IE Principle #4: Challenge the Food Police

Challenging the Food Police might be my favorite principle of Intuitive Eating because this is where you start using psychology to re-frame your thoughts and mindset around food, dieting, and body image. This can also be one of the hardest parts because it involves a lot of un-doing, which takes time and continuous effort. That being said, re-framing your thoughts isn’t impossible, and it actually gets easier the more you do it. It becomes, shall I say…. intuitive. :)

Food & Morality

In our culture, eating is often associated with morality and the promises of dieting are often worshiped like a religion. Associating certain foods as good or bad, sinful or guilt-free has made it increasingly difficult to view eating as a simple and normal activity that is pleasurable. And eating the “good,” “healthy,” or “guilt-free” foods that are often associated with an idealized aesthetic or health status is seen as virtuous. It’s no wonder many people struggle with shame regarding their eating habits. In a culture where we derive our morality and self-worth on a constant-changing set of food and wellness rules, it can feel almost impossible to ever feel like you doing good enough.

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Negative Dieting Voices

Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch describe three different types of destructive dieting voices:

Food Police – your inner judge; often formed from the negative food talk that we get exposed to over time

Nutrition Informant – promotes unconscious dieting in a guise of health or wellness; think: tracking macros, checking labels, being overly conscious about being healthy

Diet Rebel – protects your autonomy by rebelling against the diet talk others impose on you; for example, if someone asks, “you’re getting dessert after that huge dinner?” and you react by not only ordering dessert, but going home that evening and polishing off a pint of ice cream

Luckily, there are more helpful and powerful voices that we can develop to overcome the destructive voices:

Food Anthropologist – observing without judgement; “It’s 10 am and my stomach is growling. I ate half the amount I usually do at breakfast.”

Nurturer – the vehicle for positive self-talk; “It’s normal and okay to want something sweet after dinner.”

Intuitive Eater – we were all born this way; the intuitive eater is effortless and knows how to argue the negative voices and challenge the distorted messages.

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Challenge the Negative Self-Talk

To challenge your negative self-talk and change it, you have to do two things. First, identify your irrational thoughts by asking:

  • are my feelings repetitive and intense?
  • what am I thinking that is making me feel this way?
  • what is true or false about this belief?

When we ask ourselves these questions, we are better able to separate the rational from the irrational. Once we identify the irrational thoughts, we can replace them with rational thoughts:

  • Irrational thought: “I am going to gain 5 lbs by eating these cookies”
  • Rational thought: “It is not possible to gain 5 lbs by eating some cookies. I know that if I allow myself to enjoy these cookies, I won’t feel the shame and guilt that usually drives me to overeat.”

Keep Fighting the Good Fight

With diet culture being so pervasive in our society, it can feel like an uphill battle trying to fight back against the food police messages. Just know that each step you take toward finding food freedom is worth it and is getting your closer to becoming an intuitive eater. We will always have negative thoughts that creep in about food or our bodies, but we don’t always have to respond by answering to them. Practicing positive and permissive self-talk, accepting the ups and downs, and focusing on learning your body and this process will keep you on the right path.

IE Principle #3: Make Peace with Food

Making peace with food means giving yourself unconditional permission to eat any and all foods that you wish to eat. Now, you might be thinking:

  • “If  I let myself eat XYZ, then I won’t stop!”
  • “But, what if I gain weight?”
  • “I can’t eat anything that I want. If I did that, I wouldn’t eat a vegetable again!”
  • “But I need to be healthy –  eating whatever I want can’t be good for my health.”

Unfortunately, this is the dialogue many of us have running through our brains when it comes to even the thought of allowing ourselves to eat a food that we [or diet culture] has deemed “off limits.” It is deeply rooted in distrust of our body’s capability to self-regulate and likely a need for control in your life when so much feels very out of control.

So, why is limiting the amount or type of food you eat a problem? Because deprivation leads to an intense urge or longing for that food. In the last principle, Honor Your Hunger, I talked a lot about the biological drive to eat when you deprive yourself. Making peace with food is all about healing the psychological deprivation that also occurs. This can be a lot harder to tackle because tricking our mind is much easier than tricking our body.

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All foods fit – even in our grocery carts

 

Think back to when you went on a diet… when you were told you couldn’t have a certain type of food or amount, did you think of that food often? Maybe you had intense cravings? Giving your food the “diet-approved” foods might have satiated your biological hunger, but they won’t satisfy your psychological hunger. Perhaps in the beginning of a diet you felt very motivated, or even euphoric, which made adhering to the new plan feel effortless. Euphoria doesn’t last long, though, and our body and mind start to rebel, and those forbidden foods have suddenly become super special foods that you have put on a pedestal. With intuitive eating, the goal is food and body neutrality – when we don’t make peace with all foods, it is easy to categorize foods as “off/on limits” or “good/bad,” which are polar opposites of neutral.

Rebounding – Not Just in Basketball and Breakups

Eventually, this psychological deprivation turns into rebound eating. Rebound eating is not a satisfying or healthy way to nourish our bodies. It is usually filled with urgency, fear, and a detachment from our bodies. Here are a few types of rebound eating:

  • Last Supper Eating: when you are going on a diet and you know that certain foods will be off limits, you can spiral into the “last supper” effect of eating all the foods you won’t be able to eat for the foreseeable future. You don’t even have to be actively restricting those foods yet — just the mere thought of restriction can lead to a rebound.
  • Food Competition: when you are around others and sharing food (especially a food that has been off limits), you might be fearful that you won’t get enough of it because everyone else is eating it too. This may cause you to eat too quickly and grab it while you can (even if you aren’t hungry). 
  • Returning Home Syndrome: if you have limited yourself from certain foods (by choice or perhaps by circumstance – i.e.: going to a foreign country), and you return home or to someone else’s house who has those previously unavailable foods, you may want to gorge on those missed foods because you have felt deprived of them. I can attest to feeling super hangry for a BIG salad or lots of veggies when Joe and I come home from a week-long hiking trip where fresh produce is non-existent. Our biology and brain is super smart.
  • The Empty Cupboard: this can occur when food isn’t consistently available either due to financial circumstances, or even perhaps a busy schedule where grocery shopping doesn’t happen often enough. When you don’t know when your next meal will appear, it is easy to want to eat every morsel of food available out of feelings of scarcity. 
  • Depression Era Eating: those who grew up during the Great Depression or who had issues of food or financial scarcity, may have a difficult time “wasting” or throwing away food. This is where the “clean your plate” mentality can come in.
  • Once in a Lifetime: sometimes we eat a food because we think we will never have the opportunity again. For example, if you are in another country, enjoying the local cuisine, you may eat more than you need because you think you will never return to that country again. 
  • One Last Shot: similarly, if you are given a special food as a gift (i.e.: homemade cookies), you might feel compelled to eat it all because it isn’t a food you often or ever eat.

 

You’re Not Falling Off the Wagon, You’ve Been Stuck on a Seesaw 

Rebound eating is one result of not giving yourself unconditional permission to eat, but the guilt associated with “giving in” to your cravings or rebound eating can be the hardest part to deal with, and is often the catalyst for your next dieting episode. The longer you prohibit certain foods, the more guilt these foods cause you when you finally feel so deprived that you do eat them. This deprivation/guilt phenomenon is called “The Seesaw Syndrome.” With dieting, guilt and deprivation oppose each other, creating a seesaw-like effect. When deprivation is high, guilt is very low because you have been adhering to your diet. However, this is not sustainable for very long, because deprivation has reached its peak and you don’t have any built-up guilt, you are open to adding some forbidden foods back in. Once you do this, the seesaw flops, and you are feeling immense guilt, with little deprivation. Guilt doesn’t feel good and you start to feel “out of control” with food again, so you do what feels familiar and comfortable, and go back to cutting out foods…sending that seesaw back to where you started.

Where Do We Go From Here?

To nix this destructive pattern of deprivation, guilt, and overeating, you must give yourself unconditional permission to eat. This means that foods are no longer viewed as “good” or “bad.” This means that you allow yourself to eat that you REALLY want. This means that you eat foods without having certain conditions or deals such as “Just this once” or “today I can have it, but tomorrow I will go back to dieting” or restricting future meals or exercising to “make up for it.” That is the complete opposite of unconditional permission.

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Cereal used to be one of my forbidden foods – now, it’s one of my favorite snacks. 

Okay, I Am Intrigued – But Where Do I Start? 

Making peace with food takes time and a lot of trial…but never error. There are no mistakes with intuitive eating because we are constantly learning about ourselves and our body’s needs. Some first steps to giving yourself unconditional permission to eat foods is to start allowing foods into your life that you have put off limits. Really try to taste and savour the food to see if you actually like it as much as you thought you did. If you love it, great! Keep eating it when you have a craving for it. You don’t like it like you thought you did? That’s great too — you don’t have to eat it if it doesn’t satisfy you like you thought it would. A lot of times, ex-dieters realize that foods they once forbid aren’t as appealing or pleasurable once they take them off of a pedestal. This was totally the case for me. I never thought I would be okay with taking one or two bites of a cookie, only to turn it down once I realized it wasn’t doing it for me. Back in my dieting days, the cookie was either avoided like the plague, or it was eaten with haste and feelings of guilt, shame, and fear.

What If I Don’t Stop Eating?

I get it. I thought this would be the case too. At first, giving yourself unconditional permission to eat any and all foods can feel overwhelming and you may feel a little bit out of control. Believe me when I say, those feelings won’t last so long as you get rid of the mindset that these foods are going to be forbidden again. Behavior change takes time and repeated effort. It WILL get easier the more you introduce new foods and the more you let go and TRUST your body. Trust also comes with time and evidence. How will you have the evidence to know whether your body is able to self-regulate if you don’t even give it a chance to do so?

What If I Stop Eating Healthy Foods?

Your first foray into making peace with food likely won’t include kale salads and smoothies. That’s OKAY. The more time and effort you commit to the process, with all foods being completely allowed, the more your intuitive signals will give you good advice. And good advice doesn’t just mean extra-nourishing foods. Sometimes it will be cookies and other times it will be protein, vegetables, and whole grains. It all evens out eventually when you let go of fears and pseudo-permission.

How Do I Give Myself Unconditional Permission with All of the Diet Talk Around Me and in My Head?

The next principle in this series is Challenge the Food Police, where the authors of Intuitive Eating dive a lot deeper into the internal and external critics that make it hard to give up dieting and embrace all foods with peace and how to chase them away – so stay tuned!

IE Principle #2: Honor Your Hunger

I am back with another post in the Intuitive Eating Series – Honor Your Hunger. There’s a reason why this principle is second in the series. We MUST eat to survive. Unfortunately in our society, diet culture likes to dissuade us from listening to our hunger in the form of diets, detoxes, food rules, and comparison. To truly honor your hunger, you have to get back to your primal roots. If you’ve ever observed babies or small children eating, you know what I am talking about. They are EXPERTS at listening to their bodies. They fuss when they are wanting food and then push the bottle or food away when they are satisfied. They don’t have an arbitrary set of rules that dictates when they should eat. Their hunger is innate and they respond without hesitation. Ideally, this is how everyone should address their hunger, but somewhere along the way we were told, taught, or we heard otherwise.

We All Have a Hunger

No matter how much we may try to quell our innate hunger, we all have biological mechanisms that will compensate for a lack of energy intake. Have you ever heard someone say, “I just don’t have the willpower” when speaking about failing their diet? It’s never willpower – it’s our body’s biological drive to stay nourished. The human body wants to stay in homeostasis, or balance. This means it really doesn’t want to lose weight, if it doesn’t have to. However, when food intake is decreased overtime, this leads to an imbalance in hormones directly responsible for digestion, metabolic function, mood, and sexual function. Don’t let diets fool you – they may promise a fast metabolism and fat burning, but in reality they do the opposite. The surefire way to keep a stable and strong metabolism is to simply eat…and more importantly, eat enough. This includes carbohydrates.

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“She Blinded Me with Science!”

Unfortunately, carbs gets a lot of flack in diet culture, when in reality they are our body’s primary source of fuel! A lack of energy and/or carbohydrate will eventually lead to an excessive yearning for carbohydrate-rich foods. Ever start a low-carb diet and then find yourself craving ALL the carbs? It’s because our bodies are made to burn carbs for energy. We actually have a hormone in our body called Neuropeptide Y (NPY) , which triggers our desire to consume carbohydrates. When we deprive ourselves of food and/or carbs, NPY gets released and we start searching for quick-acting fuel: carbs. But what about Keto, you may ask? Ketosis is turning fat into ketones to be used as fuel, instead of carbohydrates. The problem is that it isn’t sustainable long-term.  Only half of our brain can use ketones for fuel. Our bodies only have about 5% fat storage that is to be used for fuel. When that is used up, we rely on our body’s proteins – muscle, organs, connective tissues, etc. As you can imagine, this is quite counterproductive because you are now diminishing your metabolic rate by burning muscle. I know what you are thinking now…well how come people lose weight when they cut carbs? They are likely losing water, 3-5 lbs of which is associated with protein loss. This could be a whole post on its own, so I will keep it short: Eat carbohydrates;  your body will use them efficiently and thank you, if fed consistently and adequately.

So, What Should Hunger Feel Like?

Hunger feels different for everybody. Some people feel stomach “pangs” or a gnawing feeling. Sometimes the stomach will make growling noises. You may feel lightheaded or have difficulty concentrating, or if eating is held off for too long, faintness can occur. Hunger intensity likely will vary from day to day, since our bodies don’t reset every 24 hours. TONS of variables affect hunger intensities, like how active you were, how much food you ate earlier in the week, how much sleep you got the night before and how stressed/busy you are. For women, our hunger even varies according to our menstrual cycles! Bottom line, as the authors of “Intuitive Eating” say, “the body plays catch up on its own terms” and self-regulates pretty well.

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Normal Eating is Not Just a Hunger/Fullness Diet

Honoring your hunger does not just mean “eat only when hungry.” This mindset can lead people into a diet mentality from feelings of failure or guilt when they consume food outside of any other reason than hunger. Here are some reasons why you might eat outside of pure hunger:

Taste Hunger: A certain food sounds extra good, or you are at an event where eating will take place, but you are not necessarily hungry. You eat a few appetizers because they sound/look good and you want to try them. Or, perhaps you see your most favorite cookie in the entire world (salted brown butter chocolate chip from Coat Check Coffee, please!), and you buy one and eat it right away with your coffee, even though you had lunch an hour ago.

Practical Hunger – Planning Ahead: Of course it is important to eat according to your biological hunger, but our lives just don’t run according to when our hunger strikes. A lot of us have jobs or obligations that don’t allow us to run to the kitchen as soon as we need some food. This is when eating outside of the hunger zone is necessary! If you won’t have another chance to eat outside of your lunch break or in between meetings, then eating when not necessarily “hungry enough” is an act of self-care. This could mean eating a full meal, if you won’t have access to food for a good 4-5 hours. It could also mean eating a light meal or snack if you know you will be able to eat a meal in an hour or so. 

Emotional Hunger: Quenching uncomfortable feelings through food is normal. Let me repeat: quenching uncomfortable feelings through food is normal. It is simply a way to cope. Unfortunately, emotional eating gets a very bad rap in our society, and those who partake can feel the stigma, which only perpetuates the emotional eating (another topic for another post). Emotional eating is a normal coping mechanism, but shouldn’t be your ONLY coping mechanism. That’s where things can get tricky. I always say, you need a full tool belt of coping mechanisms. Just one tool will not always be able to get the job done (not even those Swiss Army Knife-type mechanisms!) Also, a lot of times, what people believe to be “emotional eating” is actually primal hunger eating that felt out of control because they were restricting themselves so much. Remember, if we restrict our body will respond in a famished way, often to leading to feelings of a binge or overeating. 

 

 

 

 

IE Principle 1: Reject the Diet Mentality [How I Did It & How You Can Too!]

IE principle one

The first principle of intuitive eating is to reject the diet mentality. Before you can fully tune into your body’s internal cues regarding what, when, and how to eat, you must stop following all of the instruction and rules from diet culture. This first step is the most difficult, but each time you turn away from the diet talk and plans that are (unfortunately) abundant in our culture, you grow stronger and are one step closer to becoming an intuitive eater. Today I wanted to share my experience in rejecting the diet mentality and give you some tips so that you don’t feel like you have to be a slave to diet culture any longer.

Before I found and embraced intuitive eating, I was a sponge to diet trends and talk. Instagram and social media were huge sources of comparison for me. I would follow someone who had a “fit” body and posted/talked about what they ate, and I would immediately think that I needed to eat like they ate to look like them. When my body didn’t resemble their body, or I got tired of the diet, I would jump to follow the next person’s diet I overly idolized. This went on for a couple of years, and no matter how many different ways of eating I copied from others, my body never changed like I wanted it to.

I began to realize that eating wasn’t a one-size-fits-all thing, and that my body would never look exactly like someone else’s body. If I wanted to be okay with who I was in my own body, as my own person, I had to stop the comparison and reject any dieting messages that tried to sneak their way in. It took work and constant action, but today I am a much stronger person, and don’t get swept away by dieting.

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Here are some actionable steps that I used to break free. Maybe these will be of help to you or someone you know who struggles with the diet mentality.

  1. Stop following social media accounts that trigger your “diet brain.” Whatever we expose ourselves to on a daily basis becomes all we see/the “truth”/what we expect should be. In order to change your mentality, you must change what you allow into your brain. For me, this meant unfollowing all IG fitness, nutrition, and health accounts that talked about dieting, tracking macros, or gave me the urge to restrict my food in some manner (whether that be calories, macros, types of food, etc.). I also unfollowed accounts with people who posted a lot of photos of their bodies, especially if I found myself overly idolizing their body and feeling less than when I looked at their posts.
  2. Walk away from diet talk. Let’s face it, diet talk is all around us. Every day I hear someone talking about losing weight, starting a diet, or over-explaining their food choices. You don’t have to physically walk away from conversations that include diet talk, but you do have the right to choose not to engage. This could mean listening kindly, and changing the subject or respectively telling the person that you are trying to disengage from talking about dieting for your mental health, so you wish not to discuss their diet. It might throw someone off guard, but YOUR mental and emotional health is more important. And, if you are being respectful and kind, you’ve done your part. Their reaction/feeling toward your remark is not in your control, nor is it your business. Sometimes, it does mean walking away from a very triggering conversation. Only you know what is best for you. As you get stronger in rejecting the diet mentality, diet talk gets easier to ignore. Today, I am really good at what I call, “silently calling bullshit” on diet talk. If I hear something that I don’t agree with or that is steeped in restriction/dieting, I have the thought of “whatever”/an eye roll/a scoff in my brain. This is a way that I can respectfully acknowledge where someone else is in their journey, but not let it interfere with my journey. I am not “whatever-ing”, eye rolling, or scoffing at the person in my head, but instead, at diet culture. We aren’t to blame for falling prey to something that is becoming so normalized in our society.
  3. Surround yourself with people and resources that build you up. Similar to unfollowing social media accounts that make you feel less than, start following ones that promote intuitive eating and diverse bodies. Start reading books like Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Resch and Elyse Tribole and Body Respect by Linda Bacon. Listen to podcasts like Food Psych, Nutrition Matters, and RD Real Talk. Read blogs from fellow IE bloggers like ImmaEatThat, The Real Life RD, Alissa Rumsey Nutrition, and Simi Botic. If you know someone who doesn’t diet or overthink their food choices, observe their eating behaviors and use them as a role model. It can be helpful and easier to embrace intuitive eating when you know you are not alone. Lastly, a therapist who teaches intuitive eating might be helpful for you. Therapy made a big difference for me because my therapist was quick to call me out when I started back down the diet rabbit hole. She was a great source of accountability, a role model and unbiased support as I worked to let go of the diet mentality.
  4. Speak your truth. Letting your loved ones or friends know that you are working to reject the diet mentality can be super helpful. If people know what you are working to do, you might be surprised by how supportive they can be. You may even inspire someone else to work on rejecting the diet mentality. Also, the more you speak out about rejecting dieting, the more you are standing in your truth. I found that my mental fortitude became stronger the more I spoke out about how dieting was bad for me. I also found it helpful to speak my truth to myself, especially when those diet demons would rear their ugly heads. If I felt tempted to get back on the diet bandwagon, I reminded myself (sometimes aloud) that dieting never gave me anything more than insecurity and self-loathing. I reminded myself that ditching dieting was the only way I was going to get closer to loving myself and living a truly fulfilling life.

What is Intuitive Eating?

In my last post, I spoke about breaking up with dieting and why dieting doesn’t work. So, what do you do after you stop dieting? How are you supposed to eat after you’ve been following a set of rules for so long? It sounds kind of scary, doesn’t it? I think a lot of people hang onto dieting habits because it is all they know and that makes them feel safe, comfortable. But, embracing the unknown and your intuition is how you can get further away from feelings of restriction, guilt, shame and unworthiness and get closer to what you truly need and want.

This is where Intuitive Eating comes in. It’s the antithesis to dieting. Instead of following a set of rules or guidelines, you are honoring your body’s physical and emotional needs to feed yourself. After getting back in tune with your body’s food needs, it’s amazing what other changes can happen in your life – you start becoming more aware of other needs (work, relationships, friendships, your relationship with your self, etc.).

“Riiiiight,” you’re probably saying. I know, I know. It sounds easier said than done, almost impossible. I get that. I used to think that too. We’ve been brain-washed by our society’s diet culture. (i.e.: when one research article comes out about carbohydrate intake correlating to insulin resistance, the media feeds off of it and soon everyone and their mother are afraid to eat carrots.) There’s so much nutritional garbage out there that we’ve lost the natural ability to tune into our bodies.

BUT, I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way forever. It IS possible to tune back into your body’s natural hunger cues. It takes some work and it won’t happen overnight. But, it is OH SO WORTH IT.

There is actually a really well researched and practiced set of principles that can help you become an intuitive eater. These 10 principles of Intuitive Eating were developed by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, both registered dietitians who work with clients that have troubled relationships with food and disordered eating behaviors. I read their book when I was recovering from my eating disorder, and I refer this book to anyone who struggles with obsessive thoughts surrounding food or their body. I think it is a great resource if you’re ready to get off the dieting train, but don’t know where to start.

(I also recommend seeing a trained and licensed therapist or an RD who specializes in intuitive eating/disordered eating  because doing the work entirely on your own can be very daunting, especially if you are in the throes of a serious and dangerous eating disorder.)

Image result for intuitive eating a revolutionary program that works

Today, I wanted to introduce the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating to you because I plan on breaking each one of these principles down into separate blog posts so that you can see how to apply them in your life. Evelyn and Elyse recommend following the principles in order, starting with rejecting the diet mentality, because it is hard to truly embrace the intuitive eating process if you are still hanging onto the false promises of dieting. Gentle nutrition and exercise are last, because without learning the concept of intuitive eating and putting the first 8 principles into practice, it can be hard to become mindful of nutrition and your movement without obsessing or becoming militant about them.

1. Reject the Diet Mentality

Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.

2. Honor Your Hunger

Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for re-building trust with yourself and food.

3. Make Peace with Food

Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.

4. Challenge the Food Police

Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created . The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.

5. Respect Your Fullness

Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence–the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough”.

7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food

Find ways to comfort , nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.

8. Respect Your Body

Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size. But mostly, respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.

9. Exercise–Feel the Difference

Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.

10. Honor Your Health–Gentle Nutrition

Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.

 (Source: Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2012). Intuitive eating. New York: St. Martins Griffin.)

I will be back soon to elaborate on the first principle of Intuitive Eating, Rejecting the Diet Mentality, and show you how I let go after years of being a former diet junkie.

Until next time,

Kate

Why I Broke Up with Dieting (& Why You Should Too)

For years, I was fixated on altering my body by dieting. No matter how many pounds or inches I lost with each successive diet, I never reached that ever-elusive state of happiness and satisfaction that diets promised. Not to mention, these diets never lasted because they weren’t sustainable. I wasn’t giving my body what it wanted and needed. Instead, I was treating it like something separate from my soul. I thought I could feed it X and it would do/I would look like Y.

Today, I look back and can’t recall the last time I logged into a MyFitnessPal app or scribbled down the calorie counts of my meal. Ditching the endless diets and meal plans that I followed for almost eight years has been such a freeing experience. Here’s why I broke up with dieting and why you should too…

Diets don’t work. No matter how “flexible” the plan is, it is ultimately creating restriction, whether that be from calories, certain macronutrients or foods. And restriction leads to feelings of deprivation and obsessive thoughts surrounding food, which leads to you going off the diet, leaving you feeling guilty or feeling like a “failure.” When in reality, the diet actually failed you. It failed you and took your self-worth right along with it.

Dieting doesn’t address the heartstuff. We tend to diet or try to “fix” our outer appearance because we haven’t done the deep, internal work – the messy, not so easy stuff like discovering your inner-self and valuing your self-worth. This might sound like hippie BS, but the truth is that so many people avoid their struggles and try to numb it out with diets and crazy exercise routines.

Dieting doesn’t strengthen our willpower or make us a better person. We tend to moralize food into “good” or “bad” categories or say we were “good” or “bad” for adhering or not adhering to the diet. When we do this, we are moralizing food and the eating experience, which just makes it all way more complicated than it should be, and frankly doesn’t make sense at all. Additionally, we say that dieting gives us willpower. When in reality, dieting takes away our power because we are allowing food rules to dictate what, when, and how we eat.

A bougie poptart I ate after eating a full lunch – something I would have NEVER done in my dieting days.

There is no place for dieting in a healthy relationship with yourself. If you want to feel better, try taking inventory of what is going on inside yourself. Forget your belly rolls, the cellulite on your legs, or the tone in your muscles. How do you feel about your head and your heart? What’s holding you back from living your most fulfilling and joyous life? I can tell you that the answer won’t be found in the mirror. The work is not easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight. But, I can say, with experience, that letting go of the reigns that keep you attached to restriction will allow to you finally start embracing you were truly meant to be.

If you need help ditching the diet mentality, or want to and don’t know where to start, email me at kate.emmenegger@gmail and stay tuned for my next post on what to do after breaking up with your diet.

What the CrossFit Open Taught Me About Recovery

I used to be an obsessive exerciser. I wanted the toughest, most calorie-bang-for-your-buck workouts that would leave me sore for days. I felt that if I wasn’t sore or sweating, I wasn’t getting a workout that was “good enough.” I also felt the incessant need to exercise intensely at least six times per week. With my education in physiology and exercise, I knew that rest days were important and vital for recovery, but I couldn’t bear slowing down. I only took rest days when I “had” to – basically when my body was so exhausted that all I wanted to do was sleep or I was injured due to overuse and zero recovery. And those “rest” days were extremely hard for me to endure because I felt so much guilt for not exercising. I had a misconstrued notion that my worth was tied to how many workouts I did in a given week, and if I didn’t do what I expected of myself, I feared losing strength, gaining weight, or letting go of exercise entirely. When, ironically, pushing myself to extremes and not giving my body a break was more likely to dissuade me from exercising. This perpetual cycle continued from late high school through college.

Back in 2012, while at Purdue, I found CrossFit. I was instantly hooked. The workouts were intense and challenged my body in ways I had never experienced. I liked the shorter duration of the workouts and thought that was better for my body than pushing hard for an hour or more, like I had done in the past. However, CrossFit ended up becoming much like any other workout I did before, in that I took it to extremes. I wanted to Rx the workouts, so whenever I physically could, I did. I also went multiple times a week, denying my body of rest days. I told myself (and others) that I went so often to get the most out of my unlimited membership, but in reality, I was afraid of taking a day off. Even though the workouts were shorter in duration, they were typically higher intensity. So, that coupled with the fact that I didn’t listen to my body to slow down or give it a break, didn’t improve my unhealthy relationship with exercise.

I realize that CrossFit gets a bad rap (from both the fitness and nutrition fields). Yes, I think CrossFit can be dangerous, especially if you are not experienced in certain movements or you don’t have a good coach or program that breaks down the movements or provides regressions/substitutions. But, I also think any form of exercise can be dangerous, if taken to extremes or not executed properly. Yes, CrossFit is a high intensity form of exercise, and probably not a good fit for everyone. Ultimately, a person has to find an exercise modality that is right for their body, mental health, and fitness level. At that point in my life and with the headspace I was in, I shouldn’t have been participating in CrossFit.

Fast-forward to six years later, and I decided to participate in the CrossFit 2018 Open. This time, however, I knew I was in a safe place mentally. I went to therapy and did a lot of work in those six years to recover from an eating disorder and exercise addiction. I no longer beat myself up for exercising less than x amount of times per week and I was listening to my body better than ever before. I was taking more rest days than ever before and my fitness routine was not strict. I I was also craving a fun challenge and my own workouts were getting stale, so I decided to participate in the Open, but on my own terms:

I didn’t register for the Open. I knew myself well enough that signing up for the Open and putting my name on a scoreboard was only going to bring back unhealthy obsession. I learned in my recovery that competition only breeds extremes, obsession, disappointment and feelings of not-enoughness for me.

I did the workouts on my own. Completing the open workouts was sort of a test of my recovery, and I knew that if I did them with other people, I might be tempted to push too hard. At times I did them in a gym with other people working out around me, and I am happy to report that I didn’t have an urge to push to extremes. In fact, I was fine with moving purposefully and slowly through the workouts. I actually felt GOOD after a workout, and it didn’t make me exhausted the rest of the day like it had in the past.

I made substitutions or altered workouts to fit my needs and abilities. Of the five workouts, I modified five. Yep, I did them all modified and it didn’t hurt my ego one bit. This was HUGE. Old me would not have been okay with modifying a workout.

I stopped when the clock ran out. Most the workouts had a time cap. In the past, if I was doing a workout on my own and I didn’t complete the round and the time ran out, I would keep going to finish that round. This time, when the clock timed out, I stopped, even if I only had a few reps left.

The way I approached the Open this year made me realize just how far I have come in recovery. I used to think I would never be able to do CrossFit again because of the havoc I wrecked on my body doing it in years past. However, letting go of an expectation and listening to my body has allowed me to continue to participate in an activity that I think can be a wonderful source of community, fitness and fun. It’s all about knowing your own limits. I don’t think it’s fair to say that a certain type of movement is wrong or bad. I think it is the participant’s role to decide what they want and need to get out of the workout. However, this takes knowing yourself well – and being HONEST with yourself.

For years, I covered up my addiction with the facade that exercising so much and at such a high intensity was a part of my job and that I loved it that much. However, I wasn’t being honest because deep down I was hurting and struggling with my self-worth. What I had to believe was that no matter what type of movement I did, I was a worthy human being. That the exercise I did or the body that I had did not define who I was as a person. To finally hold the freedom to move my body in a manner that serves me well, without sticking to a strict self-imposed expectation or routine, feels so damn good.