Posts tagged Eating Psychology
I’m Doing This Intuitive Eating Thing — So Why Do I Keep Overeating?

“I’ve been doing this intuitive eating thing, but…I keep overeating. You said I would feel sane around food if I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted, so what gives?”

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As an intuitive eating counsellor and nutritionist — someone who helps women all over the world to stop bingeing, make peace with food, and feel at ease in whatever body they happen to find themselves in — one of the chief concerns I encounter involves “overeating.”

Because “overeating” isn’t as clear a term as you’d think, let’s start there.

Eating more than you did when you were dieting is not “overeating.”

Eating more than what your fitness tracker recommends is not “overeating.”

Eating what you feel is a large volume of food is not “overeating.”

Eating beyond the “portion” on the label is not “overeating.”

Eating more than what’s on your meal plan is not necessarily “overeating.”


Quite “simply” (ha — is anything ever simple when it comes to food and body?!) — “overeating” means eating beyond fullness. It can occur at any time (during a scheduled meal, over the holidays, or while snacking), and for any reason (by accident, because you’re recovering from an eating disorder and you need to overeat, because you’re trying to mitigate anxiety or uncomfortable feelings, and so on.)


Intuitive eaters seldom overeat. Not because we’re a superior brand of species, but because we know we can eat what we want, when we want, and in the amount that we want. Truly. Madly. Deeply.

But if you’re perpetually overeating, does it mean you’re “failing” at intuitive eating?

It’s one thing to logically give yourself unconditional permission to eat.

It’s another to live it

Here’s a few reasons why you’re still overeating:

  1. You’re judging what you eat, the amount you eat, or when you eat.

Darling, judging is another word for restriction — and is the furthest thing from unconditional permission. In my experience, this judgment usually stems from a fear of what your “intuitive eating experiments” will do to your body. When you’re panicked about how much weight you’ll gain or how your shape will change from not dieting, you’ll resort to your primary and most comforting coping mechanism: food.

This is why I feel intuitive eating (or recovery from diet culture or an eating disorder) works most effectively when combined with body image work, self-compassion, self-care, and psychotherapy. 

I’m blue in the face from saying it, but truly: restriction always leads to “eating issues.”

I cover this extensively in my coaching practice, but this gives you a head start.


2. You’re worried about your weight. 

This concern feels very real and I have a ton of empathy for it. But honestly? This worry is never about the weight exclusively. Thinness doesn’t live in a vacuum. 

Why do you care about becoming or staying thin?

…Maybe you believe it will help your chances of meeting the love of your life.

…Or help you to feel more confident sporting that string bikini on the beach.

…Help you to make friends and feel a sense of belonging.

…Allow you to finally accept your body so you stop killing yourself at the gym. 

…Get your [parental figure] off your back and finally experience their acceptance. 

Yes, being thin comes with specific privileges (“thin privilege” is real), but we also carry a number of convictions about thinness (and fatness) and its symbolism that inform our eating choices and how we view our relationship with food.

3. It’s your only coping mechanism.

“Emotional eating” isn’t pathological; I’m a big believer in legalizing emotional eating. 
But as you dive deeper into intuitive eating, you’ll find 1) food no longer offers the comfort it once did 2) you may wish to process your feelings a little differently.


Some things I recommend implementing that were personally helpful: 

  1. Being extremely diligent about your self-care. This may mean having standard sleep and wake times, taking an evening bath, trying a skincare routine, participating in joyful movement (if this is available to you at this time), spending time with friends or family, taking regular breaks, eating regularly and adequately, keeping hydrated, diffusing essential oils, limiting caffeine and/or alcohol, and so on. It needs to be personally meaningful and something you can do without much effort. Also: it doesn’t have to cost anything.

  2. Finding a therapist — ideally a weight-neutral, eating disorder-informed one.

  3. Actively try other coping mechanisms, like journalling, calling a friend, going for a walk, meditating, listening to music, etc. It takes time to foster new habits, so be patient with this.

  4. Meet yourself with self-compassion. I highly recommend Dr. Kirstin Neff’s Self-Compassion.


Is this something you struggle (or struggled) with while starting intuitive eating? Let me know in the comments!

5 Ways to Rebel Against Diet Culture

Hey everyone! Today I'd like to present a special guest to SB Nutrition. Jenny Eden is the founder and owner of Jenny Eden Coaching, a coaching practice devoted to helping men, women, and teens create a healthier and sustainable relationship with food and body image. She is an Eating Psychology Coach, a mindful eating instructor, and health and wellness blogger. She specializes in unique binge eating cessation techniques and mindful eating practices. 

Jenny, take it away!

Body positive | body image | intuitive eating | emotional eating | mindfulness | feminist | anti-diet project | resolutions | eating psychology | binge eating. Tired of cleanses, detoxes, and diets? Check out these 5 tips to rebel against diet culture.

 

It’s January 2nd.  You’re picking up the last of the confetti off of the floor and recycling the empty champagne bottles, all the while contemplating how you will plan to detox from Aunt Edna’s Christmas cookies.  You will ruminate about how, despite telling yourself this year would be different, you found yourself diving deep into chocolate advent houses, entire gingerbread houses, and 15 yule log cakes.  

“It’s ok!”  you tell yourself. “I’ve got Google and an entire Sunday to figure out which diet I’ll pick this time to drop those 5 extra pounds,” pounds that crept on despite your special X-mas themed soulcycle class, and 2 parties that you avoided just in hopes of maintaining your weight this year.

Maybe a part of you hesitates….and wishes you could just focus your time and energy on all your other 2017 goals like finishing that novel, or finally planning that trip to Greece.  “Nah," you reason, “those things won’t even be fulfilling if I’m not thin enough to thoroughly enjoy it.”

And the cycle begins again….

Does this sound familiar?  It should because countless millions of women (and men) experience a version of this every January.  

Cycles are inherent to life:  The earth rotates around the sun, there is a full moon every month, leaves fall every autumn, and we will eat great cake every birthday (if we’re lucky).  But there are some cycles that leave much to be desired.  A vicious cycle perhaps?  A dieting cycle?  A cycle of binge, remorse, restrict, repeat?  Those kinds of cycles are detrimental to our health and our psyches and leave us primed to experience deja vu every January 2nd.

Wouldn’t it be freeing if we could do it differently this year?  To find an alternate (yet possibly rocky, circuitous and emotional) path that offers something more than weight loss - but a sense of deep freedom, acceptance and peace?   It is possible and the 6 techniques I will share below will help you rethink your aggressive weight loss goal in lieu of something a bit kinder, more respectful towards your body, and perhaps above all else compassionate and health promoting.  After all, isn’t that what it is all about?  Health, happiness, and feeling our absolute best in the bodies we actually have right now?

Let me know what you think of these strategies below!

1. Go on a magazine, reality show, and TV access hiatus. 

Much of our feelings of unworthiness and pressure to acquire the perfect body at all costs painfully come from our media consumption that promulgates the message that we need to somehow be fixed and are not worthy enough the way we are.  Try taking a 2 week break from all of these types of media outlets and tune in more with your own wisdom.


2. Find an exercise routine that truly speaks to you. 

Find exercise that you look forward to and makes you feel strong and capable in your skin.  Don’t opt-in for the latest gym trend just because your sister’s friend’s cousin lost 15 pounds that way.  Do it because it speaks to YOU and works with your lifestyle and own body mechanics.

3. Learn a little bit about mindful and intuitive eating.  

Join the slow movement and find out how it can serve you emotionally, physically, and psychologically by having you tune inward and trust your own body versus trusting dietary experts to tell you what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat.  You can start by joining my free 7-day mindful eating basics email course.

4. Embrace your femininity. 

Explore your sensuality and sexuality.  This is often hard for the chronic dieter to do this because they don’t accept or even allow themselves feel sensuality unless they are a certain size.  Try to be comfortable being uncomfortable with this one.  Get the end result at the beginning.  Do a gratefulness body scan, dance, put on a dress that makes your feel amazing right this minute - not in 3 months when you might lose the 10 pounds.  A seed can be planted from this place and blossom, eschewing the perceived notion that you need to lose weight in the first place.  How do I know this works?  Because this was one of the very ways I healed my own body image - by embodying my skin and embracing sensuality no matter what size I was.  

5. Find projects, people, and hobbies that fuel your soul and provide meaning and purpose. 

When I was a chronic dieter, I was actually a really really boring person because weight loss was all I did or could think about.  When would I exercise? What would I eat?  How much?  When could I get to the scale again to weigh in?  When I finally let go of that obsessive, all-consuming dieting mentality, I finally had the time and confidence to start my own business, which is flourishing and giving me so much passion and meaning in my life.  

The truth is, dieting took over my life to the detriment of everyone else in it, including my kids and my husband.  I now see how it was not worth it to jettison everything in my life for this one dream of being a particular weight to prove my worthiness to the world.  And to be honest, I actually found my relationship with food tremendously healed from finding my passion as well, because it gave me a clear focus other than food.  

What 2017 goals and hobbies and passions can you explore this year?
 

If any of the above resonates with you, find like-minded people to explore the anti-diet culture with and immerse yourself around those people to help bring you more along that path.  It doesn’t have to be another deja vu dieting year.  Here are some resources to gently guide you there: 

HAES

 

Jenny Eden Coaching

Food psych podcast

Weightless

The Body Positive

The Center for Mindful Eating

 

Thank you so much to Sarah Berneche for the opportunity to guest post on your wonderful blog!  Here’s to a healthy and happy New Year to you all!

 

 

 

 

Intuitive Eating Principles: No. 2 Honour Your Hunger

I’ve been speaking out recently about intuitive eating principles, such as rejecting the diet mentality. While many have heard of “intuitive eating” (or the positive spin on “emotional eating”), most don't realize it’s a step-by-step system for improving our relationship to food and working through eating psychology. 

While I don't believe intuitive eating is easy — and it’s not recommended for vulnerable populations, such as those with active eating disorders— I do believe it’s a practice so many of us could benefit from learning more about. 

I grew up believing hunger was a bad thing to have, like Poison Ivy rash or warts. Hunger was something to fix with plenty of water, something to suppress with coffee and diet soda, something to shut out immediately after maxing out your allotted calories. 

Honour my hunger? I was too busy waging war to consider it anything but the enemy. 

I now view hunger as a tool imperative for good health. A voice worth honouring.

Emotional eating | Intuitive eating | body positive | health at every size | holistic nutrition | food psych. Intuitive eating principle: No 2 honour your hunger.

 

Today, we’re diving deep into the following:

  • Examining + assessing hunger

  • The Ancel Keys Starvation Experiment (1944-45)

  • Stress and hunger

  • Macronutrients, satisfaction, and hunger

  • The role of neuropeptide Y

  • Honouring your hunger bonus workbook

WHAT IS HUNGER?

Hunger, on a very basic level, describes a feeling of weakness or discomfort paired with the desire to eat. I imagine most of us have experienced it at some form or another. The signal is triggered by low cellular power. Think of your cells as mini cars and food as gasoline. Your hunger signal is a warning sign you’re approaching empty. 

There are physiological reasons for hunger, such as needing energy, hormonal imbalances, your genetic set-point (the weight you naturally and effortlessly arrive at when everything’s balanced), and metabolic damage (something’s up with your fullness/hunger cycle), as well all environmental reasons for hunger, such as your emotional state, being around food, not recalling the last time you ate, and attending social events (ie. dinner parties, wine and cheese parties) where food is available. 

Environmental causes are generally considered “wants”, vs. physiological reasons are considered “needs.” Neither is positive or negative — they’re just different avenues. Having a healthy relationship with food, if you ask me, means accepting and honouring both unconditionally. 

I know many don’t trust or feel comfortable around hunger. How do I know if I’m really hungry? How do I know I’m not just thirsty? You can try drinking water (ideally with a bit of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt, for electrolytes) to see if that’s the case. But keep in mind our appetites are not fixed, and regularly fluctuate in response to activity, hormones, stress, and so on. 

While intuitive eating is not just a hunger/fullness “diet” as many have characterized it, eating when you are hungry (and stopping when you are around 3/4 full) can help you to cultivate a great relationship with food. Not eating when you are hungry or waiting until you are ravenous to eat can lead to overeating, bingeing, or consuming foods out of convenience rather than out of desire. None of this feels good. 

Eating when I am hungry has also encouraged me to ask myself why I’m eating when I’m not hungry. What issues need my attention? What areas of my life are asking for my love and compassion? While I definitely eat when I’m not hungry from time to time (taste hunger for the win!), I do my best not to feed treat my symptoms and encourage you to find your own way through this (I’ll delve into this further in a future post.)

THE ANCEL KEYS STARVATION EXPERIMENT (1944-45)

Because thinness is prioritized above just about everything in life, dieting has become — so unfortunately and dangerously — normalized. We assume to starve we must be rail thin, a hangover of the diet mentality, but a diet by default is a form of starvation based on the symptoms exhibited. Interesting how we don’t have a “cancer body type”, yet apply very different standards to mental illnesses, particularly eating disorders. 

I’ve actually gone so far as to call out diets as low-grade eating disorders in the past — not a stretch considering the notorious Dr. Ancel Keys starvation experiment during World War II, designed to help famine sufferers. 

Thirty-two healthy men were chosen for their allegedly superior “psychobiological stamina”, or superior mental and physical health. During the initial three months, the men ate intuitively, averaging 3, 492 calories daily. They were subsequently subjected to a six-month starvation period where their calories were slashed to to 1, 570 daily — the caloric equivalent to the modern male diet

The consequences of the study included:

  • Metabolism dropped 40%

  • Men became obsessed with food. They experienced greater food cravings and began collecting recipes (long before the days of the Food Network, food blogs, and Pinterest.)

  • They experienced dysregulated eating patterns, vacillating between inhaling their food to playing with their food and drawing out mealtime.

  • Some men developed bulimia.

  • Some men began exercising to increase food rations.

  • Personality shifts were noted, as many men experienced the onset of apathy, irritability, moodiness, and depression.

  • Hunger became insatiable during the refeed period (weekend binges might amount to eight thousand to ten thousand calories)

Some of these same symptoms are exhibited by orphans adopted from poor countries. As Tribole and Resch point out in Intuitive Eating, a disproportionate number of starving concentration camp survivors are obese. 

When we deny our natural hunger, it’s normal to become more fixated on food than ever. Several years ago when my caloric intake was much too low for my body, I devoured cookbooks like meals, collected myriad recipes (most of which I’ve never tried), and pinned hundreds of meal ideas. Some of this is healthy; it’s normal to love food, enjoy cooking and baking, and to fall head-over-heels for the nostalgia and beauty of food writing. But at the same time, you ought to be able to go about your day without obsessing or feeling consumed over thoughts of food. 

I’ve vocalized my opposition to bikini competitions in the past, but I find we tend to focus on low body fat percentages (awful) to the exclusion of the psychological damage these activities generate. An acquaintance of mine remarked how she never had an issue with food until she signed up for a bikini competition. After it ended, she couldn’t stop eating and gained a significant amount of weight in a short period of time. Eventually her appetite regulated and she returned to her set-point, but the experience rattled her to such a degree she vowed never to compete again. 

But how will I lose weight without counting calories? That’s the point. Intuitive eating is not and should never be marketed as a weight loss strategy. The purpose of intuitive eating is to teach you how to listen to your body so you can develop a healthy relationship around all foods. When eating normalizes, weight stabilizes. The purpose of body positive coaching is to help individuals accept and move forward from the first point.

Eating is so important that the nerve cells of appetite are located in the hypothalamus region of the brain. A variety of biological signals triggers eating. What many people believe to be an issue of willpower, is instead a biological drive. The power and intensity of the biological eating drive should not be underestimated.
— Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Intuitive Eating

STRESS AND APPETITE

Many factors influence appetite. Most notably? Stress. Acute or short-term stress can lead to a decrease in appetite (hypophagia), while chronic stress gradually inflates appetite (hyperphagia) because of its impact on our hormones. The stress you feel immediately before writing an exam differs tremendously in its impact from insurmountable, chronic stress — the kind that never lets up. 

While I love the intuitive eating approach, it doesn’t address the impact of stress on our lives. I have something special coming out in January for this very reason (as a preliminary step to intuitive eating), but here’s the Cole’s Notes: if you’re interested in regulating appetite and normalizing eating, you must manage your stress through supreme self-care. 

Maybe you don’t feel you’re stressed, but most people who are stressed feel this way. All foods fit within the intuitive eating model. But taking your anger out on potato chips (anger, according to Doreen Virtue, can lead to cravings for crunchy foods) isn’t the way to solve it, just as working through your feelings through a pint of ice cream isn’t going to get you further ahead. I think the beauty of emotional eating is what it teaches us about ourselves and our attachments. It’s not something to suppress. Instead, acknowledge it when it comes and find alternate coping mechanisms.

Some of the things you can do to manage stress: 

  • Listen to music (I like mine loud)

  • Start your day with lemon water and a short meditation (I’m a big fan of SoulSeconds.com)

  • Take an Epsom salt bath with essential oils

  • Diffuse essential oils (especially lavender and eucalyptus)

  • Cook a delicious and nourishing meal

  • Grocery shop and meal prep for the week

  • Workout/move, especially yoga in these instances

  • Clean

  • Spend time reading in nature or at a coffee shop

  • Red wine and conversation with the loveliest people

  • Get a massage

  • Take a road trip or go on an adventure

  • Netflix and herbal tea

  • Laugh

MACRONUTRIENTS, SATISFACTION, AND HUNGER

I find many individuals are unsatisfied with nutritious fare because they find it unsatisfying. 

Ideally, when preparing a meal, you want to make sure to include some form of protein. Protein helps to keep us full, energized, and, scientifically speaking, is the most satisfying macronutrient. 

Fats make meals delicious. Flat-out. A low-fat meal, if you ask me, is not only boring, but super unsatisfying. It also makes little sense from a nutrition perspective, as we need healthy fats to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, minerals like calcium, and other phytonutrients. This has made all of the difference for me in making vegetables more appealing. Fats also offer sustained energy. Eating high-quality fats is a very healthy practice and should not be feared. 

Carbohydrates can sometimes help to fill us up. I know there’s so many messages about carbohydrates right now, but personally I recommend them. They help to round out a meal and offer quick energy for the cells. 

NEUROPEPTIDE Y

If you’ve never heard of it, Neuropeptide Y is a chemical produced by the brain. It triggers our drive to eat carbohydrates. When we deprive ourselves of food or under-eat (either unintentionally or intentionally), we provoke NPY into action. This can lead us to eat large amounts of carbohydrate in one sitting or to binge. 

Our brains also produce more NPY during stressful periods and when we’re burning carbs for fuel (as opposed to fats on a ketogenic diet, where the body relies on ketones rather than glucose.) If you find you’re craving #allthebread during times of stress, it may be due to this chemical increase. While many are tempted to hit up the newest diet to combat the effects of stress, trust me when I say the only way to undo the repercussions of stress is to work through the stress. 

Now, this doesn’t mean you need to consume large quantities of carbohydrate to satisfy a biological need. But it does suggest consuming regular, varied meals and snacking as needed are excellent tactics for naturally regulating appetite and preventing binge eating. Deprivation and food restriction — not a so-called lack of “willpower” — frequently leads to bingeing. The best way to support the nutrient deficiencies caused by stress, regulate appetite, and promote overall health is to honour hunger. It’s critical to consume all macronutrients (healthy fat, protein, carbohydrate), as they are all vital to cellular power. 

HONOURING YOUR HUNGER

Unsure of hunger's symptoms and how to honour it? Get my guide below to make peace with your appetite. 

 

What do you find most challenging when it comes to honouring your hunger?