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Stop the Shame Game: 4 Steps to Improve your Relationship with Food and Your Body

If you’re caught in an endless cycle of self-criticism, dieting, and shame – you’re not alone. Unfortunately, dieting doesn’t get us anywhere, but more shame. So, I’d like to offer an alternative approach, which is all about getting back to our innate ability to regulate our weight and food intake.

Here are 4 steps to take when getting started:

1. Cultivate some self-compassion.

I know! This one is OLD news. But, it is essential. Building and maintaining a good relationship with food and your body is a practice that takes time. It’s going to be challenging, and you’ve got to be nice to yourself along the way.

Personally, I need a reminder. So, I like to keep a picture of myself from when I was little with a big ol’ smile on my desk. It’s a good reminder that I am still that innocent, happy-go-lucky, little girl.

So instead of saying, “I’m so gross for eating those M&Ms. That’s going straight to my love-handles. People will think I’m disgusting.” I remember to be more compassionate with myself. I'd never say that to my younger self (or anyone else for that matter), so why am I saying it now? When did hating myself ever get me anywhere?

Get yourself a picture of you when you were careless, young, and happy. Keep it somewhere you’ll see it and let it be a reminder to be kinder to yourself. Become aware of how often you are participating in negative self-talk. It might surprise you just how often these suckers pop up. Question whether or not those thoughts are serving you. When possible, try and change the thought to be more positive.

Our thoughts have a big impact on our self-efficacy, self-worth, and happiness, so try and get some better inputs.

2. Stop trying to change your body through restriction and/or compensation.

Dieting doesn’t work in the long term and it’s actually one of the biggest predictors for future weight gain and disordered eating. Restriction can come in many forms, but it tends to end with binging. And compensating with more exercise or decreased food intake the next day will only set you up to repeat the pattern.

Try and understand the motivation behind your desire to change your body. Is it to garner acceptance? To be happier? To be healthier? To find a significant other?

Despite what all the weight loss ads are telling you, losing weight or changing your body shape will not lead to these desired outcomes. Forcing your body to become a smaller size does not eliminate the perceived problems in your life. It only provides a short-lived, superficial distraction from them.

3. Begin to recognize hunger cues and eat regularly.

This step is a cornerstone to cultivating a better relationship with food and your body. It requires trust that goes both ways. You’ve got to trust that your body knows when, what, and how much food it needs. And, your body needs to trust that you are going to provide it with the food it needs. AKA, it needs to know that you will not starve it again.

Everyone experiences hunger differently and the cues may be obvious or subtle. Signs that you might be hungry include, loss of focus, anxiety, persistent thoughts about food, irritability, feeling lightheaded, or the classic tummy rumble.

Eating regularly is an important step for most chronic dieters who have become accustomed to limiting access to food. It can take time to identify your unique hunger cues. But, when you do, remember to honor your hunger and provide your body with the fuel it needs ASAP.

If you are in the throws of an eating disorder or in the beginning stages of recovery, then your body will not be able to recognize hunger cues. Working closely with a dietitian to create appropriate meal plans will be an important step toward recovery.

4. Become a social media minimalist.

You’ve almost definitely heard of Marie Kondo by this point. If not, that means you don’t even watch Gilmore Girls… Anyway, go get ahold of her book! She’s got a very simple method when it comes to clearing out clutter from your home to make way for personal growth and opportunities. You merely assess each item to determine if it brings you joy. If it’s a yes, keep it! If it’s a no, say goodbye.

I’d like for you to hold your media consumption to the same standard.** Scroll through your Instagram feed and identify any channels that repeatedly make you feel lousy. I found that I followed waaay too many women posting about their perfect “clean” diets, their intense workouts – complete with fitspo pictures, and models lounging on the beach in barely-there swimwear.

Consuming this media made me feel pretty darn crappy, which either led to compulsive exercising or restriction – followed by a binge. Needless to say – following these people were not doing anything good for my health or bringing me joy so I deleted them like MK said I could.

**Does not apply to reputable news sources – a lot of news will certainly not bring you joy, but it’s our social and civic responsibility to be informed. Just be weary of any news about food and health…

Implementing these steps is challenging. But when you do, you will begin to find food freedom and body acceptance. In the comments below, let me know what action you are taking today to free yourself from diet culture.

See you in the next post. Until then, trust yo’ self!

512-650-8853  |  Austin TX

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