1. EAT ENOUGH FOODS THAT YOU ACTUALLY LIKE, NOT JUST “HEALTHY” FOODS. Having regular meals and snacks spaced evenly throughout the day will help you to avoid getting too hungry. Breakfast within the first one or two hours will also protect and stabilize blood sugar. Skipping meals allows us to get way too hungry, and this most always leads to overeating later on. Avoid deprivation by eating foods that taste good and satisfy you. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat enough and enough of the foods you enjoy. Your Mom was right: Breakfast really is the most important meal (-:
2. FOCUS ON PLEASURE AND HONOR CRAVINGS. If you eat a limited diet of the same boring, bland and safe foods all day long, you might find yourself overeating at night on the foods you really wish you could eat. If you stay too safe during the day, your inner rebel will collect at night by serious cravings. If you crave chocolate but tell yourself, NO-I will eat something “healthy” like popcorn sprinkled with sugar free cocoa powder… it takes sweet alright and will fill you up, BUT did it satisfy the craving? Probably not. Maybe then, you get the chocolate you really wanted in the first place and end up over- doing it. When in doubt, honor your cravings and don’t just always choose the “healthier option.”
3. NEUTRALIZE ALL FOODS. Stop thinking of foods as “good” and “bad.” This pattern of thinking stems from diet culture and only increases guilt and shame around our relationship to foods. When we feel bad about eating, guilty and shameful for ruining our diet, it causes the inner rebel to grow stronger and eat MORE (not less). So, check your judgements about the food. Are you should-ing on yourself? Do you tell yourself, “Potato chips aren’t healthy, I shouldn’t really eat them.” Maybe you can’t keep them at home because you fear you’ll eat the whole bag in one sitting. If they are around, they don’t last long. Get rid of them! Thinking of foods in this way will always keep you looped into the overeating cycle. Especially if you are gearing up for future deprivation, the next diet that starts on Monday. Any and all thoughts of future deprivation alway drive overeating.
4. FEEL YOUR FEELINGS. It’s seriously okay to use food to cope with intense feelings. Food works! Truthfully, there is wisdom in your coping and you are *always* using food to cope with feelings for a very good reason. So, get curious about what this might be. Ask yourself what you are feeling when you want to eat when not physically hungry. Ask yourself, what you might need that food will never be able to satisfy? Our ability to name our feelings, feel them, and do something about them is a practice of a lifetime. When you can name a feeling and what you need (that doesn’t involve food), you become an ally to yourself. You show up and can take care of yourself. Deep healing happens over time when we consistently show up in this way.
5. BE KIND TO YOUR BODY. Negative thoughts about your body often drive overeating and other sabotaging behaviors because it fires up the inner rebel. Your body wants to be trusted, loved and fed well. If you are constantly hating on it, at some level this negative energy/ thoughts only serve to fuel disconnected and disembodied eating. The patriarchy tells us we need to ‘pull ourselves up by the boot strap’, and ‘no pain, no gain’- all of these ideas when applied to our body backfire because pain is a terrible motivator and is always unsustainable. Being overly critical with our bodies paradoxically causes us to take worse care of ourselves. We can’t boot strap ourselves to better health; it just makes us want to do the opposite. Being and acting kind towards our bodies always feels much better. Kindness results in healthier outcomes because it’s built on a sustainable foundation.
6. THROW OUT THE SCALE. The scale (aka the crying machine) is the ultimate mood disruptor. If the number is down, you feel good, and maybe you celebrate with food. If the number is up, you get nervous and cope with those feeling by eating more. What you appreciate, appreciates! The more you weigh, the more you’ll weigh… this has been my personal experience. Trying to control our genetic set weigh is futile and *always* backfires. Our bodies want to be trusted and taken good care of. The body wants to feel good, not stuffed. Once you let go of the need to control your weight, this is when the magic happens. I know this is not an easy thing to do given that diet culture is so insidious. Remember the scientific evidence strongly shows that the vast majority of people (~85%) who go on diets will regain most if not all of the weight they initially lost within two to five years of starting the diet. Giving up weight loss is so hard because societal weight stigma is real and causes folks lots of harm. Unfortunately, that stigma doesn’t motivate or help folks lose weight and keep it off. In fact, multiple attempts at dieting (weight cycling) is associated with poorer health outcomes and higher weight in the long run. If weight loss is your goal, your diet is not likely going to keep you smaller for long. Instead, you can choose to focus on health which does not require weight loss.
7. NORMALIZE OVEREATING. It’s normal to overeat occasionally. We never get rid of this behavior entirely. We need to accept that this is part of our humanity and that we get to overeat because that is part of normal eating. Just notice when it does happen. How do you talk to yourself during the process? Afterwards? Are your words kind and forgiving or are they harsh and punitive? Give yourself some grace and compassion for not having to be a *perfect* eater. No one is and this is not the goal. Intuitive eating is a practice and a moving target, so keep showing up and listening to what your body wants and needs to thrive.
8. LISTEN TO YOUR HUNGERS. In its simplest form, intuitive eating can be described as eating when physically hungry and stopping when comfortable and satisfied. Getting to know and befriend your physical hunger is key. Diets teach us to suppress or control our hungers. Appetite suppressant pills for weight loss never work in the long run because they are work against your natural rhythms. Your body is wise and a master at self-regulation. Your body (not your mind) is the ultimate portion controller as long as we listen to it and honor its signals. There are lots of distractions and reasons to eat that have nothing to do with physical hunger. Get curious about these in your environment. Experiment with eating accordance to your body clock and your natural rhythms. Get curious about the “mouth or symbolic” hungers that arise when your body doesn’t need food. If you want to eat and you know your body isn’t physically hungry for food, what might you be hungry for? What might you need that food will never satisfy? These mouth or symbolic cravings are invitations to go deeper. Whenever these cravings occur, you can explore the different hungers which can guide you to finding true nourishment. Remember, there is always wisdom in your coping with food. Our job is to not get caught in judgements, but rather, get curious about what these hungers represent and find meaning in purpose in these behaviors.
These steps above are key in helping you improve and heal your relationship to food and your body. If you’ve been steeped in diet culture for many years, mastering all of these steps will not happen overnight. It can takes many months and even years to dismantle from diet culture programming. Be patient with yourself and if you need additional support, feel free to schedule a free 30 minute discovery call with me here. https://my.practicebetter.io/#/5bf3165a627d140e506abfc5/bookings?s=5c4ba5e0627d790d3811eff0&step=date
Thanks and much love, Karen Louise