Health At Every Size

You Deserve To Feel Nourished

March 7, 2024

Are you ready to ditch diet culture?

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I'm Michelle — health coach for women who want to escape diet culture and find the health they deserve.

Meet Michelle

When I reflect back on my own journey towards a more attuned and intuitive way of eating, what’s really struck me is how this has really trickled into every other aspect of my life. I have become more mindful at work, more aware of my body’s needs during long days at the computer, and I’ve become more present and connected in my relationships. 

I truly believe that these positive changes all boil down to one thing: taking time to pause and tune into what my body really needs. This is the basis of changing our relationship with food. This is how we begin to stop looking at food and our body as the enemy and start understanding that we are entitled to nourish our bodies in the way that they need to be nourished.

To help me dig into how we can balance this need to care for our bodies with the very busy lives that most of us have as women, I recently invited registered dietitian and integrative health coach Maura Rodgers to chat with me on this topic. She shared her non-diet approach to empowering individuals to achieve healthier, more vibrant lives. And today, I want to give you our thoughts around the pervasive shame and guilt ingrained in diet culture, and why we are advocating for a shift toward self-compassion and fearlessness in embracing the joys of true nourishment.

Food is Not the Enemy

Maura’s upbringing instilled in her a deep love for food. Food was something her family  was very intentional about enjoying and celebrating. Sadly, as she grew older, Maura realized that many people don’t share the same positive relationship with food.

It’s so disheartening because I truly believe food should be enjoyable. But in today’s fast-paced world, it’s often seen as a hassle or something that gets in the way of us having the bodies we want or the lives that we want.

We can’t deny that food is complicated. It’s something that we have to interact with every single day. It’s something that our body needs to live but it also takes on a lot of other meanings as we grow into adulthood. And I think the media and the dieting industry have convinced us to believe that:

  1. We’re not good enough as we are and need to be smaller in order to be accepted, loved or appreciated, and
  2. Food is something that is not on our side and is something we should use to punish ourselves and to restrict

In my work, I’ve seen people struggle with extremes in eating habits, swinging between strict diets and guilt-driven overeating. It’s exhausting, it’s overwhelming, and metabolically it’s a lot for your body to go through. 

But it is okay to love food. It is okay to celebrate food. Food is actually one of the most beautiful gifts you can give your body every single day and the nutrients that are embedded within our food are literally life-changing. Once you start to realize how powerful nutrition is in your body and that it should taste good at the same time, that is when you get a true recipe for success. 

Reconnecting with Your Body

Even though busy women may struggle to find time for themselves, eating intentionally can make a big difference in how we feel. By seeing meals as moments of calm and pleasure, we can transform our relationship with food and improve our overall well-being. Because it is the ultimate form of self-care when we feed ourselves in appropriate ways when we’re hungry and need nourishment.

But when we’re constantly bombarded with ideas about what we should or shouldn’t eat, it can feel overwhelming to even begin changing our approach to food. And so instead of trying to overhaul everything at once, Maura encourages small, gradual changes over time, which is much more powerful and sustainable.

Maura shared how checking in with yourself before eating can be a great place to start. Before sitting down to a meal, try asking yourself, “How hungry am I on a scale of one to ten?” When you have more of an understanding of your hunger level, it will help guide your food choices and how much you eat. This is a fantastic way to begin listening to your body’s signals rather than external rules.

Keeping a food journal can also be helpful. For example, you could note down the times of day when you’re hungry, have cravings, or feel vulnerable around food. But it’s important to approach these moments with compassion, and let go of self-criticism in order to fully understand the emotional and situational factors influencing your eating habits.

For example, many women find themselves overeating in the evenings after a busy day. It’s often a time for relaxation and self-care, and people often associate that with indulging in comfort foods. By recognizing these patterns and addressing the underlying needs driving them, we can begin to make more mindful choices about food.

Removing Morality from Food

When we attach morality to food choices and  label certain foods as “good” or “bad,” we set ourselves up for self-criticism and guilt when we indulge in what we’ve deemed as “forbidden.” 

And that’s why food neutrality is so important. If you can come to a place where it’s fine if you eat an apple and it’s fine if you eat a candy bar, then the candy bars don’t have that power over you anymore. Their power comes from you denying yourself access to them. But sometimes a candy bar is exactly what you need in that moment. By assigning good and bad language to food, you’re so much more inclined to feel out of control, instead of being the boss and making that decision from within. 

The Ripple Effects of Intuitive Eating

Embarking on a new journey towards better health can often bring feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. There’s the fear that it might just be another failed attempt, wasting yet more time, money, and energy. But when we align our desires and habits with our goals and intentions, you’ll start to see so many aspects of your life clicking into place.

For example, you might find yourself sleeping better, waking up more energized, and feeling motivated throughout the day. The more you listen to yourself, the more you shake up those old beliefs and that old relationship with food and can start to reconnect and find new approaches that work for you.

When I first start working with women, it’s common for them to struggle to identify their own needs and desires simply because they’ve been disconnected for so long. Diet culture has silenced the voice inside us that screams for nourishment, rest, movement, and care.

But when you start to listen to your body and act according to its needs, something remarkable happens. Your body recognizes that you’re paying attention, and that you trust it. This creates a positive feedback loop where you start to feel good about the choices you make and it becomes a beautiful cycle of self-care and empowerment.

There’s immense pressure from the dieting industry and society to lose weight, but it’s essential to prioritize your own well-being and the life you want to live. Self-care goes beyond just food—it encompasses all aspects of our lives. And it starts with asking yourself: “What do I really want?”

As women, we are so socialized to prioritize others’ needs over our own. But by answering that question and prioritizing self-care, you give yourself the gift of sustainable growth and success. You can pursue your ambitions and juggle multiple roles without sacrificing your health and well-being.  It’s about being intentional with your time and aligning your actions with what truly matters to you—your body’s needs, your mental health, your career, and your relationships. 

Compassion is Key

As we progress on this journey towards a more attuned and intuitive relationship with food,  let’s also remember the power of compassion. Being kind to ourselves in moments of struggle allows us to learn and grow, ultimately leading to greater resilience and well-being. We’re human, after all—ups and downs are inevitable, but by embracing them with gentleness, we can move forward with strength and purpose.

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