Your Intuitive Eating Journey – a Letter to Your Loved One

Your Intuitive Eating Journey – a Letter to Your Loved One

Your Intuitive Eating Journey – a Letter to Your Loved One

KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian

June 12th 2019

Embarking on the journey of intuitive eating can feel like a lonely and difficult road – especially when the world around you seems to be on a diet. Loved ones can remain locked into diet culture through no fault of their own. Let’s not forget and respect the fact that you and I were once there too. 

It can be most difficult when your own loved ones question or even criticise your journey. It’s usually only because they care about your health. So how do you master telling them about your journey, without them assuming that you’ve just let yourself go?

To make that easier, I’ve drafted an Intuitive Eating letter that you can adapt and share with your loved ones. It goes like this… 

“Dear…

You may have noticed that I have been eating differently over the last few weeks/months. I am embarking on a new journey that moves away from my old ways of eating and thinking about food. For X years/months I have been on and off of various different diets. This has been affecting me not only physically, but emotionally/mentally too.

I’m done with [delete or insert as appropriate] tearing myself apart, despising my body, my weight yo-yo-ing up and down and steadily increasing with every diet I try, restricting my eating and then binge eating, punishing myself for eating certain foods, eating differently to others, not enjoying food, being bound by rules to tell me what, when and how much to eat and not being able to trust myself to eat naturally and normally.

I’ve hit rock bottom. I simply need to do something different.

I am embarking on a new and kinder journey that focuses on my health and healthy habits, rather than body size and weight loss. My health or my worth is not determined by a number on the scales. My weight will settle in it’s happy and healthy place when I am focusing on these healthy habits. I am working with a Registered Dietitian who is specialised in helping me through these difficulties (a specialist intuitive eating coach). 

I am learning that weight is not centric to my health, and that the restrictions I placed on myself were fuelling my eating problems. They were turning me away from being kind and respecting my body and ultimately improving my health and happiness. I have also learned that the yo-yo-ing of my weight is actually linked to a higher risk of heart disease. The stress I faced most days around food and my body was not doing my mental health any good and it was distracting me from more important things in my life…[you could provide examples here].

My weight may fluctuate on this journey, and this does not mean that I am neglecting my health. You may even see me eating foods that I would previously have avoided or restricted myself from eating. Like cake and sausages! I am learning that eating a wide variety of different foods is healthy for my body and soul. I am learning that eating a salad does not make me healthy, and equally eating a cake does not make me unhealthy. I am learning to honour my hunger, respect my fullness, identify what foods actually satisfy me (versus what I think I ‘should’ be eating), reduce emotional eating and to separate my worth from my appearance – amongst many other things.

If my weight increases, that’s a sign that I am nourishing my body with an adequate amount of food for me. It’s a sign that I was previously eating in a way that was too restrictive for my body.

I understand that these concepts may be difficult to understand and may go against your own beliefs. They have been challenging for me too, but also make a lot of sense. I don’t expect you to fully understand my journey and I am pleased you’ve not had to experience the difficulties I have been through. I wouldn’t wish them on anyone. I expect you to accept and respect the journey that I am on so that I can improve my relationship with food, my body and ultimately improve my health, without judgement, criticism or distraction. 

Love …

x”

    This work is hard and being questioned or criticised by loved ones can make it even harder. You can’t expect they will understand it all at once (or at all) and it’s important to respect their concerns for your health. After all, they may not know any different at this stage. The most you can do is lead by example, educate and if any difficult questions arise, pass them onto me and I can help with a response.

    You’ve got this. Go easy on yourself. 

    5 steps to having better body image

    5 steps to having better body image

    RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD

    5 steps to having better body image

    KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian

    May 14th 2019

    “I don’t like the way I look”

    “I wish I looked more like X”

    “Once I’ve lost weight I will feel more XXX”

    “Once I’ve lost this weight I will be able to XXX”

    “There’s something wrong with me”

    Are these things you hear yourself saying? I can certainly put my hands up to saying some of these things to myself previously.

    Nowadays, we live in a society that is more and more obsessed with appearance. Both teenagers and adults are flooded with images of society’s idea of “perfect” bodies. We see adverts of diets co-opted as “lifestyles” designed to “transform and sculpt”, compounding the message that we are not good enough as we are. That we need to shrink or change our bodies to feel more worthy, accepted, happy and to have better health.

    As a Registered non-diet Dietitian, specialising in Intuitive Eating, I work with clients to help them heal their relationship with food. Body image work comes into this frequently. This is because many of the food issues my clients experience, are underpinned by them trying to shrink or change their body.

    Image by Moose Kleenex

    What is body image and why does this matter?

    The Mental Health Foundation describe body image as “a term used to describe how we think and feel about our bodies”. As a society, we are becoming more aware of the impact of how we think and feel about our bodies on our health and wellbeing. In fact, just recently the Mental Health Foundation conducted an online survey of 4500 UK adults over the age of 18, and 1100 teenagers (aged 13-19). They found:

    • 1 in 5 adults (20%) felt shame about their bodies.
    • 34% of adults felt low or down and 19% felt disgusted because of their body image.
    • 13% (1 in 8) even experienced suicidal thoughts in relation to body image.
    • Just over one in five adults (22%) and 40% of teenagers said images on social media caused them to worry about their body image.

    So what is positive body image?

    Positive body image doesn’t have to mean floundering around half naked shouting to the world that you love your body (although that’s also totally okay). For most of my clients, it’s about getting them to a place where they are not actually thinking too much about their body image. Where they can be at weddings, parties, events and get involved in other activities without body image holding them back from being present and participating. As a Registered non-diet Dietitian, specialising in Intuitive Eating, I work with clients to help them heal their relationship with food. Body image work comes into this frequently. This is because many of the food issues my clients experience, are underpinned by them trying to shrink or change their body.

    Below I have outlined 5 steps you could take today, that may help improve your body image.

    5 steps to having better body image

    1. Adopt some self compassion

    We often find it easy to direct compassion towards a friend, animal or young child who is suffering. Perhaps we feel affected by their suffering, and have a strong desire to help them ease that discomfort. Self-compassion is about directing that compassion inwards to ourselves. Recognising our own suffering, not avoiding or disconnecting from it, and generating the desire to alleviate and heal that suffering with self-kindness (Neff 2003). This may sound a little spiritual, and if you’re not into that, stick with me here. There is some sound research to suggest that adopting some self-compassion may attenuate body image dissatisfaction.

    So how can you adopt some self-compassion?

    • Quit following #fitspo #fitspiration images on social media, and start following some #selflove and #selfcompassion quotes instead.
    • Give yourself permission to be imperfect. After all, there is no such thing as perfect!
    • Recognise that you’re not alone – 1 in 5 adults feel shame about their bodies.
    • Talk to yourself like you would your best friend that felt dissatisfied with their body.

    2) Ask yourself who’s profiting from body hatred?

    The diet industry is worth $60 Billion and is profiting from trying to cure you from a problem that really doesn’t exist. How are you fuelling into this and how else could you best spend your money?

    3) Get clued up on weight science, and understand that weight does not define your health

    This social requirement that we need to achieve an “ideal weight” is based on the misconception that we can completely control our body size. You may be surprised to learn that some of the most basic assumptions you hold about weight and health aren’t supported by scientific evidence. Misconceptions:

    • “It’s just calories in versus calories out right?”
    • “Surely shrinking your body shouldn’t be so hard, I’ve just not go the willpower”.  
    • “Thinner = healthier”

    Unfortunately, weight is not that simple. We know (and maybe you’ve experienced) that in the short term, weight loss is typically possible. But over the long-term the body has compensatory mechanisms that undermine its ability to maintain weight loss. Health is not dictated to by what the number says on the scales. You can read more about that here.

    4) Can you show your body some respect?

    You may not love or even like your body right now. But for now, how can you show it a basic level of respect? Here are some examples:

    • Nourishing it regularly with food that you enjoy
    • Wearing clothes that fit you and that don’t pinch
    • Taking your medications
    • Having regular medical and dental check ups
    • Move your body in a way that feels comfortable
    • Allow it adequate sleep and rest

    5) Notice how diet culture is deeply ingrained in our society

    Diet culture is everywhere. It teaches us that we’re not good enough as we are. That we have to live a life of constant monitoring, controlling our bodies, restricting ourselves, and over exercising. It’s not until we open our eyes to this messaging, that we can start to shut it out. Here are some examples of messages that promote negative body image that we are often not aware of:

    • The consistent diet advertisements – on Spotify, in the gym, in the doctors surgery, on the train, tube or bus, on TV.
    • The casual use of fat phobic language – jokes around the dinner table, in the office, on TV and in films.
    • The general assumption that larger people are lazy, lacking in will-power, incompetent, unclean and undisciplined.
    • The lack of body diversity in the media.
    • Public health campaigns that shout about the “obesity epidemic” and place blame on those people in larger bodies being a “burden” on the NHS. These indirectly stigmatise larger bodies and indirectly contribute to appearance-based bullying.
    • The way we talk about food – good/bad/healthy/unhealthy/guilty/indulgent/clean

    This work is hard so don’t expect to master is overnight. Consider how many months or years you have you been trying to change or manipulate your body? It’s normal for this work to take some time and it particularly difficult to embrace in a society that’s telling you otherwise. If you’re struggling with your body image it’s important that you seek support from a qualified professional who can point you in the right direction.

    “Beach Body Ready” – How I get my clients there

    “Beach Body Ready” – How I get my clients there

    It’s the time of year when people start considering how they will get ‘beach body ready’. Perhaps even wishing they had continued with their January detox diet that they did so well on for a week or two.

    What is beach body ready?

    When we think about the perfect ‘beach body’ we often imagine a beyond natural perfect quasi-human, prancing around the beach. The pictures we see splayed across social media, and magazines make you feel like you have a problem, encouraging self-hatred and body fascism. They do not allow us to imagine the real non photo shopped body shapes we see on beaches, that have lumps, bumps and physical imperfections. Real bodies are what you actually see on most beaches in the world. Unless of course, you are in some sort of fantasy luxury exclusive resort, with a cosmetic surgeon, makeup, hair and body artist on hand.

    Body Shapes and Sizes

    Are you striving for something that doesn’t exist?

    Now hopefully, you have realised it’s time to stop comparing yourself to something that doesn’t exist in the real world. Rather than striving for body aesthetic perfection, I work with my clients to get them to their happiest and healthiest self as an individual.

    I teach them to respect their body, nourish it, care for it, and use it to do fun things! If you strive for perfection, over-restrict what you eat, or cut out large food groups, it’s likely this will come crashing down and lead to weight gain, and further dissatisfaction.

    So how can you start?

    1. Learn to stop overeating – the first step I teach my clients is learning to listen and respect your hunger and fullness cues. Subsequently, you will build a better relationship with food, and nourish your body with what it needs. This will in turn help with managing your weight. I cover a lot of this in my free course (link below).

    Challenge 1:  Before you decide to eat, try to rate your hunger on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is starving, and 10 is Christmas dinner full. Ideally, before eating, you sit at a 3-4, and after eating a 7. After a meal, you should feel comfortable, no longer hungry, and better for eating.

    Delicious Looking Meal

    1. Eat what truly satisfies you – the unhealthful food will always look more appealing than that dry chicken salad with ice-burg lettuce. If you’re honouring your hunger, and doing so with a balance of nutritious colourful foods you enjoy, with the odd bit of alcohol or chocolate thrown in on occasion, you won’t be going too far wrong.

    Challenge 2: Ask yourself this question. Did you eat 5 fruits and vegetables yesterday? If you didn’t, aiming for at least 5 every day would be a good place to start.

    Fruit and Veg at every meal

     

    1. Move for fun, fitness and enjoyment – if you are going to the gym to burn off the pudding you ate last night, it’s likely you are working out for the wrong reasons. Why not stick to what you truly enjoy? This way, you are likely to continue it. We should aim for 150 minutes of exercise a week, and around 10,000 steps a day. Tennis, football, sailing, swimming, bike riding, dancing, climbing, yoga, brisk walks are just some examples! A good idea is to team up with others and turn it into a social.

    Challenge 3: How many steps have you managed this week? If you are no where near 10,000 steps, start small and build up. Equally, if you are already smashing it, keep increasing!

    I teach my clients to change what they think beach body ready means for them. To stop comparing themselves to something that doesn’t exist in the real world. I encourage you to do this too. That may or may not mean getting them to a supermodel body they need for their holiday in Hawaii. However, it does mean, they can get to a place where they feel their happiest and healthiest self.

    Learning to nourish, care and fuel your body, can begin with some of the steps above. Understanding how to incorporate these into your own personal lifestyle, along with consistency, is key to achieving the results you desire. What works for you, will not work for the next person and there are no one size fits all. I work with my clients, offering personalised nutrition coaching, that fits with their individual daily needs and challenges.

    Want to improve your willpower and self control? Check out my FREE course! 

    About Me

    I am Katherine Kimber, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and I am on a mission to set you free from dieting and confusing nutrition information. I have completed an extensive amount of formal education and training, achieving a first class degree in Nutrition and Dietetics at King’s College London, and a distinction in my Masters in Clinical Research. I am also highly experienced in providing motivational support, I’m trained in Intuitive Eating, and hold a Diploma in Neurolinguistic Programming. Let me know how I can help!
    If you enjoyed reading this, check out some of my previous posts! 
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    From Olympic athlete to city worker

    From Olympic athlete to city worker

    Nutrition advice for busy people

    From Olympic athlete to city worker, Nicola Groves, shares some useful nutrition advice for busy people. Through both my advice, and her own experiences, she has adapted successfully. Nicola recently retired from Olympic Sailing after competing for Great Britain at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She embarked on an exciting career change in February 2017.

    What were your biggest changes in diet during the transition?

     

    Nicolas dietary needs were very different to how they are now, and in fact, quite unusual. “I had a bit of a weird diet when I was Olympic sailing, as I was on ‘weight gain’. So this basically meant I could eat as much as I wanted and when I wanted. One of the biggest challenges when transitioning was learning to recognise when I was full, when I was hungry.” 

    Nicola never really had to think about the volume of food she was eating. She has now had to learn more about ‘portion sizes’, and how to listen to her bodies hunger cues. She is even finding herself reading food labels in the supermarket, comparing the sugar and protein content of various yoghurt brands which apparently you would never have caught her doing before!

    Nicola recognises that although she needs good nutrition for concentration, and produtivity at work, she just does not need as much volume as she used to. “I used to eat bowls of pasta all of the time, and I realised by body just did not need that any more. I had gone from running around a boat park and a boat for most hours of the day, to sitting down for 12 hours a day. And it turns out your body doesn’t need all of that energy that was being pumped into it.”

    Are there any specific types of foods you have changed?

     

    Although Nicola still ensures she includes healthy low Glycaemic Index starchy foods at most meals, her portions are smaller. “I have massively cut down on the amount of starchy carbohydrates that I eat and hugely increased the amount of vegetables, including leafy greens and pulses. Lunches are often a salad which you would never have caught me doing when training.”

    Has your routine around eating changed?

     

    “As a sailor, it was really difficult to eat when on the water. Now I am in the city, it’s really easy to sit and snack all day long. I have to REALLY think about what I am doing and what I am eating. It’s really easy to just sit at your desk and graze all day long.”  Her top nutrition advice for a busy office worker would be to pack some tasty delicious snacks and schedule these throughout the day. Nicola’s favourite snack is “2 oat cakes and a tablespoon of nut butter“.

    Where do you find the time to cook?

     

    Nicola’s nutrition advice for busy people is “to be prepared!” She finds time to cook ” in the evenings”. She will sometimes “roast a chicken on a Sunday evening” and that lasts the week “with various sides, or simply cans of tuna with salad, usually really quick foods!”.  Other examples include “leftover dinner such as quick frittata with salad and a bit of pitta bread. Another favourite is thai green curry that I throw the cooked chicken into.”

    What were your biggest changes in your exercise habits?

     

    Nicola still manages to fit in exercise that she enjoys around work. Although it still comes with its challenges. “TIME. My entire life was dedicated to getting fit and being strong and powerful, and being the best at my sport. And now, it’s second to seeing my friends and family which I really love. This was one of the things that I really missed when sailing. Although sport still matters to me, there are other priorities. I still really enjoy exercise though, and I feel terrible and sluggish if I go a week without exercising.”

    What different about the type of exercise that you are doing?

     

    It’s changed dramatically. I used to do a lot of weights, and hard interval sessions because long duration meant I would be burning too many calories and therefore could lose weight.”  Keeping it short, fun, but still goal driven is key for Nicola. “I now don’t have time to do the long duration. I might go for a longer run at the weekends, but not really. I have taken up doing triathlons as they are sociable, give me something to aim for and the training is varied. Having a goal definitely helps me when it comes to doing exercise. The purpose is now for ME, rather than for a specific goal.”

    Photo: Nicola completing her first Triathlon in Summer 2017, winning her age category!

    What is it that drives you to get your trainers on and get out of bed?

     

    Like most of us, getting out when it’s cold, wet and dark is really tough! So what is it that drives Nicola to stay moticated and continue to remain active around a busy work schedule? “the feeling afterwards… I know that when I sit down at work and I’ve done my run or gym session, I feel good about myself. But if I’ve snoozed my alarm for just 15mins more sleep I think “what are you doing…”. I feel so much better throughout the day if I have done some exercise.” She also highlighted that exercising in the morning is key. If she doesn’t do something in the morning, at the end of a busy day, going to the gym or for a run is the last thing she wants to do.

    What are your best healthy hacks?

     

    Nicola has learnt how to stay fit and healthy in her first year or working. Her top nutrition advice for busy people would be:

    1)  “Preparing and planning what you are going to eat makes life so much easier. If I just walk into a supermarket and I struggle to know what to buy. I shop online, so when I sit down and plan a few meals for the week, and tend to just flick through a recipe book.”

    Her second piece of advice is:

    2) “you don’t need to spend 2 hours on a bike to get or keep fit. My shortest session would be 20minutes, even if it’s in the living room with my mum at the weekend.”

    If you were to give your old self, advice about the transition to the city job, what would it be??

     

    Whilst Nicola does have a good relationship with food and her body, like many people, there were certain things she found hard to accept both as an athlete, and transitioning into working life.

    When she was an Athlete, Nicola felt “constantly hung up about how big my muscles were and that I didn’t fit into normal sized clothes. I wish I told myself that you ARE healthy, fit and you can do all these amazing things, so enjoy it….” My body has changed. I have massively lost strength and that was a hard thing to deal with. I knew it was going to happen, but losing that as quick as I have was quite a shock. Accepting where I am right now, and that I am not going to be as strong or fit as I was is important… I need to cut myself slack with that, it was always going to happen, and I can’t do the weight sessions that I used to, and also I don’t need to! I need to tell myself that now too and enjoy where and who I am, being happy that I do my best.”

    A final piece of advice to Athletes out there!

    “ENJOY THE CAKE WHILE YOU CAN EAT IT…haha. You can’t have your cake and eat it every day!! I didn’t realise that at the time. Don’t get me wrong, I still eat cake, but I took it for granted.”

    Some great nutrition advice for busy people, along with some tips and tricks on how to keep active! A HUGE thank you to Nicola for sharing her experiences with us.

    First three images credit to Clive Mason/Getty Images

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