Posts tagged Non-Diet Approach
From Dieter to Intuitive Eater: Should I *Always* Honour My Hunger?

Moving from dieting to intuitive eating can be fraught with all kinds of confusion and challenges. While dieting encourages you not to listen to your hunger — just drink water, right? — and to actively suppress it using all manner of things, intuitive eating is all. about. listening. 


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CONSEQUENCES OF NOT HONOURING HUNGER

Part of this is based on the Ancel Keys landmark food deprivation study conducted during World War II. Thirty-two healthy men with “superior psychobiological stamina” were selected for the study. During the first three months, the men ate as they liked (ate intuitively); during the next six months, the men endured semi-starvation. The effects studied and observed closely mirror the symptoms of dieting, including: 

  • 40% decrease in metabolic rate 

  • Obsession with food (the men experienced heightened food cravings, talked about food, and collected recipes)

  • Participants would ravenously gulp their food, stall, play with food, or dwindle over a meal (symptoms seen in those with eating disorders)

  • Episodes of bulimia and binge-eating 

  • Incidents of over-exercise to increase their food rations 

  • Changes in personality (i.e. the onset of apathy, depression, irritability, moodiness.)

But…should you always honour you hunger, Sarah? 

In short — yes. Yes, yes, yes.

Diet culture teaches us that our appetites can’t be trusted. Whether it’s carbs, macros, calories, sugar, fat, “clean foods”, and the like, we’re constantly being told what to do (um, bossed around) — and constantly left questioning whether we’re doing “it” right

Dieting really complicates eating, transforming everything we’re doing with food into a conflict to be resolved. And semi-starving us all the while.

Eating actually doesn’t have to be so hard. 

HUNGER IS ACTUALLY HEALTHY

One of the 10 principles of intuitive eating — the second one, in fact - is “honour your hunger.” It’s an important principle, and one that’s easy to get stuck on (particularly if the diet mentality hasn’t been fully rejected.) 

While hunger is a meaty topic that could easily cover several blog posts, I do want to illuminate the following today: your hunger is natural, healthy, helpful. Even if it doesn’t always seem that way. Honouring hunger is fundamental to feeling sane around food.

Ignoring it, dismissing it, or actively trying to suppress it can have unintended consequences. As Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole discuss in Intuitive Eating, “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.” (62)

For most of us, we breathe consistently without any work on our end. We don’t have to try, or think about it. We just do.

Our detoxification organs are always working for us, whether we realize it or not. 

And our hunger? It lights up when our energy stores are low and we need more food

Hunger isn’t a trick. It’s not a “problem” to be suppressed with all kids of low-cal diet foods, beverages, or “hacks.” It’s not out of control. Getting hungry often doesn't mean there’s something wrong (and in fact, there could be a whole lot right.)

Hunger varies. Sometimes you’ll be super hungry, and sometime less so. Sometime the reason will be apparent — and sometimes not. 

Sometimes you’ll need three snacks, and sometimes your three meals might be enough. 

So…how do you work with hunger instead of against it? 

You listen to it. 

You honour it.

You eat. 

Unsure of what hunger feels like? Let’s chat.



How to Stop Restricting in Intuitive Eating

Whether you’re new to intuitive eating or have been at it for a while, I think you’re going to benefit from today’s discussion about (unconscious or unrealized) restriction. I’ve received many questions and comments lately that all revolve around restriction and today I'm digging deep into it to shed some light on where you're limiting yourself. 

For example:

…You want to eat a plate of vegetables, but doing so makes you feel “virtuous” — and triggers you to eat something you deem “bad”, “unhealthy,” or “indulgent.” 

…You don’t want to deprive yourself of sweets, but you don’t feel satisfied by the amount of sugar you’re eating until you feel you’ve overdone it. 

…You’re trying to create new health habits and behaviours, but your mind is always rebelling or resisting these changes. 

Intuitive eating, body positive, health at every size, non diet approach, nutrition. How to stop restricting in intuitive eating.

There’s all kinds of ways to restrict that impact our ability to eat in ways that feel good to us. 

Let’s take the first one. If you believe you’re being “good” by eating a plate of vegetables, you’re still working through your diet culture hangover. If eating a plate of vegetables triggers you to eat sweets, it’s possible that meal was not satisfying to you. 

But my biggest question here is: when you’re eating all the vegetables and rebelling, who are you eating the vegetables for? Why are you eating the vegetables? And be really honest here. If the answer is “with the hopes of weight loss,” it’s not actually the vegetables that are triggering the desire for sweets. It’s the perception of restriction and scarcity symbolized by the plate of vegetables. It's that you associate the plate of vegetables with dieting and weight loss. 

Put another way:

What you think is happening:

I eat vegetables —> I want and eat all the sweets 

What is actually happening:

I’m going to eat vegetables —> a plate of vegetables makes me think I’m dieting —> I want and eat all the sweets. 

The problem has nothing to do with the sweets or the vegetables, but your relationship with sweets and vegetables. Here’s a few ways you can tackle this issue:

  1. Get crystal clear on why you eat vegetables. What words come to mind?

  2. What’s your goal? Why do you want to eat nutritious foods? How will your life change?

  3. Why do you associate vegetables with dieting and weight loss?

  4. Do you enjoy vegetables? How could you enjoy them more?

  5. Are you truly giving yourself permission to eat sweets?

Try asking yourself the above questions and unpacking this a bit further so you can really get at the bottom of what’s triggering you. 

Now let’s say you eat sugar, but you never feel satisfied by what you’re eating until you’ve overdone it and feel sick to your stomach. Let’s explore this. 

Maybe part of you knows if you eat too much sugar (for your body), you’ll get a stomach ache. 

Maybe part of you knows if you eat too much sugar (for your body), you’ll experience low energy.

And maybe these narratives are also competing with the following narratives:

I’ve always overdone sugar and I always will. I don’t know how to control myself around sugar. 

I’m addicted to sugar, but I guess I’ll *try* this intuitive eating thing…

Which further compound the issue. 

Here’s the thing: by placing expectations and limits on these foods before you’ve even started eating them you are engaging in a restrictive mindset. 

Here’s how I would solve this split, restrictive situation. 

  1. Sit down to eat without any distractions.

  2. Instead of going in with a set limit, try to exploring. E.g.: “I’m just going to see how many it takes to satisfies me.” Go in without any preconceived notions or judgment.

  3. Try eating your favourite foods slowly. This can take time and practice, especially if this food still carries a significant charge. This will also give you time to register when you’ve had enough sugar to satisfy. Take note of your pace.

Now, what about when you’re trying to create new health habits and behaviours, but your mind is always rebelling? 

Unpack this. Do your new goals feel like too much to you? Oppressive? Restrictive? I want you to think really hard about what you actually want and why you want it. What will it give you? Get crystal clear on the meaning behind your goals so that they really are internally- vs. externally-driven. 

What Are We Doing to Prevent Eating Disorders?

There’s a fine line between “health” and too far

Over the last year I’ve become interested in, among many other things, how we use and abuse “health.” How health oppresses. Health — and “health foods”, such as green smoothies and chia seed puddings — as status or currency. Health as the new wealth, so clearly articulated in the term “wellthy.” 

intuitive eating, health at every size, eating disorder recovery. What are we doing to prevent eating disorders?

I used to believe — and a large part of me still does — that access to nutritious food could change the world. I wanted to deepen my “nutrition practice,” consume all the vegetables, and generally work on myself in ways that seemed meaningful but actually felt superfluous. An improved version of myself was a self who readily eschewed ketchup chips for carrot sticks, who ditched “carbs” for an extra serving of vegetables, who worked out instead of sleeping in. 

But when the comments on my body came, when I was congratulated for my discipline and my “super healthy” diet, I realized I had not really improved. I was still on the same hamster wheel I’d been on since I was fourteen. Was I searching for health or worth? Was I searching for improvement or value? When I consider how far we’ve come from promoting what I’d consider a “balanced diet”, things appear to take the shape of religion more than they do scientific fact. 

While we’ve crossed oceans in defence of “health”, I’d argue the same can’t be said for eating disorders. As a professional working exclusively with disordered eating and eating disorders, I’ll admit I don’t know everything — who does? — but most of the efforts I’ve seen in this area focus on preventing “obesity” rather than eating disorders (even though these are sometimes one in the same, a fact rarely considered or acknowledged.) 

We live in a time when Orthorexic food recommendations have become the norm. Dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free…that’s what health is, right? But it’s not. We’ve weaponized these groups. We’ve become so hyper-focused on what is wrong that we’ve created a war at the table (and furthered the distance between the haves and the have-nots.) Restriction and weight loss have become so woven into our culture that we can’t even see when our behaviours and attitudes are problematic. 

We also rarely consider the ways health has nothing to do with diet or exercise. What about historical trauma? What about marginalization? What about food insecurity and its long-term effects? What about lack of education, cooking skills, or basic electricity? Why do we say healthy eating is so easy when the world has shown up, time and time again, to tell us otherwise? Why do we assume health is a matter of choice and not a matter of circumstance? 

We’ve exchanged the thin ideal for a ripped, lean one, complete with the degrading #bodygoals tag. An ideal few can achieve without heroic (or genetic) effort. Without restriction. A goal that suggests the body is a project, not a vessel, one more important than being kind or hard-working or charitable. 

If an individual diagnosed with, let’s say, Anorexia Nervosa, decided to participate in Beachbody, we’d see this as a problem (I should hope.) So then why is it okay for someone who is not diagnosed with an eating disorder to do the same? 

Why do we promote such disordered attitudes and behaviours toward food? Is this health? 

I walked into a Greek restaurant the other day. It’s a chain, so calorie counts were littered all over the menu. I was so triggered by the numbers I couldn’t order and walked out. We would never think to hand someone recovering from lung cancer a cigarette, but apparently it’s quite alright to list numbers all over the goddamned city — including sandwich boards — for those in recovery to see. 

For anyone who barks how we shouldn’t make exceptions for those with eating disorders because “obesity is a bigger issue”, I want you think about all the efforts we’ve made in the name of physical health — and all the ways mental health is never considered

To have a mental illness in this country is to have a second class illness

But hey, being thin is so much more important, right?