Intuitive Eating. Health At Every Size Doctor
Throughout my journey, I’ve met some fabulous and inspiring women. I find more often than not, as any teacher would agree, I learn just as much from my students as they learn from me. We walk the same path together, and along the way, we find ourselves in very similar situations. Last year during the Christmas season I heard two distinct stories on the same treat: Turtles. Yes, those decadent chocolates filled with caramel, pecans and love. These sweet treats found their way into two of my Rebels lives, not for the same reason, but definitely for the right lessons.
The first Rebel, let’s call her Jane, seemed to constantly find herself in the same uncomfortable family situation. After every family dinner, her mother would bring out a decadent dessert and offer it to all those in attendance, except for Jane. She would take the time to ensure every other person had a plentiful helping, and Jane was left with a feeling of neglect. After one particular family dinner, where Turtles had been the sweet treat, Jane left feeling frustrated. She decided to stop on the way home and pick up a box of Turtles for herself. As Jane sat on her couch, staring at the box of Turtles, she resolved to eat two. The first Turtle was her act of defiance, a Turtle that seemed to say, ‘I do what I want, and I’ll eat what I want!”. The second Turtle was the treat she wanted to begin with. She ate that second Turtle for the enjoyment, and was satisfied after it was finished.
Had Jane eaten what she wanted in the first place, she would not have over-indulged later on. Jane ended up eating more of the dessert than she would have if she had insisted on eating a Turtle at dinner in front of her family. I encourage all of my Rebels not to be ashamed of what they eat, and to not be hesitant to eat in front of others. Everyone eats, and everyone enjoys the occasional treat.
The second Rebel, let’s call her Sarah, woke up one snowy morning and thought to herself, “I could really go for a Turtle.” But the time was 7:00am, and Turtles aren’t considered by many to be an acceptable breakfast food. So Sarah waited. She pushed aside her craving, and went about her day, but the little thought of Turtles kept her hungry. Throughout that wintery day, Sarah found herself hungrier than usual. She grazed on anything she could to satisfy her hunger, not realizing it was actually a desire for the Turtles. Finally, around 10:00pm she ate the Turtle. Guess what? She wasn’t hungry after that.
Sarah ended up eating more than she would normally throughout the day to make up for her craving. She wouldn’t allow herself the treat because she believed it wasn’t an acceptable time to eat it. We so often hold ourselves to guidelines about acceptable eating patterns. For this reason, I encourage all of my Rebels to loosen up the ideals that they have on acceptable eating habits. Every body has different needs, and every day comes with different wants. As Marie Antoinette would say, “Let them eat Turtles for breakfast!”
However, there is a difference between physical food cravings, and emotional food cravings. Emotional eating is often brought on by feelings of anxiety or stress, or problems within a relationship. When we eat emotionally, we often over indulge. This is because we are not physically hungry to begin with. It’s impossible to satisfy an emotion with food, no matter how hard we try. If you’re unsure of whether your craving is physical or emotional see if you’re satisfied with only a bit of what you’re craving. If after a couple mouthfuls you find yourself looking for more, then it might not really be what you want.
While you’re enjoying your treat, it’s always good to check in with yourself. Try asking:
The full taste and excitement of a treat is usually in the first few bites. If you find your taste buds going numb, you might be eating for another reason all together. Try to recognize how your body is feeling while eating, and check where your thoughts are drifting to understand if your craving was physical or emotional.
While it’s important to be aware of how your mind and body feel it’s also important to allow yourself to indulge. I encourage each of my Rebels to let go of the shame of public eating, and to break the rules of those traditional eating habits. Especially during the holiday season, there will be plenty of temptation. Don’t ignore the treats, try them! When you do indulge, truly savour your treat. Allow yourself to enjoy it guilt free. There’s never been a better time to love yourself and treat yourself than during this season of giving.
Until next time,
Live Life. Love Food. Be Free.
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Do you remember yourself as a young child, lying in bed on Christmas eve, mind racing with thoughts of reindeer, colourful toys and old Saint Nick? That feeling of waking up the next morning to a half-eaten plate of cookies in the living room, presents under the tree, and a smiling family to greet you? The joy that we felt was pure and innocent, but somewhere along the way, we lost the spark of Christmas. We traded our holiday cheer for stressful weight debates, and calorie counting. But it wasn’t the Grinch who stole Christmas, it was our own thoughts.
A few weeks ago I attended a birthday party where I met a lovely young woman. She couldn’t have been more than 18, and she seemed to embody a youthful exuberance. Yet in the short time I spent speaking with her, she made at least three comments about how many calories she must have eaten at the party. She explained to me that she couldn’t be indulging now, because she had to save up her calories for Christmas. This is the reason that Christmas doesn’t bring the feelings of joy that it once did. This is the reason that many of us feel overwhelmed by the holidays, and the reason that we don’t fully enjoy the time spent with our family. When we set our sights on weight loss, we lose sight of the important moments in our life.
When does the charm disappear?
At a very young age, we are introduced to our role models. Our mother, our grandmothers, our aunts and our family friends become the people we embody. We listened to their conversations as we grew, and we internalized the comments they made along the way. When they spoke frequently about their weight, their size, or their diets, we understood the importance of these conversations and figured that was just the way it was supposed to be. Some girls are beginning to develop concerns around their body as early as five years old, but around age 10 we shift our thinking from “what can our bodies do?” to “what do our bodies look like?”. It is around this age that we prioritize our thoughts of our bodies and our appearance before other things.
When Christmas comes around, those thoughts of sugarplum fairies are pushed aside by our concerns on the sugar content of dessert. As we lose sight of our Christmas cheer, we dive deeper into the anxieties we have developed over our physical bodies. Let me tell you from experience, the holidays are a lot more fun without the weight of body image resting on your shoulders.
Bringing the Charm Back
Changing the way you think is not always easy. Many times you may find yourself jumping back into those old habits of stressing over the decadent dishes at a party, and that’s okay. What’s important is acknowledging your thoughts, and correcting them as you can. Setting little reminders for yourself can be very important. Sticky notes in special places, or a reminder on your phone to be present and in the moment can work wonders on bringing your mind back to where it should be.
The most important thing to remember, is that you are allowed to eat what you want. Give yourself the freedom to feast, and don’t worry about what other people think. You are worth every bit of indulgence at any time of the year. When we tell ourselves we can’t have something, we often crave it more. So when we tell ourselves we can have something, guilt free, we are less likely to overindulge.
This year I am giving my Rebels a challenge. A challenge to allow yourself to enjoy Christmas!
Over the holidays, I encourage you to:
Instead of worrying over your body, trust in your mind. Know that the less you stress over your appearance, the more energy you have to enjoy your holidays. Bring the young girl inside you, the one who couldn’t wait to watch the Nutcracker every year, to your next holiday party. Inspire a next generation of women to find food freedom and lead by example. Make the conscious effort to bring the fun back, and don’t let the worries of how others see you change the way you see yourself.
When is the best time to start this challenge? Right now. No more saving up calories, and no more talking about your weight. Your body is beautiful, and it will be just as beautiful regardless of what you eat. Let you mind rest this holiday season, and know that joy comes from within. All you have to do is allow yourself to enjoy the Christmas charm.
Until next time,
Live Life. Love Food. Be Free.
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Fat talk. We’ve all heard it, and we’ve all felt the sting that comes along with it. Sometimes it’s subtle, like when your aunt suggests that you’re, “probably not hungry for dessert” but other times it can be very clear, like when a friend mentions that, “you’ve gained some weight since I last saw you.” These comments don’t go unnoticed, and they can create feelings of anxiety and self-doubt. Also known as body bashing, fat talk has been linked to the development of problematic eating habits1, and it encourages thin ideals that are often unrealistic. On the journey to become a better you, this language can act as a very difficult barrier. Arming yourself to defend against this kind of talk is the best way to ensure your long term success and your immediate happiness.
I’m no stranger to fat talk. I see it all the time. I remember attending a birthday party with some friends not long ago. One of the ladies in attendance began preaching the benefits of a sugar free diet and as her focus shifted to weight loss, I winced. Why does the conversation always come back to our weight and our eating habits? Why can’t we talk about life without mentioning our body? I felt uncomfortable in that room, and I felt saddened by that party. As she spoke about weight loss, she was conforming to the ideal of a skinny body, and when she explained her reasoning for a restricted diet, she did not stop to consider that the other ladies at the party may not have that same relationship with food. When women constantly choose to talk about weight and eating habits, it develops a dependency on our body as a source of happiness. Unfortunately, when we don’t meet our expectations, we often develop negative body image and low self-esteem.
Words can hurt, which is why finding the tools you need to deflect this kind of conversation is crucial. You can block fat talk amongst friends and family with these steps:
1. Heads Up
If your family and friends have used fat talk in the past, they may not realize how hurtful it can be. Try speaking to them ahead of time to let them know what topics are off-limits, and be aware that they may need reminding.
2. Go Prepared
Asking someone to stop the fat talk can be difficult. Rehearsing what you are going to say ahead of time is a great way to facilitate a healthy conversation.
3. Rinse and Repeat
If your message does not get through the first time, try again. Repeat your message to reinforce it. Typically, three reminders is all it takes.
4. Shut it Down
If repetition fails to stop the fat talk, end the conversation all together. You can explain, “This is not a conversation that I am willing to have today. If you would like to discuss this further at another time, we can set something up.”
5. Escape Plan
Remember that you have the power to walk away at any point. If someone is not respecting your request, there is no point remaining in that conversation. Set up a code word with your husband/man/friend/ride that means, “We’re leaving, now.” Your health is more important than how it looks if you leave.
6. Dignity… Check!
Always be respectful. Challenging another person to change their ways isn’t always a smooth process. If someone does not receive your message well, know that this is a reflection of who they are, not who you are.
How to Address Fat Talk Directly:
Speaking up to address fat talk can be intimidating. If you are unsure of what to say, try using phrases like, “I am certain that your comment comes from a place of love, and for that I thank you. Please know, that I no longer accept comments about my food or body” or, “I appreciate your love and concern for me. Please know that I speak for myself and choose my own food.” Identify that they have made comments you are not comfortable with, and clearly state that you do not wish to engage in this topic of conversation.
If you hear someone using fat talk to address another person, and you wish to step in, you first need to assess the situation:
1. Assess Yourself – First know where you are, and know how you feel. If you are feeling especially vulnerable or fragile, it might not be the best day to take on a big conversation. You must have confidence in your message and yourself.
2. Assess Your Audience – Understand that some people are more receptive than others. This might be a new concept for them, so don’t overwhelm them. Treat it like they are trying a new kind of pie; don’t try to throw the pie at them, instead, just offer them a slice.
Adding humour to any situation can help to diffuse the tension. If you sense that your message isn’t being well received, try to ask a more lighthearted question, like, “What would Mr. Rogers think of that comment?” This way you can introduce the concept without any strong demands.
What About Skinny Talk?
Skinny talk can be just as hurtful as fat talk. Body bashing in any way can have the same mental and physical effects2 regardless of body shape or size. When we tell a story about someone, and we add descriptors like ‘fat and lazy’ or ‘skinny minny’, we place importance on their body. You might look at someone and think that they are perfect, but when they look in the mirror, they may have the same insecurities as you. I encourage all of my Rebels to be gentle with their words, not just with others, but with themselves. Fat talking or body bashing yourself can be just as hurtful as using it with someone else.
There is no perfect body, and there is no perfect weight. If we continue to speak about these beauty ideals, we will never be happy with ourselves. Fat talk may be common, but it doesn’t have to be a part of your life. If someone makes a comment that you are not comfortable with, shut it down. Fat talk is contagious3, so let’s change the conversation. Don’t let body bashing stop you from feeling beautiful, and don’t let your size dictate your self-esteem. We are all amazing, and most importantly we are all unique.
Live Life. Love Food. Be Free.
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With the holiday season upon us, dreams of sweet eggnog, warm fires and festive activities swirl through our mind. As the sparkling greeting cards begin to arrive, and the smell of pine settles into our home, thoughts of endless treats and goodies emerge. With so many parties and family gatherings that we attend over the holidays, we often begin to ration our eating.
We save up our calories during the day to prevent ourselves from over eating later on; but then we get hungry. This often leads to two extremes, either eating everything in sight at the party, or only eating a bit there, and then eating more than you normally would when you get home. Either option can lead to over indulgence, and likely feelings of guilt. The mental chatter that occurs when we consider saving up calories for special parties often consumes our time, and these anxieties1 begin to cloud our mind.
What is Mental Chatter?
Mental chatter describes the noise of constant self-talk within your mind. When you rationalize with yourself over having an extra treat after dinner, or when you ask yourself, “what are people going to think?”, you are engaging in this mental process.2 Many times, mental chatter is subconscious, and we don’t even realize we’re participating in it. It often becomes more active when we are in stressful situations, and it is almost always a negative thought process . Unfortunately, this way of thinking often plagues our thoughts and drains the excitement out of our holiday celebrations.
What Happens When We Grow Up?
When I was a young girl, my brother and I would get so excited for those special trips to Grandma’s in December. She was the best baker, and always made a point to whip up some special treats for our many visits. As kids, we were genuinely delighted to see her, and unabashedly eager to taste the delicious goodies. During this time, never once did I feel ashamed for this enthusiasm, but somewhere along the way, I traded my enthusiasm for guilt. During my teen years, I developed a love-hate relationship with those same goodies. The little girl inside me was excited to taste the heavenly sweets, but that thrill was squashed by thoughts of restrictive eating.
These conflicting feelings would often start weeks before a visit with family or prior to a special event. The mental chatter began to sour the enjoyment of my family time. I would tell myself, “if I eat dessert tonight, I’ll have to work it off tomorrow” and “I can’t gain any weight, so I’ll have to skip the sweets.” This mental chatter prevented me from being present, and living in the moment. Holiday parties should be about giving thanks and spending time with loved ones, not about fearing the food on the table.
How to Avoid Mental Chatter
This year I am encouraging all of my Rebels to actively recognize when they are engaging in mental chatter. These thoughts can haunt our minds, and can affect both our decisions and our bodies. In order to prevent this mindset trap, prepare for the party:
1. Keep to Mealtimes – When we try to save up our appetite, our cravings are often amplified. This leads to over indulgence and guilty mental chatter. Even if you have a party at an odd time, make sure to eat when you regularly do. No skimping, no skipping and no excuses.
2. Eat What You Want – When we tell ourselves that we can’t have something, it starts the cycle of mental chatter. Allow yourself to enjoy what you eat, and let go of the guilt associated with it. When you allow yourself to indulge you’re less likely to binge. Just remember to be present and really enjoy the treat.
3. Keep a Backup – With busy holiday agendas, it may be difficult to stick to your regular schedule. Always have snacks with you to bridge the gap between mealtimes. If you’re not being deprived, you’re less likely to feel the need to indulge the next time a meal comes around.
If we constantly engage with our negative mental chatter, it can lead to lower self-esteem3 and unhealthy eating habits. Never be ashamed to eat something, and never feel trapped by your thoughts. Don’t forget the reason you attend parties and gatherings to begin with; you’re there to enjoy yourself, not to criticize yourself.
I encourage each of my Rebels to think back to the way you felt when they first saw presents under the Christmas tree as a young girl. The feeling of pure joy doesn’t need to grow distant as we grow older. Make the fun focused on having people around, and know that good food is just a bonus. Remember that it’s just that simple; eat whatever it is you want. Stop asking, “do I deserve another one?” and start enjoying the holidays again. Believe me when I say, you deserve it!
Live Life. Love Food. Be Free.
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