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How To Get Picky Eaters To Eat Well Without The Fight

How To Get Picky Eaters To Eat Well Without The Fight

Kids can be so much fun, loveable, and bring so much joy. But they can be selfish push-all-your-buttons little stinkers too! I have four of them, so I feel completely qualified to say that. But I think it’s important to acknowledge a little bit of our own humanity in them as well. Where do they learn to be selfish and who teaches them which button to push? And more importantly, who teaches them to be picky eaters? Is it from us as parents? Is it inborn? There’s that age-old nature versus nurture argument. Personally and professionally I think it’s a little bit of both. 

So that means that as parents we MUST have selfish and button pushing tendencies too. I know, you may need to take some time to figure out what or where those tendencies are, because I certainly couldn’t be speaking to you, right?!  

Here’s a hint…selfishness is an inborn trait (1). It’s part of our nature to self-preserve. And being a picky eater is part of that. So stop beating yourself up over it. Stop getting annoyed at your kids when they exhibit it. Instead, let’s try to understand it and work with it. 

Staying on track with picky eaters

For the sake of what we are here to talk about today (introducing new foods to your kids), I think it’s easy to get caught up in believing that we know best. That’s our selfish nature coming out. But we will explore the idea that your child actually has intuition (inborn knowledge) that helps them know better than we do. You may have read books or listened to advice about how to get your kids to eat more variety before. But I’m willing to bet those books haven’t approached this from an intuitive eating perspective. Before I dive into what I mean by that, let’s just make sure you’re not wasting your time. 

A brief word about your role as parents:

As the parent, you play a major part in influencing your child. I know it may not feel like it at times. Sometimes it’s like they don’t pay any attention to you, and when that’s happening it’s really easy to not monitor and temper your actions and words around them. But if you haven’t already learned this, you will quickly learn that kids are ALWAYS WATCHING!

The biggest influence you have will come from your actions. Children notice your actions more than they hear your words. Don’t get me wrong, they are always listening too. But what they SEE you do has more of an impact on their behaviors.

We know also that parents and peers influence different things. Since you have minimal control over peer influence (outside of controlling who your kids hang out with, which your level of control of this will change and diminish as your children grow up), our focus will remain on your parental influence.

Children are naturally picky eaters because of their innate food and eating abilities:

Let’s clear the air. Worry as a parent is NORMAL. 

But worrying that your child doesn’t have an innate ability to tune in, listen, and respond appropriately to their body’s signals about hunger and fullness is pointless (and can be dangerous). 

Since we’re clearing the air, it’s also not necessary to feel guilty if you’ve spent the last X amount of years as a parent doing all this worrying. So please let yourself off the hook, realize you were doing the best job you could or knew how, and forgive yourself.

You’re in the right place if:

What you can expect from this picky eaters guide

While I cannot promise your child will stop being a picky eater and suddenly eat everything you place in front of them, what I can do is assure you that if you follow the ideas outlined here, you will 1) reduce your stress related to meals, 2)  improve you and your child’s food and eating habits and relationships, and 3) put a stop to repeating your family’s food relationship cycles. These ideas are designed to help you set your child up for success, giving them the start to a solid foundation of believing in their innate ability to make food and eating decisions without all the struggle.

Food Addiction, Why I Don’t Believe It’s Really a Thing

Food Addiction, Why I Don’t Believe It’s Really a Thing

Can you really be addicted to food? 

This concept of food addiction is everywhere. I hear it from clients, I read about it in friends’ social posts, and I see it as topics of advertisements for products or diets that propose to  help you overcome it. Here’s a challenge…type “food addiction” into your google search bar and see all the things that pop up. Okay maybe you shouldn’t do that, for sure not if you’re likely to be triggered by anything diet culture related.

My point is that it’s everywhere.

And I hate it.

Side Story

My son loves to correct me. One thing I keep messing up is when I use the term theory and hypothesis. A theory is a way to explain research data and can be proven true or false. A hypothesis is a guess about what will happen and is usually based on an as of yet unproven theory. Usually you run experiments to answer the hypothesis and come to a conclusion which then proves the theory true or false. 

And I always mess up the difference (can you see why?). For example I might say to him, “In theory you will get sick if you eat the rest of the ice cream.” To which he would reply, “That’s a hypothesis.” And proceed with his experiment of eating the of the ice cream to see if I’m right. Sometimes he’s right. Sometimes I’m right. My theory has yet to be proven because the data sometimes supports it and sometimes doesn’t.

Back to Why I Hate the Idea of Food Addiction

Food addiction theory has the same problem. It’s still in the hypothesis phase. There have been studies. Some results support it and others don’t. On a deeper level, there’s also a problem with most of studies. They are mostly done on rats in cages, not humans in the real world. Those results cannot be extrapolated to the human experience. Humans don’t live in a vacuum.

And the small number of studies that have been done on humans have mixed results with some showing support for the idea of food addiction and others showing no support for it. It’s also hard to study something that doesn’t have a formal definition either. Do you study specific ingredients in foods or do you study whole foods or all foods? What are we talking about? What are we thinking people are addicted to?

Deprivation Drives Desire

Our brains need pleasure and dopamine is what gives us that pleasure. We know there are lots of ways to trigger dopamine in our brains. Anything from listening to music to a mom holding her child to eating food can do this for us. And when we restrict these things, our dopamine goes down. Have low dopamine? The brain knows how to fix it. It will draw you to do the things that raise it. Food just might be the thing your brain calls on to get it’s fix of dopamine. And that gets termed pathological or problematic. But it’s not. It’s healthy and normal.

We Want What We Can’t Have

The ideas of novelty and restriction play a role here too but often are not considered in the debate about whether or not you can be addicted to food. Have you ever bought a new car or pair of shoes and it felt really good at first? And then after a while that newness and excitement and good feeling seemed to wear away and diminish? It’s actually the idea of novelty at play here. When we experience something new, dopamine, also known as the happiness chemical, is released in the brain. Novelty fires our pleasure centers.

So when you restrict a food from yourself, after a while, it’s like a new food and your brain knows that having it will likely feel like novelty and fire off those pleasure chemicals. This is supported by brain research. That research shows foods that we often restrict light up the pleasure centers of the brain more than commonly consumed foods and foods we know we don’t enjoy.

These studies often get misused to represent sugary foods as being as “addicting” as cocaine or heroin…but they don’t take into account the fact that the foods they look at also are associated with pleasurable times like birthday parties, aka the human experience). That need for novelty, as well as the need for adequate dopamine for emotional stability, is a big draw and can feel overpowering…aka a lot like being out of control, wanting or strongly desiring food, and we often define those feelings as addiction. 

Pavlovian Conditioning in Food Addiction

Have you heard of this? It’s the concept of when you anticipate something to happen you are more likely to see it happen. Pavlolv was a scientist who did an experiment where he measured saliva production when dogs were fed. He discovered the dogs would produce more saliva (indicating they anticipated food) when they would hear the footsteps of the assistant who was bringing the food. It’s called conditioning.

And it can happen to us with food (or anything really) too. You didn’t start out your very first time eating ice cream thinking you were addicted to it. You probably enjoyed it the first few times (hopefully many times actually). But now think about the experiences you have had when you ate ice cream over the years.

Restriction Complicates So-Called Food Addiction

Now enter the restriction piece. At some point  you began restricting ice cream because “it’s not healthy” or you were afraid it would make you gain weight, whatever. But as we know with restriction, there always comes the binge. You run out of willpower (eye roll) or you lose control because of strong emotions or you get fed up and eat it because you feel you “deserve” it. For example, let’s say you were incredibly emotional because your boyfriend broke up with you, you were passed over for a promotion, you spilled coffee on yourself, and you got a parking ticket…yes all in the same day. 

So now you’re eating the ice cream. This is just one of many past experiences where you’ve eaten the ice cream in a setting where you felt out of control. Here’s where Pavlov comes in. You have essentially conditioned yourself to eat the ice cream in an out of control manner. Whether it’s after a long restrictive period because of a weight loss diet or because of massive emotions or whatever, these reactions of eating the ice cream in this manner has taught you that you cannot be trusted around ice cream. 

Rewards Without Addiction

In determining if you can be addicted to food, you cannot forget to look at foods intention and the body’s need for food. Addiction studies point to brain research that shows your dopamine or reward centers in your brain lighting up from a substance. Guess what? Food does this. But guess what else? Food is supposed to do this. It’s an inherent survival mechanism that keeps you going back for more food…because your body needs food to survive. Basically anything  that we do that supports human survival will light up those same pleasure sensors in the brain. 

YFAS

The Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) is a measure of addiction to food in humans. Here is what I have learned from the intuitive eating community about the flaws of this tool:

The Yale Food Addiction Scale problems:

  • The YFAS does not differentiate food ingredients from whole or combination foods
  • It has not been studied in the eating disorder community. 
  • YFAS also does not take into account food restrictions
  • It does not account for conditioning
  • It does not account for emotional eating (that out of control feeling we often identify as addiction)
  • YFAS does not account for our own history with that food or our cultural and ethical beliefs about that food
  • It does not account for the fact that food is SUPPOSED to be rewarding

And THOSE my friends are some major flaws.

The Take Away Message

Food addiction, theory or hypothesis, has numerous flaws. It begs of further study and pleads with you to consider alternative views.

So I guess my answer is no, you cannot be addicted to food. But maybe that isn’t the thing that really matters. Maybe what matters most is the fact that you feel addicted to food. That feeling of being addicted is definitely real and you deserve to have those feelings validated. You deserve to find help for those feelings.

Instead, use of intuitive eating (IE) principles can help you learn to allow and honor all of the feelings and emotions and experiences of eating the food. IE helps you bring about peace with the food and the experience in a way that respects and honors your out of control feelings. Reintroducing foods you currently believe to be an addiction of yours takes time. It requires you to be willing to be vulnerable but open to exploring the experience, the physical experience as well as the emotions and thoughts. It also requires a commitment to learning new skills, improving your relationship with food, and a strong desire to take back your life. Intuitive Eating helps you do this.

Need help weeding through a “food addiction” mindset? Book a free strategy session with me!

When the Desire for Weight Loss is Unshakable

When the Desire for Weight Loss is Unshakable

So you think you want to lose weight. Maybe I should say you feel at your core that you NEED to lose weight. It seems like your only option. When the desire for weight loss is unshakable, it can be hard to focus on anything else.

I hear this a lot. A lot a lot. 

I actually have turned potential clients away because they were simply not willing to put weight loss on the back burner. It’s a MUST if you want to learn intuitive eating.

Weight loss sells

I used to get all excited when I would hear someone say they were looking for help with losing weight. I would think, “Oh, awesome, I can help them with that!” and immediately anticipate a potential new client and the income that would bring.

Okay so that may sound a bit greedy, but hang in there with me so I can explain.

When you know what I know about weight loss, you’d be as frustrated and angry with it as I am.

Weight loss is big business and it thrives on this idea that enough people have a desire for weight loss that is unshakable. There’s something like $17 billion wrapped up in the health and wellness industry with weight loss products and services leading the field. It’s an easy in for anyone wanting to coach or “teach” nutrition. And the people and financial webs that are woven in the weight loss big business are mostly hidden (unless you’re seeking it out) from public eye but is a telling part of the story. Basically it’s more about making money and less about actually helping anyone to be healthier.

And another thing wrong with weight loss…

Weight loss essentially is a punishment to the body because it’s acting on the belief that there’s something wrong with you. Despite what you’ve been told and seen in popular media (and even from doctors), the science simply doesn’t support weight loss as a means to a “healthier” end.

If you have a seemingly insatiable desire for weight loss, here are a few facts for you to ponder:

  • Per the CDC as published in JAMA in 2005 found that in the US, people in the overweight BMI category lived longer than those in a normal BMI weight category and people in a mild or moderately obese BMI category lived as long as normal BMI category people. It’s really too bad they issued statements after these publishings telling people to basically ignore them…diet culture, money, and politics at work here.
  • Upon examination of the BMI data that was used to establish the BMI tables, health decline didn’t actually occur until a BMI of 40. So why then is a BMI of 25 considered overweight and 30 obesity, and why do doctors begin pushing weight loss when we reach the overweight category? The answer lies in the primary funding source for all of this…the pharmaceutical companies that were selling weight loss drugs at the time.
  • Looking at weight alone as a risk factor in many diseases fails to take into account those overweight and obese people who are healthy…there is simply too muhc missing…the traits and behaviors involved in a persons lifestyle like air quality, chemical exposures, food quality and variety/choices, physical conditioning and strength, and genetics to name a few….all play a larger role in disease determinants.

And don’t forget about the mental health aspects…

  • Linda Bacon writes in her book Body Respect that as reported by the Cooper Institute in Dallas TX, when you look at the data across all BMI categories and chronic diseases, unfit individuals have higher death rates.
  • Being unhappy with your weight has more negative health effects than actually being overweight. An article in the American Journal of Public Health showed more than 170,000 people who were surveyed about their thoughts about their weight was a better indicator of their physical and mental health than their actual weight was. Weight stigma (aka discrimination) can add and enormous amount of stress…stress is an independant risk factor in diseases often associated with obesity.

Things that make you go “Hmmmm…???” 

A question to think about…if fatness and overweight are so heavily pointed to as detrimental to our health, when looking at the diseases that list overweight/obesity/fatness as their largest risk factor, why do we see thin or normal weight people with these diseases too?

Weight loss is not fun. The last time you were in the throws of an unshakable desire for weight loss and find yourself restricting (calories, food, and/or exercising like you were being chased by a bear!), were you truly enjoying yourself? Do you recall being relaxed and feeling happy and content with life? Were you able to do all the things you wanted to do, including eat the foods you wanted to eat?

Or did it feel more like boot camp, like you missed out on some of life? Did you focus on the end? Did you hear yourself saying things like, “ When I lose this 20 pounds…”? Do you recall having episodes of “hanger” (the hunger-anger that comes with calorie restriction) and feeling like you couldn’t get your act together? That will happen when the hormones are shifting trying to get you to eat and putting all your attention on survival rather than your to do list for the day.

Speaking of survival…

Our bodies are designed to survive. When we restrict calories (whether that comes in the form of eating less or exercising more), our natural instincts kick in to drive us to find more food and take in more calories. This is the hunger we feel, the lack of ability to focus on anything other than our hunger, and I like to think the anger or grumpy moods that can come with more advanced hunger stages is to send the message to others to get out of the way between us and food. That last part isn’t very scientific, but it makes sense doesn’t it?

But wait, there’s more…

And the things that happen in our body when we don’t listen and we continue to restrict lead to the next natural survival process of slowing things down. Our body will slow down the calorie burn and become as efficient as possible, it will begin to use what it has on board (aka breaking down your muscle and body tissues for calories). Yes, that means those muscles you’re working so hard to build for that toned body will actually be consumed by your body if you don’t eat enough. This then contributes to a lower metabolism (not as much muscle mass burning calories) which makes it harder and harder as you go to actually lose weight.  

Some additional physical symptoms that can arise during weight loss efforts and calorie restricted states include:

  • Constipation
  • Lethargy (low energy related to hormonal disruption and lack of proper nutrients)
  • Body temperature dysregulation (often you will feel cold)
  • Mental instability (things like the lack of focus already discussed but also can be more severe like anxiety and depression)

So why do we do still act on this desire for weight loss?

All this talk about the inherent problems of weight and weight loss begs the question then of why. When you understand more about weight loss and dieting behaviors and the havoc they wreak on the body and mind and soul, you naturally find yourself asking, “why would anyone want to do this to themselves?”  

The answer lies in diet culture and our societies desire to be thin. It lies in wanting to fit in and be like others. It lies in a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves. Being different can be hard, lonely, and scary. And big money has capitalized on both our desires to fit in as well as our desires to avoid being different. And unfortunately diet culture and diet business is big. Really big. The way gravity works, the bigger something is, the stronger the pull. Society gets pulled into this because, “everyone’s doing it!”

The elusive thin ideal…

But let’s jump back to this idea of fitting in with the thin ideal. What really is the “thin ideal” and where does it come from? Diet culture is the simple answer. You can read more about that here. But essentially it’s an idea that there is a range of body sizes and shapes that everyone needs to aspire to. It is falsely based on the notion that if you achieve this body size or shape then you will be “healthy”. But the truth is that there isn’t a one size fits all solution and diet culture has its roots in politics and money. The problem is that diet culture has been spewing this thin ideal at us for so long (all our lives) that it feels hard to believe and impossible to escape.

Escape from the desire for weight loss

Escaping diet culture opens the doors to accepting your current size (which opens the doors to lower stress, more happiness, and improved health). So to help you better accept your current size, I want to talk about a couple things. First up is size diversity. Size diversity is based on the same principles as all diversity in humans. It’s as real and valid as diversity of skin color because it’s about our genetics. Just like our skin color varies and is similar to our parents and ancestors, so is our size. Our genetics to a great extent determine how tall we will be, how wide our shoulders will be, how round or oval or big or small our heads will be.

Let’s also address this from a health aspect. It’s an accepted fact that in order for body processes to function ideally, there needs to be balance. Your genes dictate how much fat you will carry and where so that your metabolism stays where your body needs it to be so that your hormones are in balance for you to be happy and think straight and so your organs function the way they were designed, etc. etc. etc. I hope you are grasping the concept that you are YOU. You are not supposed to be someone else. You are never going to have the same size and shape body as anyone else. 

I want you to take a few minutes and think about that. Sit and noodle on it a little while. It’s perhaps one of the coolest things ever. 

It also is the reason you have found yourself at plateaus in your desire for weight loss and the reason you struggle to lose weight in certain areas of your body has more to do with genetics than any amount of weight loss effort you could launch against yourself.

Set point weights

This brings me to the idea of a set point weight…the weight at which your body functions it’s best. It’s the weight you will naturally settle into when you are eating intuitively (ie. honoring your hunger and fullness and allowing all foods without restrictive mindsets and not trying to lose weight and you are honoring your health through your body movement and nutrition and you handle your emotions more often without food, etc.).

Messing with the set point weight has consequences

That insatiable desire for weight loss that leads to dieting behaviors and restrictive practices can and will mess with this set point weight. These practices may cause your set point weight to increase when repeated chronically. It’s actually a part of your body’s programming to keep you alive. If you regularly restrict calories, your body will bump up your set point weight to account for those restrictions….It’s trying to help you hold on to the weight it needs for healthy functioning. Weight loss then, when understood from this perspective, is a losing battle.

The desire for weight loss though can be an extremely strong pull. As we learned on day 2, diet culture is prevalent and pervasive in our society and so is our need and want to be a part of the norm, aka the thin ideal. 

Social norms

When the “norm” is telling us that being in a larger body is bad or unhealthy (this is called weight stigma), our security feels at risk and so we try to adjust to remove the risk. It’s as though our intuition is at war with itself. We will naturally do what is necessary to self-preserve, but what is more important, fitting in or honoring our natural abilities to stay healthy.  There is another problem. Guilt and shame most often accompany weight stigma (as well as the rest of diet culture). These are two powerful weapons diet culture uses to keep you repeating the cycle. Sometimes I get dizzy thinking about it. 

Messed up messages

The problem is that diet culture sends us messages supporting this unshakable desire to lose weight. It sends us messages about fitting in and feeling like we are a part of the group and preys on some pretty vulnerable parts of our psyche. It’s wrong and those messages are messed up. Messages from diet culture tell us we need to feel shame for our size and shape are messed up. The messages we get leading us to feel guilty for eating something we enjoy is messed up. They are incorrect messages. Diet culture is messing things up for us.

So what do we do? How do we stop this cycle? 

You raise your awareness. You raise your awareness about your desire for weight loss and diet culture and all the impacts these things have on you. When you’re aware, it’s hard to not be aware anymore. It’s hard to unlearn something. Things like this tend to stick with you. Raising your awareness means that you’ll start to notice diet culture and weight stigma showing up in the world around you. The more you notice, the more opportunities you have to slow down and make a conscious choice about moving forward.

So what will YOU do? Will you continue to buy into diet culture or will you shake your head no and choose to believe differently? Choose to believe the truth?

When You Don’t Know What You Want to Eat

When You Don’t Know What You Want to Eat

*This post contains an affiliate link, which means if you click it and make a purchase, I get a little something in return…a girls gotta earn a living right?

You don’t know what to eat. Nothing sounds good. You’re hungry and you know you need to eat to avoid becoming hangry but you’ve been in the pantry three times and now you’re standing with the refrigerator door open and you STILL can’t find something to eat. There’s food there. Just nothing that really jumps out at you.

It’s a frustrating spot to be in to say the least. And when you’re practicing intuitive eating, not knowing what you want to eat can be even more frustrating because you don’t want to resort to your old dieting tactics of filling the void with a diet beverage or eating something you don’t enjoy just because “they” said it’s “healthy”. 

Not knowing what you want to eat can also lead to fears about resorting to old ways or bingeing when hunger levels rise higher. 

So clearly there’s a need to be prepared for this sort of thing to happen. I thought I’d put a few tips and suggestions together for you when you find you’re faced with this “I don’t know what I want to eat” feeling.

Reassessing your hunger can help you find what you want to eat

Eating when you’re hungry will increase your chances of knowing what you want to eat. Go back to the basics and determine if you are actually hungry. Does it make sense for you to be hungry right now or do you think you should eat because conventionally it’s TIME to eat? What hunger level are you at right now? What signals are you noticing?

When you don’t know what you want to eat, turn to your favorites

This is probably my favorite one! I can usually find something to eat when I have access to my favorite foods. When I became an intuitive eater, I loved the fact that I could now keep previously restricted foods stocked in my house and I wouldn’t be afraid of them being there. That was such a freeing and peaceful experience the first time I was able to do this. So keep those foods around (depending on where you’re at in your journey of course) and check in with them too.

Keeping a stocked kitchen can help you find what you want to eat…

Knowing what you usually like to eat and making sure you have it on hand is intuitive eating 101. But it’s funny how often we forget to do this. Or how often life gets busy and we haven’t set ourselves as a priority (or we haven’t added food as a self care method) and grocery shopping gets missed. My tip here? Add grocery shopping to your calendar (whether you do it online and do pick up or delivery or you head out to the store in person).

*I am blessed with so much in my life. I have never had to worry about where my next meal is coming from. This is not a concept that is lost on me. I know not everyone has the same life experience. Food security is a subject that is near and dear to my heart and while I know it adds challenges to the idea of eating intuitively, I don’t want it to be a barrier for anyone. If you find yourself in a financially strapped situation and food security is an issue for you, check out these two links to find a food shelf near you.  

When you don’t know what you want to eat, it might be time to turn to a little inspiration.

When you don’t know what you want to eat, it might be time to turn to a little inspiration. Like the ideas of keeping favorite foods around and a stocked kitchen can inspire you to find something that sounds good, keeping some cookbooks filled with recipes you enjoy or turning on the food network can provide a little dose of much needed inspiration. Keep a stack of recipe cards or use an app to collect recipes. I personally use and love one called Plan To Eat

Plan to eat…

On the same note as using inspiration, creating a menu plan can be super helpful. It doesn’t have to be set in stone, but taking the time to plan and grocery shop to make sure you have all the planned items on hand opens up your options when you find yourself a little stuck. Menu planning can be super fast, I think I can do one in about 10 minutes a week using my favorite app.

Are you emotional right now?

Trying to figure out anything when your emotions are heightened is challenging to say the least. And while I’m all about occasionally utilizing a favorite food as a good bit of self care to soothe an emotional situation, turning to food in the heat of emotional times is not ideal. If you find that you are emotional and trying to fix something for dinner, try taking a middle step and do a brief meditation or deep breathing or read a book for 10 minutes to help you step away from the intensity and bring you back to more stable ground for decision making.

Change the question away from what you want to eat…

Instead of thinking about it in terms of what you are craving or what sounds like it would taste good right now, try asking yourself, “What can I eat that will make me feel good (or have more energy or sustain me for my run, etc.)?”

A note about some fears that can pop up…

I mentioned earlier about the fear of overeating or bingeing. In intuitive eating we learn that eating something that is not what we want usually gives us little satisfaction and can lead to continuing to eat until we finally eat the thing that satisfies us. Ultimately this leads us down a path of eating more than we would have if we had just had the thing we wanted (the thing that would have satisfied us) in the first place. 

But you don’t know what will satisfy you so what if you try something and that’s not it? It kind of feels like a catch 22.

Being in this situation can also trigger some fears of binge eating. It can trigger memories of “out of control” eating behaviors. These fears are real and when intuitive eaters have reached a stage where they regularly have these foods accessible, it’s understandable you might be fearful of making a choice you might later regret.

Don’t let this stop you from keeping your favorites around. Don’t let this stop you from doing all the things intuitive eating has taught you to do. Mostly trust in yourself and show yourself compassion. You are human which means you are not perfect and you won’t always make the most intuitive of decisions. That’s okay. That doesn’t make them wrong and it doesn’t reflect on your value. Everything is a learning opportunity. 

I hope you’ll try some of the suggestions I’ve laid out. I’d love to hear from you if you have additional ideas that have worked for you. Leave a comment below to share and support fellow intuitive eaters.

My husband is like Intuitive Eating…sort of.

My husband is like Intuitive Eating…sort of.

I’m sitting on my back deck watching my husband concoct a lever for opening and closing the back door of our chicken coop. Things like this only seem to happen at our house. I mean when I ask friends and family about what they’re up to, they say things like cleaning the house or mowing the lawn or reading a book. They never say they’re in the middle of building an irrigater panel stand out of 10 inch I-beams they brought home from a job site. They never say they’re gluing PVC piping together to raise their sprinkler off the ground 3 feet so it reaches the entire garden and can be easily rolled around the yard. And I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard any of them say they’re in the middle of designing or building a chicken coop back door lever. 

It’s usually (always) my husband at the heart of these things…

And I honestly have to give him all the credit in the world. He’s creative as the day is long and his skills seem to be endless. Honestly if he doesn’t know how to do something he will either figure it out or learn it or find a different way.

And he doesn’t wait around for anyone to tell him something needs to be done. Actually this “need” was born from him struggling to stick his rather large hands through a relatively smaller chain link fence to push said chicken door closed (or to open it gently because if the door gets away from you when it’s opening, it will slam and scare the already  on edge chickens.  It’s almost like he’s always on alert or on the lookout for these things. Like he wants to find ways to make life easier or better or more comfortable for all of us before it becomes a problem.

I also think he enjoys doing this…

He doesn’t ever treat these projects like they’re a chore. He’s usually smiling and proud while he’s working on it. In fact, he just walked past me and told me I would be, and I quote, “seriously impressed.”

He doesn’t care what anyone thinks…

And he doesn’t leave room for judgement or criticism. He KNOWS at his core that what he is creating is going to be good.

What’s my point?

So I’m sure you’re a little curious what all this has to do with food or intuitive eating. I myself was a little baffled when I had the urge to get my laptop out and start writing. But it dawned on me that his creativity and ability to see a need and meet it is EXACTLY what we are doing when we eat intuitively. He sees a need and he meets it.

I think that’s the simplicity of what I wanted to explain here.

It’s all about you…

In intuitive eating you are doing the same thing. You are learning to find the needs your body has, interpret them appropriately, and then meet those needs accordingly. And if you don’t have the skill set to do that, you learn it.

You are not relying on some external signal or waiting for someone to tell you it’s time to eat. You’re not following a timed eating schedule or menu plan of specific foods. 

Listen up…

You listen to your body and your taste buds, and yes, your emotions too, and you’re making a choice of what will be best for YOU in the moment. If you’re hungry, you eat. If you’re not, but you can’t stop thinking about food, you look deeper to see what’s driving that. Maybe you still eat, maybe you go for a walk or journal, or play some music and take a bath. You don’t wait for your body to be overly hungry because that leads to out of control choices and overeating.

Everything you do should make you feel good…

The foods you choose to eat are foods you enjoy, they make you smile. 

You take care of your body through eating foods and movements that help you feel your best. And that makes you smile too because none of it feels like a chore.

No room for critics…

And finally, in intuitive eating you don’t leave the door open for judgement from others. You lock arms with yourself and others who believe in YOU and are there to support you and want to see you smiling. This may mean having some difficult conversations and making some challenging choices.

Notice I didn’t say that any of this came easy or readily. In fact, I believe it all takes work. I think that our culture has done such a thorough job of distorting our views and ideas of who and what we are or need to be that it takes a lot of work to un-do all of that. But I also know that when you make this a priority for yourself and you do that work, it ends up making you smile. It ends up feeling like someone made you a lever for a door that was previously hard to open and close.

Key necessary concepts in Intuitive Eating…

Maybe someday I’ll write a separate blog about the adventures of my husband, but not today. Today I want to introduce you to nine different concepts I think you need to master (or at least have a solid handle on) to more effectively build your intuitive eating skills. (I would like to take a brief moment to officially reserve the right to add to this list at any point in the future.) In the coming weeks I’ll dive deeper into each of them. They are:

  • Roots (understand your history)
  • Trust (for yourself and others)
  • Patience (closely tied to trust)
  • Learning (especially about your cognitive distortions)
  • Emotions (confronting them head on)
  • Permission and choice
  • Self care and satisfaction (this is a focal point of intuitive eating)
  • Respect (closely tied to self care)
  • Opinion (also known as judgement) versus fact

I hope you’ll stick around to learn more about each of these. In the meantime, I’m going to go help assemble this latest chicken-coop-back-door-opener creation and get ready for our next adventure.

Boundaries, My Mother, and Niagara Falls

Boundaries, My Mother, and Niagara Falls

What do boundaries, my mother, and Niagara Falls have in common? None of them should be crossed.

In the last article,  we discussed the importance of and how to identify your boundaries.

In this article I want to talk about how to communicate and stick to those boundaries.

This becomes important because 1) you can’t expect anyone to not cross your boundaries if they don’t know what they are, and 2) you can’t expect anyone to not cross your boundaries if you don’t abide by them too.

Let’s start with communicating those boundaries.

*I’m going to make a blanket statement here about some non-negotiable boundaries that are a given…safety and personal space boundaries like appropriate language and touch. While these are not the kinds of boundaries I’m talking about here, it’s worth stating the obvious that these boundaries should be a given and you should never have to communicate them to anyone. If boundaries that make you feel safe are ever crossed, speak up loudly and immediately, don’t worry about stepping on any toes or offending anyone…you ALWAYS deserve to feel safe.*

This can be scary but when done well can also leave you feeling empowered and on top of the world.

It might be as simple as a quick statement or request like, “Please don’t tell me what I should and shouldn’t eat.” Or it might require more detail and finesse, like sitting a friend down and sharing your goals and inner struggles and asking for their help by abstaining from a certain common behavior of theirs.

Each boundary and situation is going to be different. You’ll want to take some time to think about the people and situations in your life where your boundaries have been crossed. You did this in the last article when you were identifying where your boundaries need to be placed. This is taking it a step further and determining what the best course of communication will be. 

When it comes to someone you are close to, show them the respect they deserve by having the boundaries conversation with them in a private setting. This gives them the opportunity to show you support and ask questions to gain clarity.

Find a partner in crime! 

You may even ask some of these people to help you by supporting you if your boundaries are crossed. They could do this by either stepping in to stop the offender (“hey, please don’t tell Suzy she shouldn’t eat that.”), they could change the subject (“How about those Vikings!”), or they could help you escape the situation (“Suzy, I need to see you in the hallway for a second.”).

When it’s a general boundary for general situations and larger populations or no one person in particular, you can probably wait until the boundary has been crossed and then politely communicate your position or viewpoint…or you can choose to excuse yourself. A simple statement of, “It’s not nice to make fun of someone because of their weight, they’re people too and deserve just as much respect as anyone else.”

Honoring your boundaries can sometimes get a little sticky.

So you’ve determined where your boundaries are. You don’t want to tolerate people making fun of anyone’s weight (including yours), you don’t want anyone telling you what you should or shouldn’t be eating, and you won’t put up with the thin privileged people in the room complaining about their weight or talking about the latest diet they are on. 

You have communicated your boundaries where necessary and appropriate with the people in your circle. You have a plan in place to excuse yourself from a situation or change the subject or have enlisted an accomplice for added support. Now it’s time to figure out how you’re going to actually hold true to all of this.

I chose the word honor here because I believe it sends a power message.

It says that the boundaries are of value and worthy of your time and efforts. It also says you are of value and worthy of your efforts. When you honor your boundaries, you are honoring yourself and that is the ultimate form of self-care.

Starting small is what I usually recommend. But I can tell you, it won’t take long for you to go big on honoring your boundaries. Once you get a taste of the freedom you feel when you stick to your boundaries, it gives you energy and reinforces doing it again. 

How do you start small?

Start with cleaning up your social media feeds or changing the programs you watch on television or listen to on the radio or podcasts. Remove anything that crosses your boundaries. Replace them with people and programs that support your boundaries and goals and build up your determination.

Next move into your close knit circle, communicating with those you feel most comfortable first. It’s okay to go to the people you KNOW will support you to get practice with having the boundaries conversation.  

Moving into more public or general settings and groups of people might feel terrifying.

If this is the case and your resolve to hold true to your boundaries feels like it’s wavering a bit, try just noticing the people and words or actions that are raising your red flags. Acknowledge to yourself that the words or actions are not okay and if you can’t find a way to excuse yourself, make a plan to either have a conversation with the offender or to not put yourself in that same situation again.

In the end, boundaries are a form of self-care. Set them. You deserve it.