I’m so excited about this new program!
Complete the form below to get updates and be among the first to know when it’s open for founding members (those are members that get in at the very best price and gets tons of founding member goodies, too!).
I’m so excited about this new program!
Complete the form below to get updates and be among the first to know when it’s open for founding members (those are members that get in at the very best price and gets tons of founding member goodies, too!).
When you think about how to lose weight, what comes to mind?
Granted, if you’ve followed my rantings for a while, you know it’s very complicated and not in our complete control. But I digress…
Most people believe two things:
1. You have to eat fewer calories than you burn. (not completely true)
2. You must exercise to burn additional calories. (Are you kidding? Do you know how long it takes to burn off a piece of chocolate cake?)
It’s the old “calories in-calories out” theory which is old, outdated and just not true.
You may also be aware that other factors affect our weight and/or ability to lose weight, like:
Well, take a look at the image below. You can click on it to see the full-size version with the fancy viewing tool.
This is called the “Obesity System Influence Diagram.”
I just learned about it in a video by my favorite “weight neutral” psychologist, Glenn Mackintosh. It’s good science (but I hate that they use the word “obesity” – it has too much judgment tied up in it).
So as you can see, there are so many factors that go into your weight and whether you can do anything about it.
You can click on the categories on the top left of the original image and those factors will light up. You can see how each category is tied to others and the enormous complexity of weight gain, maintenance, and loss.
The categories include:
• Individual Psychology
• Social Psychology
• Individual Activity
• Activity Environment
• Food Consumption
• Food Production
• Individual Physiology
• Physiology (in general)
You can see by all the white lines that intersect and connect to various factors that it’s impossible to control weight simply by working on diet and exercise. And, it illustrates the point that trying to change one thing won’t necessarily result in a change in weight. Too many other factors are involved.
So what’s the solution?
For one, stop focusing on weight loss. It’s NOT the biggest factor in health, happiness or a good life – it’s NOT, I promise!
And, instead of trying to lose weight, why not concentrate on things you CAN control?
As I’ve been saying for a while, your body is in charge of your weight. If you let it do its job by doing YOUR job, it will settle into your natural weight.
But that isn’t even the biggest benefit. The peace of mind and ability to live life to its fullest right here and now is what really matters.
It’s what we all want, right?
Isn’t that what you REALLY want? It’s not about the size of your body, it’s what you think reducing your size will do.
You can have that NOW. This is what my new program is ALL ABOUT.
Join us to learn what your job is and how to make it easy for your body to take care of itself and your health!
One thing I love about the internet is how it has become a showcase for creative people to share their work with the world. There are many artists we’d never discover if the internet didn’t exist.
Case in point is Helga Stentzel. The other day I found myself on the website called Bored Panda, and her cute food creations caught my attention. She is so creative! She takes food and turns it into a work of art. I would love to see the possibilities for transforming an everyday object into something amazing, it’s an exciting talent!
Here’s one of my favorites from those shown on Bored Panda:
I don’t think I could eat this one after she turned it into a bird. It’s too pretty!
Now I love snowmen – the majority of my Christmas decorations are snowmen. But this pasta snowman (?) is extremely cute. I wonder if I could get her to decorate my house for Christmas?
Who wouldn’t love to eat a nice green clump of… gummy bears? This is a sure-fire way of getting kids more interested in grapes, too!
I’m not much of a tea drinker, but this guy is pretty cute…
This is so adorable, I don’t know if I’ll ever see walnuts the same way again.
I love how well-matched the lego is with the corn! I’m glad corn kernels don’t usually have faces… I’d have to stop eating corn!
If you’re like me and can’t get enough of Helga’s work, you can see the article on Bored Panda here: https://www.boredpanda.com/creating-visuals-food-stories-helga-stentzel/
Take a look at her Instagram account, too. She’s got tons of pictures and several fun videos. You could be there all day, so make sure you have the time before clicking over there!
If you’re reading this, you’re likely somewhere along the journey to making peace with food, your body, or both. OK, it’s not really an amazing guess, since that’s the topic of this blog! I’m willing to bet you are or have been a perfectionist at some point in your life as well. You and your body could never be good enough.
I know and understand (and experienced) several things you’ve likely gone through, and may still be working through now. Many clients have told me I can read their minds. But sadly, I don’t have any special powers. I’ve been through the yo-yo dieting that never resulted in long-term weight loss. Not to mention the additional weight I would gain along with what I had lost.
Beating myself up. Punishing overeating with overexercising. Binging as a reward. Binging as an escape. Binging as a way to cope. Binging because I hated myself for binging. (I’ve never claimed any of this behavior is logical!)
Having been there for 25 years and recovered, I know without a doubt that you can recover, too.
But there’s something important to understand about making peace with food and your body…
Food is a symptom that when properly recognized, can alert us that something is going on – emotionally, mentally, physically, even spiritually.
But we’ve been brainwashed to believe overeating is a moral failing… we just need more willpower. If we were stronger, tougher, more virtuous, perfect… we’d never overeat. And, all the weight issues would miraculously disappear. (Thanks for that, Diet Industry!)
Perfection… I see it every day with my clients. I still see it in myself. It doesn’t show up with food anymore, or my body (OK, 99% of the time for my body), but it shows up in many other areas of my life. This is something you’re better off knowing now than when you’ve recovered from dieting and overeating…
When you’re able to eat that full-fat, full-sugar ice cream – for dinner – without guilt or worry about “making up for it,” diet mentality may surprise you by showing up in another area of your life.
Have you heard the saying, “How you do one thing is how you do everything”?
Our relationship with food often mirrors other parts of our lives. For example, if you hoard certain foods, worried you’ll “never eat them again,” you may have problems letting go of your “stuff.” This now becomes a clutter problem.
This is easy to see when you compare your behavior with food or your body to other parts of your life. And perfectionism is a perfect example (sorry, I couldn’t resist!)
In my own life, perfectionism shows up frequently with my work. I’ll spend too many hours trying to get something “just right.” I’ve kept myself from releasing several helpful products and courses because letting them be good enough was unthinkable.
Recently I read an article by clinical psychologist Karen Nimmo. She has her own publication on the website Medium, called, “On the Couch.” Everything I’ve read is insightful, and I love her sense of humor. This article is about moving beyond perfectionism and it’s absolutely brilliant.
It’s called, “The Pocket Guide to a ‘Good Enough’ Life,” and it was written as a response to a client who asked for ‘words of wisdom’ during her final session of therapy. Nimmo says it’s her, “version of all that really matters,” but to me, it’s a roadmap to letting go of perfectionism once and for all.
She shares 10 pieces of advice, all excellent and worth reading. I’ll highlight a few that stood out. These points are essential for making peace with food and your body. Here they are, along with some brief thoughts about using them in your journey.
If you’ve dieted for any length of time, you probably can list all diets you’ve done. For each one, you also experienced what you called, “failure.” But you kept going back, hoping the next one will be the magic bullet.
(By the way, you did not fail the diet. The diet failed you, and many are designed with that intention.)
By the time someone wants to talk with me about the non-diet/intuitive eating approach, they are sick and tired of failed diets.
I often hear, “I don’t know that this is going to work for me, nothing else has that I’ve tried.”
I understand this concern, but this thinking is just living in the past and allowing the past to dictate the future. It’s smart to look at the past to determine what you can learn from it. But dwelling on it and letting it influence your decisions today keep you stuck and unhappy. Note in the quote below she doesn’t say to “wait” for the future… she says to plan for it, but live in the moment.
Life is right here, right now, so commit to being in the present while planning for the future.
~ Karen Nimmo
When you focus on losing weight, you can’t fully live right now. You put real living on hold, waiting for the future (when your weight, and therefore your life will be “perfect”). But all you’re really doing is missing the present. It’s so sad to see someone putting off fun, meaningful or important things until they lose weight. That’s a guaranteed recipe for never losing it. I know, because I’ve done this myself.
I love this! She writes, “Your body is just a body. So don’t get all obsessed with it…”
The idea that our bodies are temples just adds to the obsession we have with our external appearance. Get a group of women together, and what do they talk about? Their weight, how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ they’ve been, or all the calories they managed to avoid (as if this is deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize or something).
The last time I was caught in one of these discussions, it was about some new diet. I wanted to scream, “Shut up, no one cares!” But under the circumstances, it wouldn’t have been the best option. I did remove myself from the group and went to see what the men were talking about. Anything is better than diet and body talk.
Feed it well, move it and treat it with respect and it’ll pay you back with strength and energy (and by fitting into your favorite clothes).
This is the heart of the Health at Every Size approach and eating intuitively. Feed your body food that makes it feel good. If you do, YOU will feel good. Feeling good makes it very easy to continue! You don’t have to be on a “maintenance” phase or eat a certain way one week and change it up the next. Learn what works for your body. Know what food you truly love to eat. Combine the best of these two groups and you’ll know what to eat that’s 100% right for you!
The idea of respecting your body, to me, is easier to achieve than, “I love my body!” Many do come to love their body. For the rest of us, respect feels much more attainable.
Respecting your body means you feed it when it’s hungry (most of the time – no perfection!). You don’t overfeed your body (most of the time). The clothes you wear fit you well right now (not too baggy, and not super tight). And you don’t think or say mean, horrible things to or about your body. Respect is awesome!
Abuse it at your peril — it may just seek revenge.
Need I say more? We all know what dieting has done to our bodies and how our bodies have responded. Respecting your body is much easier than dieting and trying to beat your body into submission!
Obviously, this doesn’t mean don’t date anyone else, but she makes a great point. It’s important that you become comfortable with being with yourself. Someone shared with me an excellent point about this concept. To paraphrase, if you don’t want to be alone with yourself, why would anyone else want to be with you? I can’t really add much more to that!
Nurture your mind, body and spirit — and take yourself out for some fun, sometimes. Yours is the only relationship you can’t leave.
Another good point, right? Once you realize you are all you’ve got for life, it’s time to decide. Are you worth taking care of? Allowing yourself to have fun? Worth the challenging but life-changing work to recover from chronic dieting and/or disordered eating? I know you are. I hope you’ll take this to heart, take a stand for yourself, and let go of perfectionism so your life can be good enough!
To read all of Karen Nimmo’s articles and additional writing by Karen, start here:
A few weeks ago, I received a message from a colleague. She told me another professional in our field was advocating adding calorie counting to the intuitive eating process. Why? Apparently, according to this person, because intuitive eating “doesn’t work for weight loss.” This is another example of a disturbing trend of completely missing the point of intuitive eating.
There are (at least!) two huge problems with combining calorie counting with intuitive eating. First, counting calories is a waste of time and can actually cause you to gain weight. I will share more about this in an upcoming post.
Second, anyone that actually knows what they’re talking about will tell you that weight loss is NOT a goal of intuitive eating. Never has been, never will be.
This is really annoying. Almost daily I see a post, video or podcast talking about how intuitive eating “doesn’t work” for whatever reason. I’ve seen even worse said about it by people who think fat shaming and deprivation are perfectly acceptable.
The internet is pretty awesome, but the trolls are working overtime to make it all about them and their insecurities… but I digress.
A couple weeks ago I saw an article on what I think is a lifestyle site for millennials. (I’m guessing, I didn’t take the time to find out exactly what it was.) What caught my attention was an article by a woman who tried the “intuitive eating diet” for a week.
She actually called it The Intuitive Eating Diet.
I left a lengthy comment explaining that intuitive eating was not a diet, and to call it a diet went against everything it stood for. I doubt anyone read it. It was likely lost among the comments about the images of the food the writer ate during her week.
Talk about missing the point of intuitive eating!
I try to see this trend as a good sign. The word is spreading about intuitive eating, even though many don’t quite get it. I am happy about this.
But the more the word spreads, it becomes a horrible game of “telephone.” As more people talk about it, the purpose and intention behind it become twisted and distorted by those that are simply missing the point of intuitive eating.
One of the worst examples of missing the point of intuitive eating comes from a study that was written about in the New York Times in November 2015. This study used a painfully small sample size of 16 “overweight” men and women recruited from a community college.
Half the volunteers were put on a diet of 1200 to 1800 calories a day, according to the NY Times. They also learned how to eat “healthy” given the calorie restriction.
The other half were instructed to follow the 10 principles outlined in the book Intuitive Eating. All subjects were measured, weighed, etc. at 3 weeks and at the end of the 6-week study.
In the end the diet group lost an average of 5.3 pounds. The intuitive eating group lost very little, and some gained up to 2 pounds.
According to this article, the lead researcher, Judith C. Anglin, said about the intuitive eating group, “…their discipline, luck or bodily self-awareness apparently deserted them, and most began regaining weight.”
Really? I have a feeling Judith C. Anglin didn’t read her copy of Intuitive Eating.
Discipline? That’s for dieting, NOT eating intuitively.
Luck? What does luck have to do with anything?
Bodily self-awareness? In 6 weeks, with minimal instruction – they wouldn’t have developed it, let alone be “deserted” by it! (I sense a snarky tone in our friend Judith’s comments as well, how about you?)
Can you see the serious flaws in this study? They practically scream out to me, and to the large number of other professionals that spoke out against this article and the study it described.
The New York Times also posted this article on their blog, giving many of the frustrated professionals, advocates and those whose lives have been changed by intuitive eating a chance to have their say.
There are over 90 comments! An overwhelming majority point out that the researcher and writer are missing the point of intuitive eating.
While this article came out in late 2015, a year and a half later the misconceptions and inaccurate claims continue. It’s frustrating to hear a professional tell her followers that intuitive eating doesn’t work for weight loss and counting calories is the way to go. This is coming from someone that claims she doesn’t believe in diets!
So I’m going to do what I can to set the record straight – about this study and in general, here in my little corner of the internet. I’ll do my best to keep it to 3 short points…
#1: I can’t say it enough: Weight loss is NOT the goal of Intuitive Eating! I guarantee if you approach intuitive eating with the intention to lose weight, you never, ever will. Many people do lose weight as they make peace with food and learn to eat intuitively…
But not if they are focused on weight loss.
No one that truly understands intuitive eating will ever claim it’s a weight-loss method or program! Those that do are completely missing the point of intuitive eating.
#2: No one becomes an intuitive eater in 6 weeks! The way this study was designed set the intuitive eating group up for failure before it even began (kind of like diets do!).
Intuitive eating is a journey. Part of this journey includes a healing process – your body and mind must both heal from the damage dieting has caused. For many, disordered eating patterns have developed over years, and it will take longer than 6 weeks to identify and overcome these patterns and their cause.
Disordered eating, emotional eating and binge eating behaviors didn’t develop overnight. Therefore, they won’t go away overnight either.
I wonder how much instruction the intuitive eating group received about the 10 principles in the book, Intuitive Eating. It’s likely it was a simple overview of these principles, which isn’t very helpful, especially without assistance in learning how to apply them to your own unique situation. Six weeks isn’t anywhere near enough time to learn all 10 – they build upon each other and often you need to have a good understanding of one to move to the next.
It’s also extremely difficult to see past your own diet mentality thinking and behaviors. Self-sabotage will happen in the process of making peace with food. But it’s very hard to recognize it when you’re the one engaging in it. This is a journey that requires patience, time and support.
#3: The ill-informed comments of the researcher of this study, “…their discipline, luck or bodily self-awareness apparently deserted them, and most began regaining weight,” seems to imply that the subjects using intuitive eating had failed, or at the very least that intuitive eating failed.
If the intention behind intuitive eating were to lose weight in 6 weeks, then yes, it would be considered a failure. But again, weight loss is not the intention of intuitive eating.
In fact, a small amount of weight gain is actually normal in the very early stages of the intuitive eating process. When you’re making peace with food, you will inevitably be adding back in several foods that you’ve restricted for years.
The “diet deprivation backlash” the Intuitive Eating authors talk about can show up, causing some overeating when introducing a formerly banished or restricted food. But the overeating doesn’t last very long.
“If I let myself eat (your favorite food here), I’ll never stop eating it,” is a common objection to making all foods legal.
I certainly had these same thoughts. I also didn’t want to gain weight to make peace with food. But my mentor in this process asked a very important question, “Are you willing to gain a few pounds now, to eventually reach your natural weight and stay there without any effort?”
I was willing, but not thrilled with the idea of gaining more weight. However, after gaining a few pounds, my weight stabilized and stayed there for a while I was working through the process. Apparently, I wasn’t at my natural weight, because I did eventually lose weight. In time I became more comfortable in my body and I maintained my weight without any focused effort. This is exactly what my mentor had told me would happen.
My experience is similar to what I see with my clients. Some gain weight in the beginning, but usually no more than 5 to 10 pounds. The others stay at their current weight while their bodies are healing from the damage done by yo-yo dieting.
This healing begins when you begin to honor your body by feeding it when you are hungry. It will begin to make the changes needed to return to optimal functioning, including releasing more fat for fuel, rather than storing it, and returning to a healthier, properly functioning metabolism.
There are even more incorrect statements being spread by those who are obviously missing the point of intuitive eating – statements like, “it doesn’t work,” or, “you can’t lose weight while eating intuitively,” and my favorite, “too many people are turning intuitive eating into a diet…”
(If you do see comments saying intuitive eating doesn’t work because people turn it into a diet, understand this is flawed thinking. It does happen, but it doesn’t mean intuitive eating doesn’t work. Check out my thoughts on the “intuitive eating diet” for the truth.)
I want to be very clear: intuitive eating, mindful eating, making peace with food, whatever you call this process, it is NOT a weight loss program. Weight loss is not and never has been the intended outcome. Only those that are missing the point of intuitive eating make these claims.
Yes, you can lose weight during or after you’ve made peace with food and made intuitive eating part of your life. But weight loss is a natural process that your body takes care of – we have no control over it, and this is a good thing!
Anytime you focus on losing weight, you’re creating a stressful situation for both your body and your mind. This stress puts you into fight or flight, causing many physiological responses that keep your body from releasing stored fat. These responses include stimulating carbohydrate cravings and an inability to fully absorb the nutrients from the food you are eating.
From my own journey in making peace with food and my 13+ years of working with clients on chronic dieting, emotional overeating and binging, I know that weight loss as a goal is always going to backfire. In fact, we’ve all heard that 95% or more of diets don’t work, right? Well, every single one is focused on losing weight.
Why will a focus on weight always backfire?
Because weight, whether lost or gained, is merely a symptom of something else going on in your life.
This symptom of weight gain comes about usually by overeating or yo-yo dieting (also known as weight cycling). What causes the behavior that leads to the symptom of weight gain?
It could be something very emotional, like the loss of a loved one or going through a divorce. It might be an environmental trigger. For example, you might walk by a bakery every day and develop a habit of grabbing a donut.
Whatever is causing the symptom, finding the cause and dealing with it is the way to eliminate the behavior and the symptom. When you focus on just losing weight, all you do is eliminate the symptom. But the cause will continue to trigger the behavior and the weight will simply show up again.
Intuitive eating, when used as intended, will not only address the behavior, but also the cause(s). The weight will resolve itself – that is your body’s job.
Anyone offering intuitive eating/mindful eating as a weight loss strategy or program is doing you a disservice.
Resist the temptation to take the bait. Chances are very good you’ll end up disappointed, and possibly weighing more than when you started. Understand that using intuitive eating to lose weight will give you the same results as any other diet. Instead, try something completely different from dieting. Focus on and find the cause for the behavior leading to your weight gain and/or disordered eating. Once you do, you can address this cause, putting an end to the actual reasons why you’ve gained weight.
And remember, you MAY lose weight while learning to make peace with food and eat intuitively. Many people lose weight after they have made peace as well. But there’s a big difference between this type of weight loss and an “intuitive eating weight loss program.”
If you aren’t at your natural weight (which isn’t the same thing as ideal weight or goal weight), when your body is ready, the weight will be released. The best part of this process? You’ll already be eating intuitively and have peace with food when the weight is released!
This means you’ll be able to maintain your natural weight without dieting, restricting, counting calories or putting forth any focused effort! Doesn’t that sound better than spending every day for the rest of your life counting calories and having to obsess over food? It’s completely possible – I know you can have peace with food, too!
Instead of filling up on low-calorie, cardboard-like food to help you “avoid temptation,” make your favorite foods a priority. Eat them first – even if they are cake and cookies! When you give yourself permission to eat any foods that you enjoy, it’s much easier (and natural) to stop when you’ve had enough. If you avoid these foods, eventually deprivation will drive you to eat them – usually in an overeating or binge episode – so you don’t even allow yourself to enjoy them. Feelings of shame follow and you beat yourself up for “blowing it” once again. But this isn’t about blowing it or being weak, if you eat what you really want, you can enjoy it and move on, feeling satisfied. Go for your favorites first, and…
When you first allow yourself to eat your favorite foods, you may feel an urge to eat them quickly, to shove them in before anyone sees you or before you actually notice! This isn’t unusual, especially if you’ve been avoiding these foods like the plague. However, similar to avoiding your favorite foods, eating them quickly will also backfire. You can’t enjoy food you eat quickly and feel guilty about eating. If you truly love a food, eat it with love – be mindful and notice the taste, texture, subtle flavors and all the wonderful attributes you can’t discover when eating mindlessly.
You may begin to eat a favorite food and find that it doesn’t taste as good as you imagined, or remember. This can happen on occasion when you allow yourself to eat a food that you usually restrict when on a diet. This could also occur when you try a different brand than you’re used to, or even a different recipe. No matter the reason, if it isn’t as good as you imagined, throw it out. Starving children on the other side of the world will still be starving, whether you throw it out or eat the entire thing. But YOU will feel the difference, and you’ll likely feel deprived if you eat it, leaving less room for something else that might taste really good. Just get rid of it, let go of any guilt, and try another food that looks really yummy!
You probably know who the food pushers are among your family and friends. I used to give in and eat more, to avoid hurt feelings. But I didn’t feel good overeating, and I wouldn’t enjoy the rest of the gathering. It finally occurred to me that food pushers don’t care about MY feelings! If I said, “no, thank you” or “I’m full,” the pushing didn’t stop. I now set an intention to honor my body and my boundaries. If you’re full, or you just don’t want more, say ‘no’, with the expectation of having your boundaries respected. Say it politely, but confidently. If all else fails, ask if you can take some home for later or ask for the recipe. It’s your body and you decide what and how much you put in it.
I don’t understand why some people think it’s appropriate to say anything about someone’s body. This includes comments about how “thin” someone is or how much weight they’ve lost – this can be triggering for many people. Think about it – someone says, “You look great, you’ve lost weight!” How did he/she think you looked before you lost the weight? And why is it anyone’s business? There’s truly no good reason for any comments – even if it’s done out of a concern for “your health.” You cannot determine how healthy someone is by the size of her body – period. If you receive comments, feel free to speak up and say it’s not ok, or walk away if necessary. Our culture is so weight-focused, many people don’t know comments can be damaging – if it were pointed out, I’m sure many would stop.
Along the same lines as comments about your body and/or eating, you don’t have to put up with diet and body talk. This time of year many people plan their diet and exercise resolutions, while eating all they can before January 2nd. As you stop dieting and make peace with food, all this discussion will likely annoy you! Don’t we have anything better to discuss? The best solution is to attempt to change the topic, or simply find a more interesting discussion with other people. If it’s really prevalent in your family or circle of friends, you can suggest ahead of time that you have a day free of diet and body talk. You may be surprised how many will actually love this idea!
Self-care is important anytime of the year. But this is the time we push even more, stress over time and money, and expect way too much from ourselves. It’s easy to put self-care on the back burner to make that one last shopping trip or attend one more holiday event. Instead of cutting it out completely, try shorter bouts of self-care, but keep up the frequency. Focus on self-care you want to do, let go of the “shoulds.” If you’re an introvert, make sure you have extra decompression time for yourself. If you need help with all the things you have to do, ASK! Get your needs met – it’s the only way to meet the needs of everyone else and keep up with the demands of this time of year.
Research shows that humans are happiest when they stay in the present (instead of the past or the future), when they have experiences (instead of collecting material “stuff”) and when they actually demonstrate compassion towards others and engage in helping others, (instead of dwelling on self too much). The holiday season certainly offers many opportunities for reaching out and helping other people. Whether it’s volunteering at a food bank, or visiting a lonely neighbor, you don’t always have to invest hours and hours of your time to help others and benefit yourself as well.
Regardless of your personal beliefs, religion, or faith, connecting to something bigger than yourself provides a sense of peace and a feeling that there’s a bigger purpose to our lives. Simply taking a few minutes to meditate or just be present can be enough for some. For others, it means attending services or special events. Whatever spirituality means to you, having this deeper connection with something bigger than yourself can keep you grounded and provide that sense of inner peace so many of us are seeking all year long, and especially during the holidays. This is extremely important for anyone working on overcoming the use of unwanted coping mechanisms, like emotional overeating.
If you don’t have fun in your life, make some! Over the years of working with so many women who want to stop overeating and/or binging, I’ve discovered that a crucial missing ingredient in their lives is FUN! The only “fun” they have, according to them, is eating. Ironically, it really isn’t fun, because it’s causing a lot of emotional pain. So even the fun isn’t fun. If you can’t think of anything fun, think back to your childhood – what did you enjoy doing as a kid? Is there something you’d like to learn, take a class perhaps? (Please do not consider any kind of weight loss or nutrition classes!) During the holidays is a great time to revisit some of your favorite places or holiday traditions you had as a child.
I’ve been thinking about perfectionism a lot lately. It’s a trait that I’ve let run much of my life. Mainly because I wasn’t aware of what it was doing. Becoming aware of our thoughts, behavior, patterns, and more is an important first step in making peace with food and overcoming emotional overeating. It’s also the first step in overcoming many other obstacles in life, including being a perfectionist.
The reason I’ve been thinking about perfectionism is despite the work I’ve done to release my inner perfectionist, there’s another layer that has recently shown up. I need to uncover what it’s about in order to achieve a couple of goals that currently seem unattainable. But now it’s clear that wanting to achieve these goals “perfectly” is the block, I just need to figure out how to release it – and soon, hopefully!
Back when I was working through my issues with dieting and overeating, and learning intuitive eating, I discovered how much perfectionism kept me from finding peace with food and my body. Wanting to be perfect kept me dieting. Not being perfect led to frustration and overeating. Guilt and shame from overeating and not yet achieving perfection led back to another diet.
Perfectionism got in the way unexpectedly when I was working on awareness with my eating. I had those moments where I just wanted to numb-out with one or two of my favorite binge foods. My goal was to stay aware and make a decision when I would feel one of these urges to overeat. I was tired of sleeping off binge eating sessions, wasting hours at a time.
There were three choices. I could choose to eat (this must be an option, otherwise you’ll stay stuck in the diet-binge cycle). I could choose to identify the emotion (if I knew it was an emotion causing the urge). The third choice was to find something to divert my focus from the overwhelming urge to eat. I wanted to practice this diversion, or distraction, option because it was often easier to do and took less time than dealing with my emotions in that moment (and I could come back to my feelings when I had more time).
The concept of distraction was new to me. In my mind, I had two choices – the first to overeat. Taking the time to identify and process my emotions (a.k.a. feeling your feelings) was the other option I knew about. This one was scary since it was easy enough to overeat, but it felt difficult and time consuming to deal with emotions. However, if I chose to feel my feelings, according to Diet Mentality, I was GOOD and I was making a GOOD choice. The distraction option actually felt like I was “cheating”, because I was doing something other than being GOOD.
Looking back, it’s very clear this was simply another version of my old standby, perfectionism. It said I needed to make the perfect choice, which was the GOOD choice – to feel my feeling. The truth, however, was simply that I had three equally valid options: to eat, to distract or to feel my feelings. In reality, none of these choices made me a better or worse person. It makes sense now, but at the time I couldn’t understand why I kept overeating and never choosing to feel my emotions. Clearly I was stuck in perfectionism and deeply attached to the Diet Mentality. The guilt and shame and relentless noise in my head would never allow the easier, and valid option of distraction.
Perfectionism is actually a part of the Diet Mentality. In Intuitive Eating, we learn that the Diet Mentality is made up of three main components: failure, willpower, and all-or-nothing thinking (a.k.a. black and white thinking). The need to be perfect fits into all-or-nothing thinking. A food is either good or bad. You are either on a diet or binging. Something is either right or wrong. There is no room for the middle of the road, or any grey areas. You are either perfect, or a complete screw-up.
This thinking is so common, you can find it everywhere, not just diets or “eating plans”. And everywhere it exists, it causes problems. In my case, it would not allow me to try distraction, which is a very effective and valid option to help an urge to overeat pass. I eventually learned I could choose distraction, and if the urge came back later on, I could then decide to look at what emotions may be coming up.
Allowing myself to choose distraction (and reject perfectionism) also made the times I chose to overeat not as intense as they were in the past. Because all three options were now equal, I didn’t have that “little voice” telling me to eat as much as possible since this would be the last time I ever ate _________ (fill in the blank).
The next time you have that urge to overeat hit you, consider distraction. Call a friend, turn on some awesome music, go play with the dog, find something enjoyable to do for whatever length of time you need (it’s often not nearly as long as you think). Keep an eye out for perfectionism if you’re feeling stuck – you’ll be surprised how much easier life can be once you’ve moved past it. Just keep an eye out for it – it does have a funny way of showing up when you don’t expect it!
Need help moving past perfectionism? Want to figure out if it is causing your inability to overcome overeating, and even losing weight? Let’s talk about it and get rid of perfection so you can move forward! I invite you to schedule a time to talk about this…just go to www.TalkWithGillian.com to fill out a quick form and pick a date and time on my calendar.
When we get on the phone, we’ll talk about what’s going on and look for the reasons why the perfectionism is hanging on. I really look forward to speaking with you – I’d love to help you find the freedom that I and countless others have found by giving up the need to be perfect and being able to make peace with food and your body!
If you are familiar with mindful, or intuitive eating, you know one of the main principles is to eat what you really want. This means allowing all those foods back in that you avoided or couldn’t have because of the rules of whatever diet (or “lifestyle plan”) you were on. This can be scary for many who think they can’t control themselves around certain foods or they are afraid that complete permission equals weight gain. While it may be hard to believe, full permission really does cause you to want and eat less of those foods (it may take a while, but it’s true!)
The most common question I’m asked about full permission to eat whatever you want is: “What if I have a medical condition and my doctor has told me I can’t eat [fill in the blank] food?” I understand the confusion, it’s like mixed messages, eat whatever you want but don’t eat this or that based on the doctor’s advice.
For this reason, and many others (like food allergies or sensitivities) I like to share the concept of the Three Food Groups. Don’t worry, this isn’t anything like what you learned in school (that was sponsored by the meat and dairy industries, by the way). And it’s not the boring food pyramid (or My Plate) that the government is always pushing.
The Three Food Groups include 1) Foods you really like, 2) Foods you don’t like, and, 3) Foods that don’t “honor” you or your body. Surprised? Keep in mind that eating intuitively means you are relying on cues from your body and your own decisions to determine when and what to eat instead of following some other person’s idea of how you should eat.
Satisfaction from eating is extremely important. If you are hungry and wanting something like pasta, or a turkey sandwich, but opt for rice cakes because they are lower in calories, you’re not going to be satisfied. You may spend the day looking around for other things to eat and end up eating more than if you just ate what you really wanted. It’s important to get satisfaction or pleasure from food because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t have much drive to eat, leading to a serious lack of energy and an inability to carry out everyday tasks.
The foods in this group are anything you really like or love. Yes, that includes chocolate, ice cream, or whatever else you tend to deny yourself when dieting. And most importantly, do not consider how “bad” or “forbidden” diet culture tells you those foods are. I assure you, by working on intuitive eating principles and taking care of yourself, you won’t be eating those previously scary foods day in and day out. You’ll really savor them when you eat and enjoy lots of other satisfying food from this food group.
When I was growing up, it was a rule that I had to try any food that was put in front of me. Unfortunately, some foods I couldn’t stand I still had to continue eating. Needless to say, this created an aversion to trying new things (I’m getting better) and an intense dislike for certain foods like mayonnaise, hard-boiled eggs, and beets, among other foods. I’m sure you have at least a couple of foods you really don’t like. If you are still choking them down because you’ve been told they are “superfoods” or prevent this or that, now is the time to let them go. There is such a variety of food available to us that you can always find foods you like to get the nutrient or benefit you’re looking for.
This is where we answer those questions about health issues, allergies, personal preferences, etc. There are two parts to this group. The first part is made up of any foods that you decide aren’t right for you. This includes anything you’re so allergic to that eating it could kill you. That’s clearly a food that doesn’t honor you or your body.
You may have problems with particular foods that aren’t life-threatening, but eating any amount will make you quite sick or lead to other complications you don’t want to deal with. This might be more challenging because you like this particular food. I like raw onions on tacos but in recent years they cause me intense stomach pain, so I’ve made a decision to not eat them.
Eating this type of food comes down to making a decision about how you want to feel. It’s always your choice, but if you want to avoid not feeling well, reminding yourself of this fact will make it easier to honor yourself and your body by choosing to not eat it.
The other part of this group is made up of foods that may be somewhat problematic, but you can eat a certain amount. For example, a diabetic may be told to avoid eating sugar as well as “white” food like white flour, rice or bread. But for many with diabetes, eating some sugar or other simple carbohydrates doesn’t cause serious consequences. (You need to experiment with this to determine the right amount for you.) But beyond a certain amount, it becomes a problem.
Knowing the amount that works for you is important. You can still choose to go over it because you get to make your own decisions. But if feeling good is important to you, then making a decision to stop is about how you want to feel, not that you “can’t have it.” The way you think about the food will have the biggest influence on your behavior around it.
Let’s say you are lactose intolerant. Do you want to have stomach and intestinal distress just to eat that ice cream? It’s your choice, but honoring yourself and your body is a form of self-care – an essential part of overcoming overeating.
I hear all the time, “I’m allergic to sugar.” There’s no solid research proving this is possible, and in my experience, this person usually has problems when she eats more sugar than honors her body.
I remember the days of grabbing a large bag of candy, hiding from everyone so I could binge on it, and then having to lie down and sleep off how awful I felt. Today, I can have candy, but I have an amount that honors me. Once I’ve had a certain amount, I’m satisfied and I can move on with my day feeling good. The main thing with this food group is to remember that you’re making a conscious decision to not eat something you may like because you want to honor your body and take care of yourself, therefore there’s no need to feel restricted or deprived.
I hope this has given you some “food for thought”! If you are tired of the endless dieting and trying to beat your body into submission, please consider finding freedom for yourself with intuitive eating.
Have you tried applying principles of intuitive eating, only to find your unwanted eating and body issues getting worse? You may have thought, “This just doesn’t work for me,” or, “I knew it was too good to be true!” Before going back to the misery of dieting and diet mentality, allow me to suggest that you may have accidentally found yourself on the “intuitive eating diet.“
In my 15+ years of learning about, applying and coaching others on making peace with food and intuitive eating, I’ve witnessed many amazing successes. I’ve seen women who went on diet after diet, always in the gym trying to burn off calories, having no life and believing she didn’t deserve one – until she lost the weight.
And I’ve seen these women absolutely transform when they give up the dieting and endless exercise, make peace with food and their bodies and get on with living their lives right now. When they discover how obsessing over food and weight all day, every day has been holding them back from living, there’s no stopping them! Their thoughts, beliefs, behavior and focus all turn around, allowing them to get on with the lives they are meant to have.
What continues to break my heart and pushes me to keep getting the word out, are those people who begin to work on intuitive eating, but give up in frustration, insisting it doesn’t “work”.
I see blog posts and articles (and posts in intuitive eating forums), from those who haven’t seen “results” declare that intuitive eating caused them to eat more “junk food” or gain weight. Without understanding what the actual problem is, they warn anyone listening that intuitive eating simply doesn’t work.
I know it’s difficult to gain weight or to find yourself compulsively eating foods you were trying to make peace with. But what I know from my years of practicing and coaching intuitive eating is that it’s not a problem with the process of becoming an intuitive eater. It’s actually a misinterpretation of what intuitive eating actually is.
Instead of embracing intuitive eating, these people are on what I call the “intuitive eating diet.”
Sure, I know intuitive eating is not a diet. I go to great lengths to help my clients understand it’s not even a program. It’s not a plan, a system, a project or a method. It’s not something that has a beginning or an end. It is a journey, a continuous experience that brings challenges and triumphs along the way. You have setbacks, but they turn out to be learning experiences that help you move further along your journey.
My favorite way to describe intuitive eating is by using the word “practice.” In a practice, you have days that bring obstacles and other days that flow quite easily. The biggest difference between a practice and a “program” or a “system” is in a practice, you expect to have setbacks and you welcome them as much as the triumphs because the learning from setbacks is powerful and motivating.
Would you beat yourself up in your yoga “practice” if, after learning about headstands, you couldn’t do one perfectly? Hopefully not. Even if you did, I bet it didn’t send you into days of guilt, shame and negative self-talk.
You may be wondering how, exactly, intuitive eating, the most popular term used for the process of rejecting diets and learning to make peace with food and your body, becomes an actual “diet”. There are several ways, all stemming from the disordered thinking that comes from the diet culture we all live in.
First is how ‘success’ is defined related to the practice of intuitive eating. What outcomes are you looking for? Right from the beginning, it must be clear that while weight loss may or may not happen, it is not an outcome we have control over. If weight loss is your one and only objective, intuitive eating isn’t your approach.
I’m NOT saying that another approach will help you achieve weight loss. There are no diets, programs, approaches, systems, etc., that have been proven effective beyond two years. In other words, no matter the diet (meaning “intentionally trying to reduce your body’s weight”), for 97% of all dieters, the weight loss is not maintained any longer than two years.
I typically work with people who are sick and tired of all things diet. They’re disillusioned with the weight loss-weight gain cycle and diet-binge cycle that disrupts all aspects of their lives – relationships, career, social, happiness, purpose or satisfaction to mention a few.
With intuitive eating, instead of trying to control your body (which doesn’t work), you make peace with food and body. This is what changes your life for the better… whether or not you lose weight. And changing your life is the real “success.” You may think you want weight loss, but think about it… you really want a better life.
Black and white-thinking (a big factor in diet mentality), turns the best attempts at overcoming overeating and embracing intuitive eating on their head. Also known as all-or-nothing-thinking, it allows for only two choices, black or white. All or nothing. Good or bad. Right or wrong. Restrictive, rigid rules-based dieting or all-out, eat until you need to sleep it off overeating or binging.
Intuitive eating suggests eating when physically hungry and stopping when satisfied or comfortably full. This doesn’t mean you MUST do this 100% of the time. However, this is what black-and-white-thinkers hear: “Eat ONLY when you’re hungry, and stop ALWAYS when you are satisfied/full.”
It instantly becomes a diet because of the strict rules about starting and stopping eating. There’s no room for the “gray areas” between the black and white. In that gray area, you have choices and can decide to step outside the boundaries of hunger and satisfaction.
This is closely related to perfectionism – the toxic best friend of dieters. Dieters strive for perfection – with food, appearance, body weight, clothing size and most other areas of their lives. Their role models in the air-brushed magazine images look perfect. Diet commercials say (indirectly but not so subtly) that your life will be perfect when you lose the weight.
Many of us grew up in households that placed a high value on achievement and perfectionism. Trying to be perfect is an unrealistic way of life and downright deadly when it manifests into a full-blown eating disorder, as it does in many young girls (and men and women of all ages in recent years).
Another way intuitive eating is turned into a diet is in how one looks at setbacks or mistakes. No matter the situation, mistakes are often labeled as “failure.” Intuitive eating is a process in which you are relearning how to eat based on your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues. It took years to unlearn these connections with our body that we were born with. So why do we expect to learn them overnight?
Think about it – humans learn best through so-called “mistakes.” When you see a mistake as a failure, all the negative self-talk is going to discourage you from trying again. If you take it as a learning opportunity, you can be compassionate with yourself and discover what you’ve learned that you can apply next time.
Often I will reframe trying out a new behavior as an “experiment.” Consider yourself a scientist and go into the experiment with curiosity. Be open to whatever will happen, knowing you’ll learn something from it and get closer to your goal with each experiment, no matter the outcome. This will save you time because you won’t be beating yourself up all the time and you may reach your intended goal or desire that much faster!
Keep in mind that any perceived “failure” related to intuitive eating is simply old diet mentality thinking. We learned to blame ourselves for the smallest diet infraction because the diet industry told us it was our fault. This is the biggest lie of all… they know the failure lies in their product. They count on it so you keep coming back!
Increased overeating or binging and even weight gain can happen in the process of making peace with food and your body. It doesn’t happen for everyone and this phase doesn’t last forever. This often happens during an early phase when you are giving yourself full permission to eat food you’ve restricted. It’s a natural response to the restriction imposed on your body.
I’ve seen too many people that stop at this point and declare intuitive eating doesn’t work. I get it, they are afraid. There’s a lot of trust needed in this process, especially trust that your body knows what it is doing. But remember, your body is smart and it knows what it needs. With time your body will settle into its natural weight and you’ll return to the intuitive eating you had at birth.
Let’s take a look at what you can do to prevent self-sabotage or letting diet mentality take over and keep you from making peace with food and your body.
First, redefine what success looks like for you. What do you want in your life that problematic eating or body image issues are keeping you from having? How is diet mentality, fear of weight gain and food obsession keeping you from feeling on a daily basis? How do you want to feel – about yourself, your life, your future?
Remember that intuitive eating is a practice – not a program or something you do and then stop. It gets better each day the more you commit to it and yourself. Learn about and use self-compassion as often as you would use compassion with a child or a good friend.
Keep the intuitive eating diet far away by seeing the world in shades of gray, rather than black and white. Food isn’t divided into good or bad, and you aren’t good or bad because you ate something. Yes, there are some foods that provide more nutrition than others. But the stress of trying to eat “clean” can make you sicker than any one thing you happen to eat.
Finally, remember that personal growth comes from learning. Learning often comes from making mistakes or having setbacks. Try having gratitude for them because setbacks almost always have a silver lining. You can learn and grow when you embrace challenges or so-called “failures.”
All this learning has another benefit. Often big challenges that we overcome allow us to take all that learning and reach out to help others. Every day more people are breaking free from dieting and diet mentality. Some have been inspired to help others do the same, remembering how impossible it seemed on the other side.
Having recovered, we have that absolute confidence and certainty that you can recover as well. Everything you want in life is on the other side of your comfort zone! I encourage you to reach out to someone that has faced your challenges and made it to the other side. They’ll make it easier and remind you that what you’re going through is normal and temporary!
I would love to talk with you if you’d like to explore working together to help you recover. Just go to www.TalkWithGillian.com and complete the form. I’ll get back to you right away!