Ep6 – Gentle Nutrition Principles in Disordered Eating Recovery

In this episode I introduce the concept of gentle nutrition in helping our disordered eating recovery. I will also share some examples of how to incorporate this guidance into your everyday life

Here is Episode 7 of the Food Freedom Podcast for when you’re finished here.

Read more here: BLOG: Building body respect when you need help with an Eating Disorder, Why you shouldn’t comment on someone’s weight loss

Episode 6 Transcript – Gentle Nutrition Principles in Disordered Eating Recovery

Hi, and welcome to the Food Freedom Podcast with me, Claire Feldman. I’m a CBT therapist, hypnotherapist, and eating disorder practitioner. And having been through disordered eating recovery myself, I wanted to create a podcast where I could bring bitesize episodes to help you with tools, techniques, and strategies to overcome your own food, weight and body image issues. 

Hi, and welcome to this episode, which is about gentle nutrition principles in disordered eating recovery. I’m recording this episode on a really miserable, wet and windy day in Northern Ireland. So if you hear a lot of cluttering, a lot of noise in the background, it’s me potentially <laugh> getting collapsed in the office with the GIS blowing the doors and the windows in. Hopefully it will not cause too much distraction through the episode. And fingers crossed that better weather is on the way because this is really miserable today. So, gentle nutrition principles. What on earth is gentle nutrition in disordered eating recovery? Well, gentle nutrition is a way of, I guess incorporating, if you have, perhaps you’re in disordered eating recovery or you recognise that you have an unhealthy relationship with food. Gentle nutrition is just a way of taking into consideration the what you’re eating, but in a way that doesn’t feel rigid, that doesn’t feel extreme, doesn’t feel excessive in any way. 

I think there can be a bit of a a misconception that if you work in the kind of the anti-d diet disordered eating, recovery and kind of food freedom field, that you don’t believe that nutrition is important or relevant. And maybe because a lot of the time we’re posting pictures of people eating chocolate and being happy, or pictures of donuts and, and things like that, that the perception might be that as professionals we think that nutrition and what you eat isn’t actually relevant. And of course this is not true. It would be very silly of us to say that, you know, nutrition does not matter because it does. It’s just that it’s not for want of a better word or expression, the be all and end all of everything. Because what we eat is just one aspect, I guess, of our wellbeing. 

And that our mental and emotional wellbeing is just as important if not more important than what food we are eating. So it’s important to really, when we’re thinking about health, that we’re seeing it in the context of a holistic approach and that there are many, many factors that influence our health and also influence our weight. And I think we get too narrow-minded and we kind of pigeonhole our weight as being solely influenced by what we’re eating. And we’re looking at it in a very, very minuscule and controlling perspective as opposed to kind of looking at this greater context of our own emotional and physical wellbeing. So if I suppose as a little side note on that is if you’re following maybe a lot of accounts where it’s maybe wellness influencers, health influencers, and you’re seeing a lot of images every single day of these, you know, beautifully curated, I dunno, Buddha bowls and freshly made smoothies and all of these kinds of things it can get. 

And I have to admit that whenever I was kind of caught up in that whole sort of culture, I probably was doing exactly the same things, posting those pictures and feeling very, very smug with myself at just how healthy I thought I was being. But sometimes we have to question what we’re seeing on social media. So when we’re seeing these perfectly curated smoothie bowls and, you know, budha bowls and things like that, you know, that’s wonderful for them if they genuinely that’s what they enjoy to eat and that’s just part of their lifestyle. But we have to be very mindful of that. What suits one person and works for one person doesn’t work for everybody. And sometimes, now what I certainly do is when I see a lot of kind of what can be perceived as perfection in eating on social media, I would actually be questioning whether they themselves have a healthy relationship with food or do they have perhaps perfectionist standards themselves around their eating. 

And we know that if you really struggle with perfectionism, which a lot of my clients do that actually having these perfectionist tendencies is stress inducing because we are placing really unrealistic expectations and standards upon ourselves. And the bar never gets lowered. In fact, the bar always gets hired. We always feel like we should be doing better and what we’re doing can be improved. And so when you’re applying these perfectionist type of standards to your eating it becomes incredibly rigid, inflexible, and stress ingesting. So that’s just kind of a little side note that if you are following a lot of accounts like this, you’re getting influenced, you’re feeling inadequate or inferior in some way because you’re comparing yourself to other people, you might just want to unfollow those accounts because that may not be serving you. And I would be putting a question mark over high healthy, perhaps that individual’s relationship with food is themselves. 

So what I’m gonna talk through is just some kind of gentle guidelines around nutrition and gentle nutrition to maybe look out ways that you might be able to start incorporating some of these principles into your own eating habits and behaviors. So the first guideline is to try and aim for a variety of foods. And I like to take the attitude with my clients because most of them will have experienced years and years of kind of rules and extreme forms of diets and restrictive eating. And so all of their mentality around their eating is generally on trying to control and focusing on all the things that they can’t have and all the foods that they need to exclude from their diet, which obviously is incredibly negative. And when our energy and attention is focused on all the things that we believe that we can’t have and self-imposed rules, what we tend to do is actually desire and crave those foods more often. 

And we’re also creating this belief that we can’t be trusted around these foods. And it’s, it’s those sorts of beliefs and those sorts of behaviors that are likely to actually increase our tendency towards binge eating. So instead, I like to take the approach of where might there be opportunities to add in to your diet. So for example, if you’re kind of reflecting over the foods that you eat throughout the day and considering might there be anything that could be perhaps lacking a little bit in my diet, is there something that would be good for me to introduce more of on my diet? You might be considering things like is there much color? ’cause this is the one that many people, myself included, can sometimes struggle with. Is there much color in my foods and in my meals? So if you’re kind of thinking about what you’ve ate over the course of a day and you’re noticing, for example, that there’s a lot of beige in your diet, there’s not very much color in your diet, then that might be a little bit of an indication that you might be lacking or that you could do with having more color on your plate. 

And we know that color on your plate in the form of fruit or vegetables, is a great way of adding in extra vitamins, extra minerals, and plenty of fiber. And fiber is something that we don’t talk about often enough, but we know that fiber is incredibly important at supporting our gut health. And it’s not something I’m an expert in, but we do know that there’s more and more research that’s coming out all around kind of the health of our microbiome, our gut health, and how the state of our microbiome actually influences potentially not only our weight, but also the types of foods that we crave and desire. So it is important that we want to try and be supporting our gut health. We know that also our gut health plays a huge role in things like our immune health and prevention of sickness and illness and things as well. 

So we want to keep those little bugs in our gut as healthy as we possibly can. And fiber in the form of fruit and vegetables is a great way of doing that. So maybe just reflecting on, is there enough color in my diet? Is there enough variety in my diet? I maybe looking for opportunities to add things in. So it might be things like when you’re having a meal, just increasing the amount of vegetables perhaps that you’re putting on a plate. It might be having a little side salad alongside your mealtime. It might be putting some fruit on your cereal that you normally eat in the morning time. So I really love that kind of that approach and that practice of looking up what could I add in and have more of in my diet. The next principle is around the, the context. 

And this is a word that I, gosh, it’s going back quite a few years, like, and whenever I would’ve been fooling. So this whole kind of nutrition is everything and being, you know, quite extremist in my views around it and thinking everything had to be organic and everything had to be perfect. And I remember challenging a PT that I was working with at the time around something, I don’t know, probably fasting or something that I was like full on <laugh> into at that time and him using the word context with me. And at the time I was probably quite resistant to him. But actually it’s something that has really resonated and stuck with me now. And it’s a, it’s a word that I always use with my clients because when we are in a disordered relationship with food, we tend to go from meal to meal to meal analyzing and picking apart, criticizing and judging ourselves on each meal on an individual basis and not actually considering the context of the bigger picture of what we’re doing on a day to day, month to month, year to year basis. 

And so an example of that would be, you know, somebody who’s eating generally a nutritious, well-balanced diet most of the time. And then they have perhaps a day or a weekend where they don’t eat in their kind of ideal way. They’re off track, they eat more foods than they anticipated, and they consider themselves perhaps to have overeaten or overindulge that that will be incredibly stress inducing and there’ll be this huge fear that they’ve blown it and that they’re gonna have gained huge amounts of weight because they vet these foods that they shouldn’t have eaten. And it’s, it’s that stress and that anxiety that is likely to catapult them into imposing new rules, new restrictions on themselves to try and gain some sort of sense of control, but actually in the context of the bigger picture of what they’re doing most of the time, having those days kind of not eating in their optimum way isn’t gonna make the blindest bit of difference. 

So that word context I really like is just to try not to get into the berating yourself over these meal to meal decisions and just being able to step back and think about the majority of the time and the context of what you’re doing. Are you eating sort of consistently? Are you focusing on foods that you can be adding into your diet? That actually in, in the bigger picture that what you’re doing is absolutely fine. And to cut yourself some slack, give yourself forgiveness, permission that you don’t need to feel any sort of guilt or shame over eating in a way that maybe for you doesn’t feel that comfortable or doesn’t feel ideal that it’s okay. The next guideline then is really about considering how foods make you feel. There’s like, you’ve maybe heard the kind of the statement, not all calories are created equal. 

I don’t particularly engage in in that statement because I don’t use calorie counting with clients, but I guess the sentiment behind that statement is that foods will feel different and potentially react differently in your body. So there are some foods that are going to give you more stable release of energy throughout the day. And some foods that are gonna give you a real quick release of energy in the day, there’s some foods that we might eat that might make us feel really good in our body and might feel like, actually these, this has given me real energy and I feel great. And there might be other foods that we eat that actually make us feel uncomfortable and make us feel sluggish, for example. And we can make decisions of whether we’re going to eat those foods on a case by case basis. So just as an example off the top of my head is like, I really enjoy fish and chips <laugh>, and like for me what’s really enjoyable, like actually nourishes me sort of emotionally and mentally would be like sitting on the beach on a sunny day dying port rush or somewhere like that and enjoying fish and chips at the beach. 

Like that for me emotionally is very nourishing and very satisfying. However, physically fish and chips don’t necessarily make me feel great afterwards. It might feel quite heavy in my stomach and maybe a little bit uncomfortable. So I am making the decision over what do I feel is gonna serve me that day, what do I feel like I want more of? Similar to, you know, like an ice cream or something. Again, an ice cream on a sunny day sitting with a friend enjoying it in the sunshine might feel like absolutely this is something I want, I’m choosing and it’s nourishing me emotionally and it’s making me feel better and I’m enjoying it. But equally, if I’ve been to a restaurant and I’ve had a, you know, a meal that’s very satisfying and I feel quite full actually maybe eating an ice cream’s not gonna serve me ’cause it’s just gonna make me feel really uncomfortable afterwards. 

So it’s not that there’s anything wrong with those foods, it’s just that in one context gain that word context in one context that food or those foods might be absolutely right and the thing that you really, really wanna eat. And in another context, in another situation it may not be. So it’s just considering how do those foods make you feel and is it something in that moment, in a case by case basis that you want to have? And it’s also thinking about things like considering what you like what you have on each day and what your requirements might even be. So if you’re thinking about your day ahead and you know that you’re gonna be really busy, that you’re out and about all day, you’ve got lots of things that to do. You’re gonna be running around using up a lot of energy and you’re thinking about something that you’re gonna have to eat. 

Even just considering, you know, is this food that I’m choosing going to fill me? Is it gonna satisfy me? Is it gonna give me the energy that I need to get through to the end of the day? So for example, if you’re thinking about having perhaps pasta, thinking about how does pasta make you feel? You might think, well, you know, I really enjoy the pasta, but I do notice that quite soon after I’ve had it, I start to feel hungry again. So is pasta the best option for me? Or what if I was to add in to the pasta? What if I was to add chicken or add, tuna it in that actually adding in that protein might give me a bit more density, might give me a bit more energy and that actually might help get me through to the end of the day. 

So making those choices around what meals you’re going to eat, also taken into consideration actually what are you doing that day? What might your requirements be? How is this gonna make me feel? Is this gonna give me enough satisfaction? Is this going to give me energy to see me through the day? The next principle then is to aim for balance. So if I can find a way of doing it, I do have like a balance plate guide. It’s a really simple PDF and it kind of shows just a really simple way of trying to aim for balance at mealtimes without it needing to be prescriptive and without the pressure of needing to be ensuring that you’re doing this at every single mealtime. ’cause We know there’s just gonna be times and meals where it’s not possible. If I can, I’ll try and attach it below. 

If not, just fire me a little message and I will quite happily send the PDF to you. So this kind of balance plate guide is really, if you were imagining that your plate was divided up into two quarters and one half, that one quarter would be for protein such as your chicken or fish. One quarter would be for your carbohydrates such as potatoes, chips rice, for example. And then the other half of your plate is for your color, so your salad or your vegetables. And then just a little small amount of healthy fats to be added in, which might be for example olive oil onto the plate. So that is just a way of considering when you’re serving up meals, when you’re making meals, just to consider, do I have plenty of color? Do I have that fiber in there from the salad or vegetables? 

Do I have protein because I know that protein is going to help me feel satisfied. It’s gonna help me feel fuller for longer, it’s gonna help me get through to my next mealtime. And then your carbohydrates, which are obviously our primary source of energy and which despite the bad reputation that carbohydrates can get, we absolutely do need carbohydrates in our diet and we do not want to be cutting them out at all. So that’s just a gentle guideline. So protein a quarter, carbs a quarter, and your salad and your veg the other half of the plate. Again, you are not gonna be able to do this all the time, particularly at breakfast time. That might be a meal where you don’t particularly want to eat vegetables in the morning. So you might just be having some fruit, for example, in the morning. 

So there is no requirement that every single meal that you have to follow this balance plate guide, but it’s just quite useful in helping you when you’re making your meal to meal decisions just to ask yourself that question, is there protein and is there color? And are there little ways that you might be able to start incorporating some of those in if you’re not already doing so? And then the very final guideline is just around about nutrition being a form of self-care as opposed to being about self-control. So you, if you’re listening to this, I’m guessing that you have been used to nutrition and dieting and weight control, all being about rigid rules about falling into seeing foods in a moral perspective as either being very good or very bad, having lots of should and must rules over what you should and shouldn’t be eating. 

And what I’ll often say to my clients is that actually when you’re caught up in that that narrative around food and that need to be in control, it’s often coming from this internal belief that in some way that we are not good enough and that the only thing that’s gonna make us feel better is weight loss. I’m only gonna feel better whenever I lose some weight. I’m only gonna feel good about myself when I lose some weight. But all the energy that is going into trying to control our weight and being very strict and rigid with ourself around our eating is actually doing the polar opposite. It’s creating negative feelings about ourself. It’s reaffirming every single day that we feel like we’re not good enough and that we’re not acceptable enough as we are. And us feeling good about ourself is only be gonna be contingent on getting to a specific weight or a specific goal. 

So what I really encourage my clients to do and for you to consider yourself is what if you were to make the decision every single day and tell yourself every single day that you are worthy, lovable, good enough, no matter what, and that part of your eating, part of your choices is about nourishing yourself and about showing yourself that you truly value, respect and care for yourself. Now, that does not mean that every meal you’re choosing has to be a salad ’cause that’s just engaging in diet mentality and diet talk, but that you’re making decisions around what you’re eating and how you are eating and behaving and activities you are engaging in because it’s coming from a place of considering yourself to be worthy, that you’re worthy of taking care of, you’re worthy of looking after, you’re worthy of considering what goes in your body because you are precious and you are worth investing in and worth taking care of. 

So I just want to kind of leave you that note to consider, you know, if I absolutely believe that I am good enough exactly as I am right now and that I truly loved and cared for myself, how would I be showing up? How would I be caring for myself? How would I be preparing meals? What sorts of foods would I be eating and how would I be showing myself that I matter? So I’m just gonna leave that little final thought on that final note with you. I hope you enjoyed this podcast episode and I look forward to talking to you again really soon. 

So guys, that’s it for today’s episode. I hope you enjoyed it. And ’cause this is a new podcast, I would love to get your feedback on how you have found it and hear any suggestions you have either for improving the podcast or even topics that you would like to be discussed in the future. I really would love and appreciate to hear from you. So feel free to drop me a DM on Instagram or send me an email. And also if you would like to find out more about my services and ways that you can work with me, check out my website, which is www.eatology.co.uk

Otherwise that is it for now. Goodbye and I hope you tune in again soon. Take care.

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