fbpx
801.361.8589 [email protected]
Three Thanksgiving Recovery Tips

Three Thanksgiving Recovery Tips

In last week’s blog, Kylee Marshall gave us some great illustrations of what Thanksgiving can look like for intuitive eaters. (If you haven’t read her blog yet, go check it out!) This week, I want to give you three simple suggestions for staying on the right track with your eating recovery this Thanksgiving.

1. Envision Your Wins

Thanksgiving in eating recovery can feel overwhelming for a lot of reasons, food-related and otherwise. At the same time, because it can be such a challenging day, Thanksgiving can be an opportunity to take meaningful steps forward in your recovery. Envisioning your recovery wins can help you make them a reality. Take some time to think about just one success you hope to have this Thanksgiving. You don’t have to think on a grand scale here. In fact, keep this win small, but specific. For example, maybe you want your win to be truly savoring and enjoying one of your aunt’s homemade rolls. Maybe you want to be able to focus on talking with your sibling during the Thanksgiving meal, instead of being preoccupied with thoughts about food. Maybe your win will be checking in with your hunger/fullness level before, during, and after the meal. Write your intention down as you approach the day, and commit to making that vision become a reality. 

2. Support Yourself Instead of Pushing Yourself

Monica Packer, host of the About Progress podcast, talks about the idea of supporting yourself instead of pushing yourself as you work toward goals. I think this concept is a beautiful one to apply to eating recovery. After you’ve set your intention for a Thanksgiving win, try planning one simple thing you can do to support yourself as you work toward your intention. What kind, compassionate care can you give yourself to help your vision of success become a reality? Maybe you’ll set aside time to listen to a song that will help you feel supported before your Thanksgiving meal. Perhaps you’ll choose to spend a few soothing moments sitting outdoors after eating. Maybe you’ll FaceTime with a person in your life who understands how challenging Thanksgiving can be. Whatever you choose, remember that any small act done with the intention of lovingly supporting yourself can make a difference in your recovery.

3. Keep the Day in Perspective

Finally, as you approach Thanksgiving prepared with your intention and your plan to support yourself, remember that Thanksgiving is just one day. It’s a holiday that can be messy and complicated, and in many ways, it can be just another day. Your body will use food on this day the same way it does every other day–for nourishment and energy. On this day, just like other days, you do not have to participate in diet talk. Food you eat on Thanksgiving, like food you eat on other days, will not create drastic changes in your body. Food will be one feature of this day, but it does not have to be in charge of your day. This is true every day, not just on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving might not ever be the easiest day of the year in eating recovery, but I hope you’ll remember that you can keep moving forward in your recovery tomorrow. You can make a difference in your own recovery, even through the difficulty of the holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

A Tale of Three Thanksgivings

A Tale of Three Thanksgivings

​​Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I have some really excellent memories of cozy family dinners around the table, taking turns saying one thing we’re grateful for while my mom gets sappy and sentimental. However, I know that Thanksgiving often spurs on a variety of emotions for most people, especially if you are going through recovery. Do you look forward to the large meal, gathered around with friends and family? Do you dread eating in front of so many people? Are you concerned about diet talk? Do you worry Thanksgiving dinner will feel like an open invitation for others to comment on your food choices? Are you excited to celebrate all the people, places, and experiences that you’re most grateful for? Are you anxious about spending so much time with family or in-laws? My guess is your feelings are probably a mixture of a few of these. Even for me, Thanksgiving can be both an exciting and stressful time and I try to tactfully manage family, food, and celebration.

To give some more context around Thanksgiving and recovery, I would like to present three totally made-up vignettes. As you read through these vignettes, I want you to guess which person has a peaceful and intuitive relationship with food. Sound okay? Great. Let’s get started.

Callie spends Thanksgiving at her grandmother’s house. Her grandma is aging and doesn’t have very much energy these days. Callie’s grandma makes the most amazing pumpkin pie and although she was tired, was able to make these pies for the family dinner. Callie enjoys her meal, going back for seconds to get a little more of her favorite items. By the time dessert rolls around, Callie is noticing that she is feeling a little overly full but decides to have a piece of pumpkin pie and chat with her grandma about the way she makes it and all of the secret ingredients. Callie is left feeling overly full but continues to have a good time with her family. She eats breakfast the next day and looks forward to leftovers for lunch.

Tara spends Thanksgiving with her in-laws. She doesn’t get along with them very well but is grateful to see her little nieces and nephews. When Thanksgiving dinner rolls around she doesn’t feel very hungry, maybe because she feels anxious about what her mother-in-law thinks about their most recent car purchase. Tara eats a few items at dinner but realizes she doesn’t like ham and turkey much anyway. After dinner, she talks with her partner about the anxiety she has been feeling. They process it together and Tara makes her way back to the kitchen to have a post-dinner snack, since she didn’t eat much during the formal family meal and is noticing she isn’t feeling totally satisfied. She eats until she feels full and enjoys the apple crisp her husband made for dessert later that evening.

Sophia spends Thanksgiving with her roommate’s family. Her roommate’s family culture is very different from what she’s used to. However, Sophia feels comfortable with the family and excited to spend time with them. When dinner rolls around (which they do around lunch time in this family), the family eats enthusiastically. The mom encourages Sophia to eat more and more. Sophia, already recognizing that she’s feeling really satisfied, politely indicates to the family that she is full. In this family, they have dessert with the meal, and Sophia decides she doesn’t want a piece of pie. Later, while playing games with the family, Sophia recognizes she’s feeling hungry again and eats a slice of pie with extra whipped cream.

So, could you spot the person that has a peaceful relationship with food? Surprise! They ALL have a very healthy and peaceful relationships with food! I use these little vignettes as good examples of the variety of ways that intuitive eating could show up over the holidays. Being an intuitive eater does NOT mean eating perfectly. Being an intuitive eater is more about the process of honoring your body, which can mean trusting your body when you eat past fullness and honoring your hunger even if you have eaten recently.

Having a peaceful relationship with food goes far beyond simply eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. Food can serve many purposes. When stuck in disordered eating and diet culture patterns, food is often a means to an end. However, when you are able to break out of that diet mentality, the purpose of food shifts dramatically. Sometimes the purpose of food for me is energy, like that midday snack or eating a nice breakfast before taking a test. Sometimes the purpose of food for me is creativity, like when I experiment with new recipes or perfectly plate a meal. Sometimes the purpose of food is connection, like sharing a holiday meal together or making an old family recipe (like Callie).

Diet culture tells you that food serves one purpose: to give you control over what your body looks like. To start, this isn’t accurate, but it also keeps you from experiencing the joy that connecting to your bodies through your enjoyment of food can have. That’s something I am not willing to miss out on. The freedom that comes from putting in the hard work of challenging disordered thoughts about food is absolutely worth it! 

So, as the holidays approach, remember that there are many good ways to be an intuitive eater. Lean into trusting your body to process the food you eat and remember it deserves to be fed and nourished, no matter if you ate a holiday meal the night before. Find various purposes of food and remember that it might go beyond “fuel” or “energy.” Happy Thanksgiving! I’m so grateful for my body and for the chance to be a witness of the healing and growth of recovery. I hope this Thanksgiving can be a peaceful one for you as you remember the things you’re grateful for.

Intuitive Eating Basics: Feel Your Fullness

Intuitive Eating Basics: Feel Your Fullness

As we continue our exploration of the basic principles of Intuitive Eating, we are going to focus next on the concept of learning to “Feel Your Fullness”. 

In “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, they instruct:

Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of eating and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what your current hunger level is.” 

Take a second and evaluate – how comfortable are you with leaving food on your plate?  

Chances are, if you have a history of dieting, you are likely cleaning that plate without even thinking about it. There is an interesting correlation between diet mentality and the “clean plate club”. When you have been following a restrictive diet and it comes time to eat your “allowed” food, people typically consume everything permitted. Even if it’s a garbage-tasting weird-as-all-get-out diet substitute for a beloved treat – if it’s “allowed”, it gets eaten. A mentality of “eat while you can!” develops.  

This type of relationship with food is out of touch with your body’s natural inner hunger and fullness cues. When you engage in this type of extremely common and culturally promoted behavior, you are training yourself to deny your desire to eat and also to ignore your sense of satiety.   

Ignoring your fullness cue can also show up in another way-  by primarily focusing on external cues for information about how much you should eat. This may look like needing to eat the entire bag of chips or the entire burrito rather than letting your internal cues guide your eating. You may be numb to your body and your relationship with food has suffered because of it, and so you eat mindlessly until the package or serving is completed, and decide you are “done” – without ever checking in on what your body is trying to tell you. 

By learning how to fully feel and respect your fullness, you are allowing your body to guide your intake of food. 

How do you recognize your fullness or satiety cues? While this is something that can be very individual, you can learn to recognize the unique way your body is giving you information about how much to eat. It can be helpful to think back to your hunger cues. Do you primarily feel hunger as a stomach sensation? Do you notice feeling irritable, distractible, or thinking more about food when you are hungry? Often your fullness cues will mirror your hunger cues. You can feel a lack of the stomach sensation of hunger, or less irritable and distractible, or less interested in thinking about food when you are full.  

In order to really understand this individual cue, take some time to practice mindful eating. Rate your hunger cue at the beginning, middle, and end of a meal. How does it change as you eat? Slow down and focus on the experience of the taste, texture, temperature, and smell of your food.  

This approach to eating is like taking your body off of autopilot – either from dieting or feeling like you “have” to eat your serving size – and putting you fully in the driver’s seat. You take over the operation and navigation of your relationship with food and use your hunger and fullness as a guide to what happens. By empowering yourself in this way, you are getting one step closer to intuitive eating! 

Five Reasons to Consider Journaling

Five Reasons to Consider Journaling

Let’s talk about how journaling can help you in eating recovery. I’m not necessarily referring to journaling as in, “Dear Diary, today I…” (although that type of journaling can be great!). Rather, I’m talking about the practice of processing thoughts and feelings through writing. I know, journaling does not come easily to some. We all process things differently, and journaling doesn’t appeal to everyone. That being said, I do give journal prompts out to many of my therapy clients as a supplement to the work we do in therapy. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Responding to a specific journal prompt can help you dig deeper into thoughts that you might not typically approach. Jotting down even a few lines in response to a writing prompt can take you down a path of exploration that you might not otherwise encounter.
  2. Journaling is an opportunity to spend some quality time with yourself. Self-reflection through writing can be a powerful tool for connecting with your internal world. Taking some time to write can help you acknowledge and understand your emotions and needs.
  3. Writing can help you unravel tangled thoughts and feelings. Turning experiences into concrete words can be tough, but engaging with your thoughts and feelings this way can help you make sense of what you’re going through. Some research suggests that putting your feelings into words can help your brain regulate emotional responses. (1)
  4. Journaling gives you something to look back on. There can be power in looking back at journal entries written months or years in the past, and seeing the evolution of your perspective, your successes, and your circumstances. Especially in eating recovery, it can sometimes feel difficult to see progress. Recording your thoughts throughout your recovery process can help you see that you really are growing and changing.
  5. A focused journal prompt can be like a bonus therapy session! (Sounds super fun, I know.) Therapy is great, and it’s only a 50-minute blip in your week. Adding a focused journaling activity between sessions can help you get more out of the work you started in a session and can set you up to make the next session more productive. Trust me, your therapist would love to hear about any journaling you do between sessions. Journaling is an opportunity to stay connected with your work between therapy sessions.

Below are some journal prompts you might find helpful in your eating recovery process. Pick whichever one speaks to you, write down today’s date, and see where your writing takes you.

– What made my most recent recovery “win” possible? Write about (1) a person or resource and (2) a choice you made that contributed to your success.

– Write about one step forward in your recovery that you know you need to take, but haven’t yet. What could change if you take that step?

– Asking for help is a vital recovery skill, and may require you to think outside the box. Write down one thing you can ask for from each of the following people to support your recovery: your therapist, your best friend, a family member.

– Write a letter from your future self, 10 years from now. How do you imagine your future self will feel towards your current self and what you’re going through right now?

– What do I hope will happen if I accept my body as it is? What do I fear will happen if I accept my body as it is?

– What was the take-home message from my last therapy session? What are my intentions for applying that message this week?

Source:

  1.   Torre, J. B., & Lieberman, M. D. (2018). Putting Feelings Into Words: Affect Labeling as Implicit Emotion Regulation. Emotion Review, 10(2), 116–124. https://doi.org/10.1177/1754073917742706

Hope Amongst Chaos

Hope Amongst Chaos

When I first started dating my husband, we spent every minute together and I loved it. In those moments, I noticed his cute gestures and funny mannerisms. I remember the first time I heard his genuine belly laugh and I thought it was the best sound I’d ever heard. 

As I continued to learn more about him, I noticed something that left me confused. I observed how his mindset and relationship with food was positive and healthy. I couldn’t understand because, up until that point, I didn’t know what a healthy relationship with food was like. I had been searching and working for it for years, yet it was the first time I was able to see a healthy relationship with food in action! I found it so fascinating that he didn’t exhaust his mind with thoughts of calories, comparison, exercise, weight, etc. 

My thoughts scrambled for clarity: He doesn’t carry mental baggage as a placemat to every meal? He doesn’t tie his gym shoes with shame from last night’s dessert? His every reflection doesn’t speak negatively to him? 

I needed to understand… I needed to know what his secret was! 

Now, after many conversations, I think to myself: He fully enjoys food and the experiences around it. He shows care for his body and mind through exercise. He finds his worth in his faith, values, and actions

As I have slowly started to understand and apply similar thinking in my own experiences, I have started to believe it. 

So I have a challenge for you. I challenge you to switch the word ‘He’ with ‘I’ and say it out loud. 

“I fully enjoy food and the experiences around it.” 

“I show care for my body and mind through exercise.”

“I find my worth in my faith, values, and actions.”

Now repeat that again! If this feels like wishful thinking, you are correct. That’s why it is a passage for hope. 

When recovery seems out of reach or far too slow, I promise that there is hope and light ahead for you. An incredible life, beyond the constant mental exhaustion surrounding food and body image, exists and is attainable. I promise you that there are celebrations, vacations, and moments in your future that don’t include that chaos. The light and peace that comes from healing is reachable, and it is more than worth it.

 

Self-Acceptance is an Inside Job

Self-Acceptance is an Inside Job

Eating disorders are inauthentic. To have an eating disorder requires showing up in the world inauthentically.

Eating disorders operate on a false formula for safety, belonging and love. Eating disorders take messages from the world about conformity and belonging and say, “I’ll raise you one more” and do it even “better.”

To quote the authority on the topic of authenticity and belonging, Dr. Brené Brown says, “Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” (Braving the wilderness p.31-32).

This quote is loaded so let’s explore it part by part and how it relates to eating disorders.

“Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval…”

We can have compassion for ourselves and how we each learned to believe that acceptance and belonging are synonyms with approval. Often this comes from experiences with rejection. I know the pain my clients unravel under is the belief that their history of rejection equates to truth about themselves. They believe something is wrong with them. They believe their authentic selves are unacceptable to humanity and must therefore be controlled and shrunken and shaped into acceptable and small versions. An eating disorder is both a chronic attempt to move toward love and belonging and also hide away from the vulnerability that is required for that very love and belonging.

This leads to the next point, “which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it.”

So first, eating disorders are ubiquitously characterized by striving– to varying degrees of success– to fit into the “ideal” of beauty. In our society, that “ideal” is unrealistic and unhealthy. However, even if you achieve that bodily ideal, your sense of belonging is based on something external, which isn’t authentic. You are literally only granting others access to a controlled version of you that is “skin deep.”

This outward conformity bleeds into an attempt for internal conformity as well. The body is merely a symptom of a whole systemic process. You are not only trying to be outwardly acceptable in your body, but also acceptable in every other way. This is why “people pleasing” is such a chronic curse that accompanies eating disorders. When you are so focused on what you think others want you to be, you cannot get in touch with who you really are.  You see parts of yourself as threatening and scary if they fall outside perceived accepted norms.

Further, eating disorders hijack brains and personalities. Eating disorders consume valuable mental energy and reduce the richness that is you into obsessive thoughts about food and body size. All the other parts of you that are worthy of belonging either don’t show up at all, or show up in shadows and whispers.

So, you cannot find belonging when you are chronically faking it. Which is exactly what eating disorders require.

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world…”

Perfectionism is another “associated feature” of eating disorders. Perfectionism is characterized by reducing vulnerability through chronic attempts to “be perfect” or “do perfectly.” Again, it is the misplaced striving for love and acceptance through presenting a perfected version of ourselves to the world.

I love how Brené Brown pairs authentic and imperfect together. This resonates deeply as truth to me. I’m not going to advocate that this is simple to do in practice, but knowing its truth and value motivates me toward my own willingness to be messy and human.

Because I am messy. I don’t have it all figured out. I know the discomfort of fear and vulnerability. I know the pain of rejection. I am familiar with the darkness in mental illness. I too have parts of my personality that I don’t like and wish were different. I know I am quirky, and for some people, an “acquired taste.”

And there came a point in my life that the cost and energy required in conformity was too heavy and too much. I got tired of inauthentic living. Living inauthentically is painful and lonely.

So I decided to show up in more messy and honest ways. I am not going to pretend I do this well all the time. It’s a work in progress. But in that progress, I have felt more seen and it is here that I have found “my people.”

“…our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

Please read that again. And again. And again.

We will never find true belonging in approval from others. In our hearts, we all know this. But the invitation to step into our deepest selves is the epitome of vulnerability. To step into witnessing, honoring, and accepting who we are, with compassion and love. Wow, that would be powerful. That would be brave.

And then to let ourselves expand into our full version of who we are and show up in the world that way. Wow. Now that is honest, courageous, and brave living.

To quote Brené Brown again, “Once we belong thoroughly to ourselves and believe thoroughly in ourselves, true belonging is ours.”

I wish I could hold a mirror for my clients when they show up in their authentic, vulnerable, imperfect selves. The love I feel for them is immediate and deep. I wish they could know how inherently loveable and likeable they are as themselves.

But self-acceptance is an inside job.

I hope for a world where we can all loudly and ceremoniously reject the false formulas for acceptance and belonging, and step into our power: authenticity, imperfection, and self-acceptance.

This is my hope for all of us.

Recovery: A Family Affair

Recovery: A Family Affair

So, you’re doing the hard and vulnerable work of recovering from an eating disorder, disordered eating patterns, or body image difficulties. You have challenged the food rules, you can actually define (and freely use) the phrases “intuitive eating” and “joyful movement.” You and your body are finally making amends after years of battle. You’ve got a handy-dandy list of coping mechanisms and distress tolerance skills that actually work (and you’ve probably tried some out that definitely do NOT work as well). You may be feeling more like yourself, more present in your relationships, more in touch with your primary emotions, and probably a little tired (recovery can be exhausting!)

If you’re like many of my clients, one question that is probably coming up for you now is: how do I maintain recovery if friends and family are still entrenched in diet-culture, actively pursuing weight-loss, continuing to make comments about other’s bodies, or may not be supportive of my recovery process? Eating recovery can be so liberating and bring a new sense of peace, however, this is sometimes accompanied by the wonders of how to navigate a world that may not be recovery-minded.

If you are in this space, know that you are not alone. Learning to navigate family is a common and vital part of recovery. As a marriage and family therapist, I believe that our family systems are hugely influential (positively and negatively) in our development and healing. Here are some quick reminders of ways to navigate a challenging family system.

1. Educate

Here’s the thing: I don’t think your family members intend to sound eerily similar to your eating disorder, however, their well meaning or misguided intentions do not necessarily lessen their impact. Your family members may just lack information. They may even be in a similar headspace as you were when you began your recovery journey. This is when education can be your best friend. Helping your family members understand the dangers of diet culture, the physical and psychological risks of restriction, and most importantly your pain as you navigate recovery allows them to be more understanding, sensitive, and supportive. I often talk about some of the concepts of recovery such as intuitive eating, body neutrality, and understanding emotional needs as “uncovering buried treasure”. Not everyone has learned the things that you have learned as you’ve gone through recovery. Perhaps letting your family members in on your new knowledge will allow them to think differently, or in the very least, be more aware of how the things they do and say may impact you. This can be done on your own, or with your treatment team (I absolutely love bringing family members into session!)

2. Set Strong Boundaries

Boundaries are important for any relationship. Although they can feel very difficult to set, boundaries actually foster closeness in relationships. Our queen, Brené Brown, says that “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” Brené goes on to talk about setting boundaries as actually one of the most compassionate things you can do, both for yourself and those in your life. Setting   boundaries means communicating your needs to those you love so that they can help support you. If you are struggling with feeling supported by family members through eating recovery, setting and keeping clear boundaries will help save your relationship   from causing unintentional pain on their part and pent-up resentment on your part. Setting a boundary may sound like, “It’s important to me that we don’t talk about other people’s bodies or comment on weight, even if it’s a ‘compliment.’” It might also sound like, “When you talk about your diet in front of me the story I tell myself is that my recovery doesn’t matter. Can you limit talking about your diet with me so I can maintain my progress in recovery and be open with you about my experiences?”, “I won’t be participating in the family weight loss change (aside: why does everyone like to do family weight-loss challenges??),” or even a simple “No.” You may not feel able or willing to vulnerably share what your boundaries are with every member of your family, however, setting healthy boundaries with those in your family that you trust will benefit your relationship with that person and aid in your recovery. We are not islands; we are deeply connected to others. Setting boundaries is a bid for help and support in your recovery process and invites those closest to you to be a part of your healing while keeping your recovery safe.

3. Garner Additional Support

As a marriage and family therapist I believe in the deep healing that can come from families as they show up and support one another. I also believe it is absolutely vital that we have strong networks of support apart from our families. Especially if your family is having a hard time understanding your recovery work, a supportive network of friends, mentors, extended family, dietitians, group therapy members, doctors, therapists, etc. will be absolutely essential. Find “your people” and keep them close during recovery.

4. Remember Recovery is YOURS

Finally (and let’s be real, most importantly), although there is so much value in family and social support, at the end of the day your recovery is ultimately your responsibility. I yearn for my client’s families to rally around them and buoy them up, as the load of recovery can be heavy and draining. That being said, it is up to you to navigate your own recovery, even when your family may be intentionally or unintentionally unsupportive. Finding support and compassion within yourself will be an important aspect of your recovery journey. I believe your family will be greatly influenced for the better as you heal and recover AND I also believe that at the end of the day it is your life and your peace that you are working for. Although you may be experiencing heartache as you navigate eating recovery without direct family support, remember to show up for yourself and your recovery despite challenges you may be facing in other relationships. Do not forget the most important relationship you have: your relationship with yourself.

Intuitive Eating Basics: Challenge the Food Police

Intuitive Eating Basics: Challenge the Food Police

When was the last time that you comfortably ate in front of others, not worrying about what they may be noticing about your eating habits? As you work to reject the diet mentality, the next principle of intuitive eating is to challenge the “food police”!  

Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, authors of Intuitive Eating, have this to say:

“The food police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created. The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loudspeaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the food police away is a critical step to returning to intuitive eating.” 

Were you surprised to hear the food police station described as being housed in your own psyche? Were you expecting the food police to be external forces or people? Like so much of our mental health, what is going on internally drives our ability to function well.  

We each have beliefs about the world that are formed even before our ability to speak. Some of the beliefs you pick up inevitably involve ideas, morals, and assumptions about food. As you work towards more of an intuitive eating approach, it is important to develop some awareness of what these thoughts are. Cultivating non judgmental mindfulness around your food thoughts will allow you to vanquish the food police!  

Think about the different ideas you may have picked up over a lifetime of interacting with food and the world around you. Perhaps you recognize a belief that carbs are bad and protein is good. You may also have thoughts about sugar, dessert, or “earning” your food. Do you have food rules for yourself, perhaps things like, “No food after 7pm”? Where did some of these thoughts come from?  

With non judgmental mindfulness, you don’t have to hand over the power of beratement from the food police to the intuitive eating police. You can observe your thoughts without assigning moralistic values to them (hence “non judgmental” mindfulness!) In doing so, you are able to get curious about the thoughts you have without having to hurry and “shush” them out of shame.  

Let’s take a specific example of someone who is fearful of carbohydrates. In that case, the person might examine: Where did my fear of carbs first come from? A parent’s disciplined adherence to a fad diet during my teenage years? Well, that absolutely makes sense!  Examine and challenge certain thoughts without beating yourself up for having them.  

Identifying cognitive distortions, a principle used often in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, can also be helpful as you approach your thoughts mindfully. A cognitive distortion I see a lot in working with clients is black and white thinking. Do some of the thoughts you have about food illustrate that common distortion?  

In our example of the carb avoider, they might have a thought like, “All carbs are bad, so restricting all of them is good.” As they are able to identify thoughts that are extreme, they can begin the work of challenging or reframing the thought. They might ask themselves questions like, “Should I really never eat carbs? Are all of them bad? Are there times when it might be to my benefit to consume a balanced intake of all nutrients?” They can then examine what they have found to be true in their own life. Perhaps they have had times when they heavily restricted carbs and then felt low energy and struggled to not binge eat. They could examine that experience and then develop a reframed, balanced thought like, “My experience has shown me carbs are a normal part of my eating, and they help me feel balanced.” They can then use that reframed thought to remind themselves of the work they are doing every time the food police sound the red alert as they have a carbohydrate in hand!  

As you move towards intuitive eating, take some time to non-judgmentally observe your thoughts for the food police. As you do so, lovingly remind yourself that they do not have jurisdiction over your food thoughts and behaviors- you do not need to be policed and reprimanded! Intuitive eating will provide you with an opportunity to learn how to tune back into your natural body cues. No more red and blue flashing lights when carbs are around!