Good nutrition is added at the end of the Intuitive Eating journey but it is typically one of the first questions a client will ask me about. They want reassurance that this whole Intuitive Eating process won’t turn them into crazy, life long, out of control, junk food eaters. If good nutrition is so important they ask – why is it being added so late in the process?
That is because when we have had years of struggling with food and dieting and our bodies we have lost touch with eating in a way that truly supports both physical and mental health. We need to re-learn eating in a way that allow us to have a kinder relationship with food and our bodies before we add back “health”.
Choosing to eat healthful foods is one tool towards overall healthful living.
But tools when they aren’t used correctly can cause injury.
Just like I wouldn’t give a child a hammer, I wouldn’t give a person new to the Intuitive Eating journey gentle nutrition. That is because they don’t have perspective.
Have you ever see those pictures where you look at it and it can be seen two ways. Perhaps you see a young lady but you can also look at it and see an old lady. Those pictures are so fascinating to me and very cool. It can be viewed from different perspectives. It is like healthy eating. It can be a tool of restriction and perfection and judgment or a tool or vitality, health, and well-being. It depends on your perspective. It depends on how you use your “tools”.
Choosing to eat vegetables because they are fresh and delicious and you like the taste is gentle nutrition. Making yourself eat vegetables to lower your daily calories is not.
Eating when you are hungry is respecting your body’s internal signals and a part of gentle nutrition. Not eating when you are hungry is not.
Eating a piece of cake and enjoying it – on purpose – is part of gentle nutrition. Eating a piece of cake and making yourself feel like a “lousy human being” is not.
You are ready for gentle nutrition when you can be gentle with yourself about nutrition.
You aren’t ready to move into gentle nutrition if you find yourself using nutrition to belittle yourself in any way.
I would want a client to have experience with all of the other steps of Intuitive Eating before I would start with gentle nutrition. That is because when you work on all the other steps you find a new perspective. You find a more positive, nurturing, and gentle perspective about yourself and your eating.
When I first started Intuitive Eating I dropped “good” nutrition like a hot potato. I had misused good nutrition so that it became a way to restrict, judge, and shame myself. I had a bad relationship with good nutrition. Fortunately, I believed in Intuitive Eating and the process of healing my relationship with food and somehow trusted that things were going to turn out ok. I had to remember that while other people may follow diet restrictions to be healthy; I needed to do the opposite.
Then after a while of allowing for all foods I found that I might actually have a craving for something “healthy”. I remember being quite excited that it just kind of happened and I didn’t plan it out or make myself have it. It was awesome. I thought. Ok – maybe now I am “done”. But it was usually short lived – a day or two at most. I continued to work on eating all foods without judgment. I also worked on less self-judgment as well. I allowed for imperfection. My thinking became less black and white.
Over time I started craving “forbidden” foods less and “healthy” foods more often. I expected this to happen and I was so glad it did. However, it was a bit like a roller coaster. Stress of any kind was often a trigger that would send me “literally” back to the cupboard. Slowly, I became more mindful of my eating patterns and developed ways to handle stress that didn’t include food. I also found that sometimes choosing healthy foods “triggered” me to feeling like I was back to restricting and dieting. When this happened I would allow myself to back up a bit. I didn’t push the process.
This journey of learning to eat all foods without judgment and learning to trust my hunger and fullness and not being judgmental or perfectionist about food or my size took a while; a long while. Sometimes I was quite convinced I might never get to gentle nutrition. But the good news is that it really did happen. It can happen for you too. It just happened in baby steps and required lots of patience. It was very much a process of two steps forward, three steps back. I now have a new and far better relationship with good nutrition.
Do I still struggle – absolutely – I just have lots of positive tools that help me get back quicker to a place of self-compassion and gentle nutrition.
I have a new perspective.
*Intuitive Eating is a program and book written by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, and Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA, CEDRD. I am a certified Intuitive Eating counselor.
copyright 2018 Sarah Gold, MS, RD, LDN
This time of year can be difficult – especially for people with eating issues. Add to that family issues and money issues and there is a LOT of issues. So what do I, a dietitian of 30 years, recommend in this situation: low-calorie dip, extra vegetables? No, what I do recommend this time of year is lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of self-love.
I think I feel you rolling your eyes at me. How can we do self-love now? And what the heck is self-love anyway. I don’t have time to join a chanting hippy group traveling the southwest. I don’t know how to meditate or have time for a weekend away with friends.
Well, I have good news for you. Self-love can be done instantaneously and with no money expenditure and doesn’t require other people. It can be done this very moment, in fact. I want you to ask yourself – right now what can I do that would make me more comfortable? For instance, right now, when you are reading this article stop and ask yourself– am I comfortable where I am right now or do I need to do something to make myself more comfortable. Do I need to maybe move to sit in a different area – or do I need a sweater since I am a bit cold, or do I need to turn the light a bit since it is shining in my face, etc. Just check in with you. Are you ok? Do you need something? My conscious dance teacher demonstrated this idea well when she did a simple practice. She asked us to pick a spot on the floor to stand. Once everyone got there we were to ask ourselves – is this really ok for me or do I still want to move again? We continued this process until we found a spot on the floor we were really good with. I loved it. It was such a simple way to demonstrate how simple it can be to start to listen to yourself and then give yourself what you need.
However, when you think of what you need - it does need to just include things that YOU can do. Don’t say I want so and so to bring me something or buy me something. Think in terms of you. You are going to do for you.
And do this a lot!! Do this as often as you can think of during the day. By doing this you are giving yourself many little gifts of self-love all day long. It feels empowering. It feels awesome.
This time of year can be hard for me. A long time ago I lost my mother just before Christmas and it still hurts to this day. But since I am aware of this self love thing I do my very best to keep asking myself what I can do to make this moment just a bit better for myself. Sometimes I am good and there is no change necessary but often I am able to adjust things just a bit to make things better – for me. I give myself a gift of self-love.
I think right now I want to put on some comfy slippers- my feet feel a bit tired from the day.
I love my home. It is comfortable and surrounds me with things that bring me joy (I went through a very strong Marie Kondo phase). That being said I also have my home set up to support me in my personal goals. For instance: I like when I eat healthy. Therefore I have my home set up to help me eat healthy. I am guessing you wonder what the heck I mean by this?
Your environment influences how you eat. Often in ways that are very subconscious and may get in your way without you even being aware of it. There are numerous ways you can set up your home environment to support you. I am only going to name a few of my favorites. (I l highly recommend the book Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink, PH.D. He explains many ways our environment can affect how we eat.)
This might sound strange since I am an intuitive eater and Intuitive Eating** asks you to eat in response to internal cues and not external cues. However, as good as I am at Intuitive Eating I am not immune to my environment. In fact, I actually consider myself a master food “picker”: I can eat just a bite here and just a little there – endlessly. So I choose to structure my environment to support me. The less mindless eating I am doing the more successful I can be at eating healthy.
Here are a few things I do to have my home help me out:
I have one nice place where I eat. My table is comfortable and has a nice view for when I am eating alone. It is clear of work so I do not feel stressed by deadlines as I eat. I sit so I am not facing the TV and don’t have the TV on during meal times so I am not distracted while I eat. I do not discuss “business” at a meal. I save that for a different time in my day.
I use smaller plates and silverware. Normal food portions often look miniscule on the massive plates you can buy today .The bigger the dish the more food you eat. (If you have inherited any of your Grandma’s dishware – it may seem pretty small since plates have gotten consistently bigger over time). I prefer tall thin glasses. They look more full than short wide glasses. I put all my food on my plate at once. All of this helps my “eyes” feel satisfied.
I leave the food I have cooked on the cook top and island – not in front of me at the table. It is far easier to take more food when it is sitting within inches of my face. This concept is great at work as well. If there is a snack bowl within reach – try moving it just far enough that you have to get up from your desk to get it and your intake of the “snack” food will go down significantly.
I try to limit fast food to only once a week or less. This is because the portion sizes and calories can get out of control real quick and make it hard for me to eat healthy. When my husband and I do eat out we often split the dish or bring home the leftovers for lunch the next day. Half portions of today’s huge restaurant servings are rarely restrictive and usually I am satisfied.
I only eat in one room of my home: the kitchen (actually my dining room as well but that is usually for holidays). This helps me not associate other rooms with food. I am not thinking of food when I am sitting in the family room, or in my office, or in bed at night.
I leave out the foods I wish to encourage myself to eat; like the fruit bowl. The foods I want to eat less of I put out of sight. The chips and chocolate are in the pantry but not at eye level. They are lower and higher and in the corner so I am not always seeing them every time I open the pantry door. I also set up my refrigerator so the foods I want to eat more of are level at my eyesight; e.g. cut up vegetables. The other foods I put in opaque containers or in drawers.
I keep foods that are healthy in my home. I make it easy to eat those foods. Other foods like ice cream I need to use a bit more effort to get them at the store. Or If I keep them at home they are out of eyesight.
I schedule exercise daily. I have my gym bag packed and in the trunk of my car. I call friends on Monday to schedule “walk and talk” days ahead of time. All of this makes it fun and easier to “work out”.
Having my home environment set up to work for me is wonderful. It functions as my personal health support system: one that is not only helpful but also cozy and comfortable and brings me great joy.
Written by Sarah Gold, MS, RD, LDN and Intuitive Eating counselor
**Intuitive Eating is a book written by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA, CEDRD. Find out more at intuitiveeating.com
I have the best-est friends. As a 7-year-old boy told me a few days ago there is no such word as best-est. I beg to differ. Best-est is way better than the best. It is cream of the crop best. And in this difficult journey of life having friends who are the best-est is truly a gift. They remind me when I am down on myself to see things differently.
I have been struggling with self-love for a long while. You see I rarely attained it since I had the idea that it was related to the outside of myself, to my achievements, to being nice, or being helpful. When I looked for self-love inside myself it was a struggle. What is it? Where do I find it? Will it show up when I am a great Mom? Will it be there when I find success at my job or am the perfect room mother? Maybe I need to be super nice to everyone and then it will show up. But since I find myself struggling and “failing” most days to reach any of my goals I would give up and feel bad about myself.
I was looking for it on the outside when you don’t have to look for it at all. Self-love just IS.
Self-love is inside. You don’t earn it. You don’t have to do anything for it. You come into this life with it.
To have self-love just because I am is new for me. On this journey of self-healing I am aware of self-love. I know it is there. I have experienced it. But it is easy for me to forget it in this perfectionist, re-touching photo, face-book, A+ grades, bigger house, expensive car world that is around me.
That is why having friends is awesome. THEY know me for all my failings and struggles and issues and still can look at me and see a loveable person. They don’t try to change me or make me better. They help remind me to see the loveable person I am- just because I am.
That is the best-est.
written by Sarah Gold, MS, RD, LDN
Parenting is SO HARD. Feeding a kid can be SO HARD! My own children were quite honestly often a mystery to me. I struggled with breastfeeding my first and my second one fed quite naturally. My first ate all foods well and my second was more interested in play than eating. Just when I thought I had it figured out they started to go through puberty. The first barely had a growth spurt and turned out shorter than the rest of the family and my second decided to delay puberty beyond the norm, stop growing for a couple years, and then shoot up past me and my other daughter when I had finally given up hope on anything happening. Who knew? Meanwhile their bodies took on shapes all their own. They both had times when they were rounder and times when they were thinner. What worked for feeding one had no effect on the other and vice versa. I spend a great deal of time worrying about both. I did my best to feed them well; although sometimes that meant frozen dinners or take out.
To make it worse our society has decided that we can control the size of our children. What? If you think about it: it is quite laughable. Did I order one daughter to be 5’3” and the other 5”7”: of course not. So do you think I could control either one to weigh their so called “ideal” weights: of course not. I did everything I could to help them with healthy eating but that is no guarantee. Yet society continues this craziness. Who says I am a better mother (or father) if my child is the “right” size. Who says they are a better person if they are the “right” size? I’m here to tell you it is B* S#$!
I have worked with many parents of children who are trying very hard to get information and support their child in healthy eating and this is what I want to say:
You are awesome
You are doing your best
Take a deep breath – what size your child is says nothing about how awesome they are as a person or how successful you are as a parent
People come in all shapes and sizes
If you find yourself overwhelmed with fear and anxiety about how your child is eating and don’t know what to do I think talking to a dietitian is great. But I want you to also add self-love. How can you support yourself? How can you accept yourself and your child just as you are – right now? Do you need to search for body positive messages and pictures? Do you need to talk with a supportive friend? Do you need to journal or take a walk to get some quiet alone time to process your thoughts and work through some stress? Working on eating and food can be difficult – very difficult – and quite emotional. Any positive changes you make will take time and patience and there is no guaranteed result. Working on healthy eating and healthy living is an wonderful goal and I support you.
But please remember how awesome you and your child are while you do this very hard work.
Sending you love.
Sarah Gold, MS, RD, LDN
Dietitian and intuitive eating counselor
I am done with the Intuitive Eating process. I have reached my “goal”. This is strange since I also believe that Intuitive Eating is a life long habit. How do I know I am done? My perspective has changed. I no longer use food and eating as a weapon against myself.
The end goal feels like:
Does this mean I don’t continue to struggle some days: of course not. But mostly I feel awesome about food. It feels really great and is worth the struggle I went through to get there. Absolutely.
What is even better is that this whole intuitive eating process opened up my world to intuitive living…
If you learn to listen to your body in regards to hunger and fullness you can also now take it one step further to listen to happy and sad. When you can chose foods that you enjoy (and meet your food needs) you could now take that a next step further to meeting your life needs as well. When you learn to stop judging yourself on your food choices you can now take it one step further to stop judging yourself on life choices as well. When you learn to give yourself love without using food you can now take it one step further to learn how to give yourself love that is supportive and healing.
I may be done with Intuitive Eating – the struggle and learning and persistence it took. But I am thrilled to say I am stepping into intuitive living!
I wish you well on your journey.
Written by Sarah Gold, MS, RD, LDN, and intuitive eating counselor
Intuitive Eating is a book written by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, and Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA, CEDRD. Learn more at intuitiveeating.org
I’d like you to go on vacation. This isn’t your usual vacation of beautiful beaches and watching the sunset. This one is far, far better and doesn’t cost a penny. And it feels great!
Ok. Close your eyes. Imagine you are just right - as you are.
Yes. That’s it. Imagine there is nothing to fix. What if all day you were ok? You didn’t have to be more or better or different.
You are ok: just as you are. You are truly awesome. There is no one else like you on the planet; no one else that is the wonderful mixture of all that you are. What a miracle. You you are exactly as you are meant to be.
I just gave you the cheapest best vacation idea in the world: a vacation from self- judgment, self-ridicule, and self-criticism.
Live this day just as you are, as if you are a truly awesome.
written by Sarah Gold, MS, RD, LDN
**Please know as you read this article that I am a true believer in anything intuitive. I will go down with the boat knowing that the self-empowerment of learning to listen to your body to guide you is WAY better than the alternative of self- hatred and starvation that is so espoused these days. However, now that I’ve said this, I’d like to share what one of my “bad” days looks like.
This intuitive eating journey can be HARD.
I am sick of being in the moment – what if I don’t like the moment. What if when I am sitting and trying to enjoy my breakfast and just eat I notice the windows need to be cleaned and I forgot to pay the bill that was due – yesterday?
What if I miss the simplicity of a start and a finish and a winner? What if I want a trophy or a gold star? Some days this journey is starting to feel like I have been stuck in a car ride with small kids for way to long.
What if I am really sick and tired of waiting for my hunger? The bugger doesn’t show up as quickly as I’d like – kind of like a downtown bus.
And what if I never find this “middle: the space between starvation and overindulgence where I can be present and happy and accepting of all things. What if my “middle” is in fact an incredibly boring all grey room that needs to be dusted.
What if I want to look like those 22 year old girls with flat pierced stomachs and no cares in the world. Is there an airbrush for real life? Should I look up the new fad diet?
Wait! – I have gone too far – I DO NOT ever want to be 22 again or be obsessed with what I am on the outside like I was when I was 22: when I actually thought that the problems in my world will be solved by me being just the “right” size. When I get back to diet mentality I know I am having a REALLY bad day. These happen on occasion: to anyone who is human.
Intuitive Eating authors Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch describe the experience of a journey as a spiral of healing; an upward, onward movement that circles around and allows for reflection and growth. I like to think of it as picturing yourself hiking up a mountain in a circular fashion. You may feel as though you have “started over” at some points when you circle around to the beginning but in fact you are ever so slightly higher on this mountain. As you make progress around the mountain you know more about what to expect and can start to see how far you have come from where you began. But there are also times when you are tired, weary, upset from a bad day, and trip over a pebble on the path. And fall.
So, if you find yourself lying on the ground in the dust, thinking drastic thoughts, give yourself a moment to recover, take a nap, scream, call a friend, whatever works for you. Then GET BACK UP. Every time you fall and pick yourself back up you are getting stronger and can get back up more quickly.
Once up. I happily remember that before I noticed the dirty windows at breakfast I had actually accomplished giving myself two minutes of peace and quiet. I remember that the intense pressure to be the best isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And, in fact, a middle with shades of grey may not be all that bad (wink, wink) I also remember about the self-empowerment, self-guidance, self-love, and self-respect so inherent in intuitive eating.
Yes, this journey can be hard. Change (of any kind) is HARD. Bad days are to be expected. Getting back up can be difficult. But my advice is keep going. Because every step you make is forward and most days the journey is truly beautiful and inspiring and breathtakingly awesome.
And a little humor can help.
Written by Sarah Gold, MS, RD, LDN, and intuitive eating counselor
Intuitive Eating is a book by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA, CEDRD. Learn more at intuitiveeating.com. They also have a new Intuitive Eating Workbook.
I have wonderful friends. I have some I am lucky enough to see regularly and others that I only get to see every so often. Just recently I was blessed to be able to meet up with friends, some of whom, I hadn’t seen in years. Before we met up I wondered what they would think of me in my now middle-aged body. Then I realized they wouldn’t care what I looked like on the outside since real friends see you from the inside!
What do I mean by this. Well think about your friends. Have you ever picked one because they looked like they were the right size and their skin was clear and they had nice hair - probably not. My guess is you picked the friend that smiled at you and laughed at your jokes and disliked (or liked) math as much as you did. Or maybe they cheered you on when you were learning to climb the rope in junior high, or helped you redo your resume when you wanted a job after the kids started school.
I have a lot in common with some friends, not so much with other friends, but they all have one thing in common: they support me and accept me as I am. They accept my intensity, occasional sadness, and love of dance, lame jokes, and obsession with Marie Kondo’s techniques. They accept my inside qualities. Not one of them has ever commented that they really like me since my colorist does such a nice job.
This ability to see ourselves from the inside is important when we are struggling so hard with accepting our outside. It reminds us of what is truly important in life and how little others really care about our outsides (and if they are so worried about our outside that is THEIR issue). Sure we might appreciate our friend’s new cute top or earrings but that isn’t why we like them. I encourage you to write a list of things you like about your inside. Do this on a nice day when you are feeling happy. If this is really hard ask your friends to share what they like about you. Put this list somewhere so when you are really feeling crappy about your outside you can remember all the wonderfulness of who you really are.
Although our culture seems to be obsessed with superficiality and creating a bunch of people that all look like each other on the outside, I encourage you to remember that what makes you so special is the wonderful mix of who you are on the inside.
written by Sarah Gold, MS, RD, LDN
I love the movie the Princess Bride. It is funny, romantic, and wonderfully creative. One of my favorite things in the movie is the character Westley who keeps telling the Princess “as you wish”. It is explained that when he says this it means, “I love you”. How romantic: perfect for a fantasy movie. Reality is a bit different and I would argue much better. In reality you get to give yourself what you wish. Why am I bringing this up as an intuitive eating counselor? Because often times women struggle with giving themselves what they want and need.
In our society women are encouraged to be nurturing to others. Women are encouraged to have a set body type. Women are encouraged to not be too aggressive or loud. We should be nurturing, look good, and be good. We are often rewarded for this type of behavior. The problem lies in the fact that if we are always giving to others, listening to others ideas of how we should look and how we should behave – where are we in this equation?
When we lose touch with ourselves it can have devastating results. Women who are trying to look good and follow the set “rules” may find themselves forever restricting their own needs. We may make chicken soup for a sick child but not stop a moment when we are ill. We may forever diet to be at the acceptable size for society that actually isn’t natural for us. We may never have learned to voice our negative emotions if we were always trying to be “good” or “nice”. I think this has to stop.
Intuitive eating teaches you to regain your self-power. You relearn to get in touch with your body. You will figure out how to tell if you are hungry for food or something else. You learn to accept what you are hungry for without judgment. You learn how to give yourself what you need in a way that is supportive and loving. You nurture yourself. You support yourself. You start to let go of societies strange idea of body perfection and appreciate your body and all the great things your body can do for you.
You take power over your life – “as YOU wish”- and step into loving you.
written by Sarah Gold, MS, RD, LDN and intuitive eating counselor.
Intuitive Eating is a book and program by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. See more at intuitiveeating.org
Sarah Gold is an intuitive eater, dietitian, chocolate lover, and dog lover,