Friday, February 26, 2010

Building a Bridge from ED to Intuitive Eating, Part 4


The Missing Piece of the Puzzle

Then it all crystallized. I found the missing piece to the puzzle. I finally understood why so many people were not finding complete recovery through intuitive eating. Quintessentially, the intuitive eating approach puts the cart before the horse. It works on the basis of assumption that most do not deal with any degree of eating disorder, when sadly, this is far from the truth. The reality is actually the mirror opposite. Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch have hit the nail on the head when they express the challenges that someone faces in integrating an intuitive eating approach when they are contending with eating disorder. They outline the importance of educating individuals about how to properly nourish their bodies and in many cases, employ a rehabilitative plan that will provide the safety of a certain level of structure. This allows the individual to gradually release distorted behaviors and perceptions around food as they are nurtured back to health physically and cognitively. Once this balance has been developed, the individual can be guided gently into learning how to listen to their body’s internal cues to lead their eating experiences. Intuitive eating is the ultimate destination, but a large majority of people coming to this path may need to take a detour and first learn how to properly care for themselves, addressing the internal imbalances that result from a history of ED/EDNOS or chronic dieting.

I can hear it now… “Wait a minute! I know what’s healthy. I could probably school my doctor in nutrition. I’ve read so many books on how to eat. I’ve been on countless plans. How is this supposed to help?! Isn’t a plan just another diet?” What many neglect to acknowledge is that the vast majority of their nutritional information has come from faulty sources. Most have received their nutritional ‘education’ from fad diets and the media who is always quick to jump on the bandwagon of the latest food hype. Tell me I’m wrong. We’ve all heard the never-ending droning of the media machine extolling the virtues of acai berries and mangosteen. For every ‘It’ girl in Hollywood we have a corresponding ‘It’ food… the flavor of the moment… and it sucks people in. First coffee is ‘bad’ for us, and then it is ‘proven’ to prevent dementia. How many foods have been put into the penalty box only to be redeemed a few short months later? Remember how we demonized carbs? That screwed up many people’s ideas about this important fuel source. Now we are being encouraged to bring grains back to the table.

The funny thing is the core nutritional information for building a foundation of health hasn’t really shifted all these years despite these ever-changing ‘fashion’ trends. I can read your thoughts… “Oh great… here we go with the Food Pyramid and the dreaded countdown of servings a day. Here come back the measuring cups, food scales and the lists of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. I knew it!” Wrong again. “Through Thick and Thin” would never pull the rug out from under you like that. Besides, there is much room for improvement when it comes to the Food Pyramid. Marion Nestle agrees.

Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She chaired the Department of Public Health from 1988-2003. She holds degrees in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition issued by UC Berkley. She has schooled physicians, residents and medical students at the UCSF School of Medicine. She has served as a member on the FDA Food Advisory Committee and Science Board, the USDA/DHHS Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and American Cancer Society that establish nutritional protocol for cancer prevention. This is the short list of her numerous contributions to the field of nutrition. She is a highly regarded professional and you would be hard-pressed to find a member of the medical/dietetic communities willing to go head to head with her. She knows her stuff and has poked many holes in the value of the Food Pyramid.

If you feel compelled to learn more about nutrition I encourage you to read Marion Nestle’s book, “What to Eat” where she sorts through the ‘Big Food’ hoopla to reveal the simple truth. It’s not complicated, but the food corporations have made it that way. In fact, the current Food Pyramid is more strongly influenced by commercial gain than by public interest. If you have any doubt about this I welcome you to read Marion Nestle’s telling book, “Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health”. What I appreciate about Marion Nestle is that she presents an informed, well-rounded view. She knows both sides of the story and is able to present the facts free from bias. I view her approach to nutrition as integrative. Unshackled by the conventional approach, she is open to applying alternative nutritional therapies where they have merit. Neither too far on the left, nor right side of the fence, she can meet the public in the middle and provide a balanced view.

If any food pyramid were to be employed in the design of our plan, “Through Thick and Thin” favors the, “Food For Thought Pyramid – How to REALLY Enhance Your Health” created by, Laura McKibbin, LICSW that is founded on the HAES (Health At Every Size) approach. The, “Food For Thought Pyramid” features:

  • Genetics, Luck (6-11 servings)
  • Socioeconomic Factors: Country of birth, race, gender, income, access to healthcare, freedom from violence (6-11 servings)
  • Relationships and Social Support: People, pets (3-5 servings)
  • Purpose and Meaning: Spirituality, altruism, contact with nature, forgiveness (2-4 servings)
  • Humor, Optimism, Play (2-3 servings)
  • Emotional Resilience: Healthy management and expression of anger and other emotions, ability to take action (2-3 servings)
  • Exercise (1 serving)
  • Nutritional Advice (Use Sparingly): Instead, rely on internal cues

Sources: Dean Ornish, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Bernie Siegel, The Buddha, Gloria Steinem, Viktor Frankl, Glenn Gaesser, Mother Teresa, Martin Seligman, Jesus of Nazareth, Jon Robison, Larry Dossey, Jean Baker-Miller, the World Health Organization, my Mom, your gut intuition.

As described on the website the, “Food For Thought Pyramid” was, “Designed as a tongue in cheek response to and criticism of the FDA’s Food Guide Pyramid.” There are, “Food For Thought Pyramid” posters available for purchase at:

In a spirit of paying it forward, for every poster purchased 20% of the proceeds will be donated to the Ecumenical Food Shelf of Alberta Lea, MN. Or if preferred, you can provide the name of a food bank in your area that you would like the funds to be distributed to and they will make a donation to your chosen facility in your name. The poster would be a great way to visually remind yourself to keep all things in perspective on your journey and to heed your counsel as the input that carries the most weight in your decisions when it comes to your recovery.

Our ultimate destination is intuitive eating. Those who are currently struggling with ED/EDNOS issues may need a helping hand to rehabilitate their bodies so they can get back to a balanced place biologically and once again rely on their internal cues. For those who have been coming up against a wall of resistance in implementing intuitive eating, this approach may prove beneficial for you too. Please be mindful that this is a temporary means. The intention is not for you to fall back on this plan indefinitely. The idea is to help you get reconnected with your personal rhythms and bodily signals. I encourage you to give yourself at least 3 weeks to work with this technique so you can experience the rebalancing benefits that come from nourishing your body deeply.

This approach is being outlined for those dealing with eating disorder. If you have found your transition into intuitive eating to be a smooth, seamless one and your formerly imbalanced behaviors around food have stabilized… congratulations. It’s empowering to reconnect with your body and inner sense of knowing. There is no need for you to make any alterations. This approach is not for you. I ask that there is respect for those in our community who may need to rely on this transitional technique. If this plan is not for you, it does not mean that it is not needed by another who feels disconnected from their body. It is important to be mindful of the counsel...

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Plato

1 comment:

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