Monday, July 3, 2017

Review of “Intuitive Eating”

(Or, actually, a long explanation of why I did not finish reading “Intuitive Eating.”)

Hopefully I will not misrepresent this book (since I read only about a quarter of it), but here’s what I understood to be the basic argument: Diets of all types are bad for you, because any kind of limits or deprivation make you rebel and cause you to binge, eat in secret, and gain fat. Also, starvation or extreme hunger sets off a psychological panic—and an inevitable overeating cycle that can take months or years to normalize. Instead of dieting, you should listen carefully to your hunger cues and eat whatever you want whenever you want to satiety. You should not try to get thinner than your body wants to be naturally, and you should toss your scale. Oh, and carbs are the “gold standard” for energy.

I’m on board with a lot of this. If someone is used to eating every few hours to stay satisfied, I would agree that any kind of deprivation diet could cause a vicious cycle of starving and binge eating, and I think there’s something to the psychological panic argument. (We want food for the same reason we want air, after all.) Our culture of body image and dieting is a mess. And I agree 100 percent that the scale is worse than worthless.

But here’s what I could not get past: Obviously before food was industrialized and there were Twinkies and Cheetos in every supermarket, it would have been a no-brainer to eat whatever you want to satisfy hunger. Foods that were hyperpalatable—in other words, literally designed to make you keep eating them—did not even exist. The only thing available was real food.

But that’s not the reality today. A lot of what you find on supermarket shelves is not food at all. I don’t mean the toilet paper. I mean boxed cake mixes that are just sugar mixed with flour mixed with sprinkles mixed with chemicals. Or sodas that are just sugar (or worse) mixed with carbonated water mixed with chemicals. Engineered food is really seductive, and so is sweetness, and so is convenience. The book talks about junk food as if our intuition can somehow outsmart the food scientists whose exact job it is to trick us into eating more of their crap. And it makes it sound like turning down a chocolate chip cookie that you would rather eat is the ultimate act of deprivation.

I just got too irritated to read on. I don’t want to eat one more mouthful of, or spend one more penny on, food that’s just causing misery and disease.


  1. Totally get the irritation. I had to keep reminding myself of when it was written ... self-help writing has gotten waaaay better since 1995! And yep, found it a bit simplistic as well. I wonder though, if all anyone has known is the "Lose Xlbs in 3weeks" or "Get a Beach Bod in 14 days!" it might be pretty enlightening.

    My take away was how effed up our society is.
    And I don't have the energy any more to deal with any of it.
    Which I'm pretty sure was NOT the intended outcome. ;)

  2. OH! and as it came up on my FB memories and I know you aren't on as much. Happy IM Anniversary (a few days late)! :D

    1. Thank you! And I do think you're right—the book would be super helpful for someone stuck in '80s diet hell.