Can you trust your hunger?

Can you trust your hunger?

So… can you trust your hunger?

The short answer for most people is yes, you can trust your hunger. But you may be thinking that’s not the case for you. And if you did listen to and trust your hunger signals, you would just eat and eat and eat until you burst. 

Let’s dive into this subject some more, to help you understand how hunger works, why you might be struggling to trust it, and what you can do to gain control of your eating habits.  

Why do we need hunger?

The short answer is, for survival. From the moment we’re born, a healthy baby’s primal instincts lead them to suck on the mother’s nipple, to find the sweet and salty taste of milk. 

Hunger signals exist to let us know that our body is running low on energy. 

As the stomach empties, ghrelin (the hunger hormone) is produced in the gut. It travels to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that regulates appetite. The hypothalamus then sends a strong signal to your body that energy supply is low. Ghrelin levels (and your appetite) continue to rise until you start to eat.

We evolved to feel hunger for a reason. These signals are there to tell you that your body needs nourishment. 

This is clearly displayed in infants. When we’re young, we’re really in touch with when we’re hungry (we cry for food), and when we’re full (turn our head away from the nipple/bottle). We are intuitive and can differentiate between hunger and fullness. 

However, as we get older, and get messages about food, and our bodies, we tend to try and find ways to manipulate our hunger levels. 

For example, there are well-meaning comments like “finish your vegetables before you can have your pudding”. This moralising of food as “good” and “bad” can result in us learning to eat past the point of comfortable fullness, to get to the more “fun food”. This is one example, of many. It stems from diet culture that teaches us we need to eat in a way to “fix” our bodies into a size society deems to be acceptable. And that we can’t be trusted, and must follow external cues (portion sizes, points, calories) to tell us how, when and what to eat. It’s no wonder that we can no longer trust our bodies when society from every angle is telling us we can’t. 

If you feel like you can’t trust your hunger, you are certainly not alone. With the right tools and plenty of practice, it’s possible to get back to a place of trusting and honouring your hunger. And therefore, eating in line with your body’s natural cues and needs. 

Reasons you may not trust your hunger…

I’m guessing if you’ve clicked on this article you have spent time in your life out of touch with, distrusting, or actively ignoring your hunger signals. Can it really be truly wise and safe to trust your hunger? Perhaps you feel you are hungry too often.

If you feel wary about trusting your hunger, you certainly aren’t alone. 

Below, our clients describe some very common fears and struggles in rebuilding trust in their hunger and bodies in general:

“Trusting myself around food. Especially when alone and there are no limits. I am not in touch with what my body wants/needs.”

“The overload of available information on what I should or shouldn’t be eating, how I should or shouldn’t look. This means being constantly disciplined, thin, healthy, happy and IN CONTROL.”

“I don’t listen to my body. I eat what I think I must eat instead of what I want to eat.”

Usually, we are afraid to trust our hunger due to fears of losing control of our eating and/or gaining weight. 

In reality, most people find when they respond to hunger cues consistently, they end up feeling more in control of food and able to find their natural and healthy weight (otherwise known as the set-point weight). 

You can check out videos and written stories of clients who have broken free from dieting and rebuilt trust in their bodies here.

Consistently ignoring your hunger can cause problems

We receive a lot of messaging that teaches us to go to our heads to make decisions around food (“eat this and don’t eat that”). As opposed to connecting with the inner cues from our bodies and what they need. While we do need to use our minds to make decisions, there is a difference between a diet-driven mindset (restrictive/harsh) and a self-care mindset (actions that truly take care of you). 

For example:

(a) “I can’t possibly be hungry. I just ate lunch a couple of hours ago. Eugh, Why do I always feel hungry” (diet mindset, results in guilt, not honouring body)


(b) “I’m noting hunger signals despite eating lunch a couple of hours ago (curious mindset). Maybe my body needs more food today. I better eat something (connecting with the body, recognising the need to eat, which is a self-care, compassionate mindset)”

Listening to the diet mindset (a), can create body distrust, and disconnected eating. It can mess with our relationship with food.

How do I train myself to trust hunger and intuitively eat?

Intuitive eating is a tool that can help you re-discover and rebuild trust with your hunger cues. 

Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based approach to help improve your relationship with food and have better self-control around food. This framework can help you learn to honour your health by listening and responding to the messages of your body. This helps you to meet your physical and mental needs based on your terms and move away from external diet tools such as the time of day, points systems, calorie tracking, rigid rules or meal plans  – which can all make us more likely to eat when food isn’t really what’s going to satisfy us. Intuitive eaters can also discern between physical hunger and emotional hunger. 

You can learn more about Intuitive Eating here.

It is extremely common after years of dieting and eating according to external rules to lose touch with what it feels like to be hungry or full. Don’t stress, you are not broken. These signals are still there and you can learn to hear them again. Due to our biology, it’s very hard to stop eating when your body needs food, so getting in touch with early hunger signals is important. It will just take some time and a bit of trial and error. 

A great place to start is my free guide which runs through some of the key principles of Intuitive eating.

What is the first step of intuitive eating?

A fundamental step is to become aware of the huge negatives of dieting/restrictive eating and be ready to let go of these behaviours. This is principle no. 1 of Intuitive Eating,  “Reject Diet Culture”. Having this knowledge of the research base behind the Intuitive Eating framework helps to trust the rest of the steps/principles, including “Honour/trust Your Hunger”. 

Learn more about the pitfalls of dieting here: “Why can’t I stick to a diet?” 

The next best step of Intuitive Eating for you can also depend on where you’re at as an individual. This is why working with a professional can be helpful. They can help guide and potentially fast-track your food freedom journey. 

Intuitive Eating Tips for Those Starting Out

Does intuitive eating work?

We have written another article that answers this question – find it by clicking here. 

Hint: it depends on what “work” means to you. If it means eating a nutritious, varied diet, feeling free of food obsession, healing binge eating, feeling good in your body, and improving your self-esteem… then yes, intuitive eating works!

A note on eating disorder recovery and medications

There are some instances where your hunger signals may be less accurate indicators of how much food your body needs. 

If you are in the early stage of recovery from an eating disorder, your hunger signals are likely not an accurate indicator of how much food your body needs. The body can feel prematurely full due to a slower digestion rate. A more structured approach may be necessary to reconnect you to your body’s appetite cues before moving on to relying on hunger.

Some medications and medical conditions can increase appetite. The most common appetite-inducing medications include antipsychotics, antidepressants, mood stabilisers, corticosteroids, and anti-seizure drugs. If you think your medications are interfering with your appetite, it’s best to speak to your healthcare provider.

Do you want to work with a qualified dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor who nurtures a good relationship with food? You can read more about what that looks like here.

How to stop hating yourself in photos

How to stop hating yourself in photos

Do you ever feel shame, anxiety or disgust when seeing photos of yourself? 

When it comes to hating yourself in photos, there’s a spectrum. On one end the thought is “Uh I don’t love how that looks” but you can move on with your day and life. On the other end, there is “I look absolutely hideous and disgusting” and a shame spiral that can ruin the rest of your day/week/month.

If you find yourself somewhere on this spectrum, and you’ve clicked on this article, I’m guessing this is something you’re wondering if you can change. Well, the good news is, you can change how you feel and stop hating yourself. 

Will you be able to get to a place where you always love the way your body looks in photos?

Probably not. 

There might never be a day when you look at every photograph of yourself and love the way your body looks in it. But you don’t have to love how your body LOOKS to be able to feel kindness and compassion toward yourself in the photo. And that’s really the goal.

Let’s get into some practical steps, reflections and activities you can use to stop hating yourself in photos.

Credit for many of these tips goes to the brilliant body image coach, Brianna Campos. You can find more of her stuff on her website

Tips for How to Stop Hating Yourself in Photos

1) Remind yourself that what you are looking at isn’t the whole picture

The truth is photos can’t capture the whole story. They can’t tell us who we are. They are simply a record of a millisecond in time.

Also, how a photo turns out is affected by many factors. The lighting, the lens, the angle, the colouring, and our surroundings all change the way we appear in photos.

This post by @alexlight_ldn demonstrates this brilliantly:

We are living, breathing, wonderful 3D human beings who simply cannot be captured in our entirety by a 2D picture.

2) Reframe your expectations of the photo

One of the most intense triggers of photo grief is when you feel pain because your body in the image doesn’t appear the way you expected it to. This is the trap of body perception. 

We’ve all felt it, and it sucks.

The best method to avoid getting stuck in those feelings of shame and self-criticism is reframing.

Reframing happens when you realise that instead of changing your expectations of your body, you need to change your expectations of the photo.

Before doing the activity:

  1. Let’s assess – do I have the capacity to explore this now? 
  2. Can I mitigate any unnecessary discomfort I’m experiencing? (like can I wear some comfy clothes, call a friend etc.)

Try these journaling prompts by Bri next time you find yourself hating how you look in a photo. Grab your journal and look at the photo that caused you distress. 

Instead of focusing on how you think your body should have looked, highlight the experience in which the photo was taken.  Sans emotion.  Imagine you are Indiana Jones on an exploration – now is the time for just facts and information.  

  • What is the worst part about this photo?
  • Are there any memories you can hold on to that don’t have to do with your body?
  • Before the photo – were you able to be present? What are some things you remember about being in this moment?  
  • If your body distress consumed you, what might you have been able to appreciate about this photo (consider how a close friend or a loved one may appreciate the photo)

If you reframe the way you think about photos, you are allowing yourself to focus on the joy you felt when making those memories. You are giving yourself space to see everything else the photo might offer you beyond your perception of your body.

3) Ask yourself: where do my beliefs about my appearance stem from?

Perhaps when you were looking at the photo you thought you looked too fat? Too old and wrinkly? Was your skin creased or spotty? Your cellulite was illuminated? Your face looked asymmetrical and ugly. 

Consider for a moment that these perceptions we have of ourselves only exist because of cultural and societal frameworks we have taken on as truths. The ability to spot this is called “critical awareness” and it can be a protective factor when it comes to body image.

We were not born with beliefs about how we look. They were handed down to us by a culture that has formed and morphed beauty and body ideals to sell things and keep certain groups of people oppressed (sounds extreme but it’s true).

From a very young age, we are taught that our value in the world is linked to how we look and to others’ perceptions of how we look. Many of us are taught to diet, wear makeup, dress, and get beauty treatments to look a certain way to be accepted, respected, and loved.

And even if we’re not taught it but our families, the indirect messaging is everywhere on TV, in social media and even in the healthcare industry

It’s not until we open our eyes to this messaging, that we can start to shut it out (if we want to).

And it’s not to say that wearing make-up or having beauty treatments is inherently insidious. More than it’s worth being aware of why we do these things in the first place. What if we didn’t believe that grey hair, freckles, love handles or belly rolls were an issue, would we still spend so much money, time, or mental energy trying to “fix” those things?

Don’t forget – the majority of images on tv, in movies, on social media, and in ads, are all heavily filtered and edited. So you may be comparing yourself to an unrealistic, impossible standard.

4) Follow accounts on social media that show diverse and realistic bodies

Expose yourself regularly to photos of others that show realistic, diverse bodies and their “imperfections”. This, in turn, will help you view images of yourself from a more realistic, hopefully kinder angle.

Instagram accounts like 




As well as a load more examples we share on our free resource page:

Looking for more support?

We are a team of Intuitive Eating Counsellors,  Registered Dietitians and Therapists. We provide online non-diet nutrition therapy, body image healing, and intuitive eating coaching, to help you find food peace, happiness, and freedom. We can work with you if you’re feeling stuck with food, and your body image, you have a diagnosed eating disorder, disordered eating, and/or have other needs in the mix – like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, (or gut issues you feel are linked to food), Diabetes, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), Fertility, Pregnancy, or have Sport specific needs. We offer comprehensive support via online nutrition consultations designed to get you the results you desire! Book a free 20-minute discovery call with us today.

How To Stop Thinking About Food

How To Stop Thinking About Food

Do you find yourself constantly thinking about your next meal or snack and wondering how to stop thinking about food?  

“All I think about is food. I don’t know why and can’t even remember when it started. Before I finish most meals I am already thinking about the next. It’s exhausting and I know it’s not normal, but I don’t know why it’s happening”

If this sounds like you, know you are not alone. I am a Registered Dietitian and this experience of thinking about food all the time is something I see often in my clients. 

This article is going to explain the most common reasons you may be thinking about food a lot. I will also give my top 5 tips to stop thinking about food – practical ideas you can get started with at home today.

Why you can’t stop thinking about food

There are three main reasons you may not be able to stop thinking about food.

1) You are not eating enough

Research clearly shows that if you are not eating enough, you will think more about food. This could be due to dieting or other restrictive eating practices, or other reasons. 

The first research study to show this effect was the Minnesota Starvation Experiment. In this study, 32 young, healthy, male volunteers were put on a semi-starvation diet of 50% of their daily calorie needs, for 6 months. Among the variety of detrimental effects, they experienced on their physical and mental health were unwanted, increased thoughts about food.

This is really relevant when it comes to modern-day diets. For example, many people will go on 1200-1500kcal diets and then wonder why they are thinking about food all the time. It’s because they are essentially starving themselves. 

Your body has your back – it’s increasing the amount you think about food in an attempt to motivate you to eat more, so it doesn’t starve!

2) You are not letting yourself eat certain types/groups of foods

Are you trying to not eat certain foods to be healthier or lose weight? Common ones people restrict include carbohydrates, fatty foods, sweets and chocolates. If this sounds like you, it could be making you think more about food, especially about the types of foods you are trying not to have. 

Annoying huh?! But that’s just the way our human brains are wired. Research on thought suppression tells us about this. Thought suppression is the act of intentionally trying not to think about something (i.e. a tasty pizza or creamy bar of chocolate). A large body of research indicates that thought suppression is ineffective. Moreover, it can be counterproductive, and actually, induce the very state of mind one had hoped to avoid. Imagine being told, “Don’t think of a pink bear.” This is an example of thought suppression. Give it a try—close your eyes for a minute and try not to think of a pink bear. What did you discover?

So, you see, willing ourselves to not think about “naughty” foods doesn’t work. But there is a way around this, which we will discuss below.

3) Food is your coping mechanism for dealing with discomfort

Is food your main source of soothing and comfort? This is another reason you may not be able to stop thinking about food. 

Picture a stressful day at work and a lecture from your boss. Your thoughts immediately turn to get home, raiding the fridge and getting Uber Eats for dinner to make yourself feel better.

If so, this is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s very normal to sometimes turn to food for comfort. But if food is your main or only way of dealing with uncomfortable feelings, this can be bad for your overall well-being. If this sounds like you, it will be helpful to increase your tolerance for tough emotions and learn other ways to cope with them. More on this later in the article.


Is always thinking about food a disorder?

The short answer is no, always thinking about food is not a disorder. 

However, increased thoughts about food can be a sign of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.

If you are concerned about your eating habits or relationship to food, this article from BEAT tells you how to approach your doctor about your eating struggles. It is especially important to seek support if you have lost weight and/or are engaging in purging, compensatory exercise, binge eating or laxative abuse. You may be at medical risk.

Speaking to a Registered Dietitian or Therapist who specialises in Disordered eating can help. I run a private practice with a team of Dietitians and a Psychotherapist, to help you navigate healing your relationship with food. You can find out more about that here. and get in touch for a free 20-minute discovery call. 


Top 5 Tips to Stop Thinking About Food

1) Get curious and ask yourself these questions

Remove the judgmental voices sitting on your shoulders for 10 minutes so you can get curious with me. It’s important to put aside ideas about what your eating “should” or “should not” look like so you can really tune in and truthfully answer these questions, without judgment.

Why are you eating the way you are? 

Is it because it feels good to eat the way you are? Or are you following diet rules and not really paying much attention to how it actually feels?

How are you eating? 

Fast, slow, mindfully, distracted in the car?

And where are you eating? 

Are there specific foods you’re constantly thinking about? Do you allow yourself to regularly eat these foods? 

Taking a curious non-judgmental look might open up some clues for you about what could be going on (and the rest of my tips below should connect the dots).

2) You probably (almost definitely) need to eat more

It might sound counterproductive, by hear me out – especially if you’re constantly thinking about food. 

In order to not obsessively think about food, the first checkbox to tick is eating enough food. Whilst myfitnesspal might say it’s enough to eat 1500kcal per day, I am here to tell you it’s almost certainly not enough. If you need help navigating how much food is right for you, get in touch with us today for a free discovery call.

Furthermore, try to eat regularly. In general, to feel your best and avoid energy dips, you don’t want to be going much more than 3-5 hours without food.

3) Put away distractions when eating and eat mindfully

Do you shove lunch down whilst scrolling through your phone? Is dinner usually in front of the TV or distractedly eaten whilst trying to juggle the kids? If this is the case, you may be missing out on the sensory pleasure of eating. The sensory pleasure we derive from eating can help us register fullness and satisfaction. But we have to actually be present enough to experience this. In turn, this helps us to stop thinking about food all the time in between meals. 

Some tips:

  • Try putting away screens and sitting at the table for dinner. Maybe light a candle, pop on some smooth jazz and get romantic with yourself. Pay attention to the taste, smell, texture and mouthfeel of what you’re eating.
  • Or (if the above sounds a little too extra) could you commit to three mindful mouthfuls at each meal? Try paying extra attention for the first three mouthfuls and whatever happens after is fair game.

4) Take away the food rules

One important step to stop thinking about food all the time and feel more in control… take away the food rules. Allow yourself unconditional permission to eat all foods. You may be thinking I sound crazy but hear me out.

Above we have already discussed how restricting certain foods makes us think about them more. Not only is this the case, but research actually shows that restricting certain foods can make us eat them MORE.

This is partly down to the “what-the-hell” and “last supper” effects. When on a diet or trying to be “good”, if we violate the so-called rules (say by eating chocolate or pasta), even just thinking that you have blown your diet is enough to trigger the consumption of more food. We tend to think “what the hell, I’ve blown it now, may as well enjoy myself now and start again tomorrow”.

Does this cycle sound familiar?

binge restrict cycle

The only way to stop the cycle is to cut it off at the beginning. Allow yourself regular satisfying meals, but also allow yourself to eat ALL foods. No labels, no good or bad foods, because really, no food is morally good or bad. It’s all just food (unless you have an allergy, or clinical condition – of course, stick with your healthcare provider’s advice!).

One of the reasons having unconditional permission to eat is so important is because of the habituation response. Habituation refers to the way we quickly adapt to a repeated experience. Novelty and pleasure wane with exposure. This applies to many areas of life. For example, buying a new item of clothing. At first wearing, it might be very exciting, but it wears off over time. And so habituation also happens with eating food

Why not start by picking one “forbidden food” and do an experiment? Give yourself true permission to eat as much of it as you want, whenever you want, and see what happens.

5) Seek satisfaction at each eating occasion

As well as physically filling you up, your meals and snacks need to mentally and physically satisfy you so that you do not feel restricted (remember: restriction leads to deprivation and more thinking about food). This means choosing foods that we crave or that “hum” to us. To ensure physical satisfaction, I often talk about the importance of choosing options with “staying power” with my clients. These are usually those which include a source of each fat, protein, carbohydrate, and fibre.

6) Increase your coping toolbox

If you suspect that using food as a coping mechanism could be the main reason you can’t stop thinking about it, then learning other ways to cope with uncomfortable emotions will help. I have a whole article with tips on this that you can read here.


Summary – How to stop thinking about food

In summary, the main reasons people tend to experience increased thoughts about food come down to dietary restrictions and emotions. Decrease unwanted food thoughts therefore may involve increasing the amount you’re eating, challenging rigid food rules, mindful eating and increasing your coping toolbox.

These different strategies are all part of the overall framework of Intuitive Eating. Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based approach to help improve your relationship with food, and have better self-control around food, so you don’t have to think about food all the time. Intuitive eating can help you learn to honour your health by listening and responding to the messages of your body. This helps you to meet your physical and mental needs based on your terms and move away from external diet tools such as the time of day, points systems, calorie tracking, rigid rules or meal plans  – which can all exacerbate obsessive food thoughts. You can learn more about Intuitive Eating here.

Speaking to a Registered Dietitian or Therapist who specialises in Disordered eating can also help.. I run a private practice with a team of Dietitians and a Psychotherapist, to help you navigate healing your relationship with food. You can find out more about that here. and get in touch for a free 20-minute discovery call.

How To Stop Secret Eating

How To Stop Secret Eating

Below are some common concerns clients come to us with about how to stop secret eating…

“Why can’t I stop binge eating in secret and not stop myself?”

“Why do I keep eating in secret at night?”

“Is secret eating damaging my physical and mental health?”

“Is secret eating a disorder?”

Secret eating is more common than you may think. In fact, a poll of 2000 women found that 6 in 10 engaged in secret eating. So if you’re battling with secret eating, please know you are not alone.

However, just because something is common, doesn’t mean you should have to put up with it.

If you are are worried about your, or someone you care about’s tendency to eat in secret, this article aims to answer any questions you may have.  We will explain to you why it’s happening and what you can do about it.

What causes secret eating? – The key reasons you are secret eating

Factors contributing to secret eating can be grouped under 3 umbrellas. We will dive into these below. However, there can be many contributing factors and these may or may not feel relatable to you.

1.   You want approval and/or are afraid of judgement

And of course you do, because you’re human. The predominant cultural narrative in the teaches us that certain foods are “good” others are “bad”. This leads us to feel shame when we eat perceived “bad” foods (e.g. chocolate, chips, takeaway, fatty foods). This shame is exacerbated when we eat these “bad” foods or “too much” food in front of others. And so naturally, we hide and eat in secret to avoid being judged and feeling shame.

This is supported by research, that has found that many people who eat in secret do so to avoid criticism and judgement from others. This fear of judgement not only increases the likelihood of secret eating, but also self-isolation and a decrease in support-seeking.

People living in larger bodies are particularly susceptible. And understandably so given the false messaging we receive that the larger you are, the more you must be eating. This just isn’t the case, as is backed by the research. No matter your body size, you NEED food and you deserve to find pleasure in eating, free from shame.

living in a larger body does not mean you overeat

The way out of this shame trap is to learn about toxic diet culture, so you can be savvy to nutrition fact and fiction, and feel confident that you deserve to eat what you want in front of others (more on this below).

2. You are trying to reclaim a sense of control (often subconsciously)

As adults, we have a desire to have autonomy over our actions. When we have food rules placed on us, either by ourselves or by others (often parents or partners), our brains naturally want to rebel against this.

The participants this small 2012 study described their secret eating as a form of rebellion. They identified their behaviour as a way to reclaim a sense of power that they felt they had lost. An attempt to regain control is a common theme in people with disordered eating behaviours. Unfortunately, over time, we typically see the opposite occur as the behaviour takes control of the individual. Therefore finding alternative ways to experience empowerment can be a helpful way to reduce secret eating.

3. It’s a way you deal with tough emotions

In the 2012 study mentioned above, many participants said secret eating began as a way to relieve emotional distess.  This might occur in the form of emotional or comfort eating. Or it could be related to point one above, and wanting to avoid the guilt, shame and feelings of imperfection that can come with eating foods that you think you shouldn’t.

There you have it, some of the key reasons you’re secret eating. Do you relate to any of the above?

Is secret eating a disorder?

Secret eating is not considered a diagnosable eating disorder. There is however, a definite link between secret eating and eating disorders.

So…what’s the link?

Many researchers believe secret eating may increase the risk of developing an eating disorder.

  • One large study found that teens who eat secretively are more likely to engage in restriction and purging than those who don’t.
  • Another study among adults found that the more frequently secret eating occurred, the greater the individuals concerns were around food, weight and shape.

Secret eating is also part of the diagnostic criteria for binge eating disorder. However, secret eating can also be distinct from binge eating. Whilst binge eating often involves secrecy, secret eating does not always necessarily include the large volumes of food or perceived loss of control that characterise binge eating.

One study of adults with binge eating disorder found that about half engaged in secret eating outside of their binge eating episodes. demonstrating that these behaviours can be separate.

Please know that just because secret eating may not meet the criteria for a certain diagnosis, this does not make your struggle any less valid or worthy of support.

4 Strategies To Stop Secret Eating

Are you wondering, “why can’t I stop secret eating?”  Well, we are here to tell you that with the right support, knowledge and tools, you can! The below are some tips to get you started.

1. Learn about diet culture

“Don’t exceed 1200 calories per day”

“Perfect this workout to get killer abs”

“Follow this cleanse to burn X kg in 5 days”

This is diet culture. Diet culture is everywhere and the subliminal messaging is feeds us has these core messages:

1) You must “fix” your body or alter your size to be happy and healthy

2) To eat healthy or to diet is to be morally virtuous

3) Thinner = healthier

All of the above are mostly false messages designed to get you to buy things. Learning about diet culture means diving into the science and information that will help you understand this, so you can move away from it.

Once you reject diet culture, you can move toward a more free and satisfying relationship with food and your body. And this will in turn reduce your desire to eat in secret.

2. Make peace with food

One important step to stop secret eating… allow yourself unconditional permission to eat ALL foods.

A little scary, right? But also exciting!

This can be really hard to do when we live in a diet culture where food is given a moral value. That is, foods that are seen to be associated with thinness and “health” = good. And any other food = bad.

That’s where the diet cycle kicks in:

Binge restrict cycle

Does this cycle sound familiar?

The only way to stop the cycle is to cut it off at the beginning. Allow yourself regular satisfying meals, but also allow yourself to eat ALL foods. No labels, no good or bad foods, because really, no food is morally good or bad. It’s all just food (unless you have an allergy, or clinical condition – of course, stick with your healthcare providers advice!).

One of the reasons having unconditional permission to eat is so important is because of the habituation response. Habituation refers to the way we quickly adapt to a repeated experience. Novelty and pleasure wane with exposure. This applies to many areas of life. For example, buying a new item of clothing. At first wearing, it might be very exciting, but it wears off over time. And so habituation also happens with eating food

Why not start by picking one “forbidden food” and do an experiment. Give yourself true permission to eat as much of it as you want, whenever you want, and see what happens.

3. Learn to respect your here and now body

There is a lot to be said on this. More than we can cover in this blog post. If you have been at war with your body for some time; how might it feel to try to find peace? You don’t have to love your body or even like it to begin. You just have to recognise that your body deserves your respect and care, no matter it’s size or how you feel about how it looks. It is possible to find true health and peace, regardless of your body shape and size. Don’t believe me – check out these video testimonials from dozens of our clients who have done just that.

4. Learn to deal with your emotions, without always turning to food.

Check out my article on How to Navigate Emotional Eating for more on this.

So there you have it; Our 4 top tips to stop secret eating. These 4 strategies are all engrained into the framework of Intuitive Eating. Intuitive Eating is an evidence based approach to help improve your relationship with food, have better self-control around food, and manage secret eating. Intuitive eating can help you learn to honour your health by listening and responding to the messages of your body. This helps you to meet your physical and mental needs based on your terms and move away from external diet tools such as the time of day, points systems, calorie tracking, rigid rules or meal plans  – which can all exacerbate secret eating. You can learn more about Intuitive Eating here.

How Do You Know Your Set Point Weight?

How Do You Know Your Set Point Weight?

Are you wondering how you know your set point weight?

Perhaps you are interested in breaking up with diet culture and finding a healthier relationship with food. But understandably you’re apprehensive. Often that apprehension has to do with weight worries…

“If I actually fulfil my hunger and let go of dieting, I am afraid I will gain weight”

“How can I tell what my set point will be?”

Do you resonate with this?

Set Point Weight Theory can help you understand more about what your weight may do when you let go of diets and nourish yourself adequately.

So…what is set point weight?

Set point weight explanation

The terms “set point” or “set point weight” stem from a scientific theory called Set Point Weight Theory.

In short, this theory suggests that we each have our own individual set point weight range. This can be thought of as your “happy place”. It’s the weight that your body naturally wants to be.

Let’s learn more about what’s behind this theory…

Many parts of our physical and psychological makeup are determined either in part or completely, by our genes. For example, height is mostly determined by genetics. People generally accept that we can’t change our height, it’s just the way we were born. The same goes for shoe size and hair colour.

In the long term, the same principle seems to apply to weight. Genetics plays a large part in determining our body weight. It’s hard to get a solid number but studies suggest that up to 70% of human body weight is determined by genetics.

Your “set point” is thought to be a 3-9kg weight range. However, this is unique to every individual so take the numbers with a pinch of salt. The point is: it’s not a static number. It is a range rather than a single figure because fluctuations in weight are part of being human. For example, in the winter you may carry some extra kilos; this is a normal part of how humans evolved and the extra fat tissue protects us from cold. 

If your body weight falls below this range, it sees this as a threat to your survival. And so regulatory mechanisms kick in to help you get back there. For example, if you eat a little more than you need (in the short term), then typically your body temperature will rise and your metabolism speeds up to burn off the extra energy. If you eat too little, then your metabolic rate slows down to spare the available calories. Also, if the body is not getting enough energy, you will feel more hungry, and/or be more preoccupied with food.

So, your set point weight is the weight at which your body wants to sit, where it functions optimally and feels its best.

And this weight may be above what is deemed “healthy” or “normal” within diet culture. Rest assured you do not have to meet society’s thin ideal to be healthy. And if your body is larger than this ideal, it does not mean you have to restrict and deny your body food. In fact, this is likely doing damage to your physical and mental health, whilst paradoxically leading you to become heavier in the long term (more on this below). There is a lot of research that shows that people can be metabolically healthy and fall into the “overweight” and “obese” BMI categories.   

Your set point weight isn’t forever

Set point weight can shift over time. Where your body naturally wanted to sit at 18, is unlikely to be the same at 30. And where it wanted to sit at 30, probably won’t be the same at 40 or 60.

Your body is not supposed to look the same after the major biological and hormonal shifts that come naturally with puberty, pregnancy and menopause.

Body changes across the life cycle are normal despite what diet culture may tell us. 

How long-term restrictive dieting may affect the Set Point Weight

Weight cycling is the weight loss and regains that occur with patterns of yo-yo dieting.

Some research suggests that set point weight may increase with weight cycling. This is because the probability of weight regain increases in the time following initial weight loss. Researchers believe this is due to the energy gap created during caloric restriction where decreased energy expenditure is paired with an increased drive to eat. 

I am mindful that this information may elicit shame or worry for some readers, which is not the intention. This is not to say you have done irreparable damage to your body or metabolism. Rather this information is here to present the facts so you can be informed. And to provide a possible explanation for the common experience of weight regain after restriction.

Some signs you are at your set point weight

  • Do you consistently listen & respond to your hunger and fullness cues?
  • Are you able to keep a relatively stable weight WITHOUT fixating on weight or food habits?
  • Do you feel calm and stress-free around food?
  • Are you implementing gentle nutrition in a way that feels good and unrestrictive?
  • Do you move your body in ways that you enjoy and without using exercise to “earn” or “burn off” your food?

If you answered YES to all of the above, then it’s likely you are within your set point weight range. 

Signs you're at your set point weight

If not, keep reading…

How to find your set point weight

Intuitive eating is an evidence-based framework that will help you to find your set point weight.

Intuitive eating fosters body respect, learning to trust your body, disentangling yourself from misinformation around food and weight, honouring your needs for nourishment, and letting your body weight go where it wants to when this happens.

This article explains more about how Intuitive Eating works.

When we work with our clients to implement intuitive eating principles… some clients lose weight, some will stay the same, and some gain weight. And often they might gain weight, then lose it, then steady out (or the other way around). And all these people are doing Intuitive Eating correctly!

Because weight loss is not ever meant to be a goal of Intuitive Eating, for many important reasons which we explain in this article.

Are you still feeling afraid to let your body do its thing?

It’s totally normal and ok to feel apprehensive about finding your set point weight.

Know that your feelings are so valid. Uncertainty makes sense given the culture we live in; a culture where the pursuit of weight loss is heralded as so valuable.

Just knowing weight loss diets aren’t effective doesn’t mean the desire for weight loss will go away. It does not mean that the media are backing off on weight loss messaging. Or that friends and family aren’t still making comments or engaging in their own diets.

It’s ok to know that weight loss diets don’t work but still feel unsure about giving up the pursuit.

I would like to gently invite you to consider…could you put weight loss on the back burner? Could you give something else a try and see what happens?

In summary

Your set point weight is the weight at which your body naturally wants to sit. It’s where it functions optimally and feels its best. Weight loss, weight maintenance, and weight gain are all possibilities when we work toward finding our set point weights.

Intuitive Eating provides a framework you can use to find your set point weight, whilst nurturing a healthy relationship with food and body.

Learn more about Intuitive Eating and how to get started with it through these links:

What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive Eating Tips for Those Starting Out

Intuitive Eating 4th Edition (book)

And download my free 7-steps to food peace and freedom audio guide to get started. 

Do you want to work with a qualified dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor who nurtures a good relationship with food and can help you find your set point? You can read more about what that looks like here.

How to Stop Counting Calories

How to Stop Counting Calories

So, you’re fed up of counting calories?

Well, you’ve come to the right place… in this article I am going to outline actionable steps on how to stop counting calories, once and for all. As a Registered Dietitian (for the last 9 years) and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor, I have worked with 100’s of clients to help them stop obsessing over numbers and find a healthier relationship with food.

If you’ve been counting calories for months or years, you’re likely feeling tired of it. Calorie counting can sometimes be a helpful tool. But for many people, counting calories in the long term can become exhausting and unhealthy. This was certainly my experience counting calories (more on this below). No matter how long you’ve been counting for, it is possible to stop and find a more liberal relationship to food. Keep reading for actionable steps on how to stop counting calories so you can start to feel more normal around food again

My experience with calorie counting

10 years ago, I used to count calories almost every day. Even when I wasn’t actively tracking them in MyFitnessPal or the like, the mental counter was still ticking over.
“If you have this snack now, then you can only have a small portion at dinner, otherwise you’re over the limit for the day”
And if I went over my self-imposed limit…one of two things would happen:
1) I would have to compensate somehow with exercise or less calories the following day
2) I would think “well I’ve screwed it now, so may as well keep going” and end up out-of-control eating and feeling extremely guilty about it
Oh, the mental turmoil of calorie counting. It was exhausting. I felt obsessed with food and had little brain space to think of much else. And I felt ashamed. As a Dietitian, I felt I should know better and knew it didn’t feel healthy to count calories. But I didn’t know there was another way. You see, in university we are still taught calorie counting as a bit of a “be-all and end-all”.
Luckily, I now realise how disordered all those constant calculations were and enjoy a healthy, nourishing relationship to food with zero counting. I do not miss obsessively tracking my food intake one bit. I now work to help others learn Intuitive Eating and other skills so they can nourish themselves without the obsession and counting. Keep reading to find out how for yourself.

Why is calorie counting so widely used….and is it worth it??

Calorie counting is often used by people use to try to lose or maintain a certain body weight, or follow a diet. There seem to be endless sources that encourage calorie counting, including:
  • Doctors, dietitians and government pamphlets
  • Media and social media
  • Packaged food labels
  • Exercise machines that have electronic displays showing the calories burned off each minute
  • Restaurants that list calories next to menu items
  • Phone apps and watch devices
Actually, it can be near impossible to avoid calorie information!
Calorie counting is touted an essential skill for anyone looking to alter their body weight or shape. But the risks and dangers seem to be rarely discussed. Calorie counting may become so habitual that you end up doing it automatically and have great difficulty stopping.
Let’s explore some of the risks and flaws of calorie counting in more depth…

Why calorie counting can be problematic

1. Calorie counts are inaccurate

It’s very difficult to determine the total amount of calories needed for an individual. We can take an estimate but the margin of error here is massive. This is because there are so many factors that influence our energy needs, including:

This study out of Stanford University showed that fitness devices including Apple Watch, Basis Peak, Fitbit have a large margin of error when it comes to measuring energy (calorie) expenditure. They showed that the most accurate device was off by an average of 27 percent. And the least accurate was off by 93 percent!

Also, our dietary needs fluctuate across days, weeks and months. Having the same number of calories each day just isn’t how humans are designed. We are not robots.
It’s also impossible to precisely calculate the actual calorie content of the food we eat, even with books, apps, and scales! Most calorie counts on food labels are inaccurate. This is because they are based on a system of averages that ignores the complexity of digestion.
Recent research reveals how many calories we extract from food depends on:
– which type we eat
– how we prepare our food
-which bacteria are in our gut and
-how much energy we use to digest different foods.
Current calorie counts do not consider any of these factors. Digestion is so intricate that even if we try to improve calorie counts, we will likely never make them perfectly accurate.

2. Calorie counting can lead to false attribution

Often, people adjust caloric intake based on daily/weekly weight changes, but this is false feedback. Body mass and fat are affected by many factors. And they fluctuate regardless of calorie consumption (as does the number on the scale). If you limit intake to a certain amount and lose weight, you may falsely assume that the weight loss was because of the calorie rules followed. In fact, it could be down to so many other factors.

3. Disrupted body function and cues

Eating according to a calorie limit (rather than internal sensations and drives), disrupts ability feel hunger and fullness cues over time. This makes it harder for your body to regulate intake in the future, meaning we are more vulnerable to eating past comfortable fullness. As well as experiencing increased anxiety about our food intake. Using arbitrary limits can also leave you undernourished. If we are deficient in a nutrient, our body will not function at it’s best and we may experience negative affects on physical and mental health.

4. Poor mental health

Strict rules are innately hard to follow. Especially when it comes to fighting our biology and body’s fuel needs as is usually the case with counting calories. When the calorie limit is inevitably broken, this is often seen as a “failure”. This may then contribute to us feeling rubbish about ourselves, and low self-esteem. People who become obsessed with counting calories may calculate and re-calculate figures all day long, and feel anxious about foods when they don’t know the calorie content. They may even avoid situations where this may occur (e.g. restaurants and social occassions).

So…. you can see there are many problems with calorie counting. That’s not to say it is a useless tool but in my experience as a dietitian – counting calories is destructive and unhealthy for the majority of my clients. And learning how to stop counting calories is a key step in rediscovering a healthy relationship with food.
But, if calorie counting is so flawed, then what’s the alternative? Well, if we let it, your body will do these calculations for you. And communicate the maths through internal signals of hunger and satiety. A non-dieting adult human or animal maintains a stable weight over time, adjusting the body’s intake and performance as needed.
The trick is to tune back into your bodies signals of hunger, satiety and fullness – the OG calorie counters!


Fruit and Veg at every meal

      5 Steps to Stop Counting Calories

      1. Inform yourself of the dangers/cons of counting calories.

      So you can feel confident in your decision to stop (read the above section on “Why calorie counting can be so problematic”, if you haven’t already)

      2. Explore what calorie counting has provided you

      Many times giving up calorie counting may also mean giving up:
      – a sense of control
      – a means of achievement
      – the pursuit of weight loss
      If this is the case for you, it may be worth exploring (with your journal, or in dialogue with a loved-one or a professional) how these patterns came about and healthier ways to cope.

      3. Delete sources of calorie information

      Delete the apps. Ditch the fitbit. Avoid reading food labels.
      Even if you delete these, you may still find yourself doing sums in your head. That’s ok and it will fade naturally with time as you begin to place emphasis on internal cues to eating (i.e. Intuitive Eating – more on this in point 5). However, if you do catch yourself doing sums, try to distract yourself or interrupt it with a healthier thought.

      4. Reduce gradually

      If going cold turkey on calorie counting feels too scary, try cutting down gradually. For example, pick a snack or meal where you won’t count or track and do this for one week. The next week, pick another meal or snack to stop counting, and so on.
      If giving up calorie counting is causing lots of anxiety for you, consider seeking help from a registered dietitian or psychologist trained in disordered eating to support you.

      5. Learn Intuitive Eating Skills

      Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based approach to rediscover a healthy relationship with food. Using a series of tools and skills, the framework helps you move away from rigid external rules, to finally trust your body and its signals again
      A big part of Intuitive Eating is relearning how to listen, and appropriately respond to hunger and satiety cues. This is really helpful when trying to stop counting calories. The freebie below has tips and tools that can help you get started with this.

      Conclusion: How to Stop Counting Calories

      In summary, calorie counting has many flaws, inaccuracies and dangers. If you are feeling fed-up with counting, stopping is certainly possible. Intuitive eating offers an alternative framework for nourishing your body that focuses on hunger and satiety signals, rather than numbers or rigid rules. It provides a structure for you to learn to nourish your body properly, without counting calories.

      • Do you want to eat foods that you enjoy without obsessing?
      • Do you want to improve your health through good nutrition, with the most up to date evidence-based advice?
      • Do you want to bin your list of food rules and stop your life revolving around healthy eating or planning what to eat?
      If you answered ‘yes’ then Intuitive Eating is right for you! Explore my article on “Intuitive Eating Tips for Those Starting Our” HERE to learn more.
      Do you want to work with a qualified professional who nurtures a good relationship with food? You can read more about what that looks like HERE.