Est 4 min read
When it comes to health, willpower is not helpful. It is not a good way to try to change your relationship with food and your body. Here's why…
Willpower isn't helpful because when your attempts at change don't work, you will tend to think things like…why can’t I stick with it? I know what I should be eating, I know what I should do, I just don't have any willpower. It reinforces this idea that there's something bad or wrong with you because you're not eating perfectly or following the “plan”. It sets you up for failure, like somehow you're defective because you don't have enough willpower. That mindset increases shame.
I just wrote a blog about shame and how shame based motivation does not work. In fact, it works against you in your relationship with food and your body. When you tell yourself that you need to have more willpower, that is saying, there's something wrong, I don't have enough, I'm somehow deficient and that increases feelings of shame. It increases preoccupation, anxiety or anxiousness about your relationship with food and your body, and it causes you to try to control, manage or fix. Those just don't work. You cannot control your way to balance, peace, ease, joy or satisfaction and you cannot control or manage your way to a secure attachment with food and your body.
Est 5 min read
In the diet culture world, there are so many mantras like ‘no pain, no gain’. They are designed to give you the false idea that to finally accept yourself, all you have to do is try harder, push more, have more willpower, push through, or keep going (at all costs).
Unfortunately, that messaging increases preoccupation and anxiety around food in your body. Pushing harder will never lead to balance, healing, joy, satisfaction, or ease in your relationship with food and your body. Control will never lead to peace. What works is moving toward secure attachment, being in relationship with food and being in relationship with your body.
When people come to work with me, they are very worried that they don't have the bandwidth, willpower, or that they don't have what it takes to do this, because they've tried so many things in the past and none of them have worked. They've internalized those diet culture messages that tell you that if it's not working something is wrong with you and that it's your fault.
First off, let's redefine what works. To me, the most important thing is how you feel about your relationship with food and your relationship with your body. Is your relationship built on connection and trust? Is it nurturing and supportive of you- where you're at in any given moment? It needs to be flexible and fluid because different things are going to feel nurturing at different times in your life.
It's time to redefine success to having a good relationship with food and your body versus thinking that weight loss equals success.
Est 3.5 min read
When you are in recovery from anything, typically the foundation is shame focused. There's something wrong with you, you're broken, you need to use your willpower and turn your life around, get your shit together, so to speak. Unfortunately, that paradigm has likely deeply influenced your relationship with food and your body.
Have you ever said to yourself… I know what I should do, I just can't seem to do it, I'm a sugar addict, there's something wrong with me, I'm out of control, I can't trust myself, or I'm broken? This is internalized diet culture and anti-fat bias in play. You got the message that if you are struggling with food or your body image, there is something wrong with you. Those messages create shame wiring.
For example, typically what happens when you eat in a way that feels out of control or you soothe using food, you “eat emotionally” then you will beat yourself up and feel like there's something bad or wrong with you. Or if you are not what you or society considers an ideal weight (don't forget the BMI is bogus), a lot of times you'll internalize the anti-fat bias around that and beat yourself up. The whole of these experiences creates more and more shame.
Est 5 min read
Confession: My sex life is soooo much better since I have healed my relationship with food and body.
I wanted to talk about this because most of my clients are not satisfied with their sex lives, and feeling like they're not getting enough pleasure and satisfaction in their lives. An enjoyable sex life seems so far away for some people.
I was blessed to have always been relatively neutral about sex in terms of not having a lot of shame or feeling stigma around it (if you do, you might want to consider getting support to work through it). Still, I was really not satisfied in my sex life for most of my life. And it was hugely impacted by my food and body image issues.
There were long periods of time when I was not feeling good about my body, and even though I have a relatively high sex drive, I did not want to be touched by my partner. I didn't feel confident in my body’s appearance. It was tough for me to relax and enjoy sex and receive pleasure. I was also malnourished and wasn't getting enough food so I didn't have much energy for sex. I wasn't feeling very frisky or in the mood. I was also so preoccupied with food, my body, dieting, and just obsessing about all of that. Sex and pleasure took a backburner and were not a priority. I also stayed in relationships that weren’t ideal, and didn't know how to ask for what I wanted, another aspect of not trusting myself or listening to what my intuition was telling me.
Now, I've healed my relationship with food; I eat in a way that feels easeful and brings me joy, satisfaction, pleasure, feels nurturing, and nourishing. I feel comfortable in my body; I'm attuned to my body. I honor the sensations, signals, messages, and emotions that are present for me. I care for myself on a deep level.
How has the healing I’ve done impacted my sex life?
Est 5 min read
Did you know there is a link between substance/alcohol use disorder and eating disorders?
NationalEatingdisorders.org says that up to 50% of the time, individuals with eating disorders use alcohol or illicit drugs, and that's a rate that's five times higher than the general population. The flip side of that is up to 35% of people who are dependent on alcohol or substances (people who have substance use disorders), also have eating disorders. That's a rate that's 11 times greater than the general population.
What does this statistic tell us? People who have disordered eating or an eating disorder tend to struggle more with substance use disorder, and people who have substance use disorder tend to struggle more with food challenges. I've absolutely seen this in my practice, I would say probably 80% of the people who work with me are also in recovery from alcohol or substance use disorder.
For many of my clients, after they got sober or began recovery from alcohol and substance use disorder, they struggled a lot more with food. Most often, when we dig into it, we find that their food challenges started way before their issues with alcohol and substances. Often, they flipped between the two. For some people, it was happening at the same time. They would be drinking a lot then their eating became more problematic, either more restrictive or more binge episodes, whatever the case, may be.
Est 6 min read
Confession, I still let the vegetables rot in the fridge. In fact, there is some broccoli and lettuce that have turned into a stinky mess in my fridge, right this moment.
This looks really different than it used to look. First of all, it's not all the time… it's more the exception than the rule.
It used to be on the regular. I would get excited about some new plan or “getting healthy” or feel like I “should” cook more vegetables. I would go buy a bunch of vegetables and stuff the fridge full. But then I wouldn’t cook them. I’d feel so guilty every time I saw them in there. It’d go from a couple of days, a week, then two weeks, and then you know, it's become this swamp soup-smelly grossness at the bottom of the vegetable drawer. I’d have to gather my energy to deal with the mess and throw them out. I’d have all these pangs of guilt and shame.
I’d feel bad about being wasteful but I also would feel like there's something wrong with me. I’d say things to myself like “why can't I just eat healthy” and reprimand myself that I should be eating “healthy”.
Est 7 min read
The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmary.
This is really important to think about. In our culture, we often define health as being thin and we don't look at what's going on with your actual physical health. Regardless of your body size, how is your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, energy, and vitality? In addition, mental health and social well-being are not considered.
Studies show that having a good social network is more important for your health than avoiding smoking. It's critical to have good social support. It's important to look at that in the context of your overall well-being and systems of oppression, such as anti-fat bias, and how that will impact someone's health if they are in a larger body. In our culture, anti-fat bias sets people up for a feeling of social isolation, othering, marginalization, and oppression. It's important to consider the dynamics of the culture you are navigating and how that impacts your physical health, mental health, social health, and well-being.
Secondly, it's important to look at the focus on thinness as health and how that works (or really how that does not work). Basically, the external body is looked at as a measure of wellness rather than looking at what's actually going on physically. When you believe that thinness equals health, you're more prone to diet (restricting), and focusing on losing weight. Weight loss is then pursued in unhealthy ways, which doesn't work long term, causing weight cycling and weight gain over time. Diets fail 80 to 95% of the time short term. When you look long-term, it's an even higher failure rate. Diets also reduce your metabolism, reduce your muscle mass, and cause many physical problems. Even if dieting did work, they are harmful-causing mental health issues, leading to a high rate of disordered eating, shame, and generally not feeling good enough.
Est 5 min read
Confession, I still eat emotionally. I do. And it's so interesting to me because my relationship with that has changed so much.
I just had this happen recently, I was having a conflict with my partner. It was a really heavy week when we first heard that Russia was invading Ukraine and we're having COVID situations, multiple people I knew had COVID. It was a rough time. I remember I actually got in bed with a bag of cookies. There's this little grocery store by me (for those of you who are in Portland, Oregon, it's New Seasons) and they have a cookie bar where you can get bulk cookies and you can choose all the different ones that you want. For some reason, this has been really lighting me up lately to be able to have such a variety because I generally don't want a whole thing of one type of cookie, I get bored with it. I like the variety and I've been trying all kinds of different ones.
I had this bag of cookies, I was feeling down, life was rough. My house is under construction, some of you know that I'm renovating a 1910 craftsman in Portland, so my home isn't feeling very cozy, I don't really have a go-to place to sit at my new house yet. My relaxation time tends to be in bed right now. I don't even have a TV at my place yet, so I got in bed with my little 13-inch screen laptop. I wanted to watch shows and just zone out so I brought the bag of cookies to bed with me.
I ate a cookie and it was sweet and good and I wasn't super full at that point. I started feeling a little more full. As I ate the cookie, I was thinking this is a little sweeter than I wanted but had another cookie. I recognized that it wasn’t feeling very good at this point anymore. I knew if I ate more, I wasn’t going to feel amazing, and my body would likely protest, lol. Still, I decided to eat more anyway. I don't remember at this point how many cookies I ate in total, and really it doesn’t matter. The point is that I ate them in a way that didn't feel great to my body, I needed to soothe and I did that with food.
Est 5 min read
What is a diet?
I know that might seem like a silly question, and maybe a silly thing to devote an entire blog to, but I have been a little annoyed lately at some of the ads that I'm seeing and some of the talk around “this isn't a diet, it's a lifestyle change” or “it's not a diet because I can eat whatever I want.” Spoiler alert: things like Noom, Intermittent Fasting, and Keto are diets.
When I say diet, what I mean is not the diet that we all eat, everyone has a diet of food that they eat. When we're talking about diet, we're talking about restricting food and the diet culture messaging around what you “should” and “shouldn't” eat. Diet would be anything that is an external way of measuring what you shouldn't eat and especially anything that is restrictive in any way. Plans that restrict how, what, when, OR why you are or should be eating. This goes for any plan that restricts what you're eating, like categories of food you can't eat (carbs or meat, for example), restricts the types of foods that you can eat (no bread, for example), the amount of food you can eat (macros, calories, carbs), or restricts when you can eat.
Est 7 min read
I have a confession for you. Disclaimer: I'm doing this because I find that people have a preconceived notion about intuitive eating and what healing their relationship with food and their body would look like. Many times people think that it means that you'll be thin.
My confession today is: I still gain weight. During COVID, I gained some weight. This was likely my body’s way of dealing with the stress of a chronic crisis. It is adaptive and normal under duress.
I also had some gut health issues previously, and I hadn't been eating gluten for many years (I do not have celiac, I just had an intolerance to some foods). After healing my mental and emotional relationship around food and some of my physical gut issues by attending to some of my underlying health issues (constipation tendencies, nutrient deficiencies, parasitic infection, for example), I was able to feel safe to liberalize my diet. I successfully added back in gluten and really can eat anything now! That journey has been wonderful, and it's been so freeing. I feel great about being able to eat at a food cart and not even worry about what the ingredients are, just focusing on what feels good to me and what I enjoy.
While I still eat intuitively, I had been restricting myself because avoiding foods like gluten cuts out a ton of food options. When I added it back in, there was a bit of a pendulum swing of eating all the things that had been off-limits. Between letting go of restriction, the pandemic's stress, and some significant personal life stressors, I have gained weight.
Does that mean that I'm not a good intuitive eating coach? No. Does that mean that I don't have a healthy relationship with food or a healthy relationship with my body? No, it only means that my body is doing what it needs to do to support me as best it can to get through life. Today, I trust that.
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.