I was raised to be a "good girl. I learned what many children learn – to be quiet, and do what was needed to fit in and get along. I don’t remember talking back to adults when I was a child. My sister who is eight years younger had the guts to rock the boat. To this day she has a “voice” I admire. Talking back is hard for me. I have to work hard to say what I need to say. But I am getting better.
How is this related to Intuitive Eating? Well, Intuitive Eating requires you to talk back - to yourself!
Intuitive Eating allows for all foods. While this may sound awesome to someone who has dieted for years it can in fact be difficult. Why? Because once you start to eat “restricted” foods your critical voice gets louder.
This critical voice is in all of us. It is there for more than just food. And mine is not nice. My critical voice might say things like: you can’t eat a whole bagel for breakfast that is way too much food, better have coffee with skim milk to save calories, you picked out a burger and fries for lunch - you are a terrible dietitian. It could go on and on. It might quiet a bit if I listened to it – but if I didn’t, it could bother me relentlessly. And I listened and believed its every word.
If I put my “voice” into a picture I would say it was a tall beautiful woman who wears a judges’ robe and carries a clipboard and wears a whistle around her neck. She is tall since she is powerful, she is beautiful since that represents my perfectionist, she wears a judges robe since she judges, and she carries a clipboard like a grueling coach and her whistle is to wake me up when I don’t listen to her message.
When I took the time to listen to her I realized she thought she was helping me. She wanted me to be attractive, accomplished, and a good dietitian. The problem was she was treating me worse than anyone should be treated. When I listened to what she said I felt awful, miserable, and like a failure. She was treating me like I was a small child. I am not. I am a grown woman. I realized her tactics of making me feel terrible were backfiring. When she made me feel small I just ate worse – not better.
Intuitive Eating asks you to notice your critical voice, find out what it wants you to know, and then start to reframe negative thoughts in a more positive and supportive way. When I thought about nurturing I thought about my children. I realized that when they were trying to learn something new I didn’t tell them how awful they were. I would encourage them and be there cheerleader. I would tell them they could do it and when they “fell” I would brush them off and encourage them to try again until they got it.
I decided to talk back. I wanted to be my own cheerleader. If my critical voice told me I was being good if I ate “healthy” I explained that my food choices give me energy and nutrition but aren’t really related to weather I am a good or bad person. When my critical voice told me to eat lower calorie foods I explained that I had the control to eat when I was hungry and stop when I was full and I didn’t need to count calories. When she stated I wasn’t going to be respected if I ate nutritionally poor foods. I explained that I allow for all foods which is very healthy. When I get discouraged my cheerleader helps me realize I am human, and encourages me to get back up and keep going.
I like to think my cheerleader is helping me to find my voice and stick up for myself. Just like my sister :)
By Sarah Gold, MS, RD, LDN
(There is a lot more to challenging the food police. You may want to read more about it in the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, and Elyse Resch, MS, RD. FADA, CEDRD. Intuitiveeating.com)
Sarah Gold is an intuitive eater, dietitian, chocolate lover, and dog lover,