Intuitive Eating

my post-vacation detox plan

Similar to my last post, this one is inspired by a recent trip I took. At first, I thought how odd it is that they both inspired me to write something here considering I really don’t travel very often- then I realized it’s really not that odd given all the bullshit diet culture ideas I harbored around food and travel, all the articles I used to read about how to “stay on track” while traveling and the best way to detox and reset our bodies when we get home.

So I wanted to share a little bit about how I’m detoxing this week after a weeklong vacation. If you follow me, it will come as no surprise that I find most detoxes and cleanses to be bullshit, forcing you to pay hundreds of dollars for something your liver and kidneys are perfectly capable of doing (even if you do have any issues with renal/liver function, a week of $300 juices is not going to be your cure). There’s no need to cleanse or detox- your body is very well-equipped to rid itself of toxins and absorb nutrients when you eat something. No lemon cayenne fire water is going to make that process any more efficient.

How Do I Know If I'm Hungry?

How Do I Know If I'm Hungry?

As a dietitian, I find myself talking about hunger with my clients a lot. Recognizing and being able to identify our hunger is, of course, a critical component of healing our relationship with food and listening to our intuition. But so often, those cues get muddied and buried under layers of diet culture and/or are dormant completely after periods of restriction and other disordered behaviors. The bottom line is diet culture teaches us to ignore our own body's signals - especially hunger.

Shifting the Narrative Around Eating Disorders: 4 Myths Busted

Today is the first day of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week so I wanted to take a bit of time to dive into the research around eating disorders and bust some (very popular) myths. I hope you’re ready cause we are divin’ in.

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Myth #1: Eating disorders aren’t that common.
Fact: Let’s talk about how prevalent eating disorders are. For some reason, eating disorders still feel like a taboo topic in mainstream culture although it seems like maybe less so over the past few years (or maybe it’s just because I’m submerged in this work that it feels that way). According to the National Eating Disorder Association, about 30 million people (20 million women and 10 million men) will struggle with a clinically significant eating disorder at some point in their lifetime, meaning about 10% of the US population. However, it’s worth noting that that study only accounts for *clinically significant* eating disorders- meaning that doesn’t count anyone who doesn’t fit the DSM criteria perfectly or who may have subclinical EDs or who may never seek treatment and fly totally under the radar. So the fact is the number of folks who will struggle with disordered eating is likely much larger than 30 million.

Myth #2: People can just “get over” their eating disorder by eating.
Fact: This is painfully inaccurate (and a dangerous way to think about EDs). Eating disorders are rarely about the food- and “just eating” is seldom (if ever) the cure. Eating disorder recovery is a process sometimes taking months but usually taking years. It can involve therapy, nutrition counseling, medication, regular doctor’s visit, psychiatrists, treatment centers, and/or intensive programs. It can involve meal plans, journaling, exercise restriction, relearning body cues, reading books and blog posts and listening to podcasts and trying to make your body feel like home again. Like any other mental illness, it’s not something you can just “get over”. In fact, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate out of any mental illness. According to the National Association for Anorexia Nervosa, every 62 minutes someone dies as a result of his or her eating disorder. One every hour. That is a staggering number and one we can’t lose sight of when we talk about how serious eating disorders can be.

Myth #3: Eating disorders only affects young, thin, white women.
Fact: Again, this is a dangerous way to view eating disorders. Eating disorders know no boundaries- meaning they affect everyone regardless of gender, race, socioeconomic status, sexuality, ability or age. And while yes, it is true that thin, white women take up a lot of space in the online recovery communities (speaking as a thin, white women who engages with the recovery community), that doesn’t mean they are the most affected. It just means that, unfortunately, they are the most likely to get their stories told because we live in a culture that, unfortunately, has a preference for thin, white, conventionally attractive people. In reality, people of color experience eating disorders at a similar, if not increased, rate as white folks. Beyond that, people of color are statistically less likely to be asked about eating behaviors/ED symptoms by their doctor. LGBTQ+ folks are at a greater risk of eating disorders. Although only 5% of the population identifies as gay men, 42% of men who report having an ED identify as gay. Queer folks also have a higher prevalence of lifelong subclinical eating disorders than straight people. 16% of transgender college students report having an eating disorder, which is much higher than the national average. And 13% of women over the age of 50 engage in ED behaviors. The bottom line- eating disorders don’t discriminate. And we should be doing more to change the narrative around eating disorders and making everyone’s stories heard, especially those in marginalized bodies. One of my favorite organizations doing this is Trans Folks Fighting Eating Disorders, which you should absolutely check out and donate to if you feel so inclined.

Myth #4: You have to be in a thin body to have an eating disorder.
Fact: This is by far one of the most common myths I hear circulating and one of the ones that is most important to talk about. This year, NEDA Week’s theme is “Let’s Get Real” with the hopes to shift the conversation to stories we don’t often hear. As I mentioned, there are a lot of ED stories we don’t often hear- like from POC and trans folx and people in the LGBTQ+ community. But one narrative that we hardly ever hear in mainstream media that tends to  make people uncomfortable is the stories of people in larger bodies who have eating disorders. And before you go, “oh of course people in larger bodies can have eating disorders! Binge eating disorder!”, it’s important to recognize that yes, people in larger bodies can have BED (just like people in smaller bodies can) but people in larger bodies can also have restrictive eating disorders, especially given diet culture which tells them over and over again that they have to lose weight. As Deb Burgard so eloquently puts it, we prescribe in fat people the same thing we diagnose as anorexia in thin people. People in larger bodies are almost unequivocally given half thought out diet advice at their doctor’s office- whether there’s a real health concern or not (even if there is a real health concern, weight loss is seldom, if ever, the solution- but that’s a conversation for another time). And it’s easy to let some non-ED informed medical professional’s advice go to far- all the sudden instead of just forming a couple “healthy” habits, you’re down the road of measuring out every morsel of food, torturing yourself at the gym for multiple hours a day, and restricting foods/food groups. And instead of people being worried about the sudden change in weight/behavior, you get praised and rewarded. So on top of having the same symptoms as someone in a smaller body with a restrictive eating disorder, you’re actually getting rewarded for it – which is horrible, confusing, and infuriating all in one neat package. Assuming that eating disorders only happen to thin women is a dangerous assumption and one we should work hard to move away from. If you’re looking for accounts of people who have experienced an eating disorder in a larger body/not the “typical” ED body, I highly recommend starting with Clare @becomingbodypositive, Dani @iamdaniadriana and Ragen Chastain’s work (and see where the interwebs take you from there!)

The biggest takeaway from this (I hope) is that we need to change the narrative around eating disorders. We need to make room for stories that don't fit the "typical" eating disorder narrative. I'm happy to see that NEDA made their theme "Let's Get Real" this year in an effort to make this happen and give us a real look into how eating disorders affect each and every one of us. 

References (if you’re into that kinda thing):
1. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/toolkit/parent-toolkit/statistics
2. http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/
3. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/people-color-and-eating-disorders

Cover photo by Heidi Sandstrom. 

Vegas Week Recap

If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed that I was away on vacation last week. I spent a few days in Vegas and one in the Grand Canyon and it was wonderful. As I mentioned in my last post, this was my first vacation in years which meant it was the first vacation I went on where food was a total nonissue and I wasn't worried about what my body looked like which was a complete blessing (and something I genuinely never thought I would say). There was no trying to compensate for food I ate during the trip either before or after. There was no forcing myself into early morning runs down the strip (there was no runs at all, as a matter of fact). There was no counting calories. There were just days and days of good company and good food. 

Sushi burritos from Jaburrito's

Sushi burritos from Jaburrito's

I think it's impossible to choose the best thing I ate while there but I will say the sushi burritos hit it out of the park. Sushi? Delicious. Burritos? Amazing. Together? A gift from the gods (okay, maybe that's a little dramatic but not really). I believe this one had spicy tuna (my favorite kind of sushi), shrimp tempura and crab with avocado and rice and Romaine and something else I can't remember...love, probably. It was amazing and the fact that the weather in Vegas was warm enough to eat it outside made it even better. We went back to the same place a few days later for sushi cupcakes as a snack (yeah, those exist). Okay, I know I said I couldn't pick the best food we ate while we were there but it was totally the sushi burritos. The best drink we had while there my sister & I ordered on the first night. We got watermelon mojitos at this Mexican place and while I was pretty skeptical because I don't like artificial watermelon flavor, it was delicious. No artificial watermelon flavor here, just refreshing and sweet and delicious. We had a lot of other tasty drinks while we were there but that one definitely took the cake (no picture because we had it after 12 hours of traveling and I was exhausted).

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Vegas was great (albeit tiring and expensive) but visiting the Grand Canyon was definitely the highlight of the trip. If you haven't been yet, I highly recommend adding it to your bucket list if it's not already. It was so beautiful and the weather was perfect for walking along the trail and taking approximately one boatload of pictures. The view is awe-inspiring and for someone who has lived her whole life in the crammed, people and buildings everywhere East Coast (New England specifically), it was wild just to drive out there with hundreds of miles of uninterrupted road and landscape. It was a lot of fun and also a little scary that there's no fences or anything around most of it- maybe it's just because I'm a grade A worrier but I was a little nervous the whole time that someone was going to topple in- I know, I know, that's an irrational fear. 

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One thing I want to make a note of is that because there are so many opportunities for good food in Vegas, I sometimes ate things that I wasn't necessarily hungry for but didn't want to pass up the opportunity to eat. Like on the last day we were there, we had some time to kill before we went to the airport and my sister suggested getting gelato. I wasn't particularly hungry but I very rarely get the chance to eat gelato and it's something I really enjoy. So I ate it anyway. I think one thing that happens when we talk about intuitive eating is that it gets boiled down to "eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full" when really it's so much more than that. Intuitive Eating actually makes a point to mention that satisfaction and pleasure are a part of normal eating- so while my body didn't neccessarily crave gelato in that moment, I found a lot of pleasure in eating it (half coffee/half speculoos was a winning combo). There's no need to feel guilty and there's no need to worry about being a "perfect" intuitive eater. Perfect doesn't exist and by striving for it, we're just defeating the purpose of intuitive eating which is rooted in flexibility, self-compassion, and gentleness. 

As much as I enjoyed our trip, I'm happy to be home this week because I love my comfy bed and I love my routines. Being away also re-energized me a bit so I've been making more time for writing and other work I've been putting off this week. One of my intentions for the blog this year was to share a bit more of my personal life. I realized that when I had been writing on Sundaes for the Soul, nearly all my blogs were personal and I do that less so here. But I gotta say, I miss it so I'm going to be sharing a bit more of my personal life with you here (like this blog post) because that's what I like to read from my favorite bloggers (ImmaEatThat and The Real Life RD come to mind) and I hope that's what you like too. Let me know what you think!

Talk to you soon, 
Meghan xo