Calories in Recovery: Dangerous or Knowledge? It depends...

In yogic philosophy, there's a word - vishudha - that relates to our throat chakra (energy center in the body). Interestingly, the word can translate into poison or nectar. This means the words we use - and how we use them - can be sweet like nectar or harmful like poison. Is calorie counting by itself harmful? Not really. It's just amounts of energy for each type of food. 

By itself, it's simply knowledge. It's not necessary - the body is able to regulate itself pretty well - but it's just knowledge.

Calories in Recovery: Dangerous or Knowledge? It depends...

Yet, in the mind of someone struggling with their relationship with food, it can turn into a method of control or an obsession. 

In recovery, people nearly always end up working on changing rigid or black and white thinking. It's inevitable when it comes to disordered eating - "I can't eat cookies...or I'll have to binge on them all day," "Fruit is good but fats are bad," and so on. (not true but examples of what typically happens).

Yet, it's also important not to turn recovery into rigid thinking either - of "Am I doing recovery right or wrong?" There's no one way - or a perfect way - to "do recovery." That's why it's a journey and a process. It takes time, and your intentions or motivations along the way likely will change.

Your desire for recovery at first may start off because your family or significant other is concerned and encouraging you to go to therapy or get treatment. You may not be internally motivated, but you also recognize concern from others.

With time, you may find more external motivations and realize that recovery allows you to go to school, work, hang out with friends, and do other things in your life. You may still have a strong desire to engage in your eating disorder, but you're motivated enough to participate in recovery.

With more time, you may realize that recovery is something you truly want for your mind, body, and heart. Here, you may want to feel normal and free around food and develop a healthy relationship with food, your body, and yourself.

So, how does this relate to calorie counting?

Most of my clients have at some point counted calories - whether using an app or counting in their head. For some (very few but some), I've worked with them while counting calories. Yes, that may surprise you, but here's why.

They were already counting calories when they come to see me, and giving it up would be a huge step. Part of my job as a dietitian is meeting people where they are in recovery and helping guide them to the next stage. While they weren't ready to give up calorie counting, we were able to use it in a helpful way to increasing up to a calorie level their bodies actually needed for health restoration and recovery. With these clients, we weaned away from calories to an overall meal plan (not calorie-based) after a few weeks when they were able to recognize that calorie counting wasn't a helpful behavior for recovery.

During the process, calorie counting was information for them.

They realized that when they ate above their designated calorie limit, their bodies didn't gain 5 pounds overnight. They noticed that by eating the amount their bodies needed, they felt better, had more energy, digestion improved, and other health symptoms improved.

They noticed binging decrease and thinking and mental clarity improve. They learned how to balance their food intake throughout the day rather than skipping some meals or snacks - and what happens when they do restrict or skip a meal or snack.

We would talk about metabolism and metabolic restoration during eating disorder or disordered eating recovery and how calories (just energy) is used in your body, as well as how much you need simply at rest (a lot more than you think!). It's also important to know that it's not a totally accurate measurement either - the calories on packages may be 10-20% less or more than listed.

Yet, after time, they started to trust themselves more and were able to switch to a more general meal plan of having balanced nutrients and eating regularly throughout the day. 

Of course, it takes time to stop counting calories when you have the numbers memorized. Yet, you remember so many other things - song lyrics, math equations, and other random facts that you don't run through your head all the time. You may always know calorie numbers, but you can catch yourself when you start counting.

Catch yourself, and gently remind yourself "Hey, I know I'm used to calorie counting, but I'm going to go read or play a game instead right now." Do something that will engage your brain fully to distract from the constant counting. With time, you'll notice yourself not doing it much anymore.

Throughout recovery, you may find yourself caring less and less about calories and not turning to it as a method of control. You may find yourself choosing foods based on what you really want to eat and your cravings compared to based on calories. This is where you may recognize that when you start to count calories, it's a red flag for yourself to bring yourself back to your self-care tools. Eventually, calories may not be a big deal at all - you may see them and just move on. They can become emotionally neutral over time.

Why do I bring this up?

We can't avoid calories. It's on the front of most food packages, as well as the nutrition facts label. The calorie number is going to be bolded and big on the new label. It's hard to avoid.

What you can do is learn how to approach calories in your personal recovery. Recognize how this may be harming or helping your recovery to find a freedom with food. 

If you're counting them, slowly move away from it, especially with the guidance of a dietitian who can help create a meal plan or an intuitive eating approach. The first step may be tracking every other day, then deleting the app. It can take time to get from calorie counting to intuitive eating, so allow some patience along the way.

You can work with a therapist and dietitian to challenge your thoughts about calories - from the enemy to viewing them neutrally or even positively (as energy and enjoyment!).

You can learn to create new patterns when you find yourself tracking and return to self-care instead. 

You can trust yourself.

Sending love!

Self-Care Tool: Equal Breath for Disordered Eating

When healing your relationship with food or your body, creating a self-care toolbox can be extremely helpful.

I'm not talking about all those ideas from women's magazines like take a bath or read a book. While those can be helpful too, often moments of anxiety or stress happen at times that you aren't able to stop and take a 20 minute bubble bath.

Instead, building tools that you can use anytime, anywhere is the key.

Equal Breath (Sama Vritti): Self-Care Tool for Disordered Eating

Pranayama

Pranayama - or yogic breathwork - is one of these. Luckily, your breath is keeping you alive 24/7, so you can use it anytime you need a break.

Yes, I know 'take a deep breath' is an overused phrase, but it's honestly my go-to tool for overwhelm, anxiety, or pure pleasure. It brings me into the present moment to pause and let go of fear, even just for a moment.

It works because your breath is the connection between mind and body.

When you're feeling anxious or stressed, it's affecting your body. Your body enters the sympathetic nervous system - aka your fight or flight stress mode. You may feel your heartrate increase, tightness in your body like chest or belly, or notice yourself taking shallow breaths.

When you bring your focus back into your breath, your body has the chance to enter into the parasympathetic nervous system (your rest and digest state). It eases the body tension, deepens your breath, brings back clarity of thinking, and eases you into the present moment.

Let's take an example.

Say you're feeling anxious, and your go-to response is to turn to food. You've realized in the past that eating helps you feel better temporarily, and feeling stuffed is easier than dealing with the anxiety. Afterwards, you feel ashamed, disappointed, and frustrated, though, so you decide to skip your next meal to help you feel better.

In the moment, you could practice pranayama breathing when you first notice the anxiety. It will give you a pause to check in with how you're feeling and what you need in the moment.

You could check in and find a pause during or after the binge - again to pause and explore what you're feeling in your mind and body. You may find it hard at first to understand what you need, but the pause is the first step.

You can also check in afterwards on how you're feeling and what you need. Over time, you could pause and realize that practicing acts of self-compassion is what you need rather than falling into feelings of shame.

While breathing is not the 'cure' to disordered eating, it's a pause in between feeling anxious (or ashamed, overwhelmed, whatever you're feeling) and checking in with what you need in that moment. Instead of automatically turning towards restricting your food, binging, overexercising, or shaming yourself, you can find a moment to breathe. With time, you'll be able to listen to that inner voice to practice self-care, self-compassion, and honor what you need.

Please remember throughout this the eating is not the problem, and it's not something to be ashamed of. It's not a failure or you're not a failure - if you practice self-care and still struggle with your relationship with food. Recovery takes time.

Staying Present with your Breath + Feelings

The breath can also be your chance to stay present with what you're feeling.

If you're used to disconnecting yourself from your body, then noticing sensations or feelings in your body can be hard! Using the breath gives you an anchor for these feelings by reminding you to inhale and exhale through moments of discomfort.

Staying with an uncomfortable feeling for one breath can turn into ten breaths or a few minutes, and you can practice getting comfortable with feeling your feelings. You may notice that emotions come and go in intensity, and when you breathe through them, they do dissipate with time.

A metaphor I like to use is thinking about the breath as waves.

If you tune in closely to your body, you can even hear the waves as you breathe in and out. It can be a soothing rhythm, just as watching the ocean is. Similarly, feelings are like waves - they come in, peak, and pass. You can't run away from the wave, but you can stay present with it throughout, as it peaks and passes.

Now, on to the how-to!

Sama Vritti (equal breath)

  • Find a comfortable seat on the floor or in a chair. If you're seated, be sure you're comfortable by sitting cross-legged or seated on a pillow/bolster to support your hips. If you're in a chair, place your feet on the ground.
  • Let your eyes gently close.
  • Take a few natural breaths to notice your body, breath, and mind.
  • Start to inhale for the count of four, pause, and exhale for a count of four.
  • Continue this breath for as many rounds as you'd like, for 1-5+ minutes.
  • You can increase the count with time - increasing to inhale for a count of 10 and exhale for a count of ten.

Tips:

The inhales and exhales should be the same count, which makes it the equal breath, and try to inhale and exhale completely.

The counting on your breaths also gives your mind an anchor to focus on, so it doesn't wander off into random thoughts as much. Of course, it may, but just bring yourself back to the counting when you notice it wandering.

You may want to do a quick check-in by noticing how you feel before the pranayama and after. This is great to do during moments of anxiety but also as a regular practice, such as first thing in the morning, before bed, or during a yoga practice. When you make it a regular part of your day, you'll notice the benefits seap into the rest of your day.

Try out this self-care tool for feelings of anxiety or overwhelm.

I'd love to answer any questions you have about it, or hear your thoughts in the comments below (especially if you give it a try).

You can even pause right now for a minute and try it out :)

For more on self-care:

Should Intuitive Eating be Part of Eating Disorder Recovery?

Whenever I meet with a client for the first time, I ask them how they want to feel around food.

Some clients are pretty insightful and share that they want to feel freedom around food, less guilt, or to be able to listen to their hunger and fullness cues (what a lot of clients summarize as intuitive eating).

For others, this is a really difficult question to answer because it's hard imagining a whole new relationship with food. That's okay if you're not sure how you want to feel around food right now! Your motivations and intentions throughout recovery may change.

At the early stages of recovery, intuitive eating is nearly impossible. As a dietitian who really believes in intuitive eating, I also know it's not appropriate to use with clients deeply entrenched in their eating disorder.

If you're going through recovery, you may not have regular (or any) hunger cues. Even if you do, it may be hard to trust or listen to them. Fullness cues may be distorted and enmeshed with body image concerns - any sensation of fullness may be linked to body image.

Should Intuitive Eating be Part of Eating Disorder Recovery?

Hunger Cues + Meal Plans

One aspect of intuitive eating is getting in tune with your body's cues - hunger and fullness being two of them - but it's hard to do that when they are missing.

This is where a meal plan comes in. Many clients are really unsure about the idea of a meal plan because they want to be less rigid around food, but think of this as a temporary crutch in order to restore your body's health and rebuild trust with your body.

If you broke your leg, you would get a cast or crutches to let it rest. You would need to rely on others or crutches to let your body rest - same in eating disorder recovery. You need to let your body restore and trust a guide (a dietitian and meal plan) to nourish your body, so eventually, you will be able to feed yourself based on your body's cues.

A meal plan is support to remind you to eat frequently throughout the day in order to get adequate energy (more than they may think you need!), variety, and a balance of foods and nutrients. A meal plan can help ensure you get enough carbohydrates, fats, and protein from a variety of foods - not only for the nutritional content but also to add back in foods that you may have restricted in the past.

Part of recovery is health restoration - regardless of any changes in your weight - and using a supportive meal plan helps restore metabolism, hormonal health (like menstrual changes), energy, digestion, or other aspects of your health that may have been affected by disordered eating. Often, you don't need to try special supplements or diets to heal digestive complaints or hormonal issues because it's usually related to disordered eating.

It may take up to 6 months to a year (or longer) for consistent hunger and fullness cues to return. At first, they may come back sporadically, and you may feel starving all the time or not very hungry.

There is also a lot of therapeutic work to be done in order to actually trust and listen to these cues. You can feel hungry, but that doesn't automatically mean you will honor this cue and take the time to eat. Therapeutic and body image work with a psychotherapist and eating disorder dietitian can help immensely in this way.

When you feel committed and solid in your recovery, then it may be a good time to start exploring intuitive eating with a dietitian who is familiar with it. This can be gradual by first getting in tune and recognizing your body's cues while still using a meal plan, then working towards listening to what you really want to eat.

Making Peace with Food in Recovery

I love the 10 concepts of intuitive eating, and the other concepts like making peace with food and ditching the diet mindset can definitely be used in recovery though!

Making peace with food is a common theme throughout recovery. If you've struggled with any degree of disordered eating, you may have a long list of feared foods that trigger anxiety. Making peace with food takes time, so give yourself patience through this process.

Allow yourself to start by making a list of foods that you want to make peace with and rating them based on your anxiety level with each. Start with foods that seem challenging but doable - you don't have to start with your most feared food.

This process is gradual too - it may start by simply talking about the food, seeing it in the kitchen, or touching it. When you're more comfortable with the food, it may mean planning and eating the food with the goal to just finish it. It may take several times of eating the same food to get comfortable with it and to notice any shifts in your anxiety around the food. Work with your therapist and dietitian during this process - it's okay to take your time.

Intuitive eating - and recovery - is not black and white.

Recovery will look different for every single person.

Just as there is no perfect way to eat, there is also no perfect way to 'eat intuitively.' 

If you want to learn more about intuitive eating, here are some of my other posts on it:

I'd love to hear from you: What are your thoughts on intuitive eating in recovery?

What I'm Reading in June (+ blog updates)

Hello there!

Lately, I've felt a little neglectful of my blog and missing it but also so aware of how much energy I'm using in other parts of my life. I'm not leaving this blog anytime soon because writing is so therapeutic for me, and blogging has been a wonderful space for connection and creativity for me.

I am taking some time right now to re-envision how I want to use this space. To catch you up, in the last six weeks, I've moved across country into a new state, town, and apartment.

In the past few years, I had been building my practice and working part of my time from home. I had more time for work on my blog and business, but when we decided to move to the Bay Area, I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do. I ended up seeing a job for a dietitian at a residential eating disorder center, applied for it, and got it right away. I've been there a month now and am really loving the therapeutic work, small group of clients at a time, and coworkers. It's a change moving from outpatient eating disorder work to residential, but it feels like really powerful work. Of course, it helped to have it before moving out because of the crazy rent prices out here!

One change is the work is powerful but intensive and at times emotionally draining. That's the nature of therapeutic work, and I've known it and felt it the last few years. I love being able to connect with clients and support them where they are in recovery, but it also means my self-care practice needs to be prioritized. I haven't felt as much drive to write about healing from disordered eating on this blog because I'm doing that work all day already.

I know I still want to, but I'm imagining this space expanding into a different type of space. Instead of solely focusing on intuitive eating and body acceptance (still hugely important topics), I want to explore self-care, yoga (especially therapeutic practices like pranayama, yin yoga, and creating your own healing practice), and body connection on a deeper level than just body image.

This is my work now too.

Moving is stressful guys! I was sore after moving boxes up and down from our car to the third floor, and it's just a lot of time and money. Add on a new job and all the little things that go along with moving, and my free time has been sleeping or cuddling up with Netflix.

My desires lately have been to get outside and explore - to hike, go to the gorgeous coast and beaches here, check out new restaurants, and get settled into our new space. While I do love Instagram, nature and adventures will always win over spending time on social media and email.

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Self-care has been my practice. I'm slowly creating a new routine of meditating in the morning, cooking dinners again, getting enough sleep, and practicing all my yogic breathing in the traffic :)

Whether or not you've had a big change in your life, we're always in transition. Things are always evolving. Your routine and needs yesterday may be different today. That's normal and okay. There's no need to feel guilty for spending time exploring (or at home alone) and leaving your to-do list alone.

Self-care is lovingly acknowledging and getting curious about your needs in this moment - whether it's a deep breath, a break for lunch, or calling a friend. It's not a checklist of things to do that you saw on someone's Instagram.

I originally meant this to be a short intro, then sharing a few things I'm reading lately...but hey, I guess I really needed to write today.

So, here's what I'm reading lately:

  • Embody from The Body Positive - We did a The Body Positive training at our last staff meeting. It's all the messages I believe in and try to embody myself - health at every size, self-care, self-love, and more - combined into a powerful message and curriculum.
  • 101 Ways to Practice Self-Love by Corinne Dobbas - Try out one of these daily to cultivate a regular self-love practice. We all need it!
  • Recovery vs Discovery by Kaila Prins - This is so important! Recovery from an eating disorder can be a long journey, and it's essential to get treatment at the necessary level of care. It's nearly impossible to do real therapeutic work if your body and brain aren't being nourished adequately. Using a meal plan or residential treatment is therapeutic when you aren't able to feel any hunger cues or can't manage eating disorder urges and behaviors yet. Sure, you can set an intention to be a more intuitive or normal eater in the future, but that work is further along the recovery journey. Trust your treatment team (or work with professionals) first!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on what you want to read here in the comments below (or an email) too!

Give Yourself Space: Self-Care in Transitions

Oh, hey! I haven't written here in a while, but I'm popping in after lots of thoughts came pouring into my head in the shower. I always do some of my best thinking in the shower.

I needed space.

So, I gave it to myself.

Give Yourself Space: Self-Care + Space During Transitions

Transitions

In the last month, I've moved across country from Vermont to California, wrapped up things with my clients  in my local practice, and started a new job (in the eating disorder field as well). I will still be taking a handful of online clients for one-on-one nutrition therapy or intuitive eating work.

I'm still settling after a big state of overwhelm and this transition state - that I'm still in until we move into our new apartment and start really settling in out here. We got rid of so much of our stuff - furniture, clothes, random stuff I wasn't aware I had. For someone that isn't a big hoarder, I was still shocked by how much physical stuff I had.

Beyond the physical, transitions always bring up the mental and emotional patterns that I cling to in times of change. Some of these I'm well aware of, while others are new to me.

One of these is trying to do it all. In the past, I would have tried to do it all and see all my clients, continue writing, and work on my new course (put on pause for now but still working on it), and moving. My heart told me that wasn't how I wanted to spend my last few weeks in Vermont. Instead, I went to lots of yoga classes at my favorite studio, went out for margaritas and yummy food with friends, and spent time with the amazing people in my life.

When I got out to California, the same thing happened. I didn't want to spend my first week inside writing blog posts, so I took the time to explore. Luckily, my first day here was gorgeous and warm, so I went to Santa Cruz for the day and got some sun on the beach!

Transitions + Self-Care

While in the past, I would have pushed myself to continue doing all the things on social media and blogging, I didn't have the space or energy. There's always going to be time to write, and for now, I prioritized adventures and the people I love in my life.

Self-care stayed solid too. I naturally found myself turning to a slower yoga practice, morning meditation, and journaling because these practices keep me grounded.

I craved space to myself to process all these changes before sharing it with everyone. I'm naturally more of a private person, and while I love sharing here and on social media, I have to process the emotions and experience first before sharing it.

In times of transition, I find myself going inwards and needing more basic self-care like tuning into my nourishment, sleep, and taking care of my whole self - physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual.

While this is my experience, I find it also applies to eating and body image.

Giving yourself space consistently is so important.

Too often, we live lives packed with work, commitments, exercise plans, diets, and social events that we barely have any time for our own company or self-care.

It doesn't mean you have to disconnect fully for a week-long retreat, but it does mean tuning into your needs throughout the day to check in with what you need.

This may be as simple as spending 10 minutes in the morning meditating, journaling, or reading, or it could be turning off email and social media for the weekend.

It means getting comfortable with your own company and whatever comes up there - like those uncomfortable emotions, body sensations, or feelings. You could explore this with a therapist or on your own through a meditation or other healing practices.

It means prioritizing yourself and your heart's desires over what you think you "should" or "need" to do. While yes, we all have obligations, and I'm not saying you shouldn't pay your bills or go to work. I am saying that something's gotta give, and ditching a workout for a day at the beach may be what your heart is craving that day. That's self-care and emotional nourishment (and lots of Vitamin D for your skin!).

When your needs are ignored - and there's no space for YOU in your life - that's when disordered eating patterns or body image thoughts may creep in. It's easier to try to control your food or body when you're feeling anxious or exhausted in your life than to look at the underlying patterns and beliefs.

Your needs - physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual - are all important. Nourish yourself with self-care of all types. It's just as important to nourish yourself with food, as it is for giggly girls' nights, a beautiful sunset, or cozying up with a book and a cup of tea in bed.

If you need space in your life, take it. There's no need for guilt. You deserve to acknowledge and meet your needs, whatever they are.

With love,

Lauren

PS: If anyone's in the Bay Area, give me ideas of what to explore! Hikes, yoga, restaurants, wine tasting, adventures....?

The Yoga of Eating: Ahimsa (non-harming)

I've been meaning to start sharing yoga and eating related posts because I think they can be combined so beautifully. The meaning of yoga is union or to "yoke, part of which is connecting mind and body. That's exactly my approach when it comes to a non-diet approach to food. When I talk about yoga, it is more than the asana (physical postures) practice. It's the whole 8-limbed path that includes many ways of finding that connection through asana, meditation, pranayama (breath), and much more.

While I love the asana practice, yoga for me is about the integration of all these practices. It's through the whole practice that I feel connected, whole, and find freedom.

We're all used to external rules and guidelines around food. We follow diets, see new research on the news to eat eggs followed by avoid eggs months later, or cut out gluten because our friend feels amazing eating a gluten-free diet!

We want to know what others are doing and hope it will work for us. Yet, we all have our own inner teacher within us. We can learn to connect to our bodies, trust ourselves around food, and release external rules and guilt around food. Through that, we can use our intuition to guide our eating.

Our bodies are always seeking balance and do want what is best for us.

This is the 'yoga of eating.'

The Yoga of Eating: Ahimsa

One concept in yoga is the idea of ahimsa.

Ahimsa translates to 'non-harming,' which many yogis automatically interpret into eating a vegan diet as a non-harming practice towards animals. While that may be one way to practice it, it first has to start with a non-harming approach to yourself and your body.

Yoga of Eating: Ahimsa + Eating

When moving out a place of diets, restrictions, or recovering from an eating disorder, kindness is key. In this case, ahimsa is being compassionate to yourself through trusting the process and being gentle with yourself along the way.

In your eating, it is letting go of rules or dietary restrictions. It's choosing a path of freedom around food rather than always being at war with yourself about what you "allowed" or "not allowed" to eat.

It's recognizing your body's need for fuel regularly throughout the day - and honoring it. Instead of what you may think your body needs, it's tuning into your hunger cues and feeding those instead. If you don't have regular hunger cues yet, it means eating consistently, even if you're not hungry.

It's adding variety into your diet and letting yourself get a cupcake in the middle of the afternoon or go out to dinner with friends rather than having a salad at home every night.

It may mean letting go of dietary approaches like low-carb, paleo, or vegan styles of eating because you realize they restrict and limit you. Your body is unique, and everyone has different nutritional needs. Your body is always changing, so know that what you eat today will be different from tomorrow or next month.

It's recognizing the physical, mental, social, and emotional harm of your eating behaviors. There are side effects like losing your period (amenorrhea), feeling cold all the type, digestive distress, anxiety around food, body dysmorphia, isolating yourself, decreased bone density, and much more. Through the practice of ahimsa, you can start to be compassionate towards your body and with time realize that you want to care for it.

It's taking a mindful approach to your meals through giving yourself time for meals instead of always eating on the go. It's tuning into what you truly want to eat, savoring it, and enjoying it by yourself or socially with others.

It's letting go of the fears that hold you back around food or eating. It's hard to have energy and zest for your life, relationships, work, play, and everything else if you're always focused on food. Facing your fears around food helps lead to freedom because you can realize that food isn't really a big deal. You can eat to energize your body to live.

Some people may practice ahimsa through choosing a vegan diet, if that is in their ethical values and if it's what your body responds well to. Some people find it too restrictive or their bodies will not feel their best eating this way. It doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing approach. You may find that you can still practice non-harming towards animals through eating more plant-based meals, or choosing to eat local and more humanely raised animals, which is a far better approach than factory farming.

It's always your choice how you want to eat, and you don't have to justify it to anyone.

It means practicing self-compassion with your thoughts and behaviors. You could be eating the most nutrient-rich diet in the world, but if you are beating yourself up mentally about not eating the 'perfect' diet or having the 'perfect diet,' it's going to be stressful.

Ahimsa + Body Image

It's recognizing that body diversity exists and all bodies deserve respect. You could start with body neutrality of recognizing "I have a body" and working up towards connecting to your body, listening to it, trusting it, and ultimately accepting and loving it. It's a process, so give yourself the time to take this journey.

It's bringing awareness to the beliefs you hold about your body. For example, if you believe that you won't be lovable at your weight, that your body is something to be "fixed," or that your body isn't good enough as it is. These are beliefs that may have developed through messages from culture, other people in our lives, or things we picked up through the years. The thing about beliefs is they can be changed, and there are plenty of people out there that are comfortable in their bodies at all shapes and sizes.

If you're also a dietitian, nutritionist, yoga teacher, or health professional, it's practicing ahimsa with clients by encouraging them to listen to their bodies rather than promoting fads or diets. We need more practitioners promoting a self-compassionate, non-diet, body positive approach and less focus on weight loss, detox, and diets.

Start to recognize what ways your thoughts or behaviors may not be serving you.

  • What ways can you practice non-harming with your thoughts or behaviors around food?
  • How can you be more compassionate to your body?
  • How can you find freedom and flexibility with your food, so you can invest energy into your life?

Namaste friends! Let me know if you liked this, and I can definitely share more yoga of eating posts.

PS: If you want to start to find peace with food, check out my free Make Peace with Food email course. Over a week of emails, you'll start to let go of food rules and start to find compassion for yourself and your body.

Small MPWF

Why I'm Not a Weight Loss Dietitian (+ what I believe instead)

When people find out I’m a dietitian, I often get the inevitable questions of “Can you help me lose weight?” or “What is the best diet?” while expecting a short and sweet answer. Most people automatically assume that all dietitians are weight loss dietitians, when actually, dietitians work in a number of fields and specialities. The truth is nutrition is a science, and there is no quick fix.

I’m not a weight loss dietitian because the science doesn’t support “controlling” weight through dietary restriction in any manner of fad diets, “lifestyle” diets like Weight Watchers, or restrictive calorie counting.

Sure, many people do lose weight following restrictive plans. Yet, if you look over the long-term months to years afterwards, the majority of people end up regaining the weight - and more.

Why would I recommend restrictive plans to my clients when studies show they don't work?

Yet, all we seem to hear about these days are new diets, eating plans, and how we should all lose weight for health reasons, beauty standards, or to fit in with everyone else. No one talks about the side effects of diets, or the actual research.

Why I'm Not a Weight Loss Dietitian (+ my approach instead)

Here’s my approach instead.

  1. Don’t deprive yourself.

    Deprivation on a physical level - restricting your calories - decreases your metabolism, so you end up fatigued and drained. You’ll likely be thinking about food in an obsessive way because your brain is trained to fixate on food when it’s being deprived.

    Your brain needs about 20% of your total energy intake and uses glucose as its energy source (yup, delicious carbs!) Depriving your body often leads to poor concentration, obsessive food thoughts, and that hangry feeling.

    I help my clients eat enough for their bodies and get out of the diet-binge cycle that happens with deprivation.

  2. All foods are allowed.

    Depriving yourself mentally by labeling foods as good or bad, or telling yourself  you “should” or “shouldn’t” eat certain foods can up those obsessive food thoughts and behaviors too. In the past, when I started to think I shouldn’t eat sugar or chocolate, that’s the only food I wanted! Instead, allow yourself to eat and enjoy all foods. Give yourself permission to eat all foods - green smoothies and cupcakes - without needing to “make up” for it later.

    When all foods are allowed, you’re not breaking any rules. You won’t need to cheat on your diet or feel guilty because you’re always allowed to eat what you want and enjoy it.

  3. Gentle nutrition.

    When working with clients, it may be surprising that I don’t talk about nutrition and balanced diets right away - I mean, after all, I am a dietitian. Yet, after a period of deprivation or dieting, you need to give yourself permission to forget about nutrition, healthy eating, and any food rules you’ve created for yourself. You may eat more than usual or eat a lot of cookies, if that’s what you want. That’s okay! With time, you can start to connect to your body to recognize what foods make it feel good. You can add in nutrient-rich whole foods because you truly want to eat them, and you recognize they make your body feel good and energized. This process allows you to connect to your body to choose foods you really want to eat and not judge your food cravings.

  4. Trust your body.

    This process is not about weight loss - it’s about developing a trusting relationship with your body. Health is individual, and it’s much more than only nutrition and exercise. It includes your physical health, as well as your mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health. While diets primarily end up being about weight loss, this process towards intuitive eating is weight-neutral. By ditching the scale and committing to a non-diet way of living, you can learn to build healthy habits and a kind relationship with your body using your intuition rather than the scale. Your body will settle in a place that’s healthiest for it. You can develop healthy habits, regardless of what your doctor says about your BMI. Health, not weight.

  5. Body respect.

    We’re used to being told to ignore our body’s cues to follow diets, eating plans, or health gurus that know our bodies better than we do. The truth is you know your body best. You can choose to eat when YOU want to eat, what YOU want to eat, and how much YOU want to eat. You can learn respect your body’s needs, cravings, and its natural setpoint. Body diversity exists. Your body - and everyone’s bodies - deserve respect. You can practice body respect by choosing to nourish and move your body on your terms. Know that you can’t tell anything about someone’s health based on their body size or shape.

Everyone deserves a nurturing, respectful relationship with food and their body. If you’re in diet prison, you can get out by giving yourself permission to eat, choosing not to deprive yourself, and respecting your unique body.

It’s an act of immense self-care and self-love. You’re choosing to take care of your body, and by doing so, the diet industry loses one customer. Together, our culture can turn to one of body respect and trust.

Let's Work Together!

If you're interested in a non-diet, weight-neutral approach to food, feel free to reach out or learn more about my nutrition services!

At the moment, I have openings for 3 more clients for my 3-month program. I'd love to help you find peace with food or focus on health, not weight. I won't be taking on any new clients until this summer (likely July), so now's the perfect time to start!

Health Nut or Disordered Eating? How to Know if your Eating is Normal or Disordered.

Health Nut or Disordered Eater? How to Know if your Eating is Normal or Disordered. I see it all the time.

Disordered eating behaviors that have become normalized in our culture.

I heard the phrase - "trying to recover in a world that has its own eating disorder" recently on Julie Duffy Dillon's new Love, Food podcast (which is great!).

I completely agree. Our culture is disordered around food and bodies.

When I'm innocently grocery shopping, I see people scrutinizing food labels and know they're having an inner argument about whether to buy it or not.

I overhear conversations about diets, weight loss, and more.

I see websites or people on social media that are say they are promoting a healthy relationship with food - but are also still talking about weight loss, or using language that is shaming or still implying foods are 'good' and 'bad' Yes, even dietitians, therapists, and coaches who are working with disordered eating.

Our disordered eating behaviors have become normal in our culture.

It's normal to talk about your diet, weight loss, and extreme exercise regime nowadays.

Or if it isn't a diet, maybe you talking about food in terms of health or morality - sharing your newest dietary restrictions like gluten, dairy, or sugar-free.

Many clients tell me they are known as the health nut, the exercise fanatic, or the diet queen by their friends or coworkers. They eat healthy or exercise in front of others, yet mentally, they are obsessed with food and secretly binge.

It's perfectly fine to enjoy eating nutritious foods for taste and how they make your body feel. Yet, healthy eating is often taken too far and becomes an obsession.

Here are red flags to raise that your eating thoughts and behaviors may be more disordered than normal:

  • You think about food most - or all - of your day. You're planning your next meal, or thinking about what you ate already and what you can have next.
  • You weigh, measure, or track your food - through tracking macros, counting calories, or using points.
  • You're always going on a new diet - or detox, cleanse, or clean eating plan.
  • You think about food, or make food decisions, related to your weight or body shape/size. You choose what foods to eat - or not eat - based on how you believe it will impact your body.
  • You choose foods based on how "healthy" or "unhealthy" you believe they are.
  • You feel bad about yourself when you eat a "bad" or "unhealthy" food. You feel superior and good about yourself when you're following your diet, eating "clean," or the good/healthy foods.
  • You have "cheat" days.
  • You doubt your internal body cues for hunger or fullness. You question whether or not you're truly hungry, avoid letting yourself feel full, or ignore your body's cues.
  • You have an inner argument about food decisions. It's hard to let yourself what you really want to eat because part of you argues to eating the low-calorie or healthier food choice.
  • You weigh yourself or track your body fat consistently and it impacts how you feel about yourself - and how you feed yourself.
  • Food, exercise, and weight come up in conversation more often than not.
  • Eating is stressful.
  • Eating out causes anxiety.
  • You meal plan with the intention of creating the "perfect" diet.
  • You're spending all your money on supplements, superfoods, or health and nutrition books.
  • Health, weight loss, or dieting is your main hobby in your life.
  • You preach about eating clean or losing weight to your family, friends, or social media.

It's not uncommon to have someone's life revolve around eating, exercise, and health.

It may even seem like the healthiest or most responsible choice to make - after all, we hear from doctors and the news all the time to "eat less and move more."

While it's not unhealthy to set intentions to take care of your body through good nutrition and movement, the language around food and our bodies tend to exist in black and white terms.

The truth, as I see it, is:

  • Eating should be easy.
  • It should take up some of our time and energy.
  • We should be able to make nutritious food choices, along with enjoying our food.
  • Food choices do not determine your self-worth and how you feel about yourself.
  • The body can be trusted - its inner cues of hunger and fullness, along with food cravings.
  • There is no perfect way to eat or move your body. There is no one perfect body.
  • While you can feel free to take supplements and eat superfoods, you don't need to in order to be healthy. (*Note about supplements: I highly recommend working with a practitioner to determine any nutrient deficiencies or supplements that are appropriate for your body rather than taking random ones.)
  • Mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health.
  • All bodies deserve nourishment, respect, and love.

If you recognized a few of these disordered thoughts in yourself, check your intentions and beliefs around food and your body. My free 7-day Make Peace with Food email course can help you bring awareness to your food beliefs.

If you are concerned, or you're relating to most (or all) of these, I'd encourage you to reach out to a therapist and dietitian who specializes in disordered eating or eating disorders.

I help clients find freedom through releasing food rules, trusting their bodies, and making eating easy again. Feel free to check out how to work with me through an introductory session.

How to Avoid the Diet Mindset with Intuitive Eating

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Discovering the book Intuitive Eating was a huge step in my journey towards a normal relationship with food. I devoured it. It just made so much sense.

Why should we create rules around food or follow diets - when we can listen to our bodies?

As I worked my way through the book and practiced giving myself permission around all foods, I felt less guilty.

I love using Intuitive Eating as a tool for myself and with clients.

It can such a powerful switch in mindset to get out of the diet perspective.

Yet, it's not the "cure" for disordered eating.

When I see clients in my office for eating disorders or any disordered eating patterns, they're working with me for the food piece. They also have a therapist, a physician, and possibly other members of the team like groups or therapeutic yoga.

That's because while it's important to change your beliefs and actions around food, it's also so essential to look at the big picture. That's where you can start to explore why you are trying to control your food intake or your body, do body image work, and bring more awareness and acceptance to all parts of you - even the vulnerabilities and parts you may want to hide.

Avoid making intuitive eating (the anti-diet) yet another diet with these three mindsets. Click over to the post to learn about hunger, fullness, and why intuitive eating is a tool for a new relationship with food. You can also grab your free Make Peace with Food email course!

Surrender

A word I love to use with recovery is surrender to start letting go.

Most people start eating intuitively from a place of control. Of course, we do (I did too!) because we all came from a place of controlling our food on diets or putting rules around our food intake. You may have felt like you binge when you let go of that control, leading you to put even more rules around your food.

On a side note, life is uncomfortable and uncontrollable, so of course we like to try to control and avoid that discomfort. Practicing being okay with discomfort is such an important skill to learn (and re-learn)!

With time, this surrender is possible to let go of the diet mindset, so you're just normally eating intuitively. That is, using your intuition to guide you around food. No one can tell you how to do this, except you.

As you're starting intuitive eating, it's okay if you feel like you're trying to control things. Just be aware of these rules, and you may find yourself letting go of them with time.

Here's what I want everyone to be aware of, so you don't turn intuitive eating into another controlling diet.

1. It's okay to eat when you're NOT hungry.

It's okay to eat at anytime you want. You're always allowed to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. If you just had lunch and you're full, but you still want a cookie because it's delicious, eat it! If you don't want it, then don't. It's your choice.

It's normal to eat when you're not hungry, and everyone does it. At Thanksgiving, I eat dessert, even if I'm stuffed. If I know I have several clients in the row and won't have time to eat, I'll have a snack beforehand, even if I'm not hungry then. I know my body will feel starving if I don't, so I feed it proactively.

Speaking of hunger, this is also really important if you've been on diets or struggling with disordered eating patterns because you may not have regular hunger signals. If this is the case, you won't be able to fully trust your hunger cues because they will be irregular. They may only show up when you're starving, which is a sign of more extreme hunger, compared to feeling moderately hungry.

The more you eat regular meals with enough food, your hunger signals will return. There may be a period where you feel like your hunger is insatiable, and you may feel starving an hour after you eat. That's okay - you're allowed to eat anyways.

2. It's okay to feel full.

You don't have to obsessively check in with your body after every bite if you're full yet. Fullness is more a feeling of not being that interested in food anymore. When your body has gotten the food it needs, your brain loses its interest in food.

Sometimes, I finish my whole meal, and I'm done. Sometimes, I want more, so I have more. Sometimes, I don't eat it all because I'm done.

It's not a calculation about finding the perfect level of fullness because that doesn't exist. The amount of food my body wants varies every meal, depending on so many factors like my activity level, where I am in my menstrual cycle (I know I'm way hungrier the week before my period, so I naturally eat more), and how long it's been since my last meal.

It's okay to feel the sensations of fullness in your body. It only indicates you fed your body. It doesn't you overate or did something wrong.

It's also okay to keep eating if you're full. Most of us eat large meals at Thanksgiving and feel stuffed afterwards.

In this case, I would just check in with your intentions and awareness. Are you eating because you want it? Maybe the food just tastes really good, and you want to enjoy it fully. Great, savor that meal!

It's great to be aware if you're eating for other reasons too. Are you eating as a way to numb out from feeling other things? You may know that if you eat to the point of 'stuffed,' you can focus on how your body feels rather than worrying about your anxiety about another issue. Check in with yourself about what's going on, and you can choose to keep eating (that's okay too), or to explore other ways that may address the underlying cause of the eating.

3. Intuitive eating isn't a weight loss tool.

Oh, yes, the weight loss goal.

I hear this all the time - "I tried intuitive eating but must have been overeating because I gained weight," "Will I lose weight if I intuitively eat?," or "I failed at intuitive eating because I gained weight/didn't lose weight."

Intuitive eating isn't about weight loss.

It's about reconnecting with your body to allow yourself to listen to your body's signals, make peace with food, and respect your body.

It ties in well with health at every size because you can focus on your overall health, which may include food, movement, along with your mental, emotional, and spiritual health too.

Intuitive eating takes weight out of the picture by allowing your body to find its natural size or shape. This is a place where you can settle without having to control or obsess over food, and you can eat normally. Some people may lose weight, others will gain weight, and some will stay the same.

Intuitive eating is about respecting your body, its natural size, and knowing that all bodies deserve enough energy and good nutrition. This is where gentle nutrition can come in because nutrition can play a role in your food choices. You can choose to eat veggies or cook more whole foods at home because you want to take care of your body.

This is where body image work can come in too. Practicing body acceptance and exploring body positivity can be wonderful tools along with intuitive eating.

Avoid making intuitive eating (the anti-diet) yet another diet with these three mindsets. Click over to the post to learn about hunger, fullness, and why intuitive eating is a tool for a new relationship with food. You can also grab your free Make Peace with Food email course!

Surrendering + Trusting your Body

Using the idea of surrender also applies to your body. While you may feel like you have control over your body, your body is eventually going to get its needs met.

When you restrict yourself, you may end up binging, so your body gets enough energy. While you may be able to keep your weight low by keeping a carefully controlled diet, your health may suffer with side effects like losing your period or hormonal imbalance, digestive issues, feeling cold all the time, or just cranky and obsessively thinking about food.

Surrendering control around your weight allows you the freedom to let your body find its natural setpoint range. It allows you the freedom to discover normal eating where you don't have to stress about everything you eat, or worry about how it's going to affect your body.

This Gives you Freedom.

It also gives you the freedom to live your life without stressing about food or your weight.

You can have the energy and space to discover how you want to spend your time and who you want to hang out with.

You can also do all the things you are putting off because of your diet or your weight - like go on dates, go to new restaurants, go out dancing, or whatever it may be.

I wish all of you this freedom.

Give yourself the chance to fully explore it by breaking down all the rules around food and not turning intuitive eating into yet another diet.

Surrender to your body. It knows what to do. It wants to take care of you.

“Something amazing happens when we surrender and just love. We melt into another world, a realm of power already within us. The world changes when we change. the world softens when we soften. The world loves us when we choose to love the world.” - Marianne Williamson

Make Peace with Food: Free Email Course

If you want to explore how to make peace with food with my best coaching tips and tools, grab your free 7-day Make Peace with Food email course! It will help you start to break down these rules and find this freedom.

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