Intuitive Eating and Deprivation: AKA Why You’re Still Bingeing

Intuitive eating can feel like a big leap of faith, but what happens when you start and it just feels like you’re failing over and over again? What happens when the bingeing, the main thing that the intuitive eating was supposed to cure, just won’t stop?

So, pro-tip: intuitive eating is never simple. If you’ve ventured onto to this path hoping that healing your relationship with food will help stop your binges for good, don’t worry, it will… eventually.

Because that’s the thing with intuitive eating. There are some kinks to work out first.

But let’s back up a second and establish a few things, namely this golden rule: bingeing is a response to restriction. Full stop. Bingeing is your body’s way of catching up when you prevent it from gaining its sustenance. And that restriction, that physical deprivation you are inflicting on yourself, it accumulates over time. So one week of restricting, one month, one year… when you finally hit recovery road, that’s gonna come back to bite you, full force.

Now, the second truth we need to be clear on: restriction is both physical and mental in nature. When you restrict physically, there are repercussions. And when you restrict mentally, there are the same repercussions. Don’t think that just because you ate the candy bar, you’re home free and clear. How did you feel when you ate the candy bar? Is there guilt associated with the fear food? What would it have been like if you’d eaten multiple candy bars? Are there still good and bad labels attached to these foods? Are you giving yourself full, unconditional permission to eat?

That’s a lot of questions there; a lot of things you have to get straight before intuitive eating can even begin to impact your bingeing behavior. Intuitive eating can heal your relationship with food, but it takes a lot of leg work. You have to unlearn diet culture in all its forms, and see the subtle ways in which you hold onto that garbage. And you have to let your body let go of the deprivation mindset, both physical and mental, and allow it to catch up with all the damage that’s been done in the past.

So if you’re still bingeing, don’t panic. Instead, assess the situation. Are you making up for lost time? Probably. Are there nutrients your body needs because you’ve been limiting your food choices? I’m sure. Are you still regarding food with fear, rather than unconditional permission and non-judgmental curiosity? Most likely. Are you engaging in subtle deprivation? It’s doubtful that you aren’t.

Change the answers to these questions, and then ask yourself if you still feel like you’re failing.

(originally published on Erica Leon’s Eat Live Nourish blog)

Doing Intuitive Eating When You Still Want Weight Loss

“Fears of weight gain lead some people to turn intuitive eating into another diet.” – Erica Leon

Chasing after weight loss will only derail your food peace efforts.

Desire for weight loss is SO normal in our society, and fear of weight gain is completely understandable. We’re steeped in fatphobia, and we live in a culture where people are systemically discriminated against because of their size. It makes sense that you don’t want to be fat!

Be here’s the thing… fatness isn’t actually bad! We live in a world that perpetuates this falsehood, and we need to do the hard work to debunk this myth on a societal level. But before we do that, we need to put weight loss on the back burner for ourselves.

If we truly want to make peace with our bodies and with food, we have to put down our fight against fat.

Intuitive eating is a process that can result in weight gain, weight loss, or weight stabilization, and there is ZERO way to know which way your body will turn out! If you go into intuitive eating hoping it’ll make you skinny, it’ll prevent you from finding the healing you seek. Put the weight loss goal down. I get why you want it, I really do! But it has to be taken off of its pedestal, and the priority needs to be your mental wellness instead. Whatever happens with your body will happen, and eventually, if you really put in the work to find that peace, you may even come to a place where your size truly doesn’t matter to you anymore.

(originally published on Erica Leon’s Eat Live Nourish blog)

How to Be Anti-Diet in a Diet Culture World

Being “anti-diet” is counter-cultural!

When I think about what it takes to maintain my anti-diet truth in this diet culture world, I get really, really mad. I get mad that I have to put in so much effort to protect myself from the world that I live in, and to protect my own mental health and my recovery.

And I know that we all feel this struggle and frustration. One of my favorite quotes on the topic is from a wonderful colleague of Erica’s:

“We’re trying to recover in a world that hasn’t yet recovered itself.” – Julie Duffy Dillon

And it’s so, so true. Our world is stuck in it’s own eating disorder, normalizing restriction and stigmatizing fat bodies left and right. We have to reassure ourselves every single day that this path, this one that healed us and has guided us away from chronic weight cycling and being absolutely miserable, is in fact the path we need to be on. Diet culture makes us second guess ourselves, and I am tired of it.

So what do we do? Well, I’ve got some ideas…

(Inspired and influenced by Joanne Soolman’s lecture in the Fat Activism Conference 2017)

  1. Stay connected to your community: Whether it’s online or in person, be sure you have a group of people that you can reach out to when something inevitably comes up to trigger those diet-culture thoughts. Weight gain, a doctor’s visit, feeling out of control or like the exploration part of intuitive eating is never going to end… these are all examples of triggers that might make you think, just for a second, about going back to diets. When this happens, don’t spin out! Reach out to that trusted community, and find your support network. Going home for the weekend or holidays and have fat-shaming family members to contend with? Keep a friend on stand-by, and know that they will be there when the going gets inevitably tough.

  2. Keep your science at the ready: Arming yourself with knowledge is key here. It’s not your job to educate anyone, but I know that I always feel better going into intellectually hostile territory if I’ve got my facts straight. So check out Health at Every Size research, be sure to look through Linda Bacon’s archives, and even print out some resources to throw down with if you know you’re going to be up against some hard heads. And remember, honestly, you probably won’t convince anyone of anything. People have invested a lot of time and money into diet culture, and telling them that they wasted it all is going to create some animosity. But knowing the science in and out isn’t really about convincing them; it’s about you knowing that YOU know what’s true, and that their shoddy science doesn’t hold a candle to all the truths you’re truthing.

  3. Change up that newsfeed… like, yesterday: Surround yourself with diverse images. Immerse your social media feeds in different body shapes, sizes, colors, gender expression, styles, etc. Research shows that looking at images of different sized bodies actually alters your brain, and allows you to view those bodies as attractive. Seriously, looking at diverse representations of people actually changes the way you perceive beauty. Cool, right? And this tool is super important, because it ultimately helps with your own body acceptance and internalized fatphobia. And tackling both of those mammoths will, in the end, help arm you against waffling into the diet culture bull.

(originally published on Erica Leon’s Eat Live Nourish blog)

Nope, Food Addiction Isn’t a Real Thing

Yup, I said it, and I’m standing by it. And believe me, I’m not the only one saying so! In fact, there’s a ton of RDs, nutritionists, and researchers out there debunking the “food addiction” science all day, every day… and really, they do it much better than me. But here are some of the basics that even someone allergic to science (like me) can swallow:

Food addiction posits that food lights up the pleasure centers of the brain, which means that food elicits a pleasure response, similar to that of drugs.

Sugar, in particular, has been a target of this specific claim, and researchers suggest that because sugar creates a similar pleasure response in the brain, it could have the same addictive qualities as drugs.

But you know what the food addiction research doesn’t make sure to point out?? Food might light of the pleasure centers of our brain (like heroin or cocaine), but so does laughing, holding your baby, and so many other regular human things. Has anyone accused you of being addicted to laughing? No, because laughing, unlike fat bodies, isn’t stigmatized.

Also, there’s a reason food is rewarding in our brains! Food is supposed to be pleasurable!!!! It keeps us alive!

Also, consider this: food addiction research illustrates that highly palatable foods (think sugar, salt, fat) seem to light up our pleasure centers more aggressively.

But we also know that deprivation makes the pleasure response more intense… which means that any dieter (AKA all people on planet earth who live in diet culture world, like us!) is going to have an intense pleasure response to something like sugar. And there is no food addiction research out there right now that controls for deprivation!

So in short, you’re not addicted to food, but dieting makes you think you are. So stop dieting, and start living!

(originally posted on Erica Leon’s Eat Live Nourish blog)

Finding the Gray: When Intuitive Eating and Eating Disorder Recovery Aren’t So Black & White

There’s a common refrain in intuitive eating and eating disorder recovery work: when am I going to be done?

There’s this enduring idea that there’s an end point; an event or moment that you can look at and say, “Hey, here’s where it all was fixed!” But recovery and intuitive eating work isn’t like that. In fact, I would say life isn’t like that. Not one bit.

Instead, recovery and intuitive eating are non-linear processes. Your journey throughout will have you bouncing up and down on the very long and complicated spectrum of eating behaviors. You will go back and forth, stress and life events and any other number of things influencing how you’re experiencing the process.

And none of it is wrong. You are not doing anything wrong.

This is a process of gray. Not sick to healthy; not emotional eating to hunger and fullness; not bad to good.

There’s another way in which this dichotomous thinking gets us into trouble in this process. When we are recovering from disordered eating or chronic dieting, it’s easy to think that we want to have a positive relationship with food and our body. It makes sense. We are grappling with such a negative experience, that all we want is the opposite. Of course that’s what we want.

But is that really what we need? Is going to the other side of the spectrum actually helpful? Or is it just replicating the issue, the other side of the same coin?

Is neutrality really what we should be striving for instead?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for body love if you’re in a place where you can find it. And I’m all for being a foodie and rediscovering a love of the culinary arts. I think that finding that love and passion and exuberance is a part of the process. But at the end of the day, what I really want, is just for food and my body not to matter so much. I want to find that gray; I want to find that neutrality.

Don’t you?

(originally published on Erica Leon’s Eat Live Nourish blog)