Maybe you’ve noticed, but intuitive eating is getting really popular. So of course, loads of diet companies and “wellness” influencers are taking some of the intuitive eating concepts and totally distorting them into food rules. For example: Gwyneth Paltrow promoted a book titled Intuitive Fasting on her Instagram by describing it as a “clear, but flexible, four-week plan [that] combines intuitive eating with intermittent fasting and Ketotarian foods.” Uhhh…what?
This post originally appeared in my weekly newsletter, where I answer reader questions about intuitive eating, Health at Every Size, and how to live your anti-diet values.
Obviously, fasting is not intuitive.
It’s not even worth debunking the reasons that Gwyneth thinks (or, claims) it is! (And if you’re wondering, I think “Ketotarian” is a made-up term that she herself helped popularize.)
This kind of co-opting of intuitive eating language is harmful. Dietitian Cara Harbstreet‘s Tweet about it is my favorite:
Stealing concepts from intuitive eating and using them to promote diets is also unethical and icky.
For the article, I spoke with dietitian Evelyn Tribole, co-creator of intuitive eating and co-author of the Intuitive Eating book (and many others), who had a whole lot to say about all this. Here’s what she told me over the phone:
“It’s misappropriating our work and using it in a way that was never intended. It’s a mindfuck for the consumer. What ends up happening is, someone’s doing someone else’s version of intuitive eating for weight loss, and that’s not sustainable. We know that, there’s a body of research on this. And they’re going to end up internalizing that there’s something wrong with them. That creates harm. They’re turned off to the whole intuitive eating model when they’ve never been exposed to it properly.” —Evelyn Tribole
“Intuitive fasting” and “intuitive eating for weight loss” are making promises that they can’t deliver on.
Here’s the thing about all the programs out there that promise you can fast intuitively, or eat intuitively for weight loss: There’s just no evidence to back up the claims they’re making.
Still, it’s understandable that the claims of easy weight loss are appealing. We’re constantly told that being fat is bad, and that weight loss should always be the goal. Anyone selling a diet or weight loss program, whether they’re co-opting intuitive eating or not, is capitalizing on the insecurities that our weight-obsessed culture has instilled in us. There’s no reason to feel guilty or wrong if you’re tempted by these things!
Intuitive eating is an antidote to these things. It’s made for people who have realized that diets don’t work.
Tribole and fellow dietitian Elyse Resch created intuitive eating because they came to realize in their work with clients that weight loss isn’t sustainable, and that diets cause people deep anxiety and frustration because they never work. So the fact that people are now using it to market diets is insulting, and really twisted. “We created [intuitive eating] as an antidote to dieting, as an antidote to suffering, and they have the audacity to go slap that on their product,” Tribole said.
If you want to try intuitive eating, get your information from someone who knows what they’re talking about.
All of this to say: Don’t fall for anything that claims to be “intuitive” while also telling you to eat a certain way. Or, that tells your to avoid certain foods, or second-guess your own needs. If you want to try intuitive eating, buy the actual book! If you need some expert guidance, don’t listen to untrained “wellness” influencers. (And definitely don’t buy one of their expensive programs!) Find dietitian or therapist trained in intuitive eating—there are over 1,000 of them listed here. Many of them offer virtual services, and many also take insurance.
Intuitive eating is for everyone. No matter your history with food, weight, or body image, you can become an intuitive eater. Just be sure not to fall for the not-so-intuitive diet nonsense out there.