Escaping the Traps of Diet Culture Through Intuitive Eating
If you’re currently struggling with body image issues, disordered eating or are feeling the weight of diet culture’s unrealistic standards, pause and consider how long you’re willing to continue that cycle. Look back on all of the years that you’ve struggled with it all. And how many more years lay ahead of you.
Then, opt out. Obviously it’s not easy and it could take years and years of work but it’s a heck of a lot better than the alternative. It also means you’ll be opting into a lifestyle of respecting your body and fueling it properly. It means you’ll have more energy for running, for momming, for life.
One route that many mom runners are pursuing on their path toward opting out of diet culture is intuitive eating.
Kayla Fitzgerald, a Registered Dietician Nutritionist and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor joins this episode to help us explore the principles of intuitive eating and how they may be of use to all of us runner moms. Kayla received a bachelors of science degree in Dietetics from Kansas State University and completed her Dietetic Internship at the Medical University of South Carolina where she worked as a Clinical Dietitian. She is now the co-owner of Nutrition Rites where she specializes in Intuitive Eating, Medical Nutrition Therapy, Sports, Allergies, and General Nutrition.
In this episode, Kayla explores the principles of intuitive eating, offers actionable tips to help mom runners tune out the damaging messages of diet culture, provides crucial advice for helping our kids grow up as intuitive eaters and much more.
Connect with Kayla:
- Instagram: @intuitive.athlete.nutrition
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nutritionrites
- Website: https://www.nutritionrites.com/
Check out the Runner Moms Coffee Collection! The Coffee Collection is a celebration of our community and of your strength as a mom runner. The collection includes three unique roasts that were created in collaboration with a local roasterie that upholds the highest standards in coffee roasting and takes great care in where they source the beans for their roasts.
The three roasts included in the Runner Moms collections are:
Rise and Run: A light and warming roast to fuel your running journey.
Sole Sisters: A smooth and inviting roast to enjoy with your best running friend.
Strong as a Mother: A bold and complex roast. Just like you, momma.
Shop now and read the full story behind our coffee collection, including sourcing details and producer stories on our website. A portion of all proceeds from the shop will be donated to provide shoes for youth in need.
Shop the Runner Moms Coffee Collection: https://runnermoms.com/shop/
Explore the Runner Moms recipes: https://runnermoms.com/recipes/
Welcome to the Runner Moms Podcast where we help women embrace their inner strength, take time for themselves and lead healthier lives. So, settle in and soak up some inspiration. Then rise, lace up those running shoes and embrace your inner strength because, momma, you run this world.
Welcome to episode 17 of the Runner Moms podcast! I’m Shayla, your host and founder of the Runner Moms community. Thanks so much for tuning in. I’m super excited to introduce today’s guest and to jump into our topic but, before that, I have a quick request. If you’re enjoying the show and are finding value in the content, I’d greatly appreciate if you could take a quick moment and leave a review through your Apple podcast player. Leaving a review is just a quick way to give back to the shows you love and it will help immensely in helping other mom runners find this content and join our community.
Now, on to the good stuff.
If you’ve been following along with the show for a while now, you may have recognized a few recurring themes around body image issues, disordered eating and diet culture from many of the show’s guests. I too have struggled with these things. What helped me begin to make a lasting shift in my mindset though was a thought that randomly struck me one day as I was criticizing my body in the mirror. That thought was, “This cycle is never going to end.” As that thought rose in my mind, I paused and thought back on allllll the years that I had criticized myself for not having a flat enough stomach or for eating fruit snacks when I should have been eating fruit or for how I wasn’t able to maintain some fictitious ideal weight or blah blah blah and on and on and on. Then I considered alllll of the years that lay in front of me to keep repeating the cycle and the criticisms over and over and over.
If I didn’t actively try to change my thought patterns and my mindset around eating, I would always, for the rest of my life, feel bad about something I ate or about never being quite thin enough because that’s what diet culture had taught me to believe I should be doing.
So, I’ve been opting out. Opting out of diet culture and restricting my foods, opting out of constantly weighing myself and always criticizing my body. The issues aren’t fully resolved but I’ve made progress. Even more, I have more energy and happiness in my life for my family, for running and for all of the other things that I love.
Through that process of opting out, an approach that I’ve encountered a lot is intuitive eating. In reading through the intuitive eating principles and learning more about the overall approach, I think it can bring a lot of value not only to me personally but also to the Runner Moms community.
To help us explore the principles of intuitive eating and how they may be of use to all of us, I’ve brought Kayla Fitzgerald on the mic. Kayla is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. She received a bachelors of science degree in Dietetics from Kansas State University and completed her Dietetic Internship at the Medical University of South Carolina where she worked as a Clinical Dietitian. She is now the co-owner of Nutrition Rites where she specializes in Intuitive Eating, Medical Nutrition Therapy, Sports, Allergies, and General Nutrition.
Whether this is the first time you’ve heard about the concept of intuitive eating or you’ve heard a little about it and want to learn more, I think you’re going to get a lot out of today’s conversation. So, with that, let’s welcome Kayla from Nutrition Rites to the show.
Well, welcome to the Runner Moms podcast Kayla. I’m so excited to have you on the show and to bring this important conversation forward to the Runner Moms community. So, thank you for being here today.
Thank you so much for having me! I’m excited to be here.
Yeah! This is going to be a great conversation. So, to start, could you tell the Runner Moms community a bit about yourself both at a professional level and then maybe a few more personal details as well?
Yeah, absolutely. So, professionally, I always knew I wanted to be a registered dietician and went to school for that. Got my degree. Got placed in the internship. All actually while being a mom. I was and I think still am, the only mom. I was the first and only mom to complete the internship that I did. So, that was pretty cool. Then, from there, they hired me actually before I even graduated the internship. So, I graduated on a Saturday and started working there on a Monday. So, not a whole lot of time off. But, I was super thankful to have a job because, you know, you’re competing with all of the other people in your intership and there is not always a whole lot of jobs. So, I was definitely thankful for it.
I worked in a clinical setting for about a year. So, my main responsibilities were covering diabetes, gen med, family med, and I always covered the psyc hospital as well. But, I was kind of the person that loved everything. So, when people were out on maternity leave, I covered things like transplant, bariatric surgery, ICU. I’ve kind of covered a little bit of everything. So, that was a really cool experience.
Then, I had an opportunity to kind of switch gears and go into private practice with another dietician that I actually went to school with and had moved to the Charleston area. It was a big leap of faith going from having a steady income to going to private practice. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But, it has been great and I have loved it so far. I’ve actually added a second part time job. I’m now working at a gym as well. It has so far been amazing. It’s not what you typically see or think of when you hear nutrition in a gym and it’s kind of all counting macros and very physic oriented. They really wanted somebody that does intuitive eating, health at every size, changing habits for the rest of your life. So, when I saw that job listing, I was like, I don’t really need another job at the moment but this sounds amazing! So, I’m doing that right now as well.
Personally, I am a mom. I’ve got two kids. I’m married to a chef which everyone always thinks that means I eat really awesome food all of the time but he actually works a lot. So, I’m the one that does most of the cooking. We’ve got a 14 year old dog, three chickens, and we love to do anything outside. We do live in Charleston so we love being on the water whether it’s on the boat, stand up paddle boarding, fishing, whatever. And I am a runner. I started running after my second was born. So, I guess probably about 6 or 7 years. Before that, I honestly hated it. I did not like it at all. And after kids it was kind of a, alright, I don’t think I can pay for a gym membership and a babysitter. But, if I get some shoes, I can get up before everyone else and go out, have some time to myself. Started just going from there. It took me probably three months before I could run a mile without stopping. Now, I’m running ultras. So, it escalated kind of quickly. But I love it. Like I said, it’s kind of my time to do just something for me. So, that’s a little bit about me!
Oh, that’s awesome! Thank you for that background. And kind of going back to talking about being married to a chef, I imagine it’s probably similar to being married to a masseuse. You know, they say they’re always so tired by the end of the day. You never get your own massages.
Mmm-hmm. Absolutely. When he has a day off, it’s like, I’ve cooked all week. He has been a work cooking all week. So, nobody wants to cook. Every once in a while, he’ll pull out a really awesome meal and we love it. But, most of the time, it’s me doing the cooking.
So, we have chickens too. What type of chickens do you have?
Two of them are Rhode Island Reds and I can not remember what the other one is called. It was like a yellowish color when it was born and now it’s white.
Oh nice! Yeah, we have a few Rhode Island Reds too and then when the pandemic first started, we decided to get our kids, we call them fancy chickens. So, we have, we call the bobbleheads. They have a lot of feathers on top of their heads. They’re pretty fun.
I think everybody got some pets during the pandemic!
Yeah! I agree. Well, kind of transitioning to talking about the main topic for today’s conversation, intuitive eating, as a registered dietician, what initially sparked your interest in intuitive eating and in counseling your clients in intuitive eating?
Yeah, so, when I started in the private practice, because it wasn’t anything I had ever even heard about or thought about when I was in my clinical position. But after a couple of months of being in my private practice and seeing a lot of clients who, everybody’s goal was to lose weight and everybody was trying to track calories, track macros, you’re weighing everything, you’re measuring everything and just seeing the frustration that people were having with there. I was like, there has to be something better out there. This is horrible. These people were miserable. It was stressful for me as a provider because, if someone comes in and they’ve gained weight or they haven’t lost any weight, you know, it really, it puts a lot of stress and anxiety on me as the provider as well and it’s something that we don’t have a lot of control of but we’re kind of, it’s assumed that we have control over it.
I kind of started digging and stumbled across intuitive eating. Read a couple of things online and then transitioned to ordering the book and the workbook. Went through all of that. I loved it. I loved that it gives the client the control back. It gives the person going through it the empowerment to say, “My health is up to me. There is not this one size fits all that I have to fit in. I can decide what it is.” The healing of that relationship with food, mind and body that comes from it. I was like, this seems like a much better approach mentally and physically for people. After reading through the book and going through the workbook and everything, I kind of just started dabbling with it in sessions and would interject some principles here and there and would recommend that people read the book. After doing that for a few months and seeing just the shift in people’s emotions. Everybody was just so much happier. It seemed like there was just this burden lifted off of their shoulders.
That’s when I found out that they offered a couple of options to become certified. So, I went through that process of becoming a certified intuitive eating counselor and it was amazing. Definitely worth it. It was a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of money, but the knowledge that I gained and the skills that I gained from that absolutely are benefitting the people that I work with.
Oh, that’s amazing! So, for those listening who may be unfamiliar with intuitive eating, could you just give us a basic overview?
Yeah, absolutely. So, intuitive eating, first off, is not a diet. It is a self-care eating framework that was actually created by two dieticians. As a dietician myself, what I really love about it is that it is evidence based. So, it’s not just kind of this feel good thing that some people wrote a book about and whatever, it really is evidence based. So, there is over one hundred studies validating intuitive eating. The ultimate goal is really to heal that relationship with food, mind and body and it kind of works in two ways.
It helps cultivate attunement to the physical sensations that you get from your body and that helps us make sure that not only our biological needs are met but also our psychological needs are met. Then, it also helps with removing obstacles to reaching that attunement. So, that might come from some food rules or some distorted beliefs around food or body image. Some distorted thoughts. So, a lot of reframing work goes on there.
Then, there are 10 principles that kind of help guide the process along.
So, going back to your schooling to become a registered dietician, was any of those covered in school, or was this kind of a new concept that you were introduced to after you graduated?
That’s such a great question. There really was zero talk about it and it wasn’t just in the program that I was in. Anybody that, any of my dietician friends, none of us learned this. So, it wasn’t just like an institution-wide sort of thing. It was across the board, we’re not teaching this. We in school really learn calories in, calories out. We learn the science behind it. We learn the medical nutrition therapy side of things. But, there really was no talk in school about anything intuitive eating. So, that’s something that I hope to see change in the future because it’s definitely a more approachable way to work with people even if you have a medical condition.
Yeah, absolutely. It seems like the standard training of calories in, calories out and all of that type of stuff, sure that’s the science of it. But, reality is emotions. You have to bring in the reality of people’s lives to all of this stuff. So, going back to those basic principles of intuitive eating, would you mind walking us through them briefly?
Yeah, absolutely. So, like I said, there are 10 basic principles. These are not rules. They are principles. They are guidelines. So, some people that I work with, some of these we don’t even really go over. Or we might just scratch the surface on it because they’re already doing that principle. They’re already living that in their lives. Other people might spend a whole lot of time on principle one or principle seven. So, everybody’s journey with it is really different. But, I’ll kind of walk you through the 10 principles briefly.
So, the first one is reject the diet mentality. No matter where we are going with our sessions, I always start here because this is kind of the basis. Right? If you are still holding onto the belief that you should diet and that your body looking a certain way equals health, then it’s kind of hard to move through all of these other ones. So, this principle, we kind of dig into the science behind dieting and weight loss and why it doesn’t work. My favorite thing about this principle is it really shows people that, hey, it’s not you. You haven’t done anything wrong. It’s the diet that did you a dis-service. So, I think that’s really relieving to hear that, hey, it’s not a matter of will power. I didn’t fail. It’s just this diet culture that we live in has failed me.
The next one is honor your hunger. So, this one basically just means that we’re keeping your body fueled with adequate amounts of food. We’re listening to the signals that your body is sending you. So, a lot of people that I work with don’t eat until they are ravenous. That’s hunger to them and they miss all those signs before it. Like, your stomach is growling a little bit. Or, you’re feeling lightheaded. Or you’re feeling a little fatigued and the kind of push it off until they are ravenous. Other people tell me that they don’t even feel hunger because they relied on those external cues whether it’s a calorie number from a health coach or even a dietician or the internet or whatever. Or maybe it’s a diet that they’re on that tells them when to eat and how much to eat. So, it’s really removing those external factors and honing in on what your body is telling you.
The next one is make peace with food. So this one can be very scary for some people because you’re giving yourself unconditional permission to eat all the foods. So, not kind of that like pseudo permission, like, well, I’ll only have ice cream if I’ve worked out today or I’m only going to have one cookie every day. It’s really unconditional and it’s all the foods. This one is important because, a lot of time with food restricting, we see those feelings of deprivation which then lead to cravings. Which then lead to binges. So, it’s just kind of that vicious cycle where, if you allow yourself to eat the food, then you don’t feel that craving for it.
So, I always tell people, think of a food that you eat on a daily basis. So, let’s use something like yogurt. So, maybe you have yogurt everyday for breakfast or a lot of the time for breakfast. There is probably not a whole lot of emotional response going on with that yogurt. You open it up. You put it in the bowl. Whatever. You eat it. You go on with your day. Now, let’s use the example of something like a cookie, maybe. A food that you think is quote unquote bad. So, maybe all week you don’t eat any cookies. You think about it. You want to eat the cookies and maybe you only let yourself have cookies on Saturday. Well, what’s going to happen on Saturday when you have thought about it all week, you haven’t had it all week but you wanted it and now it’s finally in front of you. It’s going to feel out of control. It’s going to lead to binging. Whereas, every day, if you say, hey, if I want some cookies, I can have some cookies. When that Saturday rolls around, it’s not a big deal. The cookies are still there if you want them.
The next one is challenge the food police. So, this one is basically just saying that you aren’t good for eating certain foods and you’re not bad for eating other foods. There is no morality associated with the foods that we eat because, like I said earlier, health is not a one size fits all thing. So, what seems healthy to me, somebody else might think is silly and vice versa. During this principle, we dig through a lot of those food rules that we might have and we do a lot of work with reframing negative or distorted thoughts using some cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.
The next one is respect your fullness. This one is another one that can be really scary for people because on a diet, if you’re full, you’ve overate. That feeling of actually being full and not just kind of being hungry all of the time can be really scary. So, we learn again to hear those signals that our body is giving us. A lot times there are times when we eat past that fullness and instead of being judgmental, I encourage people to be curious and to say, hey, was there a moment where I thought that I was full but I kept going anyways? Or, am I feeling really stressed out or bored? Or, was I distracted by something that I wasn’t able to hear those signals? So, that’s kind of what we explore in that one.
The next one is discover the satisfaction factor. This is probably one of my favorite ones just because I think in our culture, we kind of forget that food should be satisfying and pleasurable and a lot of times with diets, you’re eating foods that you don’t like. You’re just eating whatever the meal plan says. Or you’re eating whatever because it’s a low amount of points and that sort of thing. So, when we eat foods that are satisfying to us, we tend to actually eat less. Think about, let’s say that you ate a really really healthy meal and it was foods that you didn’t really like but you just kind of ate it because they were healthy. You might be physically full at the end of that meal, but you’re very likely not satisfied. So, the fullness is that physical feeling but the satisfaction is more of kind of that emotional, psychological feeling. So, if you’ve ever finished up a meal that maybe was something that wasn’t anything you really liked, you just ate it for the purpose of health, you maybe felt that way. Like, there’s something missing. Most of the time, we reach for something that is higher in sugar because we know that is a quick, easy fix that is going to make us feel good.
The next one is honor your feelings without food. So, we know that food often does not resolve emotional stress. So, we work to find ways that comfort, nurture, distract and resolve those issues. Now this is not to say that emotional eating is bad because there is emotion pretty much all of our food choices. The issue is when it’s the only tool that you’ve got in your toolbox. Anytime when you feel an uncomfortable feeling, the only thing that you can do is go to food. So, we try to make those connections like, hey, if I’m feeling anxious, why am I feeling anxious? What can I do to resolve that feeling? Because, if I just sit here and have a binge episode, physically, I’m not going to feel great. Mentally, I’m not going to feel great, and that problem is still going to be there.
The next one is respect your body. So, like I kind of alluding to earlier, your body doesn’t determine your worth. Genetics play a huge role in determining your body shape, your body size, and we have a lot less control over this than diet culture wants us to think. I’ve often had people sit in front of me and say, well, I’d really like to lose some belly fat. Or, I want a six pack. Or, I want my arms to not be quite as flabby. All of these things that we want to change about our bodies and really there is no science behind any sort of spot training. So, what that means is, if you want a six pack, just doing a bunch of sit ups is not necessarily going to get you a six pack. If you have fat to lose on your body, when you’re exercising, that fat loss is going to come in the places where there is the highest concentration of fat. You can absolutely build muscle underneath that for sure, but it doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to get a six pack or that you’re going to lose the fat in your belly if you’re got other places in your body where there are higher concentrations of fat. So, just, working through this one is, it’s tough for a lot of people because it’s very personal and I always try to be careful to validate everyone’s feelings because it’s not just as easy as saying, hey, love your body! That’s why I like that they use the word respect. Respect your body means that you treat it with dignity. You feed it. You take care of it. You talk to it kindly.
Exercise, feel the difference is the next one. So, we kind of, in our culture, love like militant, super high intensity exercise and we do it to burn calories. We do it to lose weight or to make our bodies to look a certain way. But, it doesn’t have to be that. Any movement is good movement. If you love the high intensity stuff, great. If you love walking or a gentle yoga or whatever, that’s great as well. So, it shouldn’t be used as a form of punishment or as a way to change the way that your body looks. When you shift your focus and you actually do something that you enjoy, it becomes much more of a long term habit because the issue we typically run into with exercise is that it goes right along with the diets. So, if the diet isn’t working, then why should we exercise? Whereas, if you look at it from, I want to enjoy it and I get to do this, not I have to do this or I should do this, it becomes a much more long term habit.
Then, finally, the last one, honor your health. So, this one is all about kind of tailoring everything to you. So, we use the term gentle nutrition. So, gentle nutrition just means that, yes, nutrition is a science, it’s not somebody’s opinion. So, there are principles of nutrition that are generally accepted but you can choose the foods that are still full of nutrients that taste good and make you feel good because those are going to be different for everybody. So, there is not like a list of, these are the foods that you have to eat or that you should eat or these are foods that you shouldn’t eat. Really, everything is on the table and when you’re listening to your body and when you’re respecting your body, naturally you are going to want to fuel it with foods that make you feel good. Which, for most of us, are the nutrient dense foods. Those really good, wholesome foods.
So yeah, that is kind of a quick overview of the 10 principles.
Thanks for walking us through those. Yeah, in listening along through you talk through the principles, I mean, it’s very evident that the principles of intuitive eating are very much counter to all of the mainstream diets that you see out there. So, as you’re working with your clients in intuitive eating, what are some notable differences that you’ve seen after they transition to this approach?
Yeah, so, a lot less stress. A lot less guilt. Food becomes fun again for people. People enjoy what they’re eating a lot more. Probably one of my favorite things that I’ve seen in clients is how it really transitions past just food and body image and really goes into so many other aspects of their life. I’ve had clients who loved writing but they spent so much time planning out their macros every day and planning exactly what they were going to eat that they didn’t have time to write. So, once they started working through intuitive eating, they had all of those space in their brain to use and all of this time to use and they ended up self publishing one or two books.
Just seeing how it really transforms so many aspects of life has been the coolest thing to see about it.
And also as you were talking through the principles, it brought to mind the concept of interoception which I’ve been very interested in lately. It basically refers to the mind body connection and how well somebody is tuned into physical sensations like satiety, respiration and so forth. It’s just apparent to me, or it seems apparent that intuitive eating is very much in line with interoception. That it’s kind of a grounding concept. Would that be accurate to say?
Absolutely, they talk about interoceptive awareness a lot in the book and the workbook has several exercises to kind of help you get back in touch with those things. So, one of them is listening to your heart rate by doing the traditional two fingers on the wrist. Then it asks you, hey, try to not put your fingers on your wrist and just sit quietly and see if you can notice it. Another one asks you to notice where you feel different physical sensations and different emotions in your body. What I love about that one is hunger and thirst are both on there. Kind of a typical diet technique is, if you’re feeling hungry, drink some water. I don’t know about you, but thirst feels very different to me than hunger. Thirst, I can feel in my throat, maybe in my head a little bit if I’m getting too dehydrated. But hunger doesn’t really manifest in my throat. I mean, we all feel things differently, but.
It’s kind of cool to reteach people that, hey, your body is telling you all of these things. Your body knows better than any diet culture, any social media, any influencer, whatever. Your body really has everything you need. We just have to tune back into it. Yeah, it’s a huge part of the process for sure.
And many of us grew up in a culture where we were told to finish the food on our plates and we were basically in many ways just groomed to mistrust our bodily cues of hunger and fullness. Do you have any kind of starter tips on how someone can begin to retune into those basic cues and really learn to trust their bodies again.
Yeah, absolutely. So, I was a member of the clean your plate club too. Mine was, if I didn’t finish it that night, I would have it for breakfast the next morning. If I didn’t like it tonight, it certainly isn’t going to be any better tomorrow morning. Some things that I tell people to do with that because there is a lot that can come behind that. It can be the clean your plate club history. It can be, hey, I’m an adult and I’m paying for this food now, so I don’t want to waste it. So, I’m going to eat whatever is in front of me.
So, a couple of good tips to get started with that is to take several pauses throughout your meal. So, take a couple of bites, put your fork down. Sit there. If there are other people at the meal with you, have a conversation for a couple of minutes. Just give yourself a minute or two to see if you are still hungry and if you are, continue on. Just kind of repeat that process throughout the meal.
I also tell people to sometimes put a little more on their plate than they think they are going to eat and practice being OK with either putting that food back and eating it leftover or throwing it away if they know it’s something that they wouldn’t eat leftover. This is tough because I do not want to tell people to waste food at all. But, think about the alternative. You know, if every meal you take just five extra bites, that’s 15 extra bites at the end of the day. That’s over 100 bites at the end of the week. That’s a lot of bites at the end of the year all because we didn’t want to waste food and did that serve our health? Eating this excess food that we didn’t need. So, really taking those pauses. Putting your fork down in between bites and not picking it back up until everything has been fully chewed and swallowed. Those are some of my favorites to kind of get started with that clean your plate club mentality and breaking through that.
Oh, those are awesome. So, looking at kind of the flip side. For someone who has maybe restricted food regularly and is afraid of overeating, do you have any advice to how they can begin to transition toward intuitive eating?
Yeah, so, it really depends where they are at and how severe the restriction is. If it is somebody who either has been diagnosed with an eating disorder or should be diagnosed with an eating disorder but maybe just hasn’t been yet, intuitive eating is always the goal, but if it’s very severe restriction, the nutrition does need to be more prescriptive. So, working with a dietician. Working with a therapist. Working with a medical professional, doctor, physician’s assistant. Getting some treatment for that.
If it’s more of just kind of your disordered eating, where maybe you never really eat until fullness and you’re kind of always hungry. Just afraid to be full. You really just kind of have to play around with it. Working with a dietician again is really helpful in this situation. A lot of times, I’ll do eating experiences with people. So, we’ll have a meal together and we’ll talk about it. That sort of thing. But, just kind of playing around with it. I often give people a hunger and fullness scale. There is one in the book. I have one that I usually print out and give to people as well. We kind of go through it and go through like, ok, this is what it feels like at a number one or a number 10 or whatever on the scale. I’ll have them just kind of use that for a couple of meals so they can notice, wow, I thought I was full but I was actually still really hungry.
Like I alluded to earlier, sometimes we go past that comfortable fullness. That happens. That happens to all of us. But, using it as kind of a learning experience. So that hunger and fullness scale can be really helpful because it gives you very clear, like this is what you would be feeling if you were just partially full. This is how you’d be feeling at comfortably full. This is how you’d be feeling at overly full. That kind of helps to reprogram and set up some guidelines. Again, not rules. They’re not hard and fast rules. Just some guidelines of, this is the way you should be feeling mentally and physically if you have eaten enough. So, I’ve found that has been a really helpful tool.
And kind of transitioning back to diet culture, you know, unfortunately, it’s pretty darn pervasive in our society and that’s probably not going to go away anytime soon. Do you have advice for someone if they’re transitioning toward intuitive eating, towards a more gentle lifestyle, a more respectful lifestyle of their body. Do you have any advice for how they can effectively tune out diet culture for good? Especially when social media in today’s world is so inundated with diet messaging?
Oh yeah, it’s tough. It’s an every day battle. Definitely reading intuitive eating or working with a dietician for sure to kind of go through the process but just getting that supportive environment. So, if you’re scrolling through your social media and you see a lot of things popping up that don’t make you feel good, maybe it’s pictures of people that you wish you had a body like. Or meals that you feel like I could never make that or like, wow, that’s really not a lot of food, maybe I should not be eating that much food. So, anything that kind of elicits those diet culture type of thoughts. Unfollow them. You’re in charge. It takes one click. You don’t have to see that. Instead, replace it with positive accounts. There are a lot of really great body positive, health at every size, intuitive eating, dietician accounts out there.
Fill your feed with positive thoughts. That environment plays a huge part in our mindset. So, making some changes with your social media. Also with your personal relationships. We tend to kind of base our conversations around what diet we did. Or what really hard workout we did. Or, I was so bad last weekend. I ate x, y and z or I’m doing whatever diet and I’m not eating all of these different food groups. As a culture, we tend to really want to talk about the things that we’re doing that are really hard. Like, nobody ever comes to work and say, you know, I had a really balanced dinner last night and then I went for a walk and it felt great because, honestly, being healthy is kind of boring. But, boring is good because the opposite of that is that all or nothing mentality which we know just kind of leads to yo-yoing with health habits and fluctuations of weight.
So, really making sure that the environment that you’re in is supportive. So, maybe it’s changing the conversation or walking away from conversations that don’t make you feel good. Just kind of changing that dialogue. If you’re with a group of friends and you’re out to lunch, you can say something like, hey, can we talk about something else or change the subject. If you’ve been doing some reading on intuitive eating, great time to kind of share what you know on that. So, really working on that environment and really surrounding yourself with positivity instead of negativity.
Yeah, I love that advice about really tuning into your environment and changing it and doing what you need to do for yourself. I’ve been really trying to pay attention to the conversations that I’m around. Yeah, it is so pervasive. The body negativity. The I shouldn’t be eating this. The, I feel so bad that I ate that. I’ve been, my tactic has kind of been to just remain silent in those conversations and try and steer it a different way or say, you know, you’re fine.
Well, and think about the flip side. If we came into the conversation and we’re like, man, I really love my body right now. People would honestly think that you were self centered or that you are stuck up. For whatever reason, we can’t take a compliment and it’s just not accepted to give ourselves compliments. It’s better to bash ourselves and to bash each other. We’ve got to change that.
Yep, I completely agree. I’ve been thinking about how, from a very young age, we’re trained to feed around mealtimes of breakfast, lunch and dinner. It just seems to me that those timelines have been created mainly because they fit nicely around the schedules of school and corporate work schedules and so forth. One question I have is, does intuitive eating take a different approach?
Yeah, that’s such a great question. With intuitive eating, we definitely encourage eating when you are hungry and not just, hey, I’ve always eaten at xyz times for breakfast, lunch and dinner. With jobs, it can be hard. With kids, it can be hard. My kids eat breakfast at 6 a.m. They’ve had lunch before 11 a.m. So, when they get home at 3 p.m., it has been four hours. They are hungry. They’re ready for a meal. So, we usually do like a bigger snack and then we’ll do dinner a couple of hours later. Yeah, it’s tough. Sometimes we have to eat for self-care. So, what that means is, maybe I’m not hungry. Let’s say maybe it’s 11 a.m. and I’m not really hungry yet but I have a noon meeting or I have a noon client or just some commitment at noon and that’s normally the time that I get hungry but if I don’t eat now at 11, and then I’m not going to be able to eat until maybe 1 or 2, I’m going to be starving and I’m not going to be able to give my best in that meeting. Or, that appointment with that client, or whatever you have going on. So, in an ideal world, we would be able to just eat whenever we are hungry but that’s not always the case. So, sometimes it has to be done preemptively looking ahead at what you’ve got going on and, if you know that you’re going to be busy when you typically feel hungry, it’s absolutely ok to eat a little bit off of your normal schedule. So, there’s no schedule with intuitive eating but it gives you the flexibility to really eat whenever is convenient for you.
Looking back to you on a personal level, would you mind sharing what your journey has been with intuitive eating?
You know, coming out of school to be a dietician, like I said, it was very calories in and calories out. Here’s the science. These are the foods that you need to eat to be healthy. Coming out of school, I definitely looking back had some disordered eating habits. I would only eat whole grains. I would never buy white bread. I would never buy white rice even though I hated brown rice and I really loved the white rice but I was like, it has more fiber and that’s what I need to eat. That white rice isn’t going to do any good for me. Things like bacon wouldn’t have been in my house. Chips wouldn’t have been in my house. There’d be things that maybe on a special occasion I might have them or if we were out or if we were at a party I would have them but they weren’t things that I kept around. To me, there was just no health value to them. So, definitely had a lot of food rules coming out of school. So, when I found intuitive eating, it wasn’t just for my clients. It was very helpful for myself as well. So, realizing that there is room to not be perfect here. Obviously, being a dietician, people tend to think that we just eat salads and all we drink is water and we’re just these pictures of health. I always say that we’re normal humans too.
My favorite food is pizza and every Friday night, we make pizza, we put a blanket on the floor, and we watch a movie and it’s awesome. I love French fries. I love chicken wings but, you know what, those foods don’t physically make me feel amazing all of the time. So, with intuitive eating, I’ve learned that, yeah, I do like those foods. They taste good but I don’t really like to feel that way all of the time. So, I still enjoy those foods and I’ll enjoy them whenever I want them. It doesn’t have to be a certain day of the week or whatever. But, ultimately, I want my body to feel good. So, I fuel it with the foods that specifically make me feel good.
So, it was really awesome to go through the process for myself because you can only take people as far as you’ve gotten. So, if I was still over here holding onto all of these food rules and diet culture thoughts and poor body image, it would be impossible for me to help guide people on their journey. So, professionally and personally, it was such a great experience to go through it and, besides someone that’s really kind of in the throes of an eating disorder, I think there’s something from intuitive eating that anybody could get out of it. Whether it’s, oh my gosh, I need all 10 of these principles, or maybe it’s just one or two of them that really speak to you.
Yeah, I love that. And going back to the pizza and movie on a Friday night, those are going to be obviously some of the best memories for your kids so, I love it.
Oh for sure! They love it and it’s easy! After a long week, it’s like, I know what we’re having, I don’t have to think about it. It’s something everyone loves and it’s fun. And I normally do my long runs on Saturday, so pizza is one of my favorite things to eat for like my pre long run dinner.
Love it! Well, before we wrap up, I wanted to touch on what we as moms can do to help our kids grow up in a culture that encourages intuitive eating. Do you have any advice for how we can start to do this?
Yes! I love talking about protecting the intuitive eaters that we already have because we’re born intuitive eaters. All of these food rules, all of this diet culture stuff, it’s all things that we’ve learned. So, the first thing is to evaluate your own relationship with food and body image. If that’s not in a great place. If you can look at your own relationships in those areas and say, I don’t want that for my child, then absolutely do some work. Get the book. Give it a read. Work with a dietician if you feel like that’s helpful or go through it on your own. But absolutely, it starts with you because we can talk the talk and say the right things but kids are smart and even at really young ages, they pick up on things. They hear things that maybe we didn’t think they heard. So, you’ve gotta have your relationship right. It’s just like me as the dietician. You can only take your kids as far as you’ve gone in your relationship. So, absolutely start there. Some things that have been really helpful in our house with intuitive eating is at mealtime, as the parents, we’re responsible for the foods that are on the table. We provide the foods that we want our kids to eat. They get to decide how much and what they’re going to eat.
So, if your kids are of an age where they can put their own stuff on their own plates, absolutely, let them do that. Don’t do the clean your plate club that a lot of us grew up with because, my biggest piece of advice is what I always say to adults is, think about how you would feel if somebody told you what you’re telling your kids. So, saying, you have to finish your vegetables. You have to eat that chicken. Three more bites. What if you don’t like those things? Or, what if you’re full? If someone told you as an adult that you have to take three more bites or you have to eat all of that food that you don’t like. You would be really irritated. Just because they’re younger does not mean that they don’t already have preferences and it doesn’t mean that they can’t feel their fullness and their hunger levels. They’re probably hearing it better than we are as adults.
It can be really scary as a parent because, of course you don’t want your kids to go hungry number one. Number two, you don’t want them to just eat all one food and not eat any of the other stuff. You want them to eat that balance. For the most part, kids will do a pretty good job. They’re not going to go hungry. They’re not going to eat just one or two foods. They might go through phases where they do. If you do have a really picky eater, definitely a good idea to work with somebody, but creating a comfortable environment makes them feel more comfortable. So, like I said, allowing them to put the food on their plate if they’re old enough to do that.
Something that we do that people are always like, nope, I’m not doing that, but the people that have, have loved it. If we are having a dessert that night, the dessert gets put on the table with all the other foods. So, let’s say that I made brownies. So, the brownies go right next to the whatever. The green beans, the chicken, the potatoes, whatever else is on the table. The idea with that is that it makes it another food because that’s what it is. It’s not something that you get when you’re done. It’s not something you get when you’re done with your vegetables. It’s just another food. If we put it up on this pedestal and say, you have to eat your vegetables or you have to finish your meal before you get this, we’re telling them that those vegetables are gross and you have to get through them to get the good thing. Or, hey, you’ve got to stuff yourself past fullness before you can get this. This is only something you can get at the end of the meal. It’s not. You can have a brownie whenever you wanted a brownie. So, making the dessert neutral and including it as part of the meal.
So, my kids can put it on their plate. They can eat it whenever they want. They don’t have to eat a certain amount of anything and it’s fun to watch. Sometimes it might be the first thing they eat. They might nibble it here and there throughout the meal. They might wait until the end. Sometimes they might eat all of it. Maybe they’ll ask for seconds and sometimes they’ll leave some on the plate. So, it’s really cool to watch kids honor their own hunger. Another thing I like to do in my house and this isn’t a hard and fast rule, this is just kind of to help create more adventurous eaters, is I encourage them to eat one bite of everything that is on the table. It’s not a rule. They don’t have to. There are no consequences if they don’t want to. Nobody gets upset. But, I like them to at least try it if they’re willing to. Because, a lot of times, there are foods that might not look appealing or that they haven’t liked in the past, and maybe they try and they end up liking it.
It happens all of the time. But, if they don’t want to do it, don’t push them into it. Another one that is kind of tough is letting them have natural consequences. So, if we just sit there and say all of the time, well, don’t eat all of that candy. You’re going to get sick. Then, it kind of makes it seem like there is something wrong with this food or it’s a food that we shouldn’t be eating. For kids, it kind of makes it exciting. A real life example that I like to give is, New Year’s Eve, my son had a lot of sparkling grape juice. We call it the kids champagne. I was kind of watching it. I was like, this is not going to end well. He’s having a lot of juice. The next morning, he woke up and he was sick. He had a stomach ache and he got sick. I was like, do you know why you got sick? And he was like, I drank too much of the juice mom.
You know, you never want to see your kids in pain. You never want to know what’s coming and it’s going to be bad and let it happen, but, if you have kids, you know that sometimes just telling them things goes in one ear and out the other. Whereas, in this instance, he made the choice, and he felt the consequence, and I didn’t have to say a thing. Really just kind of protecting those intuitive eaters that we have and maybe even learning some things from watching them eat for yourself.
Those are fabulous tips and I completely agree. I feel like I have learned so much as I’ve started watching my kids more and, yeah, we are not part of the finish your plate club around here.
Yeah! I mean, kids don’t care. They just do what they want and we need to be more like that.
Yep, absolutely and I’m totally going to try the dessert on the table with all of the rest of the food. We’ll see how that goes!
I love it! Let me know how it goes!
So, as we’re nearing the end of the episode, is there a main takeaway from our conversation that you’d like to leave with the Runner Moms community today?
Yeah, especially for moms that are running. We get kind of this message that we need to eat this low number of calories and it doesn’t work. You’re runs aren’t going to feel good. You’re not going to feel good. It’s going to feel a lot better whenever you’re fueling your body adequately and nobody knows that better than you. Even as a dietician, sure, I have equations that I can use to calculate people’s needs and there are machines that can calculate roughly how many calories you need. But, your body knows way better. If somebody gives you a number or you find a number on the internet that you think you should be eating, sure, it might be close and some days it might be right, but if you’re feeling more hungry or less hungry on a certain day, come from that and come from really any of your feelings from a place of curiosity and not judgement. Aim to learn more about your body and your habits and what is healthy for you instead of just being judgmental. Stop comparing to everybody else because it doesn’t matter. You’re doing your thing and that’s what truly leads to long lasting healthy habits and true authentic health for you because it doesn’t look the same for all of us. Being ok with that. Finding your version of health and owning it. Yeah, if any of the stuff that we talked about today kind of resonated with you, absolutely reading the book, Intuitive Eating, or listening to the audio book is a fantastic place to get started.
Well, that was a great takeaway and this was a fantastic conversation today. So, thank you again for joining me and for sharing all of this important and wonderful information with the Runner Moms community. So, if others would like to connect with you online, Kayla, where should they go?
Yeah, so I am on Instagram and Facebook. My handle is @nutrition_mama and you can connect with me there. Send me a message. I would love to chat and answer any questions that anybody might have. So, thank you so much for having me. This was such a fun conversation and obviously it’s a topic that I could talk about forever. So, I had a great time.
Well, thanks again and I will be sure to include the links to all of your contact locations within the episode’s show notes. Well, thank you again, Kayla!
I personally learned so much and gained a ton of actionable advice from Kayla not only for myself but also for my kids. I hope the conversation brought value to you as well.
I wanted to circle back on my thought from this episode’s introduction. If you’re currently struggling with body image issues, disordered eating or are feeling the weight of diet culture’s unrealistic standards, pause and consider how long you’re willing to continue that cycle. Look back on all of the years that you’ve struggled with it all. And how many more years lay ahead of you.
Then, opt out. Obviously it’s not easy and it could take years and years of work but it’s a heck of a lot better than the alternative. It also means you’ll be opting into a lifestyle of respecting your body and fueling it properly. It means you’ll have more energy for running, for momming, for life.
That’s all for today’s episode.
As always, happy running and happy momming!