My Intuitive Eating “Aha” Moment

On LinkedIn, I am a member of the Intuitive Eating Professionals Group, where Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, group founder, asks us to “share something…that is not included in your profile, perhaps an “aha” moment in your career.”  I am inspired to share my “aha” moment after attending the BEDA (Binge Eating Disorder Association) national conference on Saturday, where I learned that, treatment-wise, not much has changed over the years.

In 1985, I worked in a large gastroenterology practice affiliated with a teaching hospital. I saw lots of eating disordered patients because one of the docs did medical evaluations of patients with bulimia and AN. At the same time, another gastroenterologist performed a procedure with a device called the Garren-Edwards Gastric Bubble. A deflated ‘bubble’ made of stretchable plastic (like a pool toy) was placed by endoscopy in the stomach of a severely overweight patient.  With the pull of a cannula, the bubble was inflated and left in place to fill the stomach while the patient followed a low-calorie diet. That’s where I came in. The bubble was developed by a team at Johns Hopkins. It was all above the board. The hospital asked us to do the procedure, but we stopped after a patient got a small bowel obstruction from the bubble. Those were interesting days. My patients’ eating patterns were all over the map.

But my “aha’ moment came by way of a patient referred by an internist for a simple weight loss diet.  She was a favorite patient, a young woman of my age, overweight but far from obese, with my mother’s maiden name. We were doing the balanced, flexible diet thing with a focus on behaviors when one day, she looked at me and said, “Mary, you don’t understand. I peek behind the curtain, and when my husband drives away, I make a batch of scalloped potatoes, and I eat the whole thing.” Aha! I thought, “they didn’t teach us this in school.” And then I thought, “this is really real.”

I was lucky because psychologists who specialized in EDs would stop into  the office. They turned me on to Susie Orbach, Fat Is a Feminist Issue (1978); Geneen Roth, Feeding the Hungry Heart (1982) and Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating (1986) and, of course, Hilde Bruch. Evelyn’s book, Intuitive Eating (1995), wasn’t published yet and there was no Gurze catalogue. But, I read and read and saw lots of patients, and attended Geneen’s workshops,  consulted with therapists, and taught others how to do it. And now it’s wonderful to see so many dietitians espouse the non-diet approach. But, after all those years, the pills, shakes, meals, stomach stapling (but not swallowing pool toys) are all still here.

Your thoughts: Why don’t more people give up dieting and follow a non-diet approach?

7 thoughts on “My Intuitive Eating “Aha” Moment

  1. The concept of intuitive eating is wonderful, people shouldn’t have to give up living in order to lead healthier lives. Thank you for sharing Mary. I wrote a blog post about food freedom, the ability to enjoy the foods you love, last week in honor of the 4th, you may enjoy it! http://bit.ly/NHBwDO

  2. Pingback: Are You An Intuitive Eater? Take the Test. | Ask Mary RD

  3. I hear the irony in your blog Mary. My senior thesis at Penn State was AN, and although a paucity of research existed, I knew more about it from the women on my dorm floor than any journal article. AN, binge eating, Bulemia and other ED were in every nook and cranny of the dorm, from bathrooms, to cafeteria, to dorm rooms…
    My book uses the “detox” title to attract anyone who may be lured by the “magic bullet,” and then I try to dispel their fantasy in one chapter before moving into a reasonable (no calorie counting) balanced diet with portion control. The Super Detox is only an option to “use your early enthusiasm,” but it is not for everyone. If a person at the approximate calorie intake of her goal weight, then over time, maybe a year or two, the weight would stabilize and the eating habits would be engrained. Alas, this is difficult for many women for whom food has become their comfort, to the point of becoming their (only) “friend.” I love the book by Ruth Frechman, RD (www.Amazon.com) because the title “THe Food is my Friend Diet” could just as easily have been The Food is my Only Friend Diet. The double entendre is poignant, witty and the book is practically a Nutrition 101 chocked full of facts. I don’t have the answers, I just try to educate and support my clients “One Meal at a Time.”

    • Thank you for commenting and sharing the books you love. I will look for yours. I’m in total agreement with your approach: “If a person at the approximate calorie intake of her goal weight, then over time, maybe a year or two, the weight would stabilize and the eating habits would be engrained.” It is so true. I’ve seen it. Diets become a thing of the past. Everyone needs the amount of food that it takes to maintain a comfortable weight, no more, no less. With some exercise, eating wholesome food to appetite, and other self-care, the body usually settles into the appropriate intake. Dieting messes that up. For chronic dieters, the scale interferes with the process. But isn’t it a joy and a privilege to work with clients? I just try to educate and support my clients “One Meal at a Time” too!

  4. Yet, many others are open to what I teach and who embrace the idea that change, indeed, is only a new thought or belief away.
    Yes, isn’t it wonderful? Thanks, Diane.

  5. Totally agree with you. Still the pills, shakes, surgery, yet another “new” diet. So many people are still seduced by a quick fix and quick results with no need to look within. Yet, many others are open to what I teach and who embrace the idea that change, indeed, is only a new thought or belief away.

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