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?

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.

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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.

January Love: Make Peace with Food & Yoga Therapy

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Happy Reading! 

Here's some of my favorites lately - books, posts, and my free email course.

Two exciting updates first:

  • I have a brand new free 7-day email course called: Make Peace with FoodI'm really excited (and proud) about it. Learn about and sign up here. Make Peace with Food (1)
  • If you're in Vermont, I'm running two yoga workshops with my friend Caitlin at Sangha Studio in Burlington: February 7th 10:30 am to 12:30 pm and February 11th 6:30-8:30 to learn about your chakras through movement, meditation, and journaling! (The info should be on the website soon)

On my Nightstand:

  • Rising Strong by Brene Brown - When you practice the courage to live a wholehearted life, you may fall. Here's Brene's research, stories, and wisdom on how to get back up.
  • Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith - Always learning the lesson that the body holds so much wisdom, and the body has a huge capability for healing.
  • Color me Calm coloring book! I've always loved coloring. As a camp counselor in college, I would color along with the kids during rest hour (or nap!).

Posts I'm Loving:

Things I'm Digging

Jan favorites

  • Snowboarding. While the snow has been disappointing this year here - everyone south of us (without mountains!) got all the snow, I was still able to get in a beautiful, clear day.
  • Yoga Therapy: I did a yoga therapy session focused on expanding my breath in my body to relax my nervous system and contain my energy, so I have the space to work with others in a heart-centered way without completely draining my emotional energy. I'm amazed about how much more I learned about my body in that hour! So powerful.
  • FRIENDS on Netflix: Still watching it...years later. So funny!

My Writing this month:

What have you been reading this month? Share below!

30+ Ways to Nourish Yourself: Body, Mind, Heart

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One of my favorite words is Nourish.

You can see it on my page as my tagline - "Nourish. Savor. Love." and my clients know I use that words all the time!

It's a word that sparks an emotional reaction. It's not simply the act of eating; for me, I imagine nourishing as an act of self-care, by intentionally eating foods that will help my body and whole being thrive.

The definition of "Nourish" is twofold:

  • to sustain with food; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth
  • to cherish; keep alive; to strengthen or promote

It's both taking into account how we feed ourselves - for life, health, and growth. Those are powerful words, and notice, it's not about weight loss at all. It's about choosing food to keep all our cells alive, healthy, and growing. Food is more than calories and grams of fat. Eating nourishing foods is a way to energize our bodies, so we can go out and LIVE. I choose to eat nutritious foods because staying healthy allows me to be present in my life, do work I love, and go on adventures.

The word is also metaphorical with a meaning beyond food. We can nourish our bodies, minds, and hearts by keeping alive healthy mindsets, practicing self-care, or strengthening our connection to our hearts. That's why I also talk about nourishing routines through practices of yoga (especially restorative yoga), meditation, sleep (!!!), cuddles, journaling, creativity, and play.

I chat with my coaching clients about nourishing on three different levels - body, mind, and heart.

30+ Ways to Nourish Yourself: Body, Mind, & Heart

Too often, nourishment and health is stuck at the level of the physical body with food, movement, or sleep.

Yet, we need to dive deeper into our beliefs, thoughts, and our whole being. Then, we can look at our hearts, our emotions, fears and desires, to make space for a heart-centered life.

We need nourishment on all three levels to take care of ourselves. When we solely focus on taking care of the physical body, we may obsess over food and exercise and our body image or mindsets may suffer.

Explore and try out different ways to figure out which ones seem the most nourishing to you - everyone is different. Know that these are only tools to help you find a sense of self-nourishment, but you certainly don't have to do any or all of them to feel a sense of nourishment.

Explore what ways of nourishment allow more space for freedom in your life. I decided not to separate them out because they are all so intertwined - for example, yoga is nourishing for my body, mind, and heart.

Nourish Yourself

  1. Take time to cook meals at home. Throw some fun music on, and dance around in the kitchen as you cook.
  2. Eat one meal a day away from your phone or computer. Eat mindfully, and savor your meal.
  3. Try out a new recipe (or food) or two each week. Maybe, you want to get out of a food rut, or you want to challenge yourself by giving yourself permission to eat the foods you want (without worrying about calories).
  4. Explore a farmer's market, or try a new fruit or veggie at the store.
  5. Get rid of your diet tools. Throw your scale away. Delete your calorie counting app. Donate your food scale.
  6. Give yourself a bedtime, and get enough sleep!
  7. Sleep in on the weekend, and eat breakfast in bed.
  8. Take a walk outside. Ditch the gym, and move your body in fresh air.
  9. Watch a sunset. 30+ Ways to Nourish Yourself: Body, Mind, Heart
  10. Move in a way that feels great - maybe that's yoga, dance, lifting weights, rock-climbing, or something new to you. Be honest with yourself about how you love to move your body, and know it may change on a daily or seasonally basis.
  11. Take a hot, cozy bath. Throw in some essential oils, maybe some bubbles, and some relaxing music.
  12. Take yourself to a vinyasa yoga class, and flow. Strengthen and stretch out your whole body.
  13. Meditate. It doesn't have to be intimidating - sit with yourself for 5-10 minutes, and breathe.
  14. Breathe deeply. Focus your attention to your breath - the connection between your mind and body.
  15. Journal. I always find journaling helpful as my self-therapy - a way to get the thoughts out of my mind and onto paper. 30+ Ways to Nourish Yourself: Body, Mind, Heart
  16. Talk it out. Grab a friend, or a trusted therapist, and talk it out. Others often are great at helping you identify your blindspots or patterns you're not aware of.
  17. Color! My favorite present last Christmas was a beautiful coloring book of mandalas, nature scenes, and more. It brings me into a meditative state, and it's so creative and playful to spend time just coloring.
  18. Find a restorative or yin yoga class. Move gently, and breathe.
  19. Do a walking meditation (again, not very complicated). Head outside, and walk in nature. Beaches or woods trails are great, but you can do it anywhere.
  20. Play music or sing. I remember getting into the "zone" when I was younger, playing piano for hours at a time. If making music isn't your thing, turn on your favorite music.
  21. Connect with others! Have a deep, soulful conversation with a friend or family member.
  22. Give yourself a day-long or weekend-long solo retreat. Stay at home (alone, if possible), or retreat to somewhere. Allow yourself to take care of yourself in the ways that feel best to you - sleeping in, taking long baths, exploring nature, or journaling. Listen to what your intuition guides you to do - not what you think you "should" be doing.
  23. Drink tea. So nourishing! 30+ Ways to Nourish Yourself: Body, Mind, Heart
  24. Create a mindful morning routine - free of email and social media!
  25. Adorn your home with your favorite things - maybe candles, crystals, essential oils, flowers.
  26. Read. Read books that truly interest you, challenge your beliefs, and take time to read fiction books too.
  27. Travel. I've found that getting out of my comfort zone and daily routines at home and exploring new places and meeting new people gets me into the present moment like nothing else. It could be an adventure 30 minutes from your home - or on the other side of the world.
  28. Hugs & cuddles - from people or pets. The best.
  29. Volunteer. Connection and service nourishes others - and yourself.
  30. Learn something new without the pressure of being "good" at it. Take guitar lessons. Pick up a paintbrush. Start a blog and write.
  31. Listen to yourself. Practice the art of listening to others - without needing to jump in with advice or your own story. Just listen.
  32. Set boundaries with your time, relationships, or work to protect your vital energy.
  33. Love.

This list offers so many different ideas, but it's only a small scattering of the infinite ways to nourish yourself. When you recognize what is nourishing to you, you can create more space in your life to engage in these ways - or simply leave the space to nourish you.

The key is tuning into your inner Self to listen to what is nourishing for you - the answers are always within you.

Weekly Intentions: Simplify

With less than a week to go (!!!) before I leave for my yoga teacher training, I've been keeping this intention in my mind to simplify. I've intentionally left space in my schedule to finish some to-dos and take time to pack light, so I don't go into my training feeling overworked and with an overly cluttered mind.

I love setting personal intentions for myself during my week or during my yoga practice. Here's the process I use for setting intentions (and why I choose intentions over New Year's resolutions).

-When you start to trust your body, you (10)

I have a history of overpacking. It always starts out with a grandiose plan to keep it simple and pack only what I need. Sometimes, I manage to pack light...only to throw in 10 more things at the last minute. It's a fear of missing out (FOMO) or contemplating the "what ifs?" What if I need an extra outfit or those other pair of shoes?

I've certainly gotten better at packing lighter when I travel, but I always end up wearing the same few (often simple) outfits. There's always clothes in my bag that I didn't wear at all when I get home.

It's the same with my closet - I'll end up holding onto something because "what if" I need to wear it once to a party in three years.

A few months ago, I read the oh-so-popular book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo and finished it in a day (I was hooked). It's a short book all about simplifying your closet and house based on the intention of joy.

It makes sense - I know that when my house is messy and cluttered, my mind feels cluttered. When it's cleaner and filled with things I love, my mind does feel clearer. I want to fill my closet and house with things I enjoy - and actually use - rather than keeping things in boxes or for special occasions only.

I went through this process and found it incredible - I'm not a huge shopper or that cluttered, but I still had SO many clothes that I never wear but kept for some reason. Going through a lot of my other things, I easily created several bags of things that I donated or sold. I have become more intentional about what I do buy and bring into my space again.

While I can't say my house is completely tidy and clean all the time (life is messy after all), I do feel like it's easier and more enjoyable to make simple decisions about what I want to wear in the morning. My closet is filled with clothes I really like to wear.

With health, I often end up going back to the foundations.

Simplicity in health should never be underestimated.

The diet industry and social media often promotes a form of health that is complicated and complex - superfoods and supplements and fancy exercise equipment are marketed as must-haves. Yet, I often feel the best when I go back to the basics - eating mostly whole foods, heading outside to walk or hike to move, and getting good quality sleep. It's simple, but it makes me feel amazing.

There's nothing wrong with going above the basics. After all, I do keep cacao nibs and chia seeds in my pantry (marketed "super foods"), and I have yoga equipment beyond a mat. I enjoy using these things, but I know I don't NEED them to support my health. They certainly won't give me a bonus towards "perfect" health.

It's always a reminder that I need because of course, it's easy to fall prey to the marketing messages. On days that I am feeling self-doubt or insecure, I may feel like those new clothes or an acai bowl will make me feel amazing again.

Yet, it's going back to simplicity in life that matters. Often, these simple acts - a walk outside with my dog or drinking tea with a book - are the most healing forms of self-care.

Weekly Intentions: Simplify

If you want to use these weekly intentions with me, you could explore SIMPLIFYING in a few different ways:

  • Journal about simplifying. Ask yourself what feels "cluttered" in your life - your house, health, relationships, work. Think about what are the basic things you need in your life to thrive - for me, some of them would be movement, nature, and good food.
  • Head to your closet. For me, I found simplifying my closet is the best place for me to start. Start with your shirts, and ask yourself "does this bring me joy?" for each item. Afterwards, you could host a clothing exchange or donate your clothes.
  • Turn off social media for a weekend (or full week!). Turn off the marketing messages for a week to see how you feel. When you turn off social media, you suddenly have space in your life. You'll finally have time to do the things you put off - like getting outside for walks, cooking, or reading.
  • Cook simple meals. Quite often, my meals aren't fancy Instagram-styled food. What I eat a lot of the time is pretty simple - salads, soups, bowls with random ingredients, curries. Occasionally, I do follow recipes to create other meals, but I am quite satisfied with a variety of simple meals.

I'd love to hear from you now in the comments:

  • How are you going to use the intention of SIMPLIFYING in your life this week?

How to Make Peace with Food (to eat what you want)

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In the world of diets and cheat days, I'm here to tell you there's no "good" or "bad" foods. 

When we apply this black and white thinking to food, we can easily infuse a lot of guilt and shame into our eating. We create this pendulum swing back and forth between restriction and binging.

Say, you decide to quit sugar because everyone on Instagram is doing it, yet you've always had a sweet tooth. You go for it and are feeling great for a week or two and are praising this lifestyle or proclaiming the evils of sugar. Yet, a week later, you go to a birthday party and turn down your favorite cupcakes. After that, all you can think about is the cupcakes and how good they are while also feeling conflicted and worried about what "could" happen if you eat it. A few days later, you go out and binge on cupcakes, feel terrible physically and mentally, then decide to get back on the "quitting sugar" bandwagon the next morning.

It's the swing back and forth between physically restricting, then binging. 

When you quit these foods, it's easy to think that you will lose weight, improve your health, or even feel like you're making the better choice.

Yet, what really happens is feeling deprived when you're not eating it, then feeling guilty or worried when you do it.

Maybe you're not physically restricting or binging on foods, yet you're still beating yourself up about eating certain foods. You may be restricting yourself mentally, and that can feel just as terrible in your mind.

Yet, there is a balanced point in between.

When you're not on the cycle back and forth between restriction and binging, there's nothing to fight against. It's no longer a war. There's no plan or diet to "cheat" on.

Food is not the enemy. You don't have to cheat, feel guilty, or deprive yourself of anything. You can enjoy food to nourish your mind and body.

How to Make Peace with Food (to eat what you want)

How to Make Peace with Food

  1. Be aware of your own patterns. Notice what rules you create around food in your mind - do you restrict certain foods or food groups out of fear of weight gain or other reasons? Recognize what happens when you deprive yourself - how does it feel physically, mentally, emotionally? Are you more likely to binge on it down the road? How do you feel when you eat that food?
  2. Remind yourself that food isn't "good" or "bad." All foods have a purpose. At its core, food is fuel for the body - both ice cream, kale, and oreos have calories and can provide energy for the body. While some foods are going to have more of a nutritional purpose, others will have allow you to enjoy delicious flavors or purely for comfort. Find a balance between all of these - eat whole foods that taste good and nourish your body while also savoring and enjoying foods that may be purely for taste.
  3. Eat what you want. In Intuitive Eating, this is related to the principle of "Make Peace with Food." It's all about giving yourself unconditional permission to eat what you want - yes, anything you want. Start to break those food rules you have to work through your fears associated with the foods. You may be worried that you'll feel out of control if you let yourself have whatever. Honestly, at first, you may eat a LOT of the food you're restricting, but trust that over time, it will balance out. You can remind yourself that you can have the food anytime you like, then eat it mindfully to notice what you like or don't like about the food.

This works. It's worked for me personally and professionally with clients.

(Of course, this won't work if you have true food allergies.)

How to Make Peace with Food (to eat what you want)

How does this work?

  • You're no longer in a guilt cycle with food. Often with these "bad" foods, many people start eating them and binge on them mindlessly because they realize "I'm so 'bad' for eating this. I better eat it fast and hide the evidence, so I can be 'good' again tomorrow." When you're eating in this style, you don't even taste or enjoy it - the whole eating experience is filled with guilt. Instead, give yourself permission to eat whatever you want - you can eat, enjoy your food, and move on without guilt.
  • You're giving yourself permission. You don't anything to rebel against because there are no deprivations. Often, the cravings reduce over time because you truly realize you can have that food anytime you want.
  • You can listen to how food FEELS in your body. You may notice what foods energize or deplete your body, or how it feels to only eat chips and guacamole compared to having a varied, balanced meal. When you're no longer consumed by guilt or weight-worried food thoughts, you can actually listen to your own body. Personally, this helped me choose a balanced, nutritious diet more naturally because it feels good in my body, and I truly want to take care of my body. I know that having a lot of sugar depletes my body and eating a variety of whole foods feels really good, so that's how I eat most of the time. Of course, the balance isn't always there, but I never feel guilty about it.
  • You can start to distinguish between your physical and emotional hunger. 
  • You have more energy and mental space to live your life. When you're no longer trapped in a mental cycle of worrying about what or when you can eat or googling what foods to avoid next, you can eat to nourish yourself and savor food, then move on. Food and nutrition are amazing, but there's more to life than food. Explore different hobbies or activities, spend time with people you love, and get out to live your life!

For me, this is how I truly live my life, and I want others to find unconditional permission with food as well.

Remember:

  • You're allowed to eat whatever you want.
  • You're allowed to enjoy food.
  • You're not "good" if you eat certain foods and you're not "bad" if you eat other foods.
  • You can trust and listen to your body.
  • You deserve to eat.

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Creativity, Yoga, & Weight Loss Goals: October Favorites

October has been a really wonderful month! It's always one of my favorites - my birthday, fall and the foliage, seasonal apples, and the new energy around change and letting go. I've been slowing down more and taking time to rest and restore my body with more sleep and restorative yoga. It's been a grounding practice during a time of year that I tend to feel anxious or overwhelmed. I've also felt myself enjoying fall more often rather than grieving the end of summer.

That also could be the fact that next month I'll be heading to Costa Rica (& HOT weather!) for my 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training! I'm really excited, as this is something I've wanted to do for a while, yet it also terrifies me to think about actually teaching the practice that has been so transformational to me. That's a signal to me to work with the fear and transform it. I'll be blogging less, but you can find me on Instagram. It will also be really nice to take a break from being on social media, email, and screens all day.

I've also recently updated a few things on my site - mainly new pictures after having my mom do a fun photoshoot with me. You can check out some updates on my About Page, my new Food Philosophy page, Favorites & Resources, and you can find all my podcast (WholeYou) episodes here. If you're interested in coaching, I'm taking new clients to start in January, so feel free to reach out now to join the waiting list.

Lauren Fowler RDN

What I'm Writing...

Weekly Intentions: Breathe

What I'm Reading: Books...

  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert - I'm taking my time to read this because so many things are ringing true (and giving me a whole new perspective). Her first book - Eat Pray Love - was one of the first books in this realm that I read and still love.
  • The Book of SHE by Sara Avant Stover - I love Sara's perspective on the feminine and viewing our cycles as women as our power. By connecting with our cycles (and nature's cycles), we can support ourselves and listen to our intuition.

What I'm Reading: Articles...

  • That Time I ate Most of a Large Pizza in One Setting at Whole Health Source - This is a super scientific article but a really great explanation on our bodies satiety and energy homeostasis systems. It helps explain what happens in your body when you diet or restrict your food intake and why that may lead to a binge afterwards.
  • Exercise Anxiety at the Real Life RD - Yes, such an important topic! We're not only diet obsessed in our culture but also exercise obsessed. Robyn shares grounded and real advice on how to address this if you're struggling in ways of "needing" to exercise or feeling guilty if you miss a day or week.
  • Butter in your Coffee & Other Cons: Stories from a Fitness Insider - Wow, this was an awesome read. It shares stories about a rather popular online health brand. I highly recommend you reading this and being very cautious of the advice you read from online health blogs or professionals, especially if they are selling supplements on their site as well. While many bloggers have great intentions, they are not always experienced health professionals and may offer extreme advice (that can be harmful for people!).

What I'm Listening to...

What I'm Eating...

What are you reading or watching these days? Share below! I'd love to hear what books are on your fall reading list too.