Sunday, October 19, 2008

Book review: Intuitive Eating

After reading Thin is the New Happy, I became more and more convinced that I couldn't continue on the same crazy diet merry-go-round the author describes. Plus, the idea of a non-diet weight loss approach that worked appealed to me. Since there weren't a lot of detailed how-tos from author Valerie Frankel, I took advantage of my tax dollars at work and checked out my library's copy of Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works, by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, both registered dieticians who had lots of letters after their names.

I had seen talk of Intuitive Eating on the weight-loss blogs, but mostly in connection with blogs that also advocate Fat Acceptance. And as bad as I know this will sound, while I accept other people's fat, and even accept my own, I'm not all that excited about the idea of keeping my fat forever and ever if I could, conceivably, lose it without also losing my mind. I wanted an approach that would help me find some balance between health, nutrition, and a desire to enjoy a brownie once in a while. I also recognized myself in Frankel's clicker experiment, where she found she thought more about weight loss and her body than she did about sex, work, or even her family. I want to break out of that kind of self-obsession.

This book seems to have the balance nailed. The idea is that if you fully legalize food, and allow yourself to feed your hunger with the foods you truly want and love, while also working on bad food habits like eating out of boredom, you will start to feel free to enjoy a wide range of foods, and not yo-yo between "perfect" diet eating and out-of-control binging. It's not necessarily a new idea, but it gets more into the nitty-gritty of how to do it than some of the other books I've read on this subject, like Geneen Roth's. Toward the end, the book also addresses nutrition and exercise, which helped alleviate my fears that this was a feel-good book that would leave me hopelessly fat if I followed its instructions.

I have to admit that after seeing an unflattering photo, I gave some serious thought to doing one last diet before reading this book, just to get down to a good weight before trying this intuitive eating thing. Apparently the authors have heard this one before because there's a section on the "One Last Diet Trap."

I started trying this out on Saturday. I went to a yoga class with a friend and we went to breakfast afterward. I actually ordered exactly what I wanted: basted eggs, dry wheat toast, orange slices, and potatoes with sour cream and chives. I was really hungry, but found that later at lunch I naturally wanted to eat lighter. I feel freer to have foods, like bread and cheese and wine, that I enjoy but considered too high-calorie, but I'm finding that I'm not feeling as compelled to eat everything in front of me because I'm committed to the idea of having what I want, when I want it, as long as I'm truly hungry. I'm also making sure to exercise almost daily, which makes me feel good and also helps keep me a little less high-strung and less likely to eat because I'm nervous or worried.

This plan doesn't promise model-thinness but suggests that if you follow it, your body will find its natural, healthy weight. I truly believe that I have at least a few pounds to go from where my body would settle naturally if I had never learned to obsess over food or see it as a therapist and best buddy rolled into one. I'd love to feel fit, strong, and sane and to be able to enjoy any food in a reasonable portion without worry or guilt. I'm currently wearing a size 14, and all I'm really hoping for is to fit happily into my 12s again, about where I was when I visited with my AFG co-authors in New York City.

I can't say that I regret the times I've dieted, because I have learned to really love vegetables and have tried a lot of recipes that I thoroughly enjoy but might never have tried on my own. Still, I like being free of the counting mentality and the constant self-criticism for blowing it or being hungrier than is convenient. I'm trying to take the emphasis off weight loss and put it back onto fitness and happiness, which is why my weekly weigh-ins and other weight-loss-goal-related widgets are now banished from the site.

I'm still watching "The Biggest Loser," though, because I'm totally hooked.


  1. Good for you! It seems hard to imagine just eating what you want, when you want it, as long as you are really hungry, and getting in tune with your body in the process. But it sounds as though you're off to a good start. I look forward to following your journey - and think I'll dust off my copy of this and actually read it.

  2. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07