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If I Can’t Lose Weight, Then How Can I Be Healthy?

If I Can’t Lose Weight, Then How Can I Be Healthy?

Perhaps you’ve read the research on how diets don’t work. Perhaps you’ve dieted your whole life and can’t bear to put yourself through another round of the diet-binge cycle, or the weight rollercoaster. Maybe you feel mad or frustrated that you’ve been lied to this whole time; that you’ve been given tools that not only don’t work, but actually do the opposite of what they claim to do.

No matter what brought you here, you feel stuck. If dieting doesn’t work, then what does? If you can’t lose weight, how can you be healthy?

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Fat-Accessible vs. Fat-Friendly

Fat-Accessible vs. Fat-Friendly

Photo credit: Representationmatters.me

TW/CW: This post mentions the “o”-word and I have done my best to not link to the offending articles. Please feel free to contact me directly if you’d like me to share specific links. Also, I’d like to acknowledge that as someone in a thin body, my goal with this post is not to centre myself as someone who speaks for fat people (I use “fat” as a neutral descriptor in the context of fat activism here), but to use my privileges as a health professional in a thin, able body to reach those who may not be reached otherwise. I welcome your feedback directly to me, or in the comments below.

A couple months ago, I was listening to an episode of Dietitians Unplugged where they interviewed Bevin Branlandingham, the creator of Fat Kid Dance Party. In the episode, Bevin talked about while her classes were technically “kid-accessible”, as in, children can attend them, they weren’t exactly “kid-friendly” in that the songs that she used often contained explicit language or had mature themes. This subtle yet important difference got me thinking about how it might apply in terms of fat bodies.

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{Intuitive Eating with a Chronic Condition} Principles #9 & #10: Exercise – Feel the Difference & Honour Your Health with Gentle Nutrition

{Intuitive Eating with a Chronic Condition} Principles #9 & #10: Exercise – Feel the Difference & Honour Your Health with Gentle Nutrition

This is the last in a series of posts on adapting intuitive eating for a chronic condition. I would like to acknowledge that I personally don’t have a chronic condition, and am open to learning from the lived experiences of those who do. Please leave your feedback by commenting below, or by sending me a private message.
Other posts in this series include:

Principle #1: Reject the Diet Mentality
Principles #2 & #5: Honour Your Hunger and Feel Your Fullness
Principle #3: Make Peace with Food
Principle #4: Challenge the Food Police
Principle #6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Principle #7: Honour Your Feelings Without Food
Principle #8: Respect Your Body

Principles #9 and #10 are about incorporating movement and nutrition, respectively. Though the 10 Intuitive Eating principles aren’t meant to be addressed in order, it’s often recommended to leave the last two on the back burner while you’re working on the others.

Taking the focus away from movement and nutrition probably seems counterintuitive coming from a dietitian, and even more so when you have a chronic condition, as it’s probably the exact opposite of what you’ve been told since your diagnosis.

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{Intuitive Eating with a Chronic Condition} Principle #8: Respect Your Body

{Intuitive Eating with a Chronic Condition} Principle #8: Respect Your Body

This is the seventh in a series of posts on adapting intuitive eating for a chronic condition. I would like to acknowledge that I personally don’t have a chronic condition, and am open to learning from the lived experiences of those who do. Please leave your feedback by commenting below, or by sending me a private message.
Other posts in this series include:

Principle #1: Reject the Diet Mentality
Principles #2 & #5: Honour Your Hunger and Feel Your Fullness
Principle #3: Make Peace with Food
Principle #4: Challenge the Food Police
Principle #6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Principle #7: Honour Your Feelings Without Food
Principles #9 & #10: Exercise – Feel the Difference & Honour Your Health with Gentle Nutrition

With companies like Weight Wat—excuse me, WW—getting into the wellness business, it’s no wonder that so many of us seem to have our wires crossed in terms of what’s health promoting, and what’s actually dieting.

Still, I’m hopeful that not only is it possible to focus on health (if that’s what you want) without focusing on weight, I’m also hopeful that we will realize that we all have this knowledge within us. One of my most poignant memories of seeing intuitive eating in action was when I asked, “What does it look like to respect your body?” as part of an Intro to Intuitive Eating workshop. Though they’d never heard of intuitive eating before, the group effortlessly shared a variety of ideas, from gentle movement and sleep to unfollowing “fitspo” social media accounts and reframing negative self-talk. 

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{Intuitive Eating with a Chronic Condition} Principle #7: Honour Your Feelings Without Food

{Intuitive Eating with a Chronic Condition} Principle #7: Honour Your Feelings Without Food

This is the sixth in a series of posts on adapting intuitive eating for a chronic condition. I would like to acknowledge that I personally don’t have a chronic condition, and am open to learning from the lived experiences of those who do. Please leave your feedback by commenting below, or by sending me a private message.
Other posts in this series include:

Principle #1: Reject the Diet Mentality
Principles #2 & #5: Honour Your Hunger and Feel Your Fullness
Principle #3: Make Peace with Food
Principle #4: Challenge the Food Police
Principle #6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Principle #8: Respect Your Body
Principles #9 & #10: Exercise – Feel the Difference & Honour Your Health with Gentle Nutrition

I’ve written before about how this is probably my least favourite intuitive eating principle, as it implies that you should never eat in response to your emotions. If it weren’t for diet culture, emotional eating probably wouldn’t be seen as such a negative thing.

Diet culture teaches us that if we only eat the “right” amounts and types of food, we will be able to meet societal ideals of health and beauty. In reality, our weight and health are about so much more than what and how much we eat. When we’re able to consider emotional eating from this lens, it becomes easier to see why we shouldn’t feel bad about turning to food in response to difficult emotions.

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{Intuitive Eating with a Chronic Condition} Principle #6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor

{Intuitive Eating with a Chronic Condition} Principle #6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor

This is the fifth in a series of posts on adapting intuitive eating for a chronic condition. I would like to acknowledge that I personally don’t have a chronic condition, and am open to learning from the lived experiences of those who do. Please leave your feedback by commenting below, or by sending me a private message.
Other posts in this series include:

Principle #1: Reject the Diet Mentality
Principles #2 & #5: Honour Your Hunger and Feel Your Fullness
Principle #3: Make Peace with Food
Principle #4: Challenge the Food Police
Principle #7: Honour Your Feelings without Food
Principle #8: Respect Your Body
Principles #9 & #10: Exercise – Feel the Difference & Honour Your Health with Gentle Nutrition

This might seem like just another principle, but Intuitive Eating co-authors Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole consider satisfaction the “hub” of intuitive eating, in that every principle is really about helping people get the most satisfaction from food and eating.

For some, the idea that food should be satisfying and pleasurable is a, “Well, duh.” kind of statement, but for others, it can actually be pretty revolutionary and controversial—perhaps even more so when you have a chronic condition.

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{Intuitive Eating with a Chronic Condition} Principle #4: Challenge the Food Police

{Intuitive Eating with a Chronic Condition} Principle #4: Challenge the Food Police

This is the fourth in a series of posts on adapting intuitive eating for a chronic condition. I would like to acknowledge that I personally don’t have a chronic condition, and am open to learning from the lived experiences of those who do. Please leave your feedback by commenting below, or by sending me a private message.
Other posts in this series include:

Principle #1: Reject the Diet Mentality
Principles #2 & #5: Honour Your Hunger and Feel Your Fullness
Principle #3: Make Peace with Food
Principle #6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Principle #7: Honour Your Feelings Without Food
Principle #8: Respect Your Body
Principles #9 & #10: Exercise – Feel the Difference & Honour Your Health with Gentle Nutrition

🚓🚨WEE-OO WEE-OO 🚨🚓

Most of us have had a run-in with the Food Police at least once in our life. You might not have seen them before, but its message rings loud and clear in our society: There are foods that we “should” and “shouldn’t” eat, and if we eat something that’s considered the latter, it’s “bad”, “cheating”, “unclean”, and “wrong”. According to the Food Police, we’re killing ourselves with what we eat, and we better be feeling guilty about it.

Of course, the Food Police know that no one would take them seriously if they just said, “Food is bad for you” outright, so they spread their message in more subtle, insidious ways.

It’s the relative who eyes your plate and says, “You’re eating all of that?!”

The friend who looks at your muffin and says, “Oh, I could never eat that.”

It’s the documentary on how GMOs, carbs, sugar, fat, salt, or whatever food baddie du jour is hurting you and the planet.

Shaming you about food and eating is one thing, but the ultimate goal of the food police is for you to internalize the message, so that you become one of them.

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{Intuitive Eating with a Chronic Condition} Principle #3: Make Peace with Food

{Intuitive Eating with a Chronic Condition} Principle #3: Make Peace with Food

This is the third in a series of posts on adapting intuitive eating for a chronic condition. I would like to acknowledge that I personally don’t have a chronic condition, and am open to learning from the lived experiences of those who do. Please leave your feedback by commenting below, or by sending me a private message.
Other posts in this series include:

Principle #1: Reject the Diet Mentality
Principles #2 & #5: Honour Your Hunger and Feel Your Fullness
Principle #4: Challenge the Food Police
Principle #6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Principle #7: Honour Your Feelings Without Food
Principle #8: Respect Your Body
Principles #9 & #10: Exercise – Feel the Difference & Honour Your Health with Gentle Nutrition

This principle introduces the idea of “unconditional permission to eat all foods”, which is another key feature of intuitive eating. Unconditional permission to eat can feel like a roller coaster—the idea of being able to eat as much as you want of anything you want can be fun and thrilling, especially if you’ve been avoiding some foods for a long time. It can also be freakin’ scary, as it can feel like a loss of control, or that you’re not taking care of your health.

How unconditional permission “works” is via the idea of habituation. Yes, in the beginning you might find yourself swinging to Donutland and eating all the foods in sight, but eventually the food loses its emotional charge. It’s like the first time someone says “I love you” to a romantic partner – there was probably a lot of buildup in terms of finding the “right time” to say it, anticipating a deep emotional connection as the short phrase somehow moves the relationship to the “next level”. Over time, however, “I love you” becomes just something you say; that’s not to say that it has no meaning, but there isn’t that same buildup as the first time. Food can be the same way.

But what if you are struggling with a chronic condition that is impacted by food and nutrition? Can you really give yourself unconditional permission to eat? Can you truly make peace with all foods?
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{Intuitive Eating with a Chronic Condition} Principles #2 & #5: Honour Your Hunger & Feel Your Fullness

{Intuitive Eating with a Chronic Condition} Principles #2 & #5: Honour Your Hunger & Feel Your Fullness

This is the second in a series of posts on adapting intuitive eating for a chronic condition. I would like to acknowledge that I personally don’t have a chronic condition, and am open to learning from the lived experiences of those who do. Please leave your feedback by commenting below, or by sending me a private message.
Other posts in this series include:

Principle #1: Reject the Diet Mentality
Principle #3: Make Peace with Food
Principle #4: Challenge the Food Police
Principle #6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Principle #7: Honour Your Feelings Without Food
Principle #8: Respect Your Body
Principles #9 & #10: Exercise – Feel the Difference & Honour Your Health with Gentle Nutrition

Intuitive eating is often described as “eating according to your hunger and fullness cues”. Though this is correct for the most part, if you don’t also do the work to reject the diet mentality and incorporate the other intuitive eating principles, this can quickly become the “Hunger-Fullness Diet“: “Eat only when you’re hungry.” “Stop eating when you feel full.”

In reality, it’s not uncommon or “wrong” for an intuitive eater to eat when they’re not hungry—perhaps they’re “pre-emptively” eating because they know that food won’t be available at the time that they would be hungry. Perhaps they’re eating socially, whether it’s a celebration or just to be polite.

Similarly, it’s not uncommon or “wrong” to eat past the point of fullness. The difference between that and a “binge” is that the latter feels emotionally distressing; overeating may lead to discomfort, and it may even feel mindless or out-of-control, but an intuitive eater simply notes that it happened, perhaps approaches the reason with curiosity, and moves on.

As you can see, the nuances of “Honour Your Hunger” and “Feel Your Fullness” are already complex, and can be even more complicating when a person’s chronic condition and/or its treatments affect their natural hunger and fullness cues.

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{Intuitive Eating with a Chronic Condition} Principle #1: Reject the Diet Mentality

{Intuitive Eating with a Chronic Condition} Principle #1: Reject the Diet Mentality

This is the first in a series of posts on adapting intuitive eating for a chronic condition. I would like to acknowledge that I personally don’t have a chronic condition, and am open to learning from the lived experiences of those who do. Please leave your feedback by commenting below, or by sending me a private message.
Other posts in this series include:

Principles #2 & #5: Honour Your Hunger and Feel Your Fullness
Principle #3: Make Peace with Food
Principle #4: Challenge the Food Police
Principle #6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Principle #7: Honour Your Feelings Without Food
Principle #8: Respect Your Body
Principles #9 & #10: Exercise – Feel the Difference & Honour Your Health with Gentle Nutrition

“Reject the Diet Mentality” is the first principle of intuitive eating, and also the principle that most people tend to spend the most time on, regardless of whether they’re “healthy” or not. We live in a culture that has normalized the diet mentality, so rejecting it means going against messages that we hear not just from mass media, but from friends, loved ones, and even health professionals every single day.

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