Reclaiming Your Birthright (Part 1)

An Introduction to Intuitive Eating: Rejecting the Diet Mentality

Posted by: Raquel Griffin

Time to read: 5 minutes

“I just want to eat normally”. In my experience teasing this statement out with folks, I typically learn that what they mean is they don’t want to feel so preoccupied with food, or worried, or scared. They are tired from being at war with food and with their bodies. Many of them want Intuitive Eating, but it feels far off, out-of-reach, out of their capacity.

But, what if I invited you to consider that we’re born Intuitive Eaters? Of course, there are always going to be exceptions to most things, but generally speaking we come out of the womb with much of our intuition (evolutionary and survival responses) when it comes to eating. However, what happens often is that internal wisdom becomes polluted by external factors like diet culture. We learn to disconnect from our bodies and deny our needs and wants. Intuitive Eating is about reclaiming our birthright by shifting focus away from external factors rooted in diet culture and rebuilding trust with our internal wisdom and intuition.

This blogpost is the first entry of a series, an Introduction to Intuitive Eating. To summarize, Intuitive Eating:

  • Its philosophy is rooted in an anti-diet positioning and is aligned with the concepts of Health At Every Size and weight inclusivity.
  • It is comprised of 10 principles that are dynamic in nature (not sequential steps, though the positions of #1 and #10 are intentional)
  • Interoception is the foundational skill of reference; it is the ability to perceive physical sensations that originate from inside the body. 
  • It has a solid footing in research in numerous ways: 
    (a) evidence for the ineffectiveness and damage of diets or intentional weight loss
    (b) is an evidence based approach that demonstrates the benefits of intuitive eaters (220+ studies and counting)
    (c) has a validated assessment tool. 

In this post, I want to focus on explaining the anti-diet positioning of Intuitive Eating, which is related to the first principle of Intuitive Eating, and I’ll pull in some research pieces to corroborate that stance.

The first principle is the most important, Reject the Diet Mentality, where right away things get real specific on why an anti-diet approach can be a helpful cornerstone in your relationship with food repair. Diets do not work, and by this I mean weight loss that can be experienced from dieting is not long lasting. On top of that, the ineffectiveness of dieting is not a neutral quality: diets can cause a lot of harm and damage on our health in a variety of ways.

Dieting and intentional weight loss have been have showing their hand in research for a while now. You can see a non-exhaustive list of some of this research at the end of this post. Way back in 2007 a team of researchers came together to conduct a meta-analysis of all the long term weight loss studies they could find to assess whether long-term weight loss was actually a thing. The results from this meta-analysis, and other research studies since, report a 5-year maximum window where approximately 95% of people will not only regain the weight they did lose from dieting initially, but up to 2/3 of people will actually regain MORE weight than they lost. Let’s recognize for a moment what that means: dieting is more likely to make you fatter in the long-run. Now, this is not meant to demonstrate colluding with diet culture, but instead to point out the ridiculousness of a product that worsens the very “issue” it claims to resolve. Imagine purchasing a water bottle that not only is ineffective in quenching your thirst, but instead actually makes you thirstier. Pretty ineffective product, eh?

So, the diet is the problem itself, yet we are convinced by diet culture that WE are the problem. We are somehow at fault. When the weight inevitably comes back we blame ourselves and try the next diet or “lifestyle change”, and the next, and the next. This often results in weight-cycling: the pattern of weight loss and regain that occurs with chronic dieting. Weight cycling is seldom controlled for in many large studies that associate weight with health issues; this is a major oversight because weight cycling itself is an independent risk factor for many health conditions including: cardiovascular disease, inflammation, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance. And what do you know, these health issues often are blamed on one’s weight or fatness, resulting in various prescriptions of the very thing that could be contributing to these health issues = intentional weight loss via dieting and exercise.

In future posts for this series on an introduction to Intuitive Eating, I’ll share more on how the concepts of Health at Every Size and Weight Inclusivity have overlaps with an an-diet approach, some of the benefits of Intuitive Eating that research has shown, Interoception, and more. For now, my hope is maybe reading this has helped you begin to consider a different perspective toward the normalized attempts to shrink our bodies via some rendition of eating less. If you’re feeling exhausted from the never ending pursuit of weight loss, or feeling obsessed with food or eating, know that exploring Intuitive Eating could bring more peace and ease to your food and body relationship. It has the potential to reconnect (or introduce) you to your birthright.

Research references (for dieting being ineffective), a non-exhaustive list:

Bacon, L., & Aphramor, L. (2011). Weight science: Evaluating the evidence for a paradigm shift. Nutrition Journal, (10) 9. DOI: 10.1186/1475-2891-10-9

Dulloo, A. G., Jacquet, J., & Montani, J. (2011). How dieting makes some fatter: from a perspective of human body composition autoregulation. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 71, 379–389. doi:10.1017/S0029665112000225

Field, A. E., Austin, S. B., Taylor, C. B., Malspeis, S., Rosner, B., Rockett, H. R., et. al. (2003). Relation between dieting and weight change among preadolescents and adolescents. Pediatrics, 112, 900– 906.

Fothergill, E., Guo, J., Howard, L., Kerns, J. C.,  Knuth, N. D., Brychta, R., et. al. (2016). Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after “The Biggest Loser” competition. Obesity biology and integrated physiology. doi:10.1002/oby.21538

Mann, T., Tomiyama, A. J., Westling, E., Lew, A., Samuels, B., & Chatman, J. (2007). Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. American Psychologist, The American Psychological Association, 62(3), 220-233. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.62.3.220

Montani, J., Schutz, Y., & Dulloo, A. G. (2015). Dieting and weight cycling as risk factors for cardiometabolic diseases: Who is really at risk? World Obesity, (1), 7–18. doi: 10.1111/obr.12251

Neumark-Sztainer,D., Wall, M., Larson, N. I., Eisenberg, M. E., Loth, K. (2011). Dieting and disordered eating behaviors from adolescence to young adulthood: Findings from a

10-year longitudinal study. Journal of the American Dietetic Association.  doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2011.04.012

O’Hara, L., & Taylor, J. (2018). What’s wrong with the ‘war on obesity?’: A narrative review of the weight-centered health paradigm and development of the 3C framework to build critical competency for a paradigm shift. SAGE open, 1–28. DOI://1d0o.i.1o1rg7/71/02.1157872/241450812484707128878728888

Richmond, T.K., Thurston, I.B., Sonneville, K. R. (2020). Weight-focused public health interventions: No benefit, some harm. JAMA Paediatrics. 

Ross, R., Blair, S., de Lannoy, L., Després, J., Lavie, C. J. (2015). Changing the endpoints for determining effective obesity management. Progress in Cardiovascular diseases, 57, 330–336.

Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2020). Intuitive eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach, 4th ed. St Martin’s Publishing Group: New York.

Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2017). The intuitive eating workbook: ten principles for nourishing a healthy relationship with food. New Harbinger Publications: Oakland.

Pietiläinen, K. H., Saarni, S. E., Kapiro, J., & Rissanen, A. (2011). Does dieting make you fat? A twin study. International Journal of Obesity. doi:10.1038/ijo.2011.160- online publication, 9 August 2011

Wing, R. R., Bolin, P., Brancati, F. L., Bray, G. A., Clark, J. M., Coday, M., et al. (2013). Cardiovascular effects of intensive lifestyle intervention in Type 2 diabetes. The New England Journal of Medicine, 369, 145-54. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1212914

Postpartum body image tips: from an ED therapist with ED lived experience

Posted by: Raquel Griffin

Time to read: 5 minutes

Originally appeared on:

At first, I thought I was successful in combating ED thoughts and the diet mentality that followed the birth of my child. Sure, my ear would initially be tickled with ED whisperings of fatphobia and diet culture. But just as quickly as they appeared, self-compassionate and comforting hums would replace them. But as time passed, I began to feel more stress about my new body shape and size. I had a number of friends and acquaintances who gave birth very close to when I did, and I really began to struggle with body comparison. Why was my body larger than theirs? Why did it seem like they were restored to their pre-pregnancy body sizes when I wasn’t? These fatphobic thoughts and expectations hung like a cloud as I squeezed my body into my too-small clothes.

At 4 months postpartum, I was horrified to come across a post in my social media feed from my local hospital’s pregnancy unit for an upcoming Q&A on C-sections. The post included a naked, very thin, flat-tummied, stretchmark-free, White person, from the navel down to the thighs. Laying on top of this body was a newborn baby, peaceful in slumber, blocking the birthing person’s labia but also positioned low enough down to wonder how this person had no pubic hair. It was a completely unrealistic picture of any body, let alone a postpartum body. I was so upset that a reproductive-focused medical facility was perpetuating such a harmful body standard (not to mention a weirdly sexualized one). I felt  shame about my postpartum body and at times bought into this diet-culture idea that my body should be getting smaller the further away I got from  my child’s birth date.

Pregnant people are often highly encouraged to try nursing at any cost (a whole separate conversation) and one of the “benefits” often included is weight loss. I hate to admit it… but when feeding/nursing was going well with my baby I was partially relieved, because in the back of my mind, I thought it would help prevent me from needing to adjust to a drastically new and different body. But, I was wrong. I was experiencing shame that my postpartum body was “too large” or differently-shaped. And, then I had shame about my fatphobia-induced shame, as that was not aligned with my values.

It’s a strange thing to hold reverence for the body that withstood such a major medical event and brought my treasured child into the world, while also resenting the bodily evidence left behind. To admire the softness and smoothness from stretched skin where my child was held in their first home, then to shortly thereafter hold disgust for new skin/fat folds and stretch mark scribblings. The good news is, with a lot of work, over time my relationship to my new body as a result of pregnancy and childbirth is becoming easier. If I’m being honest, I’m not yet at a place where I like my postpartum body and I’m willing to accept that maybe I will never be. But, I am at a place where my feelings toward my body are much more neutral and compassionate. My body has been and is capable of great things. My body is worthy. 

These are some of the things that have been helping me move toward body acceptance:

Remind yourself that eating is especially important during this time
Our bodies need energy in the form of food. Providing consistent and adequate nourishment following labour and delivery is extremely important—especially for postpartum bodies. The last thing your body needs right now is to have its starvation response triggered.

Whether your birth was vaginal or Caesarean, your body needs to recover and it needs food to do that. You will need the energy from food to help you combat the sleep deprivation you’ll be experiencing. I was able to have several family members and friends provide food and meals in the weeks after my birth so that I didn’t have to worry about cooking. This was an absolute life-saver. I also made sure I had Ensure and meal supplements on hand to quickly consume nutrients with little time/effort. Eating enough consistently and regularly will also help your milk production if you are nursing.

Respect your body by dressing in clothes that fit and are comfortable
Stop trying to squeeze into your old clothes. Wearing clothes that are too tight does not feel good. 

Pregnancy/maternity clothes are meant to accommodate a changing body. Your body may keep changing postpartum so just because you’re no longer pregnant doesn’t mean you should stop wearing pregnancy clothes if they are comfortable and fit. If it helps you feel better, stay away from the items that accentuate a “bump”.

If you find that your new body shape does not fit in any of the sizes provided in a store, consider buying a size that is too big and then taking to a tailor or a family member who has some sewing skills. Get familiar with thrift stores. I have bought some items new, but I have found most of my success with thrift stores. I’ve even bought a couple items with the tags still on.

Engage in re-embodying activities
With pregnancy, labour, child-birth, and nursing, there is a long period of time where you may feel like your body isn’t fully your own anymore. And, if you have a history of disordered eating and disembodiment, these feelings could be exacerbated. Where possible, engage in pleasurable activities that help you reconnect with your body in positive ways. For me, that was prioritizing walking, getting back to choir rehearsals and singing, and maintaining sexual intimacy with my partner. 

Reject the Diet Mentality
Shortly after giving birth, I completed my Intuitive Eating Counselling Certification. Immersing myself in anti-diet values, principles, and scientific research really helped me to reject the diet mentality and ED thoughts as they arose. 

There is no research to indicate that long-term weight loss is a realistic endeavour.
Speak out against harmful diet culture when you see it. For example, that Instagram post I mentioned— I commented something along the lines of “I’m really happy to see this event on C-sections will be taking place but I am very disappointed you chose to use a promotional image that perpetuates an unrealistic body standard”. Many other commenters followed suit and the account ended up removing that promotional image.
Consume weight-inclusive content, media, and literature that aligns with anti-diet values, fat-liberation, and Health at Every Size. Some of my favourites are:

Join our mailing list!

We promise to never spam you or sell your information.
You can unsubscribe at any time.