Do you want to eat intuitively but also want to lose weight? Scared that non-dieting will mean you can't get to your goal weight? Let's chat honestly about weight loss and intuitive eating.
Learning about intuitive eating is about getting back that very deeply intelligent part of you that knows exactly how to best feed yourself. But we know that all the silly diet rules that are trapped in our brains can make intuitive eating feel almost impossible. Especially when you come into the world of intuitive eating thinking that it is just another weight loss protocol.
Lyndi receives a lot of questions about how people enter into the world of non-dieting when they are still wanting to lose weight for health reasons or quality of life.
So, when we received a really great email from a lovely listener named Sarah - we knew it was time to be really honest about navigating weight loss without dieting.
Ps. If you've listened to the episode and want to know more about the Hunger Scale, check it out here.
"This book has literally changed my life - 26 years of eating disorders, disordered eating, fitness challenges, diets, and psychologists. This book in 3 weeks has changed my life beyond measure! I can't believe this won't help anyone who reads it."
It's feedback like this that adds fuel to my fire. If you haven't yet, read Amazon's #1 Woman's Health book.
Oh, hey, guys, and welcome to today's episode of the No Wellness Wankery podcast. I am your co-host, dietitian, nutritionist.
Hello, my name is Jenna D’Apice , and I'm joining Lyndi for a very honest conversation we're gonna have today, all about weight loss and intuitive eating. You have a lot of questions come through to you all the time about this, and you've got a really great email that I'm gonna read out, and we're gonna have a chat about it. Here I go. Hi there, Lindy. I think the biggest troublesome thought I have in regard to food, weight, and eating is that I'm not too sure this intuitive eating style works for me. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely think we should get in touch with our hunger and fullness and gently guide ourselves toward choices that make us feel good and fuel our bodies as well. However, there are times where weight loss is needed for the sake of quality of life. You don't seem opposed to weight loss per se, but if I take this sort of relaxed approach you seem to take, I won't actually make progress. It's an excuse in my head to eat way beyond full or when I'm not even hungry or foods that do not help my health or weight or energy just because there's no food rules. I feel addicted to food, particularly hyper-palatable junk food, very processed foods, fast foods, and this seems to override my best intentions to eat intuitively and in a way that feels good. This has led me to morbid obesity, and don't even get me started on health at every size and that whole concept. The study often started with the obesity paradox thing shows that the paradox stops working when you get into the obesity class two, class three and up. Anyway, I just wish there was a niche in the whole anti-diet world for people like me who would actually feel better by losing some weight and who don't always feel able to choose what they want to choose long-term in a heated moment of staring down a pizza or ice cream. Maybe we need some more personalized help. I hope that makes sense. Thanks, Sarah.
Sarah, it's such a good question. And I feel like we need to have a really open and honest conversation about all of this because I think what you're getting at, Sarah, is that it's like the Hayes world, the intuitive eating thing. It's like we can't even talk about this idea of weight loss. And as a result, we're missing the elephant in the room. I think it's a really important conversation to have. As you kind of pointed out, it can feel like having excess weight can be really hard on your joints, it can make it hard to get around, it impacts your energy. At some point it does. Like at some point having extra fat is going to make life feel harder and more exhausting, you can get sweatier. I know when I was heavier, sweating was such an issue and chasing was an issue. And that's before you consider things like your confidence around your body and all those
So I think let's address a few things. So firstly, you're right, I'm not anti-weight loss. I'm not. I don't believe that I... I don't want to discourage anyone from saying you shouldn't lose weight, that's a bad idea. I just believe chasing weight loss for the sake of weight loss is really shitty motivation. As example of your entire life. I bet you, Sarah, you've probably spent your entire life trying to lose weight and being told you are the wrong way. I feel like this is not your first attempt. You're not just coming to me because you've never dieted before. You've tried many, many weight loss attempts before. And fundamentally, these weight loss attempts, they do work, but they only work temporarily. This is what we see in the research. Some research says 95% of diets fail and what that's referring to is long-term efficacy. So typically someone at like two-year, three-year, five-year follow-up, they're regaining the weight that they lost, but not even just that. They're regaining more weight than they originally lost in the first diet. Some studies put this, like how effective a diet is, a weight loss diet to be clear, and more around 98 to 99% failure rate. Failure rate. Yeah, failure rate. So it's kind of like having a parachute that only opened 2% of the time. You'd be like, we need another option.
But everyone's still jumping out of the plane.
Yeah. Okay. So you kind of have to, and I think you probably know this already, I think you've probably heard this whole thing that diets don't work, and that fundamentally, not only does dieting not lead to weight loss, but it leads to weight gain. Okay? The other thing it leads to is intense cravings for the very foods you're meant to avoid. So that's very, very unhelpful to tell someone, oh, well, sugar is fattening or fat is fattening, and then the end result is for that person to actually want more of that food. I think temporarily we can avoid those foods for a short period of time, but like you say, you're now at a point where you feel quite obsessed around food because you've probably spent your entire life being told you can't eat a whole bunch of foods. Is this a fundamental flaw with you? Absolutely not. This is the fact that you've done countless weight loss diets in your life that haven't actually worked. So I'm not against weight loss, I just know that we don't currently have an alternative that has been proven successful, except for what I can talk about, which is this whole slow, sustainable process of focusing on healthy habits and things that make you feel good and doing them for the right reasons and finding what feels enjoyable for you. What we find is that for some people, not all, some people naturally end up losing weight when they slowly accumulate these healthy habits. And what we find is that that can be quite sustainable. Some people are going to stay exactly the same weight and some people are going to gain weight depending on what their starting weight was. So intuitive eating is in no way a weight loss protocol. And I think a lot of people come into intuitive eating holding onto this idea that I want to lose weight and I want to do intuitive eating and you cannot do them simultaneously. You have to drop them. Why I think weight loss is really shitty motivation is because, let's say I start running and the only reason I'm running is so I can lose weight. Now let's say I hop on the scale after a month or two months, you know, a nice big grace period and I either haven't lost enough weight for what I thought I should be losing. I've stayed exactly the same or I've gained weight. Do you think I'm going to keep running? No. No way. No, I'm done. I'm done. My running career is finished and not only is it finished but I'm probably less likely to view running as a positive thing. I probably pushed myself to exercise and run when I didn't feel like doing it, when I just felt like I really had to do it because had I done exercise and running because I really enjoyed how it made me feel, it wouldn't matter if I had lost weight at the end of it because I was doing it because it was joyful and fun and great. I think when we do things because they're fun and joyful and great, we're so much more likely to keep running. So you might find after a year or two years, you're still running. You can't say that, I mean, that is going to improve your quality of life. That is going to improve your health. You cannot deny that regardless of what happens to, you know, if your weight stays exactly the same. I know with the research, there's kind of some interesting studies about, I know you talk about the different categories of being obese. Interesting research. Let me just be very clear up front. If you are underweight, your risk of dying prematurely is significantly increased. More so than if you're overweight. More so than you're overweight, absolutely more so than you're overweight. It's seriously high and I think no one's ever talking about the risks of being underweight. And that's just kind of an example of weight stigma and how it happens. If you're overweight, according to BMI, we're using BMI, outdated, but anyway, we're using it as a metric, there is a protective benefit that can happen for someone who's in the normal weight range and in the overweight weight range. So it's very much swept under the rug. We're kind of being told that you have to kind of be under this point, but sometimes when you look at chronic diseases, it's kind of like, well, you know, that 25 to maybe like 27, 28 BMI can kind of be like, you know, protected and fine, especially when you have an older generation, older population, someone in their 70s and 80s, it can be quite protective for them to weigh a little bit more because let's say they do get sick, well, fat is kind of like a buffer, a barrier to help them. A certain amount of fat is absolutely needed. Of course when we get to the point where we have excess weight that is making our lives harder or it's contributing to things like type 2 diabetes.
Moving around, joints, pain, making it difficult to sleep. I so hear you. That's not fun. As I said, I really have been there. That's not good. But the problem is that if you go on a weight loss diet, it's probably not gonna lead to sustained weight loss. You could do it temporarily, you would lose some short-term weight, but you're not fundamentally fixing the problem, which is your mindset in relationship with food. Hating your body and feeling like you're the wrong weight is such powerful motivation that you'll do almost anything. You will take extreme action, and it feels so important that you take action quickly. And this impatience, this need to get rid of this weight because of how it affects your life, how it affects your mental well-being, your sense of self, can propel us into doing really extreme, unhealthy, unsustainable things and justifying it in a way that I think is totally unhelpful.
And is it also this like hatred of your body and bad relationship with food that then propels you to go and eat a whole pizza and eat all the ice cream and go down that path as well?
I think it absolutely can be. Yeah, it certainly can be. I know that's a lot of emotional eating. I think sometimes when you're like, you try a diet as well, or you just try and be good that day and then you have an emotional day and you're like, well, I may as well, there's like a flick in your brain that happens, and you're like, well, I may as well just eat everything now and I'll start again tomorrow. We have that kind of belief system. I think what fundamentally I hate the most about diets, not only do they make you feel like you are the failure, even though their rules set you up for failure, but when you fail a diet, you blame yourself. Now not only do you have the low self-esteem of what you had before, but now you think that your character, your personality is to blame. So now not only is your physical body something to detest, but it's also your state and your sense of how much self-control you have. I think that is what's really warped about it all. But I digress a little bit. I believe that if you adopt small, healthy habits for the sake of health, of feeling good in your body, for quality of life, because you want to, because you enjoy them, not because anyone is telling you to do them. So not recruiting food police, not recruiting a personal trainer who's going to force you to have to exercise. If you go to a personal trainer, that's because you want to be going there. But doing these small sustainable things and accumulating them slowly, bit by bit, is going to lead you to a better quality of life. It's going to lead you to better health. So fundamentally, any healthcare professional who cares about your health is going to want you to do healthy habits. And if they are pushing a weight loss diet to you, I'd be saying, well, you're really kind of setting me up for failure by suggesting that I go keto or that I do intermittent fasting. And I just want to point out that I find the doctors particularly are very big fans of intermission fasting these days. And this is a question I ask often on the podcast, but if you can fast intermittently for the rest of your life, great. Do intermission fasting. There's a stack load of research to say that eating that way can be really healthy for you. I'm not going to refute the evidence there. What I am saying is that the sustainability of the diet is in high question, and I really just don't think it's sustainable for anyone. So doctors will promote weight loss even though they do not have a solution that is going to sustainably lead to weight loss. I always used to think to myself, you know, when I did the whole intuitive eating thing, I want to say I was detached from weight loss and trying to lose weight, but I think there was always a part of me that was like, it would be nice. You know, like it would be nice to weigh a little bit less, but I kept pushing it out of my brain. And I'd say something like to myself, if it takes me five years to lose this weight and I never have to think about my weight again, that'd be great. But that was probably the degree to what I thought about it. And I just want to reiterate this fact that when, you know, I kind of do use this story about how I lost 20 kilograms over four years. And I think what's interesting about that story is that it took me four years. That's a substantial amount of time. Yes, and that I wasn't weighing myself. Every occasionally I would weigh myself, but I wasn't thinking about calories or how much I weighed. I was simply thinking about adding in these healthy habits. Over the period of time, I lost 100 grams over each week. Now when we do weight loss protocols, we're very much like, okay, well typically they're like you should lose a kilo a week. You should lose half a kilo a week. That's a lot of weight. So had I measured my success and all these different metrics, how I was going based on how much weight I was losing, I definitely would have given up, but I didn't. So just to round out this conversation, intuitive eating is not about weight loss. And I think if you're trying to pursue weight loss at the same time you're doing intuitive eating, you're going to fail at intuitive eating, and you're going to feel like intuitive eating is not working for you. If you feel obsessed with food, if you feel like you can't stop thinking about anything else, you really have a relationship with food problem. You don't have a weight problem. We've been told our whole lives that your weight is the problem and that by focusing on it, you're going to solve it. You're going to make the situation a whole lot worse based on all the research that we have around it. I know this is not a convenient truth because we want a quick fix. We want something that's really simple, but all I can offer you is to focus on your health and things that feel enjoyable, accept the slowness of it, and you really may lose weight. Many people do. It is a very tricky thing because I know when you're going through these things, it's so hard to not want weight loss. As you're going through it, and then you automatically feel like a failure. I feel like you're not anti-weight loss, you just feel like dieting isn't the way to get there if that's something that you need for your quality of life or your health. And focusing on weight loss makes losing weight a whole lot harder. And you don't always need to lose weight, sometimes you do, but just like how we've got that kind of protective benefit when someone's in the overweight category, I think of the thin ideal and beauty standards have gotten a little bit mixed up with health. And so you're kind of like, well, what does a healthy body even look like anymore? And I think sometimes what we need to do is we need to do the healthy things and then forgive our body when it doesn't look the way we wished it would.
I was chatting to a doctor the other day and I wonder how, because I know some people might look at this and like, I've got to lose 30 kilos because they've just picked an arbitrary number from their head. And this doctor was saying that you get like, and I don't know if this is true, 80% of the health benefits of losing weight by just losing like five kilos.
Yeah, so there's kind of this whole idea of percentage weight loss and how that can be really beneficial. And I think that's an interesting concept because I think if you're like, oh, I have 30 kilograms to lose,
that's very overwhelming. That's a mountain to climb.
But if you're like, okay, well, actually, just for the rest of the year, if I lost, I know it's going to sound crazy, but a kilo, maybe I'll feel better. Two kilos, I don't know. Every small thing does contribute if you feel like your weight, if you've reached that point where your weight is feeling prohibitory in your life, but it's this idea that you have to lose it so quickly, that you have to lose so much, that the mountain is so big, that I think can be quite prohibitory. It's a good point. It's a really good point.
So obviously if you do have a problem with relationship with food, you'll keep it real program as something that could help a lot with this.
Yeah, especially if you find that, like Sarah, you feel obsessed with food. You feel like you know everything that you should be eating, but you feel like you're either good, you're bad, you're starting a diet every Monday. What we do there is, firstly, the first step is to work in on dismantling all the diet nonsense that's kind of making you feel quite obsessed with food because it's a bit like, you and I were kind of talking about it in the break, where you go away on holiday and you're like, you don't think about food as much. You feel relaxed. I've done this thing where I went to Europe for a month and I came back and I'd lost four
I just walked all the time. I was eating pasta, not caring, but I had been dieting so ferociously before and binge eating, and I went to Europe and I finally ate the foods I wanted to eat. I moved and I wasn't thinking about food, and the very thing I had chased happened when I wasn't focused on it. And there's something interesting about that, isn't there? And I just think we could do with a little bit more of that. It was a very good question, Sarah.
A big one. I hope you got something out of that conversation. I hope I've answered it. I think you have.
Yeah, okay. It's a big topic. It keeps coming up and I feel like I really just want to be really honest about this. Can we just quickly talk about like, and by the way, my upcoming book is good, it talks about this in so much more detail. I really go into it. But one of the things we talk about, what is a healthy habit? So one of the things I ask in the book is three questions to help you pick healthy habits that aren't diets in disguise. The first question is, can I do this for the rest of my life? An important one. We know you have to be sustainable. At least for the next five years, could I do this? Not could I do this for six weeks. The next question is, does this help me become closer to the person I'd like to be?
I love that one. My psychologist says that all the time.
Good. I like them. And the third question is, if this didn't impact my weight, would I still do it? And I know that feels like a weird one, but it's a really important one.
A really important one.
We need to be doing things irrespective of how they're going to impact our weight. This comes back to that running example. So let's talk about what some healthy habits would be. So you might go, I'm going to walk to pick up my kids from school, or ride a bike, or something like that. Or I'm going to get to sleep half an hour earlier, or I'm going to stretch before I go to bed. I think we discount a whole bunch of healthy habits because they don't directly impact weight. We talk about what's the point of doing this. The point of doing this is it has so many on-flow effects and I enjoy it and it makes me feel closer to the person I'd like to be. It improves my quality of life and zoning in on weight loss all the time can deter us from doing all these brilliant healthy habits that accumulate and add up to something really grand and powerful. And I think we need to look at it a bit more like that. Some other healthy habits would be washing your face, putting on sunscreen, eating when you feel hungry, eating more for lunch as opposed to letting yourself get ravenous, stocking your fridge with foods that make you feel good.
Drinking more water.
Yeah. Stopping smoking. There are so many cool things that we can be doing. Just use those three questions to see whether or not it's going to help you once again, because for the rest of my life, is this helping me become closer to the person I'd like to be? And if this didn't impact my weight, would I still be doing it? You may. I hope this is all helpful. We can always do another episode about it if we can be...
Yeah, if you have any questions, nude, I'm a nutritionist, send them through and we can keep... I think this is going to be a bit of an ongoing conversation. Yeah, it's a biggie.
It's a biggie.
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