Category Archives: Blog

“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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What does "normal" eating even mean?

photo (41)

So the first question that usually comes out of people’s mouths when I say the phrase “normal eating,” is something along the lines of “what does ‘normal’ eating even mean?”

Like, most of us “get” that there are people in the world who
don’t really think about food,
and just eat what they want,
and naturally end up eating an “appropriate” amount food without really trying,
because they don’t really care about food that much to begin with. 

but we don’t understand how.

“What are they doing that I’m not?!”
“I don’t understand people like that!”

It took me a really long time to understand and emulate “normal eaters,” and that’s because I was approaching “trying to be normal” in all the wrong ways.

I was trying to control myself, trying to do something different with food, trying to “eat when hungry and stop when full” or whatever other way I was trying to “do” normal eating. 

But the reality of the situation is, “normies” aren’t doing “normal eating.”
There’s no “way” they’re eating, that you haven’t heard of before.
There’s no “trick” they’re employing, that you’ve never heard of.

They’re not doing anything.

“Normal eating” isn’t something a person doesit’s something a person thinksFurthermore, “normal eating” is not defined by how or what a person eats, but rather, by how one feels about themselves. 

If you’re “okay” with how you’re eating, how you’re eating is “okay.”
Conversely, If you’re “not okay” with how you’re eating, how you’re eating becomes “not okay.”

(And we all know what happens when we cross that line of “not okay.” All hell seems to break loose.)

The point is, it’s how you feel about what you’re eating that makes the difference, not what you’re eating in and of itself.

When you judge your performance around food — when you decided that there’s an imaginary line in the sand where “okay” ends, and “not okay” begins — you will inevitably cross that line, and probably lose your shit.

“Normies” don’t have a line to cross. If they eat a big dinner, they eat a big dinner. No big deal. If they have a cupcake in the middle of the day for no reason, they eat a cupcake and move on with their lives. If they eat an entire bag of chips in a sitting, they eat the bag and then think “ughg I need water,” and get over it.

What they eat has NO bearing on their self-esteem. It means nothing.

THAT is the difference between “Normies” and Emotional Eaters — it’s not what they’re doing, it’s how they feel about what they’re doing.

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Why “taking a warm bath” doesn’t keep people from eating…

photo (1)The most common way that people try to “end emotional eating” (and btw, it’s very unlikely that you will ever “end” emotional eating entirely— even the most natural eaters in the world eat emotionally sometimes), is by attempting to replace emotional eating with another coping mechanism (e.g. “call a friend” or “take a warm bath” instead).

However, this “replacement” technique often backfires.

Why? Because most dieters (or newly ex-dieters) are out of practice in dealing with their feelings in other ways, and when dealing with stress or discomfort, usually want something easy andfamiliar. In other words, stressful situations are not often the most realistic time to take away your go-to coping mechanism. 

Additionally, sitting on your hands trying not to eat over stuff (or beating yourself up for eating over stuff), often sends people into deprivation mindset, which often leads to rebellious binge-eating in the long run.

So what’s the solution?

Practice new coping mechanisms, without the unrealistic expectation of “not eating” right away. 

That is, practice new coping mechanisms regardless of whether or not you also use food as a coping mechanism when things get hard.

This allows you to diversify your coping mechanisms and sharpen your self-care skills, without falling into diet-mentality around emotional eating or setting yourself up for failure when emotional eating feels like your best option.

When we get into the habit of taking care of ourselves in diverse ways, regardless of whether or not we also “use food,” food naturally become less and less of a “go-to” over time, because our reliance on food as our exclusive coping mechanism becomes less and less.

Today, commit to practicing new methods of self-care, and letting go of the guilt if emotional eating still pops up. A focus on adding new coping mechanisms, rather than subtracting, is more realistic, and less likely to lead to rebellion in the long run.

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