Intuitive Eating Coaching vs Therapy
Intuitive Eating coaching vs therapy: Which is more effective?
I vividly remember the first time I realized I could use some help.
I was sitting at my apartment, the morning after I had gone to happy hour after a rough work week, drank more than my fair share of margaritas, ate an entire pizza to myself around midnight, followed by a significant amount of bodega ice cream, and a couple more glasses of wine (because might as well at this point right?).
The guilt, the shame, the mental beat down (ugh, again, what is wrong with you?), the hangover. All of it was just too much. And even though I had been there before, many times, there was something about this morning in particular that was a “no more” kinda moment. I was done, and I didn’t want to spend one more day feeling like this.
I decided to seek out support, and knew I needed something different than I had ever experienced before. I’d been going to therapy on and off since I was about 15, and the idea of going back just wasn’t sitting right with me.
Turns out I’m not alone in that feeling. I now talk to women all the time who have tried therapy to address their food and body image issues and develop new habits to eat in a way that works best for them, but it just doesn’t seem to help.
One of the most common questions we receive around here is about the difference between therapy and coaching, so thought we’d share some insight, in case it’s useful for you too. This post is for you if you’re struggling with food and body, and wondering what the best path is for you in seeking support.
Intuitive Eating coaching vs Therapy: What’s the Difference?
It’s a great question. Because it could be helpful in determining the best path to end your food & body struggles for good, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
We’re fans of therapy. It’s been incredibly helpful for each member of our team, from working through past trauma to navigating anxiety and other challenges. And we love working with people who either are currently seeing a therapist or have in the past, because it shows they’re committed to personal growth.
But (you knew there’d be a ‘but’ right?), there are a few key distinctions between therapy and coaching that may be helpful to understand when seeking support for food and body image challenges.
Keep in mind that coaching is still a fairly “young” industry, gaining traction within the past 20 years or so, and is largely unregulated. So when looking for a coach, you want to make sure they are certified and have experience with proven results working with people. Coaching is also potentially a good fit if you are chronically dieting or struggling with food and your body, but do not have an active eating disorder. If you have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, are seeking a diagnosis, are struggling with a substance use disorder, or are having a difficult time coping with life due to anxiety, depression or trauma, therapy would be a better choice. At times it may make sense to also learn how to integrate Intuitive Eating principles, however we would recommend this in addition to working with a licensed mental health profession. If you are struggling in this area, please reach out and we’d be happy to refer you to a specialist we highly recommend and trust!
Some of the main benefits of Intuitive Eating coaching vs therapy, as we see it, are:
- Faster results
- Personal experience + relatability
- Supportive community
While it can be helpful to have a touchpoint over time in regular therapy sessions, it’s not super effective for fast change. And when you’re battling frequent binging and constant cravings, or beating yourself up while you get dressed every morning… the faster it stops, the better.
While you may spend more time up front in a coaching program – tuning in for sessions, working through lessons, and putting Intuitive Eating and body image resilience into practice over the course of a few months – you will absolutely save time in the long run, instead of trying to solve this problem during however many one-off, hour-long sessions it takes over the course of several years.
Common approaches explored in therapy often suggest that in order to overcome any form of disordered eating, underlying internal conflicts must be addressed and resolved, as if a person struggling with food is broken, and must be “fixed” in order to stop binging or emotional eating.
It’s of course important to examine any underlying issues that can be affecting food and body image challenges, and doing so can make a huge difference in overcoming them. However, in many cases struggles with food, particularly binge eating, are not always solved by digging into emotional issues that may or may not exist. Despite talking about internal conflicts in depth, disordered eating patterns may still persist, which can make you feel even worse for not getting a hold on this thing.
While this approach can work for some, what is required in many cases, in order to stop binging and heal one’s relationship with food, is a paradigm shift. What’s often overlooked in therapy around food issues is the very fact that dieting itself CAUSES many of our issues, especially binge eating. So while it is of course helpful to discuss deeper underlying emotional struggles, and address past trauma, what we usually need to overcome food issues, first and foremost (and quickly) is a proven framework to heal – physically, mentally and emotionally – from dieting itself. To change the way we relate to food and our bodies entirely. If a therapist is not trained in Intuitive Eating, they won’t be able to help you do that. They won’t be able to give you actionable guidance that actually helps you stop binging and emotionally eating.
Instead of making this shift away from dieting and developing a healthy, peaceful relationship with food, you might spend a significant amount of time in therapy, trying to find an unresolved inner conflict that’s triggering food issues, without ever actually putting an end to the disordered eating.
A Coach with Personal Experience
Simply put, many therapists have never experienced what it’s like to feel controlled by food as an emotional eater, or hate how their body looks. And if they haven’t been there personally, it’s hard to fully relate from the outside. While they can of course apply their extensive knowledge and training and provide support, in our experience that relational factor makes a huge difference in feeling understood and seen.
Many are also not familiar with concepts like Intuitive Eating or Health at Every Size, so if you’re struggling with disordered eating or poor body image, they may help you identify why you’re struggling and spend a ton of time on the underlying emotional issues, but they don’t often provide tangible steps for moving forward and actually implementing food freedom. Same goes for body image – while therapists can be helpful in understanding why you have body image issues and where they come from, they don’t always have concrete actionable steps for improving your body image.
In fact, the solution many recommend is to go on a diet in order to lose weight in order to move past this issue, which actually just exacerbates body image issues over time. In our experience, having someone in your corner who is not only weight neutral and celebrates body diversity, but has also gotten to the other side of whatever specific challenge you’re facing can make a massive difference.
We’re offering a free video series all about how to stop hating your body, starting December 1st! If you want to overcome body shame so you start to like who you see in the mirror every day and remove the underlying trigger for the diet binge cycle, this is a great place to start. Click here to save your spot!
The majority of therapists see clients 1:1, which may work best for some. But if you don’t really have anyone in your life to talk to about this stuff and feel alone in your struggle, having access to a supportive community of women who are facing the same issues and cheering each other on through the process can be life-changing.
In fact, this has been scientifically proven. Studies suggest that a social support system is an important protective factor for dealing with stress and improving self-esteem, while loneliness has been associated with a wide variety of health problems including diminished immunity, cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline.
The other factor here is fully immersing yourself in an experience. While you may take away action steps and advice after therapy sessions, there’s something about being immersed in the lessons, exercises, and calls that a coaching program provides, that can propel you forward from this point on, and help you make a faster, more effective change in your life.
Our program in particular is a hybrid model – meaning we blend content, group check-ins and 1:1 private calls, so you get plenty of personalized attention and accountability from our coaches, in addition to the community feel and action steps to keep moving forward.
Your Best Path Forward: Intuitive Eating Coaching vs Therapy
So there you have it, friend. A few reasons why coaching can be highly effective either in place of, or in addition to, therapy when it comes to solving your food and body image issues once and for all.
As we said, we’re big fans of therapy or anything to support your mental health! It’s something we believe in whole-heartedly. It’s just that it hasn’t been as helpful in actually ending the painful diet-binge cycle, upgrading body image and creating long-term healthy habits for the future as coaching has in our own lives, and for our clients.
This is why we became coaches ourselves, and made it our mission to help every woman who’s struggling with this challenge. We know what it’s like to wake up feeling horrible in our bodies every day, and life’s just too short to stay stuck there, ya know?
Above all, it’s a personal decision, and we would recommend going in whatever direction your intuition leads you.
If you’re considering coaching and you’re ready to take the next step, let’s talk. Schedule some time to chat with one of our coaches here, and we can discuss your specific situation with food and body image, and how to get you feeling better.