How to avoid going overboard with food this holidays… Hint – don’t restrict!

As a dietitian, at this time of year, a common question from clients is how to go about managing the extra food around the Christmas/New Year period.

With Christmas, New Year and summer holidays fast approaching, many of us find ourselves at more social gatherings with an abundance of food and alcohol. You might also find yourself doing more cooking or baking. While this shouldn’t be a problem in terms of nutrition, health or eating intuitively, diet culture makes it seem like a problem.

What do I mean by diet culture? Diet culture is the idea that certain foods are bad for you or fattening, that to keep your weight in check (or to lose weight) you must eat less, or at least not too much. The thought that if you do “indulge”, you need to restrict or be careful the next day or do more exercise, is also part of diet culture.

The problem with this type of thinking is that it pretty much always leads to over-eating the very food you think you shouldn’t be having too much off. You restrict until you’re faced with the food, at a party, at a friends house, at the office and you find yourself thinking “stuff it, one won’t hurt…”. Because you’ve been restricting the food, the food not only looks more appealing, but the pleasure centre in your brain goes nuts over the taste and you find yourself wanting to keep eating. This is part of the “I’ll get it while I can” or “last supper” effect, where you think you may as well eat as much as you can now and then you’ll “be good” tomorrow. Sound familiar?

For many people, this drive to keep eating reaffirms the belief you can’t be trusted around certain food, or that you are “addicted” to sugar*. However, it may actually be the restriction that it the issue, from a physiological and psychological standpoint.

If you’re someone who tends to restrict how much you eat after you’ve eaten too much, there’s a very good chance you’re messing with your appetite regulation. Not eating enough during the day and then getting to the point of being too hungry is a sure way to increase your risk of over-eating at some point, usually in the afternoon or evening. If the food available happens to be food you’re trying hard to limit, you’ll most likely find it next to impossible to not overeat that food. When you do overeat, you then feel terrible about yourself, that you’ve “failed” or been “bad” – this is part of the psychological trauma of diet culture.

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What if there were no restrictions on any food? No diet culture telling you sugar is evil or that you shouldn’t eat that if you want to lose weight? What if at the time of eating you could calmly assess your appetite and desire for the food and then enjoy eating the food to the point of satisfaction? This is what intuitive eating is all about.

Eating to satisfaction involves the pleasure of the food itself and feeling comfortable in your body afterwards. Your decision about how much to eat is influenced by having acknowledged satisfaction and not wanting to feel uncomfortably full or sickly. When you know you can enjoy the food in question whenever you feel like it, having less in the moment is an easier thing to do. 

This may sound like an impossibility to some of you, but what is required is letting go of, or loosening your grip on, food restriction and on diet culture. If you’re not dieting or restricting food, you’re less likely end up over-hungry and vulnerable to over-eating and while the pleasure centre in your brain will still be activated by food (as it’s designed to), it won’t go as nuts. This, combined with attunement to satisfaction and the knowledge you can have more of the yummy food later, is what will allow you to feel calm around food during periods such as Christmas.

Another aspect that must be acknowledged in all of this, is how you feel about your body. Diet culture thrives on you feeling bad about your body and ultimately how you feel about your body underpins the need you feel to diet or restrict food. You can’t effectively address your problems with food until you start addressing how you feel about your body. For most people, the body stuff is toughest work and you may need help from a skilled non-diet dietitian or therapist who works within the Health At Every Size paradigm. Let us know if you need help finding one.

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We need to stop focusing so much on nutrition when it comes to food.

Food is meant to nourish both our body and our soul.

It is a source of love, joy and pleasure.

It is a key source of human connection – the most valuable ingredient to true wellbeing or “wellness” – and a healthy relationship with food is necessary to provide this.

Thinking too much about food in terms of nutrients, calories or basing choices on how the food may or may not effect your weight, can really interfere with your relationship with food.

Yes nutrition is important, but its importance is being overplayed and for many, it’s sucking the joy and pleasure out of eating and turning eating well into a chore, something you “should” or “have to” do. When you don’t enjoy something, you’re much less likely to keep it up and you’re much more likely to abandon the task and just do the thing – or eat the food – that’s more enjoyable. Usually this food is the food our culture deems as “less healthy” – you know, the food with extra cheese, that’s deep fried, has a creamy sauce or a side of ice-cream. It’s not that these foods are unhealthy, they’re not, but if always choosing such foods limits variety, there is chance nutrition may be compromised.

One might argue we all have to do things we don’t enjoy, such as housecleaning, but we still do it – or at least somebody does. However, the difference here is you can choose to not clean or have someone else do the job . You can’t choose to not eat or have someone else eat for you. Everyday we need to make hundreds of decisions around food and if that decision making feels like a chore or has no joy, at some point you’re going to find yourself thinking “stuff it, I’m just gonna have…”. This can often lead to getting mad at yourself for eating something you thought you shouldn’t, only spiralling you into further shame and misery around managing your eating and/or health.

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So rather than making food choices purely on their nutritional value or “goodness”, what if we considered these questions…?

  • What am I hungry for?
  • What do I feel like eating?
  • How is the food going to taste?
  • Will it leave me feeling satisfied?
  • Will it leave me feeling energised?

These are the type of questions we explore with the intuitive eating process. There will be people reading this who will struggle to answer these questions, and that’s ok, it takes time and practise to learn to trust your body with what you’re hungry for and what food truly satisfies you and leaves you feeling energised. If this is you, or if you are struggling with, or have had, an eating disorder, I encourage you to seek help from a non-diet dietitian. Ensure they are aligned with the HAES paradigm.

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Want to learn how to nourish your body without having to restrict food? Learn about intuitive eating with our ebook Nourish.

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Intuitive eating is not a state of perfection

Intuitive eating is not a state of perfection where everything you do around food is as it “should” be.

If you have a few days where you don’t eat much fresh fruit or veg or fruit, this doesn’t mean you’re failing at eating intuitively, it just means you didn’t eat much fruit or veg.

Likewise, if you happen to eat lots of fresh fruit and veggies the past few days this doesn’t mean you’ve perfected eating intuitively, you just ate more fruit and veg.

If you find yourself over-eating at a meal this doesn’t mean you’re not listening to your appetite cues, quite the contrary as you’re aware of your fullness. This also doesn’t mean you’re failing at intuitive eating, it just means you ate past comfortable fullness.

Recognising you’re full and stopping doesn’t mean you’re being good, it just means you wanted to stop eating.

Suddenly finding yourself starving to realise you missed a meal doesn’t mean you’ve stuffed up with eating intuitively – you simply had other things on your mind, or more pressing issues and you didn’t get a chance to eat.

None of the above examples are right or wrong or good or bad, they are just examples of how our eating can vary depending on your current situation, environment, weather, mood etc.

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You can be an intuitive eater and experience all of these scenarios. In fact intuitive eating is a very fluid state, it can change day to day or it can look very similar, often it sits somewhere in between.

The difference between the intuitive eating mentality and the diet mentality is the intuitive eater doesn’t judge the eating experience as good or bad, or right or wrong. Without the judgement, shame doesn’t arise which makes it easier to stay attuned and trust your body around food.

Judgement creates shame and shame can disconnect you from listening to, and trusting, your body with food. When this happens, eating intuitively can feel impossible. If you’re struggling with self judgement and shame (feeling bad), please look for a non-diet approach dietitian who identifies as a HAES (Health At Every Size) practitioner.

dietitian melbourne

 

 

 

Want to learn how to nourish your body without having to restrict food? Learn about intuitive eating with our ebook Nourish.

Click the banner to grab your copy today for $9.95

 

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When the people close to you think this intuitive eating thing, or your dietitian, is just bananas!

Making the decision to stop dieting and stop pursuing weight loss is tough. It’s tough for many reasons including, but not limited too:

  • We are constantly being told this is what we should be doing to look better and feel better
  • It’s (almost) impossible to get through the day without seeing an ad, post, article, blog that mentions some dietary fix or cleanse or some kind of body transformation
  • Many of your friends and work colleagues are talking about it
  • If you have a health issue, the advice is often lose weight, even though there’s no evidence losing weight improves any health condition long term
  • People in fatter bodies are hardly ever represented as happy, healthy, successful or even normal, or even just represented!
  • Our culture’s extreme weight stigma and fat shaming
  • We are all conditioned to believe and feel that being thinner is better

Non-Diet Approach dietitians

I was compelled to write this after one of my clients mentioned yesterday how his partner just doesn’t get the non-diet process and how their comments around food make things that much tougher.

We talked about how it’s completely understandable that his partner doesn’t understand the process. After all, the common wisdom in our culture is change your diet and you’ll lose weight and if you’re paying a dietitian, then that’s what should be happening. Or that if you’re seeing a dietitian, or doing something to improve your health, you’ll eat a certain way. Therefore, the idea that you could choose to eat perceived “unhealthy” food and still be looking after your health, or doing the “right thing”, would seem completely absurd. 

So while my client has actually seen some significant progress in terms of his relationship with food, the ability to practise self compassion, finding new pleasure with cooking and discovering he’s not actually “addicted” to fast food; the partner voiced concern when my client bought some chips at the supermarket. As the chips were being scanned, the partner asked “so how are things going with the dietitian?”

Not for a second am I suggesting the partner was meaning harm by this, but the truth is that such a comment is harmful. My client felt a sense of shame and disappointment that his partner seemed more interested in how things were going with the dietitian, or that they weren’t producing the “results”, than how things going with him.

This reminded me of a something I heard on a podcast recently and that’s how small our conversations become when the focus is on food choices and numbers, be that calories or the scales. How much richer would our conversations be if we talked about how we can change our brains to change our thinking and how we relate to things, the power of self compassion and what it truly means to self-care? Woven into this conversation could be how taking pleasure from food enhances our quality of life.

An important step to navigating comments from others is to pause and and remember they simply don’t understand (yet) what they are saying. They are simply saying, or doing, all the things that our culture has conditioned them to say and do. I used to be that person too. I used to judge others for their food choices and make what I thought were helpful comments around food choices and weight. Being compassionate toward the person who is not understanding, or any judgement, can help you to not get as caught up in the dialogue.

dietitian melbourne

 

 

 

Want to learn how to nourish your body without having to restrict food? Learn about intuitive eating with our ebook Nourish.

Click the banner to grab your copy today for $9.95

 

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The 30 day Health Challenge where you get to eat all the food you love!

Health challenges don’t need to involve cutting food from your diet.

In fact, there are many different ways we can take care of our health. This challenge (although it doesn’t need to be a challenge as such), is wholistic in the way it encompasses aspects of physical, mental and emotional health.

 

Here are a bunch of things you can focus on that will boost your physical and mental health over the next 30 days.

Please note: you don’t have to do all of these things in order to care for your health and the ability to do most of these requires a level of privilege where we have a choice, access, freedom and financial capacity.

  • Practice listening to your appetite and aim to eat when you notice physical hunger*
  • Whatever you do choose to eat, practise eating with some mindful awareness of how the food looks, smells, tastes and feels in your body.
  • As often as possible, eat food you enjoy the taste of and that leaves you feeling satisfied.
  • Aim to include some fruit and vegetables in your diet each day
  • Sometimes eat food just because it tastes good without worrying about the nutritional value
  • Cook or prepare more of your own food from scratch
  • Enjoy meals with family or friends a few times per week
  • Eat regular meals or try not to go more than 5 waking hours without eating
  • Aim to get enough sleep most nights
  • Find something you can do daily that involves moving your body in ways you enjoy
  • Do something each day that makes you smile or laugh
  • Offer kindness to a stranger
  • Find at least one thing each day to be grateful for

After all, health is so much more complex than what we eat or our nutrition. Unfortunately, many people sacrifice their mental and emotional health in  the pursuit of physical health. Physical health means little without mental or emotional health.

*If you struggle with this, that’s ok and fairly normal if you’re been dieting, have (or had) and eating disorder, or just aren’t used to listening to your hunger and fullness cues. Learn more about this here.

Excuse the click baity title…

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Want to learn how to nourish your body without having to restrict food? Learn about intuitive eating with our ebook Nourish.

Click the banner to grab your copy today for $9.95

 

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We need to stop confusing eating well and being active as a weight loss tool, because weight loss tools don’t work.

When it comes to health, we need to stop talking about weight loss and instead talk about health behaviours.

Being active and eating well are just two of many factors that influence health.

I am writing this after reading this quote in an article…

“Of course there are risks associated with weight loss but there are massive risks associated with not being physically active and healthy eating.”

It’s not difficult to construe this message as being active and eating well equates to weight loss. Even if you argue that’s not at all what is implied, if eating well and being active are part of what improves health, why do we even need to mention weight loss?

While the article makes it clear that diets for weight loss do not work long-term for most people, it does mention that there are some “success” stories of longterm weight loss – wait for it, drum roll – 10,000 Americans have successfully keep weight off (at least 14kg) for more than 5 years. 10,000 Americans is 0.00003% of the population!! Of course not every one is trying to lose weight, but even if we just counted the estimated 25-50% of Americans who are dieting at any one time, this is still only 0.0001% of the population. The fact that American stats are being quoted in an Australian article is that there is no record of longterm successful weight loss in this country.

The article also reports that “even a long-term weight loss of five per cent had health benefits”, while this may be true, in my almost 14 years of practice, I have not met anyone with a high body weight who is happy to just lose 5% of their weight. I’m pretty confident that the overwhelming majority of dietitians, doctors or other health professionals would attest to this.

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Of course there are many reasons why most people would not settle for a 5% weight loss, including (but not exhaustive);

  • Continued use of the (unhelpful) BMI scale
  • The media constantly pushing the “obesity = death” message; losing 5% of body weight is not going change most people’s BMI category.
  • New diets appearing all the time that promise they hold the key to weight loss
  • The multi billion dollar diet industry selling the weight loss dream
  • The media publicising the latest weight loss research and diets that go along with the new research, often from doctors or well known health experts.
  • The incessant advertising of weight loss programs and products on TV
  • The multi billion dollar pharmaceutical industry and its proliferation of weight loss surgery and drugs that promise (but often don’t deliver) signifiant weight loss.
  • A culture that equates thinness with worthiness, happiness, attractiveness, success and health.

As long as we talk about weight loss along side eating and activity behaviours, we continue to support the idea that changing these behaviours is about weight loss when it should be about health.

The non-diet approach is a paradigm that enables people to pursue health through changing behaviours without focusing on weight loss. The approach is not anti-weight loss, just anti the pursuit of weight loss through dieting; some people may lose weight as a side-effect, but some people may not. The non-diet approach is part of the Health At Every Size paradigm.

dietitian melbourne

 

 

 

Want to learn how to nourish your body without having to restrict food? Learn about intuitive eating with our ebook Nourish.

Click the banner to grab your copy today for $9.95

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