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Ditch Diet Culture and Fear Around Food With Intuitive Eating

by | Apr 1, 2020 | Intuitive Eating

This morning I saw a post on Instagram shaming Krispy Kreme for giving out free donuts to healthcare workers. DURING A PANDEMIC THIS IS WHAT PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT?! People are just trying to survive right now. If a healthcare worker (or anyone!) wants a friggen donut they don’t need to be shamed for it. This (non-licensed, non-RD who shall remain nameless because I refuse to subject anyone else to their horrendous messages) encouraged people to “WAKE UP” because “throwing sugar to cope is NOT self-care” and warning that (sugar) will suppress the immune system and inflame you, therefore setting you up for COVID19. So basically avoid sugar at all costs or you’ll die. This is called food fear. It’s a common theme that drives diet culture straight through your psyche and contributes to the process of ignoring and mistrusting your own body’s natural internal wisdom around food. Giving people the idea that you can prevent COVID19 if you eat enough vegetables is not only false, but elitist and healthist. Health is WAY more complex than that. Food is one teeny tiny piece of the picture. No one food has the power to CURE or KILL you. Health is about health behaviors aka things that promote health: sleep, stress management, wide variety of nutrient dense health promoting foods, access to healthcare, and a million other things a lot bigger than donuts or veggies. This extremely simplistic view of health that brings it all down to a donut is wrong on so many levels. For starters, how do we know what those nurses are going through? Or what their diets look like? Or their current health status? Or how badly they just need a little comfort in the form of a donut to help them assist a dying patient in cardiac arrest? Or how do you know that health is even a value they hold personally? This “influencer” knows nothing about their lives, their health habits, ZERO. But feels comfortable spreading the message to EVERYone of, “don’t eat donuts” I would never say that a diet of donuts is nutritionally sound. I didn’t spend 6 years immersed in food science, biochemistry and anatomy to support that; I would be doing you a disservice. But in my 9 years practicing as an RD I have never ever EVER seen food fear, shame, blame, or guilt promote healthy behaviors in one single person, ever. I spend months, years even – helping clients undo the rigid food rules and food fear created by posts like these. I truly don’t believe the people spreading these harmful messages think they’re doing anything wrong (honestly because I’ve been there) but we can’t just work to eradicate food fear in individuals. We have to look at the whole system. We think that if we loosen our grip on people’s “health” and we don’t force kale salads and celery juice down people’s throats, everything will go to shit. But isn’t that the problem? Shouldn’t we allow people to trust their own internal wisdom? From my 9 years experience working with kids, adults, cancer patients, diabetics, poor people, rich people, thin people, large people, men, women, trans, and everyone in between – when you give people the opportunity to EXPLORE food, nutrition and their health with your guidance (much different than oppressive rule giving) they do a MUCH better job of “maintaining” a healthy life (if that’s important to them) than they do with your constant oppressive food rules and restrictions. Isn’t that what we all want? Body, health and food autonomy? Well, we find that through peace with food. And if everyone is always yelling at us and smacking donuts out of our hand before we can even decide how it FEELS in our bodies and minds to eat that donut, how can we ever find food peace or neutrality? What happens when other people tell you what to do all the time? Doesn’t your internal wisdom get quiet? Your gut feeling lessens? Your sparkle dims? What’s more empowering than learning to trust yourself? The solution: Intuitive Eating. Here’s my experience of diet culture vs. Intuitive Eating: Diet culture:
  • Eat this not that
  • Sugar will kill you
  • Dairy will kill you
  • Gluten will kill you
  • Eat clean, never dirty
  • Shrink your body to feel/be worthy
  • Follow this list of foods only
  • Ignore your body’s signals of hunger
  • Restrict any foods that bring you joy
  • Count everything you put in your mouth because you can’t be trusted
  • Only one kind of body is “beautiful”
  • Emphasis on “listen to me”
Intuitive Eating:
  • Includes all foods
  • Eat when hungry
  • Stop when full (most times, not a rigid rule, okay to eat past point of fullness it will not kill you)
  • Discover satisfaction in foods – what foods do you even like/not like?
  • Identify how foods and different ways of eating make you feel
  • Move your body in ways you enjoy
  • Gentle nutrition: balance of health promoting foods WITH fun foods also. Not either or, not all or nothing. Finding the gray area. Check out this post on conquering your trigger foods: It’s not all kale salads, it’s not all donuts.
  • All bodies are beautiful
  • Emphasis on “listen to you”
Here’s what happens when we say f**k the food police, f**k your rigid food rules, f**k your meal plan. We say yes to our own internal wisdom – both body and brain guiding food and health decisions. We find flexibility, joy and EMPOWERMENT in food. But don’t take it from me, here’s what some of my clients say (I work primarily with people escaping the jail of diet culture through Intuitive Eating) “Being healthy doesn’t mean restricting and cutting out foods I love” “I am now leading a much healthier and MUCH happier life” “I feel empowered and motivated to pursue a healthy, happy lifestyle in a way I never did before” “For the first time in years, I am able to feel good and wake up with the energy I need while eating foods that taste good and fuel me for my active lifestyle” “I love eating veggies now, I actually look forward to it!” “I’ve had the same pint of Ben & Jerry’s in my freezer for a week now. That never would have happened before because I never allowed myself to have it and would then eat the whole thing.” Here’s 10 options for things you can do to immediately improve your health and mood in a realistic, sustainable, enjoyable way:
  1. Write a gratitude list – 5 things you’re grateful for
  2. Ask yourself what you’re in the mood to do for exercise? Yoga? A walk outside?
  3. Spiral up – whatever you’re eating see what you can add for a little extra nutrition to boost it. If you make mac & cheese add some frozen broccoli or peas to it for a little extra vitamin C, or have an apple with your cheese for a snack.
  4. If you notice yourself stress/emotional/boredom eating a lot ask yourself what else you might need in ADDITION to comfort foods right now to take care of yourself. Some ideas: cry, journal, fresh air, deep breaths, meditate, turn off the news, watch Netflix, delete social media, Marie Kondo your house, facetime a friend, read a book.
  5. Have a dance party – solo or with your family/spouse/roomies
  6. Write a celebration list – 5 things you’re celebrating today – you got out of bed, you did the dishes, you took a walk, you let yourself sleep in, etc!
  7. Ask for support – find a therapist to talk things out with
  8. Meditate – Headspace and Insight Timer are my favorites
  9. Drink some water
  10. Smile 🙂
You can’t put a price on peace with food, your health and your body. Now more than ever amidst a global pandemic pulling on our heartstrings, is the time to turn inwards to care for yourself in a healthy, sustainable, realistic enjoyable way. I’m here for you. Click here to schedule a free intro call to see if we’re a good fit.
Blog Lexy Penney Nutritionist Boston Intuitive Eating

Hi, I’m Lexy!

I’m a Registered Dietitian, yoga teacher, & body image coach.

I help women make peace with food and built trust with their bodies so they can live the lives they desire and deserve.

Hop on my email list for your weekly dose of food freedom, body liberation and self-care!

Lexy Penney Nutritionist Boston Intuitive Eating

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