PCOS and Intuitive Eating

Julie Dillon

Tags: intuitive eating, PCOS
PCOS and Intuitive Eating

Can you move away from diets while living with PCOS?

Can you find ways to feel better physically and emotionally without PCOS diets?

Can you logistically recover from your eating disorder using Intuitive Eating while living with PCOS?

That’s what this blog post is all about.

Cliff Note version: YES you can practice Intuitive Eating while living with PCOS.

What is Intuitive Eating?

Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, both dietitians, wrote Intuitive Eating now in its 4th edition. Someone handed me the book in 2002 as I was ready to quit being a dietitian. I was starting to see diet’s destructive power and barely starting to name my own anti-fat bias. That year I took a leave from dietetics to pursue a masters degree in counseling. While I wish I would have really read Intuitive Eating then I didn’t until I finished grad school and started my first job as a dietitian and behaviorist.

There I was helping people recover from eating disorders while also working as a weight loss dietitian. It took me just a few months to feel the ethical pull and the cognitive dissonance. How can I help people recover from eating disorders while also teaching disordered eating to fat clients?

Reading the book Intuitive Eating was the nudge that pushed me through that cognitive dissonance. I quit that job and have been trying to unlearn my own anti-fat bias since. While Intuitive Eating processes take a certain level of financial privilege and access, I credit it to helping me name a new way to practice and not quit dietetics.

Intuitive Eating centers healing from diet culture and reclaiming your expert role of your body. While many people talk about Intuitive Eating in regards to promoting weight loss, centering healing while centering weight loss can’t be held together. Centering weight loss discriminates against millions of people, futile for most, and increases risk for worsened health.

Intuitive eating has over a hundred studies published to support its use to promote recovery, health, and alternative way to relate to food without dieting.

People with PCOS deserve access to healing from diet culture and eating disorders too. Even though diets have been pigeon-holed as the end all be all PCOS solution, I beg to differ. Rather, diets harm most people with PCOS long term.

Why Intuitive Eating and PCOS?

Most people I talk to with PCOS were told they have to diet in order to manage their PCOS. Early on as a anti-diet dietitian learning Intuitive Eating, I knew I had to find another way.

I am so grateful mentors taught me alternative ways to help people manage their PCOS without diets. Those mentors taught me important lessons that helped me really fight for anti-diet treatment.

Consider these reasons to explore Intuitive Eating while living with PCOS:

Hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS make diets a short term solution yet harmful long term. 75-95% of people with PCOS experience higher circulating insulin that makes dieting an easy answer to this problem. What we know: higher circulating insulin decreases short term via any modified diet or restriction. Unfortunately, our long term diet research has found that dieting of any kind, whether continued or not, causes higher insulin. What do you think happens when someone already has higher insulin then diets long term to manage it? Unfortunately, dieting only makes it worse.

PCOS is associated with a chronic pro-inflammatory state. Long term dieting is too. People with PCOS experience a chronic pro-inflammatory state that can predict diseases like diabetes. This is often used as the reason to suggest a diet to lower inflammation markers. Just like with insulin, any diet decreases inflammation markers in the short term yet worsens it long term. If you are seeking for a long term way to lower inflammation, Intuitive Eating work is an option.

Weight cycling predicts binge eating for those with PCOS. A 2016 study reported that 39% of people with PCOS in their study met full criteria for Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and 60% met at least one criteria. Recovering from BED takes on average 7 to 14 years (!) so its vital to find ways to live with PCOS without triggering an eating disorder. This same research pointed to something interesting: binge eating behavior was predicted by weight cycling. In essence, the more one went on and off a diet (weight cycled) the more likely they also experienced binge eating. Helping you to connect with tools to avoid weight cycling will help you avoid experiencing binge eating. Intuitive eating is associated with less weight cycling.

How is Intuitive Eating Different for Those with PCOS?

  1. Diets harm people with PCOS more so give yourself longer to recover from them. Recovering from diet culture and disordered eating takes time for everyone yet hormonal imbalances from PCOS means that diets took more away. It also means that diets are pushed on you more so it may take longer for you and your brain to rewire for trust, satisfaction, and permission.
  2. Carb cravings will be intensely constant at first. This is from the high circulating insulin levels. Gentle nutrition–a part of the Intuitive Eating framework–can be woven in to help lower insulin levels without restriction.
  3. Find non-diet tools to help lower insulin levels and this will help you feel more typical hunger, satisfaction, and fullness. As you connect with tools to do this, the cravings will lesson and Intuitive Eating will start to look like how it looks for others without PCOS.
  4. You probably need more protein. Not less carbs. Not less sugar. Not less calories.
  5. Once you have found tools to lower insulin, carb cravings will guide you to what you need more of or less of. Trust them.
  6. People with PCOS can do Intuitive Eating. You don’t have to diet. You don’t have to punish yourself with exercise.

Intuitive Eating can be different with PCOS and that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

It can be possible for you too.

You don’t have to diet to live with PCOS and manage the symptoms.

You can use tools like Intuitive Eating, Mindful Eating, Anti-Diet, and Health at Every Size.

You can experience PCOS and Food Peace™ and I would love to show you how.

Check out my free PCOS Roadmap here.


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