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Does mindful eating work?

To answer the question “does mindful eating work,” let’s first define it.

Mindful eating:

  • gets you back inside your body, instead of following outside advice on the internet telling you what’s best for your body.
  • teaches you to slow down and notice the taste, texture and aroma of food. Why is this important? Because satisfaction is a critical piece to feeling “full” (aka “just” satisfied).
  • guides you to sense which foods make you feel your best, as every body is different.
  • supports you in enjoying and savoring your food, versus eating tasteless “diet” foods.
  • teaches you to honor your unique hunger (energy) needs, which change every day. Your body thrives on rhythmically being nourished throughout the day. So trying to ignore physical hunger or skip meals is stressful on your body.
  • encourages you to bring relaxation and presence to your plate to support your digestive health.
  • can help you have a healthier relationship with food and your body.

How mindful eating works

You can practice mindful eating, by following the BASICS created by Lynn Rossey, author of Savor Every Bite.

B: Breathe and belly check before you eat.
A: Assess your food.
S: Slow down.
I: Investigate your hunger throughout the meal.
C: Chew your food thoroughly.
S: Savor your food.

But does mindful eating really work?

You have to be clear on what “work” means.

Carrie Dennett, registered dietitian, warns us in a Seattle Times article that mindful eating has been co-opted by diet culture for weight loss. Mindful eating isn’t about restriction, controlling yourself, being hyper-vigilant about your eating, or feeling ashamed of making certain food choices.

It’s about getting back inside your body.

It’s a practice of deep listening.

The actual intended benefit of practicing mindful eating is to be in touch with your body’s unique needs.

So does mindful eating work?

Yes, if you’re practicing mindful eating to guide you to what’s healthiest — for YOUR body. ♡ Tanya

Curious about the difference between mindful eating and Intuitive Eating?

Read The Ten Benefits of Intuitive Eating on my blog.

Get healthier, no diet culture BS required

“Get healthier and feel better in your body,” might sound like the same ‘ole, same ‘ole approach to your health. But to be clear, it’s not.

It’s about reclaiming the word “wellness” from diet culture which takes an all-or-nothing approach to your eating and defines “success” as only one number on the scale that must never waiver. (Spoiler alert: humans are NOT robots so numbers on the scale WILL fluctuate).

The diet culture ask is:

get healthier, feel better in your body, no diet culture BS required
get healthier, feel better in your body, no diet culture BS required

As a nutrition and master health coach, that frustrates the heck out of me because getting healthier involves building skills with your nutrition, as well as your whole self-care routine, i.e. your movement, sleep and how well you cope with stress (as you will always have some 🤪).

In addition, diet culture, which has been around forever (hey I’m talking to you Weight Watchers), says that you’re only “healthy” if you fit into one jean size or BMI category.

But this is far too simplistic of a definition and can actually harm you. How? Because it makes you feel like something is wrong with you if you don’t have a “perfect” body or don’t eat “perfectly.” Yikes. There’s nothing wrong with you. And to make matters worse, feeling this way may lead you to try yet another diet or meal plan to “feel good about yourself.” Sigh.

So how can you get healthier and feel better in your body?

Practice good nutrition and self-care, not the diet culture BS.

It’s time to put it to bed 🛌 forever (good night and good riddance!)

Learn and build nutrition skills + a self-care routine = feeling better in your body.

Practice these three critical nutrition coaching tips:

1. Slow down. 🐢

I’m sure you’ve heard of the fable “The Tortoise and the Hare.” Yup, slow and steady wins the “race.” This is the opposite of completing 21-days of “clean” (aka perfect) eating or a month long detox.

And, most importantly, it’s simply not enough time to build nutrition and other wellness skills. Many of my clients work with me for at least 3 months, with most choosing support for a year or more. Why? Because…

Change is a process. And, I’ll be with you every step to support you (instead of being a dictator telling you what you “should do).” So give yourself the space to learn and practice, at your pace.

2. Ditch striving for perfection. 🅱

Stop putting so much dang pressure on yourself to never eat a “bad” food or only eat “clean” foods or beat yourself up because you skipped the gym because you had a terrible night’s sleep. You are human dang it.

What if you could average a grade B throughout the year with your nutrition, sleep, movement and stress coping skills? How would that feel? (I imagine pretty dang good).

The best way to start getting healthier is to meet yourself where you’re at. You’ll start your journey by completing a nutrition and deep health assessment and then together, we’ll create a plan to reach your goals by having you practice and build ONE skill, every two weeks. Over time, all these skills add up to one big change.

FYI: Diets force you to make a bunch of changes with your nutrition in a short amount of time period, so no wonder they’re not sustainable.

3. Be nice 😀 to yourself.

Instead of forcing yourself to eat better or get to the gym, relying on willpower, and white knuckling it to “be good,what if you could build self-care skills that you are truly ready, willing and able to do, within the context of your unique life?

How does that sound?
For example: maybe you’re ready to learn which and how much healthy fats to eat more of, some of and less of, but you’re not willing or able to practice mindful eating right now. No problem.

When you give yourself plenty of time to change, ditch perfection and build nutrition and self-care skills that are “doable,” overtime, that’s when the magic ✨ happens!

(Share this blog post with a friend: “.”)

Hope you found these three non-diet nutrition tips helpful!

To your happiness and health, ♡ Tanya

P.S. Want a little more support with feeling better in your body? Read my latest article: Positive role models shape a healthy body image

Think you are addicted to sugar?

You might think you are addicted to sugar.

But over the many years that I’ve worked with clients, I’ve learned that cravings for sugar are caused by a multitude of factors including:

  • consistently eating unbalanced meals which creates unbalanced blood sugar levels (so your body is “smart” and boosts cravings for carbohydrates and sugars as the quickest way to boost your blood sugar.)
  • not eating regular meals throughout the day; skipping meals on purpose or because you’re busy; trying to save calories so you eat very little at breakfast and lunch so when you get home you feel ravenous and sugar sounds extra palatable.
  • dieting, restricting calories and carbs means you may not be getting the proper energy and nutrients. Plus, you will often crave the foods that aren’t on your plan.
  • white-knuckling it to completely avoid sugar because diet culture labels it as “bad.” So when it is available, you feel out of control around it.  It’s “forbidden fruit.” You’re human and you want what you can’t have. Did you know that research shows a key difference between a dieter’s mind versus a non-dieters mind? A non-dieter will eat a cookie (or two) and move on. A dieter will obsess (physical and mental struggle) over whether to have the cookie or not and how many is too many. Ugh.
  • you don’t allow yourself to have anything sweet without guilt or shame. Don’t forget that humans are born with a sweet taste bud.
  • you lack sweetness in your life, so you crave sweet foods which only temporarily fulfills this need.

So what does the research say about sugar addiction?

Research from the European Journal of Nutrition states:

“We find little evidence to support sugar addiction in humans, and findings from the animal literature suggest that addiction-like behaviors, such as bingeing, occur only in the context of intermittent access to sugar. These behaviors likely arise from intermittent access to sweet tasting or highly palatable foods, not the neurochemical effects of sugar.” – “Sugar addiction: the state of the science.”

Think you are addicted to sugar? Think again.
Think you are addicted to sugar? Think again. 📸 credit: Jennifer Rollin, Eating Disorder Therapist

If you think you are addicted to sugar, consider these key nutrition skills:

7 tips to beat sugar “addiction”

  1. Learn to build balanced meals and snacks with quality protein, fat and carbohydrates. When you’re eating mostly carbs or sugary foods or drinks and you’re not eating enough quality protein or fats, you will experience blood sugar highs and lows (crashes). And when you crash, your body will crave carbs (sugars) to boost your blood sugar back into the normal range.
  2. Eat these balanced meals regularly, spaced throughout the day to avoid getting overly hungry (hangry).
  3. Ditch the diet culture BS and learn to listen and honor your individual hunger needs. They change every day depending on your activity level. Yes, you need to eat enough calories and quality carbohydrates. If you don’t, your biology will kick in, in the form of cravings, to get you to eat more.
  4. Learn to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger. And if your hunger isn’t physical, pause and consider what you are really needing right now?
    Read more: 3 Reasons why you can’t stop stress and emotional eating (and the solution)
  5. When you choose to eat something sweet, eat real sugar, not artificial sugars. If a package says it’s sugar-free, be wary as this often means they’ve replaced sugar with a fake sugar.
  6. When you eat the cookie(s) or ice cream or other sweet, slow down and savor it. When you feel guilty, you may tend to eat these foods quickly, “to get rid of the evidence.”
  7. Feed your sweet taste bud. Yes, really. Are there sweet foods that you enjoy that are higher quality? I love fresh berries, apples and dark chocolate. Create a list of these foods and have them readily available.

So what did you learn about your relationship to food and your current nutrition skills? Where could you use support?

If you’ve always thought you are addicted to sugar, but now see that your cravings may be caused by a lack of critical nutrition skills, practice these seven tips.

And as always, if you could use support, reach out. I’d love to help.

♡ Tanya

How can I improve my body image?

Positive role models shape a healthy body image

Maybe you’re wondering “how can I improve my body image” in our body perfectionist culture?

Well, what if you knew when you were younger that all bodies aren’t the same?

Every body is different

That’s what 26-year-old pop singer and former “American Idol” contestant, Jax, wished somebody had told her.

This summer she posted “Victoria’s Secret,” a song she wrote about toxic body ideals. And clearly, it resonated – boosting her TikTok followers to over 11.9 million.

The song, inspired by a 14-year-old girl that Jax babysits, fights back against the body shame the teenager experienced while shopping at Victoria’s Secret for a swimsuit. When Jax picked her up from the mall the girl was crying. Her friends had told her that she was “too fat and flat” to wear a bikini, she shared on TikTok. And Jax could relate.

Comparing her body to photoshopped images of false ideals of health, fitness and beauty and “itty bitty models on magazine covers,” led to disordered behaviors with food.

“Can’t have carbs and a hot girl summer. The f—ing pressure I was under to lose my appetite, and fight the cellulite, with Hunger Games like every night” are lyrics from her song.

How can I improve my body image? Know that normal bodies have body fat, cellulite, stretch marks, any signs of being human and living your one precision life.
How can I improve my body image? Know that normal bodies have body fat, cellulite, stretch marks, any signs of being human and living your one precision life.

So, what would Jax go back and tell her younger self?

“I know Victoria’s ‘secret,’” she sings. “She was made up by a dude. She’s an old man who lives in Ohio, making money off of girls like me, cashing in on body issues, selling skin and bones and big boobs.”

Body appreciation shaped in youth

Boy did I need this song some four decades ago. I grew up in Victoria’s Secret culture.

Lamenting my cellulite and lack of “thigh gap,” I sunbathed slathered in Hawaiian Tropic oil, lounging on a plastic lawn chair in my backyard. My 16-year-old self thought being thin and baking in a tanning bed was the answer to my self-worth.

I bought padded bras and bikini tops. I ate my mom’s fat-free Snackwell cookies and Baked Lays potato chips, leaving me hungry too — for pasta with Parmesan and butter sauce. All my behaviors driven by wanting to fit in, belong and feel good in my skin.

How I wish I’d been exposed to diverse role models – real people representing health, fitness, and beauty. Instead, I would spend far too many years trying to attain one “ideal” look.

Role models crucial to body appreciation

Role models matter. They can shape a healthy body image. And body image is broader than just how we think and feel about our physique. It influences our sense of self, says Charlotte Markey, author of “The Body Image Book for Girls: Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless.”

So how can you improve your body image?

Seek out diverse health and beauty role models to create a positive shift for the next generation. Furthermore, it can help us all heal from toxic body messaging.

Heal from toxic body messaging

In addition to Jax, consider Melisa Raouf, 20, who will be the first to completely forgo makeup while competing for Miss England next month. The event introduced a “Bare Face” round in the competition in 2019. Why? Because most contestants were submitting highly edited images of themselves wearing lots of makeup. Organizers wanted women to “show us who they really are without the need to hide behind makeup and filters on social media,” said Angie Beasley in a New York Post article.

Raouf, who hopes to promote inner beauty and challenge the beauty ideals perpetuated on social media, says she been inundated with messages from other young women expressing how much confidence Raouf has given them.

Or how about 37-year-old, Molly Galbraith, co-founder of Girls Gone Strong? Her worldwide health and fitness movement focuses on helping women feel strong, confident and empowered in their lives and bodies.

In addition, we can also learn from Ali Stoker, the first wheelchair-using actor to appear on a Broadway stage and the first to be nominated for and win a Tony Award.

“We’ve been convinced to be more concerned with others’ experience of looking at our bodies than our own experience in living in our bodies” says Stoker in an Everyday Health article titled “Celebrities Who’ve Spoken Out About Body Image.”

And one of my favorite role models in athletics is 41-year-old mom and greatest of all time tennis star Serena Williams, who’s been outspoken about her body throughout her career.

“I look like a normal athlete,” Williams told the Miami Herald in 2015.

We’ve been taught for decades that all bodies can and should be the same shape to be worthy, healthy or beautiful. So William’s message can’t be shared enough.

Normalize normal bodies for body confidence

Consider how you might think and feel about your whole self if you grew up with role models who looked like you — without makeup, wearing a swimsuit or playing your favorite sport.

And let’s remember that the people who influence how we feel and think about our bodies the most are those we encounter everyday — teachers, doctors, coaches, parents.

Read more: Mom’s body attitude shape’s daughters

Jax says that “Victoria’s Secret” was her way to share her personal story with people of all ages and genders. Never compare your body to what you see on media. The song was intended as a message to all corporations, not just Victoria’s Secret, marketing toward people’s insecurities she told PopSugar.

“I hate the idea of anybody losing their sense of self-worth while someone else gets rich off of it” Jax says.

How can I improve my body image? Know your body's worth is infinite.
How can I improve my body image? Know your body’s worth is infinite.

Ultimately, the whole point of her song is to normalize diversity in body types. And it’s working. She’s seeing a “million different shapes and sizes and colors and stories rocking out” to her song and feeling super confident in their skin.

We all can, because now we know Victoria’s real secret is, “She was never made for [real bodies like] me and you.”

Improve your body image by seeking out healthy role models. ♡ Tanya

[Originally published in the September 28, 2022 edition of the Jackson Hole News and Guide.]