How To Stop Thinking About Food

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.
      How to do Intuitive Exercise

      How to do Intuitive Exercise

      Intuitive Exercise, also referred to as Intuitive Movement goes hand-in-hand with Intuitive Eating. If you’d like to learn more about exercising intuitively, then you’re in the right place. This article will describe what intuitive exercise is before breaking down some steps you can take to get started.

      Do you enjoy exercise?

      My clients often come to me not enjoying exercise. There are a few common reasons for this:

      1. Exercising has been coupled with weight-loss diets
      2. They are exercising excessively and/or compulsively
      3. Negative experiences growing up – being teased in P.E. class, not being picked for teams or being forced to run laps
      4. Rebelling against parents or partners who push exercise
      5. It can be physically less accessible for those with larger bodies and also off-putting

      The diet culture we live in also compounds these factors. We are surrounded by messaging that promotes exercise as a way to meet unrealistic body ideals. Toxic phrases like, “no pain, no gain” and, “sweat is fat crying”, are pushed upon us. Exercise is something we should do rather than something we want to do.

      Many of my clients have been mentally and physically worn down by crash exercising, usually accompanied by dieting. Beginning an exercise program whilst dieting is often a recipe for disaster. This is because on a diet, energy (calorie) intake is usually restricted. When exercising, you need more calories to fuel increased activity. If you don’t get enough then exercise will be depleting, not invigorating.

      Who wants to constantly subject their body to something that doesn’t ever feel good? No one in their right mind! Yet we often end up blaming ourselves for just not having enough willpower.

      What exactly is Intuitive Exercise?

      Intuitive Exercise is the practice of connecting to your body to figure out how it feels and what type of movement it needs that day. Instead of picking what type of exercise you think you “should” do, you use your body’s internal cues to figure out the best type and duration of the movement.

      You choose to move your body for self-care and health benefits, instead of doing it to lose weight. Some days this may mean an intense gym class, while other days it may mean restorative yoga or a walk. It can also be non-intentional activities like dancing with your kids, gardening or taking your dog for a walk. It doesn’t have to be planned or something structured, but it also can be if that’s what floats your boat. Intuitive movement is flexible, not rigid. It gives you the space to explore what feels good in your body. This shift in mindset allows exercise to become more enjoyable and less stressful. It can become something to look forward to, rather than dread.

      Here are my 6 best tips to get started with Intuitive Exercise

       1. Begin when you are ready

      If you have leaned towards over-exercising you may not feel like getting moving again yet and that’s ok. Likewise, if you’ve had negative experiences with exercise that have led you to stop exercising, you may need to work through some barriers before picking it up again. If you are working to overcome compulsive exercise, a temporary break may be the best thing for you. You may want to take spend some time finding the right body inclusive equipment/clothing, surroundings and movement that feels inclusive and safe for you to participate in. Deferring movement a few weeks or months won’t make much of a difference in a life-long commitment. 

      2. Focus on how it feels

      This one is key. Focus on how the movement feels rather than tallying steps, miles or calories on a Fitbit. Paying attention to the felt sense from within your body is like cross-fit for your intuition. Instead of just gritting your teeth through a workout, explore how you feel during the activity and throughout the day afterwards.

      • Are you able to handle stress better?
      • What’s your alertness like?
      • How’s your mental outlook?
      • Are you motivated, energised?
      • How are your sleep and appetite affected?
      • Are you feeling more connected to your body? Moving your body and using it can help with a more positive body image

      When we notice positive feelings from an activity, we are more likely to want to continue doing it.

      If you feel depleted and exhausted, take that as feedback from your body that it needs more rest, fuel or restorative movement.

      Intuitive Movement 

      3. Decouple exercise from weight loss and focus on the health benefits

      By making weight loss or burning calories the focus of your exercise, you’re less likely to be able to do it consistently. Or become obsessed with food. This is because when weight loss inevitably doesn’t happen, slows or rebounds, we lose motivation. Researchers have proposed that it’s time we decouple exercise from weight loss because this minimises its’ more important health benefits. If you lose weight as a result of exercising, that’s cool. But movement has massive benefits for health separate from weight loss. By placing the focus on these, we are more likely to stick with this health-promoting habit.

      Physical Activity Benefits

       4. Make it enjoyable

      A growing body of research shows that focusing on pleasure from exercise could be a pivotal factor in sustaining consistent activity. What if, instead of focusing on fitness targets such as intensity and duration, you focused on the level of enjoyment you get from exercise?

      Enjoyable exercise is very individual so it’s important to figure out what works for you. Some people like team sports or the company of a friend on their walks. Others find that after a busy day meeting the demands of others, some time alone is what they need.

      Tips for making intuitive exercise enjoyable:

      • Choose activities you like! It doesn’t matter what it is – a dance party in the kitchen with the kids, a team sport, restorative yoga, a spin class, a walk in nature, a bike ride – it all counts
      • Mix it up – by completing a variety of activities throughout the week you’re more likely to remain engaged and not get bored
      • Listen to music, a podcast or an audiobook whilst walking
      • Get rid of apps and trackers that keep your focus on numbers and away from the enjoyment

      5. Develop an Intuitive Exercise plan

      This can be helpful if your days are jam-packed and making time for movement is a struggle. There is no need for a rigid structure. However, many of us lead busy lives and sometimes it’s necessary to carve out time for things we want to do. Ask yourself, “when can I consistently make time to move my body?”. Figure out when and where, and schedule it in as a commitment to be honoured, like any other meeting or appointment.

      6. Rest Rest Rest

      A common fear is that of, “once I stop exercising, I won’t start again.” This is consistent with the all-or-nothing style of thinking commonly seen in dieting. You can prove to yourself that not exercising today doesn’t mean not exercising again. Simply test yourself by having a day or two off and resume when you are able. The more you come back to exercise after taking a break from it, the more you can challenge this fear.

      Rest is as important for our health as exercise is. The saying, “the only workout you’ll regret is the one you didn’t do” is just plain wrong. Missing a workout is a better option than causing yourself an injury, missing sleep and feeling exhausted, or compromising recovery from illness. Sometimes taking care of yourself means not exercising. Resting gives muscles time to recover and also keeps exercise feeling enjoyable and invigorating.

       

      Intuitive Exercise Rest

      In Summary:

      If you are tired of militant or all-or-nothing exercise regimes then Intuitive Exercise provides a mindset shift you can use to re-discover enjoyment from exercise. Intuitive Exercise shifts the focus onto how it feels to move your body and away from weight loss and numbers. Human bodies are designed to move and activity has a myriad of health benefits. By focusing on these and seeing exercise as a way to take care of ourselves, we are more likely to keep it up.

      It is worth noting that working on a healthy relationship to movement often goes hand-in-hand with working on a healthy relationship to food. Intuitive Eating is a proven framework used to rediscover healthy relationships with food and exercise. My FREE 7-step download outlines steps to food peace and freedom with an audio guide and actionable workbook.  

      How To  Stop Dieting and Eat Normally

      How To Stop Dieting and Eat Normally

      How To Stop Dieting and Eat Normally

      Let’s talk about some initial steps you can take to learn how to stop dieting and eat normally. If you’ve clicked on this article, I’ll take a guess that you’ve been on and off diets (or pursuing weight loss in some form) for quite some time. Maybe you have tried to stop dieting before, only to get tempted back for “just one last time”? The constant, obsessive thoughts about food, the restricting, and binging, the hating your body are getting exhausting. Are you thinking there has GOT to be another way?

      Are you feeling tired of dieting?

      If you’re fed up with being stuck in the cycle of yo-yo diets, know that there is a way out – it’s called Intuitive Eating. Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based approach to health and wellness. It helps you tune into your body signals, stop the binge-restrict cycle, and heal your relationship with food. This is achieved by working through principles that will guide you back to a natural way of eating. It is steered by internal body signals and wisdom (i.e. hunger, fullness and satisfaction) rather than external rules.

      Unlearning dieting is a process

      The process of learning how to stop dieting and eat normally again isn’t usually as simple or easy as we might like. Especially if we’ve been following external food rules for a long time. Even if you feel more ready than ever to hop off the dieting bandwagon, it’s normal for uncertainties, fears and sticking points to crop up throughout the process. Below, our clients describe some very common fears and struggle with letting go of diets:

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

       

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

       

      “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.”

      If any of these resonate with you, please know that you are not alone. There will be ups and downs whilst figuring out how to stop dieting and eat normally, However, if you stick with it, it will likely be one of the best, most liberating things you do. You can check out videos and written stories of clients who have broken free from dieting.

       

      Here are my best tips on how to stop dieting and eat normally:

      1. Identify what a diet is, and isn’t 

      I have seen so many clients who are confused because they don’t consider themselves to be dieting. However, they still feel trapped and know that something is “off” with their relationship with food. This is so common because diets are sneaky these days! In recent times the weight loss and wellness industries have had to adapt to the fact that the word “diet” no longer sells the way it used to. Consumers are savvier to the fact that “diets” don’t work. Instead we hear terms such as “eating clean”, “lifestyle change”, “cleanse”, “detox” or “8-week challenge”. These are just diets wrapped up in new, shiny packaging. If it restricts the way you eat and takes you away from being able to listen and respond to your body – it’s going to keep you trapped just like a diet.

      2. Recognise the harm dieting has done

      In the long term, science tells us that diets do more harm than good. Not only do the vast majority of people regain the weight they lose, but weight loss diets also lead to poorer mental health. They take away from our social lives, lead us to have lower self-esteem and feel more dissatisfied with our bodies.

      I know that before I found intuitive eating, all of these negatives rang true. Recognising this was what allowed me to take the leap to try something different. Take this 3-minute quiz to help you identify if you are ready to stop dieting.

      3. From now on, no foods are off-limits

      You know how once someone tells you not to look down, you immediately have to fight an urge to do so? It works the same when telling ourselves we can’t have certain types or amounts of foods. That’s one of the reasons diets are so hard to stick with. The only way to get rid of the “forbidden fruit” factor is to allow yourself ALL foods. No labels, no good or bad foods, because really, no food is morally good or bad. It’s all just-food.

      When you first allow yourself to eat all foods, it is extremely normal to initially go overboard eating things you always considered to be off-limits. It is important to allow yourself to go through this phase so that your body and brain can re-establish trust with each other. After a few days or weeks, these foods will lose most of their lure. Just like when you buy a new item of clothing, wear it every day, and then it ends up in the back of the draw with the rest of the jumpers you once loved? Maybe you still like it, but you don’t need to wear it every day. Sure, you might always have a thing for cookies, but if you know that you can have some anytime you want, you won’t have to obsess over them.

      4. Start to listen to your hunger and fullness

      If this is tricky for you, know that you are amongst the majority. 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. Biologically speaking, it’s near impossible to stop eating, when your body needs food, so getting in touch with early hunger signals is important. Don’t stress, you are not broken. These signals are still there and you can learn to hear them again. It will just take some time and a bit of trial and error. The best way to start tuning back in is to take a minute to pause before and after you eat to feel your hunger. You can use the scale in the free document below as a reference. I also recommend keeping a hunger journal like this one:

      5. Eat regular, satisfying meals and snacks

      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. Some people struggle to initially hear hunger and fullness cues, so regular eating can help to “get the machine churning”. This can create a rhythm from which you can tune into those signals again.

      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 bingeing). 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. Learn to sit with your emotions

      A lot of us use food to quash unpleasant emotions that we’d rather not feel. This is normal to some extent, but we really don’t want food to be our only coping mechanism. If emotional eating is something you struggle with then an important part of learning how to stop dieting and eat normally will be learning to cope with these emotions without food. You can get more in-depth tips on emotional eating in this article. 

      7. Expect setbacks and let go of perfection

      The cool thing about intuitive eating is that you can’t get it wrong. It is a process of learning and self-discovery. On a diet, you’d probably punish yourself if you broke the “rules”. Eating too many cookies or too much ice-cream for example, whilst learning to eat intuitively is not a failure. It’s a neutral occurrence and a valuable learning opportunity. Get curious about your own behaviour and try to be compassionate and forgiving with yourself. When we speak kindly to ourselves, we are more likely to make healthy choices and feel better.

       

      In Summary:

      Learning how to stop dieting and eat normally is 100% possible but it is a process and will require being brave, compassionate towards yourself and trusting the process. Intuitive eating is a proven framework we can use to break free from the diet cycle. You can get started today using my FREE 7-step download, with audio guide and actionable workbook.  

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