who loves to lift and explore and break all the ways diet culture has tried to box us in. She loves to ask, “How could your life be different if you unlearned your all-or-nothing food rules?”, which is something we whole-heartedly agree with and support. Check out her work and learn more here.
Eating So Your Body Feels Good
Fortunately, the more you practice, the easier it should get. But the amount of practice, the amount of times you need to reflect on how you feel after eating, can vary. You may be more aware of some things, less aware of others.How do you feel after you eat something? Simple question? Maybe. But the answer can be quite elusive.
The practice can be enjoyable, if you’re in a safe, non-judgmental space – like here in Way. Nobody is going to judge you for feeling bloated and gassy after eating beans and vegetables. Or if you feel foggy after eating a big lunch.Or if you get a tummy ache or experience Constipation the day after eating a big steak or some bread. Way is a safe space to explore how you feel after eating a snack. After having your morning cup of coffee. After eating dessert.
Diet Culture and Food Rules:
One of the biggest, most damaging influences of Diet Culture is that it tells you that you “can’t” eat certain foods.
Today one of my clients was offered a cookie for trying a new service at her gym. She scoffed at the offer, “A health service that’s giving cookies, isn’t that a joke.” She unwittingly made a judgment about the cookie and the health service, a judgment that was rooted in diet culture. It was based on the same diet culture rhetoric that had made her feel bad about her body for so much of her life.
Judgments like “cookies are bad” imply there’s something morally wrong with eating certain foods. Labeling certain foods “right” or “wrong”, or “good” or “bad” – that’s what is problematic. Food and our relationship with it are more complex than these labels can account for. Your body might experience joy from eating that cookie. You may feel a reduction in stress. It may provide the energy you need to do the things you need and want to do (i.e. work, intense movement, keeping you satisfied until you finish cooking dinner).
And, more importantly, the reason judgments from diet culture are harmful comes down to what we do with those judgments. When we have the belief that eating a cookie is “bad”, what do we do with that belief?
Binge eating comes after restricting, then more restricting because of the binge eating creates more deprivation, then more deprivation creates more binge eating. It’s a vicious Cycle, and one that can be hard to break.
The key practice and principle here is to ask yourself how you feel – check in with yourself regularly. An hour after you eat. Four hours after you eat. The next day. Start to trace how you feel back to what you ate, and in the process, you’ll find a keen awareness of what foods make your body feel good. Or, feel great. Or, not so much.
Then, equipped with this awareness, begin to make decisions of what to eat, based on how you want to feel.
Feeling good may be too general of a thing, so let’s try more specific examples.
Enjoying Food That Makes You Feel Good:
Let’s say you want to feel energized at times, so you eat the things that make you feel energized.
You may want to wake up with more mental clarity because of an important meeting first thing in the morning so you choose to eat something that has some staying power and gives you a steady stream of energy.
You may be in a celebratory mood because you had a great day so you decide to indulge in something decadent.
Or maybe you had a hard or traumatic or triggering day so you decide to boost your mood with your favorite comfort food.
All of these can be amazing. They can help you get into a harmony and a flow with eating, and build your ability to confidently make supportive food choices. Food choices that are based on what you know your body wants and needs. By listening to your body and honoring what it’s communicating, you can develop a more loving and compassionate relationship with your body..
As you gain more experience listening to your body, don’t be surprised if you have a very particular set of things you like, maybe even a routine that organically and naturally develops.
The body is the most intelligent and efficient system that we humans have ever studied – no rocket, no computer, no electric car, no machine is as intelligent as your body is. And you get to walk around with your body all day.
And if you make the decision that you want to change what you eat to align with your values, or the life you want, or the new city you moved to, or the new job you just started, you now have more power and more capability to make those changes, aligning them with your body’s natural signals, needs, and wants.