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Intuitive Eating Basics: Honor Your Hunger

Intuitive Eating Basics: Honor Your Hunger

Have you seen the meme floating around social media that states something along the lines of, “Forgive me for what I said when I was hungry”? Extreme hunger can set the scene for impulsive behaviors. Whether it’s wreaking havoc on your personal lives or setting the stage for enormous cravings for food, deprivation of food can bring with it many unwanted side effects.  

When you have allowed your hunger to get to an extreme point, you’ve likely triggered your biological response to starvation. Sometimes that can happen unintentionally- through lack of nutrients and genuine starvation- and sometimes it can happen intentionally- through dieting and eating disordered behaviors. It’s interesting to observe that your body does not distinguish between unintentional and intentional restrictive eating behaviors- when you are in deprivation, your body responds by issuing strong biological cravings to focus your efforts on securing food.  

How does understanding your biology and honoring your hunger help aid in recovery from an unhealthy relationship with food? 

In Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch instruct, “Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for rebuilding trust with yourself and food.”

Food obsession starts with deprivation. By deciding to exit the crazy-making cycle of restriction and binging and clueing back into honoring your hunger, you allow yourself to reset. As you then refocus on meeting your needs for nutrition- not by obsessing- but through listening to and following your biological hunger cues- you are able to rebuild trust with your body, which sets the stage for overcoming  unhealthy food relationships. .  

What does listening to and following your biological hunger cues look like?  

First, it may be helpful to examine what ignoring those cues looks like. When you diet or intentionally restrict, you are numbing yourself to the very normal hunger signals of your body. In doing so, you turn down the volume of the signal essentially to a point where you may not even recognize it anymore. When you have done this, there is a process of relearning to listen to your hunger cues that must occur.  

Decide today to check in with your hunger cues. For some, it can be helpful to rank your hunger on a scale of 1-10 and observe what your body is telling you it needs through hunger cues throughout your day. It can also be helpful to look at how you feel hunger. Hunger cues are not just bodily, stomach feelings. They can also present as symptoms of irritability, inability to focus, lightheadedness, and more. Do you identify with any of those symptoms, or recognize other personal hunger symptoms? Taking some time to observe and be mindful of how your body experiences hunger can be a powerful tool in eating recovery.  

After spending time with your observations, you are then ready to begin to honor your observations. Eat when you are hungry. Stop when you are full. Keep observing. Keep honoring your cues.  

In a world where you are sold a new diet plan every day- it can seem revolutionary to take a step back and focus on very basic ideas like honoring hunger. But imagine the freedom in trusting your body to do the simple biological things it was created to manage- without apps, macros, counting, and obsession. Just listen, honor, repeat.  

 

Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, Mirror

We live in a world of mirrors. We live in a world of selfies. We live in a world of social media. We live in a world that encourages us to evaluate and monitor how our bodies show up in the world.

Monitoring, evaluating, critiquing, and controlling our bodies is just part of being a woman…isn’t it?

While this is definitely a common experience, this doesn’t have to be your reality. Just like dieting and scales only serve to derail you from your purpose and power, so too, body checking, only serves to cause pain.

Body checking can take many forms. It may be trying on specific clothes to ensure they still “fit.” It may be using your hands to physically measure and squeeze parts of your body like your thighs, waist, and arms. It may be taking selfies with your phone to check your profile. It may be compulsively checking your body in the mirror from a variety of angles, in a variety of different clothes, and across a variety of times during the day.

Body checking increases suffering. Let me tell you why.

  1. While body checking serves the function of control and reassurance that our bodies aren’t changing, our bodies can literally look and feel different day to day. This can happen for a variety of reasons. For example, our body may be retaining more water. Our body may be bloated and uncomfortable. We may be at a different point in our menstrual cycle. We may be sleep deprived. These are all physiological reasons why our body might literally show up in a slightly different shape or size on a different day that has nothing to do with any feared “true” change.
  2. We also may experience our bodies as different from the day before, depending on our clothes. We may have just washed our clothes and so our clothes are a little tighter. We may be wearing something inherently tighter opposed the comfy clothes we wore yesterday. By that contrast alone, we may feel our body is changing, even if that change is an illusion.
  3. Mirrors don’t reflect reality accurately. We all know this intuitively. Sometimes we feel we look better in one mirror vs another. Maybe you have a favorite mirror and maybe you have a mirror you avoid for this very reason. Maybe you know that the mirrors in the Athleta dressing room make you feel and look more flattering than the mirrors in Nordstrom. I don’t make mirrors, and even though theoretically they should all reflect back the same reality, they don’t. Just like scales, each one is off in its own unique way.
  4. Our moods and cognitive states impact how we perceive our bodies. So while our bodies are likely, literally, the same size and shape they were yesterday, depending on how we are thinking and feeling about ourselves and our bodies, this can change what we see in the mirror. It’s fascinating how distorted our perceptions of our bodies can be depending on our internal states. Have you ever noticed that you thought you looked horrible in a photo taken on the night you felt badly about yourself and your body, and then months later, you looked at that same photo and realized you didn’t look as bad as you thought?
  5. Finally, the most important problem with body checking is that it reinforces the illusion that our bodies are the problem. By focusing on our bodies, we continue to believe in the importance of how our bodies look and that how our bodies look are the most important aspects of who we are. This causes the most suffering of all.

Your size and shape are the least interesting things about you. Your size and shape do not embody your power, your voice, nor your purpose. Moving away from body checking frees you up to spend your energy and time pursuing what really matters in your life. Even if you don’t feel confident in your skin, you can commit to spending less energy on checking your body. You can commit to turn your attention to your truths and your values. This is where you can take your power back from the mirror!

Intuitive Eating Basics: Reject the Diet Mentality

Intuitive Eating Basics: Reject the Diet Mentality

Chances are, if you or a loved one has been in treatment for any kind of eating concerns, you have heard your dietician or therapist talk about “intuitive eating”. I want to take some time to break down exactly what we are talking about with this concept, as it is far removed from the cultural ideas we have surrounding eating. For the next few blogs, I will be highlighting principles to help you grow in your mastery of intuitive eating.   (more…)

Beauty of Body Diversity

Beauty of Body Diversity

How is everyone feeling about summer returning?? On one hand, summer is the best. We get to spend lots of time outside, eat yummy foods, have a break from the hustle and bustle, and the best part: longer days and more sunlight! 

On the other hand, summer can often be hard for those struggling to create or maintain a peaceful relationship with food and body. If you’re having some mixed feelings about the weather heating up, you are NOT alone.

I recently got home from a trip to Atlanta, Georgia. I love Atlanta and the richness of culture there. The last time I was in Atlanta was for a school trip in which we studied Civil Rights and the powerful men and women involved in advancing equality. Upon arrival this time in Atlanta, I was immediately struck by the diversity in race, ethnicity, clothing and hair style, gender expression, religious symbols, and of course, body type. I sat on the train from the airport to the rental car pickup and thought to myself, “I know that body image and eating disorders exist everywhere, but if Utah was more diverse in style, body image, etc., I wonder how that could change my clients’ experiences.”

 Everywhere I turned I saw beautiful people: mothers holding children’s hands, hurrying them from the gate; older women with black hair fading to a stunning gray; men with weathered faces; and young women who were trying to get clear about who they were. All of them looked different: different races, different genders, different bodies, but all of them were beautiful because they each offered something unique.

One concept that has been very healing for me as I navigate difficult and potentially triggering conversations and messaging around “getting a summer body” is paying attention to the beauty of diversity. Can you imagine a world where there was only one type of flower? One type of fruit? One type of animal? A world where everyone’s voices sounded the same? Where food was identical? Where there was only one color? What about a world where everyone had the same body (cue spooky clone visual *shudder*).      

Theoretically, I think it is pretty easy for us to buy into the idea that more diversity in how bodies look is good! However, it becomes hard to keep this in mind when we are living within a society that glorifies and celebrates certain bodies while other bodies are marginalized and oppressed. 

To make things harder and more confusing, the standards by which society judges bodies changes constantly, leaving every single woman feeling as though she does not fit and is not good enough. This is also true for men and especially true for those in the LGBTQIA+ community.     

Isn’t it amazing that our bodies find their “happy places” at all different weights? Isn’t it fascinating that eyes can range from greens to browns to blues to grays and everywhere in between? Isn’t it remarkable that different bodies and different body compositions carry different benefits? For example, my (very) short legs can build muscle quickly while lengthy limbs can leap and reach great heights. 

Differences in body types are not just something to be tolerated, but to be celebrated. Your unique body is good, no matter how it looks, but there is beauty to the way you are “different” from others in your appearance. I’ve always been a little bit self-conscious of my cheeks. They’ve basically been the same since I was a little girl. After I got married, my husband always talks about how much he likes to kiss my warm cheeks when I wake up in the morning. Although it would take a lot (A LOT) of contour to make my cheeks look chiseled like the cheeks of someone on TV, the way my body is diverse is beautiful!     

What makes unique aspects of your body beautiful? (Not necessarily just physically, but in other ways too). How can you celebrate body diversity more in your own life? How can you help contribute to positive representations of body diversity in social and other media?

 

The Purpose of Food

The Purpose of Food

I have officially begun mourning the summer months. I absolutely adore the summertime and the activities in the warm sun, the fresh flavors and icy treats, and the feeling of freedom. Even though I’m not in school anymore, I still feel a little lighter and freer from May until August. That being said, this summer felt hotter than most and I’m happy to say goodbye to that. (more…)

Learning to do Hard Things in Recovery

Learning to do Hard Things in Recovery

Like many people who struggle with eating disorders, my eating disorder developed during a difficult time in my life. When I hear clients talk about their eating disorders, it’s never a surprise to hear them describe how their eating disorder helped them through a really hard time. One of the many functions of eating disorders is to help individuals numb out from their emotions, which is a welcome reprieve in a distressing experience. Another function is to feel a sense of control, which can feel particularly important if their life feels out of control. These are just two potent functions that help us understand why eating disorders “work” for people. (more…)

Take a Hike

Take a Hike

Growing up I absolutely detested hiking. It felt like a really nice way for me to feel foolish and gave ample opportunity to compare myself to my friends and family that accompanied me on the hike. Was I going too slow? Are they not going to want to hang out with me anymore because I’m not very “good” at hiking? Could they hear me breathing hard? Was my face getting red? Could they see the sweat through my shirt? Did they think I was “out of shape”? As you can probably tell, these thoughts are riddled with insecurities and laced with diet culture and body shaming ideology. (more…)