Are You Eating The Wrong Way? 3 Steps To Restore Your Metabolism
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.
With so much love,