February Q&A episode
Welcome to the February Q&A. I’d like to do at Q&A post + podcast once a month. Let’s dive in. Podcast version here.
Invite them into my life.
W asked, “How do you handle or how would you handle your kids around family that does not do intuitive eating? Such as extended family members with really unhealthy behaviors around food (very into diets, overly controlled portions, passing up meals, etc).”
Invite them into your life in a way that allows the relationship to work for you and allows you to love them well. Instead of sharing meals with this person, go to the zoo or have the person teach your kids about one of their hobbies. Allow all the things you love and adore about that person to be the focus of time spent with that person. Alternatively, if you do have a meal with that person just know you’re going to have to go through a drive through and pick up some fries after you eat at their house because they never serve carbs. Or maybe view the meal they serve as more of an appetizer.
Another thing to bring up here is the fallacy of change. Psych Central states that, “In the fallacy of change, a person expects that other people will change to suit them if they just pressure or cajole them enough. A person needs to change people because their hopes for success and happiness seem to depend entirely on them. This distortion is often found in thinking around relationships.” I don’t think we should ask people to do something they aren’t capable of. I think boundaries are good and that could be discussed. I’ve been enjoying following @silvykhoucasian on IG for info on attachment styles and loving boundary setting.
These two questions are similar, so I’m grouping them together. Arianna says, “How can I get truly started with intuitive eating? I feel like I kind of follow the principles, but want to get better at listening to my hunger cues.” DB asks, “Can you clarify the benefits of structured/mechanical eating and how it compares to IE?”
First, I think expanding ones definition of what hunger looks like in your body is important. Hunger may present as an interest in food, a wane in energy or mood, headache, or empty feeling in your stomach with zero hunger pangs present. Get curious about how does your body experience hunger. Also, knowing for you, “how does hunger present in times of stress?” This gets into when structured/mechanical eating may be helpful.
When there is an attunement disruptor getting in the way of tuning in and listening to your body, working with a non-diet RD to set up a plan for structured eating may be useful. Attunement disruptors include: stress, illness, mood, eating disorder, exercise, distraction, rigid rules, poor self-care, trauma, anxiety. Structured eating (varying in rigidity to an exchange meal plan to simple eating 3 meals and 3 snacks every day no matter what) can be helpful until one is in a place where the noise from attunement disruptors can be turned down.
It’s also worth mentioning here: Interoceptive Awareness, which is the perception of physical sensations originating from inside the body. To be an intuitive eater…you need to be able to sense and be aware of these. This next little section is not my own and is directly from the mouth of Evelyn Tribole at a conference. “Interoceptive awareness is a direct experience that is happening RIGHT NOW (not the guilt from what you had for breakfast, but what you are sensing right now/what body is telling you.)
Evelyn listed 8 factors that contribute to building up one’s interoceptive awareness, which include:
- Noticing – ex. I notice changes in my breathing.
- Not-distracting – ex. hanging with sensations of discomfort.
- Not-worrying – ex. I start to worry that something is wrong if I feel any discomfort.
- Attention Regulation – ex. I can refocus attention from my thinking to sensing body. I can disentangle the thought from the actual bodily experience.
- Emotional Awareness – ex. I notice a shift in how my body feels when I have a peaceful situation.
- Self-regulation – ex. I’m capable of finding a peaceful place.
- Body listening – ex. I listen for information from my body about my emotional state.
- Trust – ex. I trust my body sensations.
Social Media Boundaries
CFB asked, “How do you keep social media boundaries and make it a positive place?”
I don’t find social media to be a positive place. I find it draining. At least when it comes to my personal account. It used to be a lot of fun for me, but over the last 5 years it has shifted. In 2018 (and then again in 2019), I had a couple unfortunate events in my personal life and it was clear the blog and social media were contributing to harm of people I cared about so I stopped sharing a lot. There was a major shift in the blog around this time and pretty soon after on social media as well. I’m not going to elaborate on this. I eventually created a personal account for people who are currently in my day to day life and I care for. The moments with me and my girls feel so intimate and sacred that I don’t want to share them…so I have a group of about 25 people who I share with. It’s hard because I know many of you who follow me here care deeply about me (and I care for you and have worked with you and know your family and your kid’s names and have attended your weddings and want well for you!), but it’s impossible to filter for those that hope well for me from those who’ll tear me down.
So how do I keep it relatively positive? On Instagram, my friend Morgan has been talking a lot about a social media strategy lately and that has been helpful for me to focus on having a strategy to move forward with and be consistent with, rather than doing what I feel that day. Other specific things I do to keep social media a bearable place:
Take a break when needed. I don’t feel like I need to explain myself to social media and just jump in and out of social media as needed. I really don’t need social media anymore, in terms of I have therapist who send me referrals, so I don’t need social media to maintain an adequate client base…like I did at the beginning of my career.
On my professional, @immaEATthat account, most of the people I follow are muted. I can only handle having 5 people unmuted at a time. Otherwise it is to many inputs coming in for me and it depletes me. Following too many people in the intuitive eating space doesn’t make me feel excited about the work…it makes me feel like, “oh, that’s already been said. I don’t need to share anything.”
Also, having awareness of when people are making demands of me that aren’t in line with my values is helpful. Being aware and stepping away or not responding. Practicing the art of not getting the last word.
Also, having a personal account is fun! I follow minimal self-help related accounts and instead just follow real life friends (even though only about 3 of my friends use social media…most of them don’t), DIY home reno accounts (love me from @rebeccaandgenevieve), shark divers (lol. I love the ocean. When Andrew and I went shark cage diving in Hawaii (pre-kid trip of a lifetime!!) on the way out into the ocean in the boat our captain yelled, “Hey, Ocean!” To a boat that was passing and I was like, “Wait. Her name is Ocean?! What? I’ve followed her ever since haha.), and @willowcrowns for organization and making-a-house-a-home-esque inspiration.
Dietland vs. Donutland
C asked, “How much should I pay attention to food? I want to nourish myself and get enough fruits and veggies, but I don’t want to focus on it too much. Where’s the balance?”
I read an article a year ago from dietitian Vincci Tsui that has stuck with me because I think it’s so well put. Tsui said, “I feel like it’s about not taking Dietland or Donutland at face value – rather, examining the experiences we’ve had and the lessons we’ve learned from both of those extremes to create a set of values and a way of living that is our own.” Tsui encourages, instead of dietland or donutland, we have the option of discernment. An activity I have a lot of clients go through, once they have been intuitively eating for an appropriate amount of time* is to make a list of all their experiences from dietland and donutland and discern which allow you to create a, “set of values and a way of living that is your own.” If you have lived a long time in dietland, you will need to experience donutland before you will be able to know what experiences from donutland are beneficial. You can not know what donutland is like without ever going. Think about which experiences are beneficial to you and which are not. There may be behaviors which once functioned as part of your eating disorder, but now your intention behind them is different. This can be tricky to navigate and would be best done with a lot of reflection and consideration for what is helpful and healthy (not HELLthy) for you. I’ll post an example of this activity on IG sometime this week.
*an appropriate amount of time is determined by what the person has been through and is going to vary by person to person, even if those two individuals have had similar experiences. Healing is unique to each person and doesn’t necessarily need to be compared or put on a timeline. Be where you are at. Not all advice is good advice for you.
G says, “Can you discuss intuitive eating while pregnant? I know there are guidelines about gaining 25-30 lbs when pregnant, but I’d love to hear more non-diet tips for navigating a healthy relationship with food while pregnant.”
I totally have baby fever right now. There are so many pregnant bellies in my life right now and I LOVE IT. I’m being patient though. My precious pelvic floor with the larger babies I grow could use some more time to heal.
Pregnancy is a great time to grow as an intuitive eater! It can help you realize what food rules you’re still hanging onto. For instance, all of the sudden eating in the middle of the night or having a burger as a snack will be needed. It’s an opportunity to really lean into that and trust your body. I believe the body knows how to gain the right amount of weight when pregnant. A focus on healthy promoting behaviors (i.e. experimenting with what joyful movement means when you’re larger, having multiple ways to cope outside of food or restriction, consistently have meals and snacks coming in) over micromanaging weight will be the best option.
I also think requesting to not know your weight (and consistently reminding medical professionals that you don’t need to know your weight) is a good option if seeing your weight increase takes you away from health promoting behaviors.
When it comes to respecting your natural body size (principle 8 of intuitive eating), I have found pregnancy to be very healing for my body image. It’s amazing to see the body expand and be rearranged and never go back to what it was before. The other day I was looking at my body before getting in the shower and I was like, “Wow. Gravity at work. Everything, especially boobs and belly, have been pulled downwards. I wonder how this body will look in 10 more years.” The body adapts to meet the needs around you (ex. in pregnancy, more fat stores + mammary glands functioning) and I’m so appreciative of the opportunity to create life inside of me and how fragile, yet strong a postpartrum body is. How pulled apart and broken, yet 100% capable and functional a postpartum body is. I find it amazing and truly awesome! I hope I get to experience it again. I got a bit sidetracked, but what I really want to say here about body image is if during pregnancy one can cultivate a sense of, “I will care for this body, even as it is getting bigger,” that will likely be beneficial. Most of us have such an automatic, negative association with gaining fat and our bodies expanding. It’s a weird shift to think, “I’m getting fatter, but I think well of myself. Hmm. Even though this body is getting bigger, I still think highly of it and am going to care for it well.” This is a positive body image practice to practice in pregnancy that can carry over into viewing fat level changes in the non-pregnant you more positively as well. Pregnancy is a unique time to practice this because with 100% certainty you know your body will get bigger as you care for it (no matter what you do) and it is more of an acceptable time for a women’s body to change so you don’t have to be fighting society norms quite as much here.
Okay guys! That’s it for this week. If you still have questions, let me know below and I’ll put them on the Q&A list for March. Questions that have already been asked, but I didn’t get to this week, I’ll put on the list for March. Thank you for your questions! I appreciate them.