mindful eating

Healthy at Every Size, Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating: What’s the difference? Our Yale St. Therapy expert Cori Rosenthal explains 3 useful non diet approaches.

johannes-plenio-282234-unsplash.jpg

Ashley, Shira and I, (the Yale Street Trio) were talking about the differences between Healthy at Every Size or HAESⓇ Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating. For Ashley and Shira these concepts are relatively new.   Having spent decades hating my body and wishing it were different, this is a topic that I am extremely passionate about.

I began dieting in the 7th grade, but no matter how hard I tried I ALWAYS regained the weight and usually gained a bit extra.  I finally decided I couldn’t do the diet thing anymore. It was destroying my health and my self-esteem. My non diet journey began with Mindful Eating and skeptically moved toward the principles of Intuitive Eating.   When I discovered Healthy at Every Size it was the final piece to the puzzle I had struggled with since childhood. Our culture is consumed by the number on the scale but consistent healthy behavior is likely a better measure of health than the morning weigh in.  

I know all of these concepts can become confused with one another and are not quiet in the mainstream culture, so I’m providing a simple explanation of each here.

What is Healthy at Every Size?

Healthy at Every Size or HAESⓇ began as a book by Linda Bacon.  Since that book it has grown to a movement that encompasses dieticians, therapists, physicians, and activists.  The Association for Size Diversity and Health or ASDAH is a nonprofit committed to the principles of HAESⓇ.   The ASDAH website lists the following principles:

  1. Weight inclusivity.  Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.

  2. Health Enhancement: Support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services, and personal practices that improve human well-being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs.

  3. Respectful Care: Acknowledge our biases, and work to end weight discrimination, weight stigma, and weight bias. Provide information and services from an understanding that socioeconomic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities impact weight stigma, and support environments that address these inequities.

  4. Eating for Well-being: Promote flexible, individualized eating based on hunger, satiety, nutritional needs, and pleasure, rather than any externally regulated eating plan focused on weight control.

  5. Life-Enhancing Movement: Support physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose.

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is an awareness practice that relates to food, hunger, the emotions, thoughts, and body sensations associated with eating.  Mindful eaters use all of their senses to eat foods that are nourishing and satisfying, noticing, their likes, and dislikes without judgement.  Mindful eating is a practice that can encompass meal planning, meal preparation, eating and clean up. These practices can help you tune into your bodies natural hunger and satiety cues and help you be present when you eat.  Mindful eating is a practice that can support a healthy relationship between food and your body.

Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating is a book, workbook and program created by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole.  Mindful eating is a component of intuitive eating. The foundation of the program are the following ten principles:

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality.  95% of people who diet regain their weight within 5 years and 66% of those people end up weighing then they did when they started the diet.  The cost of losing and gaining weight repeatedly is a greater risk for diseases like diabetes and heart disease and a loss of self-esteem with increases in anxiety and depression.

  2. Honor your Hunger.  Eating when you are hungry is essential to avoid triggering your bodies  natural reaction to overeat.

  3. Make Peace with Food.  Stop depriving yourself of foods you label as “bad” because food labeling and feeling deprived is usually a set up for overeating those foods and then feeling guilty.  There is another way.

  4. Challenge the Food Police.  The food police are all the food rules you learned from family or the culture than now run as a tape in your head.

  5. Respect your Fullness

  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor.  When you eat what you want in a pleasing environment, the pleasure you derive can support you to feel satisfied and contented.

  7. Honor your feelings without using food.

  8. Respect Your Body.  Bodies come in all shapes and sizes and unfortunately we are not all predisposed to be a size 2, 4 or even 6.  Respecting and accepting that fact can help you to feel better about yourself.

  9. Exercise to feel good.  When we exercise only to lose weight we are likely to become motivated or unmotivated by a number o the scale.   Exercising to feel good is ultimately more sustainable.

  10. Honor your health or what is called gentle nutrition. You can honor both your taste buds and your health, knowing that for most of us one meal will not determine our overall health.  The goal is progress, not perfection.

Mindful eating, intuitive eating and Healthy at Every Size all provide an opportunity to leave behind dieting and the diet culture to create a healthier relationship between food, your body and the world around you.  All three of these practices / philosophies are complementary and work together toward a healthier relationship, not only with your own body but all bodies. For more information check out the books I mentioned above and come back to our Yale Street Therapy blog.

Overcoming Body Shaming: Q & A with Cori Rosenthal, LMFT

davide-ragusa-349106-unsplash.jpg

This month Evenflow Mindfulness & Meditation is releasing a special series on Overcoming Body Shaming. We interviewed Cori on several aspects of this complex subject.

In one of your meditations in the Body Shaming series you talk about “feeling fat” as a catch all for all kinds of uncomfortable feelings.  Can you say more about this? How do we parse out and attend to the complex feelings that get bundled up in to “feeling fat.’?

Feeling fat is shorthand we often use for uncomfortable emotions and body sensations.  It makes sense when we talk about feeling bloated after a big meal, but when we use this shorthand for describing emotions we are not addressing our actual  emotions. It’s important to slow down, turn within and ask what else you are feeling in those moments. Initially it may be difficult to know, but in time and with practice you can better ascertain how you are feeling and what you need to appropriately soothe yourself in that moment.
Can you tell us what the difference is between intuitive eating and mindful eating?It seems like there is some overlap.

Mindful eating is paying attention and engaging the senses in the process of eating.  Mindful eaters listen to hunger and satiety cues to know when to eat, what to eat and how much to eat.  Mindful eating does not place judgement on what you eat. You can mindfully eat a piece of cake as easily as a bowl of fruit. Intuitive eating incorporates mindful eating within it’s principles but actually goes much farther.  The goal of intuitive eating is to help people stop dieting and make peace with food and their bodies. This goal is achieved through 10 principles:

  • rejecting the diet culture

  • honoring your hunger

  • making peace with food by giving yourself unconditional permission to eat to overcome the deprivation cycle

  • challenge the food police declaring foods are good and bad and you are good or bad when you eat them;

  • respecting your body signals that you are no longer hungry

  • eat what you really want in an inviting environment

  • honor your feelings without using food

  • respect your body and accept that everyone is not built to be a particular body size anymore than we are all intended to wear the same shoe size

  • exercise because of how it feels to move your body and not because you will burn calories; honor your health and taste buds.    

One of the tenets of intuitive eating is to reject the diet mentality altogether.  How can you do that when you’ve spent most of your adolescence and adult life “watching your weight?”

First you have to want to reject the diet mentality.  Despite the fact that 95% of people who go on diets regain their weight and at least ½ gain additional weight, the diet industry is a multi-billion dollar business in the US.  Rejecting diet culture also includes rejecting the temptation to have conversations with friends about the latest weight loss solution. It also includes letting go of all the hopes and dreams you pinned to your weight loss goals.  

Letting go requires mindfulness, patience and compassion for yourself and others.  Mindfulness will allow you to notice diet language such as labeling food as good or bad or fantasizing about the perfect relationship or job will appear if only you are thinner.  Patience because you are attempting to change your relationship with food and your body and that takes time. You will have many pitfalls on that journey. Self-compassion because you are letting go of something familiar and even comfortable. Compassion for others because we are all negatively impacted by the diet culture.

Let’s say you have to watch your weight and your diet because you have a health condition--perhaps you’re diabetic or have high cholesterol.  How can you modify the intuitive eating approach to address that kind of situation?

The great news is that you do not have to modify the intuitive eating approach to honor your health requirements.  Intuitive eating asks that you reject dieting for the purpose of weight loss because focusing on that goal is ineffective 95% of the time.  This is not the same as monitoring glucose levels. I do not eat dairy because it upsets my stomach and eating it does not honor my body. It does not feel like deprivation, it feels like you are nurturing yourself and honoring your body. Not eating ice cream because it is fattening is deprivation.  If someone wants to incorporate the principles of intuitive eating while tending to their specific health needs, a dietitian trained in intuitive eating can be very helpful.

 If you’re in a larger size body and want to date, do you have any tips for dealing with insecurity around body size?  
Our culture is not very forgiving for people in larger bodies and the dating world is no different. There is definitely a stigma around weight and I don’t want to minimize the experience of dating in this kind of climate.  And yet there are millions of people with “ larger bodies” who find people to love them for who they are. Perhaps the biggest challenge in dating is beginning with accepting ourselves as we are-- and trusting that there is so much more to who we are than our body  size. And that is true no matter what clothing size you wear.