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4 Steps to make peace with forbidden foods through Intuitive Eating

How can you possibly have a healthy relationship with salt and vinegar chips, cookies, and salted caramel ice cream – they’re “bad,” “hyper-palatable” – right? And still be healthy?

It can feel like the chips (no pun intended – haha) are stacked against you because many of these “forbidden” foods are designed by lab engineers to be irresistible to your tastebuds and brain.

But the good news is that there’s a way out of what might feel like vicious cravings, out of control eating (and guilt) – and yes, without a “diet” or restrictive food plan.

Here’s how:

To get started, check-in with yourself. Take a pause (if possible, as sometimes – it’s just not! and that’s ok too) and get curious about why you want a particular “forbidden” food.

Four Steps to Make Peace with Forbidden Foods with Intuitive Eating

1. Are you overly hungry, ravenous?

It’s common for you to want to reach for quick and convenient, packaged “easy” foods when you’re so hungry you want to “eat your arm.” Principle 2 of Intuitive Eating: Honor Your Hunger says that can be difficult to make rational, conscious eating decisions once you’ve reached this point (that’s why when you may have packed your lunch but it no longer sounds good anymore).

An overly hungry Garfield the cat at the table.

And then, because you’re “too hungry,” you might eat this food quickly and end up at the bottom of the package. Or maybe you graze while preparing dinner and you’re no longer hungry by the time you eat, or you eat dinner anyway despite not being hungry now.

The Practice: Eat meals and snacks with awareness of your biological hunger needs throughout the day and do your best to eat when you are gently hungry (which means that you feel relaxed and ready to eat and could prepare food without feeling like you have to graze).

And bonus, working on honoring your hunger when it’s gentle is one foundational strategy to being able to honor comfortable fullness – Principle 6 of Intuitive Eating.

2. Are you tired, lack time, unprepared? (uh, STRESSED?)

So maybe you’re not overly hungry but when you’re living under chronic low-level (or high-level) daily stress, again, it’s challenging to make conscious foods choices (especially in the late afternoon or at the end of the day when you’ve reached decision fatigue).

It makes sense that you want to press the quick and convenient button and reach for what’s easiest.

First, be kind to yourself. In my article 3 Reasons Why You Should Ditch Your Scale (and get healthier), I discussed how you (we, yes, me too!) can get in self-care ruts but there’s a way out – baby steps – what small shift do you have the bandwidth for right now?

The way you do food often mirrors how you do life.

The Practice: Figure out what’s going to work for YOU. I know this isn’t an easy question to answer. What do you need to set yourself up for a more nurturing day? What CAN you do to make nourishing yourself a priority and not put yourself last?

Here are a few ideas: schedule time each week to grocery shop (or have a family member do it), or batch cook so you just have to reheat it (and have leftovers too!) or maybe you try one of the many meal kits out there (if your budget allows).

And if you don’t have an answer yet, don’t worry, that’s OK, I’ll be happy to help you – for now, just move on to the next question.

3. Do you have a rule about this food, restrict it?

Yes, you’ve heard it from me many, many times before, nothing amplifies a craving like restriction. It makes the food extra special so when you feel like you need, want or deserve something special, you will want this food(s).

With Intuitive Eating, you learn how to make peace with this food through a science-backed practice called habituation (more on this in a future community email).

Unconditional permission to eat is vital to a healthy relationship with food

The Practice: Notice your relationship with your “forbidden” foods. Does restriction make these foods “more special?” And by the way, if you’re substituting a “forbidden” food with a food that doesn’t truly satisfy you, you may continue to seek satisfaction which is Principle 5 of Intuitive Eating: Discover the Satisfaction Factor.

4. Do you eat foods that you like, satisfy your taste buds AND make you feel good?

The Practice: Explore and create a list of foods that fulfill your desire for tastes such as salty, sweet, savory that ALSO make you feel good physically when you eat them. Do you have these foods readily available in your home, purse, workbag?

When I considered this question, it made me think of when my brain used to seek the Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies that are in my pantry after dinner, even when I’m full (and just a side note, yes, this mental seeking occasionally happens as I am a human just like you).

Sometimes I choose to eat them, but if I check-in with myself, most of the time, I don’t really want those cookies (as I’ve made peace with the Milanos through the habituation process mentioned above).

I’ve learned that some other sweet is equally as good or better taste wise AND bonus! also makes me feel satisfied and nourished physically. Personally, I’ve found that I love dark chocolate dipped in natural peanut butter or sometimes eating some raspberries fulfills my desire for something sweet. If you hate dark chocolate, you do you (as remember satisfaction is key). Find what works for you.

Furthermore, having foods that you enjoy that also support your health are great to have available when your hunger might be more stressed, emotionally-based such as wanting some comfort, pleasure, energy, a reward and the list of emotions goes on.

And of course, the most nourishing solution is to learn new stress management and skills to cope with your emotions with kindness instead of relying on food to fulfill needs that it can only temporarily band-aid – Principle 7 of Intuitive Eating.

And one final word. And this is a very important piece of wellness wisdom:

Stop feeling guilty about, beating yourself up anytime you eat a “forbidden” food (as I used to! 🤚 – especially as a nutrition professional).

Remember, it’s what you eat for the most part that impacts your health. Good nutrition isn’t perfect eating and it’s just one piece of your complex health and wellbeing (as I mentioned in my article: 3 Reasons Why You Should Ditch Your Scale).

And by the way, if you find yourself doing the opposite – eating mostly highly processed, “forbidden” foods – be nice to yourself. Offer yourself kindness and compassion. Revisit these self-reflection questions and get curious about what’s behind your desire for these foods – your why and if you need help, that’s what I do (so reach out).

Tanya Mark Love Love Coffee Mug

♡ Tanya

P.S. 🤩 I have some exciting news! I am a Non-Diet, Body Image Expert on The Body Love Society’s UnDiet Your Mind App!

Curious? You can sign up here: UNDIET YOUR MIND APP

For 50% off of your first month (from $9.99 to $4.99 – if you just want to check it out) or savings off a yearly subscription, type in my coupon code: TANYAMARK (thank you, thank you by the way, as the app itself will offer a code too but I’d be thrilled if you used mine as a referral). If you want more details on what you get first, you can go to the app website here.

10 Benefits of Intuitive Eating

What are the ten benefits of Intuitive Eating?

Learn the benefits of Intuitive Eating and how they can help you establish a healthy relationship with food and your body.

1. No more dieting

The first principle of Intuitive Eating is Reject the Diet Mentality. Why is this so important?

Diets have taught you not to listen to your body. The good news is that you can re-learn by practicing the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating.

Diets don’t teach you how to have a healthy relationship with food which is an essential to reaching “gentle nutrition” which is the end goal of Intuitive Eating. Diets may give you short term weight loss but it’s almost always followed by regaining the weight and often more. Diets aren’t meant to be sustainable. Remember, diets are designed for short term “success” with repeat business as billion dollar industry!

2. No more trying to ‘control’ hunger

The second principle of Intuitive Eating is foundational. It focuses on a critical skill that you may have lost due to diet culture – honoring your own individual hunger.

You may have learned to ignore your hunger through diets, skipping meals, intermittent fasting etc. But your body is asking for the exact opposite – to listen for your body’s cues telling you that you need energy and respond when hunger feels gentle. Why? Because once you feel ravenous (hangry!), all bets are off for eating to comfortable fullness.

♡ KEY POINT: Honoring your hunger when it’s gentle is foundational to honoring comfortable fullness.

3. No more ‘forbidden’ foods

One of the benefits of Intuitive Eating is that it can reduce sugar cravings.
One of the benefits of Intuitive Eating is that it can reduce sugar cravings.

What if having donuts (insert your forbidden food) in your house was no big deal?

Perhaps there’s a family member in your house that may grab a donut, cookie, brownie and moves on. No guilt for eating it. No desire to eat the whole bag. This is the way a non dieter’s mind works according to research.

Through an evidence process called habituation, you too can have a healthy relationship with all foods including your ‘forbidden’ foods.

More benefits of Intuitive Eating

4. No more food rules, cheat days

Diets and eating plans are full of food rules. Once you break one by eating a “bad” food, you feel like you failed. This is madness.

Consider that every year new “plans” (diets) come out that often contradict the rules of previous diets – don’t eat fat, eat mostly fat (yes I remember the eat fat free food rules which have been replaced by eat fat according to the Keto diet). Sigh.

You don’t need a set of rules to eat healthy. Instead you will learn how to listen to your body and eat healthy foods for the most part as healthy eating isn’t perfect eating.

5. No more dissatisfied, pleasureless eating

In Intuitive Eating, finding satisfaction in your eating experiences is important. Let me share an infographic to illustrate what happens when we “diet” and have “forbidden” foods.

Dieting mindset versus Intuitive Eater mindset
One of the benefits of Intuitive Eating is that it can reduce overeating by bringing satisfaction to your plate.

Humans are designed to seek pleasure and avoid pain. So you will continue to seek pleasure and satisfaction until you get it (notice how much food was eaten by the dieter versus the Intuitive Eater (non dieter).

6. No more controlled portion sizes

In order to honor fullness, you first learn how to honor your hunger needs.

Next, ditch controlled portion sizes because they’re not one size fits all – meaning that your body’s unique energy needs change every day.

Instead you learn how feel your body’s cues of comfortable fullness.

Hunger and fullness scale
One of the benefits of Intuitive Eating is that it can teach you how to listen to your hunger and fullness.

7. No more beating yourself up for ‘emotional’ eating

Emotional eating is demonized in diet culture which is deeply imbedded in Western culture as “bad” and something to fix. The truth is that we are all emotional eaters to some degree as we’ve learned since infancy to equate food with love, comfort and pleasure. So it makes perfect sense that we go to food as a quick fix to feel or not feel. The solution is to have a toolbox of coping mechanisms to go to beyond food.

And there’s one other cause of emotional eating: dieting, restricting your food. Nothing will make you feel more emotional than not getting your energy needs met and not being allowed to eat a food you love because it’s forbidden on your plan.

8. No more body bashing

Learning to respect body is critical to your self-care. Diet culture is based in body shame. It teaches you that there’s only one body size that’s healthy and that your body should never change as you move through the stages of life. All of this is BS.

Unlearning toxic body image messages
One of the benefits of Intuitive Eating is that it can help you have a healthy relationship with your unique body.

Through Intuitive Eating you learn how to honor your unique diverse body with self love, not self-control. Having a healthy body image isn’t about what your body looks like. Instead, it’s about your mindset toward your body and separating your self-worth from your appearance.

9. No more exercise to “burn and earn” food

In Intuitive Eating principle 9, you learn to decouple moving your body from diet culture – as merely a means to changing your body, focusing on the scale as “success.”

Could you move your body because there are a ton of benefits of exercise that don’t have you focused on your weight such as getting stronger, feeling more empowered, energized, confident and overall improving the quality of your life?

And one my favorite benefits of Intuitive Eating is:

10. No more ‘perfect eating’ to be healthy

The final principle of Intuitive Eating is Honor Your Health – Gentle Nutrition. It’s the last guideline because you first have to learn how to listen to your body’s signals to guide you in principles 1 – 9. Now you will be able to listen for how your food choices make you feel versus external food rules.

And most of all, you learn that what you eat is just a piece of your whole health so you don’t need to eat “perfectly” because there’s a complex set of factors that affects your well-being including the social determinants of health. Healthy eating is what you eat consistently over time – for the most part eating!

* Have a question about Intuitive Eating? I’d love to hear from you, Tanya

P.S. Want to learn more? Check out The Anti-Diet is called Intuitive Eating.

The anti-diet is called Intuitive Eating

“Eating low-carb is part of my healthy lifestyle.”

“I have to have a meal plan to eat healthy.”

“I’m a sugarholic — I’m addicted to brownies.”

“Without portion sizes, I’ll overeat.”

Healthy eating has become synonymous with food rules, labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” eliminating gluten, dairy, sugar and processed foods, and restricting the evil macronutrient of the year — currently carbs. It has become “normal” to control your eating to get “healthy.”

But notice how this restrictive approach feels. It’s wrought with guilt and shame. It’s filled with fear and a preoccupation with food, creating a stressful relationship to food.

Relying on external rules to determine what we should eat disconnects us from trusting our inner signals to guide us to eat healthfully. We were born with this instinct and can return to our birthright through the process of intuitive eating.

What’s intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is an evidence-based, compassionate self-care eating framework with 10 principles created by registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch as a solution to a problem they faced more than 25 years ago: “Dieting” doesn’t work.

The 10 principles are designed to enhance or remove obstacles to interoceptive awareness — considered intuitive eating’s “superpower” — a process in which your brain perceives physical sensations arising from the body such as heartbeat, breathing, hunger and fullness.

The 10 principles of Intuitive Eating

  • Reject the diet mentality
  • Honor your hunger
  • Make peace with food
  • Challenge the Food Police
  • Discover the satisfaction factor
  • Feel your fullness
  • Cope with your emotions with kindness
  • Respect your body
  • Move and feel the difference
  • Honor your health with gentle nutrition.

Only recently has intuitive eating gained popularity. Since this summer’s fourth edition release of Tribole and Resch’s 1995 book, “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach,” articles regularly appear in mainstream media such as Self and Real Simple magazines and Goop.com.

Why intuitive eating now?

Because we’re tired of being at war with our bodies. We’re fed up with the 95% failure rate of restrictive diets that an estimated 45 million Americans return to year after year. See BostonMedical.org. We’re frustrated by the dismal statistics that report two-thirds of dieters regain the weight, plus more, within two to five years. We’re craving both the happy and healthy relationship with food and our bodies that intuitive eating delivers.

The intuitive eating process begins with “reject the diet mentality.” But you may say, “I’m not dieting. I’m just eating healthy.” Most of us don’t realize that we’re swimming in diet culture. As Tribole says, we’re like fish in water: We’re not conscious of it.

Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear conversations about being “good” for skipping dessert, needing to make up for “overeating” by skipping a meal or burning it off with exercise, and ordering bunless burgers. This is diet mentality, which has become a “normal” part of “healthy” eating. Thus we must opt out of the diet mentality to engage fully in the intuitive eating process.

Intuitive Eating is an empowerment tool to healthy eating

With popularity comes confusion

Perhaps you’ve read that intuitive eating is just a mindfulness diet or a hunger/fullness diet.

Yes, it includes eating with awareness and honoring satiety is key. But these descriptions oversimplify the process of intuitive eating by cherry-picking one or two of the 10 principles, which are designed to be practiced together, synergistically.

Furthermore, the principles are guidelines, not rules to pass or fail. Instead the process emphasizes a self-compassionate, curious, “for the most part” mindset. There’s no room for restriction, guilt, shame, judgment or the black-and-white thinking of diet culture in intuitive eating.

“Make peace with food” focuses on unconditional permission to eat all foods, especially the ones you feel are your “problem” foods.

Take the pan of brownies. You feel you can’t trust yourself to have them in your house because you’re “addicted” to sugar and will eat them all. But by practicing an evidence-based strategy called habituation — repeated exposures to a food making it less appealing — you can make peace with the brownies.

Common food “problems” such as cravings, emotional eating, binge eating, overeating are often caused by the restrictive, “I can’t have” mentality.

Intuitive Eating is not a weight loss plan

If you encounter an “intuitive eating” plan that promises weight loss, Tribole says to “run away.” Recognize that it’s sneaky diet culture co-opting the term.

Putting weight loss on the back burner is critical to becoming an intuitive eater. Focusing on your weight interferes with your ability to perceive the physical sensations that arise from within your body.

“Honor your health — gentle nutrition” is the 10th principle of intuitive eating. To make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel well, you must ditch diet culture confusion that muddles your mind, master interceptive awareness and experience all the principles of intuitive eating.

Finally, Tribole and Resch remind us that healthy eating isn’t perfect eating. “You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one food, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters; progress not perfection is what counts.”

After learning, practicing and experiencing the 10 principles of intuitive eating, the conversations about healthy eating sound different:

* “I can enjoy sandwiches again, guilt-free.”

* “I don’t need a meal plan, because healthy eating isn’t complicated.”

* “Dinner didn’t fill me up, but it felt good not to have the negative head space about getting seconds.”

* “My husband is thrilled that having a pan of brownies in the house is no big deal anymore, just a pleasurable food to enjoy.”

Ah, yes, that last statement was one of my shifts.

Intuitive eating, the “revolutionary” anti-diet approach, is changing lives and healing relationships with food and body. Be a rebel. Let it change yours, too.

To your happiness and health,

  • Tanya

Ready to learn how to eat intuitively? Get started!

(This article was originally published in the September 20, 2020 Jackson Hole News and Guide).

Reject dieting and learn Intuitive Eating

Maybe you’ve heard that diets don’t work and believe that diet culture’s “thin(er) is better” messaging is toxic. Yet you, like millions of other Americans, still want to lose weight.

You find yourself wanting a healthy relationship with food but you’re bombarded by the “New Year, New You” pressure to transform your body.

That makes perfect sense. And I get it because I too, as a former fitness expert and “eat this, not that” nutrition professional, fell prey to the “wellness” marketing that says you must, “look good to feel good.” Who doesn’t want to feel good about themselves? But remember, it’s diet culture that masquerades as “wellness” that convinces you that only one body type is “healthy” and to tie your self-worth to your looks.

Every January the mental berating in your head goes something like this – “Why can’t I just eat well without needing a “plan” to follow? Why don’t I have the discipline to sustain “success” after 30 days?”

Following the rules of “healthy eating” and restricting your favorite foods is exhausting. You feel guilty for ordering a Domino’s pizza or enjoying a Ghirardelli chocolate square after dinner; it’s only ok to eat these “bad” foods on a “cheat day.”

You’re “good” when you control your portion sizes, yet you’re hungry in an hour. But now it’s after 7pm and you “shouldn’t” eat because the “kitchen is closed.” “How can I possibly be hungry? I just ate.”

Or maybe you “can’t” eat because you’re still within your 16-hour intermittent fasting window. The negative self-talk in your head is loud, rigid, and lacking self-compassion. You wish you could stop thinking about food and your body all day, every day.

Does this sound like wellness? No.

What’s creating all this food drama? Diets.

Learn Intuitive Eating and reject dieting

Diets teach us to follow food rules that restrict or ban foods rather than listen to our own body’s food and self-care needs. Many of us believe that “dieting” is healthy eating and good nutrition. It’s not. Eating healthy includes having a healthy relationship with food. It’s approached gently and respects biodiversity – different bodies, have different needs.

The ✨ good news ✨ is that you can:

Ditch diets and learn how to eat intuitively

Dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch created Intuitive Eating in 1995, as an anti-diet, a response to the failure of “diet” plans. Intuitive Eating is a self-care eating framework with 10 principles designed to guide you back to attunement or body awareness – listening for and responding to your individual body’s needs for nourishment – physical, emotional, and psychological.

You were born knowing how to eat. As an infant, you cried when you were hungry and turned your head, refusing to eat, when you were full. But over time, you can lose this natural ability to honor hunger and fullness because external forces interfered.

  • Maybe you had to “clean your plate” even if you were full.
  • Or you were served portioned plates and not allowed to have a second helping despite being physically hungry.
  • Perhaps you weren’t allowed to have dessert unless you ate your vegetables.
  • And cookies or chips were forbidden foods in your home so when available you “binged” on them.
  • Or you learned that you “shouldn’t” trust your body’s signals when you first dieted.

So how do you return to eating intuitively?

“The first thing you do in Intuitive Eating is reject that diet mentality – meaning we’re not getting back on that diet this new year, we’re going to reject those juice cleanses and intense programs and start eating food when we’re hungry, we’re going to start making peace with all food,” says clinical mental health counselor and Therapy Thoughts podcast host, Tiffany Roe.

Interviewed on CBS News this month, Roe discussed Intuitive Eating as the antidote to dieting.

“The difference between a really healthy relationship with food and dieting is you feel connected to your body, you feel satisfied, you enjoy variety, you enjoy life, and you can listen and respond to all your bodies cues. Dieting doesn’t give us that result. Dieting is about restriction, obsession, fixation. And its short-term results never stick. We get stuck in this cycle of depending on dieting” says Roe.

So what if you want to eat pizza tonight and feel you shouldn’t?

“What I am going to say is going to go against everything we’ve learned in diet culture. Eat the pizza,” advises Roe.

“The dieting rules trigger an inner rebellion, because they’re an assault on your personal autonomy and boundaries” says Tribole and Resch. A 2012 research study “Dieting and Food Craving” by Massey and Hill provides evidence that dieters experience stronger cravings for the foods restricted on their plans compared to non-dieters.

Learn to eat intuitively and beat sugar cravings

A healthy relationship with food could be enjoying a green smoothie, because you like it – and pizza. Intuitive Eating takes an all foods fit approach to gentle nutrition where pizza isn’t “bad.”

Instead of restricting and banning foods, Intuitive Eating gently guides you back inside your body asking:

What do you need?

♡ Are you honoring your individual hunger and fullness?
♡ Which foods give you pleasure and make you feel good?
♡ And if not food, what are you hungering for in life – making a difference, more pleasure, connection?

You might have one big question:

Will Intuitive Eating make me thinner?

When your mind is stuck on your weight – the goal of diets, it interferes with the foundational concept of Intuitive Eating – body awareness – listening to the physical cues coming from your own body without diet culture “shoulds” and “shouldnts” getting in the way.

Intuitive Eating is an empowerment tool that guides you to trust your body to settle where it’s healthiest, not where diet and “wellness” culture says it “should” be.

Liberate yourself from diet culture and weight obsession in 2022. Reject dieting and eat intuitively. You are the expert of your own body.

To your happiness and health,

  • Tanya

Ready to transform your relationship to food and your body? Get started!

You might also enjoy Intuitive Eating: Do you need to relearn how to eat?

Embrace body in all its forms for self care

Body dissatisfaction and eating challenges are on the rise, affecting every sector of our population, from our youth to our elderly, but with an alarming increase among teens, young adults and children of increasingly younger ages.

We’ve reached a point in history where nearly every person is in some way affected by society’s heightened focus on beauty images, health and weight.

– Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott, co-founders of The Body Positive.

Almost half of American children between first and third grade want to be thinner, half of 9- and 10-year-old girls are dieting, and 58.6% of girls and 29.2% of boys are actively dieting. More than half of teenage girls and nearly a third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting and taking laxatives according to the Redefining Wellness Project.

What’s creating this heartbreaking reality?

The younger generation has learned to hate their bodies and “diet” from our culture — from us.

 

Redefining Wellness reports that “75% of American women surveyed endorse unhealthy thoughts, feelings or behaviors related to food or their bodies,” and “Americans spend over $60 billion on dieting and diet products each year” even though “95% of diets fail and most of us will regain the lost weight in 1-5 years.”

Kids model adult behavior — how we react to ourselves in a family photo, how we approach “good nutrition” going on and off “diets” to maintain or shrink our bodies, how we talk negatively about our bodies as they change, age — making them fear they won’t be loved unless they possess an “ideal” body. Sadly, this is normal, everyday adult conversation.

We can do better. We have the power to create the necessary cultural shift to save the next generation from negative body image as a root cause of many unhealthy behaviors with food and exercise.

 

You can learn to live peacefully and healthfully in your body by becoming competent in the five core skills of the Be Body Positive Model.

The model teaches us to:

♡ Reclaim health ♡ Practice intuitive self-care ♡ Cultivate self-love ♡ Declare our own authentic beauty ♡ Build community

ONE: Begin with the foundation of this work: Reclaiming your health.

Reduce suffering and heal from body dissatisfaction by challenging the ingrained societal and familial messages that say wellness is dependent on your weight.

Learn to identify and reject the billion-dollar diet industry that drives and profits off of body shame. If you’re not thin (enough) or if you gain weight for any reason, diet culture promotes “wellness” plans to achieve “health,” aka thinness, albeit temporary. Eventually you regain the weight, often more as a protective mechanism against future self-imposed famines. And then you start again, because it “worked” before, right? Truth bomb: All dieting is yo-yo dieting.

Maybe you’ve been able to maintain your body size, but at what cost? Has your forever diet led to obsessive behaviors with food and/or exercise?

To reclaim health, ditch diets and the limited view of health that equates your weight to your wellness.

♡ Want more inspiration and love to listen to podcasts?

Check out my latest interview: The Anti-Diet and Body Respect Movement – Episode 43 of the Love Your Enthusiasm podcast.

TWO: The next step to becoming body positive competent is to strengthen your intuitive self-care skills.

Improve your health by listening for and responding to your unique body’s needs with eating, exercise and all aspects of your life.

The outside advice from “experts” telling you what’s best for your body may not be right for you. What? No gluten-free, dairy-free, refined-sugar-free food plan to follow? With no food rules you may feel lost at first because you’ve become disassociated from your body, like it’s an object, just a machine to be fed and moved.

Instead, intuitive self-care teaches you to get back inside your body. With practice you’ll gain confidence to be the expert of your own body and health.

THREE: The third body competency skill is building a self-love practice.

Self-love is about cultivating kindness, respect and compassion for yourself and your perfectly imperfect human body. It’s a deep knowing that you are valuable and worthy regardless of your body’s size or appearance. And research shows that it leads to improved self-care — the intuitive kind, that is.

Furthermore, self-love is protective against your inner mean voice that hijacks your brain when you don’t like what you see in the mirror. Instead of pushing away your negative body talk, a self-love practice teaches you to turn toward the discomfort and meet it head on with compassion, giving you permission to be human and reject ideals.

 

FOUR: Next, you have permission to be entirely yourself and declare your authentic beauty.

Instead of feeling ashamed, fighting and fixing your “flawed” parts, respect body diversity and honor that your body is expected to change through each developmental stage of life.

“Finding beauty in aging, growing, and in being different means beauty is no longer something static we try to attain, but rather a part of our lived, changing experience,” body positive leader, Sarah Lewin says.

This wisdom, like self-love, also leads to true self-care, because you let go of striving to meet society’s definition of beauty.

We radiate beauty in many ways that have nothing to do with our appearance. For example, my beauty is my laugh, my passion for the body positive movement, the giddiness I feel when surfing a wave and my singing silly commercial jingles out of tune.

“Seeing our beauty is not an exercise in vanity — it’s a necessary component of good physical and emotional health,” Sobczak says.

FIVE: And finally, one of the easiest ways to reclaim your health, practice intuitive self-care and self-love and see your own beauty is in a supportive body positive community.

Together let’s promote awareness and education to reject our culture’s perfectionist body ideals that have led to the alarming increase in body dissatisfaction and unhealthy behaviors with food and exercise.

Join me in creating a Be Body Positive community — for the health of our kids, for every body.

Imagine Your Life Without a Diet

(This is the second of two articles on dropping diet mentality. Read part one, “A healthy eating tip for the New Year: Ditch the diet,” here.)

Imagine if you woke up New Year’s Day and weren’t consumed with thoughts of having to fix your body.

Imagine not refusing the brownie because it’s not on your list of approved foods on your “diet” to get thinner.

That doesn’t need to be a dream if you stop believing that food and total body vigilance are the answer.

In the first part of this article, I suggested that if you’re thinking about dieting — that is, using willpower and restriction to control your eating — don’t.

So if not dieting, what can you do to take care of your whole health instead? Try something radically different. Transform how you eat. Transform how you view your body. Move on with your life, the ultimate reward of pushing diet culture off your plate.

Begin by relearning how to eat.

The problem with any diet is that “most people trying to control the size, shape or weight of their bodies have learned to put the rules of the new plan before their body’s actual needs,” according to BeNourished.org, a website focused on healthy eating and body image.

Intuitive eating is the antidote because it’s based on the opposite premise. Instead of restriction, you are guided to tune into internal cues and your body’s needs. That includes learning to honor your individual hunger, fullness, satisfaction and which foods make you feel best.

Essentially, intuitive eating is just … eating.

But because “diet mentality is so deeply ingrained in societal beliefs, that intuitive eating, our natural way of eating, is considered revolutionary,” says the Loving Me Project, which encourages women to live a purpose-driven life.

When we no longer live by external food rules and societal beliefs that our bodies are too much or are not enough, we can get on with our lives.

What are you really “hungering” for? If it wasn’t about controlling your food to transform your body, what would you focus on each new year — and the rest of your life?

“Letting go of the idea of a smaller body, means creating space for a bigger life,” The Loving Me Project says. (You can follow the project on Instagram at @the.lovingmeproject).

Think big, not small, in the new year – without a limited view of “what’s healthy” — where diet culture wants to keep you focused, continuing to spend your time, money and energy, year after year. Instead use your head space to answer these questions:

• What would a life beyond dieting and body worry look like for you?

• What do you really want out of life?

• What really matters most?

• What would make this upcoming year extraordinary?

Envision your future as if it’s already happened. Describe the diet culture-free life you would create for yourself, and email me your answers at tanya@tanyamark.com.

“Diet culture steals your joy, your spark, and your life, which is why I call it, ‘the life thief,’” said Christy Harrison, author of “Anti-Diet.”

Don’t spend your life thinking you’re broken, a project to be fixed. Don’t be the 90-year-old woman refusing the fresh-baked brownie from her granddaughter because she’s “watching her waistline.”

Do something radical in the new year: Don’t diet. Listen to your body and live fully.

Tips for the New Year:

Listen to your body

Ready to learn how to listen to your body’s internal cues?

Transform your body image, not your body. It’s what you think about your body that’s the real challenge.

“I am too fat,” “I’m too skinny,” “I have too many stretch marks,” “I don’t have enough muscle.”

What if we swapped the endless pursuit of fixing or hiding our bodies, believing that our bodies are not enough or too much, to pursue a healthy body image instead?

What if instead of trying to change our physical appearance, we adjusted our mindset, our thoughts?

Focusing on changing your body image verses changing your body, can produce life-changing benefits. This switch can boost your self-esteem, banish persistent body anxiety, promote comfort in personal relationship, improve your relationship with food, reduce unhealthy dieting habits, improve your relationship with exercise, reduce the risk of developing an eating disorder, decrease social isolation due to body worries.

And most of all, changing your body image can improve your overall quality of life. Controlling your body shouldn’t be your life’s work.

Remember: “You are not alive to just pay bills and lose weight,” says Caroline Donner, author of “The F*ck It Diet.”

Read to re-learn how to eat?
Intuitive Eating: Do you need to re-learn how to eat?

Ready to transform how you view your body?
5 Steps to a Healthy Body Image

Weight Shame Hurts Every Body

This is a shout-out to all the women and girls working on liking their bodies. This s— is hard.

Why? Because today’s perfectionist, fat-phobic (weight stigmatizing) body culture feeds our dissatisfaction.

It fuels poor body image by spreading the conventional “wisdom” that healthy equals thin and fat is bad.

“Diet culture leads most women to see themselves as ‘too big’ and makes it difficult for people in larger bodies to feel they don’t need to shrink themselves,” says Christy Harrison author of “Anti-Diet.”

It’s become normal for women and girls to obsessively count carbohydrate grams and to anxiously pursue 10,000 steps on their Fitbits, all to manipulate what we believe are our bad bodies.

And we’re doing this to become … healthier?

We believe we must avoid weight gain or lose weight — at any and all costs — if we want to be happy, loved and have a body that’s accepted by diet culture.

“I truly believe that for the vast majority of the population, managing or losing weight is not about health but about a fear of not being accepted by others,” says body acceptance coach Kristina Bruce.

“A much bigger health concern we have on hand here is the staggering number of people who feel shame about their bodies. The only time I don’t like how my body looks is when I fear what other people will think of it. This tells me once again — my body is not the problem.”

Agreed. Your body isn’t the problem.

The problem is we view our bodies through the lens of a $72 billion diet culture that stigmatizes weight.

Harrison explains that weight stigma “frames larger bodies as a problem and tells people that they need to shrink themselves in order to be okay, which is the very definition of weight stigma.”

Virgie Tovar, an activist, author and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image, explains how weight bias affects us all through what she describes as three levels of weight stigma: intrapersonal, interpersonal and institutional.

Intrapersonal is how much you internalize the negative stereotypes about weight.

“The fact that we pretty much all have some level of intrapersonal weight stigma in our society is one of the hallmarks of living in diet culture,” Tovar says.

Second, interpersonal weight stigma is how you are treated based solely on weight or size — such as body shaming or bullying.

Lastly, institutional fat phobia describes how larger bodies are marginalized in society. For example, if you go to buy a ski jacket and the only color in your size is black or you have to buy a men’s jacket.

Weight stigma makes it difficult to like your body unless you are “lucky” enough to be one of the 5% of women who naturally possess the “ideal” body type. And even many of those women live in fear of weight gain.

Furthermore, evidence-based research shows that not only is weight stigma harmful to our body image, but feeling bad about our bodies is affecting our health, regardless of body size.

“I Think Therefore I Am: Perceived Ideal Weight as a Determinant of Health,” a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that the larger the difference between people’s current weight and their perceived “ideal” weight, the more mental and physical health problems they’d had in the past month, regardless of their body mass index. The study included 170,000 people of a variety of races, education levels and ages.

One major reason weight stigma is so harmful is that it’s so darn stressful for everybody, but especially for those living in larger bodies.

“Stress hormones … can have damaging effects on both physical and mental if they are secreted over a longer period of time called allostatic load,” writes David Levitin in his article “The Neuroscience Behind Why We Feel Stressed — and What to Do About It.”

That leads to a dysregulation in critical body systems — including the immune, digestive, cognitive, reproductive systems — and creates cardiac and mental health problems.

A 2018 study found that “perceived weight discrimination doubles the 10-year risk of high allostatic load. Eliminating weight stigma may reduce physiological dysregulation, improving obesity-related morbidity and mortality.”

Research by Harrison — the “Anti-Diet” author — comes to the same conclusion: “Weight stigma has been linked to an increased risk of mental-health conditions such as disordered eating, emotional distress, negative body image, low self-esteem and depression.”

If you’ve felt “so much better” after weight loss — especially after living in a larger body — could it be the result of no longer experiencing weight stigma and not necessarily the weight loss itself? It’s a question Bruce has asked.

So, ladies, here’s my shout-out to help you like your body: Don’t buy into diet culture’s weight stigmatizing. I’ll stand with you.

I’d also like to leave you with words of wisdom from poet Hollie Holden:

Today I asked my body what she needed,

Which is a big deal

Considering my journey of

Not Really Asking That Much.

I thought she might need more water.

Or protein.

Or greens.

Or yoga.

Or supplements.

Or movement.

But as I stood in the shower

Reflecting on her stretch marks,

Her roundness where I would like flatness,

Her softness where I would like firmness,

All those conditioned wishes

That form a bundle of

Never-Quite-Right-Ness,

She whispered very gently:

Could you just love me like this?

(This article was published in the Jackson Hole News and Guide, February 5, 2020 edition).

Are you a Normal Eater?

There is so much stress and confusion around what to eat these days that many of us have no idea what normal eating is anymore.

You may even be suffering from disordered eating or an eating disorder and not even know it as it’s becoming increasingly more common in younger girls and middle-aged+ women because of perfectionistic food and body ideals from diet culture.

Why? Because…

Disordered eating and the pursuit of thinness is so normalized in our culture that it’s often dismissed and even encouraged within health and wellness fields.

  • Sarah Herstich, LCSW, Signs Your Client May Be Suffering From An Eating Disorder

(Learn more about treating eating disorders here, by Jared Levenson)

Health and fitness magazines are filled with articles about what to eat in order to attain a perfect size. Popular social media posts claim you should eat this, not that, and talk of clean eating in a way that insinuates everything else is dirty. All of this fuels our insecurities about what we eat.

We may have grown up in households where we heard things like, “I’m so bad! I just ate ___“. Or maybe we heard the word fat being thrown around as a negative term. Maybe everything in the fridge was labeled Fat Free or Low Calorie. And maybe our mothers loved baking cookies for us, yet the talk around the house about “good” and “bad” foods left you feeling so guilty about eating those lovingly prepared cookies.

Of all the things we learned growing up, the lesson so many of us didn’t learn was the fact that the food we eat doesn’t make us good or bad → it has no inherent moral value.

Yes, there’s a nutritional difference between apple pie and an apple, but morally, there’s no difference. But in our current culture, diet culture, we feel guilty for simply enjoying a slice of pie because it contains processed sugar, gluten, dairy etc.

After finishing nutrition school in 2012, I avoided all these “bad” foods because I feared the health consequences from eating them. I restricted my eating so much that I would avoid certain social situations (because I couldn’t control the food and worried about my willpower to resist tempting foods) and was obsessed with avoiding anything “bad.”

When I “faltered,” I felt like I wasn’t walking the talk and that I was totally inauthentic as a nutrition professional. I was obsessed with eating only things that are considered “healthy” to be “healthy.”

Obsessing about ‘wellness’ can actually make you quite unwell. – Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C

Eating Psychology, Intuitive Eating

Thankfully I discovered Dynamic Eating Psychology and studied to become a coach when I learned that my restrictive, seemingly perfect “healthful” eating was actually not so healthy – it would have been considered “disordered.”

I returned to normal healthful eating, “gentle nutrition,” when I became professionally certified in Intuitive Eating.

I let go of the supposed “healthy” restrictive food behaviors and learned to tune back into my own body’s cues and needs.

What I love about Intuitive Eating is that it’s not just focused on food. It’s a self-care eating framework that focuses on our WHOLE health – physical, mental and emotional because our health is more complex than what you eat and how you exercise (and what your body looks like – as fit doesn’t have a look despite what diet culture tells us).

So what is Disordered Eating?

Disordered eating is different than an eating disorder. It lies between normal eating and an eating disorder and according to survey results conducted by Self Magazine and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, 75% of women regularly engage in disordered eating and exercise patterns.

Oh wow. I was shocked when I discovered this fact.

According to National Eating Disorders Collaboration, examples of disordered eating include:

  • Fasting or chronic restrained eating
  • Skipping meals
  • Binge eating
  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Restrictive dieting
  • Unbalanced eating (e.g. restricting a major food group such as carbohydrates)
  • Laxative, diuretic, enema misuse
  • Steroid and creatine use – supplements designed to enhance athletic performance and alter physical appearance
  • Using diet pills

And “dieting” is one of the most common forms of disordered eating.

“Dieting is the number one cause of the onset of an eating disorder and seeking help early is the best preventative measure.” – NEDC

What is Normal Eating?

According to the Ellyn Satter Institute, Normal eating:

  • is going to the table hungry, and eating until you are satisfied.
  • is being able to choose food you enjoy and to eat it and truly get enough of it – not just stop eating because you think you should.
  • is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.
  • is giving yourself permission to eat because you are happy, sad, or bored or just because it feels good.
  • is mostly three meals a day – or four or five – or it can be choosing to much along the way.
  • is leaving cookies on the plate because you will let yourself have cookies again tomorrow, or eating more now because they taste so great!
  • is overeating at times and feeling stuffed and uncomfortable…and under eating at times, and wishing you had more.
  • is trusting your body to make up for (what you feel are) “mistakes” in eating.
  • takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area in your life.
  • © 2018 Ellyn Statter Institute

In short, normal eating is flexible... it varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your food and your feelings and so much more. It’s time to return for our physical, mental and emotional whole health.

In order to help you return to normal eating, I teach you how to eat again using a self-care framework called Intuitive Eating. Want to learn more about it, click here.

To your happiness and health,

  • Tanya

3 Mind Body Nutrition Tips for Fertility

3 Mind Body Nutrition strategies to help you conceive a healthy baby

When it comes to fertility, diet and how you nourish yourself matters. Eating good quality food is a part of nourishment but how you and your partner nourish your whole selves is another critical ingredient of good nutrition and the ability to conceive. I recommend couples spend three months working on their own Mind Body health before trying to conceive. Why? A healthy egg and sperm create a healthy baby.

1. Food quality matters!

Eat Healthy Fats

Healthy fats are critical to your hormonal health. They provide long-term sustainable energy throughout your day. When trying to conceive, steer away from low-fat or no fat. Add in quality fats such as avocado, raw (not roasted in oils) nuts and seeds such as chia, hemp, flax, walnuts. Cook with organic cold pressed coconut oil. Dress your salads with high quality olive oil. And if you digest dairy well, choose full fat, organic pasture-raised dairy products or raw dairy.

Avoid trans fats which are chemically created fake fats that cause damage to your body. Don’t be fooled by food labels that read 0 trans fats as manufacturers aren’t required to include this toxic fat if the product contains 0.5 or less. No amount of trans fats is healthy. To ensure there are no trans fats in your food, check the ingredient list for “partially hydrogenated oils.” They’re a hidden source of trans fats. Trans fats can be found in fried foods, baked goods, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, crackers and more.

BONUS TIP: One of my favorite recommendations to balance hormones which increases your chances of fertility is Seed Cycling

Eat Healthy Carbohydrates

Low-carb is popular these days but many of us forget that vegetables and fruits are carbs. Carbohydrates are an important macronutrient because they provide us with quick energy.

Prioritize eating lots of vegetables which are packed full of nutrients (leafy greens are my favorite), as well as whole fruit (instead of juices), beans, 100% whole grains such as quinoa and amaranth. If you have difficulty digesting beans or grains, skip them or learn how to soak them to increase digestibility.

Minimize or avoid refined carbohydrates like white flour products such as breads, pastas, crackers etc. and excess poor quality sugar. For women, keep your sugars to 24 grams or less per a day; for men, 32 grams or less.

Buy the best quality produce that you can afford. To reduce your exposure to toxic pesticides found in produce, visit Enviornmental Working Group’s Clean 15, Dirty Dozen. EWG has an app that you can download on your smartphone for easy reference while grocery shopping.

Pesticides in produce can include chemicals that are xenoestrogens which mimic the functions of natural estrogens (endocrine disruptors). As a result, both women and men are dealing with excess poor quality, estrogen like substances that can lead to estrogen dominance. According to Natural Fertility Info., “estrogen dominance is a major cause of the fertility issues women face today”. What is so bad about estrogen dominance?

It is the root cause of a myriad of illnesses. Conditions associated with this include fibrocystic breast disease, PMS, uterine fibroids, breast cancer, endometriosis, infertility problems, endometrial polyps, PCOS, auto-immune disorders, low blood sugar problems, and menstrual pain, among many others.

Xenoestrogens can also be found in commercially raised beef, chicken, pork, dairy products as well as tap water. Also be aware of toxins in your cleaning and beauty products. Environmental Working Group has excellent substitutes for these products on their website.

Eat Healthy Proteins

Quality protein is important yet many of us tend to under-eat protein in the mornings (when it’s important to begin our day with balanced blood sugar) and over-eat it at dinner.

Be sure to evenly distribute your protein throughout your day. How much protein should you get at each meal? To figure out your own needs you divide your weight in pounds by 2.2, then multiply by 0.25. This will give you an estimate of how much protein you can absorb per a meal.

If you’re a meat eater, buy organic pasture-raised meats which means that the animal was raised on grass increasing the level of healthy omega-3 fats. For fish, choose wild fish that’s low in mercury and high in selenium: http://healthybabycode.com/5-myths-about-pregnancy-nutrition-3-pregnant-women-shouldnt-eat-fish

For vegetarians/vegans, make sure you are getting complete protein by eating a variety of foods that include the 9 essential amino acids. Try quinoa, buckwheat, rice, beans, lentils and more.

Minimize or avoid conventionally raised beef, poultry and pork that contain hormones and antibiotics as well as farm-raised fish high in mercury.

Healthy Hydration

Drink filtered water as your main source of hydration. Water is critical to our health. Our bodies contain 70% water. Without proper hydration, the body can’t perform tasks correctly (such as producing energy, hormones, or repair) nor can it expel toxins trapped inside the body due to lack of water.

Practice increasing your daily water intake to drink about 12 your body weight in ounces. Try drinking 16 ounces of water to start your day, before eating breakfast. It’s a wonderful way to detox.

Minimize: Alcoholic and caffeinated drinks. According to this article in the New York Times, moderate drinking does not appear to affect fertility though alcohol is known to affect sperm quality. One morning cup of coffee does not appear to affect fertility though it’s probably a good idea to pass on seconds according to Verywellfamily.com.

Avoid: Drinking out of plastic water bottles even if they say BPA free. Plastic bottles can contain harmful chemicals such as xenoestrogens which I’ve mentioned previously. They can seep into your bottled water when they’ve been sitting around for a long time or exposed to heat (which is common). Instead choose glass or stainless steel bottles and fill your bottles with filtered water.

2. A Healthy Lifestyle Matters

Consider Your Current Lifestyle

Is it grounded, calm and relaxed? Or is it hectic, erratic and sorely lacking in Vitamin T = Time?

Of course lifestyle changes aren’t quick fixes. That’s why I recommend taking three months prior to trying to conceive to take a look at your lifestyle and learn to slow down and prioritize what matters most.

Put yourself into your future babies shoes. What kind of environment would you like to be introduced to? Is your current lifestyle nurturing? Is there space for self-care?

It can be difficult to add in self-care strategies such as eating well or exercise when there’s just not room for it, mentally or physically.

One side note on exercise: Movement is wonderful for our chi (energy) and enhances our vitality and overall health. Yet beware of too much exercise. Excessive exercise can actually increase the overall stress on your body.

What’s On Your Plate?

Here’s a journal exercise to explore to create room for a healthier lifestyle: Write out your daily/weekly schedule and take a long hard look at it. What needs to stay and what needs to go? If it’s not a heck yes it’s a no. Stop doing so you can start doing!

The key point of this exercise is to reduce excess stress. Stress is a normal part of our lives as the sympathetic nervous system was designed to produce cortisol in times of emergency. Unfortunately many of us are stuck in a chronic low (or high) level of stress day after day and the stress response never turns off.

Remember that stress is any real or perceived threat (yes thoughts are included here!) to the body. The brain can’t differentiate between the two and as a result will turn on the stress response even when we perceive life as stressful.

How does the stress response impact hormonal balance?

First things first. Your body will always prioritize protecting itself. This means that digestion, growth and yes, conception have to wait in line. Unfortunately, when we’re under constant stress, the hormone cortisol can take a hit. It can be difficult for the body to keep up with the demands for constant cortisol. As a result, according to Dr. Claudia Welch, author of Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life, the body can borrow from our sex hormones, specifically progesterone. The body can make cortisol from progesterone. When progesterone stores take a hit, this creates an imbalance as one of progesterone’s jobs is to keep estrogen in check. “One of the main actions of progesterone with fertility is to help support a developing embryo,” says Hethir Rodriguez C.H., C.M.T. of Natural Fertility Info.

Want more information on the connection between stress and fertility? I highly recommend reading this article by Dr. Alice Domar of the Domar Center for mind/body health.

Slowly work on decreasing the major stresses in your life. Take the time as you prepare to conceive to pause and create physical and mental space to bring a new life into the world.

3. Let Go Of Control

While making a conscious effort to slow down and create space for healthy eating, movement and relaxation are important, consider allowing the universe to have your back. One of my mentors, Gabrielle Bernstein #1 New York Times Best Selling Author, International Speaker, and “Spirit Junkie,” did a wonderful talk on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday about spiritual surrender. Life doesn’t always go according to our plan, on our timeline. We can prepare and plan but it’s truly up to the universe to bring forth the miracle of life. Have faith and surrender to a power far greater than your own.

To your happiness and health,

  • Tanya