In my world of fitness, there is ALOT of talk about nutrition and food. Different diets produce different results for all different types of folks. It is so easy to get confused, or feel exhausted from experimenting with diets and seeing too many changes, or worse yet, none at all. Not to mention the mess of not knowing which one to choose.
In a recent bout of frustration about my own current weight management struggle, I made a toddler tantrum sized putting-my-foot-down decision that I would become vegan.
“I need to get this bloat off me, so I’ll eat nothing but veggie broth and water until I am thin again.” ( Don’t worry, my vegan loves, I do not think this is anything like what veganism entails, this is just what my brain told me in this moment…I digress)
<Pause for self-judgement break> Yeah, because THAT mentality towards food always works, right? Give me a break!
So, in this new state of delusional determination, I opened all my food delivery apps to change dietary settings to vegetarian/ vegan options. Instead of the settings button, an article popped up on my screen. As a new feature in the app, I had not seen links or advertisements like this before. This is where the universe kicked in with a nudge in a better direction with this article:
Saying to my husband with intrigue, “Hey, I am intuitive. Maybe this is an answer to my weight struggles?” I read the article. I read it about six times.
I know most of us, if not all of us, can say we’ve said and heard the same old song and dance. “I’ve tried (insert whatever diet here), and it either didn’t work, or it worked for awhile until it didn’t anymore”
Loads of experts tell us that it is not in what diet we follow, it is about a whole LIFESTYLE change. But, honestly, how intimidating is that to hear?
Great, you’re telling me that I have to change the way I live my whole life?
Yes you do. We all do. And it sucks at first. I have tried pescatarianism, being almost fully paleo, taco-bellianism (JK, but I love you crunchwrap), and intermittent fasting, all with varying results. Whether it was lower cholesterol, higher body fat, more lean muscle mass, or better skin, each “diet” came with it’s positives and negatives. I adhered more to some and less to others. I performed better, looked better, and had more ego based outlooks about my body. In reflection, however, the only one true end product was always the same.
Food decisions were controlling my relationship to food itself.
So in this particular “diving head first into lifestyle change” moment, I was stopped abruptly by this concept. It occurred to me that I can change my thoughts about my body, and in a huge way. Not what, when or, how I eat, but how it FEELS to eat. Not only will this help it change, but through mindfulness, I am also giving myself the power to heal my relationship to food.
Before I go further to explain the concepts, I want to point out that this “feeling” towards food is NOT EGO BASED. In other words, we are not eating just cookies because it “feels so good”. Honestly? Intuitive eating allows us to sit in stillness and ask ourselves, how will I really feel after I eat this food item? What will my body feel like? Will shame or guilt set in after the food is gone? Will my body feel nourished, alive, and taken care of?
In other words, we do not let the mind and addictions to sugar, chemical preservatives, and cravings take over. We sit with ourselves and look within, asking the mind and body to connect and be honest. If that seems impossible, please, give it a chance and let me sum up conceptually from the article referenced above to shed more light.
- Reject Diet Mentality: We covered this above. Lose the idea that you have to label yourself one thing in order to meet your weight goals.
- Honor Your Hunger: What did you just say to me? You mean to tell me that I should eat when I’m hungry and not fast and kickstart my metabolism with 17 protein shakes and a lemon water every five seconds? No dude. No. When your mind gives you the signal that you’re hungry. Just eat. Period.
- Make Peace With Food: (this is a big one so I will quote it) “Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing. When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.” Bam….you’re free.
- Challenge the Food Police: Resist the urge to praise or judge yourself for the things you eat. Constantly feeling like “I ruined my good day with one chocolate cake bite” or “I was AWESOME today because I only had 1200 calories” is blocking you. It’s difficult, I know, to let this concept go as it is ingrained in our ego. So, if you won’t resist your self critic, then treat yourself like you would treat your best friend.
- Respect Your Fullness: Take five when your plate is half gone, and check in with your body. Do you feel as though it needs the rest? Are you going to clear your plate because of other reasons? My particular downfall is seeing the money wasted by wasting food. So I used to eat everything on my plate, leaving me uncomfortably full. There are ALWAYS leftovers, doggy bags, or in our family’s case, chickens to be fed.
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor: What a gift! You mean to tell me that I can find pleasure and satisfaction with eating? Yes! When we are not pressuring ourselves with the obsession over a body type, food can become an exhilarating dance between palate and plate. Discover that eating what you want in a headspace that isn’t deprecating can satiate more than just your appetite!
- Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food: I do realize that this one can be a sensitive topic. Eating your feelings, however, 100% of the time fails to make you truly feel better. So, learn ways that work for you to honor and heal your states of mind and heart without involving food. This will lead to a healthier relationship to food, and avoid the numbing we tend to do with the big emotions we can feel.
- Respect Your Body: Going through some inspirational memes the other day, I found this one:This was a game changer for me mentally. This whole time, I have been treating my body like it doesn’t exist as an entity. Like it is a stranger to me. Being hypercritical, wanting this part to change, or that to grow, or this to shrink. Would you talk that way to your best friend? No, odds are, they are beautiful in your eyes. So, let your body be your best friend. Choose to honor it, trusting it will help you feel better about exactly who you are.
- Exercise–Feel the Difference: Reject the exercising to lose weight mentality. Just exercise to feel your body move. Counting calories or making sure you exercise to burn the most calories puts you right back into that place. If we can focus on the JOY of moving your body, and what your body may be asking for that particular day, then we can learn to feel the everyday needs of our body. In that, we become more mindful and more apt to want to exercise.
- Honor Your Health: In each day, ask yourself what foods makes you feel healthy? Be gentle with yourself if that choice in one day does not meet ridiculous “dietary standards”. The point of this step is that one snack, in one day, isn’t going to make or break the rest of your life. Take one day at a time, and honor the consistent progress of your work.
So what is the difference between “Fad Dieting” and Intuitive lifestyle changes? Well, in my opinion, it is all in how you FEEL. Fad Dieting will create quick fixes that may or may not have results. Those that do have results, find that they either fade away, or that they are unsustainable, leaving an individual with negative and discouraging feelings towards their work and their body image. Rinse with new diet, and repeat.
If you have found something, a food relationship, that helps you intuit your connectivity to yourself, both physically and emotionally, then you have your keeper. Some examples out there include the Whole30, which places emphasis on “resetting your health, habits, and relationship with food.”
I will leave you all today with this (pictured below). Keep it in mind, and practice it with an open heart and mind.
Kristy is a Professional Birth Doula, Certified Massage Therapist, energy worker and mom of 2 in Virginia.