Listening to your body – how to reject diet mentality and tune into your needs
Even if you haven’t put on weight over the lockdown period, there is so much propaganda about weight loss, that you feel as though you should be aiming to be slimmer. This is diet culture. Our society is obsessed with losing weight and the notion that ‘thin is best’, even when a person does not have a medical reason to need to lose weight. But what if you don’t need to lose half a stone to become the best version of yourself? What if we could be kind to our bodies and appreciate them for what they are, as opposed to what they look like? What if we could be anti diets and tune into our bodies instead?
- Start to tune into your hunger signals. This does not mean eating only when you feel physical hunger pangs but also acknowledging that you may eat for reasons other than hunger sometimes, and this is ok!
- Make peace with food: allow all foods to be part of your life. When you don’t allow yourself a food, and then eat it (because you are human!), you are likely to feel guilty.
- Challenge the ‘food police’ inside your head: stop listening to the rules you have made yourself around food.
- Observe your body and stop eating when you feel comfortably full. Don’t feel you have to finish everything on your plate.
- Choose foods you feel like eating, rather than choosing based on what you think is Intuitive eating aims to do just that. It is based on 10 principles, which aim to shun fad dieting, promote body acceptance while also allowing you to eat healthfully and move joyfully. Two dietitians in America found that teaching people how to tune into their own internal cues of hunger, fullness and satisfaction, meant that they reached a weight that was healthy for them, and improved their relationship with food and their body image
The principles of intuitive eating:
Reject diet mentality: stop thinking that you need to be or are on a strict ‘diet’. Realise that 80% of fad diets do not work.
- Find ways to comfort and look after yourself without using food. Food does not suppress your feelings for any length of time, and normally adds to feelings of failure and guilt.
- Treat your body kindly and meet your basic physiological needs. Your body deserves to be fed and deserves to be dressed comfortably (rather than squeezed into a size 12 when you are actually a size 14!).
- Focus on joyful movement and how it feels to move your body. Focus on the positives of exercise away from calorie burning.
- Honour your health with gentle nutrition: by relaxing the rules around food, and the associated guilt, people will generally choose a balanced healthy food intake, as it physically feels good.
This approach allows you to relax rules around eating and join in with social events.
Encourages you to feel your feelings rather than using food to supress feelings, meaning you are likely to live a more authentic and whole-hearted life.
Food is longer “good” or “bad”
Food no longer has the capacity to make you feel guilty or ashamed.
Food and body shape is no longer a preoccupation, meaning you have more time and energy to give to the rest of life.
For many, this is the first time they have enjoyed eating and exercise.
Food and exercise are not supposed to be punishments – they can be, and should be, a joyful part of life.
It’s a very hard switch to make.
Often we have learnt not to trust our bodies and minds, which means we’re very out of touch of listening to them.
For some people, for example with eating disorders, this is not an appropriate first line treatment. People with eating disorders have often spent years ignoring their body’s signals, which means those signals cannot always be relied upon to begin with.
You won’t necessarily lose weight. That’s not to say you won’t. But weight loss will no longer be your focus. For many that is a very difficult part of intuitive eating to accept.
For more information on Intuitive Eating see the following books:
“Intuitive Eating, A Revolutionary Program that Works” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
“Just Eat It” by Laura Thomas.
Where do we find sugars in our diet?
- Free sugars are added to various food and drinks such as chocolate, sugar sweetened beverages, ice cream, biscuits, sauces, cereals and yogurt.
- Diet versions of sugar sweetened beverages can be an easy way to reduce sugar intake as artificial sweeteners have little to no calories.
- The term ‘free sugars’ refers to sugars that are added to foods or found naturally in fruit juice, honey, and syrups. It does not include sugar found naturally in dairy products (such as lactose) or in whole fruit (BDA, 2017).
- Free sugars are a type of carbohydrate alongside fibre and starch.
How much sugar should we be having in a day?
Current guidelines recommend that free sugars should make up just 5% of our total daily energy, which is just 30g.
Over the past 9 years, NDNS data has shown there has been a reduction in consumption of free sugars in adults. However, sugar intake is still above the current recommendations (NDNS, 2019)
Overall, we can reduce the amount of free sugars that we consume, but sugar contributes to the flavouring of foods – making them taste nice. Therefore it is important to remember that there is a place for sugar in the diet in its right quantities.
Do all sugars have same effect on health?
Many people are worried that fruit is high in sugar. However, because the fibre is still intact in whole fruit, the sugars are still built up in the internal matrix and are therefore not released. The benefits from the micronutrients and fibre contained in fruit outweigh the intrinsic sugar content.
Lactose is a naturally occurring sugar in milk. Milk contains an abundance of micronutrients such as vitamin D, iodine, vitamin B12 and calcium, which are all required by the body for different functions such as supporting bone and dental health.
All carbohydrates are broken down to sugar eventually (glucose) and we need glucose for the brain to function. In fact, the brain alone uses 20% of the glucose that our bodies require for energy.
It is also often found that when individuals cut out all sugar, they often cut wholegrain carbs, which are needed for fibre, for a healthy bowel movements and overall gut health.
Psychological research has shown that when individuals restrict a certain food, they are more likely to crave it. On the other hand, allowing it in moderation takes the “power” away from the food and therefore allows for a healthier relationship with food and reduces the risk of bingeing.
Is sugar “addictive” in the same way as tobacco, or has it been wrongly vilified?
- A recent cross-sectional study involving university students suggested that increased feelings of reward from foods are more so related to the energy density and an individual’s relationship with food rather than the foods sugar content (Markus et al, 2017).
- One literature review analysing of both human and animal studies found little evidence regarding sugar addiction in humans (Westwater et al., 2016). It is also important to remember that findings from animal studies cannot be compared directly to humans.
- Sugar has been branded in the media to be the enemy and consuming large amounts can result in an addiction to sugar. Based on current literature, there is not sufficient evidence to support this theory – so do not be scared to eat foods that contain sugar now and again.
Types of eating disorders
All eating disorders are serious mental health illnesses classified by the DSM-V.
If you or someone you know have any of the following, please do seek help.
Is a condition characterised by individuals with a low body weight restricting their food and drink intake. It is common for individuals with anorexia to create rules around restricting food and drink alongside a distorted image of their body. Individuals with anorexia commonly believe that they are larger than they actually are and this is often paired with a fear of gaining weight.
Is a condition whereby individuals binge (by eating lots of food) and then compensate by forcing themselves to vomit, excessively exercise, fast, or sometimes even take diuretics or laxatives (purging). Binge eating is often a result of many difficult emotions. As with anorexia, individuals with bulimia often focus on their body’s shape and size and may see themselves as being much larger than they actually are.
Binge eating disorder
Is similar to bulimia however, binge eating episodes are not followed by purging. Binge eating often feels uncontrollable for someone suffering with BED. A binge-eating episode can include eating an uncomfortable large amount of food often when the individual is not hungry, followed by feelings of guilt and shame after the binge. Binge eating may be planned in advance when individuals buy specific foods to later binge on in private when they experience difficult or overwhelming feelings.
Other specified feeding or eating disorder is different to anorexia, binge eating or bulimia as the individual may not present all characteristics associated with those eating disorders. Some examples of specific OSFEDs include atypical anorexia, bulimia of low frequency or duration, purging disorder and night eating syndrome. As with all eating disorders, OSFED is not about the way a person views food but more so a reflection of underlying thoughts and feelings and a way to impose control. Physical signs are harder to catch in individuals with OSFED so it is important to recognise associated behaviours as early as possible.
Please see the post below J
It is categorised as an eating disorder, but is different from the eating disorders you may already be aware of, as there is no body dysmorphia and no desire to control weight.
In someone presenting with ARFID you may see any of the following:
- Eating less than 20 different foods
- Lack of appetite and would rather not eat
- Takes a long time over eating meals
- Only eating certain textures of food
- Anxious before and during mealtimes (not afterwards)
- Sudden refusal to eat foods
- Extreme fear of new foods
- Gagging/vomiting at the sight of food
- Avoidance of eating socially
- Expresses fear of eating…fear of choking or vomiting or worries that the food may make them ill
- Will only eat certain foods, or certain brands of food
- Foods are refused due to texture/feel/smell
It can affect a person at any age; babies, toddlers, children or adults. It can be diagnosed in children from the age of 2.
The exact causes of ARFID are unknown, but it is thought to be due to sensory sensitivity, a fear of negative consequences of eating (vomiting/choking etc) or lack of interest in food.
If you have any of these presentations yourself, or you are worried about someone you know, talk to your GP. There is also a great website with lots more information www.ARFIDawarenessUk.org