INTUITIVE EATING | CHANGING YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD

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This week on the podcast, we sit down with Mia Greco of Olive Branch Nutrition. A counseling practice that focuses on nutrition and wellness therapy, grounded in the principles of Intuitive Eating.

Mia and her story

Mia’s relationship with dieting started at a very young age. She recalls starting formal dieting in the 7th grade, which would have made her 12 to 13 years old at the time. Even at this young age Mia was already dealing with body image issues, body shaming from friends and family, and the idea of dieting was nothing new because her mom also dieted as well.

“I tied my worth to my body… If I wasn’t thin, I wasn’t good enough.”

Mia Greco

At a time when most young girls are building friendships enjoying their family, friends and school, Mia was already entrenched in dieting routines including, logging her foods in a journal. “I tied my worth to my body”, says Mia. “If I wasn’t thin, I wasn’t good enough.”, she continued.

Mia’s dieting became so extreme that she was on the verge of an eating disorder. Though she was never formally diagnosed, she admits she certainly had all the symptoms of an abnormal relationship with food.

Her pursuit of body perfectionism continued all through high school and into college. It was then that she decided to become a dietitian as a way to continue her pursuit of being thin and accepted through her knowledge of nutritional science.

Mia’s career as a dietitian made her relationship with her body and food worse.

Because of her newly acquired knowledge of food and nutrition, her body self image got worse and her relationship with food suffered further as well. “There was more pressure for me to eat healthy exclusively” Mia said.

After years of dieting with different methods and a very successful career as a dietitian and nutritionist, Mia was still unsatisfied and unhappy. Everything changed when she discovered intuitive eating.

Intuitive Eating

The notion of intuitive eating can be misunderstood. It sounds too simple. The idea of letting your body tell you when and what to eat, while simultaneously setting aside years of learned social pressures regarding how we feel about ourselves and our traditions can be a double edged sword.

On the one hand, it’s incredibly empowering to simply let go and trust that we are making right the decision in that moment. Taking back full control and redefining our own ideas of success, body image, health and confidence is something we all aspire too. But on the other hand, that kind of freedom can be dangerous if not carefully considered, particularly if you are dealing with an underlying health condition like diabetes or other challenges.

When I look a little deeper into the principles of intuitive eating, it can be incredibly powerful and life changing. Even with the diet limitations of diabetes, intuitive eating can help our relationship with foods in ways that support our health on a wholistic level.

The basis of Intuitive Eating can be summed up in ten principles. I won’t cover all ten principles here, but I will review the ones that Mia and I talked about during our podcast.

Principle #1 – Reject the diet mentality

According to Mia, the principle of rejecting the diet mentality is the hardest because of the dominance of the diet industry. “Diet culture is everywhere…” says Mia. The diet industry is a 72 billion dollar juggernaut of methods, quick fixes and products all with promises and the best intentions of getting you thin and in shape. The problem is that many of these diets are expensive, force you to give up many foods and traditions and don’t work long term for these same reasons. “[Diets] prey on our insecurities,” said Mia.

“[Diets] prey on our insecurities”

Rejecting the diet mentality means cutting off everything that supports and validates those insecurities like social media, your fitness tracker, calorie counters, fad cookbooks and other products. Instead, tuning in to what you need as an individual.

Principle #3 – Make Peace with food

Intuitive eating at its core is about healing your relationship with food. Giving yourself the freedom to eat whatever you want without the guilt. From the perspective of someone with diabetes, making peace with food is a hard principle to, dare I say swallow? “The stress of being on a diet is worse than you eating the cheeseburger,” Mia said.

“The stress of being on a diet is worse than eating the cheeseburger.”

Many I have spoken with in the diabetes community struggle with the guilt, frustration and loss of food. Learning to let go of labels like “I can’t have that,” “that’s too many carbs,” or “that’s bad” and “I can’t have that” makes those foods more desirable because of those very labels.

Many people are hard wired to want what they can’t have. By removing that restriction makes it less desirable because its more freely available.

Principle #9 – Joyful Movement

Many people exercise out of obligation or a need to change something. This could be health, a desire to be thin or even to be accepted. The principle of joyful movement encourages you to find movement that you enjoy and do that often.

This principle really hits home for me personally. For years I resisted exercise because I hated it. As I grew older and then after being diagnosed, I took time to really think about what do I truly enjoy? Treadmill, nope. Running, not a chance. Yoga, not my thing.

But I love hiking, I love the outdoors. I also enjoy rock climbing, and biking. So these are the things I do to be active. In the past couple of years, I have been more active than I ever was before, and seek out opportunities to do my favorite activities.

Principle #10 – Gentle Nutrition

Making peace with food opens up the next principle, gentle nutrition. The principle of gentle nutrition encourages making food choices that honor your physical and mental health needs with the freedom to have any food with you wish without guilt and shame. Diets can be restrictive, and absolute “healthy” eating when managing diabetes is self destructive. No one wants to be healthy, thin, and have perfect blood sugar levels at the expense of happiness. “I start with education first. Intuitive Eating will come later and the goal being to manage their condition without any absolute restriction,” said Mia.

“I start with education first. Intuitive Eating will come later and the goal being to manage their condition without any absolute restriction.”

Gentle reminders

My conversation with Mia, was an incredible reminder to treat ourselves the best way we see fit, on our own terms. Regardless of your health challenges, incorporating the principles of Intuitive Eating into the your life’s journey can be freeing in so many ways. It may help you enjoy experiences and memories that will far outlast whatever you ate in that moment.

Whether its eating a small piece of pizza to be all in with friends at the big game or enjoying a small piece of cake to celebrate the birthday of a loved one without guilt. Food should not be a barrier to taking in these moments that ultimately make up the story of of our lives. Be sure to check out our other shows about healthy eating, diabetes management and stories from the diabetes community.

Mia and her work

Mia is a non-diet Registered Dietitian with expertise in the areas of geriatric nutrition, diabetes management, health promotion, and Gentle Nutrition. She can be found online at olivebranchnutrition.org and on Facebook and Instagram.

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