Intuitive Eating book review

Posted: October 17, 2010 in Book Reviews

This is a diet book that’s not a diet book.  It’s not going to tell you what to eat.  It’s not going to tell you when to eat.  And it’s not going to tell you how much to eat.  Rather, it’s going to try and connect your mind to your body.

Some people claim in order to move away from dieting, you need to start listening to your body.  You can’t expect some rigid set of eating rules dictate what, when and how much you eat.  The problem is, listening to your body only works if you speak its language.  Your body speaks biology.  You’re most likely speaking some amalgamation of biology mixed with loads of cultural and environmental influences.

Many folks claim to be making “lifestyle changes” rather than dieting.  Dieting has become a four-letter word since it’s preached that diets are merely a temporary way of eating that leads to temporary results.  This sounds great on paper.  However, the reality is most folks still struggle because of the diet mentality.

It’s too engrained in our culture to simply banish by claiming, “I’m not dieting… I’m changing for life.”  Saying you’re doing something is one thing but actually doing it is another.

Intuitive Eating is all about identifying the diet mentality and learning how to give it up.  It’s about replacing these “infections” with things that match the needs of your body.

The 10 principles they explain in the book are:

  1. Reject the diet mentality
  2. Honor your hunger
  3. Make peace with food
  4. Challenge the food police
  5. Feel your fullness
  6. Discover the satisfaction factor
  7. Cope with your emotions without using food
  8. Respect your body
  9. Exercise – feel the difference
  10. 10. Honor your health – gentle nutrition

Don’t read that last bit and think, “Well this isn’t for me since I’m not DIETING.”  You’d be surprised how many of you are still unconsciously following dieting rules.

Conceptually this book and the principles described in it make a ton of sense.  In fact, I found myself relating to a lot of it in the context of things I say to my clients.  However, I don’t believe they explain the “how to” well enough.  They spend a lot of time simply telling you about clients they’ve had that learned to eat intuitively and live happily ever after.

I’m also skeptical since realizing that you’re listening to your emotions or environmental influences rather than your biological signals takes a lot of conscious effort.  Typically when things require folks to think about what they’re thinking about, they don’t do so well.  Thoughts pertaining to why you’re eating are typically too automatic to really analyze on the fly.

They do touch on rational emotive therapy, which I respect.  But they barely scratch the surface with it and for something like they’re suggesting to work, I think there needs to be a much larger emphasis on things like rational emotive therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, etc.

I’ve not read the book for a while now but I do remember specific instances where it seemed they were cherry picking research to paint pictures that support their claims.  Most notably is the idea that metabolism gets crushed anytime you diet regardless of the specifics, which is why they claim dieting can’t work.  They use the Minnesota Experiment to highlight this idea.

What’s silly is most people use this study to show how hard it really is to crush your metabolism.

It seems they’re under the impression that any calorie deficit does horrific things and you’ll lose loads of muscle regardless of diet composition.  But let’s face it – these authors are targeting people who have trouble controlling their weight.  It’s not a diet book per se – but it’s a book that attempts to teach people how to eat based on their natural biological cues rather than rigid guidelines set forth by some gimmicky diet.

If people are to lose weight following this plan, they’re going to be eating in a calorie deficit.

I’m a bit skeptical about most folks taking a program like this and running with it.  It’s all very conceptual and many of the steps require consistent conscious intervention of your subconscious mind.  In a society that’s so focused on dieting and body image… I have a feeling most folks are going to forget everything the read in this book in a day.

We’re too damn brainwashed.

That said, I don’t mean to be entirely negative about the book.  In fact, I highly recommend it.  It’s a refreshing change in that it gets people thinking in the right direction.  It’s a start, if nothing else.  There are hidden gems of wisdom in this book I feel MANY folks NEED to hear.

If you’ve been working at making changes to your body for any appreciable length of time without much success… especially if you have problems with consistency, rigidity, and guilt about food… than it’s tough to go wrong giving this book a read



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