diet culture

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.


Don't Kid Yourself...We're All Victims of Weight Stigma

Did you know that it's Weight Stigma Awareness Week!

Could weight stigma be the reason why you're frequently binge eating, feeling depressed, hating your body and struggling with low self-esteem? According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), people who are victims of weight stigmatization are more prone to these things.

My primary intention in this love note is to define weight stigma and help you to see how it may be affecting your life, especially as it relates to your relationship with food and body. It's very important to realize that even though some may believe they haven't directly experienced weight stigmatization, because weight stigmatization manifests itself in internal and external fat phobia and/or weight bias (defined as fear of becoming fat or of fat people) it does affect us all.

If we want to continue to grow and be more inclusive of others, it's important for all of us to continue to examine our beliefs and bias toward all marginalized groups. Make no mistake that weight stigma hurts us all and I'm going to briefly highlight a few reasons why.

What is weight stigma?
According to NEDA,

"Weight stigma, also known as weight bias or weight discrimination, is discrimination or stereotyping based on a person’s size. Weight stigma also manifests in fat phobia, the dislike or fear of being or becoming fat."

What are some weight stigma facts?

  • It affects people of all shapes and sizes

  • Disordered eaters and people with diagnosed eating disorders are affected by it

  • It occurs more frequently than gender or age discrimination

  • "Concern trolling" (people concerned about your weight for "health" reasons) is another form of it

  • Those exposed to it engage in more frequent binge eating

  • Those exposed are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with binge eating disorder (BED), depression, and body dissatisfaction

How do medical providers perpetuate weight stigma?

  • Provide patients in larger bodies with less health information and are often dismissive because they believe cause of ailment is solely due to a person's weight and/or size

  • Spend less time with patients who are in larger bodies or dismiss concerns of patients in thinner bodies

  • View larger bodied patients are undisciplined, annoying and non-compliant

  • Eating disorder programs base treatment on a person's weight and won't treat if weight is too low

  • Insurance companies often use weight as a deciding factor for eating disorder treatment and/or discharge based on a patients weight not on their recovery stage

What can we do about it?

  • Educate yourself about what weight stigma is and how it may be showing up in your life

  • Recognize how you may have weight bias toward yourself and others

  • Continue to observe your eating and body dissatisfaction triggers to discern if they are influenced by weight stigma

  • Continue to seek out anti-diet communities in social media, listen to anti-diet podcasts, and strengthen your intuitive eating practice by working through the Intuitive Eating Workbook or schedule an Embrace Anti-Diet Living Connection Session with me

  • Continue cultivating your self-compassion practice

Other weight stigma resources to check out
Articles:
Weight Stigma FAQ - NEDA
Weight Stigma - NEDA
Talking to Your Child About Weight Bias - NEDA
The Health Impact of Weight Stigma - Today's Dietitian, Carrie Dennett
Fat Is Not the Problem—Fat Stigma Is - Scientific American, Linda Bacon & Amee Severson

Podcast:
Virgie Tovar challenges fatphobia, how it hurts mental health - Virgie Tovar

Instagram:
View more posts about this topic by searching for the #WSAW2019 and #ComeAsYouAre hashtags. Follow my Instagram weight stigma posts.


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 Trying to Control Your Weight to Control Your Life?

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Like it or not, we cannot control our lives or the people in our lives. Many of us have likely heard this repeatedly, but knowing this on an intellectual level and living it are very different, right?

One of the aspects of our lives that many attempt to control when life feels out of control is to try to control their bodies (their shape), weight, food intake (by restricting or overeating), and by over/under exercising. While this is very common among a large majority of the population (Thank you diet culture!) it's even more commonly seen in women who struggle in their relationships with food and body.

This is understandable since on some level many still believe they can control their weight. In fact, they insist on it so they continue to diet, restrict, eat "clean", compulsively exercise, or do detoxes and/or cleanses, etc. And you know what, they may have some success with that if they try hard enough but even then, it's likely not sustainable long-term.

No matter how hard we try, at some point we need to accept that our bodies are not meant to remain the same throughout our lives. I know, it's not an easy pill to swallow! I get it. At 53, I've been through all the menopausal phases and I've seen and felt how my body has changed. I've also experienced fears around aging that I never could have imagined possible until now.

How are you managing these kinds of changes and fears in your life? Are you white knuckling these life phases by trying to control your food in hopes of maintaining your weight (which you believe directly corresponds to your health)? If you are, know that you're not alone!

I want to share a secret with you...

The more we try to control our food and weight, the more likely we are to experience binges, overeating, emotional/stress eating, anxiety, and body dissatisfaction.

On the flip side, the more we allow ourselves to eat nourishing (and enjoy "play" foods too) foods that make us feel good most of the time, move our bodies in ways that help us to feel energized and increase our stamina and strength, learn to appreciate and respect our bodies as they are, the more freedom and satisfaction we're likely going to experience in our lives. And, as an added bonus, following this advice will also very likely improve or maintain metabolic health too!

So the next time you find yourself white knuckling your way through a meal because there are too many ________ in it or restricting food with the insidious goal of losing weight, think of how that may be affecting your relationship with food, body, your health (metabolic, physical, emotional and spiritual) and your overall happiness.

Some questions to ponder if you're feelings resistance or fear about this message,

  • What could you be missing out on by attempting to control your eating and weight?

  • How could these behaviors be affecting your relationships?

  • What else could you be using that emotional energy for instead?

I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to reply to this love note, join my No-Diet Sisterhood group, or drop me a message on Instagram.


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.

What Does "I Feel Fat" Really Mean?

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I know, this is a very provocative question, right?

I cannot tell you how often I hear my clients say, "I feel so fat!" or "I just hate my _______ (fill in the body part)". I get it. There was a time when I would often say things like this too. It rarely happens now, but when I realized that all of that hating was just a distraction from looking at the just unprocessed emotions that were bubbling up, things began to change in a positive way for me.

To help my clients with this, we’ll tease apart some of their concerns so we can get beneath the surface. When we compassionately explore more we often discover, for example, that they're feeling discomfort about needing to establish boundaries with a family member or friend because they fear it may end in an argument; that they're lacking confidence in a particular area and that’s causing anxiety; or they're feeling unworthy or "not enough" in some capacity in their lives which is causing them to feel shameful. Or, if they're still entrenched in diet mentality, they could also be feeling guilty about the food(s) they’ve recently been eating because they’re afraid they’ll gain weight. (HINT: This is why it's so important to also explore internalized fatphobia.) Asking these questions helps them to see that their concerns aren’t about their body but about wanting to avoid or control a situation that is in need of attention. When this happens, then they can choose to deal with the situation head-on or table it for another time. Either way, the body dissatisfaction they were previously experiencing diminishes so they can move on to figuring out ways to manage the real issue instead of continuing to feel negatively about their body. This awareness eventually leads to growth and more joyful living.

Fostering this awareness can be a game changer in relation to improving relationships with food and body acceptance. If we continue to believe that having X type of body and/or seeing X number on the scale will make us happier and/or feel fulfilled and continue pushing away or resisting these important growth opportunities, there will likely continue to be dissatisfaction and frustration with one’s weight, body and life. On the contrary, when we are willing to translate what the “I feel fat.” is really trying to teach us, and when we are willing to feel the feelings associated with it, the possibilities for healing grow exponentially.

I've attached a free resource for you to use the next time you find yourself saying "I feel ______ (insert negative word here)." This image was created by Me and My ED . I encourage you to check out their Instagram or Etsy shop for other great resources. Click the Download Now button below to gain instant access.

How is this concept landing for you? Do you believe that your body dissatisfaction could be an indication that there is something deeper to explore?


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.

What Everyone Gets Wrong About Mindful Eating (Video)

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We hear a lot of talk about the benefits of mindfulness, especially as it relates to eating. While I don't deny that mindful eating is a wonderful practice, there is an important piece of it that many people leave out (I discuss this in the video below).

I'll add that the diet industry has bastardized the original intent or meaning of mindfulness to include weight loss. While it's possible that engaging in mindful eating may lead to weight loss, when I talk about mindful eating, it's not for the purposes of weight loss. When I talk about it, it's mostly to help heighten your awareness around the foods you're eating which, over time, will help to improve your intutive eating practice.

While the idea of mindfulness stems from Buddhism, one of the people that ushered it into mainstream language is Jon Kabat-Zinn. He defines mindfulness as:

Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.

Notice the text in red in the sentence above. In this live video I recorded yesterday in the No-Diet Sisterhood, I talk about one of the primary benefits of nonjudgmental eating and how it can help to transform our relationships with food. I'll add that what I talk about in this video can be a game changer for anyone practicing intuitive eating, especially newbies. I hope this gives you a fresh perspective. Watch it now.

Think You're Too Old to Try Intuitive Eating?

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There is mounting evidence that a no-diet approach focusing on improving self-care and listening to one's body is much healthier in the long-run than dieting could ever would be, regardless of weight and/or size.

I want to be clear that this approach is available to people of all ages (and genders, sizes, ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic status, etc.). What I've learned from my own personal experience, and from coaching my clients, is that anyone who is open to change can reap the benefits of this approach. The expression "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" needs to be challenged. It's stereotypical and disempowering. Change is possible for women of all ages. While I recognize that some people are more privileged than others, I still believe that with some tweaks, this can work.

After being caught in the snares of an eating disorder, coupled with mountains of body dissatisfaction for several decades, I discovered intuitive eating when I was approximately 45 years old. As I've written about many times, intuitive eating changed my life in unimaginable ways. While I realize this is my personal journey, my clients have also had similar positive experiences and they range in age from 30 to 65 years old.

To be honest, this work isn't easy for most to adapt to at first, regardless of age. Why? Because it goes against nearly everything we've been taught about weight, bodies, and diets. It also challenges the way we look at bodies and invites us to explore the reasons why we believe that one body is "better" or has more value than another.

I don't think anyone would refute that there are many, many layers and challenges in doing this work. After all, we are all swimming in diet culture 24/7 and it’s very alluring! As challenging as peeling back those layers can be sometimes, doing so helps us to grow in ways that will undoubtedly bring about more peace within ourselves and in many other areas of our lives.

If you're more seasoned (age 45+) and/or have a very long and challenging relationship with food and think that you're too entrenched in your "old" ways, think again. If you believe you won't be able to successfully practice and/or embody intuitive eating into your life, understand that this is a limiting belief. Limiting beliefs, left unchallenged, could hold you back from experiencing the freedom from food and body satisfaction that you're seeking.

Are you willing to take that chance?

Takeaways:

  • Self-care is the answer, not dieting.

  • Unlearning is possible at any age.

  • Diet culture is relentless.

  • Body dissatisfaction is learned.

  • Limiting beliefs are dream killers.

  • Support usually makes the journey easier and more manageable.


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.