4 Things That Happen When You Ditch Dieting

I did a guest blog post for non-diet dietitian Taylor Wolfram over at her site Whole Green Wellness! Check it out:

Say goodbye to dietsI spend a lot of time talking about how I quit dieting and why (hello – life of misery). I discuss how we know now that dieting does not actually produce long-term weight loss for most people, and how diets are a part of an oppressive culture that doesn’t encourage us to live fully expressed lives in which we can feel good not just about our bodies, but our total selves.

But today I’m going to talk about what it’s like to take those first few steps away from dieting and diet culture…. Continue here to keep reading

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“But I don’t like myself at this weight…”

I’ve been hearing this a lot in my Facebook group lately, and it’s not a sentiment I’m unfamiliar with, having passed through it myself on my Health at Every Size® journey to normal eating.

For some people, giving up dieting is easy. Dieters are “falling off the wagon” half the time anyway – this is just like falling off and just staying off. Dream come true, right? Never diet again!

But then the reality of why you dieted in the first place comes crashing through. “I’m still fat!” or “I’ll get fat again!” is a stark realization that breaks the reverie of your no-diet bliss. And if you’ve been living with the fantasy of getting thin, or maybe even the reality of being thin, through dieting, then you’re facing some serious shattered dreams.

So yes, body acceptance is a HUGE part of diet and ED recovery. But where to start?

I think the first thing anyone should know is that you did not learn to hate your body, or fat, in a vacuum. We live in a patriarchy that enforces beauty ideals as a way to keep women busy and unable to achieve real economic and political power. Think I’m kidding? Have you seen the stats on wage disparity and representation in government for women? You may have been very busy dieting and chasing after the false currency of beauty and not noticed, so I’m telling you now: many people benefit when women keep hating their bodies. The diet and beauty industries are great examples of this.

I understand that just knowing that isn’t enough, so I recommend immersing yourself in some of the fabulous work of the many fat activists out there. I’ll take you through my own personal body acceptance journey as an example of how to do this.

The first blog I stumbled across was Ragen Chastain’s fabulous Dances with Fat blog. I read it obsessively for months. I began to see the societal fat phobia that had shaped my life and caused me to keep dieting even when I was unhappy with my body as a thin person. I’ve met Ragen several times and she is just as awesome in person as she seems on her blog. (Plus she’s the guest of our latest podcast episode which you simply MUST hear!)

I also happened to find the book Fat? So!  by long-time fat activist Marilyn Wann. Marilyn is one of my early heroes and this book really set me straight about how I could start to feel good about my body no matter what size it ended up at. I also met Marilyn and I loved her. It’s some kind of amazing thing to get to meet your fat activist heroes and find out that they are truly good and cool people.

Along the way I tumbled down the fabulous rabbit hole of fat fashion blogs. I was like, “This is a thing? Fat fashion is a thing?!” I’m sad to say I’d never seen fat women proudly wearing beautiful fashion in such an unapologetic way. And the hilarious thing is, I thought the first fatshion blog I found was the only one! Turns out, no. There were many, and even more now than a few years ago (hell yeah body positivity!). There was something so incredibly liberating about seeing so many fat bodies portrayed so positively. A big first step for me, before I could totally accept my own fatness, was normalizing the fat bodies of others. Fashion was a great medium to help me do this because I like looking at pretty clothing. It wasn’t too long before I bought GabiFresh’s famous fatkini (yep, I own that exact one, although since then I’ve realized I find one-pieces much more comfortable) . Suffice it to say, fat fashion blogs were integral in my own body acceptance journey. My favorites are listed at the bottom of this post, although the list is by no means exhaustive, so do some of your own research too.

From here I found other fat activist and body love gurus Jes Baker and Virgie Tovar. Get Jes’s book Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls and Virgie’s anthology Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion. Follow their blogs and listen to the podcasts they guest on. They are the very embodiment of fat women living full and fully satisfying lives.

One of the reasons you’ve probably felt your own fat body isn’t fabulous is that we’re surrounded by media images of only one kind of body: thin. Here’s how to fix that: flood your social media feed with fat positive posts, pages and groups. They’re actually pretty easy to find. Most fat fashion bloggers have their own Facebook pages, so start there.

Finally, check out the work of Vivienne McMaster of Be Your Own Beloved. She has e-books and programs that will get you to explore self-compassion through self-portraiture. I took her course last year and it was not only fun but also instrumental in stomping out my inner critic.

And then, once you’ve immersed yourself in positive images of fat bodies, and you’re starting to see how your fat body is also awesome, realize this:

You are so much more than a body.

It’s important to come to peace with this body you’re in, but feeling pretty isn’t required. Physical beauty, however it’s defined by the society you’re in, isn’t important to the actual living of your life. You may think it is, and others may try to reinforce this, but in fact, it’s bullshit.

Your value as a human is more than your ability to fit into made-up societal beauty standards that were created to control us. We don’t need beauty standards and you are not an ornament for others to admire.

You are a person with a life to live, dreams to fulfill, gifts to give.

Fat Fashion Blogs:

Gabifresh
GarnerStyle
Le Blog de Big Beauty
The Curvy Fashionista
Curvy Girl Chic
Life and Style of Jessica Kane
MamaFierce
Nadia Aboulhosn
Nicolette Mason
And one for the dudes: Chubstr

Last Call: Registration for Dare to Eat closes tonight!

Dare to EAT Logo with Text HALF sizeMy 5 week online program, Dare to Eat…As much as you want, without guilt, in total freedom starts this Monday, July 19th.

Come and learn how to develop a peaceful relationship to food once and for all.

Registration closes tonight at midnight Pacific time. Click here for program details and to sign up.

Dietitians Unplugged Talk Getting Older with Michelle Vina-Baltsas

DU + Michelle VBI have grey hair. Not a lot. Just some right now. There will in all likelihood be more down the road. This aging thing doesn’t go in reverse, Benjamin Button style.

When I was younger, I always thought I’d dye my hair. My grandmother did, until she was very old and couldn’t make it to the hairdresser anymore. My mother did too, until she got sick enough to no longer think about the dreaded roots (amazingly, only the last couple months of her life; and I think she still probably thought about her roots).

I thought there was no other option than to dye your hair because grey hair was simply to ghastly to be allowed to run unchecked on one’s head. If one’s head belonged to a female, at least.

Until one day I figured out there wasn’t just one option, which was to “hide” grey and pretend like it just wasn’t happening. If I no longer believed in societal beauty ideals, there were suddenly multiple options! I could let my hair get grey. I could shave it off. I could dye it not to hide it, but to bring attention to it, in unicorn pink-blue-purple! I could do whatever the fuck I wanted with it. That’s at least four more options right there.

I chose going grey, mostly because I’m lazy, but also because, as it came in, I kind of liked it. I liked it a lot, actually, once I decided that I’d see it as 1. simply another hair color that I was going to get to experience without having to do a lick of work 2. a way to buck patriarchal beauty rules that weren’t providing me with any real power, and 2. a symbol that I wasn’t afraid to get older  — that in fact, I was going to own the hell out of getting older.

It hasn’t always been easy. As I dropped quickly and dramatically out of thin-and-acceptably-young-and-cute and deep into pudgy-grey-and-middle-aged, I noticed how people changed in reaction to me. Because I slipped out of the realm of fuckability in many people’s men’s eyes, it’s gotten harder to have my opinion heard around them. This would be a much bigger problem if I worked in a male-dominated profession, which thankfully I don’t anymore (frankly it was already hard enough to have my opinion heard by male co-workers and managers at any age); but not everyone has this luxury.

Anyway, I’ve thought about this stuff a lot as I’ve witnessed myself going from young-hot-mess (20s) to confused-but-getting-there (30s) to mature-and-on-a-mission (40s at the moment). I like me now better than me then. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still suffer the indignities of aging in a society that is distinctly anti-aging for women.

That’s why we got my friend and fellow middle-ager Michelle Vina-Baltsas on the line to chat with the Dietitians Unplugged. Aging affects our body image in a profound way, and it needs some processing. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as we enjoyed having it.

Show notes: we referenced this awesome article a few times.

Listen on:

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Your Stomach is not a Bottomless Pit…It Just Feels Like It

sweets
Feel like you could eat this all the time?

As a dietitian who helps others get over disordered eating after years of dieting, I’ve heard this many times: “I don’t have a limit when I’m eating. If I let myself eat what I want, I won’t ever be able to stop eating.”

To this I say: bunk. It just feels like that.

Everyone has a stopping point*. You might not think so because maybe you, like I did at one point, have stood beside the cheese tray at a cocktail party scarfing ungodly amounts of mediocre cheese cubes fearing you’ll never stop. Maybe you did eventually stop at that “I’m gonna burst!” point and regretted the whole ordeal. And maybe you simply don’t know your stopping point, as I did not, because you are hungry much of the time…so very, very hungry.

Here’s a little secret: dieting and calorie and food restriction create a false impression in your body that you are a bottomless pit. That you are a vessel that will never be filled, especially when you are confronted by a favorite or particularly delicious (or sometimes even mediocre) food. Maintaining a body weight lower than what is natural for you will also cause your body to constantly crave food, large amounts of it. This is a pretty reliable biological response regulated by a cascade of hunger hormones, and anyone who diets will in all likelihood experience this kind of mega-hunger regularly.

On the flip side, honoring your appetite (aka, eating intuitively) has the opposite effect. Once you begin to eat satisfying amounts of food when you feel hungry and your body weight adjusts toward its natural set point, your bottomless pit starts to find its bottom. As you practice honoring internal cues more often, you may start to find that your stopping point is not, in fact, stuffed but satisfied. You may even find yourself easily leaving food on the plate, or turning down the offer of a homemade brownie if you are simply not hungry for it.

My bottomless-pit acquaintances are incredulous when I suggest that they do have stopping points. They don’t trust their bodies. Some are invested in maintaining a certain external appearance and don’t feel their natural appetite will support their desired size (and this might be true).

I sympathize. I was once a bottomless pit too. But I became sick of being ruled by food and by fear of the cheese tray. And I became tired of living my life solely to support a certain body size when there were so many other interesting things to do.

When I started truly honoring my internal signals of hunger and satisfaction (thank you again, intuitive eating), eating what I really wanted, and letting my body be, I no longer had fearsome insatiable cravings. Yes, I gained some weight, but in time (and with a lot of intentional effort) I began to lose the fear that had driven my need for a smaller body size; honoring my appetite came from a place of love and, for me, was the truest act of self-care (aka Health at Every Size®).

Eating what you want and as much as you want may feel scary at first. As your body adjusts, that fear may turn to comfort as you realize you are taking care of yourself and your needs and you no longer have to fear your own bottomless pit.

*Sufferers of Prader-Willi Syndrome excepted.

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On Becoming the Invisible Woman

invisible + DUMy whole life, until very recently, I have felt invisible. I have always been surprised when people I knew, but thought did not know me, say to me, “I remember you from…” (this happened a lot on Facebook back in its early days).

I’m like, Really? You knew who I was?

I am not sure why I felt invisible, but I really didn’t like it. I did a lot of things to ease that invisibility, like wear really flashy clothing, or make my hair crazy big, or wear a lot of make-up.

And yet, I felt I remained essentially invisible. Whether it was real or not, it felt real, and I think there are societal reasons for that.

Once I started getting very visible online and talking about all things Health at Every Size®, anti-diet, intuitive eating, body acceptance, fat positive, I realized my invisible days were well and truly over. They needed to be, because this movement needs more voices, my own included.

And once I joined a female-dominated profession (dietetics) I saw my voice welcomed as equally important to the others around me. This had not been the case when I had worked in the corporate world, I’m sorry to say, and I didn’t flourish in that environment.

So I’ve gotten kind of used to…visibility, lately. Imagine my surprise, then, when I ended up in a situation recently where I felt like I was turning back into the Invisible Woman.

On the set of a video shoot for a wellness mini-documentary by Vice UK, I was rendered irrelevant as I was overlooked, ignored by the males-in-charge around me, and eventually ended up on the cutting room floor (much to my actual relief). I don’t usually go around feeling like this is the case in most situations, so I decided I hadn’t imagined it after all. It was an upsetting reminder that outside my little HAES bubble of acceptance, there is still so much work to do.

If you want to hear the gory, yet hilarious, details of this story, listen to our podcast episode here.  WARNING: wheat grass was wielded as a torture device!

Anyway, I started to think about the many ways in which women experience erasure in our society. This is a real thing. It happens – and requiring women to diet to lose weight is one of the ways it is reinforced.

As a young, chubby woman, I was overlooked frequently as a potential partner for anyone. It was even hard to get a decent job back then. Once I lost weight and better started fitting into the cultural beauty standards du jour, all sort of attention — wanted, but also unwanted — was suddenly directed at me. It’s ironic that getting smaller somehow equated with better visibility, and yet it wasn’t real visibility. I ended up an ornament in so many situations, not a fully realized person with a mind and thoughts and ideas (and there would be so many repercussions for accepting this faux visibility, I later found out). I didn’t even feel visible to myself, and I had problems asking for what I really needed and wanted because of that. I had to fight for that kind of recognition, and although becoming older does not make the job any easier, I’m going to keep fighting for it.

Sarah Silverman had this to say not long ago: “As soon as a woman gets to an age where she has opinions and she’s vital and she’s strong, she’s systematically shamed into hiding under a rock.” Gawd, is that true or what?

We can’t let it continue to be true. We have to make our voices heard. We have to stop being afraid to take up space. We need to yell if we’re not being heard.

This is integral to our survival, to our very well-being, and to all the generations of women that will come after us.

Listen to the full Dietitians Unplugged podcast episode 23 here:

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Food is the New Classism

This week I wrote a post for one of my favorite blogs, ASDAH’s Health at Every Size® Blog. Enjoy!

The argument (really just a friendly debate; not an actual fight) has stuck in my head for years.

A self-proclaimed foodie friend and I were discussing the qualities of the best grilled cheese sandwiches. I declared that my favorite was still the kind made with processed cheese slices. She was horrified. “Ugh no!” she gasped. “That’s not REAL cheese!”

I burned a little with shame remembering my childhood growing up eating my mother’s classic grilled cheese sandwiches made with those processed cheese slices…click here to continue reading.

Take my FREE mini-course!

I created this free, 3-day mini-course, Kick Diet-Mind to the Curb, to help you understand the rational behind WHY dieting is so damn dangerous to your body, mind and soul. Click here to give diet culture a kick in the crotch. This also gets you on my newsletter list.

The Weight You’re Supposed to Be

Bulldog

One of the most common reactions to what I write about learning to accept our bodies at the weight they are and taking a Health at Every Size® approach is, “But I’m not at the weight I’m supposed to be…I should be XXX pounds because that’s what I was [when I was my healthiest weight; when I was an athlete in college; before I had three kids; before I developed this knee condition; when I ran marathons all the time].” I totally get it. Lots of us have that utopian time in our lives when our weight was perfect (or so we think in hindsight), our health was optimal, and we were going to live forever…and we so desperately want to get back to it.

Even when, intellectually, we know that dieting doesn’t work, that weight loss is typically short-term (<3 years) at best, that even when our own personal experiences tell us that previous weights were not sustainable, we resist in accepting this. I recently read a great term for this: data resistance, meaning no matter how clear the science is on this topic, people still want to believe that long-term weight loss is possible for more than a tiny fraction of people. The propensity for magical thinking is strong in us humans, and weight is no exception.

Let’s roll with it, then. Maybe you aren’t at your optimal weight. Do you want to diet to try to get there? Is that something that has been sustainable for you in the past? If not, why do you think things would be different this time? What happens if, despite all your efforts, you never get anywhere close to your desired weight? How do you live your life then? What happens if the weight you are now is your weight for the rest of your life? I think it’s worth it to have this conversation with yourself, so you at least have some options.

There are also important things to know before you decide what to do next. First of all, despite what we have been told ad nauseam by the diet industry, your weight is not really within your control, at least in the long term. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you are well aware by now that intentional weight loss has a 90-95% failure rate over the long haul (>5 years). If you’re new to this blog, head on over to my Scientific Lit page and have a look for yourself.

Your weight is really determined by a combination of your genetics, your metabolism, and your environment (past and present) – and not so much by the weight you actually want to be. Do you have fat parents or family members (genetics)? Have you spent any part of your life restricting calories or foods (environment)? And if so, did you know that your metabolism is probably running slower than if you hadn’t (metabolism, obviously)? Possibly most significantly, if you have made multiple weight loss attempts throughout your life or were put on diets as a child, your natural set point will be higher than what it might have been had this never happened. Unfortunately, we’ve all been fed the calories in/calories out bullshit, and have been taught that calories out are totally within our control, when in reality our sneaky metabolism comes along and adjusts everything to make sure we aren’t spending too much energy, because Lord knows the body loves homeostasis.

So now you’re well-armed with information about the spectacular failure of long-term weight manipulation. That’s all well and dandy, you think, but maybe I’ll be one of the 5% who keep the weight off. Maybe you will be! I was for a long while – before The Diet Monster took over my life and made me more miserable than I had ever been as a fat person. It’s a dicey gamble to make – you might be one of the 5% who manages to maintain long-term weight loss by making it your life’s work, OR you might be one of the 95% who gains some, all, or even more of your weight back, leaving you even fatter than you started. In the words of Dirty Harry, “You gotta ask yourself, ‘Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya??

“But I’m simply not healthy at this weight.” Hey, you might not be. I don’t know your particular health habits or your lab values. Just remember, though, that weight is not a health behavior; it’s a size. Health at Every Size® does not purport to say that everyone is healthy at whatever weight they’re at; it simply means that whatever weight you are right now, you can start to work toward better health. So maybe your health isn’t great right now – is losing weight truly the only way you can improve your health? What about improving your eating habits or activity level? If you consider yourself too large to exercise, check out The Fat Chick’s webpage for activity for people of all sizes. Plenty of studies show that fitness is a better determinant of health than fatness and recently even more are showing that weight loss in some populations is associated with greater mortality rates.

“Well, I’m just not comfortable at this size.” I understand; moving in a thin body is different than moving in a fat body. While I personally don’t notice all that much difference (I’m lazy at both ends of the weight spectrum!), I also recognize that my weight difference might not be as great as someone else’s and that my experience is not universal (I also developed osteoarthritis in my feet at my thinnest, so even that wasn’t a guard against joint problems). Whether your discomfort is physical or psychological, how much do you think our culture’s prevailing attitudes about weight are influencing your discomfort with your weight?

I used to feel like I had to suck in my stomach, no matter what weight I was. As I regained weight, my stomach was beyond sucking in – I could tighten those ab muscles all I wanted, but that layer of fat wasn’t going anywhere. Sucking in made me feel physically uncomfortable. Not sucking in made me feel psychologically uncomfortable. I felt out of proportion, and I felt like I was being outed by my tummy as a fat person. When I finally acknowledged that how I felt about my stomach had more to do with how the world views fat people and less to do with how I actually felt, I eased up on my expectations of my body. If your feelings of discomfort are 100% physical, consider a HAES® approach in which you could find activities that you are comfortable doing right now, and work your way up from there. Bodies are amazingly adaptable, especially when we are being kind to them.

I wish I could tell you that our desires controlled our weight. That it’s just a matter of trying really hard and you’ll have some satisfying weight loss that lasts forever without totally ruining the quality of your life. My own personal experience, the experiences of all the other people I’ve met in the fatosphere, and the bulk of available science on the subject does not permit me to do so. I can only recommend a kinder approach in which you let your body decide what it will weigh – it will do that eventually anyway – while you find your own way of living as healthfully as you want and can. That will give you a stable weight that is right for you. Because, with this one life you have, how long do you really want to struggle against your body?

Take my FREE mini-course!

I created this free, 3-day mini-course, Kick Diet-Mind to the Curb, to help you understand the rational behind WHY dieting is so damn dangerous to your body, mind and soul. Click here to give diet culture a kick in the crotch.

Guest Post: 3 Strategies for Maintaining a Vegan Lifestyle in Eating Disorder Recovery

Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN of Whole Green Wellness is a non-diet dietitian who, like me, teaches others to ditch restrictive diets and learn to eat intuitively. But unlike me, she is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to veganism. She suggested we swap blog posts, and since the topic of remaining vegetarian or vegan during ED recovery has come up a few times in the online spaces where I hang out, I thought we could all learn something from her approach. Enjoy!  -Glenys

avocado public domain image
A vegan diet MUST include fat!

Hello, Dare to Not Diet readers! I am so delighted to swap guest posts with Glenys. The community of non-diet dietitians is growing and the more we can spread positive messages about food and bodies, the better! My areas of expertise include vegan nutrition as well as a non-diet approach to sustainable wellness. I help clients focus less on weight and body size and more on enjoyable lifestyle behaviors that help them feel happy and healthy. I’ve been vegan for 8 years and have been counseling vegan (and non-vegan) clients for nearly 4 years.

Unfortunately, some people wrongly assume that veganism equates to restrictive eating. I’m here to show you that veganism is about compassion, not about restriction, and that it is possible to eat intuitively without eating animals or their byproducts. It also is possible to recover from disordered eating and eating disorders while vegan. Did you know vegans who do not eat animals for ethical reasons are no more likely to have eating disorders than non-vegans? While some people with eating disorders may abstain from eating animal products as a method of restriction, veganism is not automatically a precursor for eating disorders.

To bring you feasible and effective strategies for maintaining veganism while recovering from an eating disorder, I interviewed Caitlin Martin-Wagar, MA, an eating disorder researcher and clinician who also happens to be vegan. She holds a master’s degree in clinical psychology and also is a doctoral student in Counseling Psychology at The University of Akron.

Be honest with yourself. When I first meet with vegan clients, I ask them about their journey to becoming vegan and their motivations for doing so. This helps me understand potential restrictive mindsets and also helps clients self-reflect on their own behaviors. “Make a list with two columns: one with the ethical reasons you are vegan and one with potentially eating disordered reasons you are vegan (if there are any). If you discover there are eating disordered reasons for your veganism, find ways to challenge those reasons and refocus on the ethical reasons you are vegan if you want to maintain a vegan lifestyle. For example, you can make sure you are including a wide variety of foods in your diet, including the vegan versions of non-vegan foods, like macaroni and cheese, pizza, and cupcakes,” Caitlin advises.

Have a plan. Eating disorder or not, having a general plan for eating, especially when traveling or attending events when you aren’t certain about food availability, is one of my key tips for vegan clients. Figure out your favorite packable snacks and keep them in your bag, car, desk, etc. so you don’t find yourself without food when you’re hungry. Caitlin says, “For people not in recovery, going a few extra hours without food because of a lack of availability won’t necessarily impact them psychologically. But for vegans recovering from eating disorders, accidental restriction can trigger eating disorder urges like bingeing, purging and further restriction.”

Challenge restrictive thoughts. I like to ask my clients about their favorite vegan foods and where they can get them. This helps them realize how many options they have. I also like to see if there are any foods clients may be restricting for whatever reason, such as oils, desserts and plant-based meats and cheeses. “If you notice restriction urges are triggered from not having certain foods that are not included in vegan lifestyles, remind yourself that you are not excluding these foods due to eating disordered reasons. Challenge these thoughts and show yourself you are willing to have high-fat vegan foods at times—this can help squash any concerns that you are restricting for eating disordered reasons,” Caitlin advises.

One more thing to consider: work toward becoming more accepting of diverse body shapes. Both Caitlin and I are passionate about challenging myths related to body size and health conditions in the vegan community. Having weight stigma or an attitude of health elitism is not only damaging, it strays from the compassionate core of what veganism is all about.

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder or need support through eating disorder recovery, please work with a therapist and eating disorder dietitian. Everyone’s journey is different and no blog post can substitute for individualized therapy and guidance.

You can find Taylor at Whole Green Wellness.

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Can I Eat Everything I Want with Intuitive Eating?

tea food
Yes! You can eat this!

The answer to this one is tricky. It’s yes…but with a caveat.

Here’s how it’s yes: there is literally no food off limits in intuitive eating and your non-diet way of life. Pizza? Yes. Chocolate cake? Hell yes. Kale? Yes! (If you want it)

You get to eat ALL the different types of foods you want, when you want them and yes, as much as you want of them.

And here’s the caveat: It’s not just eating anything and everything willy nilly without a thought to how it goes down or how you feel after.

Intuitive eating is…nuanced. It’s not just an end-point — it’s also the process that takes you from that stressed-out, restrictive, over-eating dieting-type eater you were to a completely no guilt, drama-free, normal eater (before the new normal meant “diet”) that knows when to eat and when to stop. The process, however, can sometime feel anything but intuitive.

If kicking diet mindset and behavior was easy, we wouldn’t need a process called Intuitive Eating. But it isn’t, and we do.

While you’ll be liberating all the foods from Food Jail and eating to satisfy your appetite, you’re going to learn to stay present and non-judgmental instead of fearful and guilty. You’re going to learn to tune into your body to hear the subtle messages it sends you about when to eat, and how much. If you’ve been a dieter or binge-eater for a while, this hyper-awareness is going to feel really strange and uncomfortable for you at first.

Let me reassure you, this will not always be the case. The point of intuitive eating is not to remain on strict mealtime vigil, putting all your concentration into every bite. The point is to eventually know intuitively when to stop eating.

Ever try to get a baby to eat more food than she’s hungry for? She’ll slam her mouth shut, shake her head, and get downright cranky at you for trying to fly that damn airplane into her mouth again. She knows, without thinking about it at all, when she’s done eating, because we are ALL born with the intuition to know how much food we want and need to eat. That baby is in charge of her appetite. And then somewhere along the way, diet culture robs us of that intuition and convinces us we need to be told how to eat.

So yes, you’re going to eat whatever it is you want. And also, for now, you’re going to pay attention to what you’re eating. A lot of attention at first, and much less later on, until it’s all instinct. And it will become instinct.

And even later, when you’re ready, you can even give some thought toward nutrition. If you want. But that’s a story for another day.

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I help women get free from diets and guide them through the intuitive eating process, in person in my West LA office, or virtually by phone or Skype. Find out more here.

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Toss Your Scale. Seriously.

scale - no signImagine this scenario:

You’ve been doing pretty well making headway with internally regulated eating (aka intuitive/attuned/mindful eating/eating competence), enjoying formerly forbidden foods with ease and seeing a decrease in the number of times you overeat. You’re feeling pretty relaxed around food and making choices based on what you actually like instead stupid diet rules. Food restriction is becoming a distant memory.

You’re doing a great job of embracing body acceptance, learning compassion towards yourself, and generally feeling much more comfortable in your skin. You’ve even bought a few new outfits and think you look pretty damn awesome.

You’re feeling so confident, in fact, that you decide to get on the scale. “If I’m feeling this good, I must have lost weight!”…even though that was never the point of all this good work.

Then you see the number. Surprise! It’s your highest weight ever.

Your mood comes crashing down. You feel the need to dive into a gallon of ice cream and get lost forever while simultaneously tossing out every last delicious food in your cupboard. You feel that all the clothes that looked cute on you before you got on the scale now make you look horrible. Worst of all, you feel completely unacceptable, unlovable, and unworthy. You so desperately want to diet to “correct” this weight situation even though it wasn’t even a problem a few minutes before.

If this has happened to you, it’s time to get rid of your scale.

At the height of my diet addiction, I sometimes weighed myself three times a day. The act of weighing was not an emotionally neutral act. I was constantly attempting to reassure myself that my societal acceptability – and depending on the number, superiority – was intact. If the number didn’t jive with what I expected, I was obviously a failure. I used these feelings to ensure that I never ate enough to satisfy my appetite.

Wow, just writing that kind of makes me feel sick.

After I started eating to satisfy my appetite, my weight started to go up rapidly. This, of course, is a normal bodily response to weight suppression below one’s natural set point, and I knew that, but before I was fully there body acceptance, the number glaring back at me, judging me, was just hard to see.

But because I had finally committed to letting my body do its own thing, to trust in its wisdom as I learned to enjoy eating again in a relaxed, healthy-for-me fashion, I knew I had to get rid of the scale that had the power to take me from a perfectly fine mood to a much darker, critical one. I knew, at last, that I didn’t need its judgement anymore.

The act of stepping onto the scale is one of self-sabotage. We are telling ourselves that we don’t trust in the process our body needs to go through to reclaim joy and normalcy in eating. We bargain with ourselves: “I’ll eat normally only if I haven’t gained weight…” And then all our good work in eating and body acceptance is undermined. We start restricting – maybe even unintentionally – and the next thing we know, we are overeating again.

If this has happened to you and you’re in a tailspin of bad body feelings, ask yourself – how did you feel about yourself before you got on the scale? If you felt good, why can a number that only represents the Earth’s gravitational pull on your body take that away? What was it you were hoping to find from the number you saw there? Approval? Acceptance?

The scale is simply not a way to gauge your non-diet journey progress, especially if you came from Diet Hell. Metabolic alterations from dieting and other processes that are out of your control have much more to do with what happens to your weight than eating-without-a-diet-plan.

Society puts so much emphasis on the weights of women and their ability to achieve and maintain smallness. This is not about our health; it’s about keeping us obedient. As long as you keep buying into this obedience by judging yourself by a number on the scale, you will continue to prop up the anti-female diet culture that denies us everything. And I know you don’t want to do that!

So the fix is easy: Get. Rid. Of. The. Damn. Scale. You don’t need to know the number to have a great life. It doesn’t tell you anything about your eating progress. It doesn’t measure your worthiness. And it makes you feel bad.

Sayonara, scale. We’ll do better without you.

Let’s Talk

Food got you down? Feel like your eating is out of control? Are you tired of fighting with your weight?  Do you want to get to a place of normal eating but just don’t know how? I can help with all those things. Let’s talk for 20 minutes and come up with some strategies for you. Click here to schedule.

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