Monday, January 23, 2023

Part 5 Mindful Eating

Part 5 Mindful Eating: Based on the book "Intuitive Eating Workbook"

It is difficult to identify fullness if you are eating while distracted, stuck in habitual patterns of cleaning your plate, or eating quickly without savoring your food. Eating while engaged in another activity is much like distracted driving—the driver has the illusion that he or she can drive just fine while texting. Distracted eating is no different. You might have the impression that you are aware of what you are putting in your mouth while reading the news or responding to email. But you are truly missing out on the sensory aspects of eating—the sound of the crunch of lettuce, the cool silkiness of the sour cream next to the thick richness of a bean chili, the scent of cinnamon wafting from your oatmeal, or the visual tapestry of a colorful pasta salad. Although you have the ability to multitask, your mind can truly pay attention to only one thing at a time, like a camera lens. Consequently, if you are preoccupied with doing other activities while eating, not only will your enjoyment of your meal be diminished but also it is likely that you will not sense your fullness until you discover that you are too full and that you ate more than you needed. Or you might discover that you feel full, but because you didn’t experience all the pleasures of your meal, you may still have a profound desire to continue eating to experience those joys. There are barriers to fullness, these include watching television or a movie, texting, reading a book, reading a magazine, surfing the Internet, reading or posting on social media, working at your desk, performing household chores, sorting through your mail, checking email or voicemail, checking your smartphone, playing digital games, creating to-do lists, reading the newspaper, reading the text on the cereal box, walking around, driving, talking on the phone, and making your kids’ lunches for school. Whether you eat alone or with other people, eating is a time to connect with your body and nourish it, especially in regular meals (though the satisfaction and comfort of having a snack should not be seen as inconsequential). If you are with family, friends, or coworkers, it’s also a time to connect with other people. But connection is difficult when there is unwanted distraction. It’s important to create as optimal an eating experience as possible: pleasant, relaxed, and free from distraction. There are two key ways to do this: by setting boundaries and by creating a pleasant environment. Finishing all the food on your plate, regardless of how much is served, is an externally based pattern of eating and a barrier to experiencing fullness, disconnecting you from your internal body cues. Instead, your stopping point is when your plate is empty, regardless of your initial hunger and subsequent fullness level. This type of eating is also common with packages of food—eating until completion, until the package is empty. The familiar parental rule from childhood evolves into a habitual pattern and even an expectation. Other factors can trigger finishing all the food on your plate, including being too hungry, eating too fast, or fear of deprivation. A strong habit like cleaning your plate or eating fast may be insensitive to fullness cues because it is so conditioned and ingrained. But when habit automaticity is disrupted, it’s easier for you to follow through with your intentions, such as leaving food on your plate when you become comfortably full. This next activity offers a novel way to disrupt the autopilot nature of these habits, which will enable you to savor the food and ultimately to be more connected to the physical sensations of emerging fullness: Eat with your nondominant hand. In social settings, it’s common for people to offer you more to eat. Sometimes a host is just being polite and accommodating, but some individuals gain self-worth from other people eating their food, especially if it is a special recipe. However, it’s important for you to honor your body. It is not your responsibility to make someone happy by eating more food at the expense of your body and comfort. Even if they ask you repeatedly, if you don’t want more to eat, you don’t need to change your answer. There are many ways people experience fullness. Here are some of the different ways that you might experience signs of fullness during and after a meal. Stomach: Many people experience a sensation of fullness in their stomach, ranging from a slight distention to heaviness and bloating. Head: Many experience fewer thoughts about food and eating. The desire to eat is diminished. Mood: Many feel a mood shift; they begin to feel pleasant or relaxed. Energy: Some people feel re-energized. Others, however, feel drowsy after eating. Some people stop eating when they suddenly feel uncomfortably full. This sudden onset of extreme fullness arises from not paying attention to the emerging sensations of fullness. These sensations are subtle and easy to miss if you do not check in with your body. For many people, this requires slowing down the process of eating. There are several factors that influence how much food it takes for you to experience comfortable fullness. Your Initial Hunger Level. If you start eating when you’re not hungry, there’s no compass for the contrast of fullness, because there’s no hunger to compare it to. Unconditional Permission to Eat with Attunement. If you have not made full peace with food, then stopping because of fullness may seem like a difficult proposition. It’s hard to stop eating if you believe you will never eat a particular food again. Timing. The amount of time that has passed since your last meal or snack will influence your fullness levels. To keep your energy and blood sugar in balance, you generally need to eat every two to six hours. Amount of Food. The amount of food that you ate at a prior meal or snack will influence when you become hungry and how much food it will take to reach comfortable fullness. Social Influence. Several studies have shown that the presence of people at a meal tends to increase the amount of food you eat. This may be due to distraction, peer pressure, or just simple unawareness. Type of Food. The kind of food you eat will influence not only your fullness level but also its staying power. For example, foods with a lot of bulk will make you feel full, but if they are also low in calories, such as vegetables or air-popped popcorn, they will not be satiating. Foods higher in fat, such as avocado, have more sustaining power. Some types of foods contribute to the feeling of comfortable fullness: Protein. The protein level in your meals or snacks helps to increase satiety levels. Foods high in protein include meats, beans, poultry, nuts, yogurt, and fish. Fats. Fats contribute to fullness in two ways. First, the presence of fat in a meal slows down the rate of digestion. Fat is also the slowest part of food to be digested. It plays a significant role in prolonging fullness. Foods high in fats include nuts, salad dressings, oils, butter, nut butters, full-fat dairy products, and avocados. Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates add bulk, which contributes to satiety. These foods also help to keep a normal blood sugar level, which is essential for providing energy to your cells. Foods high in carbohydrates include pasta, bread, rice, beans, and fruit. Fiber. Fiber is an indigestible type of carbohydrate, which adds bulk and slows the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream. It’s the reason a sandwich made with whole wheat bread may be a little more satisfying than one made with white bread, which has less fiber. These types of foods temporarily contribute to the feeling of fullness, but it is short-lived, because they are low-calorie foods. It’s the reason why, for example, you could eat a meal consisting of a big veggie salad with a tall glass of unsweetened iced tea, and truly feel full, but then end up hungry only an hour or two later. Or you may have experienced a confusing feeling when eating these foods—you feel physically full, yet still feel like you are missing something. You feel like you are on the prowl, still needing to eat. Individuals often describe it as a restless, food-seeking feeling—they are not satisfied. High Bulk, Low Calorie. These types of foods are generally vegetables and some fruits. “Air Foods.” These types of foods are usually familiar to dieters. Air foods fill up your stomach but offer little, if any, energy (calories). They are typically diet foods, such as rice cakes, puffed cereal, and sugar-free beverages. Artificially Sweetened Foods and Low Carbohydrate Foods. These foods tend to replace carbohydrates with sugar-alcohols and indigestible fibers. These replacements can make you feel temporarily full (and if eaten in excess, they can cause bloating and discomfort). This includes some energy bars, sugar-free gelatin, and low-carbohydrate desserts and snack foods. As you begin to become more familiar with the various sensations of fullness, you will be able to identify the last bite threshold, which is the endpoint of eating (for now). It’s a subtle experience. You become aware that just one more bite of food will likely be your stopping point for a comfortable satiety level. The key element in sensing this threshold is paying attention. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Part 4 The Food Police

 Part 4 The Food Police: Based on the book "Intuitive Eating Workbook"

Intuitive Eating involves a neutral, appreciative way of thinking. It’s filled with positive thoughts and gratitude. It’s based on the process of making change at one’s own pace. People who live with the diet mentality often have black-and-white thinking and see life in a linear way. They approach projects with the goal of going from A to Z in a straight line, rather than flowing with the ups and downs that come with any realistic goal in life. In the diet mentality, there is no room for deviation along the path. But life doesn’t work that way, and when the inevitable deviation occurs, the dieter’s rigid thinking leads to a sense of bewilderment and negative self-talk for not being able to stay on course. Negative beliefs and thinking impact your mental health. Make your motto “Come from a place of curiosity, not judgment”. The most common trap in which individuals get stuck is perfectionistic thinking. This premise must be reframed in order to remove negative self-talk. Whenever you attempt to do something every day or always, your goal is perfection. The problem with these goals is that the moment you don’t reach your perfectionist standard, you feel as if you’ve blown it. You might even feel shame that you can’t be true to your word. With this disappointment in yourself and the accompanying shame, you’re likely to give up on your goal entirely. One way of reframing your thinking is by adopting the phrase “for the most part.” When you set your goals, include a bit of flexibility: I’m going to exercise as often as it feels good, and when I’m too tired or don’t have time, I’ll rest. In other words, remember your commitment to consistent movement is going to be “for the most part.” As a result of diet thinking, you may have created many food rules, which are based on old beliefs. They may have accumulated over your lifetime. Many people say that a powerful source of these beliefs and rules was their upbringing or the dynamics of their family when they were children. Your family’s beliefs have a powerful influence on forming your belief system. Even if their intentions are entirely positive, many parents raise their kids with rules about what’s okay and not okay to eat. It’s important to get a sense of these rules from your childhood, their degree of rigidity, and how they might still be affecting you. Have family members, friends, or acquaintances made comments about your weight, shape, or what or how much you’re eating? If the person making this comment acts like a critical parent, it is likely that you will feel like a rebellious child, and your behavior may reflect these feelings. You often cannot control how others speak to you, even if you confront them about their criticism, but you can change how you speak to yourself. If you speak to yourself in a critical way, it is likely that you will respond with a rebellious voice, just as you would if someone else spoke to you in this way. You will find that as you speak to yourself more gently, you reduce your rebellious resorts. By noticing how you feel when you speak to yourself and when you respond to yourself or others, you will remove many of the barriers that have blocked you from connecting with the voice of your Intuitive Eater. It’s the voice of your autonomous Intuitive Eater—who knows the truth of your thoughts and feelings—that will lead you to a healthy relationship with food and your body. The Destructive Dieting Voices have a detrimental effect on your relationship with food and your body: The Food Police decides whether you’re being bad or good in relation to your food choices. It combines your dieting rules with your food rules. The Nutrition Informant aligns with the pervading cultural myths about which foods are healthy (not fattening) or unhealthy (fattening). The Diet Rebel makes rebellious comments that leave you feeling powerless in your ability to make autonomous decisions about your eating. The Powerful Ally Voices can aid and comfort you in your relationship with food and your body: The Food Anthropologist is a neutral observer who makes comments without judgment. The Nurturer is the loving, kind voice that provides the most positive self-talk. The Nutrition Ally has a neutral voice that helps you make decisions about foods that will give you energy, health, and satiety, along with satisfaction. The Intuitive Eater is the voice that will come from your internal wisdom and will guide you to make the best choice for your body’s needs.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Part 3 Dieting and Familiarity

Part 3 Dieting and Familiarity: Based on the book "Intuitive Eating Workbook"

In order to control their eating, chronic dieters abide by rigid rules that dictate what they can and cannot eat, with little regard to their experience of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction. Consequently, chronic dieters live in their heads and second-guess the needs of their bodies. After a while, interoceptive awareness (the ability to perceive physical sensations that arise from within the body) goes dormant. Dieters tend to evaluate their successes or failures of eating in terms of the current day. Success requires getting through the day with no violations of the diet. Even just thinking that you have blown your diet is enough to trigger the consumption of more food, regardless of hunger or fullness levels. Consequently, restrained eaters do not really end up eating less food overall. Researchers suggest that a high restraint eating score (meaning a high degree of restrained eating) seems to more accurately reflect eating-related guilt rather than actual food consumed. In the case of eating, habituation is the reason why leftovers become less appealing over time, even if it is your favorite food. The more you eat the same food, the less enticement it offers. It is just food. Sure, it still tastes good, but it becomes no big deal. Several studies have demonstrated the habituation effect with many different foods, including pizza, chocolate, and potato chips. The problem for chronic dieters is that forbidden-food rules prevent the habituation response. Instead, a vicious cycle ensues with each diet: the diet begins with food restriction, followed by broken restraint and the consumption of forbidden foods, which triggers feelings of guilt and a lack of control over eating those foods. That guilt and uncontrolled eating provide false evidence that more rules are needed to constrain the eating. There are many ways to make peace with food. But it goes more smoothly if we harness what we have learned from habituation research. For example, we know that novelty, variety, and distraction delay the habituation process. So it is helpful to eat without distraction and to choose the same food and same flavor before moving on to another food. For example, if you wanted to make peace with ice cream, it’s best to choose one flavor rather than buying a variety of flavors. Varying the flavor (or even the brand) extends the period of novelty—it’s almost like starting anew with each flavor, even though it’s the same kind of food. You will likely need to repeat this process several times—with the same food, as well as with different forbidden foods. Sometimes, of course, there are medical conditions that would cause some foods to be off-limits—such as a life threatening allergy to peanuts, or celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that can only be treated by eating a gluten-free diet. Under these conditions, it is likely that you may feel a level of deprivation, as you are no longer free to eat certain foods without an adverse physical reaction. Remember, Intuitive Eating is about listening to all of the messages your body gives you and striving to feel good in your body as a result of your food choices. As you become an intuitive eater, your body will come to respond to foods that make it feel good, and so if you are in tune with your body, you will want those forbidden foods less. If you continue to have an emotional reaction, it is important to discuss this with your therapist and/or nutritionist. If you have less access to food as a result of financial limits, it is important to discuss your feelings, as well. We are all born into this world innocent, filled with instinct and emotions and the capacity to eventually form thoughts. In the realm of eating, this child lives in a nation—and, perhaps, a home—riddled with guilt about eating. Foods are often described in moralistic terms: decadent, sinful, tempting, or bad. This way of viewing food has become a false religion. Dieting has become the absolving ritual for removing the guilt of eating pleasurable foods. The key defense for challenging the food police is to first develop nonjudgmental awareness of your thoughts and then cultivate retorts to the food police’s judgments and demands. Learning to speak up is essential to your self-esteem. Beliefs are cultivated and influenced by many factors. For example, many people have a family history of living with a focus on weight and body size. A mother might comment on how her child looks and how the child’s clothing fits. A parent may use the scale daily and talk about dieting. A grandparent might make admonitions about how much food her grandchild is eating. There might be magazines in the home full of celebrity photographs that have been digitally altered to make their bodies look perfect. Your thoughts are formulated from the set of beliefs you hold about how the world around you works. The thoughts and rules spoken by the food police are usually cognitive distortions—very strong statements that are based on false beliefs. If not challenged, these negative thoughts can affect many of your behaviors, especially your eating. The first method is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT involves evaluating your thoughts and reframing them if they are faulty, which ultimately affects your behavior. The process begins with observing your thoughts and questioning whether a thought is reasonable. Is there any scientific evidence to support your thought? Or does it sound unjustifiable, unreasonable, and faulty? Once you have identified an unreasonable or illogical thought, challenge it by replacing it with a logical thought. Reflecting on your actual past experiences will help you evaluate whether your present thought has any truth or accuracy and whether it has actually resulted in any benefit to you. A second way you can challenge cognitive distortions or myths is by reframing them with facts. The second way to work with food police thoughts is a simple process of just observing your thoughts, without allowing them to occupy your mind and without passing any judgment on them. Simply observe them. This is a form of mindfulness called curious awareness. Our minds habitually take hold of a thought and build a narrative or story around it, which can create unnecessary suffering. A robust body of research shows that using curious awareness, through mindfulness-based meditation, can be incredibly beneficial to your mental health. There are many ways to practice doing this: Place your awareness on the present moment, rather than the thought. Pay attention to one of your senses, such as sight, touch, or sound. Simply label the thought as “thinking” or “mere thoughts, not facts.” Consider learning and developing a regular meditation practice. Just as beliefs inform your thoughts, your thoughts can have a powerful impact on your feelings. Let’s say that you realize that you’re feeling anxious. If you explore the thought that preceded that feeling, it might be, I ate too much today. By evaluating and challenging that thought, the ensuing feeling is likely to be more neutral or even positive. Here is a list of feelings that are often connected with eating and your body: anxiety, sadness, fear, disappointment, remorse, envy, anger, and shame. Don’t forget: beliefs create thoughts, which affect feelings and then behavior.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Part 2 Dieting and Hunger

Part 2 Dieting and Hunger: Based on the book "Intuitive Eating Workbook"

There is a huge cost to the pursuit of dieting, beyond financial. Dieting can cause a lot of harm to your behavioral and mental health, as well as your social, relationship, and physical health. Take inventory of how dieting has interfered with your life. Physical symptoms include weight gain, blunted metabolism, excessive cravings for carbs, blood sugar swings, disconnected from hunger cues, disconnected from satiety cues, chronically tired, even when sleeping well, hair loss (more than usual), if female: missed or inconsistent menses, and physical numbness. Social symptoms can include eating differently when others are present, comparing food to what others are eating, in quantity and type of foods,  worrying about what people think about my eating, worrying about what people think about my body, trying to eat the same type and quantity of food that others are eating, canceling social events because of the food or meals served, avoiding eating in social situations, and behavior and beliefs about eating and body image have interfered with relationships. Psychological symptoms include worrying about my eating, having strict rules about eating, counting calories, carbs, or other factors about food, thinking of foods as “good” or “bad,” feeling guilty if I eat a “bad” food, having mood swings, afraid of feeling hungry, afraid of feeling too full, distrusting my body, afraid that if I start eating “forbidden” foods, I won’t stop eating, and fantasizing about food and am preoccupied by thoughts about what I eat and don’t eat. Behavioral symptoms include if I break a food rule, I eat even more of it, If I eat too much, I make up for it by skipping a meal or eating less food at the next meal, even if I am hungry, eating more food when I’m stressed, only exercising to burn calories or lose weight, talk a lot about dieting, weight, and food, when on vacation, ignoring my food rules and eat more than I need, no matter how full I feel, engaging in binge eating, and avoiding physical intimacy. When you embark on diet after diet, it leads to weight fluctuations, which researchers call weight cycling. Weight cycling itself takes a toll on your physical and mental health. Research over the past twenty-five years has shown that weight cycling is inextricably linked to adverse physical health and psychological well-being. Weighing, measuring, and counting are external tools of dieting. And so is collecting dieting books and articles. As you begin to practice the principles of Intuitive Eating, these thoughts and behaviors will fade into the background and eventually disappear. Whenever you’re feeling bad about what you ate, reflect on what you’ve just said to yourself—there’s a good chance it was some form of dieting mentality. For now, simply labeling these types of thoughts as “diet mentality” is a great step. Because paying attention—without judgment—is needed for meaningful change to take place. This is a characteristic of compassion, which plays an important role in the journey of becoming an Intuitive Eater. Hunger is a natural biological cue that lets you know that your body needs sustenance. Nourishing your body is as essential to life as is breathing. Honoring your hunger is an important part of Intuitive Eating. Chronic dieters often deny their biological hunger, only to have it backlash. Their hunger increases and sets off a biological cascade, both physically and psychologically—“primal hunger,” an urgent and intense desire to eat—which often results in overeating. Primal hunger is a state that occurs when biological hunger has gone unanswered for far too long. The term hunger technically refers to the biological need to eat, but it often is used to describe the mere desire to eat (without the presence of hunger cues). We use the description of biological hunger as a point of clarity, which refers to the cues originating from your body saying it needs nourishment. Many individuals view hunger as the enemy—something to fight off or ignore, or something to be tricked. When experiencing biological hunger, the mind of a chronic dieter will habitually say Don’t, It’s not time to eat, or You can’t be hungry yet. But ignoring hunger and employing trickery—such as drinking water or eating “air food”—makes the process of eating confusing to the body. Air foods are foods that provide volume with little substance or energy, like rice cakes or sugar-free gelatin. Perceiving the physical sensations that arise from within your body is called interoceptive awareness or interoception. Interoceptive awareness is a powerful and innate ability, which includes perceiving the physical cues of hunger and satiety, bodily states such as a rapid heartbeat and a full bladder, and the physical sensations produced by emotions, like the rush of heat and jitteriness you feel when you panic. This is the direct experience of your physical body. Being attuned to these sensations gives you powerful information into your physiological and psychological state, which can help determine what you need to do in order to meet your needs. Paying attention to your body’s physical sensations on a regular basis will help you learn to hear your hunger sensations. Listening to different body sensations is a form of cross-training for body cue awareness. Please keep in mind that these body sensations are not “right” or “wrong”—they are just information. An attunement disrupter is anything that interferes with your ability to hear and respond to the needs of your body in a timely manner. Disrupters include distractions, thoughts, rules, beliefs, and a lack of self-care. When you are in times of stress, whether it’s fighting deadlines or chasing toddlers in diapers, your body’s biological fight-or-flight survival system is activated. Your blood flow is diverted away from your digestive system and shunted to your extremities to help you flee or fight the enemy—resulting in a lack of hunger cues. Self-care is defined as the daily process of attending to your basic physical and emotional needs, which include the shaping of your daily routine, relationships, and environment, as needed to promote self-care. It includes a broad range of activities, such as getting enough sleep and attending to emotional, physical, relationship, and spiritual needs. When your body is hungry, it tries to get your attention in a variety of ways, from mood and energy changes to increased thoughts about food. The longer you wait to nourish your body, the more intense these experiences will be. Getting to know your hunger cues might seem frustrating, especially if you have not experienced hunger in a long time—perhaps because you’ve been numb from stress or perhaps you don’t let yourself get hungry at all. The more you listen to your body, the more you will begin to hear and experience the subtler signs of hunger. Keep in mind that everyone is different, and there is no right or wrong way to experience hunger. Stomach: A variety of sensations including rumbling, gurgling, gnawing, or emptiness. While this is a common way of experiencing hunger, there are many people who do not experience hunger signs in their stomach. Throat and esophagus: Dull ache, gnawing. Head: Cloudy thinking, light-headedness, headache, difficulty focusing and concentrating. Experiencing more thoughts about food and eating. Mood: Irritability or crankiness. Perhaps you have to work harder to refrain from snapping, even though you don’t present as irritable to the outside world. Energy: Waning, perhaps even to the point of sleepiness. There can be a dullness and even apathy toward doing anything. Numbness: Overall lethargy. If you are under chronic stress or have an illness, you really can’t rely on hunger cues to adequately nourish your body. This can also be the case if you are an athlete undergoing intense training—hunger is temporarily blunted for a couple of hours. These conditions are usually temporary, but your body still needs nourishment. Similarly, if you do not experience hunger cues, you will need to call upon your rational thought to keep yourself nourished. (Remember, Intuitive Eating is a dynamic interplay of instinct, emotion, and rational thought.) This might seem like it goes against the Intuitive Eating protocol of listening to your body, but in situations where your hunger cues are offline, it is really a type of self-care in the form of nourishment. Sometimes there is confusion about whether or not to eat, because thoughts may interfere with the direct experience of hunger cues from your body. Here’s a common scenario we hear over and over again: Let’s say you ate breakfast at seven this morning. Yet just one hour later, at eight, you are clearly biologically hungry. Your stomach is gnawing and growling. You feel empty and have a desire to eat. But your first thought is, I can’t be hungry, I just ate. And then you try to distract yourself from your hunger and wait it out until lunch. It’s understandable to feel puzzled or even annoyed that you are experiencing hunger so soon after eating a meal. Yet there are a number of reasons why your body might simply need more nourishment: The day before, you had an unusually higher level of physical activity. You ate markedly less the day before. Your breakfast at seven might, in actuality, have been more of a snack than a meal. You are just having a hungrier day. You worked out early that morning, so your hunger was somewhat blunted when you sat down for breakfast, and you didn’t eat enough. You have a physical condition, such as being premenstrual, which is making you hungrier than usual. Every time you experience biological hunger and you respond by honoring that hunger with nourishment, you build trust and connection with your body. Every time you honor hunger because your here-and-now body is hungry, you will get clarity, not confusion. You can’t make peace with your eating by declaring a war on your body or the foods you put into it. Forbidding yourself specific foods can have a paradoxical rebound effect that triggers overeating. You have already seen how biological deprivation (hunger) can lead to overeating. But there’s also another powerful factor at play—the psychological effects of deprivation—which uncannily fuels obsessive thinking about food, ultimately leading to overeating and disconnection from your body. Making peace with food is a critical component of Intuitive Eating, which involves eating the food you desire with attunement to your hunger and fullness levels. It is the process of making your food choices emotionally equal, without placing shame or judgment on them, whether you are eating green jelly beans or a piece of broccoli. Your dignity remains intact, regardless of your food choices. You are not a bad or good person based on what you eat. Permission to eat is to quell the deprivation backlash, which builds with each new diet you try, with yet another food foisted onto the do-not-eat list. Ultimately, this principle is about valuing your emotional health and taking morality out of your eating, all while increasing the flexibility of your food choices.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Part 1 Diet Mentality and Intuitive Eating

Part 1 Diet Mentality and Intuitive Eating: Based on the book "Intuitive Eating Workbook"

Fearmongering, in the name of health, in front of the backdrop of an appearance-based culture, has triggered the perception that we are one bite away from a disaster. It’s a cultural neurosis; the fork has become akin to a loaded gun—just one wrong move pulls the trigger. A substantial body of research shows that dieting is not sustainable and leads to a host of problems, including eating disorders, food and body preoccupation, distraction from other personal health goals, reduced self-esteem, weight stigmatization, discrimination, and—paradoxically—weight gain. As a result, people are weary of dieting and yet terrified of eating. People don’t know how to eat anymore. They are ashamed of their bodies and don’t trust that their bodies “work.” Intuitive Eating is a dynamic mind-body integration of instinct, emotion, and rational thought. It is a personal process of honoring your health by paying attention to the messages of your body and meeting your physical and emotional needs. It is an inner journey of discovery that puts you front and center; you are the expert of your own body. After all, only you know your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Only you know how hungry you are and what food or meal will satisfy you. No diet plan or guru could possibly know these things. You’ll need to learn body attunement, the ability to hear (and thus respond to) the physical sensations that arise within your body, such as biological cues of hunger and fullness—and other principles work by removing the obstacles to body attunement. The ability to perceive bodily sensations is known as interoceptive awareness, which is critical for attunement. This is because biological states, such as having a full bladder or feeling sleepy or hungry, have a physical sensation. Even emotional states have a physical sensation, which can be very subtle. Being attuned to the physical sensations of your body gives you powerful information into your physiological and psychological state, which helps you determine what you should do to meet your needs. If, rather than listening to your body, you have instead repeatedly followed popular diet crazes, you may find yourself thinking that you don’t know how to eat anymore. You may be feeling confused, conflicted, and mistrustful of your body. Obstacles to interoceptive awareness usually originate from your mind, in the form of thoughts, beliefs, and rules —such as rules about what you should or should not eat, beliefs about what a healthy body should look like, and judgmental thoughts about good food versus bad food. If you are not getting your basic needs met (such as enough sleep), it can interfere with body attunement. At best, it may make it difficult to hear, let alone respond to, the messages of your body in a timely manner. At worst, you might find yourself turning to food to self-soothe and cope. Remember, health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. At some point during your intuitive eating journey, you will normalize your relationship with eating and your body. Weight loss may or may not be a side effect. If you focus on weight loss, that preoccupation will interfere with your ability to make choices based on your intuitive signals, and it will place focus on appearance rather than inner wisdom. Placing the focus on healthy lifestyle behaviors, rather than on weight, provides health benefits with or without weight loss. If dieting programs had to stand up to the same scrutiny as medications, they would never be allowed for public consumption. Imagine, for example, taking a cholesterol medication that improved your blood results for a few weeks but, in the long run, caused your arteries to clog. Would you really embark on a dieting program (even a so-called sensible diet) if you knew that it could cause you to gain more weight and affect your emotional wellbeing? Many people are aware that dieting doesn’t work in the long run, but most are surprised to learn that dieting actually increases your risk for gaining even more weight. There are profound biological mechanisms at play that trigger rebound weight gain from dieting. As far as your cells are concerned, they are being subjected to a famine, and they’ll do anything to survive. Your cells have no idea that you are choosing to restrict your calories (or some group of foods) for weight loss. One well-known survival adaptation they have is to slow down metabolism. Another way the body survives dieting is by cannibalizing its own muscle. Energy is so important that the body will destroy its own muscle to burn as fuel (the muscle is converted to carbohydrates). Fat overshooting is another way the body tries to survive the dieting process. In essence, the loss of both fat and lean muscle tissue triggers the body to gain more weight in the form of body fat to survive. Hormonal changes also make you more hungry and preoccupied with food. High-quality studies on millions of people show that being at a lower weight does not confer better health or outcomes. Health should not be measured by a number on the scale or the size of your jeans. Many of our clients romanticize their first diet like a first love—it was so easy and effortless. The weight just came off. But that first dieting experience is the seduction trap that launches the cycle of weight loss and gain. With each diet, your body adapts and learns how to survive, making it even more difficult to lose weight. With each failed weight-loss attempt, a learned helplessness becomes stronger, resulting in poor self-efficacy and empowerment. Dieting contributes to body dissatisfaction, food and body preoccupation, food cravings, distraction from other personal health goals, reduced self-esteem, and weight stigmatization and discrimination. When the dieting mentality is engaged, your eating decisions are dictated by the diet rules, which mandate what you eat, regardless of your food preferences, energy needs, hunger, and so forth, all of which can trigger feelings of deprivation. No diet plan could possibly know your hunger level or the foods that satisfy you. The dieting rules also trigger an inner rebellion, because they are an assault on your personal autonomy and boundaries. It’s a process of listening and responding to the needs of your body. The dieting mentality erodes trust in your body, because “the rules” micromanage and dictate your food choices, regardless of how you feel. This creates a cognitive dissonance, a clash between what you are experiencing to be true and what you’re told to do, which leads to confusion about eating, with most individuals saying: “I don’t know how to eat any more.” It’s important to keep in mind that every eating experience you have, whether perceived as negative or positive, is an opportunity to learn about your body. Intuitive Eating is not a pass or fail process—it’s a learning experience. Have self compassion. self-compassion is associated with well-being, increased feelings of happiness, and greater personal initiative to make needed changes in your life. Self-compassion is simply having a neutral but understanding consideration of yourself and your actions. This is because self-compassionate individuals do not criticize or bully themselves when they make mistakes. This makes it easier for them to admit vulnerability and mistakes, change unproductive behaviors, and take on new challenges, such as Intuitive Eating.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Disordered Eating Part 4

 Disordered Eating Part 4: Based on the book "Surviving Disordered Eating"

Mindfulness is not a new idea. Cultivating conscious awareness of the present moment—along with the thoughts and actions within it—is a practice that has been taught and followed all over the world in many cultures and traditions, first as a spiritual concept, and, more recently, as a research-proven method for gaining greater peace and wellness. In a nutshell, mindfulness simply means acknowledging that life unfolds one moment at a time, and in each moment we have a choice of what to think, feel, and do. Many people have little conscious awareness of how their thoughts affect their moods and choices, eating disordered or not. A branch of psychology called cognitive behavioral therapy says that if people can learn to become aware of their thoughts, they can change them, and if they change them, they will feel better emotionally and, thus, behave in more satisfying ways. Another habitual thought loop that can develop in people with disordered eating is constant comparison and judgment of themselves and others. This can take the form of walking into a room and instantly sizing up everyone in order to: feel good if they judge themselves as the smallest person there, or feel bad if they believe someone else is smaller. Either way, the judgment is used to fuel the compulsion to starve, binge, purge, overexercise, and such. It is a never-ending cycle of dissatisfaction that ends in exhaustion, isolation, and despair. Notice destructive thinking as it is happening, stop, breathe (deep breathing calms your nervous system), and acknowledge that you are engaging in negative thinking patterns. Then, take another deep breath and think loving, positive, kind things toward yourself such as: “It’s okay. I don’t have to stay stuck in these thoughts. I am good and lovable just as I am. No need to compare or judge. I am on my own path to health. Others are on their paths. Be in this moment. Research has proven that learning to quiet the mind and body helps relieve depression, anxiety, stress, and perfectionist tendencies—all of which accompany disordered eating. If you can learn to quiet your mind, you can also become more attuned to your true emotions and needs, so that you can make healthy choices to fulfill your actual needs, not your habitual ones. Rapid or shallow breathing is interpreted by the brain as danger or stress, which raises the body’s anxiety level. Deep, relaxed breathing that inflates the belly tells your brain that everything is fine and it’s okay to relax. This is an important skill because, oftentimes, it is imagined stress and anxiety that trigger eating disordered thoughts and behaviors. Having the ability to calm and soothe yourself is critical to recovery. Because recovery from disordered eating requires you to relearn hunger and fullness cues, the ability to be fully present during mealtimes can be extremely helpful. Eating mindfully means eating with full awareness of the food, the setting, your body’s needs, and the emotions present. One way people unlearn their natural cues about hunger and fullness that all people are born with is by doing other things while eating which distract them from their bodies, such as reading, watching TV, driving, texting, talking on the phone, surfing the web, and such. Another way we learn to ignore our inborn cues is when other people interfere with comments like, “You’re not going to eat another cookie, are you?” Or, “Is that all you’re going to eat? Have more!” Mindful eating requires that you just eat, tuning into your own internal experience, while perhaps gently socializing if you are eating with others. Increasing momentary mindfulness is very possible; it just takes practice. Some simple ways to get started include: Turn off technology for a certain amount of time each day in order to focus more on real-life experiences. Take a sensory walk outdoors. For a minute or so, notice sights, and name them as you see them: tree, flower, bee, cloud, sidewalk. Then switch to sounds, and name them: car, dog, cat, leaves, airplane, wind chimes. Then, go through the other senses: smell, touch, taste. You might surprise yourself at the things you discover that have been there. As you are doing a simple task, such as washing dishes or showering, try to notice the smells, sights, and textures as you experience them. Name them, and let yourself fully feel the soap or the bubbles or the water. Sit quietly in a chair, or lie down, and become aware of your breathing. Don’t change it; just feel the air coming in through your nostrils and down into your lungs, then notice the exhale as the process reverses. Try counting each one, up to 10. If you lose track, start over, without judgment.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Disordered Eating Part 3: Journalling

 Disordered Eating Part 3: Journalling Based on the book "Surviving Disordered Eating"

Journaling is a recovery tool you can use. It is a powerful resource that can help you in your healing journey and beyond. Journaling is nothing more than writing your thoughts and feelings on paper, in a private notebook or journal. Some people write only about events, some write only about feelings, and some write about both. Some people write poetry or make up stories. There is no wrong or right when it comes to journaling. It’s very important to understand that your journal is your journal. What you write in it is for your eyes only. You may write something that you want to share with someone at some time, but that is not the main purpose. The main goal is to write honestly about anything you want without fear of judgment or criticism. Next, you’ll need a good writing utensil. This is very important. You’ve got to find something that, like your journal, invites you to write and makes it a pleasant experience. Journaling is about more than what you say. It’s a physical process as much as an intellectual and emotional one. Your hand moves a pen across a page in a notebook. It needs to feel pleasing to you or you won’t do it. Finding the right writing utensil for you helps make the experience one you’ll enjoy. First thing in the morning, when households are usually quiet, and before the rush of your day gets started, you might find that your brain is able to focus in a more relaxed, open manner as you write about your life. Some people find that incorporating a few minutes of journaling into their morning routine helps them start their days feeling more calm and centered. If you aren’t a morning person, or there is simply no extra time, try journaling at the end of the day. Writing can be a great way to process the events and emotions of the day, now that you have time to focus. If you’re like many people, your day can fly by so quickly sometimes, that it seems all you can do is react, all day long. Taking time to check in with how you feel about what has happened, and how it relates to stress, anxiety, body image, and eating can really open your eyes as to how these things are connected, and what you can do about it. It can become a midday break that opens your eyes and awareness so that, if you need to make adjustments in your day, you can do so. Once you have gathered your materials and found a time and private place to write, how do you get started? First, commit to the following: You will always tell the truth in your journal, no matter how difficult. The truth may be hard to express, at first, but it is crucial if you want to heal. Following are some prompts to get you started. General Topics: Write about what you’ve been doing lately—homework, school, job, family events, things with friends, hobbies, and such. Try to describe the events in detail. Now, write how you feel about the things you’ve been doing—what do you find satisfying? What do you not like? Why? Describe some of the people in your life, in detail: looks, personalities, hobbies, ages, relationship to you, and so forth. Also describe how you feel about these people. Be honest! Remember, no one will read this but you, and if you don’t like having the truth about your feelings lying around after you’ve written them, you can always remove the pages and destroy them. Your journal may help you recognize and remember important things, but if it makes you uncomfortable to have your true thoughts out there in black and white, you can destroy the pages, knowing that doing so won’t destroy the truth of your feelings. Write about important things you remember from different ages in your life. Why are they important to you? What feelings do you associate with these events? You might go back as far as your memory allows, and then work your way up to present. Try one thing for each year of school, and then move onto important experiences of adulthood. Write about romantic relationships, attachments, or crushes you have had. What attracted you to these people? How do you feel about them now? Getting to Know You: Make a list of your favorite things: music, movies, TV, sports, friends, family, places, classes, animals, trips, clothes, stores, artists, and so forth. Pick one or more of the things you listed, and write more about it: a detailed description and your feelings. Make a list of your least favorite things, and describe some of them in more detail. What are some hopes you have for your future? These can be career, relationships, adventure, wild dreams—anything! Why do you hope these things happen? What are some things you will have to do to make one or more of them a reality? Is there a small step you can take toward one or more of them right now? What scares you about these things? How will you overcome your fear, if you want to? Describe yourself as you think your best friend would. What are your strongest qualities that have nothing to do with appearance or looks? How can these qualities help you achieve health and your greatest hopes? Family People don’t get to pick their families, but they are all part of one, for better or worse. Name some of the “better things” about being a part of your family; then name some of the “worse things.” What can you learn from being a part of your family that will make you a stronger person? Who in your family do you feel closest to? Why? Who in your family would you like to feel closer to? Why? Who in your family do you worry about? Why? How has your disordered eating affected your family? How do you feel about that? Describe the role of food in your family. Is it used in celebrations? Is it something not much thought is given to? Or can you recognize some food obsessions in your family members? Are others in your family struggling with food or body image issues? How do you feel about that? Who in your family is the most supportive of your recovery? Why? If no one in your family is supportive, to whom outside of your family can you turn? Some families experience trauma (very upsetting events), or some members of the family do. Things like: death, divorce, addiction issues, abuse, job loss, and the like. If any of these issues have been in your family, or have happened to you, try writing about them, including your feelings. Many times these types of issues are involved in disordered eating. Understanding struggles with your family traumas can help you achieve better emotional and physical health. Disordered Eating and Body Image Topics: Remember back to when your disordered eating habits began. Describe what was going on in your life and how you felt about it. Who knew about what you were doing? What was their reaction? Talk about your disordered eating habits and rituals today. Be specific and detailed. How have they changed since you first began? How do you feel about them now? Describe how you feel about your body. Be honest. How do you feel about how you feel about your body? Again, be honest. List things you like and/or respect about your body, such as, the fact that it keeps oxygen flowing in and out of your cells, 24/7, and you really don’t even have to ask it to do so. What would you like to change about your body image and disordered eating so that you could enjoy life, people, and yourself more? What are you doing to make these changes happen? What are some of your fears? These can be about anything, real or imagined. Talk about exactly what it is you fear about these things. Write a letter to your eating disorder voice. Give it a name. Many people name that voice ED (for eating disorder). Tell ED your real feelings about the things it says to you. Be honest and blunt. Tell ED your hopes and plans regarding recovery and health, and be bold about it. Your Worldview Describe your moral code of ethics. What things do you believe are right, and what things are wrong? Why do you believe this? What and/or who influenced the development of your sense of right and wrong? How well do you live by your own code of ethics? When have you fallen short? When have you stood firm? How did you feel in those situations? What problems or issues in the world today concern you? Write about what you can do to help solve that problem, both in small ways and larger ways, now and in the future. Write a letter to someone saying what you always wanted to say to that person. Don’t have the intention of sending it—just do it to experience what it feels like to say the things you need to say. Maybe you’ll want to share this with your therapist, maybe you’ll want to edit it and send it, or maybe you’ll want to rip it to shreds. The choice will be all yours. If you are new to journaling, you might want to start with some short writing periods, say 10 or 15 minutes. You can write longer if you want.