Intuitive Eating Realities for Eating Disorder Recovery

Intuitive Eating Is an Aspect of Eating Disorder Recovery, But It's Not a Cure.

Long term intuitive eating is a sign of recovery.  Between that first intuitive eating moment and being able to eat intuitively as a life style rests the deep and often long term psychological work that leads to solid eating disorder recovery.

Dina Zeckhausen, in her article, "Curbing An Eating Disorder: The Belly Whisperer" writes well about the mechanics of eating intuitively.

We don’t think it wise to listen to our guts. The misconception is, “If I listen to my gut I will weigh 400 pounds!” Well, listening to your gut means stopping when your gut is satisfied and not eating for emotional reasons.
Intuitive Eating contrasted with Eating Disorder Eating

What Ms. Zeckhausen writes, as far as it goes, I agree with. However, psychological factors underlying eating disorders run deep. Emotions contained or repressed by eating disorder behaviors come up with great force when the containing and repressing system weakens.  The basic principle of intuitive eating is eating for body hunger only.  The eating disordered person has many powerful emotions, memories and desires that she cannot bear or that she cannot cope with. She uses her way of eating or not eating to modulate, control, contain or repress her inner experience.

For example, she may be lonely but cannot let herself know she is lonely because the feeling is too painful to bear.  So she eats instead.  Or, she may know that she is lonely but has no idea how to create healthy and satisfying relationships.  She is feels lost, frightened, bewildered and unlovable. She eats because she doesn't know how to take positive action on her own behalf. Or, she knows she is lonely, and she also knows that her attempts to address her loneliness bring unpleasant or even dangerous people into her life. She doesn't know what she does that attracts such people to her so she eats to keep them out and herself safe.

Intuitive eating leaves her feelings uncontained. They rise up, and she feels an inner eruption that can leave her frantic. Containing, understanding and working with those feelings is the basis of eating disorder recovery work.

Eating Disorder Recovery Begins

Intuitive eating, as Ms. Zeckhausen recommends and I agree, is a healthy way to eat. If a person can recognize such feelings as boredom or loneliness as being the real experience (and not hunger for food) and the person can address those feelings without using food, well and good.

People with eating disorders use eating or not eating to cope with what they cannot bear.They have not developed to the point where they can care for themselves in a healthy way.  They use the eating disorder as a way of tending to their emotional needs.  Intuitive eating releases their unbearable feelings. Hopefully, a person is in therapy or reaches out for therapy at this stage. The rising up of unbearable feelings not contained by eating disorder behavior marks the palce where the deep work that ends an eating disorder begins.





0 # I know you wrote mostly about eating forPTC 2009-12-29 18:50
I know you wrote mostly about eating for non-physical hunger reasons here, but what about when you're just not hungry. Especially since I've been around a lot of food over the past week, the last thing I want to do is eat. I'm not really hungry and nothing appeals to me. I guess there's not really a question here, just typing I guess.
0 # Dear PTC, You know that you need to fpinkjoanna 2009-12-29 19:32
Dear PTC,

You know that you need to feed your body to stay alive. You are saying that food doesn't appeal to you, and that's why you don't eat. But you've given other reasons for not eating too. I wonder what you would experience if you gathered up all your writings and comments and read them. You might get a deeper perspective on what troubles you.

That said, have you had a thorough medical check up lately? If you are not eating you might have a hormonal imbalance now or a digestive disease.

If you have a digestive disease it might be knocking out your desire to eat. Below is a clipping from an article called, "Starvation Response."

Is your psychotherapist back yet? This is a hard time for you: holidays, her absence, her having a baby, your concerns about how she will be smaller than when you saw her last because she was pregnant, your wanting to be smaller than she to feel good about yourself.

Please find some support at home while you are waiting for her return.

warm regards,



Researchers working with rats on calorie-restricted diets noticed that those eating less daily ran between 2.8 and 5.3 miles more than the other rats. Some of the rats on restricted diets ran themselves to death. This response to starvation would increase the liklihood of survival in famine conditions where competition for resources would be intense. In the lab rat's situation, if no food is added to the cage, the increased activity does not result in acquisition of nutrition. In like fashion, for the anorexic patient with a digestive disease, the hyperactivity does not lead to food intake, since the underlying disorder has either suppressed the appetite or produces gastrointestinal distress paired with food intake
+1 # Hi Joanna, Thanks for your response.PTC 2009-12-30 05:29
Hi Joanna,

Thanks for your response. I have not gone to the doctor in over a year, but am actually going to make an appointment for my annual physical for January or Feb. I don't think I have any digestive problems. I do eat, and I definitely eat when I am hungry. I do get hungry, just lately I haven't been that hungry because I spent Christmas around way too much food and it's gross. I will get blood work done at the doc because my cholesterol is high and she'll want to check that.

My T will be back from maternity leave next Friday. I will see her then. I don't really even feel like I need to go because I've been fine. The only really rough week I had was the week leading up to Thanksgiving because I was extremely stressed, not sleeping, etc. I just had a lot of stuff I needed to get done in a short time and then was leaving for a trip to Italy after Thanksgiving, which I was completely excited about but nervous about because of the food and no exercise situation. (It all went well and I had an amazing trip!!!)

I am nervous about seeing my T because I don't want her to ask me how much I weigh. I'm 4-5 lbs below what she says is my "lowest allowed weight" for her to work with me. I don't want to get "fired." As you said, I am also wondering if she'll come back being skinny again, like she was before she got pregnant. She was still skinny when she was pregnant, just had a belly. I'll probably look like a rolly polly when I get pregnant.

I was seeing her fill in person, but I didn't really like her and I didn't have anything to talk about so I just went and didn't talk much. She probably hated me. :-) I can get support from my cats, they're the only ones who live with me. :-)

What I do wish right now is that I didn't "have" to go to the gym because I don't feel like going.

Thanks again.

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