Have you ever pondered this question? Even though we know that diets and dieting doesn’t work, it can be so challenging to not try another one. After the initial high, diets usually leave us feeling miserable, defeated and perhaps even heavier than before we started…
I can honestly say that I lost about 10 years of my life to dieting. Much obsessing around my eating and my weight with on-off, yo-yo dieting efforts. My efforts neither made me happier nor healthier. Besides a preoccupation with my body and binge eating episodes, I also ended up with digestive issues and fatigue.
Science tells us that intentional weight loss pursuits don’t work for the vast majority of people and that dieting is a pretty good indicator future weight gain. They tend make us MORE preoccupied with food and our bodies, not less… So why do we keep coming back for more?
Why on earth is it so difficult to let go of dieting?
I’m not claiming that I have all the answers here, what I would like to do is offering you some reasons to why it may be so difficult to let go of dieting, that are worth reflecting on. You are not wrong for wanting to lose weight. And there’s nothing wrong with your body if your attempts to lose weight hasn’t worked out either. It is the Culture we live in that is wrong.
Dieting gives us an illusion of control.
When life feels unmanageable it is so easy to use dieting as a way of trying to regain a sense of control. Planning, counting, restricting can all give us a sense that we are “in charge” and “doing something”. When in fact what we may actually need is some kindness and care and space to recognise that life IS hard. What we need are tools for self care and self compassion, not fuel to hate ourselves more.
It also gets tricky when dieting is done under the disguised as “a lifestyle change”. I have used brackets here because if your lifestyle change carries a main focus on making your body smaller, then it is in fact a diet. This is NOT the same thing as eating foods that makes you feel good, work on reducing stress or moving your body to feel stronger. Doing all of these things can support your health and wellbeing independently of change in body size.
Dieting is packaged and sold as the path to happiness.
Just have a look around at the endless messages that the multi billion dollar Diet Industry that are flung at us everywhere we turn. We are being told, and sold, that the pursuit of weight loss is the gateway drug to happiness.
We are also being told essentially, that we are not good enough as we are. A subconscious message that is all too often clothed as “female empowerment”. But that in truth is anything but. How can we become truly empowered when we are being told to spend our precious time, energy and money, to make ourselves anything but what we already are? Empowerment comes from owning the truth that we are already enough as we are, right now.
The final myth / lie that falls under dieting as the path to happiness is the sneaky one that convince us that if we could just get dieting “right”, then the rest of our life would just magically fall into place. This lie can make it particularly difficult to challenge when we are in the midst of a weight regain period. Please don’t beat yourself up if you’ve find yourself stuck here, time and time again. It’s cultural conditioning.
We get treated different when we are thin(ner).
To be honest this is not a myth, this is a fact. It is something that is continuously being upheld and perpetuated by fat phobia and weight stigma. Even if someone has lost weight due to a serious illness, they will get congratulated by other on how “well they look”… We also continue to up hold the Thin Ideal by assuming a person’s health, simply by looking at their body size.
Because we all live in this fat phobic culture the result is that those in a larger body desperately try to get thin, and people who live in smaller bodies live with a fear of getting fat. This does nothing to create an environment in where we can foster self care, but rather drives us further apart and disconnect our trust in our own bodies.
If you have done a multitude of diets, and are still searching for the one (that will work), please don’t be hard on yourself.
We’ve all been conditioned for almost all of our lives that thin = health. That we are “better people” if we could just learn to control our weight and that if we can’t, then the fault is our own.
I also appreciate that even if you have reached a place where you simply cannot do another diet, it may still be very difficult to put any weight loss desires to the side. That’s ok. It is difficult to live in this dieting culture. Be gentle with yourself.
Just know that letting go of dieting is not the same as letting yourself go.
Letting go of dieting is an opportunity to cultivate self care, body respect and body trust. It is an opportunity to end the war with your body, free your mind from obsessive thoughts about food and put your time and energy into things that will truly enrich your life.
So here we are in December and the holiday season is upon us. This time of the year can be a challenging time to navigate, especially if you are just in the beginning of your make-peace-with-food journey.
Food is in abundant supply and so it the media’s continued supply of mixed messages. If you open any women’s magazine you will most likely see a miss mash between “How to bake delicious cookies and sweet treats” to “How to beat the Christmas bulge and look fabulous in the little black dress”.
Years ago, long before I became firmly rooted in a non-diet approach, I both followed and gave out advice such as “ How to make sure you don’t got to your Christmas party hungry” and “How to avoid temptations” (insert face palm here…). Anyway, these days when I know better, I would like to rectify this past advice with something more useful and something that won’t backfire into deprivation driven eating or binge like behaviour, just because diet mentality is reinforced.
Though the Holiday Season can be challenging to navigate for many reasons, not just food alone, but dealing with family, in-laws etc. often have their own challenges and if the relationship with these people are strained normally, just because it is holiday season may not make it any easier and we may turn to food (or alcohol) in order to cope. Don’t beat your self up about it, if this is the case, we all do what we in have to in order to survive.
The hallmark of diet mentality is this All Or Nothing thinking. Intuitive eating helps us live in the grey (though I prefer to think of it as a rainbow…) Of course it may feel easier to roll with an all or nothing approach, sussing out all the nuances in between is so much messier. But it is here, in the mess and the nuance, that peace and freedom resides.
So actually, even though this time of year IS challenging to navigate, between family stuff, diet talk, overwhelm and perhaps fear of how to cope with it all, it can also provide us with rich soil for practice and growth.
These are my five suggestions for How To Navigate The Holiday Season As An Intuitive Eater.
- Give yourself full permission to eat ALL foods
This is the basic tenet of intuitive eating. In order to create space for choice, we have to first let go of all the rigid food rules we’re holding on to. If ALL foods are ‘allowed’ then there’s no reason for feeling guilty for eating anything. Pick what you truly enjoy of the seasonal feasts on offer and feel free to say no to the rest.
- Practice honouring your hunger and fullness ques
Now is a prime opportunity to truly listen to your body. Of course there may be some overeating past comfortable fullness, that’s to be expected simply by the share amount of food that tends to be serves on Christmas Day alone. However, if you can let go of any sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) then there’s truly no need to any extremes of uncomfortableness. Because you are not starting (another) diet in January, you’re just respecting your body’s cues and that’s that.
- You don’t need to repent anything
Adopt this as a mantra if one of your struggles are with over exercising and/ or a fear of weight gain. Move your body because it feels good to do so. You don’t need to earn food, or burn it off. Not over the Holiday Season or any other time of the year for that matter. Trust that your body know how to regulate itself.
- Set boundaries
Say No, if you have to. Your body, your rules. If you are surrounded by diet talk, try changing the conversation or excuse yourself. Leave if you have to, in order to keep your sanity and if it is too triggering.
- Rest, Move, Socialise, Eat – Do whatever you need to take care of YOU
Allow yourself some time to do what feels best for you. This may be the greatest gift you can gift yourself.
Happy Holidays xx
(All images from Unsplash/ Rawpixels)
For this blog post I wanted to write a more practical type of post about a topic, being stuck in food ruts, that I often see people struggle with in my clinical practice and it is definitely not something I am immune to struggle with myself.
Maybe it is a completely human thing, to get stuck in ruts. With what we are eating, and how we are thinking and even behaving? Often we say thing like “You can’t teach an old dog new trix” and “He/she is so set in their ways, they’ll never change”. However this is actually not true. It’s a myth that we keep perpetuating by strengthening those neuropathways, telling ourselves that it is true…
Have you ever heard of the term Neuroplasticity?
The definition of neuroplasticity is: the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.
This short video explains it really well. In short, it means that we do have the ability to change and adapt to circumstances and life events. Probably a good thing!
We also create change through intention. What I mean by that is that we need, using awareness, to work on intentionally creating new thought patterns, new behaviours which we want to engage in and of course new ways with food, if we want to get out of those ruts and make some new neuronal pathways.
So there, it definitely is possible to get un-stuck, but it may require a little intentionallity.
I think that because eating is a necessity, and when our attention and energy is focused elsewhere, the most natural thing is to default to our ingrained habits. Eating something, anything, is better than going hungry and of the irritability, mind fog and lack of energy that goes with that. Never anything wrong with honouring our hunger.
Don’t forget that we live in a culture and society where it completely possible to take care of your physical hunger needs without ever putting a foot in your own kitchen (or anybody else’s for that matter). So if this is how you are feeding yourself at times, no need to feel shameful about that. But maybe you’d like to change some of it as it could give you more choice and a sense of empowerment.
Here are my five tips on how to get out of food ruts. Whether it is wanting to cook more food in general, eating a wider variety of foods or just starting to think about learning some new recipes, I hope you find something useful from this list that will widen your lens a little and spark some new ideas.
Focus on colour
If you’ve been following my work for some time, you may have noticed that I am drawn to creating meals that are colourful. Eat a Rainbow, has to be one of the easiest nutritional advice to adhere to. By trying to incorporate something from each colour of the rainbow every day, you are naturally getting a more varied intake of fruits and vegetables. If you can vary the types of foods from each colour category, even better! Maybe you find some orange peppers and a yellow courgette to pair with some green spinach. Have fun trying out some different colours of your usual favourites. Variety and diversity seems to have many health benefits.
Have a think about Meal Planning
Sometimes I see people within Intuitive Eating groups shun the idea of meal planning and meal prepping. I do understand where they are coming from, since such a strong premise of eating intuitively is to “eat when you are hungry as well as what you are truly hungry for”. But life is rarely that black and white (plus that definitive way of thinking belongs to diet mentality anyway. Flexibility is the name of the game here!)
Just note that you making a plan for what you’d like to eat is not the same as slavishly following meal plan set by someone else. It can be incredibly useful to have some kind of structure, to take the stress out of making meals, especially if you are already ravenous when you start cooking…
One thing I encourage my clients to look at is to look at how their schedule for the week ahead looks like. Which days to you have time to cook something from scratch? Which days may you be eating out? Which days would you prefer to just heat some leftovers or put together a few bits and pieces for a simple meal? If you start here you may take some of the stress out of feeding yourself. It is totally cool to re heat some soup for dinner or a quick lunch, as well as having a smoothie, sandwich or salad (I actually have porridge in the evening too at times… Shhs, don’t tell anyone…) especially if you’ve eaten a larger meal during the day.
Ok, so I am not talking about those typical food prep pictures you see on social media where there are seven same type of meals in containers… And I’ve always wondered what that chicken, broccoli and sweet potato looks like on day seven… Never mind what it would smell like!
This blog post from Green Kitchen Stories have a nice take on Meal Prepping in my opinion. Their philosophy is more about having staples ready that can be made into different meal combinations throughout the week. This is often how I eat. It works well for a single person and it must work reasonably well for a family too as they have three kids!
Try a new food every week
Trying something new is an easy way of getting out of ruts. And luckily the variety of fresh fruits and veg that are available these days in our everyday supermarkets are so much better than what it used to be. So next time you are shopping and see a food you haven’t tried before, be brave and have a go!
Learn a new recipe once a week / month
This is something I did a few years ago. Where I intentionally picked up one of my cookbooks, and I have added many more to my collection since, to pick a recipe that I wanted to try out. Maybe it was a new combination of foods to try, or a recipe that offered a new skill. Or maybe a recipe to suit a new ingredient.
Even if you only own one cook book or if you rather use Google, this is a really good way to add new meal favourites to your weekly repertoire. Cooking is a skill that takes practice to master. Not all of us are gifted with it intuitively or got given the skills passed on from our parents when growing up. I also get that it is challenging if you actually have no interest in cooking meals from scratch.
Sometimes though what it takes is a change in attitude to the whole thing. That cooking for ourselves and spending time in the kitchen is a form of self care. You deserve to eat foods that are tasty and nourishing. I have seen these kinds of mindset shifts take place in clients and it has been revolutionary! Your kitchen can be your sanctuary. (Perhaps that’s a topic for another blog post?)
I hope you have found some of these ideas useful. Here is another article that I came across on my search, that speaks into this topic.
You can also get my Useful Kitchen Tool List + My Pantry Staples List <<— Click links & Download.
And sign up below for the Rainbow Bowl Ebook below, if that’s your thing.
This blog post will contain some words from my heart, as well as lots of swirling thoughts captured in print. Whilst I have been working on putting together a post about how our experiences with food, eating and our bodies as it relates to our (hi)stories, childhood and so on influences our relationship with same today, I found that for some reason it seemed like a challenge to put it all into words. I am still not sure why, as I have previously shared my own story on this topic here.
Anyway, I decided to pause it and write a blog post about many of the thoughts that have been swirling around my mind for what now seems like ages. Maybe I just need to get some of these words out there, in order to peel back and to keep writing about all the things that I plan to write about this year. So yeah, please see this one as an overarching intention of what may be yet to come.
Life is a journey of unexpected twists and turns. And we are all constantly growing and learning…
Last week I had the privilege to get up and speak about the line of my own work within the field of Nutritional Therapy, even though I was excited the opportunity on one hand, I was pretty nervous about it too. Why? Well apart from the ever present inner critic and a touch of imposter syndrome I was a little apprehensive about my choice of topic too.
It is rare that we speak about the prevalence of Eating Disorders and disordered eating, as well as the harm restriction and dieting can do. Yet I feel strongly that within a profession where food is used as the healing modality, it is more important than for anyone else that we understand the dynamics around eating behaviour.
I apologies in advance if this blog ends up being somewhat scattered and incoherent (as I won’t do a lot of editing before posting) as I am trying to let some of the many threads that have been swirling around come together and weave an new picture.
My journey into Nutritional Therapy and becoming a nutritional professional has been windy and is ever unfolding. My professional path has become part of my personal path, yet when I was 20 this type of work was NOT my intention for my professional path. My personal struggle with food and eating eventually lead me to this profession when I was looking for other things to earn a living from, rather than shovelling horse shit for the rest of my working life…
I will be honest and admit that I wholeheartedly believe in the power of food as medicine with nutritional supplements and herbs to heal, repair and restore. It would be my personal preference to use natural medicine as much as possible, yet I feel we are lucky to have the opportunity of drugs as well as lifesaving surgery if this is what is needed.
Over the weekend just passed my other colleagues who also presented on the day showed us some incredible case studies of healing happening with the use of natural medicines, often in cases where the orthodox medicine had written off a restoration of health as impossible.
However in the area of health and healing nothing is ever black or white… It’s never one thing or the other, but usually more like an interconnected web of many layers that interplay.
Over the past two years or so my own work as has changed because I have learned new things and been exposed to new teachings and approaches. Much because of this I really want to take a stand this year and get cleared in my own message and with my own voice.
This is something I am continuously working on, and I definitely feel like I haven’t gotten it right, yet. Consider it a work in process. Hence these words from my heart are simply a part of this unfolding process.
In the presentation that I shared, one of my first slides where the question “Can we truly promote healthy eating without having a healthy relationship with food and eating?”
Personally I don’t think so. Using nutrition as a healing modality may require some dietary changes, often to improve quality, variety and nutrient density. That is all fine. Especially when it is done together with a qualified practitioner who works with you, and your body. The issues arise when people start to self-restrict without any particular reasons other than following the latest nutrition fads and trends. It becomes an issue when we follow strict external rules, regardless if it may be points or calorie / macro counting without honouring our own body’s specific cues and needs.
Because, we already have what we need. Our own inner wisdom. Yet if you look around the messages you see, literally everywhere, is that somehow our bodies are not trustworthy. (I often wonder how we got to this place of distrust in ourselves, as somehow we’ve evolved and survived as a species up until quiet recently without questioning it much… But that’s maybe a question for another post.)
Another issue is when the intentional pursuit of weight loss is used as a panacea to create health. Controlling the amount of food as well as the type of food, is used as a way to try to control body size, health and even life.
About two years ago I came across the Health At Every Size ™ movement. It has changed everything for me and learning to navigate this new information as well as this new lens to look through is much of what this year is all about for me. How do I integrate this info with what I know about nutritional medicine?
Health At Every Size or HAES for short, is a movement that values ALL BODIES, and that all bodies are worthy of treatment with respect and care.
It is also a paradigm which looks at health beyond nutrition and even beyond health behaviours. Through HAES we get to look at health through the lens of social justice. This is what changes everything.
Though I never prescribed any crazy diets to help people lose weight, nor was I particularly interested in weighing them, (I don’t weigh myself for God’s sake!), I were part of some well-intentioned weight loss programmes early on in my career. My first round of business cards even had the words “Lose weight without dieting” on them. (I since cut whatever few were left up in pieces. )This was before I knew that any intention of actively pursuing measures to alter our body size IS dieting.
Dieting is one of the most prevalent pre cursors to develop eating disorders. And if you don’t go on to develop a full blown eating disorder, you most certainly end up with disordered eating behaviours.
HAES not only shines a light on the detriments of weight loss pursuits and dieting, it also brings to light the social justice side of things, when it comes to health and how often the individual is blamed on failure to keep their body under control, if it does not conform to society’s norms, rather than looking at the larger picture of other Determinants of Health and inequalities in our society that contribute to our overall health and wellbeing.
From this journey of venturing into learning more about HAES, I am also learning more about weight stigma and fatphobia. Both which play such a big part in why intentional weight loss pursuits are a form of oppression. And of course, denying yourself to eat when you are physically hungry just because you have reached your limits on points that day is a personal attack on yourself. A mini trauma, which is sending a message to your body that it is not worthy of one of the most fundamental things for life – food.
When we zoom out and look at the other well-meaning nutritional interventions for disease preventions, very few actually talk about the inequalities. That not all people have access to good quality foods, not the skills or means to buy them in order to create nutritious meals for themselves and their family.
We are not necessarily thinking about the people who are fearful for taking a walk in their neighbourhood, when we ourselves are feeling guilty for missing a gym session… Yet the message portrayed when it comes to health pursuits is often that of personal responsibility, and those who are not doing things necessary of this pursuit are often seen as lazy.
Why is that?
Is it because the idea of thinness = health is so entrenched in our culture?
Yet it is simply not true. Which is one of the messages of HAES.
Our worth as a human being is not based on how we look or what we eat, surely? I think we can do better than that.
The other is the take home message that our inherent worthiness in not tied to our health or body size. I don’t think I have ever looked at someone and thought that it was. It is not how I was raised. Yet when you become aware of this insidious cultural insinuation, you can’t close your eyes to the message that it is so, which is everywhere. Why else would dieting be promoted all over the place? Oh yeah, aside from the fact that it DOES sell and is a multi billion dollar industry of course…
I also can’t see why prescribing weigh loss as a cure all is so prevalent? Aside from the fact that it doesn’t work, so many people are nutrient deficient and prescribing restriction seems counter intuitive to me. It is already hard to get what we need from our diets, so why would be want to restrict them further? What about prescribing diversity (if this is within the individual’s means) together with some curiosity and an explanation of the illusion of finding the “right diet” and the importance of listening to you own body’s response to the food you eat?
So really, what is my intention with this lengthy rant? Well maybe it is to state that no I don’t think we can promote ‘healthy eating’ without at the same time promote a healthy relationship to food, eating and body (I feel another deep dive will come on this topic in the future too) , it is also highlight the inequalities in our society and the injustice that is done when we hand out all the blame on individuals for “not taking care of themselves better”. That is just unkind and unfair.
Long story short; we can’t really get to the root of healing individual’s eating struggles without at the same time working on understanding the root cause of what’s driving this struggle, which is the Diet Culture that we all live in.
So the work, which is what I have now woken up to and to the visionaries and frontline warriors to whom I have the immense privilege to learn from, is to simultaneously dismantle Diet Culture.
And finally… (almost 2000 words later) what my ultimate message from this lengthy blog post is: It is to declare that I am dropping out of this Diet Culture. I don’t want to participate nor do I want to be contributing to this shame fuelled oppressive system.
To quote Maya Angelou, “When you know better, do better”.
So this is what I am trying to do now. When I do now know better.
This is not an easy blog post to write. In fact, even though I have a clear idea of what I want to write here, it doesn’t come all that easy. Maybe because I know that this is a difficult topic to write and talk about. It is also both counter cultural AND will most likely upset some (many?) people.
I have decided that this year, I am going to be braver and speak and write about what I stand for and what is aligned to my values, as well as my professional mission. After some deep dives into what is driving our eating behaviours, what the obstacles to having a healthy relationship with food, eating and body are and how we cannot pursue whole self health without also healing our relationship with the same, I am ready to share my thoughts, learnings, observations and resources.
This year, my intentions are to truly let this space evolve into a place where you can come and find some sanity from diet culture and hopefully inspiration on your own journey towards food freedom and body liberation.
Over the past 15 months or so I have spent a lot of time with colleagues who are doing very courageous front line work and advocacy for the right to health, respect and care of people of all shapes and sizes. It has opened my eyes in ways where it is now impossible to turn the other way… Hence why this post is only the first of many. Brace yourself!
My TRUTH is tugging at me to invite you to some exploration around how we see our own bodies, how we regard (or disregard) them. How we speak ABOUT our bodies and how we speak TO them. In order to heal our relationship with food and eating we also need to examine and heal our relationship WITH our bodies.
Beyond how we speak, think and perhaps judge our own bodies we also need to wake up to how we and society at large speak, think and judge other people’s bodies. But let’s park that conversation for now. I will definitely return to the topic of weight stigma and weight bias in the future, as the impact both have on not just emotional health but even physical health are new revelations to me, perhaps most likely so because of my own thin privilege.
Why is it important that we remove weight loss as the main focus when it comes to the desire for lifestyle changes and why can’t we heal our relationship with food and eating if we don’t let this go?
I have experienced my own fair share of body dysmorphia / distorted body image.
Looking back at my relationship with food and eating, I could see that much of my disordered eating stemmed from a trigger comment of the size of my body (which in fairness at the time was still well within what society is considering “normal” & “healthy”). And so it begins for many others, with disordered eating or eating disorders.
In the 7 Systems of Health we speak of the ROOT as the system of Safety, Survival and Trust.
How can we anchor ourselves in these, if we are constantly at war with our own body?
Not trusting that it is telling us what it needs, in form of food, rest, play and connection.
How can we feel safe if we are trying to force our bodies into some societal norms of what bodies “should look like”? Always trying to fix them and make them conform, so that we are acceptable and fit in. The desire and external pressure to do so is what is known as Diet Culture. It is a very insidious way of being bombarded from all angels that we are not good enough as we are.
Somehow our bodies are not trustworthy. They are unruly and need to be controlled, often at all costs. Regardless of what body size our bodies actually are, this message all too often becomes internalised and we decide to do something about it. I.e. diet.
Diets, by design are restrictive.
Often it is about cutting calories, or portion sizes. Or food groups. With the intention of trying to control the size of our body. Sometimes it is even disguised as something we do in the name of health. But as long as you are following a plan, set by someone else that has a bunch of food rules and is aimed at helping you lose weight it is a diet.
Here’s the thing; How can we move beyond surviving into thriving if we are not honouring our physical needs in the first place?
Is it really possible to establish a sense of belonging, if we are always trying to make ourselves and our bodies into something they are not? Yet this is much of the cultural messages we are constantly bombarded with…
Then there’s the real desire to lose weight. I get it. It is ok to want it. We all live in this Diet Culture.
Weight stigma is real. Internalised weight stigma too. And it has been shown to affect our health (and not in a positive way) Yet at the same time actively pursuing weight loss is such a futile, life sucking pursuit, which longterm is a pretty good predictor of weight gain.
We definitely need to acknowledge the internal voices of fat shaming we have going on, as well as what it is like for someone to live in a body where society feels like it has some right to judge and criticise based on a particular body size. Especially if this have never been our own lived experience.
We need to be careful with the words we use, because as we know words hold tremendous power…
Shame never helps or heals. Kindness does.
So perhaps if we want to begin with some healing at the ROOT, let the invitation be; to note how we speak, see and value bodies, our own as well as others.
To hold a safe compassionate space where ALL bodies are welcome to heal, worthy of care and to be blessed with health.
To let go of the oppression perpetuated by Diet Culture through actively pursuing weight loss.
When it is about health and not about weight, all of our behaviour changes hold merit and value, whereas when weight loss is the main focus and goal, it becomes all too easy to let go of these if the number on the scales doesn’t budge, or worse if it goes up!
So isn’t it better to pursue healthy behaviours rather than trying to shame yourself into change?
You are a worthy human being just as you are.
(Photos from Unsplash.com)
Do you long to let go of obsession around food, eating and weight? Would you like to feel freedom and peace around meals and beyond, but need some help and support to get there?
It would be an honour to walk with you on this path. Please email me HERE to set up a free 30 min consultation to explore how this may be possible for you too.
Without moral judgment…
I’ve been grappling with the headline for this particular blog post because part of what I also want to touch on is this; “To give yourself full permission to eat (all) foods is not the same as eating with abandonment.”
There are some challenging concepts when it comes to Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating that I feel are both radical as well as counter cultural. And they can be very challenging to put into practice, yet I believe they are vital if we want to reach a place of peace with food and eating.
Many people seem to think that their main problem with “staying on the diet band wagon” is their lack of willpower, and if they just tried harder they could do it. Or if they weren’t such emotional eaters they wouldn’t have such an issue with food and (over) eating.
Here’s thing though.
When you are restricting you are fighting biology.
If your body is not getting what it needs, it will make sure that your brain become preoccupied with thoughts of food, your senses heighten so that you will ultimately feed yourself. Because this is fundamental for our survival.
Someone recently shared this famous study with me which was done back in the late 1940s called The Great Starvation Experiment. And when you think of it, it very much mimics the conventional dieting of today…
So the first focus of mindful eating is always to get to a place of tuning in, become aware of our hunger cues, as well as our fullness cues, so we can honour the need to eat.
This is where the permission to eat starts. When you notice you are hungry – EAT.
This is a kind act of self care. It sounds so simple, and it is. But not if we are used to eat according to plans, set by someone who does not live in your body, it may be a little challenging to start. Each time you honour your hunger, you are re enforcing your inherent self worth. Luckily most of us have access to food, so there is truly no need to fight hunger.
With this permission to eat, you open the door to explore how different foods affect your hunger and fullness, you may notice that it is useful to bring snacks in certain circumstances when you know that getting access to food can be tricky, and when you don’t want to end up in a ravenous state with limited choices. I can’t tell you how often I end up like this myself, even though I am so well aware of how it makes me feel, both to eat sugary foods to lift my blood sugar (though they may taste great for the first few bites), and how miserable I feel when I’m venturing into “ravenous” territory.
However, if I was supposed to be adhering to someone else’s plan with set amount of foods I most likely would have to be using precious energy and willpower to NOT eat, even though my body is telling me “feed me!” And truly, what message is this sending to myself? That I am not worthy of being fed?
Deprivation and restriction feed the binge cycle, so no 1. is to give yourself full permission to eat when you are hungry.
Great, now here’s the next permission slip; “Give yourself permission to eat ALL foods”.
Peace and freedom with foods comes from neutralising foods. Yep, you heard that right, that means letting go of the moral compass, and the labels of “good” and”bad”. Does it mean we throw nutrition out the window too? No.
It simply means we drop the moral judgment of ourselves (and others), according to what we eat.
It means I’m no different as a person, whether I eat a doughnut for breakfast, or have a green kale smoothie.
It means we can drop guilt from our diets, and any shame we hold about ourselves that stems from our food choices.
It means we have the freedom to choose, whatever will bring us most pleasure and satisfaction in that moment.
It means we are free to be with our direct experience of eating.
It means we can begin to embrace OUR OWN specific needs with kindness.
It mean we can eat with pleasure and satisfaction, for nourishment and self care.
And however and with whatever foods that brings us pleasure, satisfaction and nourishment, we have the flexibility to change this up as needed, because we are no longer tied to rigid dietary rules.
“But if I let myself have whatever I want I will never stop eating”.
“If I let myself eat whatever I want I will end up living on coffee and chocolate.”
Maybe…? Or maybe not.
This is what I mean with my statement above, that giving ourselves full permission to eat all foods, is not the same as eating with abandonment. Which all too often happens after dieting. This way of eating is actually a natural response to deprivation.
When you’ve given yourself full permission to eat all foods, and you bring kindness and curiosity to your eating experience, you are free to explore how different foods affect your body, as well as perhaps even your mind and spirit.
You have opened the door for choice. You don’t have to eat everything today, as there will always be another day to have that food again.
Most of all you have given yourself permission to eat and nourish yourself in a way that makes YOU and your body FEEL good.
And to re-enforce the message to yourself and your body, that you are worthy and worth it.
That may just be the taste of freedom that you are looking for.
Do you long to let go of obsession around food, eating and weight? Would you like to feel freedom and peace around meals and beyond, but need some help and support to get there?
It would be an honour to walk with you on this path. Please email me HERE to set up a free 30 min consultation to explore how this may be possible for you too.