Updated: Sep 28, 2022
So you're starting to catch wind that diet-culture is rooted in fatphobia, racism, sexism, and lots of other no-good-very-bad-things. And maybe you're even starting to consider that you want to challenge diet-culture within you and around you. And maybeeee you're wanting to explore Intuitive Eating as an alternate path!
BUT WHERE DO YOU START? Tackling diet-culture and all the stories, behaviors, and engrained beliefs we've internalized over the years can feel like a daunting task.
There are thousands of different "starting points" and only you'll know what's best for you. But something I would advise anyone is to start small.
Choose one or two mindset shifts or behavior changes you want to play around with and start there.
Today I'm offering you a few mindset shifts you can start implementing right away! They don't require any money and hardly any time.
All they require is a willingness to challenge previous ways of seeing and doing things + the awareness to notice your own tendencies in the moment.
1. Try to avoid using words that imply there's a right or wrong way to eat
This is often done when describing food as "good" or "bad" or "healthy" and "unhealthy."
Try to stick with neutral adjectives that objectively describe the food: crunchy, sweet, salty, green, purple, hard, dense, light, heavy, etc.
When we put food into categories of morality, there's inherently a value judgment. This leads to having an emotional experience and reaction to food.
If you eat a food that you're labeling "bad," how does that make you feel eating it?
If you're eating a food you label as "healthy," how does that affect your sense of self?
Each of these, respectively, typically leads to feelings of guilt or pride.
Part of decoupling yourself from the grips of diet-culture is to recognize that food shouldn't be used as a tool to make you feel like a better or worse person.
The way you feed yourself and the choices you make say nothing about your worth as a person - even though everything in marketing tries to tell us otherwise.
Brands like HaloTop imply that by eating their lower calorie ice cream you're an angel!!! 🤦♀️ The messaging can't get any more overt. Diet-culture isn't trying to hide where they stand. They want for you to feel guilty or proud of your food choices. It keeps you in the emotional cycle that's necessary for diet-culture to continue profiting off of you.
One way to break out of that cycle is to start viewing food as neutral. Food isn't inherently good or bad. Those are labels we have assigned as a society.
Don't believe me? Take a minute to think about how our beliefs and stories about certain foods have changed over time. It's all subjective and up for discussion.
So let's stick with what we know. The facts. The objective truths.
Want to get even more concrete tips at your fingertips? Download this free guide!
2. Try to notice what "shoulds" and rules you have around food
Do you have rules and "shoulds" about what type of food you can/can't eat?
How about what time of day you can/can't eat?
Or how about the quantity of food that is acceptable/not acceptable?
Becoming aware of your own food rules is a great place to start. Then, I'd encourage you to get curious about what happens if you "break" a rule.
What happens if you eat more food than you deemed "acceptable?" What happens if you get hungry late at night or shortly after eating a meal... how do you approach those desires?
Often times the answer is: some sort of compensatory behavior. Meaning you feel you have to compensate for your behavior. Perhaps it's by eating more/less the next meal or by working out extra the next day. This type of mindset views food and exercise as an equation to be solved. But our bodies are much more fluid and nuanced than that.
Having food rules and living by "shoulds" can lead to rigidity and "all or nothing" thinking (also known as "black and white" thinking). Learn all about these cognitive distortions here!
All or nothing thinking could look like: "I shouldn't eat this food." and then if you eat it you might have the thought, "Well, now I've blown it for the day."
The truth is, you haven't blown anything. You just ate a food that you had created a rule around not eating.
If you have goals around your food choices, I encourage you to hold your intentions lightly, loosely, and compassionately.
Being open to change and having a flexible mindset with food are signs of an intuitive eater.
So then the question is... if I'm not eating based on the rules and "shoulds" I've created for myself... how do I know what to eat and when?
Well....let me ask you this:
How do you decide when to pee?
How do you decide when to sleep?
Chances are, these experiences are governed by your body sensations and your body's needs.
The goal is for your body to also be in charge of telling you when it wants to eat, when it wants to exercise, what and how much it wants to eat, etc. Before you can do this though, you'll need to slowly start challenging and quieting the rules playing in your mind.
3. Ask yourself "What sounds good right now?"
Being able to experience satisfaction and pleasure while eating are huge indicators of a healthy relationship with food.
If you want to jump off the diet-train, one of the first things you need to do is start learning what foods you actually enjoy! What foods sit well with your body? What foods satisfy different cravings? What foods make you go "Mmmmm oh my goshhhhhh this is delicious."
When deciding what to eat, consider:
Your hunger level. Do you need energy? Need soothing? Need a full meal or a snack?
What are you in the mood for? What textures and flavors sound good right now?
How do certain foods feel in your body?
When you enjoy your food and it feels satisfying, you're less likely to have obsessive thoughts before, during, and after your dining experience.
As the word suggests, when you're satisfied... you're satisfied. You don't need more. You don't feel deprived. You don't feel like you just ate an inadequate substitute or replacement for the food you actually wanted.
This one can take some time to really implement and get comfortable with, but the best place to start is by asking yourself "What sounds good right now?" before meals!
If you're more of a DIY person and want to get more tools in your toolbox TODAY, download my free guide below! 👇