intuitive eating

I'm Ready to Stop Feeling Anxious About Food, so Now What?

 
anxious about food.png
 

Dieting, lifestyle changes, meal plans, “eating clean,” detoxing, counting points, calories, or macros all have one thing in common: they provide external rules for you to follow. They take you away from making your own choices about what foods to eat when, from feeling and responding appropriately to your innate hunger and fullness cues, and usually from eating foods that you love. Eventually they can erode your trust in yourself around food.

Diets may work for a little while until they just don't anymore.

Despite these types of plans not working long term (80-95% of dieters regain the weight they lost within 2-5 years and 1/3 to 2/3 of those people gain even more weight than they started with)1 , many people are stuck in a cycle of seeking out diet after new diet, each one more restrictive than the last, as if it'll work this time around if you just try harder. Paradoxically, the more restrictive diet, the more out of control you eventually feel around food.

So now what? Giving up dieting without a clear plan can leave a void. After years or maybe decades of following someone else's rules about food, how are you even supposed to know how to eat anymore? You have all this so-called evidence that you can't trust yourself to eat what you want because you'll just keep eating forever. A mishmash of diet rules and self-judgment can cloud your thoughts. Food has become the enemy instead of a source of nourishment and pleasure.

It can feel really scary to step outside of diet rules and give up the control diets promise with food and your weight, but you can rebuild your relationship with food and experience the joy of eating again!

Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based behavioral model developed by the Registered Dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch that helps people get away from dieting and disordered eating patterns and develop a healthy relationship with food and body. To date, there are over 100 studies on intuitive eating showing many benefits, including

  • higher self-esteem

  • body appreciation and acceptance

  • more variety of foods eaten

  • lower rates of disordered eating and eating disorders

  • more satisfaction with life

Intuitive eating is a process of unlearning old thinking and rules about eating and then learning new, more helpful strategies for eating in a way that supports your physical and mental health. Although there are ten principles of intuitive eating, there are no rules! Intuitive eating puts you back in charge of what you eat when. You can learn more about intuitive eating from my post here.

Where can you start?

If you're ready to dive into learning more about intuitive eating, a good place to start is by reading the book Intuitive Eating 3rd edition by Tribole and Resch. Many people find they want more one-on-one support through the process, in which case working with a registered dietitian or therapist with training in intuitive eating counseling can be extremely helpful.

Are you ready to to leave dieting behind and work on developing a more peaceful relationship to food? I would love to help guide you! I offer virtual one-on-one intuitive eating counseling. You can learn more about how it works here.

Veganism and a Non-Diet Approach to Nutrition

 
edited.jpg
 

You can honor your ethics and values around food and still be anti-diet.

Some of you have asked how veganism and intuitive eating/a non-diet approach can work together? This is an excellent question that I’m happy to address. 

I see how it can be totally confusing—veganism is sometimes viewed as restrictive by people working in non-diet spaces. I see people lumping veganism with keto, paleo, and other weight loss diets in memes and posts frequently. There are also endless influencers/health coaches/bloggers misappropriating veganism as a weight loss diet, which adds to the confusion. Diet culture strikes again!

As with most things in life, intention and nuance matter.

Why is the person vegan (or desiring to go vegan)? Is it ethics/values-based or because they are trying to manipulate their body size? How is their relationship with food and their body? Are they also cutting out multiple vegan foods because they’re “processed,” “fattening,” or “bad?” These are things I feel are helpful to explore with my vegan clients. 

Veganism is an ethical stance that seeks to avoid harming and exploiting animals as much as possible, not a diet. What you eat is one part of practicing ethical veganism but not the whole picture. People who eschew animal foods in the name of health or weight loss, not ethics, are typically said to be following a plant-based diet. Not all plant-based eaters are dieting though. Some choose it as an eating pattern that best supports their health and feels good to them. Not everyone who eats outside of a mainstream omnivore diet is doing it for disordered reasons. Again, intention and nuance!

People of all body shapes and sizes are vegan. There are vegan versions of pretty much every food these days including donuts, burgers, and ice cream, as well as numerous recipes for vegan comfort foods and decadent baked goods, so there’s no reason being vegan = restriction or deprivation. Including pleasurable and fun foods can provide more flexibility and satisfaction with eating. Of course, these foods are harder to access for some people depending on where they live and if they fit in their budget, which can make it more tricky. I’m not saying veganism never feels restrictive for everyone.

A non-diet approach is so needed in the vegan community because no one is immune from food and body shaming messages and sadly there is plenty of that in vegan/plant-based spaces! I wish more people were talking about sizeism, healthism, and other forms of oppression in the vegan community because they’re all connected. A small number of people are and hopefully that grows. I know I can do better with this.

Intuitive eating/a non-diet approach can certainly take into account values, ethics, culture, health conditions, and personal food preferences.

The chapter on gentle nutrition in The Intuitive Eating Workbook goes into this if you’d like to read the authors’ take on this topic. The book Heath at Every Size also discusses many of the issues with our food system and marketing of foods. You don’t have to eat everything under the sun to ditch the dieting mentality. This applies to non-vegans as well. You get to decide what feels right to you based on your inner attunement + health values (described as “authentic health” in the IE book).

Some may disagree with this, but these are my thoughts based on my current personal and professional understanding. My intention with writing this is to reach vegans interested in intuitive eating, but not sure how it fits with their ethical stance, as well as non-diet practitioners who aren’t quite sure how to proceed when clients are vegan. I could write so much more on this topic but for now I hope this is helpful!

If you’re considering going vegan I encourage you to work with a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in vegan nutrition + Intuitive Eating!

There are so many myths and misconceptions out there, so seeking professional guidance can help navigate through it all. A healthy relationship with food and your body is critical before making major changes to how you eat. You can schedule a free introductory call with me if you’d like to work together.

Further reading regarding intuitive eating and veganism:

Veganism is not a Diet

Reconciling Veganism with Intuitive Eating

How to Practice Intuitive Eating as a Vegan

Body Shaming in the Vegan Community

Other RDN accounts to follow on Instagram if you’re interested in a non-diet approach to veganism:

@taylorwolframrd

@ginnymessina

@prairie.sprout.angela

@amyrgood

@amytaylorgrimm

Do you know others? Share in the comments!

An Intro to Intuitive Eating

 
introtoie.png
 

Have you heard about Intuitive Eating but aren’t quite sure what it means?

Intuitive Eating (IE) is a flexible, non-diet approach to eating and exercise that considers physical, mental, and emotional health. The IE framework was developed by registered dietitian nutritionists Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch after many years of working with nutrition clients and witnessing their struggles with dieting, weight loss (and regain), and body image.

From the cover of the Intuitive Eating book by Tribole and Resch, IE helps people “make peace with food, free yourself from chronic dieting forever, and rediscover the pleasures of eating.” Learning and practicing the principles of IE helps people to tune out external messages about what and how much they should eat and tune into their personal hunger, fullness, and feelings of satisfaction with food.

We are born natural intuitive eaters until we learn and internalize food rules set by our (usually well-meaning) parents and later, diet gurus and weight loss companies, media, advertising, and peers. For many people this causes distrust and distress with their bodies and food. Practicing IE helps people get back into attunement with their bodies so they can stop stressing about food and focus on other things that give them meaning and satisfaction in life.

There are ten principles of Intuitive Eating that guide people to relearn trust in their bodies and the joy of eating.

 
 

I plan to write more about each principle and how you can start applying them in future posts!

Why I adopted this approach

Learning more about IE and a weight-neutral approach to health has changed the way I practice nutrition for the better.

My education and training in dietetics and nutrition didn’t really prepare me for all of the shame and guilt so many people have about food and their bodies. No amount of meal plans, calorie tracking, or education on portion sizes can fix that, even if that’s what people ask for. In fact, it just makes most people feel worse when they can’t follow a plan and reinforces a restrictive mindset about food. People tend to start thinking they’re the problem--they’re just not trying hard enough or something is wrong with them. I became a dietitian to help people reach optimal health--however that looks for them--while enjoying food and this wasn’t the way.

I needed and sought out more knowledge and training in navigating the complex emotions that come up in nutrition counseling. This is when I learned about the concept of Intuitive Eating and immediately bought the book. After reading the book I also delved into courses, podcasts, weight science research, eating psychology, and numerous blog posts from other dietitians and therapists on IE and weight-neutral approaches to health.

I learned that attempts to lose weight tend not to produce long-term results for most people. Intentional weight loss attempts can also lead to biological and psychological stress and disordered eating. Yo-yo dieting (weight loss and regain over and over) has been linked to heart disease, insulin resistance, inflammation, increased blood pressure, and a return to a higher weight than baseline.

On the other hand, studies on intuitive eaters have shown several benefits.

 
IEPinterest.png
 

You can learn more about the research on the Intuitive Eating website.

Considering the harm diets and restrictive eating can cause and the benefits that Intuitive Eating has, adopting this approach to helping people in my practice and in my own life was a no-brainer.

Now I have the tools help my clients move away from the mindset that health = losing weight and adopt more sustainable practices to achieving their health goals.

If you’re tired of trying diet after diet and would like one-on-one guidance to a better relationship with food and your body, I’d love to help you get started!