Hello, loves! Today on the podcast I talk about a topic that is very dear to my heart: body love and intuitive eating! If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I have a history behind me of undereating, binge-eating, overexercising, and obsessively wanting to be skinny. In short, falling victim to diet culture. Unfortunately, I’m not alone.
Approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and 58% of college girls feel the pressure to be certain weight. Those are disturbing numbers. No wonder, diet culture is a multi-billion dollar industry with more and more companies launching products designed to help you to achieve that ‘dream body’. January is an especially precarious time. After the indulgences of Thanksgiving and Christmas, many people set out the intention to get fit in the new year. Gyms and other health institutions encourage this ‘detox/reset mentality’ by heavily advertising how they can help us to get back in shape again.
It took me years to see behind the charade and to realize that there was nothing wrong with my body. Intuitive eating played a big part in my healing process.
We were all born intuitive eaters
We were all born intuitive eaters. I remember as a kid that I would eat anything I felt like but stopped when I was full and only ate when I was hungry. Some people are taught to finish their plate or eat this and that food group before they can have their favorite food. So, they naturally develop conditioning around food. Luckily, I wasn’t told any of this but something else shook my relationship with food and that was the modeling industry in combination with diet culture. Every cover of every woman magazine would advertise a new celebrity diet that would bring guaranteed results. Crazy skinny models would strut down the runway. Then later, all these #fitfluencers would emerge, telling me I had to work out every day and stick to a certain eating schedule to reach the body of my dreams. Like what does this even mean? Was there anything wrong with me in the first place? I surely felt that way! Goodbye, body love, and hello, fatphobia!
I’m a Virgo, so I’m naturally drawn to all things health and wellness. It was just a matter of time until I was sucked down the orthorexia hole, always looking for the next diet or workout program to make my body the healthiest and leanest version of itself. Seriously guys, I tried every eating style under the moon. From veganism to keto, from paleo to eating right for your hormones. And the more diet or food-related content I consumed, the more anxious I became. Soon I was even scared to put half a banana in my breakfast bowl because of the apparently high amounts sugar and carbs (looking at you keto diet!). I felt like I could eat nothing anymore besides salads and raw veggies without feeling guilty.
The poisonous cocktail of body hate
A vicious thought pattern that had soon implemented into my subconscious and was now reigning over my life. Add to it a severe case of overexercising – as I didn’t feel the right to eat without having a proper amount of movement under my belt – and you have yourself a poisonous cocktail of body hate. This anxiety around food eventually caused some pretty bad gut cramps and bloating. It felt like I literally digested the negative energy along with my food. And of course, I did! My mind went into overdrive before I even had put one bite into mouth, depicting what I was eating and if it actually made me fat or would harm my body (make me unhealthy).
Trust me, it took me a looong time to finally figure out what was wrong with me. I first thought, I had some kind of food allergy or intolerance. But all the tests came back negative. And even a colonoscopy showed no results. I felt so helpless until I finally found out my issues were not physically but mentally. The cramps became so bad and were impacting my life so much that I decided I had enough. I sat down and depicted my conditions and thought patterns around food one by one. The first step? Unfollowing all fitness influencers and the like who triggered me or advertised restrictive eating behaviors. That’s when I found Dr. Joe Dispenza and started doing his meditations. And that’s also when I came across intuitive eating for the first time.
You know I’m big on intuition and I’m convinced that everyone would be way happier if they trusted themselves and their inner knowing more than they did anybody else. I still fall victim to outside opinions but I’ve become much better in catching myself and asking if this is really in alignment with me or not. Being pregnant has helped me a ton with that, too. Adhering to my intuition during pregnancy has been a real game changer! I feel healthier and happier than ever. Something that not only benefits my overall wellbeing but also the one of my baby.
Pregnancy helped me with intuitive eating
I’ve always been very pushy and judgmental of myself. Being pregnant I had to learn to be more patient and honor my body and its needs. I learned to be okay with myself the way I am and not constantly compare or feel less than. We are all different and there is not one universal way to do things (pregnancy, career, workout etc.). We all do it on our own terms and that’s totally right!
When I think back on how much precious time I wasted thinking about what to eat and what kind of workout to do in order to lose weight, I get very sad. Losing or keeping off weight was a full-time job and one I didn’t feel I was very good at. It was incredibly draining. How many times have I isolated myself because of my strict eating regime? How many times have I feared weekends with my family because I knew I couldn’t stick to my clean eating routine while there. My answer: way too many times! And for what? So that I would look according to societal standards? So that I get praise for my physique on Instagram or in real life? Is that really what life is all about?
No! Life is so much more! And with so much being taken away from us right now, it becomes clearer than ever. What does it even matter what size you are if you are constantly running danger to catch a deadly virus? Or have to worry about how to pay your bills because you lost your job? Once everything is taken away, life becomes an entirely new meaning.
It is truly the perfect time to come back home to yourself. Tap back into your intuition and start enjoying life again. Being joyful and happy boosts your immune system, something far more valuable than fitting into a size 0 jeans.
The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating was created by the two registered dietians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, in 1995. The system is designed to bring you back in touch with your body’s natural cues instead of adhering to a strict eating regime. The following 10 principles serve as a guideline:
- Reject Diet Mentality – Ditch all the diet books. Unfollow all the fitness influencers that promote diet culture or a very restrictive form of eating. Don’t buy into the false lies anymore that led you to believe that there is something wrong with you or your body. There is not!
- Honor Your Hunger – Learn to read the signals of your body again. What does hunger feel like? Consciously eat and check in regularly if you are still hungry. Eat enough until you are satisfied or you will trigger your body to overeat.
- Make Peace With Food – Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. Telling yourself you can’t or shouldn’t eat a certain food, can lead to you craving it even more which can lead to you binge-eating it and then feeling overwhelmed and full of guilt.
- Challenge the Food Police – Stop categorizing food into ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Don’t praise yourself for having eaten minimal amounts of calories (Does the construct of calories even exist? Or is it another tool created to push us into buying diet plans or certain food?), nor feel guilty if you’ve eaten that piece of cake or the French fries.
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor – The Japanese see pleasure as part of a healthy lifestyle. Eating food can be pleasurable, which is oftentimes forgotten when focusing on weight loss or restriction. Eat food you really want in an inviting environment and you will know exactly when you had enough.
- Feel your Fullness – Trust yourself again that you will give yourself enough food. Eat slowly and check in regularly if you are still hungry.
- Cope with your Emotions with Kindness – Food is oftentimes used as comfort, especially in stressful times like these where so many things are uncertain. You may feel triggered to reach for food to soothe your anxiety but food won’t solve the problem. It will only numb the emotion for a short time. Start looking at your emotional state and then find ways to release it like meditating, reading a good book, playing a board game with your loved one, going out in nature for a walk, run, hike, be creative and so on. Find something that nourishes you. I also love to connect to like-minded people or just exchange my thoughts with really close friends. Eating for emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run.
- Respect your body – Accept your body the way it is. We are all built differently and that for a reason. Unfortunately, society and the media have praised a certain body type for way too long. Just in recent years, more inclusivity has emerged. You are beautiful the way you are!
- Movement – Feel the Difference – This is not about pushing yourself to do two HIIT workouts a day (but if you feel like it, go ahead). This is more about finding ways to be active that you enjoy. This could be anything from dancing, to yoga, or even stretching. Focus more on how your body feels during the exercise and less about the calorie-burning effect. If a certain type of movement makes you feel good, you are more likely to do more of it which in turn will make you feel even better.
- Honor your Health – Gentle Nutrition – Choose the food that is good for your body nutrition-wise as well as tastes good. You are not unhealthy or doing any harm to your body if you ate a pizza or had a doughnut instead of a salad for dinner. Continue to listen closely to your body after each meal or snack and see how it feels. Then make more of the feel-good food choices. If your eating habits have been all over the place the recent years, then this may take some time. Remember you can’t fail, only thrive if you continue to be gentle to yourself and love yourself through the process.
As always, would love to hear your story and connect over @champagnewithmadeleine