I tried intuitive eating but I gained two pounds. What should my brain be doing with this two pound weight gain?
It's normal for weight to fluctuate several pounds per day due to water, sodium, glycogen, hormones, food volume, things that have NOTHING to do with gaining or losing body fat. I know this from weighing myself every day for an embarrassing number of years. So, a two pound gain doesn't have any meaning at all. It doesn't mean you're doing it wrong, or will keep gaining, or need to change things. That's the problem with the scale. We see a number, have an emotional reaction, and take inappropriate action. Repeat, repeat, repeat, until we've made a mess of things with restriction, rebellion, and general hysteria. The simplest way to break the cycle is to stay off the scale, but that's easier said than done. When I stopped dieting, I found the scale reassuring, which is why I was on it so much. Looking at the daily fluctuations helped me to understand what was normal. It's normal to be heavier the day after strength training, or to gain as much as five pounds after a weekend with high-sodium restaurant meals. It's not body fat. It goes away again with no special action on my part.
It helped me to basically never eat low-carb, which sounds stupid, but it causes so much drama to restrict, lose several pounds of water and glycogen, eat two crackers and gain it all back. None of that has anything to do with body fat, hunger, satisfaction, or quality of life. I don't aim for that falsely depleted state anymore, so I don't experience water weight drama anymore. Instead of swinging from clean eating to binge eating, I make every day moderately dirty. Then there's not much swing.
It also helped to think in terms of a goal range instead of a goal weight. Most of us aren't the same weight every day from now on unless we're pretty boring eaters. Weight also changes with seasons, activities, and priorities. I noticed, through my daily weighing shenanigans, that whether I was at my leanest, or really bloated, or lifting heavy, or not exercising much, or baking, or whatever I was doing, my weight tended to hit somewhere in the same ten pound range. I'm pretty sure nobody with normal human eyeballs could look at me and say where I was in the range, especially in clothes, so why was I stressing about it? I stopped. When I ate the way I wanted, moved the way I wanted, and enjoyed life, my weight stayed within that range for years. Sometimes it would bounce above it for a few days, or fall below it, but it never went far.
Actually, the less I worried about micromanaging small fluctuations, the more stable it became, the more it drifted toward the low end and stayed there, but it's not one magic number, and I don't check it often, and I don't come unscrewed if it's up seven pounds after a weird week involving chili cheese fries. That's still within the realm of normal maintenance.
So, maybe think about it like that. Not one magic weight that you must maintain through vigilance, but a truly comfortable range, one your body chooses and will return to naturally.
A follow up question would be, what if the weight keeps going up? Because of course my brain is telling me that it might!
There is never a case of "I'm doing this, therefore I will experience that permanent, horrible, unwanted outcome." You always get to choose, in every moment. If you don't like the way things are feeling or where they're heading, choose differently. Instead of going for culprit foods, ask yourself things like: Am I getting enough sleep? How am I managing stress lately? Am I physically hungry when I eat? Or am I eating for other reasons? Am I comfortable and satisfied when I stop eating? Or am I consistently overshooting my needs because I believe another diet is coming? If I believe another diet is coming, what exactly have I been telling myself lately? What could I tell myself instead that's more effective and true?
Like that. Get curious. Make small adjustments. That's all you ever have to do.
(Update: Personally, I stay off the scale altogether now. I highly recommend it!)