If you’ve been with me for a while, you know I believe that long-lasting weight loss is NOT about dieting or deprivation. Slimming down, improving health, and living a happier and Bigger Life is about…
1) Understanding WHY you overeat and treating yourself with kindness (learn more here);
2) Learning HOW to eat intuitively and to trust and respect your body (find out how here);
3) Discovering WHAT foods help you drop pounds, feel energized, and keep your soul satisfied.
And (delicious, real, and good-for-you) food is what this post is all about. Because food is a seriously important part of self-care. In fact, one of the BEST ways to love and respect yourself is to provide your body with nutrient-rich foods that make you feel your best.
Food is also the universal connector—I mean, we all have to eat, right!? We all celebrate with food, socialize with food, and fuel ourselves with food. Food is a life-giving necessity and eating shouldn’t be complicated. Or boring. Or overwhelming. It should be simple. And nourishing. And enjoyable.
My own relationship with food has changed drastically over the last 10 years (you can read my story here), and I’m so thankful for that.
So today I’m sharing all of my (super-helpful and super-awesome) real-food resources and tools with you. Here’s what you need to know (and do) to start eating like you love yourself…
“Eating doesn’t have to be so complicated. In this age of ever-more elaborate diets and conflicting health advice, Food Rules brings a welcome simplicity to our daily decisions about food.” If you only read one book about nutrition and food, THIS is the one to read, period.
Real foods are those that are unprocessed, unrefined, whole and fresh, free of additives, colorings, flavorings, sweeteners and hormones. They’re as close to their natural state as possible.
And when you eat real foods (rather than highly processed ones) you’ll notice that you just feel SO MUCH better, as these are the foods that provide your body with what it needs to function at its best.
While there are no hard and fast real food rules, my friends over at 100 Days of Real Food have a great list of good-to-eat foods that I love…
In a nutshell, you clean up your diet by eating MORE vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, plus healthy proteins and fats, and LESS refined grains, added sugars, salt and unhealthy fats.
It’s also important to choose foods that are good for you AND good for the environment (see sustainable food links below). And if you eat meat please (PLEASE!) consider only eating meat from humanely-raised animals. You can find out more about why and how to do this in these links…
So what about take-out pizza, peanut butter cups, donuts, and a zillion other not-so-great-for-you foods? Look, it’s all about eating real food in the real world. Here’s what I do…
Most of the time (maybe about 85% or so) I eat nutrient-dense, clean foods I love (I shop at farmers’ markets, I drink green smoothies, I cook delicious real-food recipes, and I search out healthy foods everywhere I go). And the rest of the time, well, I just don’t worry about it. And neither should you.
Clean-eating advocate Michael Pollan (see his above-mentioned book) really says it best…
“Obsessing over food rules is bad for your happiness, and probably for your health too. Our experience over the past few decades suggests that dieting and worrying too much about nutrition has made us no healthier or slimmer; cultivating a relaxed attitude toward food is important.”
Just do your best, and forget about the rest. Also know that once you get back in sync with your hunger (learn how to do that here), you’ll be able to eat anything (yes, anything) you want… and still lose weight.
But you’ll reach your goal weight a lot faster, and you’ll feel 1,000 times better, if you nourish yourself with whole and delicious real foods more often than not.
LISTEN TO YOUR (VERY WISE) BODY
As a dietitian, a question I get asked a lot is this: What’s the best eating style for health and weight loss? Is it vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, Paleo, raw-food, pescatarian or [insert any other eating style or specific diet here]?
My answer is always the same: Only YOU know which foods are right for your body. You can absolutely work with an integrative nutritionist (I suggest dietitian Danielle Omar) to help you get clear on a nutrition strategy, but you and you alone are the real expert of your body, and you are always your own best teacher.
A part of nourishing yourself from a place of love is listening to your body and noticing how it feels and reacts to your food choices. Start to make connections by tuning in to how different foods affect your mood, energy levels, and cravings, and pay attention to how your body feels when you eat (or don’t eat) certain foods.
Your body is communicating with you all the time, and it’s up to you to slow down and pay attention to its messages.
EAT LOCALLY-SOURCED AND SUSTAINABLE FOOD
Sustainable food is better for the environment, better for you, and better for the world. And local food is fresher, seasonal, and it tastes SO much better than food that’s been trucked or flown in from thousands of miles away.
Eat Well Guide—search over 25,000 hand-picked restaurants, farms, markets and other sources of local, sustainable food.
Local Harvest—find a CSA. CSAs (community supported agriculture programs) provide a direct link between local farmers and consumers by allowing members to purchase a share of a farmer’s crop before it’s produced each season.
Sustainable Table—an online directory of sustainable products in the U.S. and Canada.
At the very least, buy organic produce for the items on the following Dirty Dozen list…
The Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides identifies fruits and vegetables that have the highest (The Dirty Dozen) and lowest (The Clean Fifteen) pesticide residues. Switching to organic produce for the foods listed on The Dirty Dozen list can reduce the amount of toxins you consume on a daily basis by as much as 80% (80%, WOW!).
Created by husband and wife team Jason and Lisa Leake, this pledge requires following their basic (above-mentioned) real food policies. This 10 day (or 100-day) challenge will give you a true sense of what it’s like to go back to eating whole foods.
COOK YOURSELF HEALTHY (AND SKINNY!)
Cooking blogs that use real, fresh, and seasonal ingredients make eating well extremely easy! My absolute favorite blog is Skinnytaste. I’ve been working with Gina Homolka, the very talented creator of Skinnytaste, for a few years now (I’m the Skinnytaste dietitian), so I know first-hand just how awesome her food is.
Gina’s recipes are exactly what good food should be – clean, nutrient-loaded, and super tasty. Search her extensive database here, or pick up a copy of her cookbook…
“The Fresh 20 is a meal planning service, created for busy families and singles who want to eat fresh, healthy meals, and save time and money. The meal plans rely on simple, healthy, homemade lunches and dinners using just 20 fresh, seasonal ingredients per week.”
“We have the resources you need to fill your freezer with a fresh variety of meals for you to enjoy when you want, and with the same convenience as the freezer aisle. We have two membership options for you to get started and on the path to improved eating!”
In this fabulous program by registered dietitian Danielle Omar, you’ll get clear on which foods DON’T work for your body – which foods cause you to feel bloated, sluggish or lethargic. And which foods DO work for your body – those foods which give you optimum energy, kickstart changes in your body, and reduce your waistline.
This program will also help you get clear on any hidden food sensitivities you may have that could be causing weight loss resistance.
This place is kinda amazing. Thrive Market is an online shopping club on a mission to make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone.
Thrive Market members can buy the best-selling healthy foods and natural, wholesome products in everyday sizes, always at 25-50% off retail prices, delivered right to their door. And for every paid membership, Thrive Market donates a free membership to a family in need.
Remember, no matter where you are on your food journey, please please please be gentle with yourself and tell yourself (often) that you’re doing the best you can. We’re ALL a work in progress.
If you’re anything like me, and the women I work with, you probably eat for a lot of different reasons.
Sometimes we eat because we’re actually physically hungry. But sometimes we eat just because something looks or smells really, really good (freshly baked brownies or cookies, anyone?).
Sometimes we eat because everyone else is eating and we don’t want to feel left out.
Sometimes we eat out of habit (T.V. munching) or just because it’s there (the office candy jar).
Sometimes we eat to reward ourselves, to celebrate victories, or to please others.
And sometimes we eat because we feel lonely, sad, angry, stressed, exhausted, or a myriad of other emotions.
Everyone eats for reasons other than hunger once in a while, and that’s absolutely OK. It’s just a part of life.But if your eating is problematic or you’re struggling to maintain or lose weight, raising your awareness around your hunger and eating habits will make it SO MUCH EASIER for you to form a healing relationship with yourself… and with food.
A relationship that’s nourishing, nurturing, and fun…
A relationship that supports you and fuels your life…
And a relationship that you can live (and lose weight) with.
In Smaller Size Bigger Life, my online group-coaching program for women who struggle with emotional eating, binge eating, overeating, or body image issues, I teach Intuitive Eating.
Intuitive Eating shows you how to trust your hunger (the opposite of what diets do) and how to form a healthy relationship with food and your body.
I know first-hand how powerful this scientifically-backed approach is—I’m a dietitian, a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, and I’ve personally trained with dietitian Evelyn Tribole, an Intuitive Eating pioneer and the co-author of the groundbreaking book, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works. I’ve not only drastically changed my own relationship with food with the help of Intuitive Eating, I’ve also helped countless clients do the same.
Intuitive Eaters follow no external rules, emotions, or experts when it comes to eating. They’re in sync with their body’s hunger cues, and they listen only to their own internal signals. They don’t have forbidden foods or rigid eating rules; instead, they eat when they want and what they want, according to their body’s unique needs.
Intuitive Eating, however, isn’t a license to eat junk food all day! It’s a holistic approach to eating that involves gentle nutrition and plain-old common sense. You make food choices that honor your health, your hunger, and your tastebuds.
And here’s the really, really good news: We are ALL Intuitive Eaters by nature (yes, even YOU). Eating is a survival mechanism, and you and me (and everyone else on the planet) are born with all the innate wisdom we need to fuel ourselves efficiently and effectively.
The body always knows best. So how do we get so off track? Well, years of controlling, restricting, binging, and all-out food-and-diet craziness block this inborn intelligence, and instead of listening to our wise and all-knowing body, we make ourselves totally banana-pants! It happens.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Not at all. Your (perfect and beautifully designed) body still instinctively knows exactly what it needs to thrive and naturally reach its ideal weight—you just have to get back in tune with it.
Young children (and you used to be one!) are Intuitive Eating masters. Free from the food, diet, and body image social messages that plague the rest of us, they just EAT. No fuss, no muss, and NO BIG DEAL. Think about it…
Do children eat more (or less) after a bad day at preschool?
Do they think about how their PB&J fits into their allotted daily calorie allowance?
Do they skip breakfast to save their calories for a friends’ birthday cake later in the afternoon?
Do they beat themselves up for eating a cookie just because?
Do they restrict food or obsess about their food choices?
No, because that would be ridiculous. They eat when they’re hungry, they stop when they’re full, and sometimes they eat just for fun of it. They eat freely, mindfully and naturally, and they really and truly enjoy their food.
And you know those women who seem to have an easy-breezy and relaxed relationship with food? The ones who eat whatever they want and still maintain their weight? Guess what? Those women are Intuitive Eaters, too.
So is it possible for you to eat intuitively? Can you free yourself from the food anxiety that runs rampant in our diet-obsessed society, experience eating inner peace, and lose weight with ease? ABSOLUTELY.
But before you can return to your Intuitive Eating instincts, you have to set yourself (and your body) up for lasting success. Here are 3 steps to restore your metabolism (and your eating sanity).
3 Steps To Restore Your Metabolism (And Your Eating Sanity)
1) Deal With Your Inner Conflicts
2) Balance Your Body
3) Cultivate Eating Consciousness
1) Deal With Your Inner Conflicts
A vital part of becoming an Intuitive Eater is the willingness to pay attention to what your body is telling you, but you can’t effectively “listen” when you have mental patterns and emotional blocks that keep you trapped in self sabotage. It just doesn’t work.
If you’ve tried and failed at Intuitive Eating, this is probably why. I see this with my clients all the time; they try to make outer changes before they make any inner changes. And this is a GIANT weight loss and Intuitive Eating mistake. Ya gotta do the mental work first.
You need to deal with your inner critic (find out how HERE), manage everyday stress (find out how HERE), and align your desires with your beliefs (find out how HERE). You also you need to start getting honest with yourself about your struggles.
For example, are you using the weight as an excuse for failure? (“Because of my weight, I can’t be successful, I can’t get a boyfriend, I can’t be happy, etc., etc.”). Or does obsessing about food distract you from dealing with other issues and fears? Or maybe you’re afraid of being “seen,” and the extra weight is your excuse to stay in your comfort zone (FYI: Genuine and lasting change can only happen outside your comfort zone!). Or does the weight make you feel safe or protected in some way?
Once you understand and compassionately resolve your inner conflicts, you’ll give yourself the psychological green light to change your eating habits (and your life) for good. And in doing so you’ll clear your path to becoming an Intuitive Eater. That’s why identifying and releasing weight loss fears is a CRITICAL part of my Smaller Size Bigger Life program.
2) Balance Your Body
It’s also very difficult (read: IMPOSSIBLE) to tune into your body’s natural cues when your hunger hormones and metabolism are completely out of whack. And in today’s diet-crazed culture full of processed fake foods and extreme calorie restriction, this is really common. Here’s why…
When you don’t provide your body with the energy (i.e. food) and nutrients it needs to survive for extended periods of time, your body assumes you’re in a state of emergency such as a famine, and it slows your metabolism so your system doesn’t burn off its precious and “limited” supply of nourishment.
Calorie restriction not only stresses out your system and spikes Cortisol (the hormone that intensifies cravings), it also elevates Ghrelin (the hormone that signals you to start eating) and suppresses Leptin (the hormone that signals you to put your fork down). And if you’re a chronic yo-yo dieter with a history of under-eating, binging, and over-exercising, your hormones can be so out of balance that you rarely, if ever, experience hunger cues at all. Same goes if you’re overfed, but undernourished.
No big surprise here, but trying to Eat Intuitively and “listen” to your body under these stressful conditions is a recipe for disaster. Again, it just doesn’t work. While the hormone/hunger connection is pretty complex, the solution is super simple…
* For at least 21 days, eat a protein rich breakfast within an hour of waking, and then re-fuel every three or four hours (download a free meal plan HERE). (Initially this might mean eating even when you’re not hungry, and that’s A-OK. Set an alarm if need be.)
* More often than not (and as soon as possible), eat REAL food, not food-like products that your body can’t process or identify. (Your body knows exactly what to do with an apple. A Twinkie? Not so much.)
* Stop eating for weight loss, and start eating for health. (Ironically, the positive by-product of eating for health is weight loss.)
And if you think your body is broken or your metabolism is ruined (common complaints from my clients), know this: You can’t permanently damage your metabolism.Your (incredible!) body will bounce back so much faster than you think. Instead of fighting, underfeeding, and abusing your body, be amazed by it. It’s working hard to keep you alive, and it deserves your appreciation and respect.
(To learn a whole lot more about balancing your body and eating for health, I highly recommend dietitian Danielle Omar’s Nourish Program. It’s the perfect way to hit the reset button and start feeling good in your body. Find out more HERE.)
3) Cultivate Eating Consciousness
Once you’re doing the inner work and your body is balanced, you can start tuning into your body’s needs. An integral component of becoming an Intuitive Eater is raising your consciousness around when you eat and why you eat.
First things first: Do you know the difference between hunger and appetite?
Hunger is the need for food. It’s a physical reaction triggered by low-blood sugar and hormones that is designed to keep the body properly fueled.
Appetite is the desire for food. It’s a conditioned response to food triggered by senses (usually after seeing, smelling, or thinking about something yummy), social situations, or emotions.
And it’s super easy to confuse wanting to eat with needing to eat. An easy solution is this: The next time you feel the urge to eat, pause and ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” It’s not about deciding if you are in fact allowed to eat, it’s about raising your awareness around WHY you want to.
By answering this one simple question you’ll empower yourself to make a conscious eating choice. And that is a very big deal! Make this an everyday habit (and you absolutely should), and you’ll not only drastically cut back on mindless and superfluous eating, you’ll also start to unravel your emotional connections to food. Because if your food craving doesn’t come from physical hunger, then you can be sure that eating is definitely not going to satisfy it (find out more HERE).
If you’re new to Intuitive Eating, these 7 eating guidelines from compulsive eating expert Geenen Roth (I adore her!) are an awesome place to start…
Eat when you are physically hungry.
Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.
Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.
Eat what your body wants.
Eat until you are satisfied.
Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.
These are not meant to be a set of rigid rules, but rather guiding principles to help you develop a healthy and relaxed relationship with food. Start incorporating them into your daily life and just watch what happens.
Remember, like any relationship, your relationship with food is always growing and transforming. And like any good relationship, your relationship with food should include compromise, forgiveness and fun. Sure, you can choose to keep yourself locked in a self-imposed food prison, or can choose food freedom instead. The choice is yours.
When was the last time you said something demeaning or insulting to yourself?
The last time you criticized yourself for the way you look?
The last time you scrutinized your body with disgust or disrespect?
Or the last time you told yourself that you’re ugly, stupid, unlovable, or unworthy?
I’m guessing it was probably not that long ago… maybe even just a few minutes ago.
And when was the last time you said something compassionate or kind to yourself?
The last time you praised yourself?
The last time you appreciated something you did or said?
Or the last time you noticed how awesome, incredible, and magnificent you are?
Because YOU are. Truly. We all are. And we forget that when we cloud our daily thoughts with incessant criticisms, comparison, and judgments.
Please do me a favor and watch this 2-minute video from Dove France. This incredibly impactful commercial will open your eyes to just how violent our thoughts about ourselves truly are. I was floored the first time I saw this…
“If it’s not acceptable to say it to someone else, why say it to ourselves?”
Take a minute to really let that sink in. Would you say it to your daughter? Nope. Would you say it to your sister, your friend, or your co-worker? Nope. Would you say it to a stranger? Nope. So why in the wild world do you think it’s OK to say it to yourself?
I know it can be incredibly challenging to feel good about your body, especially if you struggle with weight and body image issues. I get it! But when you put your attention on what you hate about yourself and your body, and when you continuously attack yourself with abusive thoughts, you just create more feelings of fear and anxiety. This not only steals your daily joy, it also keeps you stuck, exhausted, and totally stressed out.
The truth is this: Self-worth is not something some people are just born with, or something you will magically obtain once you reach your ideal weight. Self-worth is something we cultivate and practice on a daily basis. And shifting your thoughts from fear to love will have a huge (and I mean HUGE) effect on your happiness and your weight loss.
In fact, the absolute BEST way to develop a healthy relationship with your body is to banish the body shaming and to start the daily practice of empowering yourself. And I have a 30-day Loving Kindness Challenge that will help you do exactly that.
This Challenge will help you 1) raise your awareness around your thoughts (often our negative thoughts are so habitual we don’t even notice how often we attack ourselves), and 2) shift your perception to a much more loving perspective.
This Challenge is super easy AND super effective. Click on the above link, print out the graphic, and cut on the dotted lines. Fold each affirmation and place them a jar, box, or bag next to your bed. For 30 days choose one affirmation daily. Before you start your day (or even before you get out of bed!), clear your mind and just consider the affirmation you pulled for that day.
Allow the idea to really soak in, and then set the intention to make this your mantra for the day. Also set the intention to pay closer attention to your thoughts, and every time you catch yourself saying something hurtful or hateful to yourself, just replace the negativity with your daily affirmation.
Throughout the day, repeat the affirmation often. You can use it as a mantra while you drive, walk, or do housework. You can post your affirmation to your computer or place it on a mirror. You can even set alarms on your phone to remind you to tune in throughout the day.
Once I became aware of my inner-critic and I started to replace my attack thoughts with supportive thoughts instead, it changed EVERYTHING (you can read my story HERE). I stopped looking for outside approval, and instead I looked inward for answers. I learned how to forgive myself, how to release my mountains of guilt and shame, and how to heal and deal in a much better way.
And if you’ve been trying to change your diet, your habits, and your life for many years, but find that you just keep getting in your own way, I guarantee you that this daily practice will have a profound impact on your life.
I’ll be doing this challenge for the next 30 days, and I would love for you to join me. Your body deserves your love and respect, and you can (absolutely and positively!) change your life one beautiful thought at a time.
Please share this Challenge with a sister, friend, daughter, or co-worker who could use some help shifting her inner voice—the more we love ourselves and each other, the better!