And Then Diet Culture Did This…

August 16th, 2017 by Sara Upson


I am a huge fan of intuitive eating. It revolutionized my life! And I love helping people reconnect with their bodies to become intuitive eaters. Lately though, I have seen this troubling trend of diet culture manipulating intuitive eating.


In 2017 intuitive eating was listed as a top food/nutrition trend. This was great because it brought a lot of attention to Intuitive Eating, YAY! Unfortunately, it brought a lot of attention to Intuitive Eating and then diet culture used it the wrong way.


Then diet culture stuck it’s greedy fingers into intuitive eating and transformed it into a new diet- the eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full diet. That is NOT intuitive eating.


Then diet culture went one step further and changed a key element of intuitive eating- permission- to something completely different probably most accurately described as permission to think about food, but not permission to eat it. ARGH! For example, diet culture says that when you recognize that your body wants a hamburger, instead of eating it, you acknowledge that your body wants it, and “intuitively” decide to eat kale salad. OR when you’re choosing between cake and an apple that you should intuitively choose the apple. This is diet culture. It is NOT intuitive eating. At. All.


Here’s the reality: intuitive eating is about hunger and fullness + pleasure and satisfaction. Intuitive eating encourages reconnection to your innate body wisdom of hunger and fullness, but you’re not limited to hunger and fullness. Intuitive Eating also includes eating for pleasure and satisfaction and with emotions and for practical reasons, and sometimes just because.  That’s intuitive eating.


And that’s what really scares people about intuitive eating. Intuitive eating is neutral about food. Intuitive eating honors whatever it is that your body is telling you that you’re hungry for or desire to eat. That’s what makes intuitive eating so amazing. When you have permission to eat and listen to your body you’ll find that your body craves a wider variety of food.


But by giving yourself permission to have any food you make food neutral so that you can eat, savor and be done (with no ongoing guilty thoughts). It is this element of permission that also opens the door for your body to intuitively desire kale salad, and apples.   When a hamburger is bad and kale salad is good you will never truly be able to listen to your body. Diet culture says that labeling foods will help you make better choices and feel safe, but it actually encourages dysregulated eating, overeating and weight gain.   And when you label food like this, sometimes you’ll actually want the kale salad, but instead choose the hamburger!


When diet culture manipulates intuitive eating into another diet it loses all its effectiveness because that is not what intuitive eating is or about. Someone using intuitive eating in this manner then ends up more hurt, alone, and afraid. The creep of diet culture into intuitive eating started slowly and has been happening for a while, but it’s reached a point where it is has got to stop.


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