This how-to post is all about becoming an intuitive eater and making changes in your diet that are sustainable for you. McCall Weekes, from A Newtrition Life, teaches her clients how to create a food regimen that works best with their lifestyle. If you are ready to “ditch the diet dogma” and get healthy on your own, then her expertise will lead you in the right direction.
McCall is a private nutrition coach with a BS in Nutrition from Brigham Young University. She worked for a nutrition supplement company, both as a nutrition coach and on their research and development team. She said, “I learned a lot about supplements and how they can help people with various difficulties. Ultimately I wanted to help people ‘get healthy’ on their own, without relying on supplements. I wanted to empower people to make those changes by themselves.”
Since then, her enthusiasm for health and fitness has grown. Regarding nutrition she said, “I am passionate because I think it is an area that most people neglect, or have a skewed opinion of. Many people have a terrible relationship with food.” She now helps people recognize that food should not be feared, and teaches them to enjoy food and the experience of eating.
McCall shared the following five steps towards making lasting changes in your diet. She believes that when you start implementing these steps, you will finally be freed from the food guilt cycle.
- Focus on what I call, “The Health Triangle” – nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle
Too often we lose focus on just one area of our health. Evaluate why your nutrition and exercise goals may not be meshing with your lifestyle. Maybe your meal plan is too involved for your busy life. Maybe you hate the gym. What lifestyle struggles do you have? How can you set goals that will help you overcome those struggles? Once you have an answer to these questions, it will be easier to accomplish other health related goals.
- Identify foods that are “forbidden” and “feared”
For many people, this will be treats and carbohydrates. Try to look at all food equally. The more “forbidden” a food is, the more likely you are to crave it. Just like that girl or boy who is “off limits” suddenly seems more attractive, so it is with food. Let go of all the dieting gimmicks and tricks you have learned over the years, and try to eat unbiasedly. Give up the “diet mentality” once and for all.
- Practice intuitive eating
There are two hormones that regulate your food intake. The first is ghrelin – grr I am hungry, ghrelin. This hormone sends signals to your brain that you are hungry. As you eat, the levels of ghrelin decrease and the levels of leptin increase. Leptin, the second hormone, sends signals to your brain that you are satiated or full. Dieting has caused many of us to ignore these signals.
Portion control and timed eating intervals have taught us not to trust ghrelin. Calorie restriction has taught our body that we know when it’s satiated, so we don’t need leptin to signal that for us. We can override these signals on either end of the spectrum. It will take some time to restore these signals, but they will come back. I like to recommend my clients about four hours in between each feeding. Starting your body on a tentative schedule can help restore those signals.
- Create two file folders in your mind
One that you will fill with good food experiences and one that you will fill with bad food experiences. After your hunger and satiety cues have been restored, take some time to go through a variety of foods that sound good to eat. At first you think, “Treats always sound good.” That is not necessarily true. Your body craves good nutrition and so do you.
If you listen to your body and don’t eat the first thing that comes to mind, you will start to become an intuitive eater, rather than an instinctive eater. Referring back to the positive experience you have with food will help you choose the healthier option.
- Trust yourself with food
Dieting has taught you to distrust yourself around food, but you are a grown person who can make your own decisions. You do not need someone telling you what to eat. You may seek the counsel of a dietitian nutritionist to help navigate your way back to intuitive eating (that is what I help people do), but find an eating regimen that will work for you forever. Not just for a certain period of time.
Trust that you will make good, healthy decisions. Trust that you can put the fork down when you are full. Trust that a dessert here and there will not make you instantaneously fat. Trust your body’s signals. They are never wrong, but diets can be wrong.
In addition to her suggestions above, she reminds us that becoming an intuitive eater takes time. McCall said, “There are many more steps that help one achieve intuitive eating, but they are different for everyone. It is not easy to become an intuitive eater because our food choices run deep and diet principles seem to stick.” Her job is to help people navigate their way through these steps. She has found inspiration from the book, Intuitive Eating, and recommends it to anyone who is done with dieting.
To make lasting changes in your diet and learn more about intuitive eating, you can contact McCall through her website, A Newtrition Life. She also teaches group fitness classes at various gyms in Utah County. Follow her on Instagram (@mccallweekes) for more information and inspiration.