined. However, many people, especially our children, will also learn from us, be inspired by us, and change the culture of health and fitness with us!


Elizabeth currently holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and is planning to work towards becoming a licensed clinical social worker. Elizabeth feels blessed to have been surrounded with support during her journey with depression, and she is passionate about using her experiences and education to bless people in the same way she was blessed. She hopes that as a contributor to Libero, she will be able to provide very practical support.

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