Indulge in Decadent Brownies!
Try this Sinful Hazelnut Truffles Recipe!
Try Our No-guilt Potato Chips!
The above statements are not genuine ad headlines, but they could be. And what they reveal about our society is that we have absorbed the diet culture so deeply that non-diet food is considered morally wrong. Consider diets that espouse eating only “legal” foods, or the idea that someone who forgoes their diet is “cheating.” In our society, being “virtuous” means eating carrot sticks while the rest of the office “indulges” in birthday cake. These morally-loaded terms are a product of what the “Intuitive Eating” authors call the “Food Police.”
From the Outside In
Rena commonly hears from women who want to make peace with food but worry about being seen eating the “wrong” foods in public. Though our food choices should be a private matter, many women have their meals critiqued by others at weddings, restaurants, or even at home.
What’s worse is that the very same “Food Police” we find in the media and in society at large have infiltrated somewhere much more personal – our own minds.
Change Your Beliefs, Change Yourself
In your mind’s eye, imagine you are holding a fresh yellow lemon. Feel the bumpy rind. Smell its citrusy tang. Now open wide and bite straight into it.
Do you feel that?
Your mouth is puckering, right? Just the thought of biting into a tart lemon had your mouth creating saliva to neutralize the imagined lemon’s high level of acidity. Our thoughts are extremely powerful – in actualizing our feelings into existence and moving our bodies into action.
The Food Police consists of myriad destructive thoughts that can do real damage to our mindset and behavior. These negative thoughts may be widely accepted, but are largely false and detrimental to someone who wants to become a true intuitive eater.
Consider the following common negative thought, and how it can affect your body and mindset:
If I eat bread, I will gain weight.
The above statement is false.
The truth is, if a person eats too much of any food, she will gain weight. Living with a belief that bread is the enemy or believing that a slice of the carb-loaded fluffy stuff will make you immediately and exquisitely fat is both damaging and utterly untrue.
Or how about this automatic negative thought: If I eat one bite of bread I won’t be able to stop.
How many times has our prophesied lack of self-control around triggering foods come true simply because we believed it would? The automatic negative thoughts we have about “having no stopping point,” or being “addicted to salty snacks” and “powerless around sweets” forestalls the opportunity to pay attention to what our bodies tell us.
The Chanukah Party Police
Even if you do not regularly encounter the Food Police, you will likely see it appear in full force over Chanukah. The Chanukah Food Police may reveal itself at a family gathering (“Chana, what happened to the weight you lost this summer?” “Rivki, better leave the chocolate gelt for the kids!”) or in a holiday magazine article (“Be Good with Low-Fat Latkes!” “Keep Trim with Guilt-Free No-Fry Donuts!”). These many faces of the Food Police can cause us to doubt ourselves and fall back into negative and disordered thoughts about eating.
This month will give us multiple opportunities to confront the Food Police. Only once we are aware of the dieting dogma that penetrates our society can we begin to reframe our thoughts about food into moderate, healthy, and peaceful ones – and relish our sufganiyot with the ease of an intuitive eater.
Have a question about Intuitive Eating? Email Rena Reiser at rena@mindovermunchies. Your question may even be featured in an upcoming column!
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What is Intuitive Eating?
It’s the anti-diet.
It’s the solution to the diet-binge cycle.
It’s a recovery.
Developed by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Intuitive Eating (IE) is an evidence-based approach that relies on your body’s basic intuition to feed itself. While diets depend on external messages to determine our food intake, IE trusts in the body’s natural nutritional wisdom.
We are all born with the instinct to read our bodies’ signals. Just as our body will tell us when we need sleep, and how much of it we need, our body is programmed to tell us how to eat.
IE helps us reverse the damage the dieting culture has wreaked on our body’s natural wisdom. It leads us back to the basics. It may have been many years since you’ve lived fully in your body, but, rest assured, you can return.
* * * * *
The Ten Principles of Intuitive Eating
Adapted from Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
Reject the Diet Mentality
Honor your Hunger
Make Peace with Food
Challenge the Food Police
Respect your Fullness
Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Honor Your Feelings without Using Food
Respect your Body
Exercise – Feel the Difference
Honor your Health
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Rena’s Tool of the Month
Reframing Automatic Negative Thoughts
Our automatic negative thoughts about food can crowd out common sense and keep us mired in food obsession and punishing self-talk. By consistently reframing these distorted thoughts, we can train our minds and shape our behavior in surprisingly positive ways.
Some examples of common automatic negative thoughts and three ways to reframe them:
- I cannot control myself from binging at this kiddush.
This is a challenge for many people. I am human.
When I feel out of control, my body is giving me a message that something is off. I can try to figure out what it is.
I can control myself and make the choice about how much I want to eat.
- If I don’t exercise today, I will gain weight.
If I don’t exercise today, I will not gain weight.
Today exercise is not my feel-good tool. I have other self-care options.
I can exercise tomorrow.
- I cannot feel good about myself unless I am skinny.
I would like to be skinny.
I am competent and successful even if I use food to cope.
I can learn to be okay with myself even if I am not the weight I desire.
- I will be fat if I eat white sugar.
White sugar is not the best choice for me now because I am craving something more nutritionally dense.
If I eat white sugar occasionally it will not make me gain weight.
If I eat white sugar in an observational way I may not need as much as I think, and I may not even like it as much as I anticipate.
There may be many of these automatic negative thoughts running through your mind. Challenge yourself to name them and reframe them in affirmative ways.
Rena Reiser and Elisheva Blumberg
Rena Reiser is a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. She has changed the lives of countless women who have tried dieting and are “fed up.” She helps women come to peace with both food and life by discovering and satisfying our real hunger. Find her at towardsahealthybalance.com. Elisheva Blumberg is a freelance writer living in Edison, NJ. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was previously published in Olam Yehudi, a publication of The Jewish Press.