The power of making peace with your body.

Learning how to be at peace with the body you already have, is much more powerful than trying to change your body to fit with the current Western cultural perception of the “ideal” body.

If you know you could improve how you nourish your body and you want to change how you eat, then you will benefit from learning how to connect with your appetite, the pleasure of eating and how different types of food make you feel. You may well discover you can enjoy all food and nourish your body well.

If you know you could be fitter, then it is worth exploring ways to become more active in a way that you really enjoy. When you approach being active as a means to feel good mentally and physically, not to burn calories or lose weight, you may find you really want to be active.

If at your current size and shape, you have health issues, the above two suggestions are going to help you care for your body in order to better manage those health issues. 

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Unfortunately, the common advice with managing many health issues, is to lose weight. In order to do this, most people will start dieting, even if they don’t call it that, but if you start restricting food, or being careful with calories, you are dieting. While dieting often produces weight loss and makes people think you’re taking care of your health, chances are this will only be short term and you’ll regain the weight within 1-5 years. You may also end up with a damaged relationship with food and your body, if you didn’t already have one. 

Another factor often not considered is, is it the weight loss that brought about the health improvements, or is it the fact you paid attention to your eating and started moving more? I guarantee you it’s the latter. I know this because research shows us that people’s health improves with changes to diet and exercise independent of weight loss.

What does all this mean? You don’t need to focus on weight loss or changing your body’s external appearance to improve your health. 

If you pay attention to your eating, I advocate intuitive eating, and you find ways to move your body that you enjoy and that make you feel good, you will be on the path to being a healthier, and possibly happier, human regardless of how much you weigh. However, letting go of dieting and learning to eat intuitively, and uncoupling exercise from weight loss or burning calories, is much more difficult when you are deeply unhappy with how your body looks. Therefore, the power that lies within making peace with your current body, is the capacity it gives you to care for your health through intuitive eating and to find the joy in being physically active.

Learning to be at peace with your body can be challenging and if you struggle with your body image, you may need help from a practitioner skilled in the area of body image. Jodie and I will be discussing all of this and more at our next two Moderation Movement events – tickets on sale now for Gold Coast and Melbourne.

Thanks for reading.

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Christmas: a time to fully experience the joy of food and pleasure of eating!

Intuitive eaters don’t need food rules to manage their eating around Christmas.

I was disappointed this morning to see my favourite media source spouting the same old messages around managing eating and weight over the Christmas period. Smaller plates, smaller serving spoons, eating salad first, long thin glasses, move away from the food (just in case it jumps on your plate!). 

There was also the message that even a 1/2 kg weight gain over the holiday season was a cause for much concern. My partner made the comment that these messages were likely just scaring people and that even he was feeling he must be careful or he might eat too many calories and gain weight.

It is so easy to get caught up in worrying about eating too much and gaining weight. Having a set of external rules to follow, such as those listed above, often only serves to amplify this worry about eating too much. This is known as diet mentality.

Intuitive Eating dietitianWhat if people were able to listen to their internal cues of hunger and fullness and trust their own bodies with how much to eat? This is very possible and what intuitive eaters do. At its core, intuitive eating is trusting your own inner body wisdom with when, what and how much to eat. If you would like you know more about intuitive eating, read this piece.

Intuitive eaters may still eat past the point of comfortable fullness at social functions and on Christmas day, however, in being more attuned to their fullness, intuitive eaters may not over-eat as much as those who are not as tuned into fullness. Intuitive eaters may also find themselves naturally eating less the next day, for example boxing day, as they recognise that they are not as hungry.

If you’re like me and you have two Christmases, on the 25th and Boxing day (or Christmas eve for some), it is much easier to choose to say no to delicious Christmas food if you’re no longer hungry, when you know you can eat delicious food whenever you are hungry for it. Dieters, or people who restrain from eating certain food, can find it much harder to say to no to delicious Christmas food when it’s on offer… after all, they will back on their diet, or be “good” tomorrow, so better “get it while I can.”

As mentioned, intuitive eating can encompass eating past the point of comfortable fullness, but the difference is you make the choice to eat just a little bit more because the food tastes amazing or perhaps you only eat Christmas pudding or pavlova once or twice a year. You thoroughly enjoy the food and there is no guilt or regret attached to the eating. This is very different to over-eating just because it’s Christmas and you deserve it because you’ve been so careful with your eating the rest of the time. This type of over-eating can lead to feeling sick and regret for having eaten so much which can take away the pleasure and enjoyment of the food and occasion. This also drives the cycle of yoyo dieting that so many people are caught in.

Celebrations and Christmas day should be a time where we fully experience the joy of food and pleasure of eating with our family and friends. Having food rules or trying to be careful takes away from this experience and can leave people feeling anxious about food and worrying about their bodies. Imagine if you could allow yourself to eat whatever you feel like, take pleasure from the delicious celebration food and simply relax with your loved ones without worrying about food or weight. Well, you can. Start to shake off the diet mentality and learn to trust your inner body wisdom and this is very possible.

Merry Christmas everyone and may you enjoy plenty of delicious food!
Zoe :)

 

We must stop with all the good food/bad food and diet talk.

If you want a piece of cake, have a piece of cake, you don’t need to justify it or apologise for it.

As you let go of diet mentality and start eating more intuitively, it’s not unusual to notice how caught up or obsessed other people are with food and weight.

One client became really aware of how her family constantly engages in good food/bad food talk, how they almost fear some foods and all in the name of “watching their waists”. Her family have been dieting and struggling with their weight for as long as she can remember. Despite constantly restricting food and trying to be “good”, most family members are now at their heaviest weight. This is an all too common scenario and the problem does not lie with the individual, it lies within the dieting process itself. Given people have been in dieting in the millions for over 60 years, if the ability to control our weight was as simple as eating less and moving more, we’d be a nation of thin people. The fact that the overwhelming majority of people are unable to maintain weight loss is not because they lack willpower or are lazy, the reasons people can’t maintain dieting and can’t maintain the initial weight loss are due to complex biological and psychological changes that are part of our bodies defence of body weight and our survival mechanism. 

Therefore, as dieting or restricting calories does not lead to long-term weight loss or health benefits and can actually cause harm through damaging a persons relationship with food and their body, and even lead to weight gain, it’s time to stop the diet talk!

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Here are some examples of the good food/bad food and diet talk that so many people are engaging in on a daily basis:

“We can look, but we can’t touch!” – this came from a group of women in their 50s, they were commenting on the cake display in a cafe. 

“Are you allowed to eat that?” – a comment from a client’s friend who knew she was seeing a dietitian

(then from the same friend) “Aren’t you worried you’ll put on weight?” 

“They’re pure evil!” – in reference to the calorie content

“It’s ok to be naughty once in a while”

“A minute on the lips, a life-time on the hips!” – this has been around for years and years

“Surely that can’t be good for you?”

“I’ll burn it off tomorrow.”

“One won’t hurt.”

“This bad boy…” – something I have noticed being used more recently

If you have spent a number of years dieting and engaging in this type of talk, how helpful has this been for you? If you experience guilt and anxiety around food or find yourself regularly preoccupied with food, this type of talk is almost definitely contributing to your struggle with managing your eating and your weight. 

If you have kids, what message do you think this is sending to them? Kids are very impressionable and can not comprehend the nuance of such talk. They will hear that certain food is evil or forbidden and this can, and does, lead to sneaking food. Many of my clients report sneaking food as kids or young teenagers in response to being told they shouldn’t eat certain food or that some food is off limits.

Not for a second am I suggesting we should all just eat what ever we want without concern for our health. I am just wanting to highlight how ridiculous our obsession with food and eating has become and how futile this way of thinking is. Yes we should care about how and what we eat and we can do this within the context of intuitive eating. When we eat intuitively we are more likely to nourish our body well, have a positive relationship with food and our body, and reduce our risk of diet related diseases. So how does cake fit in to intuitive eating?

In the context of intuitive eating, you might choose to eat cake because:

  • You feel like having a piece
  • You have room enough in your appetite to enjoy it (i.e. not already full)
  • You know you’ll really enjoy the cake
  • You know you’ll feel satisfied afterward 

Eating intuitively is also recognising when you’ve eaten enough, sometimes this might be the whole slice, sometimes it might just be a few bites.

Thanks for reading!

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What intuitive eating is all about.

What intuitive eating is all about and how not to confuse it with dieting.

Intuitive eating is not about achieving a certain body shape or size, it is about caring for the health of your body.

  • It is about nurturing a positive relationship with food, your body and your mind.
  • It is about letting go of external food rules. This means letting go of using calories, specific portion sizes, meal plans or the fat, sugar or carbohydrate content of a food to guide your food choices.
  • It is about letting go of anxiety, fear and guilt around food and eating.
  • It is about nourishing your body when you’re hungry and recognising how much food is enough for you at any given point in time.
  • It is also sometimes choosing to eat when you’re not hungry or choosing to eat more than you need or choosing to eat less than you need because that’s what feels right in that moment.
  • It is practising eating with some mindful awareness so you can really take pleasure in how food looks, smells and tastes. But you don’t have to be doing this 100% of the time, just much of the time.
  • It is knowing what food truly satisfies you both physically and mentally, what food leaves you feeling good inside. 
  • Intuitive eating is also about being active to be healthy physically and mentally and learning not to be so judgemental of the parts of your body you may not be happy with. Through the process of intuitive eating, you have the chance to start really respecting your body, appreciating it for all the amazing things it can do.
  • While the intuitive eating process is not about weight loss, the process gives your body the chance to find a weight that can be maintained without dieting or counting calories. Your weight or body shape and size may or may not change.

It is important to note that while there are principles of the intuitive eating process that most people can start focusing on straight away, not everyone will be ready to start tuning into their appetite or practising mindfulness with eating. This is especially true if you have, or have had, an eating disorder or if you have a very troubled relationship with food or your body. If this is you, you will need help from someone experienced in this field of work, this may be a psychologist or a dietitian, but please make sure they are HAES and Non-Diet Approach friendly.

I would like to acknowledge the work of many health professionals in writing about intuitive eating, especially dietitians Fiona Willer, Fiona Sutherland, Ellyn Satter, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. You can read much more about intuitive eating in the book Intuitive eating (Evelyn & Elyse) and various books by Ellyn Satter.

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Dieting is a very different process; the definition of dieting being to change one’s food habits in order to lose weight, maintain a particular weight or change appearance. 

While many will say this is in aid of health, plenty of studies show health benefits without weight focus and we know the overwhelming majority of people will regain this weight and many will end up heavier and actually unhealthier.

Here are some the danger’s with dieting.

  • By relying on external factors (or food rules) such as nutrition content, calories, portion sizes or meal plans, over time you lose connection from your body’s internal signals of hunger and fullness and how food feels in your body.
  • You may experience anxiety, fear, guilt and shame around food, eating and your body.
  • You may become disconnected from what food you truly enjoy and even wish you didn’t have to eat.
  • Most dieters end up with a distorted relationship with food and their bodies.
  • Worrying about, or counting calories can, and does, damage people’s relationship with food. Studies show dieters have lower self esteem and greater levels of anxiety, depression, emotional distress and body image dissatisfaction than non-dieters. Not everyone who counts calories will experience this, but enough do.
  • Dieting has also been shown to be the greatest risk factor for developing an eating disorder.
  • So while you may well lose weight when you do diet or use external factors (or food rules) to guide your food choices, you will also most likely regain that weight, plus some, within 1 to 5 years. After years of dieting, some people find they no longer lose weight, even with significant food restriction.
  • Long-term, your health suffers, both mental and physical health. Caring for the health of your body becomes a chore or lifelong battle with food and how you feel about yourself.

Ultimately it’s your choice how you decide to manage your eating, I am posting this so that you can better understand the processes of dieting and intuitive eating and work out what feels right for you.

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Do you have a healthy relationship with food? – take our free quiz to find out

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Healthy Eating – it’s not just about the food!

child baking smallHealthy eating encompasses so much more than just the specific food you eat. I would go as far to say that healthy eating actually has less to do with the specific food you eat and more to do with self awareness and meeting family, social and cultural needs.

At its core, healthy eating is ensuring your body receives all the nutrients it requires for you to live and be physically, mentally and socially nourished.


Healthy eating also encompasses the following principles:

  • Sharing meals with friends and family. 
  • Nurturing loved ones. 
  • Acknowledging and celebrating culture, rituals and beliefs.
  • Enjoying food that makes you feel good mentally and physically. 
  • Understanding and trusting your appetite and responding to your internal cues of hunger and fullness. 
  • Being mindful of where your food comes from and how it’s produced. 
  • Nurturing a healthy relationship with food and your body (see below for definitions).

If you can find a pattern of eating that fulfils the above concepts, then you are eating healthily.

Healthy eating does not require strict rules, avoiding pleasurable food or deprivation.

Healthy eating can take many different forms and we only need to look to the various blue zones of the world, where people live to well over 100 years with lower risk of diet related disease, to see this. Blue zones have been found in Japan, Italy, Greece, Central America and America. These diets include whole-grains, legumes, potatoes, dairy, coffee, alcohol and a little sugar.

You don’t need to cut out any of these foods to reclaim your health, you can if you feel that style of eating is right for you and allows you to meet the above concepts, but you don’t need to.

The alternative to avoiding certain food to improve your health, is to focus on achieving the above description of health eating. Do this and you can enjoy all food (and alcohol) as part of a healthy eating pattern.

For myself I choose to include all food, coffee and alcohol, but I pay careful attention to my appetite and I know what feels good in my body. I regularly enjoy my favourite cheeses, wine, hot chips and eating out without worrying about my health.

What is a healthy relationship with food?

A healthy relationship with food is one where you don’t constantly worry about what you should or shouldn’t be eating, there is no guilt attached to eating and you allow yourself to eat food that you truly enjoy.

What is a healthy relationship with your body?

Having a healthy relationship with your body means you respect it for all the amazing things it is capable of doing, rather than just being concerned with how it looks. You may have parts of your body that you’re not happy with, as we all do, but you don’t let this over-ride all the other positive aspects of you as a person.

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Do you want to live in Dietland, or would you prefer to live in a world where you are not ruled by food?

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge Sarai Walker’s fabulous book ‘Dietland’ from where I have taken this term.
dietland
What is Dietland?

Dietland is any place where you are restricting food or calories based on external rules (diet rules) in an attempt to lose weight or control your weight. You may be on a diet, weight loss program, detox or specific “healthy eating” regime that is dictating when, what and how much you should eat.

Do you live in Dietland?

If you practice any of the below behaviours on a regular basis, you most likely live in Dietland.

You think about the calories of most, if not all, of the food and drink you put in your mouth.
 You avoid food you enjoy the taste of because it’s high in fat, sugar, carbohydrates and/or calories.
You feel guilt after eating food that you feel will affect your weight.
You feel anxiety when you are around food that is “unhealthy” or that you worry will affect your weight.
You avoid social occasions that involve food, or you eat before you go to limit the amount you eat at the event.
You avoid food you enjoy the taste of because you’re worried it will affect your weight.
At some point, you binge on (or over-eat) the restricted foods.
You weigh yourself daily or every few days.
You exercise to burn calories.
You find yourself saying “what the hell, I’ve blown it now, may as well…” or “I’ll just have this one and then I’ll be good tomorrow…” or “may as well write off the rest of the week/weekend and I’ll start again on Monday.”

There are too many examples of what it’s like to live in Dietland to include them all here, but we’d love your to share some of your examples of what it’s like to live in Dietland.

So what does a world where you are not ruled by food look like?

In this world, you are taught to reconnect with your internal cues of hunger and fullness and you practice mindful eating. No foods are restricted and you learn how to trust your body with when, what and how much to eat. You learn how to identify and manage non-hungry or emotional eating, and you learn how to let go of guilt around food.

You don’t worry about the calories in your food or whether it’s high in fat, sugar or carbohydrates.
You choose food based on your level of hunger, what you feel like eating and how satisfied you know you’ll be afterward.
Finally you find yourself craving less highly processed sugary/fatty food and craving more fresh whole foods.
You stop binging.
You enjoy foods such as chocolate, chips, ice-cream, baked goods mindfully, savouring every bite and you don’t feel guilty.
You look forward to eating out and trying new foods or just enjoying your preferred type of food.
You exercise because it makes you feel great, you enjoy moving and/or for social connection.
You don’t need to weigh yourself because you feel comfortable in your clothes and most of the time, you feel fit and healthy.

So where would you prefer to live?

Need help? Look for a dietitian who works with The Non-Diet Approach and Intuitive Eating.

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