Intuitive Eating doesn’t work the way you think it does


First let me say this, the basis for why intuitive eating has become such a thing is ALSO the basis for my business. 

People chronically diet to a point of obsession. 

What this discussion has become is calorie counting (or MACROS) versus intuitive eating battle and it’s not close, counting calories is MUCH better.

I have been saying this for years. Macros is the current fad diet.

“But wait Paul, it’s totally based in science”

No it’s not, in fact, intuitive eating is closer to what science really says because the intuitive diet movement is about attempting to normalize calories.

I am not saying that some people coaching people with macros don’t normalize calories but I can tell you for sure the list is small.

Even the programs that reverse don’t do a good job because they cave to the fear of their clients or they let AI (artificial intelligence) do the work.

If you have a client scared out of their mind about gaining weight how much do you think they are really going to push the AI (I know I know, you gave a passing podcast to the topic, good for you and the 1500 people that listened and still ignored).

Ironically this is the problem that Intuitive Eating has also.

When people intuitively eat they are often encouraged to eat more whole foods. If this sounds a bit like Paleo ding ding ding.

Intuitive Eating even if you are flexible means you are almost always under-eating and so if you have no concerns about working out well, your weight or how you look in the mirror then intuitive eating will be great for you.

In fact, I intuitively eat MOST OF THE TIME.

When someone says, if I do Eat To Perform will I have to count calories for the rest of my life my answer is “I don’t”. And that pretty much clears things up.

Here is when I intuitively eat and like I said, I intuitively eat probably 75% of the time and it works great but the way I intuitively eat isn’t the way it’s being proposed to you (that diets are bad and don’t work).

Intuitively Eating and MACROS both are similar if you just add a few calories so that you don’t feel restricted. While possibly better it’s certainly not what your body prefers and we know scientifically what your body prefers.

The concept is called TDEE or Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This is basically the amount of calories your body would prefer to eat to thrive and in case you don’t know it’s A LOT higher than just adding a few carrots. On average most women are between 2000 and 2500 calories and most men are 2500-3200. 

Just to give you some context about what I am talking about.

Most programs don’t come anywhere near reversing you to that level because they aren’t coaching you. You are coaching you.

I tell my staff all of the time that we have to coach them past the fear otherwise you aren’t the coach.

THEY ARE!

***(read below) “But what about eating disorders”

Do you really think we don’t have clients that have recovered and are still recovering from eating disorders?

What do you think is better for their recovery? Adding 200 calories or adding 1000?

By the way when someone goes in for treatment for an eating disorder part of the treatment is seeing food as an ally.

I remember a prominent PhD at a local university telling me that counting calories is harmful to people and I said “what if it’s a female and her calories are 2500 and weight stable”.

She was like, I can’t speak to that.

And that’s my point. 

For almost everyone the specifics matter and the rules of dieting haven’t changed and won’t change. The more you diet the worse you get at dieting. 

Which brings me back to why I intuitively eat 75% of the time. 75% of the time describes what I said above with one caveat, I would have reversed all the way back to my TDEE which is about 3200 calories a day. So my workouts don’t tank like someone under-eating while eating intuitively. 

But do I gain weight? Not really but I do allow a top end of my range to be higher so I can continue to gain and hold onto muscle. If I am intuitively eating I weigh myself daily. If not what metrics are you using so that things don’t get out of hand. (I’ve also mentioned in a previous article that I don’t diet in five year blocks)

Are my workouts 100%? Probably not but they are good and eating like this allows me to sleep well. 

What about body comp? I am not ripped but if I take off my shirt at the beach people know I workout. You have to remember I used to be morbidly obese. I recently had to get fitted for a new suit because my lats were too wide.

Trust me, I am winning.

Look, if you have been on diet after diet and constantly eating less year after year and need a break from counting calories I support you doing that but let’s not pretend that what you are doing is great if you still have goals.

We get loads of clients that started off intuitively eating thinking our message was similar to that and it is close.

But specifics matter a lot, especially the specifics when food is normalized all the way to where your body would prefer to be. 

By the way, even TDEE is wrong, what we find is that as people get more food their bodies literally change.

Imagine it like this.

You were not going to the doctor hoping that your broken leg heals intuitively and then a doctor resets your legs and feeds you properly. 

How would you function. A lot better right?

That’s similar to what we do.

The reason intuitive eating is gaining in popularity is because there is this narrative that diets don’t work and I agree. If your calories are at 1,000 and you aren’t losing weight you probably need a diet break. No one supports this more than me.

But that diet break needs specifics, otherwise you will intuitively under eat or the wheels will come off (especially if you aren’t conscious of your weight but that’s another topic for another day).

***In terms of Eating Disorders follow your doctor’s advice, I am simply providing you anecdotal evidence from what we see from people that have recovered and want to take that recovery to the next level safely.