Changing Your Mindset About Food

Welcome back to our 4-part series on Intuitive Eating 101. In our previous post, we shared an introduction to Intuitive Eating and why it’s a framework that can provide you with last, long-term results. Don’t forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2. Today in Part 3, we are discussing Principles 4 – 6.

INTUITIVE EATING PRINCIPLE #4: CHALLENGE THE FOOD POLICE

Sugar is bad. Don’t eat after 6 pm. Fat will make you fat. If I eat breakfast, it will just make me eat more throughout the day. I shouldn’t have salt. Bread is fattening. Carbs are the enemy.

“…if we can change our beliefs, our feelings and behaviors will also change in a chain-like reaction.” – Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Intuitive Eating

I’m assuming you’ve heard some of the statements above. Perhaps you’ve said some of them and believe them. These diet culture messages are everywhere, and they are pretty easy to hear and adapt as our own beliefs.

But are these statements even true?

Often times, breaking the ‘rules’ above can leave us feeling guilt or shame or disappointment and can lead to a disordered relationship with food and negative self-talk.

Here are a couple of options for challenging the police and those food ‘rules’ you’ve followed for so long:

  1. Explore your beliefs around food. Where did they come from, how have they evolved over time, how do they make you feel?
  2. Challenge and change your mindset around food rules. Check out some of these alternatives!

All-or-Nothing Mindset

This mindset is based on the premise of achieving perfection. I either eat ‘good food’ or I eat ‘bad food’. If I eat a ‘bad food’, I must only eat ‘bad foods’ for the rest of the day. When we live in this mindset, we are setting ourselves up for failure. It’s impossible to be perfect all the time, no matter how hard you try. And remember, when we restrict, it sets us up to binge.

Instead, embrace the gray. In this space, you can enjoy a cookie or doughnut as a dessert, while still enjoying a quality protein, carb, and fat for dinner. Those once ‘bad foods’ can have a place in your day, instead of ruling or ruining your day.

Shoulding Mindset

How many times do we say things like, ‘I shouldn’t eat this cookie because it’s unhealthy.’ ‘I should really only eat X calories if I want to lose this weight.’ Other words that might be used include: must, need to, have to, supposed to. Stop shoulding. But how?

Give yourself permission. If you want a doughnut, eat it and enjoy it. If a doughnut is a ‘bad food’ for you, figure out why it’s a ‘bad food’. What fears do you have about eating a doughnut? What are your beliefs about doughnuts? Are they true? What is the worst thing that would happen from you eating a doughnut? How can you make peace with this food (Principle #3)? How can you give yourself permission to enjoy the doughnut, free of guilt, shame, and fear?

Timeline Mindset

We can get these timelines in our head of things that need to happen in a certain order so that we can reach the desired goal. I’m all for goal setting, but what happens when our ‘timeline’ holds us back?

Look at it as a journey. “If you start thinking in terms of what you can learn along the way, and accept that there will be many ups and downs, you will go forward…you will enjoy the opportunity to enrich many aspects of your life while re-creating your relationship with food.” – Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Intuitive Eating

INTUITIVE EATING PRINCIPLE #5: FEEL YOUR FULLNESS

Do you pair eating with another activity? Maybe you eat on the go, or in front of the TV, or while scrolling your phone, or while working, or in the middle of another activity? Don’t worry, my hand is raised too.

Do you ever eat past the point of fullness? Perhaps you were taught to ‘clean your plate’ or you don’t want to waste food?

Just like honoring your hunger (Principle #2), it’s important to feel your fullness. It starts with understanding what fullness feels like – feeling satisfied and content, and not feeling hungry. Pretty simple, right?

With all the distractions we have and years of diet culture messages, it can be tough to tune with our feelings of fullness. This principle works in junction with Principle 2: Honor Your Hunger. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Set a timer for 20 minutes. Don’t finish your meal before the timer beeps. How do you feel? Was it difficult? Easy? Did you have to put down your fork more times that you thought?
  • Eat with your left hand. Or your non-dominant hand. I’m betting you will be eating slower!
  • Eat with chopsticks. Same principle as eating with your non-dominant hand. Also, you’ll probably take smaller bites.
  • Focus on chewing. This serves two purposes. When you focus on chewing, it’s likely you will eat a bit slower. Chewing your food is an essential part of the digestion process that is often overlooked. The more we can breakdown the food in our mouth, the easier the digestion process.
  • Take a smaller portion and wait for seconds. When we get a large portion, we often feel like we need to eat it all, which means we might still be eating when we’ve been full for the last 10 bites. Grab a smaller portion to start. Chew. Be mindful. When you are done, check in with yourself. Are you satisfied? Do you need more?
  • Don’t feel obligated to finish everything on your plate. It’s okay to have leftovers!
  • Eat without distractions. As tough as it is, test this out for 1 meal this week and notice the difference.

INTUITIVE EATING PRINCIPLE #6: DISCOVER THE SATISFACTION FACTOR

In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence – the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content.” – Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Intuitive Eating

When was the last time you truly enjoyed your eating experience? Not just when did you have food that tasted good – when was the last time you had food that tasted good, in an atmosphere that was inviting and with people that made you happy?

Part of the Intuitive Eating process is to enjoy your food AND the eating experience. So, how do you start enjoying the eating experience? I’ve got 5 steps for you!

  1. Ask yourself what you really want to eat. What do you want?! Remember to Make Peace with Food and Challenge the Food Police! Perhaps consider enjoying that food you once labeled as ‘bad’.
  2. Discover the pleasure on your plate. Before you eat, consider taste, texture, aroma, appearance, volume or filling capacity. Take a moment to actually think about the food you are about to eat. Respect YOUR taste buds and think about the foods you really like eating. Not what should you eat, but what do you want?
  3. Make your eating experience more enjoyable. Take time to enjoy your food. Sit down in a special spot. Place it on a plate or in a bowl you enjoy. Eat at a time when you don’t be rushed or distracted. Eat when you are gently hungry, not overly hungry. Remember to Honor Your Hunger. Eat the rainbow – be sure to add variety!
  4. Don’t settle. Just because it’s on your plate, doesn’t mean you have to eat it, especially if it doesn’t taste good!
  5. Check-in: Does it still taste good? Ever eat a pint of ice cream because you are already halfway done with it? Hand raised. Thing is, it wasn’t as good as I continued to eat as it was with that first bite. Check in with yourself – does it still satisfy on the 20th bite like it did on the 1st?

“Knowing what you like to eat and believing that you have the right to enjoy food, are key factors in a lifetime of maintaining normal weight without dieting.” – Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Intuitive Eating

Looking for additional resources?

Stay tuned for Part 4 of this 4-part series on Intuitive Eating. In Part 4, we will go over the final four principles and help you learn how you can get started on your Intuitive Eating Journey.

Jen Elliott, CES, CPT, PN1

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