From Eating Disorder to Intuitive Eating

DU + RobynOne of the best things about having a podcast is that it’s a great excuse to hang out with your friends and also get to learn from them. That’s why Aaron and I were excited to have our dear friend, registered dietitian and eating disorder expert Robyn Goldberg, on the show recently to talk about  progression people take in their recovery from eating disorder to intuitive eating.

Robyn talked about learning to connect with body signals, finding satisfaction with food, the challenges of being in a larger body with an ED, the resistance of health care practitioners to Health at Every Size® and more in this informative episode. 

If you are in eating disorder recovery, or know someone who is, we think you’ll find this episode invaluable.

Listen now:

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iTunes
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Isabel Foxen Duke Teaches us How to Stop Fighting Food

Isabel and DUOne of my big heroes in the anti-diet world is Isabel Foxen Duke. She is a bad-ass who doesn’t mince words when it comes to explaining why diet culture is bullshit, eating isn’t the addiction, and why emotional eating might be saving your ass. So when we got to meet over the phone a while back, of course I leaped at the chance to invite her on our podcast.

In this awesome episode of Dietitians Unplugged, Isabel, Aaron and I talk about all stuff anti-diet, intuitive eating, Health at Every Size and yes, even sex (don’t worry, the episode is still by and large PG!).

More About Isabel

Isabel Foxen Duke is the Creator of Stop Fighting Food—a free video training program for women who want to “stop feeling crazy around food.” After years of trying to overcome emotional eating, binge-eating and chronic weight-cycling through traditional and alternative approaches, Isabel discovered some radical new ways to get women over their “food issues” once and for all—not just by shifting the mindsets of individuals, but by challenging the dominant diet culture as a whole.

Listen now:

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iTunes
Stitcher

Learn more about Isabel’s free Stop Fighting Food video series now!

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The 2017 Fat Activism Conference is happening live online October 6-8, with recordings and transcripts available after! Click here to find out more.

 

 

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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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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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.

Want to work with me?

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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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.

Want to work with me?

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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Dietitians Unplugged Ep 21: Rebecca Scritchfield Teaches us Body Kindness

Cover2I loved this conversation between our fellow dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield and Aaron and I. Rebecca recently published the amazing non-diet self-care manual, Body Kindness (it’s great, please buy ASAP) and she talks about her personal journey of getting to body kindness herself.

Rebecca’s passion for Health at Every Size® is infectious and her no-hold-barred opinions on everything from nutrition education to bringing HAES® to the forefront of the dietetics profession will fire you up.

Listen on: Libsyn, iTunes, Stitcher

Show notes:
Peter Attia’s TED Talk
Body Kindness
RDs for Body Confidence

Wanna hang out?

We have a cool little group going on over at Facebook where we talk about going diet-free, embracing body acceptance, and rejecting diet culture. Want to join? Click here.

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Dietitians Unplugged Podcast: Round-up

Cover2Needless to say, I’ve been remiss in posting the last few Dietitians Unplugged podcasts here, on my blog. I’m particular about things being complete, so I’m going to tuck the last few eps into one neat and tidy post for you all to find some day in the future when you’re casting about the internet, looking for some vintage HAES podcasts…

Or if you’re not caught up, now’s your chance!

New-and-super-cool episodes coming soon!

 

Episode 18: Binge Eating Disorder Conference Live Report

Aaron and I had a few minutes during the conference to chat about what we learned. Read more about how the conference went here.

Episode 17: Intuitive Eating and Weight Gain

You asked and we answered! One of our listeners asked us if we felt Intuitive Eating promoted weight gain. Find out what we had to say.

Episode 16: Teaching Kids the Truth: Weight Stigma and Body Image

Aaron and I team up with Carmen Cool, MA, LPC and a very wise teen who schools us on body image and young people and how they are unwittingly reinforced by adults.

As always, you can find us on iTunes, Stitcher and Libsyn.

 

Ready to Stop Dieting and Start Living?

If you’re ready to stop dieting, or already have, and would like some help with your intuitive eating skills, check out my new online course and group coaching program, Stop Dieting, Start Living, which will help you do just that. Class starts February 6! Registration is open until February 2 or until the class is full.

Free Group Coaching Call January 28

I’m hosting a free group coaching call on January 28 at 10 am PST. The topic is “Why can’t I stop eating even when I’m not hungry?!” I’m only sending the call details to people on my newsletter list so sign up here if you want in on the fun.

Join our Facebook group community!

We have a very cool little community going on over at Facebook called The Dare To Not Diet Society. Members give each other support, cheer each other on in their non-diet journey. I’m there too! It’s a body positive, non-diet, non-weight-loss focused community, and we’d love to have you.

 

Stop Dieting, Start Living

stop-dieting-no-nameWhen I was dieting, I had little time for anything else but thoughts of food and exercise: what I could eat, what I couldn’t, when could I eat again, and what would fit into my days’ “points” allowance; when I would exercise, how I didn’t want to but had to, and how many calories I would burn on the stair-stepping machine (which I hated).

At the height of my dieting mania, when I was “acceptably” slim, I chose to pursue a career that I thought would support my dieting obsession: registered dietitian.

Imagine that – I chose a career that would help me diet. So not only would my personal time be filled with food preoccupation, so would my professional time. Looking back on this, I am astounded. When I was much younger, I had wanted to be other things: writer, fashion designer, even comedian (despite my intense performance anxiety). Where did that person go once on a diet?

It is only now that my dieting obsession is over that I occasionally wonder what I might have chosen for my mid-life career change other than dietitian. I still do love food and nutrition (no longer in an obsessive way) and I’m glad, ultimately, that this was the path I chose because I also love the clinical aspect of what I do, and thankfully the HAES® philosophy has given my practice so much meaning and substance. But imagine if I’d had more mental freedom in making this choice. But making a career choice during what was basically a mental health crisis is not how I wish that had gone down.

In the years that I became so restrictive with food, I had few hobbies. It’s not because I’m not an interesting person – I AM – but because planning all my meals and then fretting about how long I could withstand my hunger was first priority. I had a brief flirtation with pottery, and though I’ll never be any sort of visual artist, I wish I had continued on with it because it was truly the most meditative thing I have ever done while still creating something. Figuring out how to simultaneously eat food I liked while eating the fewest calories took first priority.

Anyway, once I stopped dieting, I had to spend some time figuring out how to eat again. It took me about five years to learn how to eat instinctively. Five years! So even after I stopped dieting, I still had to spend time learning how to not-diet. That part was better, because at least I learned how to make bagels and French baguettes and kimchi.

Once I was done learning to eat, I finally had time again. So I started writing this blog, and then I was asked to write by a magazine, and then I was asked to speak and I started to become an expert in my field of non-dieting. I took hula hoop classes and dance classes and learn to boogie board and travelled without worrying how I was going to stay on my diet. I ate dessert when I felt like it and got big swishy skirts I never would have worn even when I was thin because I worried they’d make me look fat. I started to really live in a way that I was afraid to do even when I was thin and never good enough. In between, I stopped dieting, and started living.

How much time is dieting and worrying about weight taking away from you? What creative or intellectual or fun or generous pursuits have you put aside because you had to think about food, or had to negotiate constant hunger and longing? What great or satisfying things would you do if you were freed from this diet prison?

Only you can answer that.

Ready to Stop Dieting and Start Living?

If you’re ready to stop dieting, or already have, and would like some help with the not-dieting (so you don’t have to spend five years doing it on your own like I did), check out my new online course and group coaching program, Stop Dieting, Start Living, which will help you do just that. Registration is open until February 2 or until the class is full.

Free Group Coaching Call January 28

I’m hosting a free group coaching call on January 28 at 10 am PST. The topic is “Why can’t I stop eating even when I’m not hungry?!” I’m only sending the call details to people on my newsletter list so sign up here if you want in on the fun.

Join our Facebook group community!

We have a very cool little community going on over at Facebook called The Dare To Not Diet Society. Members give each other support, cheer each other on in their non-diet journey. I’m there too! It’s a body positive, non-diet, non-weight-loss focused community, and we’d love to have you.

How Full Should I Be?

pizza
I now know when to stop. Even when it’s sooooo good!

I get asked this by people quite a bit, and those of you also in your non-diet, internally regulated eating journey might be struggling with the same question: “How full should I be?”

I answer this question, sometimes perhaps infuriatingly so, with, “Well, that depends on how full you want to feel.”

Pause. I read my questioner’s mind. Not helpful.

This answer, though, rescues you from the pat solutions that diets try to offer and don’t work. Think of the last diet you can remember – did it ever mention anything about respecting fullness? Or honoring your hunger? Probably not. It was likely much more concerned with teaching you how to trick your body out of feeling hungry and craving satisfaction (which never worked).

I know your frustration; after all, I was the person, back in my dieting days, who could not stop eating my favorite food, pizza, until I was absolutely uncomfortably stuffed. I had to work my way through this process, too.

So, a while back I wrote about experimenting with my fullness, having learned that there was a difference between being “no longer hungry” and the varying levels of fullness that one can experience. I decided to see what “no longer hungry” felt like as a stopping point.

I experimented and experimented. It took so much experimenting in the year and a half since I wrote that post. Here’s what I learned:

It’s not enough for me to be just “no longer hungry.” I do hit that spot while eating, I recognize it, but it does not satisfy me most of the time.

I also learned I don’t like to be really full either. So somewhere in between “no longer hungry” and “really full” is a sweet spot that I like. The beauty of this is that I get to decide what level of fullness satisfies me most.

What I figured out is that if I stop at “no longer hungry,” I’m hungry as hell in an hour. When I’m at work, I really need a meal to satisfy me for at least a couple of hours, because I don’t enjoy snacking every hour (though sometimes in my woeful lack of preparation for lunch at work, this is the reality).

If I go to “really full” – the kind of fullness that puts me on the edge of discomfort – it ruins my appetite for the next meal. That’s no fun at all.

It also depends on the meal I eat. If it’s an especially good meal, I might eat a little more than I usually do, if I feel like it. If it’s a meal that turned out just meh, then I’m probably going to eat just enough to get by to the next meal or snack.

I discovered that, as I progress through a meal, how the food tastes in my mouth works in tandem with how my stomach feels to tell me when to stop.

All of this I found out through, as I said, a lot of experimentation. Mindfulness, intuitive eating, internally regulated eating, normal eating…whatever you want to call it – that’s what I practiced. Paying attention to my meal, to my body, over and over again.

I wouldn’t have needed this experimentation if we lived in a world without diets and I’d grown up with structured family meals, if we lived in a world that had no particular expectations for the way women’s bodies looked and I had never tried to lose weight to meet them. But we don’t live in that world, so experimentation it is.

This is the hard part for those of us moving away from the diet mentality — learning to negotiate the gray areas of “What do I like?” “How much do I want?” “How hungry do I want to be?” “How full should I get?” And the hardest one: “How do I let go of judgment around food and my body?”

The answer to all of that is to keep practicing. Just keep being curious with yourself. Intuitive eating isn’t magic; we’re just learning skills, and skills just take practice. A lot of frickin’ practice.

And then one day, it isn’t intuitive eating anymore; it’s just eating. It’s not hard. You’re not thinking all the time about food and what to eat and how much to eat. You plan a bit. You feed yourself. Then you do other stuff.

It’s a beautiful thing.

So anyway, that’s how full I want to be when I eat. A little more full than “no longer hungry;” less full than “really full.” It’s hard to describe it in words but it doesn’t matter because it’s the thing that works for me and I just have to know it when I feel it. You’ll have your own thing, and even if you’re not there yet, eventually you’ll know it when you feel it too.

Tired of struggling on your own?

I’m launching a group coaching/online course in February to help you get free of diet mentality and further along toward normal eating. I’ve created this very affordable option because so many of you have wanted to work with me one-on-one but just can’t afford it. Make sure to get on my newsletter list as this will be the first place I send out more detailed information about the course, and enrollment will be limited. Get on my list here.

Dietitians Unplugged News

Missing us? No fear! We’re just on a little end-of-year hiatus until January. In the meantime, catch up on all our episodes on Libysn, iTunes, or Stitcher.