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.