Eating during the holidays is about enjoying good food, company, and traditions. But does the thought of holiday eating provoke feelings of guilt or shame for you? Are there too many holiday "food police" at your gathering? Wouldn't it be nice to banish the nutrition commentary and the latest diet fads from your table?
Would you like to be able to savour every bite and let go of the fight against food and your body? As cheesy as it sounds - this is the gift that keeps on giving. I see countless women and men who grew up in households with dieting parents who have spent years on diets. Some of my clients started to feel the need to restrict what they ate and change their bodies at the age of 6 years old. Unfortunately, some of them have gone on to develop disordered eating or eating disorders. But they can find peace with food.
As my gift to you this season, and generations of you to come, I created "Your Holiday Intuitive Eating Guide." Whether you are new to intuitive eating or a seasoned intuitive eater (which we all were at some point) this guide will provide you with lots of helpful tips about taking a non-diet approach to the holiday. If you haven't given yourself permission to let go of guilt and shame about eating then this guide will give you that permission so you can get back to what the holidays are truly about for you.
In this free guide I walk you through each principle of Intuitive Eating and how to it relates to holiday eating. As an added bonus each principle includes a quote from one of my 10 favourite non-diet professionals (dietitians, social workers, and body image coaches) throughout Ontario and Quebec!
Intuitive eating is not about throwing caution to the wind with your health or the "whatever diet" or the "hunger/fullness diet." Evelyn Tribole, one of the creators of Intuitive Eating describes it as "a dynamic interplay between mind and body. Essentially, [it] is a personal process of listening and responding to the direct messages of your body in order to get your physical and psychological needs met."
I hope you enjoy this guide - download it here and feel free to share! Happy holidays!
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When I was a kid I used to love the variety of treats and the fun of sorting and trading candy, but sometimes now I worry about those little teeth and all the sugar and food colouring! However, as an Intuitive Eating & Eating Disorder Dietitian who works with adults to help them heal their relationship with food I know that food policing or restricting my child's candy may cause harm to their own eating habits (Evidence here, here & here). So let's take a look at how to handle Halloween candy night 1 until the last bite is gone.
As a parent, I try my best to follow the Division of Responsibility in Feeding outlined by feeding expert and Registered Dietitian Ellyn Satter. This model emphasizes that both parent and child both play a role in feeding. The parents' role is to decide when, where and what to eat – through structured mealtimes and satiating balanced meals. The child's role is to decide if they will eat and how much. Sounds simple right? Sort of. But let me explain – we are born with innate hunger and fullness cues. These cues tell us when to eat and when to stop eating. Just like our bodies tell us when we need to go to the bathroom, and when to go to sleep. If we can foster this awareness in our children and trust them to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full then we will allow them to continue to be intuitive eaters. Contact Suzanne if you'd like to learn more this.
My 3-year-old is most excited about wearing his Batman costume so we will let him show it off and cap that at 45-60 minutes. If the excitement is about the costumes then focus on that! My seven year, on the other hand, is quite different - the other day he stated: “I want to stay out till 3 am on Halloween so I can get so much candy!” So because this is a school night and we want to save time for all the sorting and enjoying the candy, he'll be out for 60-90minutes. This way there is less candy collected (but still an adequate amount) and still the freedom to enjoy what they collect.
Besides reminding my kids to discard any packaging that might be open and help my oldest (with food severe food allergies) read food labels to avoid his allergens I provide no further food comments. Food policing what is in what food or how bad a treat is for their health will take the fun away. Do you like people policing your food when you have a treat? Likely not, you want to enjoy it!
Yes – a dietitian said that - not just myself but Feeding Expert Ellyn Satter, RD as well! Before we go trick or treating I offer them a balanced meal and skip the dessert. When the loot comes in I let them trust their hunger and fullness cues and eat as many treats until bedtime – brushing and flossing mandatory! They are being curious, eating things they know they love and trying new things perhaps too as we would encourage with all foods. They might overeat – but it is Halloween, this is not an everyday affair.
If your child eats to the point of uncomfortable fullness and does not feel well, try not to be judgmental. You can ask “why do you think your belly feels like that?” or share a personal experience of what you notice about your body eg. “when I eat lots of treats sometimes I need to go to the bathroom a lot, I don't like the way that feels so I just eat a few at a time.” This way you are allowing your child to notice what happens when they nourish themselves this way but not shaming them about their decision to indulge. This is pre-training for other special occasions, buffet dinners and all-you-can-eat events down the road.
As the parent, let them pick a couple of treats for their snack and/or dessert. If we restrict and put too many limits on this, research tells us that this can lead to a higher desire to want these foods (Evidence here, & here & here).
Do you restrict Halloween candy or other foods from your life? I have many clients that have a love-hate relationship with food and their bodies. Some of them cringe at the thought of having so much candy in the house. Many have been on the diet roller coaster for years, often in pursuit of changing their weight, while science demonstrates that dieting leads to future weight gain for most. If you feel you would like to get off this roller coaster then contact Suzanne. Dieting often involves tricking our bodies into telling it what it needs and doesn't, denying it's need for balance, variety, adequate quantity and pleasure foods. But we can't trick our bodies, they fight back through complex hormonal systems in order to protect and nourish themselves.
I have heard of parents attempts to reduce their children's candy intake by using the switch witch or offering a nickel for every candy. If children prefer toys or money then that makes sense, but if not, then what is the main motivation behind this offer? To me, this does not honour building the child's capacity to trust their hunger and fullness cues. As a parent, by role-modelling that I enjoy treats, as well as satiating balanced meals and snacks I demonstrate an “all foods fit attitude,” rather than a restrict and binge approach. Parents eating habits and attitudes, as well as dissatisfaction regarding body image, are greatly modelled by children (Evidence here, & here). So let your kids enjoy the costumes, candy, and all the spookiness that Halloween has to offer. This will help them grow into competent eaters who trust their body cues rather than trick them.
A love-hate relationship with food can be stifling. Is this how you would describe yours? Intuitive Eating, described as "freeing" by many of my clients is a way to make peace with food. Designed by two Registered Dietitians – Elyse Resch & Evelyne Tribole, over 20 years ago, it is now gaining great popularity. Their intention, however, was not for it to become a fad diet but a sustainable way of eating. Let's discuss what it is.
Intuitive Eating is based on a non-diet approach to health. Unlike many diet plans, it encourages people to put their weight loss goals on the back burner, and instead focus on functional health. Maybe being able to tie your shoes easier, carry a heavy pot of food to the table or even play longer outside with your kids are examples of functional health for you or something else? This may seem daunting to you but weight does not determine health.
Reject The Diet Mentality - focus on sustainable eating
Honour Your Hunger - learn how to understand your body's innate hunger cues
Make Peace With Food - learn how to give yourself unconditional permission to eat
Challenge The Food Police - they exist internally and externally - but are unnecessary
Respect Your Fullness - learn how to understand your body's innate fullness cues
Discover The Satisfaction Factor - eat to feel satiated rather than solely meet nutrition requirements
Honour Your Feelings Without Using Food
Respect Your Body - learn to respect or honour your genetic blueprint for size
Exercise - Feel The Difference - movement for fun and pleasure to burn off your last supper
Honour Your Health - Through Gentle Nutrition - move away from rigid eating rules and enjoy food
Research has demonstrated that Intuitive Eaters have better body satisfaction, reduced overeating and psychological stress, improved cardiovascular risks and blood lipids.
The goal of intuitive eating is to work towards normal eating, which can be joyful, whether healing from disordered eating, chronic dieting or after recovery from an eating disorder. Listening to many stories of clients who struggle with the heart-wrenching diet cycle for years, I am happy I have been able to offer this approach for the past 5 years. Contact me if you'd like to learn more about this evidence-based approach from a Dietitian passionate, educated and experienced in ending your stifling relationship with food.