In this episode, she explains the six Paramitas (generosity, discipline, patience, exertion, meditation and wisdom) and how we can apply them in approaching intuitive eating. Her compassion-based framework asks us to see ourselves as a beloved other in learning how to listen to our inner wisdom and bring about sustainable, positive self-care.
One of the best things about having a podcast is that it’s a great excuse to hang out with your friends and also get to learn from them. That’s why Aaron and I were excited to have our dear friend, registered dietitian and eating disorder expert Robyn Goldberg, on the show recently to talk about progression people take in their recovery from eating disorder to intuitive eating.
Robyn talked about learning to connect with body signals, finding satisfaction with food, the challenges of being in a larger body with an ED, the resistance of health care practitioners to Health at Every Size® and more in this informative episode.
If you are in eating disorder recovery, or know someone who is, we think you’ll find this episode invaluable.
One of my big heroes in the anti-diet world is Isabel Foxen Duke. She is a bad-ass who doesn’t mince words when it comes to explaining why diet culture is bullshit, eating isn’t the addiction, and why emotional eating might be saving your ass. So when we got to meet over the phone a while back, of course I leaped at the chance to invite her on our podcast.
In this awesome episode of Dietitians Unplugged, Isabel, Aaron and I talk about all stuff anti-diet, intuitive eating, Health at Every Size and yes, even sex (don’t worry, the episode is still by and large PG!).
More About Isabel
Isabel Foxen Duke is the Creator of Stop Fighting Food—a free video training program for women who want to “stop feeling crazy around food.” After years of trying to overcome emotional eating, binge-eating and chronic weight-cycling through traditional and alternative approaches, Isabel discovered some radical new ways to get women over their “food issues” once and for all—not just by shifting the mindsets of individuals, but by challenging the dominant diet culture as a whole.
As a dietitian who helps others get over disordered eating after years of dieting, I’ve heard this many times: “I don’t have a limit when I’m eating. If I let myself eat what I want, I won’t ever be able to stop eating.”
To this I say: bunk. It just feels like that.
Everyone has a stopping point*. You might not think so because maybe you, like I did at one point, have stood beside the cheese tray at a cocktail party scarfing ungodly amounts of mediocre cheese cubes fearing you’ll never stop. Maybe you did eventually stop at that “I’m gonna burst!” point and regretted the whole ordeal. And maybe you simply don’t know your stopping point, as I did not, because you are hungry much of the time…so very, very hungry.
Here’s a little secret: dieting and calorie and food restriction create a false impression in your body that you are a bottomless pit. That you are a vessel that will never be filled, especially when you are confronted by a favorite or particularly delicious (or sometimes even mediocre) food. Maintaining a body weight lower than what is natural for you will also cause your body to constantly crave food, large amounts of it. This is a pretty reliable biological response regulated by a cascade of hunger hormones, and anyone who diets will in all likelihood experience this kind of mega-hunger regularly.
On the flip side, honoring your appetite (aka, eating intuitively) has the opposite effect. Once you begin to eat satisfying amounts of food when you feel hungry and your body weight adjusts toward its natural set point, your bottomless pit starts to find its bottom. As you practice honoring internal cues more often, you may start to find that your stopping point is not, in fact, stuffed but satisfied. You may even find yourself easily leaving food on the plate, or turning down the offer of a homemade brownie if you are simply not hungry for it.
My bottomless-pit acquaintances are incredulous when I suggest that they do have stopping points. They don’t trust their bodies. Some are invested in maintaining a certain external appearance and don’t feel their natural appetite will support their desired size (and this might be true).
I sympathize. I was once a bottomless pit too. But I became sick of being ruled by food and by fear of the cheese tray. And I became tired of living my life solely to support a certain body size when there were so many other interesting things to do.
When I started truly honoring my internal signals of hunger and satisfaction (thank you again, intuitive eating), eating what I really wanted, and letting my body be, I no longer had fearsome insatiable cravings. Yes, I gained some weight, but in time (and with a lot of intentional effort) I began to lose the fear that had driven my need for a smaller body size; honoring my appetite came from a place of love and, for me, was the truest act of self-care (aka Health at Every Size®).
Eating what you want and as much as you want may feel scary at first. As your body adjusts, that fear may turn to comfort as you realize you are taking care of yourself and your needs and you no longer have to fear your own bottomless pit.
Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN is a non-diet dietitian who, like me, teaches others to ditch restrictive diets and learn to eat intuitively. But unlike me, she is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to veganism. She suggested we swap blog posts, and since the topic of remaining vegetarian or vegan during ED recovery has come up a few times in the online spaces where I hang out, I thought we could all learn something from her approach. Enjoy! -Glenys
Hello, Dare to Not Diet readers! I am so delighted to swap guest posts with Glenys. The community of non-diet dietitians is growing and the more we can spread positive messages about food and bodies, the better! My areas of expertise include vegan nutrition as well as a non-diet approach to sustainable wellness. I help clients focus less on weight and body size and more on enjoyable lifestyle behaviors that help them feel happy and healthy. I’ve been vegan for 8 years and have been counseling vegan (and non-vegan) clients for nearly 4 years.
Unfortunately, some people wrongly assume that veganism equates to restrictive eating. I’m here to show you that veganism is about compassion, not about restriction, and that it is possible to eat intuitively without eating animals or their byproducts. It also is possible to recover from disordered eating and eating disorders while vegan. Did you know vegans who do not eat animals for ethical reasons are no more likely to have eating disorders than non-vegans? While some people with eating disorders may abstain from eating animal products as a method of restriction, veganism is not automatically a precursor for eating disorders.
To bring you feasible and effective strategies for maintaining veganism while recovering from an eating disorder, I interviewed Caitlin Martin-Wagar, MA, an eating disorder researcher and clinician who also happens to be vegan. She holds a master’s degree in clinical psychology and also is a doctoral student in Counseling Psychology at The University of Akron.
Be honest with yourself. When I first meet with vegan clients, I ask them about their journey to becoming vegan and their motivations for doing so. This helps me understand potential restrictive mindsets and also helps clients self-reflect on their own behaviors. “Make a list with two columns: one with the ethical reasons you are vegan and one with potentially eating disordered reasons you are vegan (if there are any). If you discover there are eating disordered reasons for your veganism, find ways to challenge those reasons and refocus on the ethical reasons you are vegan if you want to maintain a vegan lifestyle. For example, you can make sure you are including a wide variety of foods in your diet, including the vegan versions of non-vegan foods, like macaroni and cheese, pizza, and cupcakes,” Caitlin advises.
Have a plan. Eating disorder or not, having a general plan for eating, especially when traveling or attending events when you aren’t certain about food availability, is one of my key tips for vegan clients. Figure out your favorite packable snacks and keep them in your bag, car, desk, etc. so you don’t find yourself without food when you’re hungry. Caitlin says, “For people not in recovery, going a few extra hours without food because of a lack of availability won’t necessarily impact them psychologically. But for vegans recovering from eating disorders, accidental restriction can trigger eating disorder urges like bingeing, purging and further restriction.”
Challenge restrictive thoughts. I like to ask my clients about their favorite vegan foods and where they can get them. This helps them realize how many options they have. I also like to see if there are any foods clients may be restricting for whatever reason, such as oils, desserts and plant-based meats and cheeses. “If you notice restriction urges are triggered from not having certain foods that are not included in vegan lifestyles, remind yourself that you are not excluding these foods due to eating disordered reasons. Challenge these thoughts and show yourself you are willing to have high-fat vegan foods at times—this can help squash any concerns that you are restricting for eating disordered reasons,” Caitlin advises.
One more thing to consider: work toward becoming more accepting of diverse body shapes. Both Caitlin and I are passionate about challenging myths related to body size and health conditions in the vegan community. Having weight stigma or an attitude of health elitism is not only damaging, it strays from the compassionate core of what veganism is all about.
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder or need support through eating disorder recovery, please work with a therapist and eating disorder dietitian. Everyone’s journey is different and no blog post can substitute for individualized therapy and guidance.
The answer to this one is tricky. It’s yes…but with a caveat.
Here’s how it’s yes: there is literally no food off limits in intuitive eating and your non-diet way of life. Pizza? Yes. Chocolate cake? Hell yes. Kale? Yes! (If you want it)
You get to eat ALL the different types of foods you want, when you want them and yes, as much as you want of them.
And here’s the caveat: It’s not just eating anything and everything willy nilly without a thought to how it goes down or how you feel after.
Intuitive eating is…nuanced. It’s not just an end-point — it’s also the process that takes you from that stressed-out, restrictive, over-eating dieting-type eater you were to a completely no guilt, drama-free, normal eater (before the new normal meant “diet”) that knows when to eat and when to stop. The process, however, can sometime feel anything but intuitive.
If kicking diet mindset and behavior was easy, we wouldn’t need a process called Intuitive Eating. But it isn’t, and we do.
While you’ll be liberating all the foods from Food Jail and eating to satisfy your appetite, you’re going to learn to stay present and non-judgmental instead of fearful and guilty. You’re going to learn to tune into your body to hear the subtle messages it sends you about when to eat, and how much. If you’ve been a dieter or binge-eater for a while, this hyper-awareness is going to feel really strange and uncomfortable for you at first.
Let me reassure you, this will not always be the case. The point of intuitive eating is not to remain on strict mealtime vigil, putting all your concentration into every bite. The point is to eventually know intuitively when to stop eating.
Ever try to get a baby to eat more food than she’s hungry for? She’ll slam her mouth shut, shake her head, and get downright cranky at you for trying to fly that damn airplane into her mouth again. She knows, without thinking about it at all, when she’s done eating, because we are ALL born with the intuition to know how much food we want and need to eat. That baby is in charge of her appetite. And then somewhere along the way, diet culture robs us of that intuition and convinces us we need to be told how to eat.
So yes, you’re going to eat whatever it is you want. And also, for now, you’re going to pay attention to what you’re eating. A lot of attention at first, and much less later on, until it’s all instinct. And it will become instinct.
And even later, when you’re ready, you can even give some thought toward nutrition. If you want. But that’s a story for another day.
I loved this conversation between our fellow dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield and Aaron and I. Rebecca recently published the amazing non-diet self-care manual, Body Kindness (it’s great, please buy ASAP) and she talks about her personal journey of getting to body kindness herself.
Rebecca’s passion for Health at Every Size® is infectious and her no-hold-barred opinions on everything from nutrition education to bringing HAES® to the forefront of the dietetics profession will fire you up.
Needless to say, I’ve been remiss in posting the last few Dietitians Unplugged podcasts here, on my blog. I’m particular about things being complete, so I’m going to tuck the last few eps into one neat and tidy post for you all to find some day in the future when you’re casting about the internet, looking for some vintage HAES podcasts…
When I was dieting, I had little time for anything else but thoughts of food and exercise: what I could eat, what I couldn’t, when could I eat again, and what would fit into my days’ “points” allowance; when I would exercise, how I didn’t want to but had to, and how many calories I would burn on the stair-stepping machine (which I hated).
At the height of my dieting mania, when I was “acceptably” slim, I chose to pursue a career that I thought would support my dieting obsession: registered dietitian.
Imagine that – I chose a career that would help me diet. So not only would my personal time be filled with food preoccupation, so would my professional time. Looking back on this, I am astounded. When I was much younger, I had wanted to be other things: writer, fashion designer, even comedian (despite my intense performance anxiety). Where did that person go once on a diet?
It is only now that my dieting obsession is over that I occasionally wonder what I might have chosen for my mid-life career change other than dietitian. I still do love food and nutrition (no longer in an obsessive way) and I’m glad, ultimately, that this was the path I chose because I also love the clinical aspect of what I do, and thankfully the HAES® philosophy has given my practice so much meaning and substance. But imagine if I’d had more mental freedom in making this choice. But making a career choice during what was basically a mental health crisis is not how I wish that had gone down.
In the years that I became so restrictive with food, I had few hobbies. It’s not because I’m not an interesting person – I AM – but because planning all my meals and then fretting about how long I could withstand my hunger was first priority. I had a brief flirtation with pottery, and though I’ll never be any sort of visual artist, I wish I had continued on with it because it was truly the most meditative thing I have ever done while still creating something. Figuring out how to simultaneously eat food I liked while eating the fewest calories took first priority.
Anyway, once I stopped dieting, I had to spend some time figuring out how to eat again. It took me about five years to learn how to eat instinctively. Five years! So even after I stopped dieting, I still had to spend time learning how to not-diet. That part was better, because at least I learned how to make bagels and French baguettes and kimchi.
Once I was done learning to eat, I finally had time again. So I started writing this blog, and then I was asked to write by a magazine, and then I was asked to speak and I started to become an expert in my field of non-dieting. I took hula hoop classes and dance classes and learn to boogie board and travelled without worrying how I was going to stay on my diet. I ate dessert when I felt like it and got big swishy skirts I never would have worn even when I was thin because I worried they’d make me look fat. I started to really live in a way that I was afraid to do even when I was thin and never good enough. In between, I stopped dieting, and started living.
How much time is dieting and worrying about weight taking away from you? What creative or intellectual or fun or generous pursuits have you put aside because you had to think about food, or had to negotiate constant hunger and longing? What great or satisfying things would you do if you were freed from this diet prison?
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you might be someone who finds it a total bummer that while you’re trying to live diet-free, everyone else isn’t. Everyone else seems to be on some sort of diet, and they’re telling you about it all the time. Everyone else is worried about their weight or how they look, or how their health is affected by their weight. It’s sometimes hard to imagine a world without diets.
Well, this weekend, I got to experience it. I had the great fortune to attend the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) 2016 conference in San Francisco. My friend and podcast co-host Aaron Flores convinced me back in May that I had to go – lots of people in the HAES® world would be there and it would be a great opportunity to meet them. And also to learn a lot! So I signed up to go and waited with great anticipation for the time to arrive.
As the date approached, many of us HAES® dietitians and therapists who hang out together in social media started planning some casual get-togethers. I managed to book a restaurant whose main feature was that it would take a large group of 15. I thought only seven people at most would end up coming out (I always figure on a 50% no-show rate for any social event taking place in California).
The first night came and we all met up at the conference’s reception. It was soon apparent that at least 15 of us were headed for dinner together, and maybe even more! At dinner, I was seated across from Evelyn Tribole, one of the authors of the book Intuitive Eating. Yes, someone who I considered one of my personal heroes was seated right across the table from me. Gulp! I hoped I didn’t accidentally drop food on my shirt. Also seated near me were Dana Sturtevant and Hilary Kinavy of Be Nourished, Fiona Sutherland of Body Positive Australia, Marsha Hudnall of Green Mountain at Fox Run, Kathleen Bishop of Body Peace and Liberation – all people who have become my online friends and mentors and who are part of a strong online HAES® community. Aaron was beside me. Dr. Linda Bacon, author of the book, Health at Every Size (and of course, the nutrition instructor who introduced me to HAES® and basically changed my life) was also there. All of these people (and more whom I will name below so you can check out their work) are people I consider personal role models and heroes. They are people who fight against the weight-centered paradigm that is so thoroughly prevalent in our society (despite the total lack of evidence to support it) simply because they know it is better for us not to diet. I was thrilled and almost a little emotionally overwhelmed to be in these folks’ presence.
As we were tucking into our dinner (and I was able to relax a little), I suddenly had a thought, which I then verbalized: “Isn’t it so great that we’re all just sitting here and eating good food and no one is talking about how ‘bad’ or ‘guilty’ they feel for eating, or how they need to eat less so they don’t gain weight? How novel!” It was something I haven’t experienced since the 1990s, when I thought I was just about the only one dieting (which I did secretly most of the time). This time, even I wasn’t dieting. How refreshing! We all ate as much as we wanted of the foods that we wanted. There was a wonderful variety of food on the table – not just salads without dressing as I’m sure some people imagine dietitians to eat!
That night, and in fact during the whole of the conference, there was an array of body weights, shapes, sizes, colors and abilities/disabilities present. I could feel the confidence and empowerment in the rooms – because nobody was expected to change their bodies. It was intoxicating! People doing great things – not just trying to fit into a narrow societal ideal. Everyone looked beautiful to me. Their brains, knowledge, experience and compassion dazzled me. I felt humbled to be in the presence of such greatness, and relieved to find others who, like me, strive to live a life of substance beyond diets.
Aaron gave a great talk as part of the closing keynote. In it, he quoted Yoda, who, in The Empire Strikes Back, says to a frustrated Luke, “Judge me by my size do you?…And well you should not…Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”
Luminous beings are we. Yoda tells us that we are so much more than our earth suits. It is the perfect case to let go of diets to change our body size (if you’re still not buying all the scientific data). I could see the luminosity in everyone, and it was an amazing thing. This is what a world without diets and weight oppression might look and feel like.
This weekend I was surrounded by people who advocate for good health, and who know we don’t need to suffer for it. It was a heady experience. I was among my tribe and felt truly free and accepted. There was a palpable feeling in the air that we might eventually change the world for the better on a large scale. How I felt reminded me of the mantra the football players shouted before each game in one of my favorite TV shows, Friday Night Lights: “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!” My eyes were clear, my heart was full, and I felt like we would eventually create a world without diets for everyone.
Check out the HAES/non-diet/body positive work of these fantastic people I had the honor to hang out with this weekend: