Category Archives for "Intuitive Eating/Make Peace with Food"

play with your food

It’s OK to Play With Your Food… This Way

 

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:

elephant made from a banana

I don’t think I could eat this one after she turned it into a bird. It’s too pretty!

red bell pepper transformed into a bird

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?

pasta man

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!

gummy bear grapes

I’m not much of a tea drinker, but this guy is pretty cute…

tea bag

This is so adorable, I don’t know if I’ll ever see walnuts the same way again.

walnut bear

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!

corn lego

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!

 

be good enough

Your Life Will Be Perfect When… You Allow It To Be ‘Good Enough’

 

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…

The Problem Has Little to do With Food!

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.

#3 Keep your past behind you.

Live in the momentIf 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.

#8 Your body is not a temple.

I love this! She writes, “Your body is just a body. So don’t get all obsessed with it…”imperfection is beautiful

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!

#2 Date yourself.

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:

Karen Nimmo on Medium

2 missing the point of intuitive eating

Missing the Point of Intuitive Eating

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.

The ‘Limits’ 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?)

A Flawed Premise Delivers Flawed Results

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.)

The Reality: Intuitive Eating Is Not A Weight Loss Strategy, but…

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!

people dressed as Santa Claus

10 Ways to Enjoy the Holidays

1. Eat the foods you love!

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…

2. Truly SAVOR those favorite foods you’re eating.

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.

3. If it isn’t delicious, don’t eat it.

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!

4. Say “NO” and stay firm.

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.

5. Don’t allow others to comment on or question your body or what you eat.

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.

6. Don’t engage in or put up with diet and/or body talk.

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!

7. Engage in extra self-­care.

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.

8. Focus on happiness!

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.

9. Connect on a spiritual level.

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.

10. Have FUN!

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.

Perfectionism is a Roadblock

Perfectionism Strikes Again!

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!

3 food groups

The Three Food Groups

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 because they 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 its true!)

The most common question I am asked when it comes to 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 close to 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 that the government has come up with and keeps changing just when you think you have it figured out.

Simply stated, the Three Food Groups are: 1) Foods you really like, 2) Foods you don’t like, and, 3) Foods that don’t “honor” you. Surprised? Keep in mind that eating intuitively means you are relying on cues from your body to tell you when and what to eat instead of following some other person’s idea of how you should eat.

Group #1: Foods You Like (even love!)

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 are not going to be satisfied. You may spend the day looking around for other things to eat and end up eating more calories 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 even everyday tasks.

The foods you can include 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” the diet mentality 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 them, and enjoy lots of other satisfying food from this food group.

Group #2: Foods You Don’t Like

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 that I really couldn’t stand I still had to eat for whatever reason. Needless to say, this has created for me 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 a food you like to get the nutrient or benefit you are looking for.

Group #3: Foods That Don’t Honor You

This is where it all comes together and answers those questions about health issues, allergies, personal preferences, etc. You may absolutely love fettucini alfredo but you have heart disease and know this is something that would not support your health. In other words, it doesn’t honor you or your body. Another example that comes up often is a diabetic that really loves sugar. She loves it, so at first sugar may seem to go in Group #1, but because it could make her sick, potentially progress her diabetes, and/or cause her to have no energy it may be better in Group #3. The best way to be at peace with the fact that the sugar doesn’t honor her is to make a decision that she prefers to feel healthy and energetic over the brief pleasure she may get from the sugary food.

Food allergies are found in this group as well. If you have a true food allergy (you’ve been diagnosed with it), then that food will not honor you. 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.

Sometimes what appears to be a food allergy is really a matter of the amount of the food you are eating. I hear all the time, “I’m allergic to sugar.” I don’t know if there really is such a condition, but my experience tells me that this person 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 and I have had the pleasure of the candy and I can move on with my day feeling just fine. The main thing with this food group is to remember that you are making a conscious decision to not eat something you may like because you want to honor your body and take care of yourself.

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.

diet or eat buttons

Are You 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 have 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 understand how obsessing over food and weight all day, every day has been holding them back from living – as well as from losing weight and keeping it off – there’s no stopping them! They start changing their thoughts, beliefs, behavior and focus and getting on with the lives they are meant to have.

While I have many awesome stories I could share, including my own, what continues to break my heart and pushes me to keep getting the word out, are those that make an attempt at learning intuitive eating, but give up in frustration, insisting it doesn’t “work”.

I see blog posts, articles and I’ve even seen posts in intuitive eating forums, where those that have not yet seen “results” will publicly declare that intuitive eating caused them to eat more “junk food” or gain 50 pounds. Even worse, without understanding why these things are happening, they will warn anyone that will listen that intuitive eating doesn’t work and is a waste of time.

I can only imagine how difficult it would be to gain 50 pounds or to find yourself compulsively eating foods you thought you were trying to make peace with. Every time I read something like this, I really want to respond. I want to reach out and tell them what is really going on, the real reason it didn’t work.

However, I’ve learned the hard way that there are some that don’t want to know. It’s easier to believe it doesn’t work so they can go back to the disordered eating and destructive dieting that feels more comfortable. That’s not criticism, I’m not mad or irritated by this behavior. It’s very natural for any one of us to turn to the familiar, whether it’s in our best interest or not. I truly have compassion for those that struggle like this. I also can imagine that those that gained weight would have a difficult time trusting their hunger or fullness signals again, even if they could see what actually went wrong.

Hopefully I’m wrong and many who have had negative experiences while working on intuitive eating do come back. What I know from my years as an intuitive eating coach is that the people who gain significant amounts of weight or give up too soon actually aren’t following the intuitive eating principles – they are on the “intuitive eating diet,” as I have come to call it.

Sure, I know intuitive eating is not a diet. I go to great lengths to make sure 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 what intuitive eating is, is 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.

The Diet Mentality Sneaks In

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”. From my experience, it happens when the “diet mentality” sneaks in without being noticed.

For example, perfectionism goes hand-in-hand with dieting. Dieters are always striving for perfection – in what they eat, how they look, their weight, their pants size, etc. Their role models in all the air-brushed magazine ads look perfect. The diet commercials tell you (indirectly but less than subtly) that your life will be perfect when you lose the weight.

Many of us also 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) suffering from anorexia or bulimia.

Black-and-white-thinking (another part of diet mentality) also takes the best attempts at overcoming overeating and embracing intuitive eating and turns them on their head. This way of thinking (also known as all-or-nothing-thinking) allows for 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.

When black-and-white-thinkers learn that intuitive eating is about eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are satisfied/full most of the time, they hear, “Eat ONLY when you are hungry, and stop ALWAYS when you are satisfied/full.” It instantly becomes a diet because there are very strict rules about when you start and stop eating. There is no room for the “gray areas” between the black and white where you have choices and can decide to step outside the boundaries of hunger and satisfaction.

Another way that intuitive eating can be turned into a diet is in how one looks at setbacks or mistakes. Even worse, minor setbacks can be seen as failure. This failure isn’t always placed on the diet, it’s placed on the person who couldn’t stay on the diet. In a “practice”, there is plenty of room to make a so-called mistake. The best thing about “mistakes” is that they are how we learn best. It would be wonderful if we all could learn without mistakes, but it’s just a fact of life. Does the child just learning to ride her bike get yelled at when she runs into a fence or tips the bike over? Hopefully not! It’s a setback that will teach her how to steer a little bit better or what it feels like to have the balance needed to stay upright while riding.

Setbacks and mistakes are not failures. Past diet attempts that didn’t work or that didn’t yield long term results are not failures – and you are not a failure for not being able to stay on them. Diets are designed to not work, in many cases. So you could say that every time you “blew” a diet, you were successful! Once you understand this concept that mistakes or setbacks are simply learning opportunities, you will see many things in your life in a new way, including intuitive eating, or overeating, or even under-eating at times.

When the diet mentality is allowed to take over while attempting to bring intuitive eating into your life, it’s an easy step over the line and back into dieting behavior. This is why some people find themselves gaining large amounts of weight. They begin their intuitive eating path by making all foods permissible. This is an appropriate first step. But when the diet mentality takes hold, they don’t move from this stage into learning about physical hunger and fullness and starting to connect to their bodies.

Instead, they keep overeating because in their minds, they were told they could eat anything they want, anytime they want. They get stuck here, largely due to all-or-nothing thinking. When they come out of the fog 50 pounds heavier, they believe intuitive eating caused it and they decide it does not work.

Many of those that quit in frustration early on in the process do so because they aren’t seeing “results”. It’s helpful to define what results are when learning intuitive eating. First, and most importantly, weight loss is not a result. It is a “side effect” of making peace with food and your body, repairing your metabolism, and accepting yourself in the present, regardless of your weight or size.

Notice I did not say “give up on yourself” or “lose hope and let yourself go”. Acceptance means you believe you are a worthy and complete human being right now and at any time and you don’t need to be “fixed” or changed before you are “good enough”. When you hold weight loss as your only sign of improvement or results, you will always end up back in diet mentality, striving once again for perfection and feeling like a failure when you don’t reach it. You begin to impose rules, like “I can ONLY eat when I’m hungry” and “I MUST stop when I am full”. Then rules about snacking, “junk food,” and exercise start showing up. Before you know it, you are right back into the diet – binge – guilt – diet again cycle.

There are several ways intuitive eating can turn into a diet. While it’s important to know how it happens so you can see signs and hopefully stop the progression early on, the ideal way of dealing with this problem is to make sure it never gets started.

Watch Your Thinking!

There are three specific strategies that, when put in place, will help you stay in your intuitive eating practice and far away from the intuitive eating diet. First, you need to remove weight loss as a goal. This may sound impossible, but give this a chance.

You didn’t gain the weight because you were trying to gain it, right? It happened for reasons that you may not yet be aware of, but that is fine for now. Every diet offered always has weight loss as its main objective. Why? Because it sells.

Intuitive eating starts with a goal or intention of relearning your internal cues for hunger and fullness. Have you ever done that on a diet? It also focuses on your thoughts and beliefs, which drive your behavior. In dieting, you are told to change your behavior by following the “rules”, but your subconscious will always win at some point (formerly called “failure”).

If you can put weight loss “on the back burner” while you focus on realigning your thoughts and beliefs, you can trust that your body will be working on healing your metabolism at the same time. And, if you’re not at your natural weight, by the time you have healed your mind from diet mentality and you are engaging in good self-care and self-compassion, your body may be ready to let go of the weight.

However, we really aren’t in control of our weight, it’s up to our body and what’s right for it. So I can’t make any promises about when you might see weight loss, but I can promise it will not come off without learning to accept yourself in the present and believing you are worthy of being happy right now.

A second strategy that can give you perspective, as well as some relief, from the desire for instant results is changing how you see the intuitive eating process. As mentioned earlier, it is a practice, as opposed to a program that usually has a start and an end.

In programs you usually stop with the tools and skills when you are through. In intuitive eating, we go through a process that continues essentially for life. It’s a practice you use and improve on constantly. Because of this, it gets better and easier over time. For many, it eventually does go back to feeling quite natural and innate. For others, it may take a bit more consciousness here and there but it does get easier for everyone.

If you can think of it as a “journey”, you’ll have a more realistic perspective. Knowing the processes take time, and need time to do their work, can make the journey easier. It’s also easier to handle those setbacks, knowing they are necessary learning opportunities. Instead of beating yourself up when you have a setback, ask, “What can I learn from this experience?” In many cases, the learning can accelerate the process! Over time the skills and tools you’re learning get easier and more automatic, the setbacks are further and further apart and the intensity of each episode is less intense. In your journey, time allows for an easier and easier road, while life gets better along the way!

Finally, one of the best things you can do for yourself (aside from adopting intuitive eating into your life), is to find someone who has first-hand personal experience with what you’re going through. Make sure he or she has adopted intuitive eating into his or her life, and is skilled in helping others.

Whoever you choose should never force his or her own agenda or beliefs on you, but instead allows you to work through your thoughts and beliefs so you can find your own answers. Only you know if something you are told or asked to do is right for you. Make sure this person is going to allow you a non-judgmental, safe environment where you can share anything without the fear of sounding strange or ridiculous. I did some pretty strange things, both when I was chronically dieting, and when I was compulsively overeating and binging. Only someone who has been through similar situations will really “get it”.

Most of all, when you work with someone who has lived through the same pain and struggle and knows how to move through it, you can be assured that you will be shown the way, and if diet mentality begins to show up, it will be pointed out to you before it turns into a diet that sets you back to the point that you actually want to give up or believe that intuitive eating does not work.

Whether you have tried to work on intuitive eating before or not, and whether you were able to fully embrace it or if you had a “falling out” with it, now is always the best time to get going or keep going.

The great thing about intuitive eating not being a program is you don’t ever start or stop, you’re just either using the tools and skills or you aren’t. So there’s no reason to “start tomorrow” or to “restart Monday” or any other typical diet-like promise. Just decide right now that you will eat again the next time you’re hungry and eat what you really want. Most importantly – enjoy it!

Are you concerned about ending up on the Intuitive Eating Diet? Are you having trouble navigating your way along your journey? Maybe you want to get started but don’t know the best way for you? If so, I would love to offer you a 100% free intuitive eating strategy session where we can talk about what’s happening and how you can move forward towards a live full of peace – with food, your body and yourself! You can go to www.TalkWithGillian.com to request your session, or simply email me at Gillian@HealthierOutcomes.com and let me know you would like to schedule a strategy session. I look forward to it!