Intuitive Eating for the Holidays: 5 Tips For Survival.

Intuitive Eating for the Holidays: 5 Tips For Survival.

Intuitive Eating for the Holidays: 5 Tips For Survival.

 

Want to survive the holiday parties? Worried about over-indulging? Afraid of falling off your diet?

 

Here are 5 tips holiday eating survival guide so you can stay connected during this time of the year.

 

1.     Give yourself permission to eat enough of your favorite holiday foods.

Say what? Yes, you heard me right. The holidays are once a year, so go ahead and enjoy! Avoidance of your favorite holiday foods causes cravings to increase, not decrease which is always going to be a set up to over-indulge in these foods. 

Giving yourself permission to enjoy your favorites is not a license to overeat. Permission to eat WHATEVER you want is contingent on you staying connected to your body. Staying connected to your body while you eat these foods most likely will prevent you from overeating. Overeating happens when there are thoughts of scarcity and deprivation such as, ‘I won’t be able to eat this for another year, so might as well go for another slice.’ When the attention shifts from your body, redirect it back to your internal fullness cues. Notice what your mind is telling you, notice if you start to want to race ahead and eat another without regard to your body cues. Stay connected to your body and listen with curiosity to what your mind tells you.

 

2. Trust that your body knows how to self-regulate.

If you eat too much during this time of the year, your body will make adjustments over time. So what if you gain a few pounds during the holidays? If this puts you over your set point weight, your body will naturally adjust back down over time with ‘normal’ eating, and ‘normal’ activity. It is normal to have seasonal weight fluctuations of a few pounds during the year. It is important to be flexible with these fluctuations knowing that weight is not fixed but rather a fluid range depending on the seasons and activity patterns. The media and magazines exaggerate claims of “holiday weight gain,” instilling fear that that weight gain is inevitable. Basically, we are all doomed to watch our weights balloon year after year if we don’t play careful. The media does a fantastic job of inflating this fear to support a 65 billion dollar diet industry. Fear inspires people to buy diet pills and potions. Turn off your television and stop reading those crappy “health and fitness” magazines that do nothing but instill fear and stress. I wonder how much of this fear actually drives people to stress eat- to numb out the worry and fears by grabbing another cookie. Almost sounds like a conspiracy theory. Jokes aside, I do think that stress eating is driven in part by the need to silence the worry caused from our toxic food culture.

 

3.    Self- care 101: What is self-care?

How do you know when you are stressed out? What does it feel like in your body? How do you cope with stress? Do you reach for the cookies, or do you go for a power walk around the block? It’s important to develop a daily self-care practice to reduce and manage stress. The most effective stress reducing practice is meditation and breathing exercises. Breathing is free and can be done anytime, anywhere. Even as little as 5 minutes a day can dramatically reduce your stress levels. Other forms of self care include: yoga, massage, walks in nature, sleeping in, reading, cooking, dancing, playing music, writing, reading poetry, and other forms of pleasurable escape. When you learn to identify what stresses you out and what needs to be done to take care of yourself, it will be much easier to stay connected to your body. When you have a practice of staying connected to your body, you will be more in tune with your hungers and know how to feed them appropriately.

 

4. Protect your hunger before the party starts. 

Most diet advice is to avoid, manage and suppress hungers- especially around holiday parties. Before you go to the party, make it a practice to check in with your body. Notice your breath. Notice your level of hunger before you begin to eat. What sensations are you feeling? Unlike conventional diet advice, I would recommend going to the party hungry- but not too hungry!

Conventional diet advice is to eat before the party to avoid over-eating. This is actually a set up to eat more, not less. If you want to avoid over-eating, go to the party hungry (but not starving), choose what you most want to eat, sit down, stay connected and enjoy. It’s best to set an intention before going to the party that you want to stay connected and that you want to leave the party feeling satisfied not stuffed. It’s easy to avoid over eating if you know these foods will be around (abundance factor). However, the truth is, that some of these foods are not around much at all during the rest of the year, so this makes it more challenging to stop eating when satisfied. There are some foods that will demand more awareness as well as ‘loving limits.’ Foods that pose a particular challenge to stop at satisfaction require loving limits. Loving limits is a practice whereby you agree to limit yourself in a loving way to protect yourself from feeling stuffed. For example, with Halloween candy, my loving limit might be 5 fun size pieces a day. My hope is to honor this to feel good and to exercise my discipline muscle of wanting to feel good and honor my truth- not saying no out of deprivation or avoidance. If you don’t have a plan with these foods, it is easy to go unconscious and over-consume, or under-consume if you are struggling with unconditional permission. Again, avoidance doesn’t work, but loving limits gives you permission while setting healthy boundaries around how much to support your body in feeling balanced and energized as opposed to stuffed and lethargic.

And, here is the thing about over-eating. If you do over-eat, no big deal. Everyone on the planet over eats. It’s not a crime to over eat, it a normal behavior. Remember that intuitive eating is not perfect eating. Please don’t beat yourself up for not being a perfect eater. Intuitive eating means imperfect eating and with that, occasional over eating. Every time you feel like you didn’t do it right, learn from this and then move on. Tomorrow is a new day to keep practicing and fine tuning your intuitive eating powers.

 

5. Once the parties are over, please do not go back on another diet.

I know it is tempting to want to go back to another diet, especially after the holidays and the winter hibernation that sets in. Remind yourself how every diet you went on only worked short term. Remember that once you went off the diet, the weight came back, plus about 10% more from when you started. The best way to regain a sense of control is to redirect the focus from outside of yourself (scales and diets and points and calories) to inside yourself. Reconnect to your hungers, reconnect to your body. Focus on slowing down enough to hear the subtle cues of hunger and fullness. Practice getting into your body every day to shift the awareness from outside to inside. Your body craves movement just as it craves rest and relaxation. It takes some discipline to train your body to crave this, so in the beginning it does take some effort. One of my teachers once said that it takes great effort to become effortless. Intuitive eating and intuitive exercise is just this- great effort in the beginning before it becomes easy, habituated and integrated.

Wishing you a warm, tasty and healthy holiday season!

 

 

 

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Top 10 Reasons to Give Up Dieting

Top 10 Reasons to Give Up Dieting

Top Ten Reasons To Give Up Dieting

 

#10: Diets don't work. Even if you lose weight, you will probably gain it all back, and you might gain back more than you lost.

 

#9: Diets are expensive. If you didn't buy special diet products, you could save enough to get new clothes, which would improve your outlook right now.

 

#8: Diets are boring. People on diets talk and think about food and practically nothing else. There's a lot more to life.

 

#7: Diets don't necessarily improve your health. Like the weight loss, health improvement is temporary. Dieting can actually cause health problems.

 

#6: Diets don't make you beautiful. Very few people will ever look like models. Glamour is a look, not a size. You don't have to be thin to be attractive.

 

#5: Diets are not sexy. If you want to be more attractive, take care of your body and your appearance. Feeling healthy makes you look your best.

 

#4: Diets can turn into eating disorders. The obsession to be thin can lead to anorexia, bulimia, bingeing, and compulsive exercising.

 

#3: Diets can make you afraid of food. Food nourishes and comforts us, and gives us pleasure. Dieting can make food seem like your enemy, and can deprive you of all the positive things about food.

 

#2: Diets can rob you of energy. If you want to lead a full and active life, you need good nutrition, and enough food to meet your body's needs.

 

And the number one reason to give up dieting:

 

#1: Learning to love and accept yourself just as you are will give you self-confidence, better health, and a sense of well-being that will last a lifetime.

 

From the Council on Size & Weight Discrimination, Inc. 

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Donuts: The Key to a Healthy Diet?

Donuts: The Key to a Healthy Diet?

 

 

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any. ~Alice Walker

 

 

Can you eat donuts and still be healthy? You already know my answer to this. But, before I explain, let’s define what healthy eating is in our diet crazed, weight obsessed world.

 

First of all, to define health we need to look at all of the factors that influence health beyond nutrition. There are many factors to consider that have nothing to do with how much kale one eats. What are these other factors? Let’s have a look at a few important ones: high stress levels, poor sleep quality, smoking, chronic dieting, isolation or lack of community, poverty, and exposure to toxic environments and chemicals. In my opinion, Americans over-value and put too much emphasis on the importance of “good” nutrition to achieve “optimal” health. Michael Pollen coins this term, “Nutritionism” whereby food is reduced to nutrients and since we cannot taste nutrients, we need experts, dietitians and nutritionists, to tell us what to eat. Within this framework, nutrition and healthy eating can be measured and controlled; the main purpose of eating is to achieve health and to prevent diet related diseases. Pollen would argue that there are stronger forces that contribute to health beyond the measured and controlled world of nutrition science. The over-concern on ‘proper’ nutrition edges out more important health protectors such as environmental factors like social eating. The environmental, social and psycholglocal reasons to eat are virtually ignored, while reductionist nutrition is over-valued as truth.

 

I agree with Pollen, in that we need to look beyond nutrients for what promotes health. Eating a bucket load of kale alone and isolated when depressed does not promote optimal digestion and health. On the other hand, eating donuts surrounded by good friends and laughter does.

 

It is also important to note that Americans love to follow diets such as the Paleo, Weight Watchers, The Master Cleanse, etc. Statistics show dismal dieting ‘success’ rates. Those that follow diets will develop disordered eating behaviors, such as overeating and weight cycling (weight gain) over time. Dieting, which entails avoidance of foods and/or food groups, causes psychological distress as well as physical stress from metabolic impairment. The antidote to dieting is Intuitive eating.

 

So, what exactly is Intuitive eating, and can it be healthy? Let’s look at a few of the principals of Intuitive eating (IE). Unlike dieting, IE makes room for moderation of ALL foods. This is a critical step in the process of becoming an intuitive eater. Unconditional permission to eat all foods! Yep, you heard me right, all the foods under the sun- from donuts to brownies to kale to corn and back. This way of looking at foods is more neutral, and radically challenges the unconscious cultural habit to judge foods into good and bad categories. Scientifically speaking, most foods have some degree of nutritional value. Even a donut has nutrition. We need to look at foods with critical thinking skills, not magical thinking skills.

 

When all foods are ‘legalized,’ that is, nothing is forbidden and nothing is over-valued, we can then make a choice from body wisdom, instead of a reaction against self imposed rules. When we choose foods from body wisdom, we will naturally seek the right balance of nutrition. When we choose from a reactionary place, i.e. breaking rules or being bad, it leads to unbalanced behaviors, such as overeating.

 

With unconditional permission to eat all foods, no foods or food groups are avoided out of fear. Avoidance of foods is supportive if there is a legitimate health issue.

The beauty about unconditional permission to eat all foods is that it allows you to relax around food. This principal is what prevents overeating. If you know you can have brownies again tomorrow, why would you eat all of them right now? It’s much, much easier to relax around foods when you trust that they are not going anywhere, and that you can have brownies again for the rest of your life. I realize this is a hard sell, but trust me: when you surrender to this principal, your trust with foods and your trust with yourself will exponentially increase.

 

Intuitive eating is not perfect eating. It allows for forgiveness and flexibility. Some days you may overeat at that cocktail party from distracted eating, or maybe you didn’t eat enough greens one day and you can feel it in your body- a deeper craving for something green and light. Some days will be like this, but you don’t beat yourself up, instead you gently remind yourself that, tomorrow is a new day, and that you ultimately trust your body to make up for any imbalances over time.

 

Intuitive eating is body centered. It is rooted in a daily practice of listening to your body. It is an active practice of turning inward to notice the many body sensations that arise during the course of your day. It is getting deeply in touch with your physical hungers, as well as your emotional hungers. It is developing the skills to navigate and feed each appropriately.  

 

Eating intuitively is a lifestyle because it is something you will continue to practice for the rest of your life. Unlike a diet, it is not something you go ‘on’ and then ‘off.’ The practice over time becomes integrated, internalized and sustainable.

Intuitive eating, is also referred to as ‘attuned eating,’ as it honors the body’s need to eat nourishing foods that feel good, rather than eating foods that deplete ones energy. It is honoring craving as they arise and knowing the difference between cravings to support health and cravings that may be from an imbalance, emotional or hormonal reasons.

 

The practice of leaning in, and listening to body cues of hunger, allows one to access the subtle cues of fullness, otherwise known as the, ‘stopping point.’ Our bodies like to feel comfortably full and satisfied from eating the right amount and balance of foods. Our bodies don’t function well when we over eat, nor do they feel good and function well with under eating.

 

Intuitive eating leads with self-awareness and pleasure. Dieting on the other hand discourages any sense of pleasure and instead, seeks to ‘avoid temptation.’ Intuitive eating believes the best way to avoid temptation, is to give in. Yet it gives in with deliberate attention, self-awareness and mindfulness. Again, permission to eat all foods, self-awareness and pleasure build trust with all foods. From this point, it is easy to access body wisdom.

 

When we eat for pleasure and satisfaction, we allow ourselves to relax with eating. Relaxation optimizes our digestion of nutrients, elevates our moods, and creates feelings of well -being. Eating from this relaxed state opens the channels for intuitive wisdom to flow through. We can then easily and effortlessly hear the signals of hunger and fullness. With practice over time, intuitive eating becomes effortless and joyful. You will trust your body to know exactly when to eat, what to eat, and how much to eat.

 

Dieting on the other hand, is based in fear, avoidance and judgments, which block us from body wisdom. Dieting undermines our ability to trust ourselves by disconnecting the body from hunger and fullness. Dieting says you cannot be trusted to know what and how much to eat. Dieting asks that you give away your power to an outside authority- a diet or a dieting expert. Intuitive eating restores and heals this disconnect. When you vow to stop dieting, you are taking a profound step in taking your power back.

 

If health is what we are after, we need to look beyond just nutrients. We need to move away from reductionist thinking and of over-valuing the importance of nutrition. We need to look at nutrition within a broader context that takes into account both physical and emotional health. Intuitive eating does just that.

 

 

 

 

 

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Why "Clean Eating" is BS

The problem with clean eating is that it inspires dichotomous thinking patterns. Dichotomous thinking patterns are also known as black and white thinking, which narrows and limits the broader truth of our realities. Use of the phrase, ‘clean eating,’ is a direct set up to judge foods into categories of good and bad. You are either eating clean, or you are eating dirty. There is no in between. If we need less of anything in this world, it is less judgments and dichotomous thinking. What we need more of is a more balanced, flexible and forgiving relationship to the foods we eat.

 

Let’s start by defining what ‘clean’ eating is. Generally speaking, clean eating can be defined as eating a diet that is mostly whole foods, that is, less processed foods, including, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and lean meats. Foods that are processed or packaged are generally not considered clean. Fast foods, pizza, burgers, fries, cookies, etc., are also likely not considered clean, unless they are made with gluten free flour… but that is another blog post altogether!

 

As a dietitian, my background and training is all about endorsing ‘clean foods’ – eating a wide variety of whole foods that can support health and well being. It is not the foods I take issue with, but rather the judgment that this concept ‘clean’ implies. When you think of the word clean, the brain naturally will begin to think of its opposite, that is, dirty. We get into dichotomous thinking when the use of clean is associated with eating. And this is problematic because if someone does not eat clean foods, the set up will be to judge themselves negatively which in turn leaves them feeling demoralized. On the other hand, for some, eating clean foods can be a way to feel virtuous with eating or to elevate ones sense of moral superiority.

 

We need to separate out morality from our food choices. I joke with clients, that if they eat a brownie and feel guilty that this is an inappropriate emotion to associate that behavior with. If you however steal the brownie from the corner store, then feeling guilty would be an appropriate emotion for that behavior. The good/bad judgments that clean eating promotes diminishes ones sense of self worth. Obviously, this is a distorted translation that does more harm than is warranted.

 

Our diet-obsessed culture is an incubator for creating countless food moralizations that serve to remove people from the wisdom of their bodies. If someone falls off the wagon of clean eating, and eats a brownie, or two, they may have a hard time sensing the subtle feedback from their body. Instead of noticing how full they are beginning to feel, they may instead silence the guilty feeling by eating another brownie. Judgments of foods into good and bad categories are one of many factors that drive overeating behaviors. Your relationship to food, that is, your thoughts and feelings and judgments about the food you are eating have a powerful effect on whether you will be able to eat that food in harmony (eating the right amount), or disharmony (overeating). If your mind is overwhelmed with judgments it will mask your ability to hear the wisdom of your body. The wisdom of the body is what we need to listen to and trust, not the judgments from our minds.

 

It can be further argued that feeling guilty after eating ‘dirty’ foods, can and does harm the body especially if this is a chronic pattern.  It has been shown that feelings of guilt and shame have harmful effects on our physiology. These feelings create tension, anxiety and depression in our bodies, which in turn increases the production of stress hormones, which negatively impacts health, by increasing inflammation as well as elevating other markers that impact health. In contrast, positive emotional states have been shown to have a protective effect on our immune system. Your thoughts and feeling do make an impact on your physical health. Without a doubt, good nutrition can indeed protect against the development of some diseases, but good nutrition is not nearly as effective to this end if our relationship to food is chronically negative and full of stressful judgments. Take inventory of how you talk to yourself when you are eating that brownie or that slice of cheese pizza. Pay attention to how your self-talk affects your moods, your digestion, and your connection to your body. Just begin to notice what is going on right now in your body.

 

When there are no negative judgments associated with food and eating, our attention can now be spent towards noticing how the food tastes, noticing how it feels in the body, and noticing how much food it takes to feel satisfied. In other words, it is much easier to eat intuitively when one is out of judgment mind.

 

To practice intuitive eating requires one to stop judging foods as good/bad, clean/dirty, and instead focus this attention inward, towards cultivating a more forgiving and flexible relationship to food. 

 

Dieting versus Non-Dieting

A Comparison between Dieting and Non-dieting

 

We live in a diet obsessed culture, where most Americans are on some sort of a diet, whereby they are trying to limit what and how much they eat to lose weight. Dieting by definition is restrictive and follows a set of arbitrary rules outside of ones body. Dieting is a set up to judge foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and this creates feelings of guilt when one inevitably goes off their diet and eats those foods forbidden and avoided foods. 

 We know that in the long term, diets do not work, and in fact cause weight gain. As a response to the failure of dieting to produce long term weight loss, the non-diet approach was born. The non-diet approach is a way of eating that is non-restrictive, and uses internal systems of control rather than external systems of control. Internal systems are, listening to hunger and fullness cues to determine portion ‘control.’ It also takes into account satisfaction and pleasure with eating. It is flexible, and allows for all foods to be enjoyed in moderation without guilt of feeling deprived. This approach also views exercise as a way to feel good and take care of the body- not just as a means to control weight. It encourages acceptance of ones genetic set point weight and lets go of any need to attain an arbitrary number on the weight or BMI chart.

The paradigm is shifting now as a result of diets not working to a more sustainable way of eating that focuses on health instead of weight loss.

The graph below shows how the diet mentality differs from the non-diet mentality. It was borrowed from the book,  Intuitive Eating by Tribole and Resch

The Diet vs. Non-Diet Approach

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Issue                                Diet Mentality                                                             Non-Diet Mentality

_________________________________________________________________________________

Diet Mentality with Eating/food choices asks:    

  • Do I deserve it? If I eat a heavy food, I try to find a way to make up for it.
  • I feel guilty when I eat heavy foods.
  • I usually describe a day of eating as either good or bad.
  • I view food as the enemy.

Non-Diet Mentality asks: 

  • Am I hungry? 
  • Do I want it?
  • Will I be deprived if I don’t eat it?
  • Will it be satisfying?
  • Does it taste good?
  • I deserve to enjoy eating without guilt.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Exercise benefits with the Diet Mentality

  • I focus primarily on calories burned.
  • I feel guilty if I miss a designated exercise day.

Exercise with Non-diet Mentality

  • I focus primarily on how exercise makes me feel, especially the energizing and stress-relieving factors.

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View of Progress with Diet Mentality

  • How many pounds did I lose?
  • How do I look?
  • What do other people think of my weight?
  • I have good willpower.
  • How many pounds did I lose?
  • How do I look?
  • What do other people think of my weight?
  • I have good willpower.

View of Progress with Non-diet Mentality

  • Rather than being concerned with my weight, I trust that my weight will normalize when I am attuned to my internal eating signals.
  •  My weight is not my primary goal or an indicator of my progress.
  •  I have increased trust with food and myself.
  •  I am able to let go of “eating indiscretions.”
  • I recognize inner body cues. 

Is Breakfast Your Most Important Meal?

Is Breakfast Your Most Important Meal?

Why breakfast isn’t the most important meal.

 

We’ve all heard that breakfast should not be skipped; that it is the most important meal of the day.

 

Thanks to cereal marketers, this cultural dogma is a tough one to shift away from. And some of this is true from studies with children and performance in schools. Kids who eat breakfast perform better and stay more focused compared to those who do not. This also applies to adults as well. My clients who skip breakfast and go until 2 or 3pm without eating, complain of feeling ‘foggy,’ ‘irritable,’ and generally have a more sluggish experience throughout their day. They also tend to complain about their weight, want to lose weight but can’t, tend to gain weight easily.

In terms of weight loss, eating breakfast actually might be the most important meal for some folks. Eating breakfast consistently can help people to eat less throughout the day by avoiding over-eating that comes from skipping meals.

 

As a nutritionist, I teach my clients to ‘listen to their bodies.’  There are a few exceptions to this however. In general, those who do not have an eating disorder can and should listen to their bodies. By listening to your body, I mean, wait to eat until you feel physically hungry (stomach growls). For my clients who struggle with disordered eating, I tell them to eat within one hour of waking up to recalibrate their hunger cues, as well as to increase their sluggish metabolism. Eating breakfast also reinforces loving self-care practices as well.

 

Those that consciously skip breakfast will report increased cravings, depressed moods, inability to stay focused, and lack of energy. The body needs to have fuel every 3 to 5 hours to keep the metabolic rate running optimally.

 

The important point here is to wait to eat until your body tells you it’s time. For most people this might be 1 or 2 hours after waking up.

 

If you are unsure of what your body feels like when it is physically hungry, then you may need to recalibrate your internal hunger cues. This is done by eating mechanically, or, ‘by the clock’- eat every 4 hours, so you can begin to train your stomach to expect food at regular and predicable times. After a few weeks, you should be able to detect hunger cues within the first hour or two of waking up.

 

Now, once you are hungry, what should you eat?

Cereal marketers have done a brilliant job getting the masses to believe that a high carbohydrate breakfast is the smart and only choice. A big bowl of lucky charms and milk, right? This might be better than skipping breakfast, but the sugary cereals do a great job at spiking blood sugar and insulin, which can lead to increased feelings of hunger later in the day. The best choice is to have a balanced breakfast with enough protein so that you stay satisfied for longer as protein is digested at a slower rate. Eating some protein at breakfast will also help reduce sugar cravings and regulate blood sugar normally for the remainder of the day.

Remember, having a bowl of lucky charms is NOT the worst thing, in fact, it can be fun every now and again, but my advice would be to add a hard-boiled egg with it so that you are sustained for longer and don’t crash with increased hunger an hour or two later.

 

Take home points:

·      Wait until you are physically hungry to eat breakfast

·      Eat a balanced meal that contains carbs, protein and fats.

·      A good example of this is avocado on whole grain bread topped with hard-boiled egg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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