All posts by Isabel Foxen Duke

Struggling with Intuitive Eating? FAQs with Evelyn Tribole

Evelyn Tribole is one of the co-authors of the pivotal book, Intuitive Eating, and is a total science and research badass. I recently got a chance to ask her some critical questions about her work, including topics like: 

1. Common pitfalls and challenges that clients may struggle with early on in Intuitive Eating…and how to move past them.

2. The critical importance of shifting our mindset (and diet-mentality) around food, rather than simply approaching Intuitive Eating like it’s the “hunger-and-fullness diet.”

3. We do some serious myth-de-bunking on the divisive topic of “food addiction” (which I also discuss at length in this podcast), and discuss why shifting our perspective on this issue is critical to recovery.

4. We talk about the highly sensitive topic of “gentle nutrition,” and how to approach this concept safely (and sanely) in recovery, with respect for different health situations and scenarios.

5. For the history nerds out there, we’ll also discuss the historical evolution of Intuitive Eating, and how it’s shifted to include principles like Health At Every Size,  Weight Set Point Theory, and the critical need for body-image work and stigma-resistance work in ED and diet-recovery treatment.

Without further ado, I hope you enjoy the track below!

(You can also find more posts about these subjects in my blog at the top of this page).

A common “intuitive eating” pitfall…

FullSizeRenderThis blog posts references “intuitive eating” — which can be loosely described as making decisions around food based on what our bodies want to eat, rather than what our minds think it should. If you’re totally unfamiliar with “intuitive eating,” here’s a basic primer on core principles. While intuitive eating in and of itself is not “the answer” to your food problem, the basics are helpful to know if you’re struggling to get off traditional dieting.

Now on to today’s topic…

The “hunger-and-fullness diet” is my cheeky way of describing the perversion of intuitive eating that women fall prey to when they attempt intuitive eating with a diet mentality— 

e.g. “I must only eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full…or else.”

Like with any other diet, if you’re following hard and fast rules — that is, if you’re “on a wagon” with food — it’s only a matter of time before you’re gonna get knocked off…even if that wagon is based on the “guidelines” of intuitive eating.

(Did my quotation marks effectively demonstrate my disdain for the term “guidelines?” The word “guideline” implies the word “should” by definition. No dif.)

What if,

instead of turning our hunger signals into boundaries by which to judge our performance with food, we simply saw our hunger signals for what they actually are: information. 

From a biological standpoint, that’s all a hunger signal is— 

INFORMATION. 

When I feel a growl in my stomach, that’s simply information that my blood sugar is dropping.

When I get a yeast infection after eating too much sugar the week before, that’s just information about how my body is reacting to that sugar.

When my stomach is distended with food, that’s simply information telling me how much space is comfortably left inside.

When I eat a peanut and my face swells up like a balloon, that’s information about my probable peanut-allergy.

As a human being with free will and reign over my own body, 

I get to do with that information what I damn well want to. 

I might choose to stop when I’m full because I legitimately don’t want to feel stuffed before I go back to work…

or I might choose to keep eating the raw chocolate mousse because…yolo…it’s Sunday…I have nowhere else to be…and that mousse is f*cking worth it.

Just like feelings of fatigue are information that my body is low on sleep,

and I can choose to go to bed early so my body feels better in the morning,

OR I can stay up because my best friend is visiting from out of town and we need to finish our Friends marathon.

I am empowered to make my own choices, when all the information is in. 

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“Dieting” is not an action — it’s a state of mind

While there is shockingly little conclusive research about “emotional eating” (i.e. eating over feelings), one thing we know is that dieters tend to eat their feelings, and non-dieters tend to not-eat their feelings.

In other words, we have reason to believe that dieting in and of itself encourages emotional eating (which makes perfect sense for a variety of reasons, some of which I described in last week’s blog post).

The question then becomes,

if “dieting” is contributing to or even directly causing us to eat emotionally (a distinct possibility), what does “dieting” really mean and how can we avoid it??

I hear women say to me over and over again: “I gave up dieting and now I can’t stop eating Nutella out of a jar…”

And I can’t help but say back,

But did you REALLY give up “dieting?” Or did you just start eating bread again, and thought that would “fix” it? 

Let me explain…

One thing I find over and over again, is that 9 times out of 10, women who “give up” dieting, are still thinking like dieters — their emotional response to food is the same as it would be if they still were actively manipulating their food…

They’re still conscious of everything they eat (and usually judgmental of what they eat),

They feel ashamed whenever they think they’ve “eaten too much,”

They’re often still trying to control themselves around food even if not “technically” following a specific plan of eating,

And, generally speaking, they maintain a moralistic and fear-based perspective on food, rather than deriving gratitude, joy, and pleasure from the life-sustaining force that food actually represents.

You see, “dieting” (and the compulsive behaviors associated with it), has little to do with what you are or are not putting in your mouth — and everything to do with how you feel and think about what you put in your mouth. 

Unless your thinking changes, neither will your behaviors. 

(I also talk about this at length in this blog post about the real difference between “normal” and “emotional” eaters).

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What “Body Love” Actually Means…

body-as-artI recently heard a client say that it’s easier to love her body when she’s working out, “eating well,” or otherwise perceives herself to be succeeding at society’s “thin rules.”

And I get it.

In a world that’s constantly telling you that your value in society is directly related to your performance of the thin ideal,  it may feel easier to find yourself attractive or fashionable in those moments you’re conforming to, and validated by, the normative culture around you.

That being said, this definition of “body love,” meaning, to have a certain opinion of yourself—whether it be attractive, fashionable, or any other opinion—is not, in my experience, the deepest expression of the word “love.” 

I want you to really think about what the term “love” means to you. I want you to think about the people that you love in your life—your children, your parents, your sisters or brothers.

Maybe you find them attractive, maybe you don’t. Maybe you find them aesthetically pleasing, maybe you don’t. Maybe you approve of their shape, maybe you don’t.

But are any of those things what it means to love them? Or is loving them something entirely different?

A mother doesn’t love her baby because she thinks it’s cute. She loves her baby, because it’s her baby.

She was put on this planet to love that baby, whether it kicks and screams or goes to sleep easy; whether it goes to college, or drops out; whether it gets tattoos, takes drugs at school, or f’ing murders someone, she loves that baby, for no other reason than because it’s her baby. 

It’s an unconditional, selfless kind of love—a love of someone because she is part of you, because she is your family, because she beats your heart for you. 

I’m talking about something greater than fashion, or aesthetic approval

…although, I also know that finding something beautiful or attractive almost always feels easier when you’re awake to this deeper kind of love.

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