The Missing Ingredient in Healing Your Relationship with Food

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When you hear the words “self-compassion”, what immediately comes to mind? If you’re anything like I was when I was first embarked on my intuitive eating journey, and like an overwhelming majority of my clients are when they first start coaching with me, you squirm. Before we go any further, I’d like to share how self-compassion is defined by renowned self-compassion researcher Dr. Kristin Neff:

“Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.”

To most, the concept of being self-compassionate is foreign. I’ve found this to be especially true regarding those who struggle with eating challenges. I often remember thinking, “Why would such self-destructive behaviors deserve kindness when I’m doing such harm to my body and emotional health?” At the time, I believed that extending kindness to myself would perpetuate these behaviors. Since I didn’t want the behaviors to continue, I assumed that beating myself up was the way to stop them from continuing. I often hear the similar thoughts from my clients.

In fact, the opposite is true. Dr. Kristin Neff’s research shows that being hard on oneself usually backfires. It prevents people from facing the difficult truths about their behaviors or beliefs because they are so afraid of hating themselves if they do. This often allows weaknesses or patterns to remain unacknowledged. Because of this, change is unlikely to occur and even if it does, it will likely take longer and be more difficult to implement and sustain. On the contrary, based on Neff’s research, cultivating a self-compassion practice can provide a powerful motivating force for growth and change while providing a safe place to land without the fear of self-hatred.

Over time, we can begin to heal our relationships with food by curiously, non-judgmentally and compassionately identifying our triggers, patterns and beliefs. Unlike what diet culture preaches, a healthy relationship with food cannot be achieved by eating “clean”, starting a new “lifestyle” plan, or by cleansing/detoxing. True healing takes time, patience and the desire to try different instead of trying harder at the same old thing.

While some are aware of their distressing eating patterns and behaviors, because they are observing them with disgust and shame, it makes it harder to discover the peaceful and healthy relationship with food they deserve to have. Also, that harsh judgment often leads to poor mental health which may eventually diminish a person’s physical health. It’s also important to mention that if diet culture didn’t assume that people in smaller bodies and lower weights are healthy (typically based on BMI scales) and praise one body type/shape over another making so many feel inadequate and unattractive, most wouldn’t diet to try to meet these unrealistic expectations in the first place!

How could your diet recovery change if you began to cultivate a more compassionate eating practice? I’m sure you’re thinking, “In theory that makes sense, but I’ve no idea where to begin!”. To help you get started, I’ve included six tips that I often share with my clients that may help you to develop and grow your own compassionate eating practice:

1.       Sit down to eat without distractions: I understand that the demands of everyday life often drive us to eat on the run. That doesn’t do much for our digestion or for our intuitive eating practice. Whenever possible, make a concerted effort to stop, sit and eat without checking email, your social media feed or talking on the phone. When you do this, it gives you some precious time to reconnect with your body. When we are connected to our bodies, we are more likely to make more deliberate eating choices and find more satisfaction in our food. In addition, the simple act of slowing down and minimizing distractions gives your body the message that it’s deserving of that kindness and peace if only for a short while. 

2.       Minimize guilt around food choices or overeating: When you eat a food that you deem as “unhealthy”/“bad” or when you eat past fullness, kindly say to yourself, “For the most part I eat nourishing foods.” and “For the most part, I eat to fullness.” Diet culture enforces strict rules around the types of foods we should (see tip #3) eat and around how much we should be eating not taking into account our individuality. Healing a relationship with food requires that you start to move away from those strict external rules and become a normal eater.

3.       Stop “shoulding” yourself:  One of the foundations of self-compassion is continually asking yourself what you need in that moment. So, instead of “shoulding” yourself to eat _____ because it’s “healthy”, ask your body what it needs to feel nourished, satisfied and energized, trusting that you can rely on it to guide you. This will help to instill body trust and that’s how you cultivate a healthy relationship with food and body.

4.       Eat now to avoid bingeing later: Along the same lines as tip #3, once you’ve decided what you want to eat, allow yourself to eat it until you’re satisfied or else you may binge on the fear/”trigger” food or on some other food later. Physical and/or emotional food restriction typically leads to binge eating and feeling “out of control” around food.  

5.       Eat with knowledge: When you eat a food that typically doesn’t agree with you, observe it without judging your actions. Ask yourself questions like, “Would I choose to feel this way again?” or “What other food could I have eaten instead and still felt satisfied? or “Would eating fewer bites of _____ food help me to feel better next time?” The primary goal here is to identify if it’s a specific food that is causing the discomfort or the amount of food eaten.

6.       Acknowledge your progress: It’s encouraging to acknowledge when we do something that makes a positive impact in our lives. Take the time to acknowledge yourself for all you’re doing to improve your compassionate eating practice and in turn your relationship with eating. Occasionally, take time after meals to notice if you’re feeling more relaxed and less self-critical about your eating. It’s likely that the more you begin to acknowledge these seemingly small, self-compassionate acts, the more skilled you will become in your compassionate eating practice.

These are just a few ideas so you can get started. Of course, you are the expert on you so if you can think of some other ideas on how to cultivate your compassionate eating practice, go for it! I’m confident that with time, patience and more self-reflection, your relationship with food will begin to transform for the better.

If you're tired of battling with your weight, fed up with the cycle of yo-yo dieting, and yearning to be free from your obsessive thinking about food and your body, schedule your complimentary Embrace Anti-Diet Living Connection Session.

We’ll get clear on where you are now, what you want instead, and what might be getting in the way of your success.

I’ll also share some powerful recommendations and resources to get you started on creating a peaceful relationship with your body and food.

The Missing PIECE To Discovering PEACE with Food


I'm so thankful that I have clients and friends who often reflect back to me exactly what I need to hear and see so that I can recognize that I'm not alone. The fact is, right now a lot of people are struggling. I'm not certain if it's related to the moon phase we currently in or moving from, the start of Daylight Savings time, or because we're beginning a new season, but dozens of women I'm connected to are feeling a serious down shift in their mood causing indecision, profound discomfort, and lack of joy.

I don't know about you, but even hearing the word UNCOMFORTABLE makes me uncomfortable! You know, that pit in the stomach kinda feeling that comes on suddenly when something triggers you. Ugh! That prickly kind of feeling you want to promptly squelch and/or avoid as soon as you recognize it's invaded your personal space. Do you know the feeling that I'm referring to? In full transparency, I know it all too well!

In the past year, I noticed that my attempts to squelch and avoid discomfort were no longer effective. Yes, indeed, YIKES! What can be done when we realize that something we've doing to help us cope isn't "cutting" it anymore? I can think of at least two things we can do when this happens.

1) We can continue trying to resist the feelings hoping that we'll get lucky again and experience a different result (kinda like the definition of insanity - trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result)


2) We can open our hearts and explore other possible ways that might be effective.

In my extensive studies on this topic, I discovered that the way to find peace with discomfort is through acceptance. Yes, you heard right, ACCEPTANCE. You know the popular AA/OA/NA phrase "What we resist persists", well, it is the truth. When we stop trying to resist/avoid/ignore the feelings, that's how we can actually relieve our discomfort.

As Karyn Hall Ph.D. says in her Psychology Today article, "Accepting reality is difficult when life is painful. No one wants to experience pain, disappointment, sadness, or loss. But those experiences are a part of life. When you attempt to avoid or resist those emotions, you add suffering to your pain. You may build the emotion bigger with your thoughts or create more misery by attempting to avoid the painful emotions. You can stop suffering by practicing acceptance."

My immediate thought to this theory was "NO WAY!" How could I accept something that makes me feel so awful? Wouldn't that be like giving up and losing control? But, the more books I read and listened to, the more I was faced with the fact that it was true. The way to discover peace was through acceptance.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still not BFFs with acceptance, but I now accept that acceptance is the answer that will help to alleviate my occasional suffering. Whether or not I'm able to cozy up to acceptance in the moment is another thing, but I know now that I always have that choice.

Lastly, it's important to understand that this is a PRACTICE and not a one and done solution. Becoming aware of the places in our lives where we may be resisting and not accepting is a life-long process with many peaks and valleys. So as always, sprinkling in more self-compassion and patience is a great idea. :-)

Reflective questions to consider:

  1. Where in your life are you consistently suffering?

  2. Are you willing to open your heart to being more accepting?

  3. How does your lack of acceptance for X (your body, your eating, etc.) affect and detract from your life?

This message tumbled out of my heart and into this love note. I hope you can feel that and I pray it brings you some relief, especially if you're suffering today.

If you're tired of battling with your weight, fed up with the cycle of yo-yo dieting, and yearning to be free from your obsessive thinking about food and your body, schedule your complimentary Embrace Anti-Diet Living Connection Session.

We’ll get clear on where you are now, what you want instead, and what might be getting in the way of your success.

I’ll also share some powerful recommendations and resources to get you started on creating a peaceful relationship with your body and food.

10 Tips to Manage Anxiety About Weight Gain

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Whenever anyone quits dieting (defined as intentional attempts to control weight and size) and decides to practice intuitive eating, their body and mind go a through significant transition. While it is often a relief that they no longer have to follow strict rules around food and movement, removing them can be anxiety producing for a variety of reasons. Many will wonder, “What is going to happen to my body now?” or “Won’t I just keep gaining weight if I do not have any rules in place?”. The truth is that no one can answer these questions with certainty because each body may respond differently based on its dieting history, current health status, genetics, medications, socioeconomic status, etc.  We do know with certainty that one of three outcomes may happen: Weight remains the same, weight loss, or weight gain.

While the focus of intuitive eating, which is a practice that teaches ex-dieters and previous food restricters to tune-in to their bodies innate cues related to hunger, fullness and food satisfaction, among other things, is not to focus on weight loss but instead improving ones relationship with food, sometimes weight gain does occur as part of the recovery process.

I will stress that if you are one of the people who gained weight while practicing intuitive eating, it does not mean that there is something wrong with you or with your intuitive eating practice.

Understanding that weight gain is sometimes the body’s response to periods (sometimes decades) of restriction is important. Continuing to practice intuitive eating is the best course of action even though the weight gain may be uncomfortable both emotionally and physically. After all, we cannot ignore the fact that weight stigma is real and can have profound negative effects on our overall health.

To help my clients, and others who ask me, manage the discomfort from weight gain, I offer them the following suggestions.

  1. Cultivate self-compassion – While this is often the furthest thing from most people’s minds during life’s ups and downs, it is often what is needed most of all. The first step to being more self-compassionate is acknowledging the discomfort. So, take time to lean into the discomfort even though that may seem challenging some days. Acknowledge that anyone who breaks up with dieting and no longer allows the unattainable nonsense of diet culture to ruin their lives, undergoes a period of transition, so you are not alone. Be kind to your body as it gets used to this new way of living knowing that the transition is temporary but well worth it.

  2. Trust – Realize that during this transition, you are learning to trust your body again and your body is learning to trust you. One of the many things that dieting and/or food restriction does is strip away that trust. When we practice intuitive eating, we are re-learning how to listen to our body instead of following external rules and self-imposed restrictions. On the flip side, our bodies are learning to trust that they will continue to be honored and cared for by consistently getting enough of the foods that nourish and satisfy them. Rebuilding this trust takes time and patience, but it will happen.

  3. Know there is an end in sight – While it may seem like the weight gain will never end, believe and trust that it will. Understand that the body is sorting itself out by trying to find its ideal weight. It will draw a line and you will need to do your best to trust that your body can and will to do that. Caring for yourself by taking time to educate yourself about the mechanics of weight science can be very helpful and empowering. A great resource for this is the book Body Respect by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor.

  4. Rethink your old beliefs - Challenge the mechanical thinking and belief that weight is as simple as calories in vs. calories out. Unlike what we are told by commercial weight loss programs, TV, and social media ads, weight science is very complex, and many things may impact a person’s weight. The belief that fat and larger bodies are “bad” is the problem, not the weight itself. A paradigm shift is needed for healing not another diet.   

  5. Dump the scale – Do not step on the scale because that disrupts months of progress and may even lead you back to restrictive eating again. For those who have used a scale to control their food intake or assess their self-value based on their weight, stepping on the scale can be even more detrimental to them.

  6. Reduce body checking – Do not get caught up in obsessive mirror gazing, clothes checking, feeling for bones, etc. as that is detrimental to progress also. When the urge to body check surfaces, think of an affirming statement to get yourself back on track like, “May I trust that my weight is working itself out and doing its best to take care of me.” or “May I be kind to my body as it transitions and heals.”

  7. Practice patience – Remind yourself often that normalizing food and eating behaviors after years of dieting takes time and patience. There is no shortcut around this. Just keep noticing your shifting beliefs and observe them non-judgmentally.

  8. Keep your dieting memory green – Remember why you broke up with dieting in the first place. Make a list of the consequences you suffered as a result of dieting and make it accessible so you can re-read it often. The Intuitive Eating Workbook has some great exercises related to this that I recommend doing.

  9. Let go of the illusion – Let go of the illusion that you can control your weight long-term. Yes, while dieting you probably lost weight (most did this repeatedly), your long-term experience maintaining the weight was fleeting. Understanding that continued attempts to lose weight will do more harm than good because they will just put you back into the restrict/binge cycle.

  10. Mourn what was – Acknowledge that you may feel grief about the changes your body is experiencing. Make room for this grief while doing your best not to judge yourself for it. Repeatedly make room for the grief because it will continue to resurface from time-to-time. This is not easy when diet culture continually reinforces that smaller bodies are better, healthier and more attractive. Be aware of who is gaining financially when you are feeling negatively about yourself and your body. Understand that while it is natural to feel pressured by the demands of diet culture, continuing to practice intuitive eating and learning more about how manipulative diet culture can be will eventually help you to feel more confident, satisfied and joyful in your body. This will finally allow you to live your life to the fullest without the constant preoccupation with food and body dissatisfaction.

If you're tired of battling with your weight, fed up with the cycle of yo-yo dieting, and yearning to be free from your obsessive thinking about food and your body, schedule your complimentary Embrace Anti-Diet Living Connection Session.

We’ll get clear on where you are now, what you want instead, and what might be getting in the way of your success.

I’ll also share some powerful recommendations and resources to get you started on creating a peaceful relationship with your body and food.

Are You Making This Common Intuitive Eating Mistake?

One of the reasons why I love practicing Intuitive Eating is because it has given me freedom from food and negative body image. In fact, this is the main reason why clients seek out my services. They are ready to uncouple their self-worth to the number on the scale or the size of their jeans. They are ready to reclaim their lives and free up the time and energy they had previously used to count calories, fat grams, carbs, or “points”.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with intuitive eating, it’s a process that teaches you how to stop dieting and/or restricting food and start listening to your body’s internal wisdom as it relates to hunger and fullness, cravings, movement, etc.

Intuitive eating is the polar opposite of dieting because it does not have any rigid rules or “have tos”. Instead, it offers 10 principles to gently guide you out of the elusive and damaging diet culture and into food freedom.

One mistake I made when I first began practicing intuitive eating was treating the principles like rules. This is a very common experience for newbies and can be very problematic if not caught. Mistaking the principles for rules is no different than being on a diet; that rigidity still exists. After all, the primary purpose of practicing intuitive eating is to break free from diet culture so one can experience freedomflow, and flexibility in their relationships with food and body. This can only happen when we ditch the rules, rigidity, and harsh personal judgments and start listening and trusting our bodies again.

So, how do you know if you’re making this common mistake?

One of the best ways to recognize this is to observe your language. Being mindful of how you talk and think about the principles is key. Whenever words like alwaysneveronly, and should are used in conjunction with the intuitive eating principles, it is often a sign that rigidity, perfectionism, and food morality are present. This is the epitome of diet culture!

A few of the principles that I mistook for rules were related to hunger, fullness, and emotional eating. My clients often make the same mistakes. Over the years, I’ve heard many of my people say things like:

But I thought I should only eat when I’m hungry.


I’m only supposed to eat until I’m full, right?


I try to never eat for emotional reasons because that violates the principles.

But, when you begin to embody the principles you’ll likely discover this:

Sometimes you will eat when you’re not physically hungry just because something looks yummy and you don’t want to miss out.

Sometimes you will overeat.

Sometimes you will eat to soothe yourself.

And, it’s all okay! In fact, this is what Ellyn Satter, Registered Dietitian, family therapist, and author at the Ellyn Satter Institute describes as normal eating.

None of these examples mean that you’ve done anything “wrong” or that you’re not practicing intuitive eating the “right” way. It simply means you’re human. Intuitive eating isn’t about being “perfect” around food. It’s about developing a healthier relationship with food. The more tuned-in and open you are to listen to our body’s (hunger, fullness, satiety, etc.) and the less perfectionistic you try to be, the more relaxed and joyful your relationship with food will eventually become.

I will add that as you continue to nurture and heal this complex relationship, it’s best to make curiosity and self-compassion your daily co-pilots instead of self-judgement and perfectionism.

Please understand that if you feel that you’re frequently eating in a way that isn’t aligned with your intuition or feel that your eating is consistently uncontrollable, it’s best to seek guidance from a trained anti-diet professional

Judging ourselves for our perceived “mistakes” and/or beliefs that we’re not doing intuitive eating “right” keeps us stuck in diet culture. When these guidelines are used as gentle parameters and not as rules, it makes room for that freedom, flow, flexibility with eating that so many of us have yearned to have. It’s no longer about “perfect” eating. It’s about doing our best to listen to our body’s cues knowing that sometimes we may not. The good news is that with intuitive eating there’s room for all of this. This is part of the beauty and delight in practicing intuitive eating. It allows us to be human and enjoy a healthful and flexible way of eating that dieting never could.

5 Tips To Help Navigate Nighttime Eating

Do you find yourself wandering around the kitchen at night or even waking from a deep sleep to eat? Well, if so, know that you’re not alone! This is a common concern that I hear from my intuitive eating coaching clients.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with intuitive eating, it’s an eating philosophy that teaches you to ditch dieting and start to listen to your body’s wisdom as it relates to hunger and fullness, cravings, movement, etc.

The other day, a woman in my Facebook group (the No-Diet Sisterhood) posted a question about her nighttime eating woes. She was concerned because she was often eating late at night and it was usually done in the absence of physical hunger. And even though intuitive eating allows unconditional permission to eat all foods without rigid rules (being mindful of known food allergies or food sensitivities), its purpose is to relearn how to tune-in and listen to the bodies intuitive cues. Observing these cues helps to minimize chronic overeating, habitual and/or bored eating, or eating because of uncomfortable emotions. I want to be clear that if you’re physically hungry, eat. However, if your nighttime eating feels uncontrollable or compulsive, and is frequently done in the absence of physical hunger, keep reading to discover some of the reasons why this may be happening.

1.Restrictive eating — Remember, diet mentality is very insidious! Even if you’re not on a “diet” per say, it’s very possible that food restriction is still happening. If you’re denying yourself the foods you desire during the day, it’s not surprising that you want to eat at night. Whenever there is food restriction, overeating or binging eventually follows. The unwanted nighttime eating could just be side effect of the food restriction. 

Make the shift: Take some time before your meals/snacks to be sure you’re not denying yourself foods due to the number of calories, fats, carbs, etc. that they contain. Eat what looks appealing to you without restriction. If giving yourself permission to eat all foods is frightening to you (which it commonly is for dieters), understand that this can be a very complex issue and support is often needed to move past this. Know that the risk of not addressing this fear will keep you stuck in diet mentality indefinitely and never allow you to fully embrace intuitive eating.

2.Not eating enough — One of the more common reasons why people eat at night is because they’re not eating enough food during the day. Sometimes this is due to fear of weight gain and/or lingering diet mentality. However, it could also be because their work and/or family schedules are so hectic that it interferes with making adequate time for nourishing and consistent eating. 

Make the shift: It’s important to realize that taking time to adequately nourish and fuel the body is an essential part of self-care. Believe me, I can relate. I’m a mom, wife, and an entrepreneur and know how hectic life can be sometimes. However, making a concerted effort to care for our bodies by feeding them consistently with nourishing foods is important and necessary in managing our moods, our energy and performance levels, and unwanted nighttime eating.

3.Satisfaction factor — Consider food satisfaction. When you’re eating, ask yourself if the foods you’re eating are satisfying you. If not, this could also cause nighttime foraging. Remember, while being mindful of hunger and fullness is an integral part in practicing intuitive eating, eating satisfying foods is equally important. If the foods you’re eating are leaving you wanting more (even when you’re full), this is often an indication that they aren’t satisfying you. 

Make the shift: Take the time to experiment with foods to see what makes your belly happy. Maybe it’s adding more fat to a meal, like avocado or mayonnaise. Perhaps it’s eating more carbs during lunch. Whatever it is, find your satisfaction sweet spot as often as you can when deciding what to eat.

4.Stress management — While some stress is natural, excessive, consistent stress can be debilitating. The funny thing about stress is that when we’re busy and in our daily routine, we don’t often think about it too much because there isn’t time. That’s usually when we’re in autopilot mode. However, when things slow down at night, the emotions often come flooding in and often, the food follows. 

Make the shift: As an act of self-care, check-in with your body during the day. See if you notice any part(s) of your body that are feeling tense (common areas are neck, shoulders, between eye brows). If your body is showing signs of stress, take a few minutes to meditate (try the free phone app Insight Timer). Sometimes just closing your eyes and taking a few cleansing breaths is enough to help clear your mind and reduce stress. You’d be surprised how this can shift the direction of your day.

5.Adequate sleep — If you’re not getting adequate sleep, this can really mess with your hunger hormones — leptin and ghrelin. As this study indicates, “Participants with short sleep had reduced leptin and elevated ghrelin. These differences in leptin and ghrelin are likely to increase appetite…”. So, lack of sleep could also be a contributing factor to nighttime eating.

Make the shift: I’ll be the first to say that sleep eludes us sometimes. It’s natural. However, if it’s consistent, it needs to be looked at more closely because the potential ramifications of poor sleep can lead to serious health issues. Taking the time to discern what may be causing the sleepless nights is key to overcoming it. A thoughtful and compassionate look at your life may be in order. Stress is often a contributing factor with sleep issues, so reviewing number four above is important.

As you can see, there could be multiple reasons why unwanted nighttime eating occurs. You could be experiencing one of these things or it could be a combination of things that are contributing to your nighttime eating. While it may take time to unravel the reasons why there is nighttime eating, the benefits of doing so are worth it. After all, feeling uncontrollable around food can cause additional stress, and no one needs that! Being self-compassionate, curious, and patient while you figure this out will go a long way in changing this behavior. Investing this time to understand what may be going on beneath the surface can seriously impact the quality of your life, including your relationship with your food and body.