Here’s What Your Intuitive Eating Before and After Could Look Like
What do you think when you hear the phrase before & after?
Perhaps you envision side-by-side photos where the after has a dramatically smaller body size…what usually follows the photos is a detailed description of just how this person achieved their new, smaller body. (Cue the description of a restrictive diet!)
You might assume that the woman in the after photo is happier, more confident, and joyful than the person in the larger, before photo…which probably isn’t true.
As an Intuitive Eating Dietitian, I’m more interested in talking about what life is like after breaking free from dieting. The Intuitive Eating before and after changes might not be so obviously documented in a photo.
These changes go far beyond the usual body-changing aesthetics and positively affect all aspects of your life.
The Problem with Before & Afters
These typical before & afters are problematic in SO many ways, the least of which is that most people do not maintain the weight they lose, but these images can make us believe that is the case.
I once read with interest a before and after story in a popular women’s magazine. The woman featured had lost weight and proudly displayed her new body along with her diet and exercise changes that helped her achieve this new weight.
Since her story had been published a few years prior, I checked out her public social media profile, curious if she was one of the 5-10% of individuals who maintained their weight loss beyond 3 years.
That’s not what I found – instead, I found a woman despairing about weight regain, feeling ashamed that she had failed. Now, I don’t believe for a second that SHE failed, but diet culture had taught her that she just needed to try harder.
Her story memorialized, in the online edition of a magazine, helps to illustrate how problematic before and afters can be.
Before and afters can:
- Increase weight stigma
- Lead to eating disorders in those with body dissatisfaction or a genetic predisposition
- Reinforce the belief that smaller (in terms of body size) is always better
- Ignore the mental or emotional risks of dieting and overexercise
For all these reasons, I am strongly opposed to the typical before and afters that we so commonly see in magazines and across social media.
There is a different kind of before and after worth exploring…
A different type of before and after:
If you’re new to the concept of Intuitive Eating, I encourage you to read my article, What Is Intuitive Eating? before continuing.
So, you might wonder what an Intuitive Eating before and after examines…
The Intuitive Eating before and after doesn’t celebrate physical changes to your body. Instead, we acknowledge that it’s normal for bodies to change throughout life and that a “thinner is better” philosophy is harmful to all bodies.
I believe that Intuitive Eating is transformational for mind AND body. While everyone’s before and after will look a little different, let’s explore some common characteristics that I see in my clients’ before and afters.
You might be wondering, is Intuitive Eating even based on real science?
Don’t worry, there’s actually lots of real science behind the benefits of Intuitive Eating. You can see the 125+ research studies that explore the benefits of Intuitive Eating.
Life Before Intuitive Eating
If you’ve been dieting off and on, chances are your life before Intuitive Eating has some of these common things.
Raise your hand if:
- You have foods that you typically avoid, because when you allow yourself to eat them, you feel like you just can’t stop (aka, feel out of control or bingey).
- You spend time each day calculating what you will eat, and when you’ll eat it. You might keep all the details in your head, or perhaps you log your food in an app or diary.
- You exercise to burn calories so you can eat more food or as a way to lose weight.
- You praise yourself for ignoring hunger pangs.
- You feel guilty when you eat until you are overfull.
- You sometimes sneak food or binge when you are alone, often at night.
- You choose what foods you’ll eat based on diets, lists, or rules. Yes, “clean eating” or only eating unprocessed foods is a type of rule.
- You avoid taking photos when on vacation or celebrating with friends.
- You get stressed when you eat out or socialize with friends because it’s so hard to follow your diet. Or perhaps you avoid socializing because you don’t have enough calories or points left.
For most of my clients, and perhaps for you, these activities feel normal. After all, so many people in our culture also do the same things!
But after some time, this way of living isn’t even close to living your life to its fullest. You know that you aren’t happy this way, but you don’t know where to turn.
Perhaps you wonder, “Will I ever feel normal around food?”
And I want to tell you that (Yes!) you can eat all the foods you love AND feel good in your body too! You can learn to stop the war with your body and finally feel at peace!
Now, this process will take work. You’ll need to unlearn a lot of your beliefs and you’ll need to do experiments with food and exercise that might make you pretty nervous at first.
But, trust me, you’ll reap so many rewards once you ditch diets and embrace Intuitive Eating.
Here are some of the benefits my clients experience as they become Intuitive Eaters.
Life With Intuitive Eating
When you do the work to dismantle dieting, your entire life will be changed for the better. The results go far beyond a simple photo.
- You’ll be able to eat all foods and feel physically good doing it.
- You’ll move your body because you want to, not to eat more or shrink your body.
- You’ll be able to eat freely with your family and friends and stay present in the moment, enjoying every second.
- You’ll be able to tune out all those unhelpful messages that show up in our diet-centric culture.
- Once you’re no longer focused on food and body 24/7, you’ll find time to do amazing things with your life. Here are some things my clients have done: gotten a new (more fulfilling) job, volunteered, became an activist, gotten an additional degree, became a mentor, etc.
Your Intuitive Eating Before and After is a different kind of before and after.
The biggest difference is that there are no comparisons of what your body looks like before and after.
Are You Ready for Your Intuitive Eating After?
Perhaps this concept is really new to you. You’re intrigued, but just not sure yet. Trust me, I get it. It took me some time to embark on my personal Intuitive Eating journey too!
Or maybe you’ve learned about Intuitive Eating and have even been experimenting with some of the concepts on your own. And perhaps you’re not making the progress you thought you would and you’re feeling frustrated.
Whichever description fits your situation, having the support and guidance of a professional like me can make all the difference in you having a successful outcome. So many of my clients admit that they wish that they had reached out sooner rather than trying to go it alone. If this is you, why not schedule a complimentary Take Action Call with me? It’s a no-pressure way to learn about what your unique Intuitive Eating journey might look like.
Kelly Abramson MS, RD is a dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor who works with clients in Alexandria, VA and virtually via telehealth. She guides women as they break free from dieting to find joy in food and their bodies. Kelly blogs regularly at NpowerYou.com and has created a free e-book for download, “7 Steps to Overcome Stress Eating.”