Gifts of Intuitive Eating… Let me count the ways

person-writing-a-listIt has been just over 4 years since I first learned of Intuitive Eating.  As I began reading it I immediately sensed that finally, somebody understands me!  This book was my answer; my way out.  I had reached diet bottom.  The thought of going on another diet was something I did not want to do, yet I was fearful of not being ‘guided’ by one.  I was spent and I was tired.  Tired of feeling as though I was not good enough, strong enough, thin enough or that I lacked willpower.  I wanted a sense of peace.

It has been quite a journey since I first opened that book.  The emotions were raw.  Fear, anxiousness, self-doubt.  Can I do this?  How can I possibly eat anything?  Can I really accept my ‘here and now’ body?  Doesn’t this mean I am giving up on the dream?  Little by little, the self-doubt became trust.  The misguided judgments and criticism turned into words of self protection, forgiveness and patience.  I began, for the first time, to really experience my life.

One of my students, a cancer survivor of 4 years, told me “I am four years old”.  His diagnosis spawned a change in lifestyle that enabled him to lose more than 200 lbs. and to overcome 15 operations.  As he so aptly put it, “I am living on borrowed time. My life began 4 years ago.”  The words of this inspirational man resonated with me.  While not a personal life or death situation, I feel what I learned from Intuitive Eating has given me a new birthday as well.

When contemplating a change in lifestyle, I often encourage my clients to reflect on what they will gain.  Answering the question “What’s in it for me?” can be a powerful motivator to sustain change.  A firm believer in the theory of practice what you preach, I began to think about what Intuitive Eating has given me over these last four years.  When the self-doubt creeps back in, as it inevitably does, I read my list.  This helps me appreciate how much I have learned.  I choose not to focus not on how far I still want to go, but just how far I have already come and I am inspired move on.

Here is just a sampling of my Intuitive Eating gifts.  With your help, I want to add to this list.  Together we can inspire and motive each other.

Here goes…

  1. Feeling comfortable around food.  Knowing that I can choose what is best for me.
  2. Pizza
  3. Silencing the food police
  4. Practicing patience, not perfection
  5. Being able to truly enjoy my food
  6. Knowing I am my best advocate… and really believing it.
  7. Trusting that I can stop eating when I am full
  8. Knowing I can eat when I am hungry
  9. Being able to wear clothes that fit (not trying to squeeze into my ‘skinny’ jeans)
  10. I have the power of choice
  11. Being able to experience my feelings and not stuff them down with food
  12. Exercising because it’s fun
  13. Pizza
  14. Enjoying an ice cream with my kids on a hot day
  15. Realizing that food is not the answer to my problems
  16. Being able to look in the mirror and not criticize everything I see
  17. Throwing away the scale
  18. Giving away my skinny jeans
  19. Exercising because of how it makes me feel
  20. Trusting my and honoring body’s needs
  21. Realizing there is more to me than the number on the scale
  22. Viewing ‘failures’ as an opportunities to learn
  23. Knowing I don’t have to be perfect
  24. Seeing the value of ‘play food’
  25. Experiencing a good piece of chocolate
  26. Appreciating my body for what it does each and every day
  27. Melted cheese on a slice of pizza (ok, sensing a theme?)
  28. ‘Quiet’ brownies… Knowing I can have them in the house, but don’t have to ‘eat them all’
  29. Being able to enjoy a dessert if I choose to
  30. The satisfaction that comes with eating something I really want
  31. Learning I can say no
  32. Asking for help if I need it
  33. Appreciating quiet, stillness
  34. Trusting my body’s wisdom, in all things
  35. Believing in myself
  36. Freedom from diet rules
  37. Not having to ‘diet down’ for special occasions
  38. Learning to respect and appreciate who I am
  39. Seeing how my confidence has translated to other areas of my life
  40. A sense of inner peace

What about you?  I would love to add your thoughts and ideas.  What has the practice of Intuitive Eating given you?

Authors note:  Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D. and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A. teaches you how to make peace with food, stop chronic dieting and rediscover the pleasures of eating.  For more information, please visit their website: http://www.intuitiveeating.org.  I wish to sincerely thank the authors for their continued work.  They are inspirational professionals who have changed many lives!

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When the Words Return…

mirrorimage.I was hungry before teaching cycle.  Apparently, my snack didn’t have enough time to digest and class left me feeling nauseous and uncomfortable.  It was the pain in my throat that woke me in the the night but it was the thought in my head that stabbed me more… “Good, now maybe you will not be able to eat and you will lose weight.”

REALLY?  Those words haunted me like the monster under my bed did when I was a child.   How could I possibly still be having such a thought?  I have spent the last several years working as a coach and a mentor, sharing the benefits of mindful eating practices, discussing the how the pursuit body perfection kills our self-esteem and ruins our relationship with food and eating.  How could I still be thinking this way?

Six years ago, when I read Intuitive Eating for the first time, I instinctively knew I found what I had been looking for.  For the majority of my life I have been a prisoner of my own obsessive and destructive thoughts and behavior.  I was the lifetime dieter; toggling somewhere between binging/purging, restrictive eating, and excessive, punitive exercise.

Intuitive Eating taught me that the perfection I was striving for was a representation of  a largely unattainable fitness/beauty ideal created by society and the media.  I realized there is more to me as a person than just what I look like and I began to appreciate who I am and what I have to offer.  I paid attention to how ‘feeling fat’ changed my mood and became aware of how preoccupation with my appearance was interfering with my ability to live my life.  I learned how many advertising images are digitally altered making them both more appealing and less attainable.  I know and believe all this, yet I still find it difficult to look at my body in a mirror.

I am not aware of any hidden fascination with being a vampire as my reason for not having a mirror image.  Truth is, I am afraid.  For so many years, I listened to the words in my head… “You’re not good enough, strong enough or determined enough.  You’ll never succeed.  You lose weight and then gain it back, what is wrong with you?”  I am afraid of what I will ‘hear’ if I look.

If I fully believe in my heart and soul I am more than just an object to be looked at, compared to and judged, why would I think what I did?  How could I possibly want to deny my body nourishment in order to wear a smaller pants size?  Thankfully, I did not act upon this thought.  In fact, I’m grateful it happened.   It has made me aware that I am still struggling with my self-image.   This surprises me.  I have felt more free and in control since I discovered Intuitive Eating than any other time in my life.  I have let go of dieting and the food rules associated with them.  I eat when I am hungry and I eat what I want.  I worry less about food and as a result, I am able to enjoy living.  So what is keeping me stuck?

I know for certain changing my thinking is a process.  Intuitive Eating teaches us that we need to be patient.   There is no ‘wrong way’, only learning and discovery.  I have to remember to treat myself with patience, understanding and kindness.  I listened to those hurtful words for a very long time.  Change does not happen overnight.

In order to move on, I have to face my fears and look in the mirror.  I need to practice what I teach and focus on the things I like more than the things I don’t.  I need to acknowledge my accomplishments instead of what I have yet to do.  I remember what it was like living in that world when the only thing that mattered to me was the number on the scale.  Ironically, it wasn’t pretty.  Perfection does not exist and living my life in pursuit of it is a waste of valuable time.  Life is to short for that.

I now realize that the title of this blog is a misnomer.  I’m not sure that the words in my head ever truly went away; I instead chose not to address them.  Perhaps, up till now, I wasn’t ready to.  First, I needed to rebuild my relationship with food, for without that, I would not have the solid belief that I am doing what’s right for me.  This experience opened the door to where my work ahead is; finding true confidence in myself as a woman, inside and out.  I have always held the belief there will forever be something I can ‘fix’, but then again, maybe the true lesson is paying attention to who’s words are telling me that it’s ‘broken’ in the first place.  😉

To my readers:  I wrote this post today for a very important reason.  One of my main sources of support along my journey has been feeling that I am not alone.  Knowing there are others that have the same thoughts and fears that I do makes me feel understood and gives me comfort.  So here I am, sharing my fears.  Maybe you can relate and I don’t want you to feel alone.

One-A-Day Promise Campaign

Note:  This article is intended to be an online journal.  To make it easier for the readers who are following it, I will place the most recent entries near the top.  To start from the beginning and view the original article please click here.

Day 4:  I need a time-out!!

Have you ever found yourself munching on a handful of nuts, just because you walked by the bowl?  Ever visit the vending machine or the pantry instead of tackling an unwanted project?  Sometimes eating is ‘reactive’.  You may be responding to uncomfortable feelings and not even be aware of it.  Or sometimes, as with the nuts, it’s a mindless habit.  As a result, we may wind up eating  more than we need or even really want.

My goal today is to expand upon being present and mindful by practicing patience.  So here is an exercise for you (and me).  When I want to eat I am going to ask myself 2 questions.  “Am I biologically hungry?”  If so then I will keep my body fed and eat.  If not, I will take a time-out.  I will set a timer, between 5-15 minutes.  I will use this time to try to think about what I may actually be feeling.  If you are able, this is a great opportunity for some meditation or self-reflection.  After the time elapses, if I still want to eat what I had my sights set on, I will.

What’s in it for me?

I tend to be an impulsive eater.  I want stop and think about what I am doing before putting food in my mouth.  If I am not physically hungry, then what is really going on?  What do I really need at this moment?  The time-out gives me an opportunity to answer these questions.   Eating for emotional reasons will NOT solve my problems.   Thinking about what is bothering me is the first step to figure out how to handle it.  If it’s simply mindless eating, the time-out may distract me enough to forget all about my craving!  Ah, patience… it’s a good thing.

Day 3:  So what happens when things don’t go the way you think they ‘should’?

My focus last week was to pay more attention to my food.  For me, this also translates into eating generally because I am ‘stomach hungry’ and not to satisfy emotional needs.  Great!  But there were times this weekend that I found myself on ‘autopilot eating’ somewhere in that state of consciousness where I knew I was putting food in my mouth but I wasn’t fully connected to the experience.  I ate as a form of procrastination, because I was tired, bored, and as a sense of entitlement.  What a disaster!!!

Actually, thankfully, I tend to think in the contrary.  While eating for reasons other than true stomach hunger did not coincide with my goal, I was able to become aware of my actions.  I noticed, remembered and took full responsibility for these choices.  While it’s true, I may have been better off napping than nibbling, or taking a walk to ease my sense of boredom, there are worse ways I could be combating these issues.  Sounds like an excuse to you?  Well to me these are all opportunities to learn.  Life is full of these but first we have be able to notice them.  My journey to becoming an intuitive eater is not one where I seek perfection, it is one where I look to find my progress.

What’s in it for me? 

We all have choices.  My goal was to be mindful.  In one sense I ‘failed’ because I made choices that conflicted with my goals.  I could have chosen to beat myself up over my decision to eat.  If I had done that I would have been so consumed with my ‘failure’ I would have never been able to realize what was really going on.  Because I was trying to be mindful, I was able to stop and ask myself the question “what is it that you really need right now?”.  I doing so I could learn from my behavior.  In years past I never would have tried to notice what I was feeling.   If I can’t tune into the fact that I’m bored or procrastinating, how can I address the real issues?  Food is not the answer.

I have learned that self-acceptance is an important part to personal growth.  If we can’t accept our ‘mistakes’ and learn from them our only choice is perfection.  And that, for me, does not exist.

Day 2:  Can you name at least 5?… continuation of staying present while eating.

Life is not a perfect bubble you say?  Sometimes it’s not possible to totally focus on just eating!!  Ok, ok… I hear you.  And you are right.  My rule of thumb is this:  whenever I can, I focus my attention solely on eating.   Why should you?  (…inquisitive minds need to know)  Do you remember the “What’s in it for me?” question from yesterday?   Here’s what you’ll get:  more enjoyment from your food (provided that you chose something you really wanted in the first place), you’ll remember actually eating it, AND you’ll have a better chance to notice feeling full.

But what happens when it seems impossible to relax and focus on my meal?

This was my focus for day 2.  ‘can you name at least 5’.  Sometimes when I feel it’s impossible to totally focus on eating I challenge myself to notice at least 5 things.  I think about the color, texture, temperature, seasoning etc.  My lunchtime salad had lots of crunch (1).  The colors were bright (2) and consisted of red, green, orange and white.  The dressing had a little bit of spice (3) due to the pepper and was creamy(4).  My steak and broccoli that accompanied my salad was warm (5) and fulfilling.  The crunchy broccoli (6) contrasted with the soft rice noodles (7).

What’s in it for me?  Going through this mental exercise enables me to check in with myself, even if only for a moment. Pulling my attention back to my meal gives me a fighting chance to stay present and enables me to remember why it’s important to do so.  There’s nothing worse than looking down at an empty plate and having no recollection of eating any of it.  Talk about not being satisfied!!

I hope you find this exercise helpful … feel free to share your thoughts 🙂


Original Article:

Welcome 2013!  With thImagee dawning of a new year, attention usually gets focused on ‘new beginnings’ and I am no different.  This morning I thought about how I could reinforce my Intuitive Eating principles and lose some of the bad habits that have re-emerged over the last few weeks.

I usually approach any task by breaking it down into smaller, more specific chunks.  That’s when the one-a-day promise occurred to me.  I thought about making a daily promise to myself to put an extra effort towards ‘something‘.  Not very specific you say… and you are right.  But goals change.  As long as I do ‘something’ that is important to me, I will be keeping my promise.

Currently, I want to focus on Intuitive Eating.  A few days ago, on my Intuitive Eating Support Facebook page, I posted a poll asking my readers what they thought their biggest challenges with the process have been.  (If you would like to add your two cents to this poll, click here)  I have also taught several workshops on Intuitive Eating and have found that staying present while eating is a pretty consistent challenge for many of us.  That’s why I decided to start my journey here.

Having a sense of accountability is also paramount for me to stay ‘on track’.  This is the purpose of this post.  When my journey relates specifically to Intuitive Eating I will publish it.  Hopefully my experiences will be a source of inspiration and support for you and keep me focused on my promise to myself.

Day 1:  Staying present while eating

If you have ever tried this, you are well aware it is not as easy as it sounds.  Eating my breakfast this morning, I found my mind wandering towards writing this post!!  In order to truly enjoy AND remember eating my food, I had to clear my thoughts and focus my attention entirely on my meal.  When I did this, I became aware of something interesting.  After I had eaten about 3/4 of my food, I felt physically warmer.  While this may seem strange to you, I have noticed this before.  It’s almost as if my internal thermostat turned on.  Usually, this is a sign that I am getting full.  I ate 2-3 more spoonfuls and decided I had had enough.

Day 1,  What’s in it for me?

“What’s in it for me?”  Do you ever ask yourself this question when you have something you need to do?  I try to ask it often.  My Grandmother told me once, “Where there is a will, there is a way”.  If I am aware of what I will get out of something, I am more inclined to do it.  So part of my journal is going to be answering this question.

What’s in it for me?  Staying present enabled me to enjoy my food.  It also helped me to notice when I was getting full.  (In my personal experience as well as a workshop facilitator, I have found that feeling fullness can be another challenging task)

Day one done.  Simple enough.   What about you?  Would you like to join my campaign and start your own journal?  If not, feel free to follow me and offer your comments and thoughts.

To be continued…
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The Power of Snacking

Snack.  One simple word… when you read it, what do you think of?  Here’s a thought, snacking can be your passport to increased energy and better nutrition.

Food is fuel.  It’s what gives you energy.  We are at our best when we have a consistent source of high quality fuel throughout the day.  Ever use a re-chargeable battery?  When the battery juice gets low, whatever it’s powering runs a little slower, if at all.  Think of your body the same way.   Consistent fueling keeps you energized.

That doesn’t mean loading up on Twinkies or chocolate frosted cupcakes (no offense Hostess™)  Here’s the deal, you are what you eat.  Unless you live under a rock, I’m sure you have heard that we need to eat more fruits, veggies, whole grains and fiber.  These are your quality foods… if you put the good stuff in, you get good stuff out.  Think of snacking as your way to eat more of the good stuff.

But I’m trying to lose weight…  I need to eat less, not more!  One of the main reasons people overeat is because they let themselves get too hungry.  Your biological need for food is strong.  Becoming overly hungry makes it difficult to stop eating when you finally do eat.  As a general rule, try not to go more than 4-5 hours without eating.  Keeping your body fed consistently curtails overindulging.

But I don’t know what to eat.  Good nutrition is a balancing act.  Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are macronutrients that provide specialized health benefits.  Eating a variety of these foods ups the ante on your overall nutrition score.  Picture your snack as a mini meal with a purpose.  Think of ‘real’ food instead of traditional ‘snacks’ like chips and pretzels.  (Not that these are bad, but there’s a time and a place for everything)  Snacks are an opportunity to give your body more ‘good stuff’; fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

One easy way to a nutritious snack; start with a fruit or vegetable and combine it with a lean protein, whole grain or healthy fat.   For example, an apple and a small handful of raw nuts;  cucumber slices and feta cheese; baby carrots and hummus.  Pairing up your foods in this way not only gives you a variety of  nutrients but because proteins and fats take longer to digest, you to feel full longer.

Stick to whole foods by staying close to nature.  By avoiding processed foods you will reduces excess sugars, salts, chemicals and preservatives in your body.  Learn to shop the perimeter of your supermarket.  You may also want to reconsider your choices of ‘diet’ or ‘low-calorie’ products.  In order to make these products taste better, food manufacturers add sugars and salt.  For example, compare the labels of low-fat peanut butter and a natural one (ingredients: peanuts).  The low-fat version has added sugar (high-fructose corn syrup).  The healthy peanut oils have been replaced with hydrogenated oils and other additives to prevent separation.  My advice (not that you asked for it, but since you are still reading this, you may be curious) … go natural!!   Keep it simple, read your labels, aim for 5 ingredients or less and remember you shouldn’t need a dictionary to pronounce the ingredients in the list!

OK enough with the lecture, let’s get down to some examples:

  • Hummus with Pita and Peas:  3 tablespoons hummus; 1/2 whole-grain pita, cut into pieces; and 1/2 cup pea pods or shelled edamame.
  • Oatmeal and Berries:  1/2 cup of oatmeal topped with a handful of berries (make it with skim milk for added protein).
  • Spiced Maple Yogurt:  6 ounces plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and a dash of cinnamon
  • Tomato Juice and Cheese:  8-ounce V8 juice with 1 piece of string cheese
  • Cheese and Crunch:  A Laughing Cow® cheese wedge spread on Wasa™ crackers or celery sticks.  For a Mexican flavor, top with salsa.  Add black beans for even more fiber and protein.
  • Waffle and Fruit:  Toast a whole grain waffle and top with low-fat yogurt and sliced fruit.
  • Inside-Out-Sandwich: top a slice of turkey or ham with mustard or salsa, cheese of your choice and wrap it around a sesame bread stick.
  • Mini Pizza:  top a whole grain English muffin with pizza sauce and low-fat mozzarella cheese…bake and enjoy!
  • Fruit and a nuts:  Apple slices and some peanut or almond butter or a handful of nuts OR try a 4-ounce mandarin-orange cup topped with 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • Fruit Kebabs:  Alternate a fruit of your choice (grapes work well), with cubed cheese and roasted turkey or chicken on a kebab stick.  By the way… don’t ever run with a stick in your mouth!   🙂
  • Fruit Burrito:  Top a small whole grain wrap with either a cheese spread or your favorite nut butter and sliced fruit.  (Bananas and strawberries are our favorites)
  • Sweet Potato Bake:  Sprinkle 1/2 of a baked sweet potato with some grated cheese.  Add some steamed broccoli or spinach for even more vitamins.  Now that’s a snack with a punch.
Bottom line:  Snacks are opportunities to add nutrients, minerals and protective anti-oxidants to your diet, increasing your overall health.  Nutritious snacking curbs your appetite and helps you avoid overeating.  Consistent fueling keeps you energized and ready to take on your day.  Sounds like a no-brainer to me!

If you have a favorite snack that you would like to share I would love to hear from you!

For more ideas, please visit the following websites and resources:

www.eatright.org

www.webmd.com

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