Posts tagged Self-Care Tips
Will Intuitive Eating Stop My Sugar Cravings?

I’ll be honest: most of the clients who come to me want to lose weight (or at least are looking to maintain or “manage” their weight without a restrictive meal plan or eating style.) Weight loss goals must be shelved when pursuing intuitive eating, for even the perception of restriction can compromise your ability to tune in to your internal wisdom and embrace an intuitive approach. This is really intuitive eating pre-work, a mindset shift that must occur for intuitive eating to truly be effective (you know, to experience food freedom.)

But let’s say you’ve done the pre-work to shelve the weight loss goals. Ready, set, go. 

Not so fast.

Even if you’ve shelved the hope of weight loss, it can come up again in the desire to limit “forbidden foods” like cookies, cake, and ice cream by becoming an intuitive eater — which is just another layer of restriction. 

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If restricting sugar doesn’t work, maybe giving myself unconditional permission will, right? 

While intuitive eating is a wonderful tool for reducing the charge associated with some of your favourite (off-limits) foods, it doesn’t mean you’ll eat fewer of them or enjoy them any less. 

If you’re embarking on or are currently working your way through intuitive eating in the hopes that one day, when you are cured of your dieting ways, you will be completely satisfied eating carrots and hummus, never dare dreaming of those to-die-for chocolate chip cookies at the coffee house down the street, I have three words for you: hold up, homeslice.

What do you hope you will gain by limiting your sugar intake? 

For some people, this desire to stop “eating so much sugar” arrives in the guise of health. We've been conditioned to believe the every bite of chocolate, every nibble of donut, and every spoonful of ice cream is slowly leading to disease and killing us. 

While all nutritional information or recommendations necessitate context to be of any real value, even the World Health Organization — who lean more conservative when it comes to sugar consumption — deem deriving up to 10% of your daily energy needs from added sugar to be safe. Translation: you can enjoy dessert every day, allowing your cravings and food interests to guide the way.

The notion that every food choice is healing or harming oversimplifies a terrifically complicated interaction. 

Keep in mind the root word of disease literally stems from desaise (Old French), meaning discomfort, distress. This unease isn’t limited to the physical realm, but applies equally to the psychological. If you spend more time stressing over the chocolate cake than eating it, talking about how you’re going to compensate for the chocolate bar you ate too quickly to enjoy, or overthinking the potato chips you ate at last night’s party, it’s time to consider your mental state in the maintenance of good health.

For other people, the desire to limit sugary foods while intuitive eating is more covert. Diet culture can be super sneaky, and you may find the desire for weight loss pops up wearing different clothes (such as in concerns over sugar consumption.) 

I say this with a lot of compassion.

It’s tough work to give up the trappings of diet culture and embrace the wild world of intuitive eating when diets have provided so much safety and comfort for so long. But it’s also important to unpack what diet culture has (or hasn’t) provided you with, and how you can get your needs met in a deeper way. 

Ultimately, though, intuitive eating may or may not lead to a diminished desire for sugar. What’s possible is that by developing a healthier relationship with sugar you will feel less out of control around the office cookie jar, actually enjoy the chocolate you do eat, and have that coffee shop pastry on Saturday morning without post-experience guilt and shame. 

While you may sometimes want more “nutritious” foods over fun foods, this can’t be the goal of intuitive eating. In the same way that work must be balanced with play (or time off) to prevent burnout and promote self-care, it’s completely natural to want to balance intake of nutritious foods with a steady supply of pleasurable foods. Prioritizing extrinsic values — like needing or expecting your eating to look a certain way to feel okay — will interfere with your ability to connect with your internal wisdom and ultimately come to a place of self-acceptance regarding yourself and your body.




What Body Positive Practitioners Do For Self-Care

Self-care is a challenging topic — and one none of us can seem to clearly define. What is self-care? Is it a manicure and pedicure? Is it a day at the spa? Wine night with a bunch of awesome people? Sleeping in on a Saturday? Is it fancy, time-consuming, and expensive — a luxury — or something far simpler than that? And what is its purpose?

I think a lot about self-care. As someone who finds habit formation triumphantly difficult (I’m a rebel, according to Gretchen Rubin), mastering the little things takes enormous effort. And you know what? That’s okay. So when I think about self-care, I think a lot less about addition and much more about subtraction. I think a lot less about rules — self-care being another thing on the to do-list, or something else to punish myself with — and more about permission

Permission to take a day off. Permission to sleep in. Permission to eat the things I love. Permission to choose a relaxing walk around my neighbourhood over a vigorous workout. Permission to be imperfect. Permission to stand up for myself. Permission to get loud. Permission to buy an exorbitantly priced green juice when I feel my body needs the nutrition; permission to eat ice cream because it tastes so good. This is all self-care to me, because it all begins with "What do I need to feel good today?" and finding a way to get it. 

Intuitive Eating, body positivity, fat positivity, eating disorder recovery, health at every size. What 5 body positive practitioners do for self-care.

I asked other body positive, anti-diet practitioners to share in this topic and offer their view of what self-care is and what they do to show themselves love. 

SOPHIA APOSTOL

SOPHIA APOSTOL is a Toronto-based Confidence Coach who helps curvy ladies to feel confident from the boardroom to the bedroom. She brings 15 years of experience in the academic and corporate sectors to her client relationships. She builds resilience, courage, and authentic confidence by focusing on awareness, learning, growth, and emotional intelligence. Women who live aligned with their values, strengths, and creativity are able to pinpoint what is holding them back and can clearly see how to move forward. Sophia has worked with entrepreneurs, managers & executives, and academics who want fulfillment in both their career and personal lives.

"Here’s my biggest lifehack for self-care....have a list of your Top 10 Go-To’s written on a post-it on your fridge and saved in your phone’s notes app. 

When we’re in need of self care, our brain isn’t working optimally, hence the desire for self care, and can only focus on short-term alleviation of suffering (my default behaviour is numbing & binging with chips and Netflix). 

So, the way around this is to have a no-brain-needed list where I can easily see it. When I feel like I need/want self care, I look at my list and pick from these options: 

    1.    Get outside!!! Get dog leash, get dog, get down to the lake. 

    2.    Make a cup of English Breakfast tea. Sit on balcony. Breathe. 

    3.    Call one of my besties. Receive their love and support. 

    4.    Text one of my besties. Share that I’m feeling sad/angry/tired/etc. Receive their gratuitous heart emojis. 

    5.    Set an intention every morning. Text it to my 2 friends who also share theirs each
morning (accountability partners are everything!). 

    6.    Use one of my meditation apps for guided mindfulness to lower stress & anxiety in 10
minutes. 

    7.    Crank up girl-power pop music and practice my hip shimmies and sexy belly dance arm
movements...the more jiggle the better! 

    8.    Listen to a podcast that makes me laugh, cry, and learn. Current faves: Dear Sugar, The Moth, On Being.

    9.    Go to Body Blitz. ASAP! (This is a women’s only water circuit spa in Toronto, and it’s heavenly) 

    10.    Watch Netflix. Not binge watching for 5 hours, but to relax and enjoy a couple of
episodes."

Find Sophia: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram

TARA MILLER

 

TARA MILLER is a Toronto-based holistic nutritionist and intuitive eating coach, and owner of the Health Hut, a natural beauty and healthy lifestyle shop with locations in Toronto and Muskoka. She helps clients with a number of issues using a non-diet, "all foods fit" approach to nutrition and wellness. 

"For self-care, it seems simple but I absolutely love spending time alone in the evening and going to bed early.  I also enjoy being social, so make it a point not to schedule more than two nights out during the week in order to stay balanced and recharge.  I used to find it hard to say no to things, but when I realized how important feeling good is to my productivity, relationships and well-being, it has gotten much easier.  Nothing beats getting cozy - even it means I have to schedule it in!"

Find Tara: Facebook, Instagram

CHRISTINA FRANGIONE

 

CHRISTINA FRANGIONE is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Dietitian Nutritionist, who is currently pursuing her Master's degree in nutrition. She is the voice behind When Not All Foods Fit, a blog dedicated to helping people who struggle with disordered eating or negative relationships with food/their bodies AND who also need specialized diets for allergies, intolerances, chronic illnesses, co-occuring disorders, or religious or ethical beliefs.

"Self-care can be relaxing, enjoyable, and rejuvenating. It can also be challenging, painful, and anxiety provoking. Some days, my self-care might be watching a sitcom, painting my nails, or going to a yoga class. Other days, my self-care might be making an uncomfortable phone call, trying to identify why I reacted a certain way, or telling myself “it’s okay” over and over until I believe it. Self-care is so necessary both when you’re clearly in need of some extra support, and when you have a handle on your mental health. "

Find Christina: Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest

EMILY FONNESBECK

EMILY FONNESBECK is a Registered Dietitian and Certified LEAP Therapist who takes an individualized, non-diet approach to client work and avoids fear-based information. She gives guidance to those seeking help with eating disorders or disordered eating, digestive concerns, food sensitivities, diabetes care, heart disease, pregnancy/infertility nutrition, sports nutrition and athletic performance, vegetarian diets, general nutrition information and more.  

"As a working mom of 3, I've found that self-care doesn't just happen.  That's particularly true now that we have a new toddler living with us who is still adjusting to a new language, new country and a new family.  The best way I take care of myself, hands down, is asking for help and not holding myself to the impossible standard of doing everything on my own.  As a recovering perfectionist that's not super easy for me.  But I really benefit from delegating responsibilities to my kids (which is good for them too), accepting my husband's support in household tasks and childcare, triaging to-do lists and even letting go of stuff that isn't necessary (like a clean house some weeks).  We all have to be team players to make it work.  The best part is that I then can find time each week to do things that mean the most to me like playing with my kids, spending time with my husband and writing.  Lastly, I find it so helpful to schedule time for things that I know build physical and mental resiliency for me like exercise, meal planning, scripture reading and sleep. " 

Find Emily: Instagram, Facebook 

JENNA FREE

JENNA FREE is an Intuitive Eating Counsellor and Body Image Coach at You Ain't Your Weight. After years of modelling and obsessing over food and weight, she discovered intuitive eating and self-love -- two tools that "turned her world upside down." She helps women ditch the diet, stop obsessing over food and learn to love their bodies once and for all.

"Practicing self care means more than bubble baths and massages (although those things are amazing). For me a huge part of my self care now is listening to my body, which I rarely did when I was dieting. Honouring my hunger is a huge piece of this. I don't deny myself food anymore, I have learned to always trust my body. Our bodies are so much smarter than us!”

Find Jenna: Instagram, Facebook

How you define self-care? What challenges do you face in practicing some form of self-care? What would you need in order to show yourself love? 

In Defence of Cookies: Why Sugar is Not a Drug

With the sheer amount of fear-mongering inspired by the unicorn frappuccino, I figured it was far time to set the record straight. While I love pure maple syrup and local honey, my kind of cookie includes some kind of sugar. And though there’s much to be said for “natural sweeteners,” I think we often forget sugar is a natural sweetener, too, sourced from the stems of sugar cane or the roots of sugar beets. 

Health experts are generally quick to criminalize sugar. Sugar is “bad”, sugar “causes obesity” or “leads to obesity”, sugar makes us fat, sugar gives us various diseases and leads to metabolic syndrome, sugar is the devil, sugar is a drug. And though sugar isn’t exactly a vegetable, there’s no reason why kale can’t co-exist with real, fresh-out-of-the-oven oatmeal cookies. 

Intuitive eating | Health at Every Size | Anti-Diet. In Defence of Cookies - why sugar is not a drug.

 

Pour Some Sugar On Me, Baby: Sugar and Survival

An article published in the European Journal of Nutrition back in 2016 reviewed the current literature on sugar addiction and the addictive potential of sugar, concluding that sugar does not, in fact, operate like cocaine. I’m exploring this study today and what it means for cookie lovers everywhere.

But first, I want to draw your attention to a little snippet from a book by the name of Sugar: A Global History: “Sweet foods cause the taste buds to release neurotransmitters that light up the brain’s pleasure centres. The brain responds by producing endo-cannabinoids, which increase appetite. This may have an evolutionary explanation…40 per cent of the calories in breast milk come from lactose, a disaccharide sugar that is readily metabolized into glucose, the body’s basic fuel. The sweetness leads infants to eat more, making them more likely to survive.” (7.)

Yes, loves. Sugar’s not all bad. It has actually contributed to the survival of our species. But we don’t need gobs of it, you argue. Sure. But I would also argue (with supportive evidence) that if we simply allowed ourselves to eat it, we would eat only what we wanted (and not feel powerless around it), develop resilience in the face of hyper-palatable foods, and learn how to balance it with other foods.

The fruit was never the problem; it was the fact that it was forbidden

“But I’m addicted to sugar!”: Food Addiction Theory

Once upon a time, someone — let’s call her Eve, since we’re already there — mentioned she was addicted to sugar. “I can’t resist the apple,” she said. Okay, so she didn’t actually say that, but let’s pretend a donut is an apple is a donut. While the food addiction theory claims “excessive consumption of palatable foods may be understood within the same neurobiological framework as drug addiction”, this isn’t actually all that helpful. 

Of course it would appear this way on the surface, but you could also say we’re only repeating the pattern you’d expect from us — the same one we learned in childhood (see: baby and breast milk). The same one that keeps us alive. As Linda Bacon explains in Health at Every Size, the more we restrict food intake and the lower our weight dips below set-point, the more our bodies reach out for hyper-caloric foods to gain the weight back. I would argue it's less addiction and more straight-up physiology. 

In Obesity Reviews (14 - 19-28), the question of whether food addiction theory is a valid or useful concept was evaluated by researchers. Food addiction, according to them, “has acquired much currency with relatively little supporting evidence. Despite continuing uncertainty about the concept and relative lack of support, it has remarkable, and in our view, unjustified, influence in developing neurobiological models of obesity."

We Need Sugar Detoxes...Because Sugar Detoxes Exist

The intuitive eating model advocates that all foods fit — including sugar. By giving ourselves unconditional permission to eat, challenging the food police, making peace with food, and honouring our hunger and fullness cues (including ‘taste hunger’, ‘meal hunger’, and ‘snack hunger’), we can cultivate a healthy relationship with food. 

This particular article (the one from the European Journal of Nutrition) found “little evidence to support sugar addiction in humans, and findings from the animal literature suggest that addiction-like behaviours, such as bingeing, occur only in the context of intermittent access to sugar (emphasis mine). These behaviours likely arise from intermittent access to sweet tasting or highly palatable foods, not the neurochemical effects of sugar”. 

So let’s unpack this a bit. 

Say we have two situations. 

Betty Anne deprives herself of sugar, though she wouldn’t describe it this way. She’d probably say things like, “I don’t keep sweets in the house” or “I shouldn’t” in response to a cookie, or she uses artificial sweeteners and always opts for diet soda. She feels “out of control” whenever she’s around sugar and has concluded that she is addicted. 

Keiko eats whatever she wants, including cookies, candy, and pastries. She looks forward to sitting down with a croissant and a coffee on a Saturday morning, having a cookie with her mid-afternoon cup of tea, and a great glass of lemonade. 

Keiko eats sugar. Maybe she eats sweet foods often. Who knows? What we do know is that Keiko doesn’t feel like she needs a “sugar detox.” She doesn’t view sugar as a problem needing to be solved; she views sweets as a beautiful and amazing part of life. She can take a cookie or leave it. She can enjoy a croissant or a soft-boiled egg. It's just one choice among millions of choices she'll make during the course of her lifetime. 

Betty Anne is another story. She feels like she has a problem with sugar because whenever she gets around it, she loses “control”, or what I prefer to call “choice.” She probably assumes there’s something wrong with sugar, though more likely she assumes there’s something wrong with herself. The one thing she probably hasn’t considered is that there’s something wrong with her pattern of behaviour

Keiko enjoys sugar regularly without emotional or physical restriction. Betty Anne restricts. In the article, the rats wanted more sugar because they were deprived of sugar (intermittent access) though the same couldn’t be said of the rats who carried an all-access pass

Which kid eats more cookies: the one who’s told to eat as many as s/he/their wants, or the one who’s told not to eat any and is subsequently left alone with a jar? 

I’d like to suggest that the problem is not that sugar is a drug. The problem is that we treat sugar like a drug. The problem is not sugar. The problem is our relationship to sugar.  

We deprive ourselves of it, restrict it, shame ourselves for eating it, tell ourselves we “shouldn’t” when faced with a slice of cheesecake, deny dessert, and go on sugar detoxes. But the reason we “need” sugar detoxes is because we have sugar detoxes. Are we hardwired for hyper palatable foods? Sure. But the purpose of this mechanism is — rather, was — to ensure we consume sufficient calories for lean times. 

Maybe the answer rests in not denying or fighting this mechanism — a seemingly futile task — but in learning how to work with it. 

Imagine a faux Garden of Eden. There’s a single tree with one beautiful, perfect apple. I want you to imagine more trees popping up everywhere — the fields are filling. Everywhere, buds burst open, flowers emerge, and apples quickly form. Everywhere you look, there’s gorgeous apples. 

Now let’s apply this to sweets. Imagine a land filled with cookies, cakes, pastries, pie…all of your favourites. You can eat them whenever you want. Maybe you go a little nuts at first; it’s been so long since you’ve had these things. But after a while you tire of them. Maybe you eat a croissant on a Saturday. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you eat a mid-afternoon cookie. Maybe you work right through the break without realizing it. 

You can either restrict food and access to highly palatable foods…or you can create an environment of abundance — both mental and physical — vs. scarcity — both mental and physical — so that you feel safe and secure. 

Maybe the goal isn’t to deny our biology or to attempt to combat it. Maybe the goal isn’t to say no (which just leads to danger, danger, danger — eat all the sugar!). Maybe it’s to remind yourself you have unconditional permission to eat.