How would you describe your relationship with food?
This is one of the first questions I ask when meeting with a new client. A lot of my clients describe their relationship with food as a love-hate relationship. They love food so much that they don’t feel that they can control themselves around food and they do not trust themselves to self-regulate their food choices and their food intake. Leading them to struggle with their relationship with food, and eventually their bodies. More and more, my clients describe that they are eating on auto-pilot. They eat for the sake of eating, not because they are particularly hungry or because they have a craving for a certain food or type of cuisine. Regardless of what they are eating or how they are feeling they fill their plate with the same amount of food and before they know it, they have finished their plate. And they can’t say that they have taken pleasure in the act of eating or their food choice, nor can they say that they feel nourished. They might still feel hungry or be uncomfortably full, and they don’t know how to translate these messages to change their eating habits. There is one possible explanation for both situations – a long history of dieting!
Our society has constructed the idea and made you believe that if you are in a larger body that you are lazy, unhealthy, unworthy of what you desire, ugly, and you need to change. Let me be the first to say that you your size does make you any of those things, you are beautiful, and it is diet culture that needs to change – not you! Diet culture teaches us that we can’t trust ourselves when it comes to eating and food selection because of how we look, and therefore we need to follow a set of rules. These rules usually start with a list of “good and bad foods” and restricting food intake by either reducing the amount of food or eliminating food groups, followed by ignoring our body’s signals that it’s time to eat because we need to stick to the plan. The typical experience is either being discouraged by being hungry all the time, missing foods you used to eat or lack of results. Or maybe we do succeed in seeing the results we were hoping for a.k.a. losing weight, so then we stop the diet and reintroduce all the foods we were missing, and our weight creeps back up. We blame ourselves and start a new set of food rules in the hopes that this time we can keep the weight off.
But what if I told you that your body has an internal regulation system aimed at maintaining your weight, and it naturally nudges you to adjust how much you eat and the types of foods you eat in order to properly nourish your body and maintain your weight. When we diet/restrict, we ignore this internal regulation system - our intuition - and the situation described above ensues. But our willpower eventually tires and our internal regulations system that has been on standby kicks in pushes you to eat in response to the lack of nourishment from dieting. This leads to a constant struggle between our desires to eat and what we think we should look like or how much we think we should weigh. And over time, it can lead to an indifferent relationship with food.
When you consider the number of times that we eat in a day, and the time dedicated to planning, preparing and eating, this is a large chunk of our time that we are either stressed about eating or not benefiting from the full pleasurable and nourishing potential of food! When we learn to reconnect with our body, listen to what it is telling us and semi-automatically respond to its cues, the act of eating becomes a pleasurable experience once again. Just the fact of reducing stress and increasing pleasure (along with the associated hormones) has amazing health benefits. And through reconnecting with the food’s potential to nourish your body you can see additional health benefits affecting your everyday life and your weight will settle in at its natural set point.
Intuitive eating and living encourages you to respect your body and change the way you define health. It opens your eyes to seeing food and movement as acts of self-care and life enhancing, instead of punishment for not meeting society’s definition of what you should look like. Intuitive eating with Gabby is a Facebook support group designed to help you reflect on your current habits and introduce principles of intuitive eating and living in order to reconnect with your body, improve your health and enjoy food again.