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Don’t let diet madness ruin the new year

“When I was little, someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up and I said, ‘Small.’

By the time I was 16, I had already experienced being clinically overweight, underweight, and obese. As a child, fat was the first word people used to describe me, which didn’t offend me until I found out it was supposed to” says Blythe Baird in her spoken word poem video When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny which has received over 4 million views.

She describes a teenaged life filled with eating “skinny-pop,” complimenting each other’s thigh gaps, trying diets she and her friends found on the internet, “Googling the calories in the glue of a US stamp” and “hunching naked over a bathroom scale, trying; crying into an empty bowl of Cocoa Puffs because I only feel pretty when I’m hungry.”

When Baird lost weight, her dad was so proud that he carried her before and after photo in his wallet, relieved that he could stop worrying about her getting diabetes and finally see her taking care of herself.

“If you develop an eating disorder when you are already thin to begin with, you go to the hospital. If you develop an eating disorder when you are not thin to begin with, you are a success story” says Baird.

“So when I evaporated, of course everyone congratulated me on getting healthy. Girls at school who never spoke to me before stopped me in the hallway to ask how I did it. I say, “I am sick.” They say, “No, you’re an inspiration.

How could I not fall in love with my illness? With becoming the kind of silhouette people are supposed to fall in love with? Why would I ever want to stop being hungry when anorexia was the most interesting thing about me?”

I share Baird’s story with you with urgency, before the new year, to stress the harms of continually reinforcing the societal norms that we’ve been socialized to accept such as dieting before any major life event, “swimsuit season,” beginning every January or actually just dieting in general.

Think of someone you know whose time, energy, money, physical and emotional health and self-worth – whose life is being stolen by the constant pursuit of maintaining or attaining an “ideal” body shape or size, that is, according to diet culture.

Maybe this person is your best friend, your mother, or you.

Nobody diets for fun

Like Baird, we try to control our bodies to belong, to be accepted as “healthy.” We believe we must “look good to feel good” about ourselves, the diet industry marketing messages promise.

Diet culture equates thinness, muscularity, and particular body shapes with health and moral virtue, according to author of Anti-Diet, Christy Harrison. You can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like this ‘ideal” she says.

And even if you have a small body, you may live with fear of weight gain.

I want you to know that you have a choice. Your only option for love and a content life isn’t to be a slave to the scale and other people’s opinions.

Ditch diet culture

You can choose to opt-out of harmful dieting and diet culture.

Dieting is disordered eating and is one of the strongest predictors for the development of an eating disorder, which can occur across the weight spectrum according to the National Eating Disorders Collaboration.

And you don’t have to be actively “on a diet” to be swept up by the culture of dieting.

Disordered eating habits also include preoccupation with food and your weight, feeling stressed about food and whether you’re eating the “right” or “wrong” foods and rigid food rules. It’s fasting, cleansing, detoxing, skipping meals to save calories, avoiding a type of food or food group, drinking laxative teas.

We can take “healthy” eating too far. There’s a term for this, orthorexia, also disordered eating, which is an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy foods.

The risks associated with disordered eating and dieting include developing a clinical eating disorder, osteoporosis or osteopenia, fatigue and poor sleep quality, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, muscle cramps, feelings of shame, guilt, low self-esteem, depressive or anxious symptoms and behaviors, and nutritional and metabolic problems according to National Eating Disorder Collaboration.

And because diet culture is deeply embedded in Western culture masquerading as health, wellness and fitness, disordered eating habits have become an alarmingly “normal” way to “take care of ourselves.”

Nearly 75% of women reported engaging in disordered eating behaviors in a 2008 survey of over 4,000 women done by UNC and SELF magazine.

“Ideal” weight as myth

But you have another option. You can separate “taking care of yourself” and your “health” from some “ideal” number on the scale.

Think about how we determine a “healthy” weight. It’s measured by BMI (body mass index) – just your height to weight ratio. That’s it. It doesn’t consider your eating or movement habits, muscle mass. It doesn’t factor in a long list of behaviors that impact your health such as smoking. It doesn’t consider your genetics, nor the complexities of health. BMI is a poor determinant of health.

Furthermore, ingrained beliefs that fat poses significant mortality risk are not fact.

Research reported in Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift shows that except at statistical extremes, BMI only weakly predicts longevity. People who are “overweight” or “obese” live at least as long as normal weight people, and often longer.

You can’t determine somebody’s health status just by looking at their body size. A small body may be healthy or not and the same is true for a larger body.

Honor Body Differences

With this knowledge, you can choose to honor that your body, other bodies may want to be different than what you and our culture think they should be.

Baird lamented that her “small’ body was the “most interesting about her,” but now as part of her healing “how lucky it is now to be boring,” says Baird.

“My story may not be as exciting as it used to but at least there is nothing left to count. The calculator in my head finally stopped. Now, I am proud I have stopped seeking revenge on this body.”

As the new year approaches and yet another wave of dieting madness tries to steal your self-worth, I want you to know that you have another option: you can ditch the false belief that there’s only one size that’s “healthy,” worthy of love and belonging and make peace with food and your body.

To your happiness and health,

  • Tanya

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

P.S. (You can watch Blythe Baird deliver her powerful poem, here).

(This article was originally published in the December 8, 2021 issue of Jackson Hole News and Guide.)

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.

Mom’s body attitude can shape daughter’s

“Mom, I’m fat.”

No mom ever wants to hear that comment from her daughter.

Yet never before have our girls been more obsessed with their weight and appearance. They are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of nuclear war, cancer or losing their parents, according to the Council on Size and Weight Discrimination.

Chronic dieting, low self-esteem and eating disorders are affecting them at alarming rates.

• Girls as young as 6 worry about their weight.

• 89 percent of girls have dieted by age 17.

• 15 percent of young women have disordered eating.

• 42 percent of girls in grades one to three want to lose weight.

• 45 percent of boys and girls in grades three through six want to be thinner.

• 51 percent of 9- and 10-year-old girls say they feel better about themselves when they are dieting.

• 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat.

Those statistics come from the Body Image Therapy Center. Though the numbers may convince us that raising body-confident girls is impossible in a culture focused on thin as the healthy ideal body type, we can make a difference.

Parents, teachers, mentors and health care professionals have the power to create that shift. Our girls need us to take a radical stand to accept all bodies and the girls who live in these bodies.

The most important thing we can do to promote positive body image is work on our own body image.

“Over 97 percent of women have at least one body-hating thought every single day, and 91 percent of women are dissatisfied with some aspect of their body,” said Alexia Conason, a clinical psychologist and the founder of the Anti-Diet Plan.

Those statistics have risen to epidemic proportions due to our disordered culture, which focuses on our flaws and pairs our self-worth with our pant size or the number on the scale, Conason said.

But there’s good news.

Girls who have a mom who is not self-critical of her own weight are 40 percent more likely to be body positive or body neutral, despite the cultural messages that teens see and hear every day, according to a Yahoo survey.

When we work on our own body image we support our girls.

If your daughter says she’s fat, how you respond matters.

Typically, we say “Oh, you’re not fat.” Yet that only reinforces that fat is “bad” and undesirable. Instead, let’s be authentic and honest in our communication with our girls. Be curious. Ask her questions such as: What caused her concern about her body size and why does she feel this way? Then listen deeply.

Practice empathy, the ability to understand and share her feelings. Can you relate to how your daughter feels about her body?

Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your own struggles with body image and why it’s important to have a healthy relationship with your body. Let her know she’s not alone.

Use the inevitable questions and challenges regarding body image and eating choices to strengthen your relationship with your daughter. Let her know “we’re in this together.”

So instead of telling your daughter that she’s not fat or her thighs aren’t too big, teach her to see bodies and health from a broader and more realistic perspective.

Teach her to take a critical look at the media she is consuming. Social media in particular plays a large role in the daily lives of our young people. Check in with your daughter and discuss how social media images often portray unrealistic bodies ideals. Have her unfollow any feed that doesn’t make her feel good in her body now. Then, together, check out body-positive social media feeds, such as @bodyimagemovement, to replace them, and visit TinyURL.com/bodypositivesocialmedia for more ideas.

Teach your daughter to separate self-worth from appearance. Create a list with her of all her strengths and accomplishments — qualities that have nothing to do with her appearance.

“True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are,” said Brene Brown, author of “The Gifts of Imperfection.”

Break the habit of body criticism. Our girls are listening. Comments like “Ugh! I feel so fat today.” Questions like “Do these jeans make my butt look big?” Statements about food like “Oh, I can’t eat that, I’ve been so bad this week.”

Our kids model our behavior.

“A new study by Webb et al (2018) posited that hearing ‘fat talk’ from one’s family may reinforce notions of a thin ideal and self-objectification which in turn may make women less attuned to the internal workings of their own body, eat less mindfully, and rely more on environmental or other external cues to guide their eating,” Alexis Conason wrote in Psychology Today.

Show your daughter how health looks different on every body. Have her question the cultural assumptions that smaller bodies are healthier than larger ones, that all weight loss is good and all weight gain is bad. Health comes in different sizes and shapes. Together look for examples of her favorite female athletes with different body types.

Let’s be the body image role models our girls need. And don’t worry about making a “mistake” when you find yourself challenged by how to address a body image concern. Just circle back and try again. It matters.

“Adolescents are inundated with messages about the importance of attractiveness and body size from sunup to sundown,” said Nicole Rue, a Jackson clinical psychologist specializing in disordered eating, compulsive exercise and poor body image.

“Parents occupy privileged positions to communicate to their children that human value is multifaceted by acknowledging, encouraging and genuinely appreciating non-appearance-based achievements and proclivities.”

I would love to hear ideas from our community. Where do you see challenges with teen body image?

Let’s create solutions. Let’s act radically in our community to prevent our daughters from fearing fat more than war, cancer or death.

Now when your daughter says “I’m fat” you can let her know that it’s not what she sees in the mirror that needs fixing, it’s the culture.

(This article was published in the January 23, 2019 edition of the Jackson Hole News and Guide).

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

What’s Healthier Than Kale?

Kale’s all the rage. Everyone’s talking about it because it’s healthy. But do you want to know what’s even healthier than kale?

Having a good relationship with food!

I used to think that because I loved eating healthy food I had a healthy relationship with food. Over time, though, and with further education, I had the courage to dig deeper and finally learned that my relationship with food actually wasn’t healthy at all. It was a relationship filled with stress and worry – about my health, and about my ever-changing body.

Sometimes, we have the best intentions for our health and the plan still backfires because we don’t have a healthy relationship with food. We can get stuck in the cycle of “being good” and then go back to our usual habits, and then starting all over again with a new plan. Again, again and again.

The Diet Mind

For example, let’s say you make the decision to give up processed sugar. On day one, you feel empowered. Day two still feels pretty good, by day three you’re pretty proud of yourself… but as the days go on you’re starting to feel restricted, like you’re on a diet (or an eating plan), like you have to be regimented and restrictive.

This is the diet mind the vast majority of us have developed over the years.

Over 20 million women and 10 million men have been diagnosed with clinical eating disorders according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). Yet if these statistics included subclinical challenges with eating called “disordered eating” which falls between eating disorders and normal eating, the numbers would be shocking says Hilary Kinavey, therapist and founder of BeNourished.

I fell into this category of “disordered eating” when I was obsessed with eating all things healthy.

Even when we consciously try to make change just for health’s sake, our preprogrammed mindset begins to take over and follow old patterns.

When we are engaged with the dieting or restrictive mind, we are nervous, anxious, thinking about weight (even if it’s supposed to be about health) and preoccupied with food. Thoughts become black and white. Flexibility and pleasure are replaced with agendas and plans. We tighten up and we lose our grounded footing. Self-hatred dominates.

  • Be Nourished

So, how do we conquer this mentality?

With awareness and by taking baby steps.

The first step that you can take today is taking the time to pause and reflect on your unique relationship with food. I encourage you to try this journal exercise:

Sit somewhere quiet, without distractions. Grab a pen and paper and let your mind flow. Don’t try and come up with the “right” answers, just let your hand write what it wants to. Speak from your heart.

Journal: Make Peace with Food

  • How would you describe your current relationship with food?
  • If your relationship isn’t where you’d like it to be, what would an ideal relationship with food be and feel like for you?

As a Mind Body Nutritionist, my favorite strategy for helping clients have a healthier relationship with food is by taking them through the re-learning process of becoming an Intuitive Eater again.

Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based, dynamic integration approach which connects the mind and the body. The 10 Intuitive Eating principles work by either cultivating or removing obstacles to body awareness. It’s a personal process of honoring health by listening and responding to the direct messages of the body in order to meet your physical and psychological needs.

It’s a liberating process. It brings you back into your body and taps into your own innate wisdom.

Intuitive Eating is not a diet or food plan. Period. There is no pass or fail, therefore, there is no “blowing it,” rather it’s a journey of self-discovery and connection to the needs of your mind and body. Ultimately, you are the expert of your body. Only you know what hunger, fullness, and satisfaction feels like. Only you know your thoughts, feelings and experiences. Intuitive Eating is an empowerment tool – it’s time to unleash it and liberate yourself from the prison of the “diet” mindset and dissatisfaction with our human bodies.

To your happiness and health,

  • Tanya

♡ Want to become an Intuitive Eater? Check out my private and group coaching options! I’d love to support you on this life-changing eating and self-care journey!

Are You On A High Fact “Diet”?

The High-Fact Diet

Do you ever feel burdened by the fact that you know so much about nutrition? This is what is called a “high-fact diet”.

Many of us are almost too well educated about what we eat, and this is actually creating stress in our bodies. And yes, I am speaking from personal experience. If we overthink every morsel we eat, we can be causing more harm than good.

Knowledge can nourish us. It can open our minds and make us feel empowered. But as with anything we consume, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. (Source)

Take me for example…

There are these peanut butter crackers. I love them. They’re just so delicious! BUT they have high fructose corn syrup in them. I used to eat them occasionally and really enjoyed them. However, when I learned how to read nutrition labels and learned that HFCS is “bad”, I started to avoid them altogether.

One day while I was still in nutrition school, I went on long hike in the middle of nowhere and didn’t bring enough snacks. I was, however, near a gas station where I saw my beloved peanut butter crackers. I was starving, and they were taunting me. But I got so stressed about eating a package that after devouring them, I was consumed by guilt because I knowingly ate something that wasn’t health promoting.

I believed the saying “you are what you eat” and so I believed that I was choosing to “poison” myself with HFCS. Of course, I now know that this is ridiculous. But when your mind is full of nutrition facts about how certain foods affect you, you begin to believe that you shouldn’t ever have these foods.

I can’t stress this enough – all foods can fit into a healthy diet.

We Don’t Need to be Perfect

No matter what the media or your nutritionist says (as I used to practice this way), we don’t need to be “perfect” eaters. Today, I focus on eating healthy foods for the most part – but I no longer categorize foods as either good or bad. I am more aware of how I am nourished by how I am living my whole life.

Right now, I am on vacation with my sister’s family and their three kids. I eat what I am served. Period. I am relaxed. I don’t have to cook. Instead, I focus on the joy of being around my family. I am nourished by far more than the food. Our metabolisms are fired up by more than what we eat. It’s also affected by what we think and how we feel about our food (and life).

If you missed my blog post about how your mindset affects your metabolism, you can check it out here.

Do You Have a High-Fact Diet?

  • So, how do you look at ______? (Insert your gas station peanut butter crackers equivalent.)
  • Can you eat _______ without a side of guilt or self-judgement?

Your answer to this question will tell you whether or not you’re living a high-fact “diet.”

If you are indeed way too knowledgable to approach your plate without guilt, then please – breathe. Take that weight off your shoulders.

Nutrition facts are everywhere (and my head is full of them) but we need to remember what we’re not reading on the internet and magazines, and hearing on podcasts and other media. There are many people who have less healthy food and exercise habits but somehow avoid getting diseases and live to ripe old ages. How is this possible? Our metabolisms and health are affected by far more than what we put in our mouths.

Eating healthy food is wonderful and is part of good health. But what you eat doesn’t define your whole health. Notice if you’re on a high fact diet and how it’s affecting the health of your mind and spirit.

Need some support in becoming a more relaxed, flexible healthy eater? I would love to chat!

  • Tanya

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