Estimated read time 7 ½ minutes.
First, lets get clear on what diet culture is. It's the systems in place that value thinness and appearance over health, ideas that shame you into thinking that there's something wrong with you if you are not thin. This is a cultural system of oppression that harms everyone. I really appreciate Christy Harrison, the dietitian, and her definition of diet culture.
Diet culture is a system of beliefs that:
I want to go a bit deeper into the origins of this messaging…diet culture is actually rooted in white supremacy. It was created to bring separation of white women from the slaves; painting slaves as bad and a White Christian women as better and of a higher status. They created the idea that thinness and eating restrictively was virtuous and tied this idea to religion. This has only been around for a relatively short period of time. We didn't always value thinness over other body types.
Unfortunately, today, the healthcare system is inundated with Anti-fat bias and diet culture messages as well. Most doctors/clinics/hospitals are still measuring health based on weight. The BMI is bogus. You can reference an article here about that. BMI or weight are not good measures of health.
But you're told again and again, that being thin is a good measure of health, and along with that, the message that you're actually better if you're thin, even morally superior. Diet culture is total BS. It's really important to call out those systems, reject those systems, and recognize that a lot of us, well almost all of us, have an internalized anti-fat bias due to the system of oppression of that culture. It's important to bring awareness to that wiring within yourself, and start to dismantle it, because it creates shame. It also increases your preoccupation with your body, being thin and consequently with food.
The question is, is this consuming you? It causes you to really focus on that pursuit of thinness, of eating perfectly and of a certain body aesthetic. It creates shame when you don't meet that ideal, making you feel like there's something bad or wrong with you. It makes you also believe that your value and your worth are tied to that ideal. You feel like you're not good enough perpetually. Again, it's really important to reject those ideas and weed out those thoughts and start to recognize where it's impacting you so that you can shift away from that preoccupation with that constant pursuit of fitness or thinking about how you need to control or manage food and your body.
What percentage of your mental and emotional energy you are spending on your body and on your relationship with food? More than you’d like to be? This is what I would call preoccupation in the food attachment model. If you're curious about your food attachment style, here's my online quiz. You can check it out and get the information about your style so that you can start to shift your way of thinking and your relationship with food in your body. But here's some other thoughts to consider.
What does that look like? If you aren’t sure how much mental and emotional energy you are spending on food and your body, here are some things to consider…how often are you checking in the mirror? How often are you weighing yourself? How often are you trying to move your clothes? Body checking in the sense of do you look okay, are any lumps or bumps showing? Is this shirt right? Do you need to adjust anything? How does this start to show up when you walk into a room and you can compare your body to the bodies of the other people in the room? Are you sizing them up? Are you having judgmental thoughts about yourself every time you get dressed? Are you able to look in the mirror without having a lot of self critical criticism? How is this diet culture consuming you and how often is it consuming your thoughts? Is it kind of invading your day? How often is it hijacking your mental and emotional energy? And for food…are you counting calories or macros? Do you weigh all the consequences of each food choice? Do you beat yourself up if you eat something you think you shouldn’t? Do you push away hunger signals?
Some of the other ways it may be showing up is in your conversations with your friends. Are you spending time talking about diets and your bodies? I find it tremendously boring now to talk about diets, our bodies, and nitpick ourselves. We have so many other more interesting things to discuss. I just want to get to know my friends; I don't want to be spending so much time focused on our bodies, I want to focus on them and who they are in their lives. What is fulfilling and enriching to their lives and what's hard for them emotionally. So…is it invading your relationships in that way? Is it invading your relationship with a romantic partner? Are you able to pursue a romantic partner if you want one or do you think you don’t deserve one?
I'm writing a book, as many of you know, and I was sharing with my book writing coach about how much body image issues impact the sex lives of my clients. We both cried at how tragic it is that people are denying themselves that pleasure and closeness because of feeling bad about their bodies. I’ve been there, before healing my relationship with food and my body, it impacted my own sex life. For years, I felt self conscious, I didn't want to engage in sex because I was worried that I would look fat. Now I know that I deserve pleasure, regardless of how my body looks at this moment. I deserve pleasure and having love and acceptance for my body and being in relationship with my body is something that brings me closer to accessing pleasure, and makes things more enjoyable. You can read more about that here. So, is it impacting your sex life?
How about your sense of safety and connection at home? Is diet culture impacting your relationship with the other people in your household? Your housemates, your spouse, your children? Does it make it so that you can't eat and enjoy food meals with them? Does it make it so it feels like you have to hide and you can't just eat what you'd like to eat in front of them?
How is it impacting you in terms of your communities? Do you avoid events because of the way that you feel about your body? Or the way you feel about food? Does it make you feel like you have to make excuses for yourself when you're out in public or when you're eating with others. There are so many ways that culture consumes us and creates this preoccupation with food in our bodies. It prevents us from accessing joy and being fully connected in the relationships that we have in the world and in our communities.
In part two of this blog, I'm going to be talking about “What are you consuming?” What are some of the ways that you can start to consume media and things that will support you, instead of hinder you. In the meantime, we're going to talk a little bit about what it could be like instead. How would your life be different if you're able to really reject diet culture, have acceptance, and have that relationship with food in our body that feels nurturing and connected? In my world, I call this secure attachment with food and your body. It looks like being in relationship with food in your body, feeling connection and trust with your body. Feeling acceptance over your body is good as it is at this moment. Knowing that your value and your worth is constant and inherent and non negotiable. Your value is not tied to looking a certain way or eating perfectly. Secure attachment looks like having ease and peace in your relationship with food and your body. Knowing that these outside things don't dictate what is right for you and what feels good to you. It also looks like eating in a way that is resonant for you, this alignment that feels like you're taking care of yourself, like you're actually enjoying food. You're not restricting, you're able to have what you want when you want it but also eat in a way that is honoring of your body and is attuned to what does and doesn't feel good for you and your body. This is all possible for you! It starts with rejecting diet culture BS.
I'd love to hear from you in the comments or feel free to email me at Tiffany@coachtiffanyrn.com if you want to talk about what it could be like instead, just share your vision, or share the changes that you've made and how just simply starting to call out and reject some of those diet culture messages has allowed you to build more connection and trust and acceptance in your relationship with your body and help you to find more joy and peace.
I want to ask you today, what are you blaming on food? A lot of times people will say things like- I feel like my bones hurt, I feel creaky, I feel like I have inflammation in my body. I feel puffy. I feel bloated. I'm fatigued. I don't have a lot of energy. A lot of times you're blaming these things on food, and what you ate, or on your body.
This is because diet culture messaging tells you that if you don't feel great, it's your fault, right? You're doing something wrong, and it must be what you're eating. If there's a person who's thin who has more normative eating, then you're not blaming their health issues on food, right? You're only blaming it on food when it's you, someone who is in a larger body, or someone who struggles in their relationship with food.
I was talking with some clients during group coaching, and one of them is trying to manage their blood sugar because they have a diagnosis of diabetes. They were noticing that they sometimes would eat something and their blood sugar would be fine. They would eat the exact same thing another time and their blood sugar would be higher than they want. What happens in this culture and type of health education is we're taught that it's all about the food for blood sugar control.
When I worked at the hospital, as you may know I'm an RN, a lot of times people who would eat regularly and their blood sugar would be fine but just being in the hospital, being ill and stressed, having us poke and prod at them, would make it so that they would have to be on insulin while they were in the hospital. They would say to me, “I don't understand, I'm eating the same things I normally do but my blood sugar is so high, I don't normally need insulin.” There's also medications and other things that can impact it like steroids; that makes your blood sugar go completely out of whack.
Its important to look holistically at the entire picture, into what is impacting your blood sugar. One of the people in the group that I was coaching said, “Oh my gosh, I always blame it on the food. I track my food and I'm hyper focused on my food. This is the only thing that I've considered that impacts my blood sugar, but all of these other things impact it as well.”
So my question to you is, what do you blame on food?
Do you blame being tired on food? Maybe it's actually because you're not getting enough rest. You could have a medical condition like sleep apnea that's causing it, you could be going through something really big and just need more rest and healing time.
Are you blaming your energy and your vitality on food? Sometimes, especially during all of this COVID time that we've had and all of the political unrest, it may be not due to your diet, but instead due to all of the trauma that you're going through, all of the stress, all of the grief. Oftentimes, you're actually eating in a way that resonates for where you're at. You may be eating more comfort food, so it's easy to blame it on food, but actually, what's really going on is that you are not feeling well so you're needing to eat foods that are easier to digest or that are less intensive to prepare.
Are you blaming your bloating and digestion on food? Bloating can actually be caused by hormones, reproductive issues, stress, eating extra fiber, or GI issues. GI issues can be tied to nervous system regulation and have nothing to do with food.
So is it the chicken or the egg? I think it's that we're blaming the egg, but it's actually the chicken.
When it comes to our bodies we have to look at the nuances. Where are the possibilities of things that are creating these challenges for you, instead of just blaming food or blaming your body. Blaming your body actually just increases preoccupation with food. It increases preoccupation with your body and makes you feel like you're failing, you're not doing good enough, or it's your fault. When actually, your body is wise, it’s just trying to get you through. Your choices are driven by what's going on in your body, the things that are impacting you from your environment, and other issues that you might be having.
I'm hoping that this will really help you zoom out, look holistically at your challenges, and recognize that food is most likely not the problem. The problem is that something else is going on for you, there are multiple things that could be creating that problem and multiple ways of shifting it. It could be as simple as getting more sleep, taking supplements, getting more joyful movement in your life, or reducing stress. Maybe you're having a stressful situation that you actually can remove yourself from entirely, that has nothing to do with food. This is really an important distinction to make. It can be really helpful in creating more ease in your relationship with food and actually shifting the way that you care for yourself. Increasing that connection and trust that you want to build with your body so that you can really start to heal your relationship with yourself.
If you would like more information or you're curious how I might support you, you can reach me here. You can also take my food attachment style quiz if you are looking for a helpful starting point.
What are valid reasons to eat?
I’ll start with finding a term that feels good for describing eating patterns. There are a couple of terms that get thrown around in the eating disorder recovery world, and also in health and wellness. I want to talk about these. I'm not sure if you've heard of them before or not, but one is called normative eating.
Normative eating is the idea that you're not binging, you're not having a lot of restriction, you're just eating a normal amount. I get the reason that term is used, because rather than assigning a certain amount that is the correct amount, you're able to eat with ease and just eat normally. I think that erases a lot of the valid reasons to eat and the average normal eating pattern isn't necessarily the most supportive anyway. Many people are part of the clean plate club so they eat everything on their plate. That's very normative in our culture, but not necessarily supportive to the person who's just cleaning the plate and not eating in the way that's attuned to their body.
My preference is a term called resonant eating. Resonant eating is eating in a way that resonates for you. This is really helpful to help shift your thinking in this way, because we are so mired in diet culture. Diet culture is the idea that thin is the ideal, that you are only healthy and beautiful if you're thin, and that we should all be striving to be thin (restricting/dieting) and meet this ideal beauty standard all the time. Diet culture actually has racist roots. It's rooted in white supremacy and it's also oppressive to all of us. The idea that your value and your worth is tied at all to your size and that you need to be thin to be healthy is harmful to everyone. We're all steeped in that just living in this oppressive system so it's hard sometimes to see things from a different perspective. We're going to try to kick diet culture to the curb here and think about resonant eating for a little while.
What are valid reasons to eat? Well, what I don't think is valid is expecting yourself to use food as fuel all the time, you are not a machine. We all live in a culture where food is very significant. There are a lot of aspects to your relationship with food that are dishonored by the idea that it should only be used as fuel. Instead, we're going to look holistically at a few valid/resonate reasons to eat.
The litmus test that I like to use is asking yourself, does this feel nurturing? Food is meant to be nourishing but also nurturing.
Recognize that soothing is very normative eating as well. It's very normative in our culture and it works- it is absolutely soothing. It's valid. The key is not beating yourself up and also having other ways that you nurture yourself. Again, ask yourself, Does this feel nurturing? A lot of times it has to do with the trends of how often you're eating in those ways. Are you eating using food to soothe every single day? That's going to start to not feel very nurturing, and not feel very aligned, because it's not eating in a way that's attuned to our body.
Another key is, do I feel well nourished? Is this a nurturing interaction with food or a nurturing way of using food consistently? Am I eating in a way that's attuned to my body? Now, again, when you're mired in diet culture, you might be thinking, Oh, I'm only eating when I'm attuned to my body, if I'm eating vegetables, if I'm eating a perfectly balanced meal, or if I eat the perfect amount. That’s not attuned eating because that is hyper focused on controlling food, and not looking holistically at all your needs and desires. That is looking at it from the outside, like a list of acceptable behaviors, rather than checking in with your body and asking how does this actually feel in my body?
Some additional questions you might ask yourself to see if you are experiencing resonant eating- Are you generally feeling well nourished? Do you have vitality? Do you have energy? Do you get a variety of food? Do you feed yourself regularly and well? Do you feel nurtured in your relationship with food? Are you eating foods that bring you joy and satisfaction? Are you eating consistently enough that you feel really cared for? Are you able to receive food from other people? Are you eating joyfully? Are you satisfied with your food? Can you use food to soothe and not beat yourself up about that?
The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions has been around for thousands of years, dating back to the era of the Babylonians, according to history.com. In fact, resolutions began with religious roots when the crops were planted and a new king reigned. Promises were made to the gods to pay off debts and return anything that was borrowed. In today's world, the New Year’s resolution has become a mostly secular celebration focusing mostly on oneself. It is studied that only 8% of people fulfill their resolutions. I'm not a fan of those odds! So, why do we set ourselves up for failure?
Today’s resolutions are mostly health focused. After a few months of celebrations, diet culture messaging tells us that we need to “get back on track”. A few years back, I began by putting health as my number one priority. While I thought that was progress, it was actually dieting and restricting in hiding. I didn’t realize that dieting was actually harming me and perpetuating the cycle of shame and binge eating. Diets and diet culture messaging is broken, not me, and not you. You may have already heard me talk about it but in case you haven’t, check out one of my recent blogs where I talk about how to heal your relationship with food.
You might be wondering, “If I let go of dieting, what do I do instead?” Intuitive Eating lays the foundation for healing your relationship with food. While it can be challenging, it is so worth the effort. It can be overwhelming to completely change the way you relate to and think about food. Start slow and be gracious and compassionate with yourself. This is not another diet and cannot be done perfectly. Know that it will take time, persistence, and a bit of faith but the payoff is FREEDOM. You will never have to have a diet or weight loss Resolution again.
New Year’s can still be a great time for self-reflection. I personally enjoy the ceremony of reviewing the year past and seeing what I’d like to be different going forward. A few years ago, I changed from setting resolutions to intentions. The idea being that it’s all a journey, not a destination. This feels like a focusing in, rather than a should or something I need to push. It is an evaluation of my priorities and a look at how I can better live my priorities. I personally like to focus on intentions that benefit my whole life, rather than trying to control and manage my body.
Last year my intentions were:
I loved them so much I am keeping them this year. And adding, finishing my book and getting it published in 2022! I’d love to hear what your 2022 intentions are, comment below.
I want to share with you a tool I created for body attunement. Being attuned to your body is key for secure attachment with self, your body, and food. If you're aware of intuitive eating, you've been trying to practice it, you've been struggling, if you're somebody who's new to this work, or you're somebody who has tried to learn body attunement, but you haven't found a way that's really worked well for you, this tool will be helpful.
The tool is called the five A's.
Awareness- Start by taking a moment to tune into your body. You have to make it a priority to take time to check in. That can either be in real time when you're having a big sensation or emotion happening, or it can be scheduled regularly so that you're learning to do this through consistent practice. Both are valid ways of learning, and both of them are really helpful.
What are you looking for awareness of? You're really looking for a sensation. A lot of times people will say “I feel sad”, “I feel happy”, or “I feel angry.” One tool you can use is to just ask yourself, How do I know? Where do I feel happiness in my body? What are the sensations that come along with that? Or just simply checking in and seeing what sensations are present independent of any emotions.
Stay curious. You might actually be surprised; sometimes you might be feeling something that is upsetting but when you actually check in, the sensation is kind of benign or might even feel kind of good. You want to be completely neutral, judgment free. You are just checking in. A lot of times in wellness or mindfulness practices, you're told to check in, figure out where you feel tension, and relax. That is actually not the goal here, you don't want to try to fix it or change it. The goal is to really notice what is and become aware of what is present and not try to change it.
Where do you want to pay attention to? Well, any sensation is important and valid, but you're really trying to zoom in on one or two sensations, whatever is calling your attention or needing to be explored. Now you're probably used to noticing the musculoskeletal tension or pain. What is often more interesting or useful to look at are things that are in your visceral experience- any kind of organ based sensation. Visceral column is your GI tract, everything from your mouth down to your intestines, your throat, your heart and lungs, your diaphragm, your intestines, your reproductive organs, your genitals. Your skin is also an organ. You're looking in this column, all the way down. It can sometimes be a good practice just to pick an area you feel disconnected from- like asking what's happening in my abdomen right now or what's happening in my chest. A lot of times when people feel sadness, they'll feel it in their chest like a constriction. Name it! You can bring deeper awareness by naming the actual sensation. When you feel the sensation, you're using your right brain. When you name the sensation, you're using your left brain. That is really powerful for building new skills, using both sides of your brain.
For naming it, think about what it actually feels like…It feels like a buzzing, I feel butterflies in my stomach, I feel nauseous and a churning happening, I feel my mouth watering, my skin feels electric, etc. You're looking for ways of describing the sensation.
Some questions might be helpful like, does it have a texture? Does it have a color? Is there a motion to it? What direction is it moving? What is the quality of it? For example, It feels like dense fog.
The goal is to bring awareness, ideally, to your visceral column, and then name the sensation. This is not just for unpleasant, difficult sensations, or challenges. It's also for the pleasant ones. If you can catch yourself having a really joyful or happy moment and let yourself sink into what is the sensation that's present here? Can you let it grow and expand? Can you sit with it? Can you allow this feeling to be in your body and take up space? For some people feeling pleasant, joyful sensations are just as challenging.
Allowing- Let yourself sit with the sensation and not try to change it. In fact, I think even growing this sensation is ideal. Allow the sensation to take up space, growing in size or intensity. But again, you want to remain curious, noticing if this is pleasant or unpleasant rather than assuming it's unpleasant. When you are learning, you want to titrate this. When you're first practicing, just sitting with it for the amount of time that feels okay to you, because it can feel really overwhelming to feel sensations, particularly ones that you've disconnected from, disassociated from, that feel painful, or uncomfortable. Start with the amount of time that feels good, but moving up toward 90 seconds. That's about how long it takes to metabolize the feeling.
Acceptance- it's helpful to say things to yourself like, it's okay that you're here, I hear you, I see you, I will acknowledge you, I appreciate that you're giving me that information. Having acceptance that there's nothing bad or wrong with you for having this sensation or feeling. Keep the mindset that you don't need to fix or change this, simply experience what your body is trying to tell you, experience what is present for you.
Acknowledgement- Focus on giving your body gratitude and appreciation. Saying things like- Thank you body for getting my attention, thank you for trying to tell me something, thank you for carrying me through life and containing all of these aspects of me, thank you for your wisdom. Choosing something that feels resonant for you is really important. Acknowledging and appreciating the magic that your body does. We all need to experience a full spectrum of sensations to be fully connected to your body. Your body is trying to help you navigate the world and really is the vessel that you do that in. You want to express that gratitude to build connection and trust with your body.
Action???/honoring- This could be a little tricky, you don’t always want or need to take action. The first four parts of the five A’s are the most critical..the practice of building connection and trust with your body, connecting and seeing what is present, simply feeling/allowing your sensations and your emotions to be felt. Sometimes there's a clear action. You might be like, I feel hungry, I need to eat, or I feel hungry, but I can't eat for half an hour. So then you tell yourself, “okay, buddy, I hear you, and I will make sure I eat a really robust meal, or that I get to it as quickly as I can.” This step is about honoring the information that you receive.
Sometimes the sensation will be trying to tell you something really specific. Like, I feel a burning in my chest, is this related to anger? Anger can be a sign that you have felt a boundary was crossed sooo, maybe the action or the honoring of that is you need to set a boundary. What might also be true for you is you don't have the capacity right now, or you're not really sure how to do that. Then the honoring would be just sitting with the information that you received, and seeking support around it or seeing how you might start to explore the idea of setting a boundary. You want to honor it but you want to honor all of what's true for you and not use this as a “should”, an attempt to fix, or as a judgment against yourself. Even if you knew that you needed to set a boundary and you felt you did have the capacity but you just didn't want to, that's okay. You can use discernment and decide if you want to take action. Then the honoring could be figuring out what you will do in lieu of setting the boundary. What else do you need to do? Do you need to distance yourself? Do you need to make sure you have a friend to call after you see that person so you can vent? Do you need to take a walk when you’re upset with them? Looking at ways you can resource and support yourself around the challenge that you’re experiencing.
This is meant to be an enriching experience. This can feel really big and it can be hard to want to do this because it feels scary or challenging. Simply practicing awareness, acceptance, allowing, acknowledgement and then honoring can be really powerful in building that body attunement and really healing your relationship with yourself and bringing you to that place of secure attachment. If you need support around it I can support you. You can also watch the video version of this here.
This is one of the top things that people search for and this is one of the top things that people ask me when they come to a consultation with me (I like to call them discernment sessions).
They ask me, “how do I heal my relationship with food?”
This is actually quite simple. But it is not easy.
The main reason it's not easy is that these patterns around food in our body are lifelong. They start when we're infants (probably even in the womb). We are born fully dependent on our caregivers to feed and nurture us. Our wiring is based on however they set the stage for this. Our dispositions, stress, and life experiences happen that disrupt, change, make it easier, or more difficult.
We're not necessarily taught to have a connected relationship with our body where we're really listening to our body. With Intuitive Eating and Secure Attachment, listening to our body is the guide for how, when, where, why we're eating. Some people are modeled that and they seem to do really well and have this ease around food, it's very connected and attuned to their body.
The majority of us are either going to be more preoccupied or anxious about food and kind of trying to control or manage. Diet culture really gets in the way and starts to increase that preoccupation and makes us feel like we're not good enough as we are. It takes us away from our body attunement, because we're then trying to make decisions based on all of these arbitrary shoulds: shouldn't eat carbs, you should eat this many vegetables a day, you shouldn't eat between these hours. That's taking away from the body attunement.
Others may be avoidant of food. They don't want to really think about it or have to deal with it. They eat whatever in a way that's not attuned to our body. Or maybe you're avoiding food in the sense that you're very restrictive with food and not getting enough nourishment.
These are some of the hallmarks of the food attachment styles. And the goal is to move towards an earned secure relationship with food. In relationship with your body, in relationship with food, and eating in a way that is attuned to our body. Not spending a lot of time and mental and emotional energy thinking about food and also not avoiding it. That's the goal. So, how do you do that? How do you get to that point? (I would encourage you to read the What is Success blog because redefining success is really important in this).
One of the biggest barriers to healing your relationship with food and your body is diet culture. It is the “should” mentality, you “should” be a certain weight. As long as you're trying to obtain a goal weight or control or manage your body in that way, it's going to disrupt your body attunement. You're not going to be able to develop that kind of inner intuition about what really is the right thing for you. That's one of the reasons it's so hard, lifelong.
Diet culture is so prevalent, right? It's social media posts, TV, you hear it at the doctor's office, you hear it from your friends, your family, your parents and all the people in your life.
So know that the game is kind of rigged, that diets don't work and those things actually just disrupt your body attunement. You have to get a lot of distance from that. Reject diet/health culture; the idea that you need to look a certain way, or, that's the way that you're going to be your healthiest, you're going to be the best and get really curious in lieu of that.
Start looking at the patterns around what's happening here. What am I actually concerned about? Am I eating in a way that doesn't feel good to my body? Do I feel like I don't have enough vitality? Am I eating emotionally? Look at those patterns and then start to address those actual issues. If I'm eating emotionally, the issue is that I don't know how to actually feel my feelings. I have a great resource, an app, for this called the Breathing room. That's a great tool to start to get more in tune with your body and really discover the sensations and emotions.
First step, stop dieting! Be prepared to go on a journey of “this is hard”. You've been in a lifelong struggle, you will need to really start to connect with your body. That takes time to develop and that's a skill that you likely haven't learned yet. You need to develop it in order to eat intuitively. You can't eat intuitively, if you're not attuned to your body. This is not something that you “should” be able to do, you have to actually develop it, it is a skill. Most of us have the ability to do this, but it takes time and energy, like learning to drive a car.
Again, plan to be on a journey. Get curious with your patterns. What's actually happening leading up to these things, the things I'm actually concerned about? And then look at how you might address them. Try on different solutions without judgment. Again, know this is going to be a long journey. There is nothing wrong with you. It is learning an entirely different way of relating.
A big piece is developing your body attunement. I created a tool for this called the five A's. I have a great YouTube video about this also.
Awareness. Bringing awareness to what the sensations are that are happening in my body right now? How does this actually feel? What's actually going on for me?
Allowing. Letting yourself actually feel that sensation. We're not trying to fix it here, we're really trying to just allow, feel it. Let yourself sit with that sensation. Ideally, at least 90 seconds, just sit with it, just be with it, walk around with it. But really hold on to that feeling, let it be seen and heard, and recognize it.
Acceptance. Acceptance over that sensation. It is okay that I'm feeling this way. I don't need to fix it. There's nothing bad or wrong with me. Even if this is uncomfortable. It's okay, that this is part of my body. My body's trying to get my attention with something here. My body's trying to let me know something. It's okay to feel this.
This acceptance and allowing is really key and really important. However, if you're someone who struggles with a lot of trauma, if you have had a substance abuse problem in the past, if you have other barriers to being connected to your body like pain, if it feels really hard or scary to be connected to your body, you may need to get support and have someone who can hold space for you. You also might need to titrate this to little doses...let yourself feel/experience a little bit at a time. Use the app or just sit with it initially for like 15 seconds and then build up to the 90 seconds. Recognize that this might feel really scary for your nervous system, it might feel really hard to do, and that's okay. But we definitely want to get to the point where we have awareness allowing acceptance, and then we're going to acknowledge from there.
Acknowledgement. Okay, thank you body, you are my home, thank you for housing all of this, thank you to the sensations in my body, thanks for getting my attention and letting me know something is going on. I hear you, I see you, thank you. Expressing some gratitude, naming what is present in our body. And, then really appreciating it.
Action? It’s meant to be honoring. I've just received all of this information and now I'm going to take those first 4 A’s and see if there's something to do. Sometimes it's just feeling it and allowing it, that is the honoring itself, or that is the action that you take. The first four pieces of it are the most important, the most critical, you're not feeling it so that you can change it or fix it. you're feeling it for the intent of becoming more connected and in tune with your body and for developing that trust with your body.
This is so key to intuitive eating and healing your relationship with food. Getting connected to those sensations and allowing them to be present to what is true for you. Sometimes there's an honoring that needs to happen or an action that needs to happen. An example is something as simple as I feel hungry...this is what hunger feels like in my body, it's okay that I feel hungry, I have acceptance over that, I'm going to name it. Yes, I'm hungry, thank you body for letting me know I'm hungry. The action is going to be, go eat some food. Right?
Sometimes it's much more complex. You may notice that you are ruminating. Do a body scan...maybe you notice your cheeks are flushed, you feel tension in your belly, and it feels like a twisting and a gnawing. In allowing that feeling to be there, you might have some clarity, is this coming up because so and so crossed a boundary? The action might be, Do I want to cry? Or do I want to set a boundary with them or talk to them about that? Again, that can feel scary, you don't have to do that. Its important that you don't make it conditional, if you feel your feelings, then you have to take action, that can make you avoid feeling your feelings. But sometimes there is a way of honoring your feelings and your capacity. “I need to tell so and so that I don't want them to comment on my body anymore. Or I need to tell my mom that my daughter doesn't have to eat green beans if she doesn't want to. Or I need to tell my sister that she can't just stop by and I need to have advanced warning. Or I need to tell my lover that I need some more space to myself.” Setting a boundary, and honoring the information that you receive. Or waiting to set the boundary until you are ready. The most important piece of these 5 A’s is the awareness, acceptance, and allowing. You're trying to build connection and trust here, you're not trying to fix, change, manage, control or contort your body into doing what you want it to do. You may take action, you may not.
This is the framework that I've developed in terms of supporting people in building that body attunement and sitting with those sensations. There are others, experiment with what works for you.
I also recommend writing out a list of sensation words or using the Reembody app, because sometimes it can be really hard to name what's happening in our body. That's another thing that we're not modeled. It's really valuable to actually name it in terms of getting clarity and getting connected and understanding your body better. That uses two different parts of our brain so it's really effective in supporting change.
Feel free to reach out to me if you need support beyond this. If you're really interested in working with me, I have the free peace with food discernment sessions. I offer them periodically, when I have space in my private coaching practice, or when I'm getting ready to have a new group program. If you're interested, you can go to my website and apply for one. You can also sign up for my email list. When I do open up spots, I send that out to people on my list first. If you're interested in working with me, if you think that you'd like to get more support, these are the best options to do that.
Today we're going to talk about sex and intuitive eating. I want to ask…
Do you have as much pleasure in your life as you would like?
Are you enjoying your sex life?
Are you satisfied with your current sex life, whether your solo and your sex life is self pleasure time, or whether you are in relationships or experiencing sex with other people and enjoying that time?
I'm really curious how that is feeling for you, if you're satisfied with it?
Part of my personal journey is that I've always been a sexual person and enjoyed sex and pleasure. But I definitely felt some things were lacking. I didn't always feel connected to pleasure, or like it was accessible to me. For a lot of years, I was not only dieting, but I also was experiencing a lot of burnout, a lot of physical pain, and I was very disconnected from my body.
Through intuitive eating, I started to have a much more attuned relationship with my body, and was so much more connected to what was happening in my body. That meant that I was really able to feel pleasure at a different level. It also meant that I was able to recognize when there were barriers to having the life that I really wanted. I was able to recognize when I was experiencing depression, what my pain really felt like in my body, and what kind of barriers that pain and depression created to being connected to my body. When I saw all of that with curiosity, I was then really motivated to address that pain and depression as best I could. It helped to have let go of the shame and judgement around it first.
After doing intuitive eating for some time, I also had more body acceptance and felt braver about exploring sexually with people. At the time, I had a spouse, exploring with him and exploring sex with myself. I'm going to actually publicly admit this and I don't know if I have publicly admitted this before, but it took me until 38 or 39 (I'm 42 now) to actually start having orgasms using self touch only. I was only having orgasms either through very specific types of sex with my spouse, or through using a vibrator or something of that nature. I wasn't using them very often so I was almost exclusively only having orgasms when I was with my partner, when they put in the effort that it took for me to have an orgasm. I definitely felt like it wasn't as often as I wanted.
It wasn't until after I started doing intuitive eating and getting that sense of body attunement, getting a lot more curious about my body, letting go of shame, having a deeper relationship with my body, more connection with my body that I was like, why am I not experiencing this? Like, I know I can have orgasms. But I'm just not having this experience. I was missing out! And so I started doing some research and figured it out.
There's a website called OMG Yes...it is a great website for working on learning different types of self pleasure, exploring different types of sex, and different sexual acts. It's really an
educational tool for women; they actually provide animated drawings showing you how to do particular motions, and give suggestions of what you might like to try out. They have videos of women actually doing that type of self pleasure, the actual anatomy, and actually modeling it. Be aware that for some that could be activating if you have trauma around around sex; know that may not be the place for you, please check in with yourself first. If it feels safe to you, it's a great resource that I highly recommend.
Going back to my Intuitive Eating journey, after I started eating intuitively, having a more secure relationship with myself and with my body, being more connected and more attuned to my body, then I really started having more desire and wanting to experience more pleasure. My sex drive actually increased. I was well nourished so I wasn't so exhausted. I had more of an abundance of energy. This created a really beautiful opening for me in connecting to my sexuality and exploring it more and experiencing more pleasure. So it wasn't just about orgasms. That was kind of a side note; I had been really limited and didn't feel like I could figure out how to pleasure myself in that way. It's much more comprehensive than that. It is much more about enjoying all of the aspects of our bodies and really allowing more pleasure.
Oftentimes in diet culture we are so focused on controlling and managing our body and trying to contort it to fit this ideal standard. We're much less connected to questions like: what do I feel like in my body? What do I want to feel like in my body? How much pleasure do I want to experience?
I actually found through intuitive eating, with body attunement, and secure attachment with myself that my capacity for pleasure and sexual experience could really be increased and enhanced. I was able to prioritize that a lot more when it felt safe to do so because I didn't feel shame around my body and I felt acceptance over all my folds and rolls and dimples...all the things. When I had the bandwidth, because I wasn't spending all of my time- my mental and emotional energy, obsessing over food, trying to control and manage that, then I had bandwidth for other things. Again, I was well nourished, I had more actual energy. It's amazing how much having energy will increase your sex life. Satori Madrone researched the connection between intuitive eating and sexuality and how some people are really seeing the benefits of intuitive eating in their relationship with their body and that relationship with their body improving is improving their sex life. I'm not sure if that research paper is out yet but she is a great resource on this topic.
The last thing I want to say is that I really found that this sent me on another journey. I actually ended up deciding to leave my marriage, which I wouldn't say is because of intuitive eating or because of this expansion and my sexuality. I left my marriage because it was not right for me anymore. When I became single for the first time in 17yrs, I really wanted to grow and explore my sexuality more. I hired a sex coach. Her name is Jessie Fresh, she's a pretty incredible person. For some people, when we start diving into their intuitive eating journey and their body attunement, you may find that you aren't satisfied in this way. And for whatever reason, we don't talk about it. I was really fortunate to meet Jessie at just the right time. The base coursework is called the erotic freedom course created by Jaiya. Similar to the way that I have the food attachment model and the food attachment styles and you can take my quiz online, you can take the quiz on Jessie's website, or on Jaiya’s website, and find out what your sexual blueprint type is. It's kind of like your love language for sex. You can find coaches through the erotic freedom club or work with Jesse if you're interested in getting support in those ways.
I found that becoming more in tune with my body and getting curious about my body and prioritizing pleasure over restriction and diet and all of that misery, shame, really made a huge difference in my life.
I would encourage you to start to explore pleasure as you become more in tune with your body. Consider allowing pleasure to be part of your journey because pleasure is so good for our nervous systems. It's so good for our relationships. It's so good for your overall health, and it just feels amazing. Go out there and get yourself some pleasure!
I hope this will help you to see more of the benefits of moving away from diet culture, weight stigma, and shame and restriction. Buck those systems of oppression with self pleasure!
If you're ready to dive into your relationship with food and want to get curious, you can take the food attachment style quiz here.
Are you dreading Holiday gatherings because of food struggles? Opting out is a valid choice but if you are engaging in holiday celebrations, being prepared can help make them enjoyable. Read on about 6 ways to take care of yourself and commit to actually enjoying yourself.
Honor your hunger. Honoring our hunger means being mindful of your body's signals- eating when you are hungry, and stopping when you are full (most of the time).
This means, first and foremost, make your hunger a priority. Take time to eat. Know that you don't need to “save your appetite or wait to eat until the party.” Give yourself unconditional permission to eat when you are hungry. This is key to building trust and attunement with your body. The more you are in tune with and honoring your body’s needs, the more ease you will feel. If you avoid getting overly hungry, you are less likely to trigger primal hunger that leads to eating beyond hunger. Also tune in to your fullness signals, it's ok to eat beyond fullness (if you actually want what you are eating). But if you are eating without checking in with your body, or cleaning your plate rather than eating the amount you wanted, it could be beneficial to be more aware. One downside to eating beyond fullness is that often, it can trigger shame wiring. Sometimes you might find yourself aware that you are full but really wanting to continue eating something because its tasty- If you give yourself permission to stop and eat more later or have it the next time you want it, you may not feel the need to eat beyond fullness. You can get my free hunger scale here to learn how to use this valuable tool.
Eat food. Seriously. Make sure you have a plan to be well fed. Getting over-hungry or not having a plan for our basic meals can cause us to get hangry and lead to overeating. It also diminishes our enjoyment of the festivities.
When shopping be sure you are still getting all the staples for feeding yourself on the regular. Don’t skip meals. When planning for parties, be sure you are planning breakfast and lunch for yourself to eat BEFORE the party so you don’t end up eating everything in sight (think all the cookies) at the party.
The holidays are an extra busy time for most yet it is just as important to get quality nutrition as any other time of the year. This means we have to be efficient and intentional in getting meals handled.
You can save time and energy by ordering from click list or avoiding the congested parking lots and grocery store all together by ordering on prime now. Consider ways to streamline meal prep by carving out time to make freezer meals with a friend, buy pre-cut veggies, or simply planning to make easy meals. The Instant Pot might just be your new best friend. Make a roast, soup or stew on Sundays so you have something ready made in the fridge….I throw in a whole chicken, make some rice and some pre-chopped veggies most weeks- it can be made into stir-fry, Mexican night, curry, and even simply eaten with herbs and butter, so it goes super far in keeping me fed all week.
If you know there is actually just too much to physically get done, or simply want less stress this season, consider temporarily using a meal delivery service if you have the financial means to do so.
Set Boundaries. Does your stomach twist thinking of seeing a family member who comments on your body or food choices? Talk with them in advance about what is bothering you and set the boundaries that feel good to you. If you don’t feel comfortable being around them, it's ok to opt-out. You can read more about this here.
Honor your food needs. You deserve to feel well, making your unique food needs a priority is an act of self-care. It’s important to honor your body by being sure there will be food you will feel good eating.
Plan ahead and bring food you know works for you. If you have any food intolerances or know you feel better eating particular types of food, it's ok to ask what will be served.
Contact the host before the gathering to let them know that you have special food circumstances, ask them to provide you with an idea of what will be served. Tell them they don't need to do anything special but that you want to be prepared. Bring a dish that is complete enough to get you through the party.
Eat foods that are satisfying. Again, seriously. One of my favorite principles of Intuitive Eating is discovering the satisfaction factor! When we eat foods that we really love and savor them, we need less to feel satisfied. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat and enjoy the special holiday foods you love. Rather than eating mindlessly, focus on tasting your food and being present to really experience it.
Make it special without food. Find traditions that light you up, bring you joy, and get you in the holiday spirit without needing food to feel good. If we are satisfied in life, we will not need to rely so much on food for satisfaction.
Some simple beautiful traditions to consider:
Creating space to enjoy non-food centered Holiday traditions can fill us up in a way that no fruit cake can.
A few years ago I hosted a celebratory meal for my group coaching program participants. We said what we were most grateful for, and discussed what we loved about the holidays (and the challenges). One of my guests brought the most beautiful flower centerpiece, it just made my table gorgeous. We took pictures and laughed. I also started another new tradition that night; before the party I wrote a gratitude to each guest, I included what I am thankful for about them - their smile, their warmth, their hugs, their unique talents. At the end of the night, as we said goodbye, I slipped them their card. It made the evening that much more special. My heart swells right now remembering it.
The Holidays have so much magic to enjoy - the smells, the lights, the fire, the decorations, the hugs, and yes, the food! Get into the spirit in ways that fill your heart in addition to your belly.
Want more ideas on navigating the holidays? Check out my other holiday blog posts, Five Steps to Keeping Your Sanity During the Holidays and How to NEVER Put Weight on Your Resolutions List Again
So often when people come to work with me, I ask this question and they say that they want to lose weight. We see and hear the message that thin is better everywhere. That losing weight will solve all your problems. We've all seen those before and after pictures on social media. The people are always sad and bigger on the left, and thinner and happier on the right. But it is only a temporary fix.
The research shows that diets don't work, diets fail at any significant weight loss over any longer period 85% to 95% of the time. Research also shows that over time, you are more likely to gain weight if you're a dieter. It also increases the likelihood of weight cycling, bingeing, and shame around food in your body.
But if diets don’t work then what really does work? What is success?
First off, we have to disconnect the idea of weight loss from success. When I go deeper and ask individuals what they really want in their RELATIONSHIP with food and their bodies, it turns out that there's actually a bunch of things that they're wanting. They think that weight loss will bring them all the things (even if dieting did lead to weight loss, weight loss will not give you all the things you really want, or even most of the things). Typically, they're most wanting to feel good about themselves. To feel good enough.
When it comes to appearance there is a need to disconnect the idea that our value and our worth is tied to our size or appearance. Even if you get to that magical number, you still may not look the way that you want to look, and you still may not feel like you're good enough. This is because you're always chasing this kind of arbitrary external ideal and appearance. This will not lead to true self acceptance or feeling enough.
Some other things that people are really looking for are energy and vitality. Maybe they're concerned about a health issue like diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. What they're really wanting is to feel well, to feel vital, know that they're taking care of their health and addressing any issues. Unfortunately, our healthcare system has equated thinness with being healthy. My opinion? That's just false; that is diet culture, anti-fat bias, and weight stigma showing up at the doctors office.
If you want true success, what we really need to do is focus on helping you heal your relationship with food and your body. We do that by looking at what kind of attachment relationship you have with food and your body.
Are you more anxious and preoccupied? Are you more fearful and avoidant of food? Are you more dismissive and avoidant of food? Knowing your food attachment is the first step toward a secure attachment with food and your body.
So, what does that look like? It means building a strong relationship with food and your body. It is building that body attunement so that you can really nurture your body in the way that it needs.
Building that body attunement so that you can really get connected with your body. What signs and signals is your body giving you? From there you can use that information to make choices and use discernment in your relationship with food. This helps with making choices about what, how, when and why you are eating.
Even if there was a “perfect” food plan, life happens and it wouldn’t be perfect for what your body needs everyday. For example, if you get a cold, or get pregnant, these things contribute to what our body really wants or needs in those specific moments. Different things are going on in terms of our metabolic processes, and we're going to need different things on different days, it's just how it is.
Resonant eating is important to keep in mind when looking for that success. Resonant eating is eating in a way that really resonates with your body, mind, spirit, and soul. It means you are in tune with what makes you feel well and how to achieve that vitality and energy you want. But it also includes eating things simply because you want and enjoy it.
Food is meant to be something that we're in a relationship with, that we're able to take in, and that we gleam satisfaction and joy from. It's meant to be a cultural tradition; a social connection with other people, but for each person it is going to be a little different.
When you come to a secure attachment relationship with food you're able to have that autonomy to eat what you want and eat in a way that resonates with you.
Another common concern is emotional eating, soothing using food or what is often called binge episodes. For that, success would look like peace, ease, and freedom from those cycles. The answer to that isn’t restriction or weight loss…it’s addressing the things that cause you to binge.
So what is success? That's really up to you, your desires, what would feel good to you. I want you to imagine an ideal relationship with food. Most of us have that one friend who just eats what they want and food isn't really that big of a deal to them. We feel some slight envy of that friend, right? But why? They have a secure attachment with food and their body. They are eating to nurture their body and not to punish it.
A client recently said to me that she wanted to be friends with her body and friends with food. We started focusing on just that. She started asking herself questions like “was I a friend to my body today?”, “Is this nurturing to me?” Sometimes the most nurturing thing is sitting on the couch with Netflix and ice cream, and that is okay! That is knowing what your body wants. That is getting more attuned with your body at a deeper level.
So going back to this idea of, what is success?
It comes from knowing what you really want and addressing that underlying need to desire. We have to start by dismantling diet culture BS ideas- recognizing that appearance isn’t the end all be all. Weight loss isn’t a silver bullet for being ‘cured’.
I want to leave you with a few questions:
What do you really want for yourself in your relationship with food and your relationship with your body?
What are your priorities and how can you reframe the idea of success to really match what you actually want for yourself?
I think of Intuitive Eating like driving a car. If you had never been in a car or been taught anything about what a car does or how it works, driving one would be VERY difficult if not impossible. If you grew up on a farm and were taught how to drive tractors at a young age, you would probably pick up driving a car with ease. For most of us, learning to drive is a learning curve. You have to be taught and then practice it for months and months before you are given a license. Then, it still takes a while to become fully comfortable and capable. It can take years to become a really good driver. But after gaining experience and muscle memory, you can pretty much drive on auto pilot, unless you are driving in difficult circumstances and then you need to pay more attention.
To take the analogy further, there may be other reasons you struggle to learn to drive based on your abilities, your environment, or the things people have told you about driving. If you experienced someone constantly telling you how dangerous driving is, you might get such bad anxiety while driving you couldn’t focus. If your nervous system is very dysregulated, driving would be more difficult. If you had difficulties with sensory motor processing, you might need to develop additional skills to be able to drive safely. If you were told you aren’t any good at driving, you can’t trust yourself on the road, or there is something wrong with you, developing the confidence to drive would be hard.
Similarly, learning the basic skills of body attunement, being able to feel into your body and respond to its signals, is foundational for Intuitive Eating. But if you’ve never developed the habit to feel when you are full because you were taught to eat until your plate is empty, if you were actively taught to disregard your body signals, or that those signals are bad, how can you expect that you will just know how?
And that’s the problem.
Like driving, the barriers need to be addressed; you have to learn how. It takes time, support, and perseverance.
If you experience these challenges around body attunement the simplified Intuitive Eating messaging out there could contribute to you feeling like there is something wrong with you that you can’t just “tune in” to your body and live happily ever after. Your physiology (how your body works), the support you have, and life experiences (like how you were cared for and your environment) play a huge role in your relationship with food and body.
This is why considering your attachment style with food is critical and allows you to take all of these pieces into account.
Learning your Food Attachment Style™ will help bridge the gap. It will help you understand why you have struggled and what to do about your unique challenges so you can finally have the relationship with food and your body that you want.
You can have peace, satisfaction, and ease.
You can be friends with your body.
Take the Food Attachment Style™ Quiz here.
Download your free hunger scale now!
The first step to healing our relationship with food is reconnecting with the signals our body gives us. One of the ways to do that is by checking in with your hunger before you eat. Here's my spin on the traditional hunger scale.