Archive for Nutrition

7 Ways to Stop Food Guilt

Everybody eats.

Life is hard enough without judging every little thing you put in your mouth. It’s a double whammy when you judge other people for what they eat because then you feel guilty about that, too. Food guilt shows up as a way to police our own (and others’) eating behavior. We believe that if we make the price of breaking a food rule so painful, we’ll be less likely to eat the thing in the first place.

It should be no surprise that the threat of guilt usually doesn’t prevent us from going out of bounds with food. Inevitably, we end up carrying extra guilt just for doing the thing that everyone else does: eating. Perhaps seeing food guilt for what it really is, a strategy to keep our behavior in check, would make the situation a lot more clear. This simple shift in perspective turns our attention inward, rather than it being directed at food as a proxy for our feared sense of lack of control. It isn’t really the food we’re avoiding, it’s the horrible feelings of guilt that come with it.

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“Your Body Can’t Tell Time!” and Other Non-Diet Nonsense

Human nutrition is fascinating and complex making it hard to distill into easily assimilated absolutes. Although well-intended, non-diet messaging is often reduced to cute, disarming phrases that amount to little more than platitudes aimed at calming fear and cognitive unease. Moreover, rather than offering a path to the truth, these phrases appeal to a dieter’s binary, or black-and-white, thinking and do little to challenge their real concerns and misperceptions of reality.

For example, imagine you’re going through a tough time and someone tells you, “Such is life,” or “Everything happens for a reason.” Is that actually helpful? Or is it just putting a little temporary salve on the wound? Without a truly wise and empathetic follow-up, such trite expressions fall flat and can even make us feel worse.

The same goes with phrases like “Your body can’t tell time.” The anxious eater desperately wants to put it in a box by asking, “So, can our body tell time or not? It’s one or the other.” Actually, it’s far more nuanced than that.

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Akrasia and the Divided Will

It’s hard to always do the right thing. Even when we know the thing is a bad idea, sometimes the pull to do it anyway, to be bad, is just too strong.

Think of a time when you planned on doing something you knew would be good for you, like get to bed on time. Yet there you are watching just one more episode of Queer Eye, well past midnight.

It’s easy to be hard on ourselves in those moments. It’s as if the proverbial angel and devil have appeared on our shoulders — and the devil has won.

Maybe we fall into the thought trap, “I must not be trying hard enough,” or “I must not want it badly enough.” We even worry that others see our struggles as a sign of weak character and bad judgment.

So, what’s going on here? Why do we so often do things against our own best interest? And why do we see it as a moral failure?

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Intuitive Eating: What It Is and What It Isn’t

A quick google search produces hundreds of results related to “intuitive eating,” the 10 principles, some how-tos, and success stories. As important as these points are in understanding the mechanics of this food philosophy, they don’t always give a felt sense of what it’s like to eat in a natural way.

In the simplest terms, intuitive eating means using your body’s feedback to guide your eating decisions. It’s something that happens, not something you control. It’s instinctual, ancient, and primal, yet highly sophisticated in its balance of hormone-driven cues and pleasure-driven rewards. It is basic human physiology in collaboration with both the rational and emotional minds.

Yes, it’s the name of an awesome book and proven system to help people get off the diet train, but intuitive eating is something deeper, something truly valuable. Once you get it back, you don’t ever want to give it up again. You will protect it at all costs.

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Three Reasons Women Who are Done with Dieting Struggle with Mindful Eating

It’s easy to get frustrated with all the conflicting weight loss advice. And even more confusing to sort through the information on how to stop dieting. Methods like intuitive and mindful eating sound great initially, but for some, it’s just as hard to continue those habits as it is to stay on a diet. Even research tells us that one of the biggest reasons diets don’t always work is that they are all but impossible to stick with (file that under obvious, right?).

Most diets are not meant to be permanent lifestyle changes. You do it for ten days, maybe 30, and eventually go back to normal eating. For most people, if the food restrictions go on for too long, any weight lost comes with a heavy price. With each new food restriction comes a barrier to freedom and missed opportunities to connect with others. Once these secondary consequences start to affect your well-being, the diet is now a big problem. Click here for a post on how to start the process.

By the same token, if new habits from mindful eating do not weave themselves into your lifestyle, you may come up empty on that count, too. When it feels like a chore or another thing you have to do, it’s really hard to stick with it. But just like with food, it’s the general approach to mindful eating that makes all the difference.

Why the struggle?

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Meal Plan, Schmeal Plan…

It can be scary to relearn how to eat intuitively and shockingly easy to forget, even after just a few months of a restrictive diet. These regimes usurp the powers of choice and self trust when making food decisions. The diet tells you when to eat, making your hunger cues irrelevant. It tells you how much to eat, making your fullness cues moot. It tells you what to eat, and more sinisterly, what not to eat, snuffing out the final candle on your inner intuitive eater.

But how are you supposed to just drop all the rules and restrictions and start listening to your body again? Advice to just eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full is confusing because you may not remember the last time you paid attention to that. Plus, it’s unlikely that your body is sending you reliable cues at all. Not to mention the uncomfortable feelings that surface around hunger and fullness. Add in food fears and distrust and it’s no wonder people struggle making the leap from rigid diets to attuned eating.

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