There’s a new wave coming my friends, where we finally start to say ‘Enough is enough, and I love myself exactly the way I am‘. While it’s hard to get clear numbers, the success rates of diets (measured by looking at weight 1-2 years after dieting) is an abysmal 10%, so why do we do this to ourselves, over and over and over again?! When did food stop being fun and become an instrument of torture?
Another wonderful post by Angela Stathakis Porisse
Can you imagine a life free from diets? Free from obsession with what you can eat, when you can eat, how much you can eat? Can you imagine feeling at peace with your body and with food? A life where you are able to nourish your physical hunger with food, and care for your emotional needs appropriately?
After many years of yo-yoing, I wanted to get off the diet roller-coaster and learn how to tune into my body. This is what I discovered on the journey to prioritizing my health over my weight.
Weight is not always an indicator of health
Our weight or our BMI (Body Mass Index) is not always a true indicator of our health, even if the numbers put us in the overweight category. A more accurate marker of health is our fat percentage, in particular the localisation of fat (where it is stored on your body). The kind of fat that is most harmful to health is the fat around our internal organs, which is known as visceral fat. Visceral fat is linked with health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and inflammation which can damage calls in your body – it can affect people of all sizes and weights.
In her book Health at Every Size, Dr. Linda Bacon reveals that there are no studies to prove that weight loss improves health or prolongs life. Being thin, or ‘normal’ weight does not guarantee health, just as being overweight does not necessarily mean you will be diseased.
We can love ourselves whatever shape or size
Not only is our weight not a reflection of our health, it is also not a reflection of our person. When we stand on the scales what we get is a number. It is information about our body mass, at a particular time, on a particular day. It is a measure consisting of water, bones, tissue, muscle, fat…It is not a measure of our value as a person. It is not a reflection of our contribution to our families, your communities, the world. We need to disentangle our self-worth from our appearance and learn to accept ourselves just the way we are whatever shape, size or body mass!
Eating Intuitively: Reconnecting your mind with your body
This begins with disengaging from all the rules we have learned over the years. It involves us letting go of restriction, control and conditions. It involves us learning to recognise and meet our emotional needs in ways that don’t involve food. It involves us learning to choose foods for enjoyment and nourishment. It involves us eating with the intention of caring for ourselves:
• Eating to nourish our body
• Forgetting the notion of forbidden foods
• Beginning to understand and trust our appetite and satiety signals
• Being kind, loving and accepting towards ourselves and our body
Nourishing our bodies
We are inundated daily with information about what we should and shouldn’t eat, when we should eat, how we should eat, etc. It is no wonder we are confused as to how to actually nourish ourselves and sort out fact from fiction. We can cultivate healthy eating habits simply. For example, we can increase our intake of fresh vegetables or replace processed and pre-packaged foods with home cooking.
Whole grains, leafy greens, all animal and plant proteins, fats and oils…they all have nutritional value….…And sometimes we can eat foods purely for pleasure, even if they have little nutritional value!
No Foods are forbidden
We have learned to label food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. There are no good or bad foods. It’s true that all foods have different nutritional values and while no foods are all good or all bad, certain foods have the ability to nourish our body more effectively than others. But by categorising food as good or bad we set up the notion of forbidden foods, which not only makes them all the more desirable, but by using hostile vocabulary for the food we eat, we also start to judge ourselves unfavourably:
• cheat foods
• naughty foods
• indulgent foods
• ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’
Morally judging our food inevitably leads to moral judgement of ourselves.
“Today I was ‘good’ because I ate ‘good’ food, so I can reward myself”, or “I ate ‘bad’ food, I messed up so I may as well go all out” …and so the cycle starts.
We don’t need to go to war, especially with ourselves. When we are obsessed with the notion of good or bad foods, we are constantly fighting with ourselves internally about what, when and how to eat.
By eating what we feel like, we take away the scarcity value of ‘forbidden’ foods. When we put conditions and restrictions on what we eat, we set off the deprivation cycle, which inevitably leads to binge eating.
By paying to attention to your body’s needs, you can get to know what foods feel right. What foods make you feel light or energetic? What foods make you feel heavy or lethargic?
Pay attention to your body’s response to foods after you have eaten them. Pay attention to how food affects your mood and your energy throughout the day. How you use that energy: work? Rest? Play?
By freeing ourselves from the food rules, we can start to shift our goals away from weight loss and
towards becoming healthier physically and emotionally.
Become your own guru. Discover what works for your body. Accept and make peace with what your body actually wants. Everybody is different and we don’t all respond to foods in the same way.
Emotional Eating…am I eating my feelings?
Speaking for myself, yes!! Regularly! Emotional hunger can be incredibly powerful, and craves specific foods, often of the high sugar or high fat variety that have the ability to give us that instant ‘hit’. The role of food is to nourish us, but we often use it to nurture us too.
We eat as a way to distract ourselves from our emotions, to escape from them, silence them or supress them. In fear of feeling the feeling we ‘comfort’ eat, or binge absent mindedly. We are not paying attention to how we are eating, and we are not paying attention to our needs, for example:
• for love
• for acceptance
• for quietness or rest
• for security
Losing weight, or eating to meet these needs will not change how we feel. Before we eat, we can try to pause, and let ourselves feel the emotion. Physically feel it, recognise where it is in our body, sit in the discomfort. And then think about why we are eating. Is it to nourish our physical hunger, or to nurture an emotional need.
Eating when you are hungry
Diets disconnect our bodies from our minds. We become unable to recognise our innate satiety cues and it becomes more common for us to eat when we are not physically hungry. In fact, we start to feel it is bad to eat when we are hungry. Why is this? Would you not feed a baby when it is hungry? Through diet culture we come to believe that hunger equals thinness.
Hunger is there to let us know that our bodies need fuel, however we start to mistrust these signs. If we can start to consistently eat when we are physically hungry, our bodies will learn to trust us again, and feel safe to release stored weight.
Being present and stopping when you are full
As well as noticing how you feel physically after eating, being present when eating allows us to enjoy the pleasure food gives.
The brain likes to know what it has eaten and this helps us become of aware of our natural satiety signals.Allow yourself to enjoy the sensory experience of eating:
• the texture
• the aroma
• the taste
• the presentation
By being present and paying attention to what we are eating, there is more of a chance we be able to stop when we are physically satisfied.
It takes practise to learn the different signals of hunger, satisfaction and fullness. Of course, it is progress not perfection…everybody overeats sometimes, and everybody let’s themselves get too hungry. Another reason for eating when we are not hungry is stress eating. Stress affects our health, our emotional wellbeing and our food…so how can we cope with stress and allow ourselves to stay mindful with our eating?
Part 3 on stress will be published next week! Thank you!