When a brain is hijacked by an eating disorder, thoughts often revolve around the body. Feeding and not feeding the body, and worrying about the weight gain associated with eating, are constant companions when you have an eating disorder.
One path out of eating disorders is learning Intuitive Eating, a practice in which your child will learn how to feed her/his body on demand, exactly what it wants and how much, without worrying about the weight implications. This can be very difficult and scary to a child who has an eating disorder. Learning to trust her/his body is a major undertaking, and it should not be taken lightly.
Eating intuitively takes time, patience and practice. It may lead to weight fluctuations, which could be a trigger for your child. Yet other people may find a way to turn Intuitive Eating principles into another version of their eating disorder, and a way to lose weight.
This is why it is important to work with a dietician who is has training in working with eating disorders and who can can monitor your child to ensure the principles of Intuitive Eating are being utilized correctly and healthfully. A meal plan designed by an eating-disorder-savvy RD is the first step out of an active eating disorder, and people should only try Intuitive Eating after they have stopped engaging in eating disorder behaviors.
The point of Intuitive Eating is to let go of body weight as a measure of self worth, and to let the body do what it will based on adequate nutrition – not too little, not too much – exactly what it needs.
Below are some comments from Christy Harrison, RD, who uses the principles of Intuitive Eating when working with clients (including children and adolescents) who have eating disorders.
From Christy Harrison:
Intuitive Eating is about letting go of the societal standards of “perfection” around food choices, weight, and body shape.
It’s about letting go of the idea that you must be a certain size to be happy.
It’s about letting go of feeling not good enough because you ate a slice of chocolate cake, which would have made you really happy had you not been feeling shameful and guilty for eating it.
Intuitive eating is about letting go of all that guilt, all of the expectations, all of the days you spent crying in the changing room at the mall because someone suggested that being a bigger pant size meant you failed at life.
None of this is true.
You are good enough, you are wonderful, and you deserve to be happy. Intuitive eating can help give this to you, but you also have to do the work.
You have to consistently practice breaking down the diet mentality in your head and fighting back against diet-driven thoughts.
You have to do the work to let go of weight loss as the ultimate goal and weight gain as the ultimate “failure.”
You have to give yourself a chance to be happy, and letting go of weight loss can do that for you. You can do that, for YOU.
Intuitive eating can’t work its magic if you don’t let go of weight loss. The goal of weight loss doesn’t work. It’s time to try something new.
Christy Harrison, Intuitive Eating Coach & Anti-Diet Dietitian
Christy Harrison is dedicated to helping people make peace with food. She works with people of all ages to support them in building a healthy relationship with their bodies and with food. Website
Christy has an excellent podcast called Food Psych. In this episode, she interviews Evelyn Tribole, one of the founders of Intuitive Eating.
If you want to learn Intuitive Eating for yourself so that you can join your child as she heals, check out Christy’s online courses. For the 13-week online course, participants need to be free from eating disorder behaviors like purging, and be mostly free from restriction and bingeing. People who still engage in eating disorder behavior may take the 5-day mini-course with professional supervision.