Why Intuitive Eating Fails and How to Make it Work

Some (mostly new) Burn the fat readers seem to have not only fallen under theimpression that my philosophy of fat loss is ONLY about calories, calories, calories, but also that I am on some kind of mission to attack those who promote intuitive eating or non-calorie counting methods.Both assertions are false.

The truth is, I’ve seen people succeed without ever counting a calorie in their lives,and the Burn the Fat philosophy actually explains how the calorie countingand intuitive eating principles are connected.

However, most people are going about it the wrong way and in fact, in this week’sezine article below, you’ll discover why intuitive eating may be the very thing thatmakes people fat in the first place.


Research and real world experience both prove that creating menus, counting caloriesand keeping a food journal are effective tools for nutrition awareness, education,motivation, accountability and increased fat loss results.

If you use self-monitoring techniques of all kinds – including tracking yourfood intake – you’ll have better success at long term maintenance too.

So why is there so much resistance to meal planning and why do so many “gurus”tell you implicitly NOT to count calories?

One reason is because counting calories is perceived as work and hard work doesn’t sell.

Another reason is that skeptics say, “What about people who lose fat without countingcalories?” “What about intuitive eating?”

Well, you could choose not to count calories and eat what you “feel” your body is askingfor and stop eating when you feel full, but if you do, that’s called guessing.

If you guess correctly and eat the right amount, you lose weight. That’s called luck. I’drather bet on a sure thing than roll the nutritional dice and hope for the best.

Counting, tracking and menu planning replace guesswork with precision and that’swhat Burn the Fat, feed the Muscle This is a method I use and recommend in my Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle program(http://www.burnthefat.com) philosophy is about:precision… doing it by the numbers.

Perhaps even more important, doing the nutritional math and creating meal plans are also crucial parts of the learning process to raise nutritional awareness.

There is only ONE WAY to truly understand food and how it affects YOUR body: You have to go through all four stages of the learning process:


Stage 1: Unconscious incompetence – you are eating the wrong foods in the wrongamounts and you’re not even aware of it. (You don’t know what you’re doing and youdon’t know that you don’t know what you’re doing)

Stage 2: Conscious incompetence – you are eating the wrong foods in the wrongamounts, but for some reason, you now become aware of it. This is often because of”hitting bottom” or an “I’m not gonna live like this anymore” epiphany. (You don’tknow what you’re doing and now you know that you don’t know what you’re doing!)

Stage 3: Conscious competence – you educate yourself and begin to eat the right foods, but it takes a lot of thought and effort to eat the right things in the rightamounts. (You know what you’re doing, but you have to think about it and workvery hard to make it happen because you’re using willpower and still learning)

Stage 4: Unconscious competence – you’ve made the conscious effort to eat the right foods in the right amounts and you’ve counted calories and kept a nutritionjournal for long enough and with enough repetition that these behaviors becomehabits and a part of your lifestyle. (You know what you’re doing and you do it easily and automatically without having to think about it).

So you see, it’s not that I’m attacking “intuitive eating.” To the contrary – I think the concept has merit:

If we listened to our body’s true signals, I believe that our appetite, our activity andour body weight would properly regulate themselves.

The problem is, in our Western, technologically-advanced culture with a sedentarylifestyle, social pressure and food cues tempting us at every turn, our intuitivebodily wisdom constantly gets short-circuited.

In our modern society, being able to eat by instinct and successfully “guesstimate”your nutrition or trust your feelings of hunger and satiety are not things that comenaturally or easily for most people.

Big example: The calorie counts in restaurant meals or in fast food today areTOTALLY non-intuitive. Coffees with over 700 calories??? “Healthy” salads withover 1,000 calories??? Appetizers withover 2,000 calories??? It’s true. Who’d haveguessed THAT?

And how about liquid calories? They don’t activate your body’s satiety mechanismsproperly, so your body doesn’t even send you the “I’m full” signal when it should.

The only sure-fire way to reach that hallowed place of unconscious competencewhere eating the right foods in the right amounts becomes automatic is by goingthrough the nutrition education process.

Two simple ways to count calories and get this nutrition education you need are themeal plan method and the nutrition journal method.


Using software or a spreadsheet, create a menu plan meal by meal, with calories, macronutrients and serving sizes calculated properly for your goals and your energyneeds. You can create 2 or more menu plans if you want the variety.

Then, follow your menu plan every day. You simply weigh and measure your foodportions to make sure your actual intake matches your written plan. With this method,you really only need to “count calories” once when you create your menus.

This is a method I use and recommend in my Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle programThis is a method I use and recommend in my Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle program(http://www.burnthefat.com)


Another way to track your nutrition intake is to keep a nutrition journal or food diary,either on paper or with an electronic device, software or website. This is more like”calorie counting” in the traditional sense.

Throughout the day, after each meal, you log in what you just ate, or at the end of theday, you log in all your food for the entire day. The former is the best option, sincepeople seem to get really bad cases of “eating amnesia” if they wait too long beforewriting it down.

I recommend counting calories and keeping a nutrition journal at least once in your life for at least 4-12 consecutive weeks or until you achieve unconscious competence.At that point, it becomes optional because habit and intuition take over.

You can come back to your meal-planning and journaling any time in the future if youslip back or if you have a very important goal you want to work on. It’s a tool that willalways be there for you if you need it.


I suppose that one of the reasons we have an astonishing number of engineers,scientists, accountants and math-type folks in our community is because the”by-the-numbers” Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle approach naturally appeals to them.

But to those who prefer a “feel your way” through it approach and havemisunderstood my position on counting calories, let me dispel the rumors and offer some advice at the same time:

I am NOT against intuitive eating, IF by intuitive eating we mean pursuing unconsciouscompetence and eventually achieving it.

The great irony is: intuitive eating does NOT come intuitively -it is learned through a very deliberate step-by-step education process.

I believe that it’s an error to take someone from square one, with zero nutritioneducation and try to show them how to trust their bodily signals and eat “intuitively”as their only strategy.

In our obesogenic environment today, THAT is what got many people into trouble withfood in the first place.

Train hard and expect success!

For more information go to www.burnthefat.com

Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle

About the Author:

Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, personal trainer, gym owner, freelance writer and author ofBurn the Fat, Feed The Muscle: Fat Burning Secrets of the World’s Best Bodybuilders and Fitness Models. Tom has writtenover 140 articles and has been featured in Iron Man Magazine, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development,Muscle-Zine, Exercise for Men and Men’s Exercise. Tom is the Fat Loss Expert for Global-Fitness.com and the nutrition editor for Femalemuscle.com and his articles are featured regularly on literally dozens of other websites.