Feeling on Purpose

Graphic by Alana Van Der Sluys

Many of us live our lives in a reactive state. Something happens to us and we react. Living in reaction to our life’s events can be exhausting. It’s like we’re perpetually putting out fires around us, playing catch up, not fully stepping into our full agency as individuals. 

We can see this happening in our behaviors with food and our bodies. We look at ourselves in the mirror and have a (usually negative) reaction to what we see. From this emotional place, we choose to react: we step on the scale to confirm we have gained weight; we spend the next half hour pinching parts of our body we’re dissatisfied with or we body check in the mirror; we have black coffee for breakfast in lieu of a nourishing meal. 

Other times, we have a stressful day at work or at home with our kids. Our knee jerk reaction to stress and anxiety is to push it away, to numb out. Our brains will always default to what is easiest in the name of efficiency and preserving brain power; and numbing out or pushing away emotions are much easier than processing and working through them. So we are reactionary: we reach for foods high in sugar and fat because they will give us the biggest dopamine hit, and we mindlessly eat past fullness because we want to maximize our time numbing out and avoiding the problem.

Sound familiar? If so, you are operating from a reactive state. You are not the captain of your ship, but rather a prisoner on that ship, shackled to it. 

That is no way to live. It’s not productive, it doesn’t produce growth, and let’s face it, it’s not fun. 

Instead, we can choose to live from a place of purpose, from a place of being proactive. That is where this concept of “feeling on purpose” comes in. 

For those who haven’t challenged yourself to choose, manage, and challenge your emotions, this might seem like an impossible task. You feel like you’re always at the whim of your emotions, not the other way around. 

Let me be the first to say, I used to think it was impossible to manage my emotions,, too. I used to yell, scream, fly off the handle if someone pushed me far enough. I let all sorts of things bother me. I would stack small inconveniences that happened throughout the day until they toppled over and crushed me. Each one would be more confirmation that the day sucked. That I sucked. 

It wasn’t until I learned to manage my mind that things stopped bothering me so much. It wasn’t until I realized that emotions, thoughts, and feelings are choices that I took hold of them and chose the ones I wanted to feel, on purpose. 

Here are four questions to ask yourself to start feeling on purpose, so you can begin living your life with you in the driver seat, not external circumstances or emotions based on those external circumstances. I suggest writing these down in a journal so you can see them in front of you and process them in a logical order. 

  1. What three feelings do you want to feel on purpose? Relaxed, determined, joyful, calm: whatever the emotion, purposefully choose three specific ones that you’d like to feel on purpose. Keep in mind that you are aiming to feel these at least half of the time. Life is full of ups, downs, and contradictions. We can’t truly appreciate the good without the bad, so we have to allow and make space for the bad times; but most of the time, what are the three emotions you’d like to feel? If words are eluding you, look up a list of emotion words on the internet. 
  2. What thoughts do you need to think on purpose to feel that way? Write them out. Make them like affirmations. Make pretty graphics on Canva and set them as the background of your phone.  If I want to feel calm, for example, I might think a thought like, “Everything on my to-do list today is optional.” And it is. Even though I want to do most things on my to-do list, partially because I don’t want to suffer the consequences of not doing them, I don’t even have to take care of my child or show up for work. Life is all just a series of choices; and knowing that takes the pressure off. Another thought I might want to think to keep calm is, “Everything is happening for me, not to me.” Even your biggest failures in life come with life lessons, if you’re willing to look for them. If you can shift your perspective in a way that conveys that the world is on your side no matter what, even the bad experiences become bearable. 
  3. Are these thoughts authentic and realistic for me? For many who want to feel confident, they might want to jump to thinking, “I love my body.” If you’ve spent most of your life hating your body, though, that might feel inauthentic and it might backfire, leading you to abandon this process.. Instead, initially try some neutral thoughts like, “This is my body,” or, “I have a body.” Once you can feel comfortable in those thoughts, you can “upgrade” to more positive thoughts. 
  4. What actions do you need to take, on purpose, to perpetuate these feelings? Going back to wanting to feel calm, there are certain actions I want to take in my day to ensure I stay calm on purpose. I can purposefully take two-minute breaks throughout the day to close my eyes and do deep breathing. I could purposefully listen to soothing music as I work. I could purposefully listen to podcast episodes on how to stay calm. When my toddler throws a tantrum, I could take deep breaths and help him identify his big feelings instead of yelling at him to stop. 

I’m not saying this is easy work, and I’m not saying it will work all the time. I’m not Pollyanna, and I definitely lose my marbles with my toddler from time to time and occasionally feel like every little thing on my to-do list is a five-alarm, dumpster fire; but ever since I started feeling, thinking and acting on purpose, those instances have become a lot less frequent. I’ve stepped into the driver seat, and I’m in charge of whether I put the pedal to the metal or go on a leisurely Sunday drive. 

The Case for Group Coaching

I find that many who suffer from body image issues and yo-yo dieting are those who are shrouded in shame. They believe they are broken and have come to believe this through countless cycles of trying to do better (whatever that “better” looks like)  and failing. 

This shame thrives in the shadows, grows in the silence. By not talking about it, shame can convince us that we are the only ones who feel this way, that this issue of ours is a defect within only us. Everyone else has it together, everyone else is happy and normal. 

The freeing secret of the universe, though, is that we are all broken. We are all imperfect, emotional, fallible human beings; and perhaps through that logic, if all of us are broken, can we really call it being broken anymore? Is it that we are all perfect in our imperfections?

We cannot see this truth, truly and completely, without talking about our own struggles, our own shame, our own insecurities. We have to be brave enough to talk about them for two important reasons. First, if we talk about our pain points, we can move toward processing them and healing them. Secondly, talking about what ails us helps turn the wheel of the bigger movement to bring mental health issues into the light ,to destigmatize them. We tell our story and it inspires someone else to tell theirs; soon, we are all standing up as one voice to say, “This is me; and I am worthy just as I am, regardless of where society may believe I come up short.” 

This is why I only offer group coaching. 

While I do think 1:1 coaching certainly has its merits and benefits (and I offer it as part of my group coaching package), there is something so magical and powerful about a group setting when tackling a complicated issue like recovery.

So, here are five unique benefits to group coaching, whether it’s for intuitive eating or general life coaching. 

  1. It provides accountability with a coach – You can consume as much free material as you want, and I sincerely hope you do take advantage of those free resources; but having an expert who has been hired, specifically, to be on your team to ensure your success cannot be replicated with free worksheets or podcasts. Your coach has the knowledge, and many times the first-hand experience, to guide you through those resources in a way that addresses your specific needs. When we try to recover on our own, no one is pushing us and giving us the tough love that’s required when the journey gets, well, tough; and it will. 
  2. It provides support from the group. Everyone is there, in general, for the same reason. For intuitive eating group coaching, it’s to heal their relationship with food, their body, and their weight. As a result, everyone is rooting for your success, because if they can succeed, so can you. Their success is your success. 
  3. It provides a sense of community. You may have no one in your real life who gets what you’re going through, and recovery can be a really isolating experience. With group coaching, suddenly, you have a group of people who understand. You can tell them what you’re struggling with day-to-day, ask them questions, and encourage one another in a way that’s difficult for other people who don’t quite understand the pain point to do. You learn together, you cry together, you laugh together, you heal together. 
  4. It provides a sense of strength from supporting others. In a group coaching setting, there is a lot of discussion around successes and failures week to week. Members are invited to jump in and ask questions or offer support to their peers. Many members speak of issues that the other members have or still currently experience. Verbalizing love and support for someone going through what you are helps you to hear the narratives you should be adopting in your own head. You become more confident in that more supportive language for yourself, too. 

You learn from watching others get coached. Sometimes we’re more apt to listen to advice if it’s not given directly to us. Sometimes it feels safer to hear someone else get coached on an issue we’re also having. It’s like when you were in grade school and someone asked a question you also had, but you weren’t brave enough to raise your hand. Perhaps you may even be struggling with something you’re not yet able to verbalize yourself, until you hear a fellow member describe their own experience with it. Again, I see this with high school students. They know they’re confused about something but they’re just not sure what it is clearly enough to formulate it into a question. Hearing others get coached helps us to get a more well-rounded view of how we’ve come to experience our particular struggles and how else they can manifest for our future selves if we don’t seek the help we need.

Ready to take the next step with group coaching, schedule a 15-minute discovery call with me today!

EMOD (Emotional Modification): Emotional Management to Heal Disordered Eating

Many potential clients come to me saying that their goal is losing the last 15 pounds. Many others say that they want to become intuitive eaters but still pursue weight loss goals. 

What many do not realize is that there is a bigger reason for the issues with weight. Those with specific medical issues notwithstanding, most people who have issues with their weight and food have deeper, more emotional and mental issues that need to be dealt with. 

The weight itself is simply a symptom of bigger internal issues. If we can figure out what the true issue is and begin to tackle that, the issues with weight will be resolved as a byproduct. 

Now, that is not to say that dealing with the bigger issue will guarantee weight loss. What happens with your weight as a result of dealing with the mental and emotional piece of your food issues is determined by two things: 

  1. Your genetically-determined weight set range
  2. Your particular disordered habits

Before my eating disorders, I was an intuitive eater (as we all were in the beginning!). During my eating disorders, a severe caloric deficit caused weight loss that wasn’t natural for my body. As a result, when I healed my internal issues and became an intuitive eater, I gained weight. 

This was incredibly scary, and I had to do a lot of thought work around what the weight gain meant, but it was weight I needed to gain to be my ideal weight. 

In the same way, someone who is perhaps emotionally eating, overeating, and otherwise binge eating may be above their natural weight set range; and once their internal issues are healed–and by extension their habits with food–they may lose weight. 

As a coach who studies other coaches in order to refine my craft, I have studied a lot of different coaching models in order to come up with my own signature model specific to intuitive eating and body image; I call it EMOD. 

EMOD stands for Emotional Modification and is also an acronym for the four steps of the model: Emotion, Meaning, Objectivity, and Decision. All steps of the model stem from an event that has happened in the client’s life. 

Although I believe the model can be done by anyone for themselves, I always suggest that someone who is struggling with disordered eating and managing their thoughts and emotions hire a coach or Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor to walk them through a model like this. 

The Emotion step of the model asks, “What emotion are you feeling, as a result of this event? And what emotions caused this event?” So, for example, let’s say a client comes to me after they’ve binged. I will ask them what emotions are coming up for them. Many reply with answers like shame, guilt, feeling out of control, or frustration. Before the binge, they were feeling rushed, stressed, and anxious. In order to process negative emotions, we first have to be able to label them. 

The next step is diving into Meaning, or asking, “What am I making this event or this emotion mean?” The bingeing client may say that the binge means they are completely out of control when it comes to food, that they need to restrict to “fix” this event, that they’re never going to get a handle on their binge eating, that they’re disgusting or worthless. Many times, we don’t realize the thoughts running through our heads; we passively think them and don’t examine them; but once we do, we can start to analyze and challenge them. Without realizing it, when we create these meanings and stories in our heads, we make these events mean something about who we are as people (and whether we’re good people or bad), but in reality, all events are neutral experiences until we attribute meaning to them. 

The third step of the EMOD model is Objectivity. We need to take those emotionally-charged thoughts, which are not serving us, and rephrase them in a way that is factual and neutral. By stripping the negative emotion out of what  we’re experiencing, we can see the event for the neutral event that it is, and not moralize ourselves as a result of the event. We can more calmly see the circumstances in front of us. So, for this client, we can change her negatively charged thoughts to, “I ate past fullness last night,” “I waited too long to eat before the binge,” or, “I am actively working toward learning how to not binge eat.” 

The last step is Decision, or asking, “What will you do, looking only at the facts of the event?” Once we see the event as neutral, we have an easier time moving past it in a healthy way, instead of a punitive way. Someone who hasn’t managed their emotions around a binge may think the best course of action is to restrict to “make up for ” the binge. Once we see the event from a neutral place, though, we can calmly see the facts of the event: the client was restricting and went way past the point of comfortable hunger, which triggered a biological binge. In order to prevent this from happening again, we need to move away from the emotionally-charged  (fear, shame) decision to restrict, and try something new: continuing to fuel our body according to our hunger and fullness cues. This will move us away from the restrict and binge cycle. 

This allows us to address the emotions with new decisions, too. What caused the binge in the first place? Part of it was certainly the physical cause of restriction; but there was also an emotional component.  We identified stress and anxiety as the emotional causes of the binge, so what can we do, now and also next time, to mitigate the stress and anxiety in order to avoid the binge? Can we practice more self-care? Journal? Meditate? Be more intentional with our work and play time? Whatever it is, now is the time to implement those things. 

Although it is emotionally difficult and time consuming to take the time to process events and emotions with EMOD, especially at first, the long-term investment in managing your thoughts and emotions and taking new steps toward recovery is worth it. You will soon realize that you’ve been approaching your problems with the wrong solution, and you will open the doors to true healing, for the rest of your life to begin. 

If you want to talk about signing up for coaching with me, go to freedomwithfoodandfitness.com/book-online to schedule your free 15-minute discovery call today!

The Goal Lie

Marketing is smart. Companies try to sell you an ideal (preferably one their customers can never achieve by using said product alone). They are selling you abstract concepts like acceptance, love and happiness.

The reason this is a genius business model is because these are things, at a basic level, for which we long. If we were not part of the herd (and accepted) as prehistoric humans, we would starve or be eaten by a predator. Similarly, love is included in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Love and happiness, from an early age, are ingrained in our psyches as the ultimate boon: we do everything in our lives in the pursuance of love and happiness.

The secret to life, though, is that happiness, love and acceptance are not goals. They are not an end destination. Instead, they are states of being. They are choices. They already exist within you if you choose to believe them.

Everything that happens to us is neutral and it is our job to choose what we make these things mean. As an English teacher, sometimes students fail my class. I used to make that mean that they were irresponsible lazy kids or that my teaching was ineffective, that I just wasn’t engaging and interesting enough to capture their attention and garner their efforts. 

Graphic by Alana Van Der Sluys

What I’ve learned, however, is I was choosing to make it mean something negative. Now, instead of making the students’ failings mean something about me, I choose to look at what the students’ successes mean about me. I may not affect every student, but I have undoubtedly and positively affected many students. For the students that are failing, this is an opportunity to have honest and open conversations with them, to show them that they have a teacher that genuinely cares about their well being, not just their grades, and expresses a genuine willingness to help in whatever way I can. 

I will not be happier when every student passes my class. I will not be happier when every student likes me as a person or a teacher. I will be happy as a teacher when I choose happiness regardless of what may go wrong in the day, in a lesson, with a student. 

In the same way, I was never happy no matter how much weight I lost in my eating disorder. It never made me happy because happiness isn’t a destination the way a particular number on the scale is. I had to choose to be happy, at the weight I was at, in order to be happy. 

Not only is happiness a state of being, it also cannot be a destination because no feeling is static. It’s not like you arrive at happiness and then game over, you win. The destination of life is death and I know that sounds morbid, but anything in between life and death —our mistakes, our triumphs, our experiences–those are all life, those are all the journey. 

So when we have goals, we shouldn’t be banking on them to secure everlasting happiness, success, love or acceptance. Instead,we should ask ourselves: What will be the same in our lives when we reach our goal and what will change? 

If your goal is to lose 25 pounds, what will be the same in your life? Will you still not feel enough? Will you still be as successful at work as you are now? Will your children still drive you crazy? Will your husband magically always remember to do the dishes after dinner?

And this is not to deter you from having goals. I think the point of life is to explore new avenues and experiences and challenge ourselves to get the most out of our human experience; but being honest about why we have those goals and whether our pursuits will truly get us those goals is crucial to explore. 

You ARE sick enough.

Today I want to talk about being “sick enough.”

There might be many of you out there who say, “I’m not skinny enough to have an eating disorder” or, “I’m not sick enough to need help with my disordered eating because I’m still overweight” or, “Being on a diet isn’t a problem, even if it drives me crazy. Everyone is on a diet. It’s just normal.”

First of all, I want to debunk the logic in some of those statements.

There is no “overweight.” Over what weight? The weight the BMI tells you is “normal”? If you’ve been a follower on @FreedomwithFoodandFitness on Instagram or a listener of this podcast for any amount of time, you know how I feel about BMI (Body Mass Index). It’s a false picture of individual health. It’s a lazy way to treat a patient. It’s arbitrary, man-made ranges.

Second, if something can be labeled as “disordered” and “drives you crazy,” I don’t care how many other people are doing it. It’s just like your mom used to say, “If everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you?”

Lastly, let’s really look at this definition of normal. Common? Yes. It is common for women to diet and hate their bodies and seek weight loss or be judged for not doing so. Is it normal? No. Not even a little bit. Do not confuse common with normal. Eating intuitively is normal. Trusting your body is normal. Letting your weight fall where it will is normal. Not chasing some arbitrary beauty ideal is normal.

All this to say: You ARE sick enough.

Graphic by Alana Van Der Sluys

If you…

  • feel unhappy
  • feel out of control around food
  • feel obsessive about your weight
  • are sacrificing parts of your life for a diet
  • feel depleted, lethargic
  • constantly think about food
  • constantly look at yourself in the mirror
  • constantly criticize your body
  • are a slave to the scale and your diet.
  • you are “overweight”
  • still want to lose weight

you ARE sick enough.

And there is NOTHING wrong with that.

I’ve spoken about people pleasing before, and acting like you don’t have a problem in order to look perfect to others or to not make others uncomfortable is just people pleasing. You don’t owe anything to anyone and everyone has their issues. We may not know about them, but they’re there. They don’t owe us to be perfect and we don’t owe that to them either.

You deserve support.

You deserve to be happy.

You deserve to be free of this.

As someone who thought she could “handle it” alone, please know that I am here to help you.

🚨If you need help and support getting “unsick”, I have a FREE FOOD FREEDOM MASTERCLASS in the spring to help you with just that. DM or comment ✌🏻MASTERCLASS ✌🏻to save a spot on the waitlist!

Why you should seek to fail.

 STEPHEN KING. OPRAH WINFREY. JK ROWLING. BILL GATES

ALL of these mega successful people FAILED OVER AND OVER before they succeeded. 

👎🏼They had times where people didn’t believe in them. Before launching Microsoft, Bill Gates had dropped out of Harvard University and was the co-owner of a business called Traf-O-Data, which later failed.

Graphic by Alana Van Der Sluys

👎🏼They had times where they didn’t believe in themselves. JK Rowling, before the mega-famous Harry Potter series (and subsequently EVERYTHING that goes along with that franchise) was on welfare, unemployed, and trying to take care of a five-month-old baby in the wake of her divorce.

But they knew, deep down, that THEY WERE WORTHY. That sense of worthiness and that sense of place in the world were the reasons they kept trying until they ultimately succeeded…and succeeded big.

So, FAILURE IS A GOOD THING!

1. It teaches us what not to do or what doesn’t work. If we don’t try different things, we never know what actually works, and what works best. We can have ideas and do research, but until we actually try things or execute plans, we just don’t know. If you’re afraid to try intuitive eating because you’re afraid you’ll become a fat, “unlovable” mess—there’s no actual evidence that that will happen to YOU, until YOU take the leap.

2. It strengthens our character and thickens our skin. Honestly, I’m a stronger person for every loss and failure I’ve had. I had a horrible experience at the last job I had. My boss had it out for me, and no matter what I did, it wasn’t good enough. I never felt like I fit in there. But I took that experience and realized that not everyone will like you. That you don’t need to be a people pleaser to succeed at work. That I needed to be vulnerable and uncomfortable sometimes to make genuine connections at work.

3. It makes success that much sweeter. All the rejections I’ve received for my intuitive eating book proposal will be SO worth it once I find a publisher or literary agent willing to take a chance on me. The wellness genre is saturated right now, so if you’re not a celebrity or don’t have a massive social media presence, it’s extremely difficult to get representation. But I know my words, my strategies to recover, and my experiences could help so many women out there, so I keep plugging away.

4. It strengthens your work ethic. 

I have a folder of rejection letters for my intuitive eating book. Each one fuels my fire to find an agent and publisher that believes in my writing and ideas. I’m not just going to GIVE UP because some people don’t see my vision. It will happen if I keep trying and be patient.

So try new things. What’s really the worst thing that can happen? And follow that up with, is that a LIKELY outcome? or Would that HONESTLY be that bad? If you gained weight, would it be the worst thing in the world? If you all of a sudden didn’t get objectified by strangers for your looks, is that really going to dismantle your self-worth? If you let go of control over your weight, what you eat, the number of calories you consume, what would happen?

Be curious. Be brave.

The waitlist is filling up for my FREE FOOD FREEDOM MASTERCLASS series this spring! Send me your email below, DM me on Instagram–@FreedomwithFoodandFitness or at freedomwithfoodandfitness@gmail.com

With freedom,

Alana

No one is perfect

NOT EVEN COACHES ARE PERFECT AT INTUITIVE EATING!

I totally admit that there are

  • days I underestimate how much food and I need and have to go back to the pantry
  • days I overeat because the food tastes good
  • days I overeat because I don’t want to throw out the little bit that’s left
  • days I overeat because I’m too lazy to put the rest in the fridge
Graphic by Alana Van Der Sluys

We’re human and recovery doesn’t mean being perfect at recovery or eating or being intuitive.

The difference between being in recovery and being recovered?

Giving yourself the grace to mess up.

Giving yourself the grace to be human.

Knowing it’s one day or one meal compared to all the others you’ve been rocking your intuition.

Can we just agree to grant ourselves our humanity?

To be human is to make mistakes. We’re not robots. We learn and grow from mistakes. If we didn’t make them, we wouldn’t move forward in our lives.

Even if you think someone is perfect on social media or IRL, know that is a facade. It’s a highlight reel, at best. You’re not walking around in their skin and you have no idea what they’re thinking about, or what they do or experience behind closed doors.

So give yourself compassion and space to mess up.

How do I know my weight set range?

I know so many people, despite being ready to ditch diets, are very worried about their weight.

So, today we’re going to tackle weight set range, sometimes called weight set point. I like to refer to it as a weight set range because I don’t believe it’s a fixed point, but rather a range with wiggle room.

Your weight set range is the genetically determined weight range where your body feels the most comfortable and runs most optimally.

Graphic by Alana Van Der Sluys

The key phrase here is genetically-determined. Your DNA accounts for 80% of your body composition in terms of what we try to control–your size, your shape, your weight. Diet and exercise only contribute to 20%. They’re not the end all, be all of your size, contrary to what diet companies might tell you.

And yes, sometimes there are people who have these incredible weight loss stories–losing 50, or 100 pounds and they look happy and fit. But there are some things to consider here. First, are they restricting. Are they working out super intensely every day for hours? Are they really happy? It’s one thing to smile and look happy, it’s another thing to be happy.

And at what part of their journey are they? Are we seeing them five years after they hit their goal weight? Have they maintained this long-term? Or is this a fresh-reveal when the endorphins are high and they’re on cloud 9 from finally reaching the goal.

The thing about weight loss like this is it makes you happy for maybe a few weeks, until you realize that happiness won’t last. That the weight loss wasn’t what you were looking for. So you move the target, you create a new weight goal, and so on and so forth. But now many times can you do that before you realize: no matter what weight I’m at, THAT’S not what is going to make you happy.

So, that’s really the first step to weight set range work: is realizing that it’s a range that’s largely out of your control, and even if you can beat your body into submission, it would be a life-long battle to maintain it, and it won’t actually be the thing to make you happy. You really have to divorce yourself from the idea that an ideal weight will make you happy and that the pursuit of that weight is necessary to be a worthwhile, happy human being.

A lot of clients also ask, “How do I know what I’m at my weight set range?”

There are some characteristics of weight set range.

  1. You are no longer restricting. You are listening to your hunger and fullness? If you are, you are probably at your weight set range. Are you still waiting for scripted times to eat? Are you still counting calories or macros? Are you still weighing yourself? If the answer is yes to any of these, you’re probably not at your weight set range.
  2. You feel energized. When you’re on a diet, you feel exhausted, tired, irritable, out of control of your cravings. When you’re intuitive eating, you feel energized but relaxed and more at ease.
  3. You are moving for pleasure. You’re not punishing yourself with exercise to change your body to a thin ideal. You’re not nauseated and ready to pass out. You’re not doing certain exercises because those are what you’re “supposed” to do.

It also is worth saying that everyone’s weight set range is different DESPITE HEIGHT AND AGE. Height and age play a hand in weight set range, but not everyone at age 35 or everyone who is 5’4″ will have the same weight set range. Genetically, we have more or less muscle mass, propensity for fat, bone density, etc.

BMI is BS…but that’s a different conversation for a different day.

It might really devastate some people whose weight set ranges are higher than others. You may grieve the thin body you were hoping for. But know that what you were searching for with that thin body is available to you now. Yes, diet culture and it’s thin privilege and fatphobia exist and that’s something you’ll have to acknowledge and contend with (again, a discussion for a different day), but happiness, life fulfillment, a family, great friends, kids, a kicka$$ job, whatever you’re looking for in your life…is available to you NOW. You just have to realize that and go for it.

The waitlist is filling up for my FREE FOOD FREEDOM MASTERCLASS series this spring! Send me your email below, DM me on Instagram–@FreedomwithFoodandFitness or at freedomwithfoodandfitness@gmail.com

With freedom,

Alana

Six Ways to Set Boundaries

Boundaries around diet talk are essential for healing.

Many of us don’t want to create these necessary boundaries because we don’t want to be seen as “weak” or sensitive. These are considered bad things…that we can’t just “deal with” what other people have to say.

First of all, part of this work has to do with forgetting what other people think of you. It’s irrelevant. You’re the one who has to live with you, not them. They have to live with themselves and you have to live with you. Caring about other people only serves to perpetuate their messages in our own lives. We need to move away from other people’s messages and concentrate on our own.

So boundaries are important.

Because if we keep hearing diet culture’s messages, we can never stop believing them.We never stop believing that they are fact. And so we keep following them. We need consistent repetition of new messages to create neural pathways so if we don’t put boundaries around those messages and the things and people that perpetuate them, we stay stuck in our recovery.

Who in your life do you need to create boundaries around?

How much do you want to bet that you’re thinking about the people closest to you?

And what’s most difficult, knowing that those are the people who need the most boundaries. They are close to you, they love you, and therefore, they believe they have the right to say whatever they want to you if they believe it’s in your best interest. But we know they’re usually just as steeped in diet culture as anyone else. And they will be the people who take boundaries the least. They may protest, they may tease you, they may blow you off because they only know you how they’ve always known you, as past you, not future bad ass you. so it’s hard for them to adjust.

But luckily, I’m here to teach you a few ways to help with that.

Here are six ways to set boundaries around diet talk.

Write down conversational triggers/ what you’re not willing to tolerate✨

How do you feel about compliments regarding certain body parts? Your weight? How do you feel about conversations that include numbers? Is discussing weights, calories, or macros triggering? What about diet conversations? Figure out what you can and cannot handle in terms of conversation, actually write it down so you can feel it. As you think of each kind of scenario you may come up against, see how you feel in your body. Do you get a pit in your stomach? Do your shoulders tense up? Those are the topics you want to avoid.

✨If the talk is happening as part of a larger gathering (e.g. party), walk away. ✨

Go to the bathroom, grab a drink, talk to someone else–whatever you have to do to physically remove yourself from the situation.  This strategy is for those who know they need to filter the narratives around them but aren’t necessarily ready for actual confrontations. Quietly excusing yourself is absolutely acceptable. If you’re at a dinner table and the people to your left start talking about diet-related things, physically turn your body to the right and see what those people are talking about. 

Don’t get defensive ✨

If people feel attacked, the logical part of their brain shuts down and the, quite literally, can’t hear what you’re saying. Sometimes, especially if someone is being critical, you want to come back with fighting words. What does THAT mean? Why would you say that? We won’t want to be defensive because that puts people’s guards up, too, and then no one is really hearing what anyone is saying. It shuts down meaningful, productive conversation instead of facilitating it. Part of the reason we can get defensive is because, deep down, we still believe diet culture’s lies, too. Still, it’s not exactly fair to go into attack mode. For one, they’re also a casualty of diet culture’s messages; and two, the fact you still believe diet culture’s messages is not their problem–it’s yours. 

Write down responses ahead of time

This may feel silly but if you know what you’d say in certain situations, you’ll feel more confident sticking up for yourself and you’ll say them with more conviction, instead of stumbling on your words.  Write down what you think future disordered conversations will be like based on what they’ve said in the past. What will they say and what will you say back?

✨Be “punny” (lighthearted with your request for boundaries)✨

Although setting boundaries is a serious matter in terms of setting yourself up for recovery success, you don’t have to sound so serious. Laughter and humor are great ways to disengage the offending party and have them be more open to heeding your requests.

UNWELCOME COMMENT: “You’re going to eat all that?”

RESPONSE: “Yup, can’t topple the patriarchy on an empty stomach!”

UNWELCOME COMMENT: “Have you lost weight?”

RESPONSE: “Yup, the weight of other people’s opinions on my weight.” 

Anti-diet registered dietician and intuitive eating coach Jessi Jean has a really great “Dear Body” podcast episode with a few more similar responses that are truly hilarious, yet effective.

✨Be ready to let go of relationships✨

Some people are so wrapped up in their own thoughts, beliefs and wants (and diet culture), that they won’t want to or be able to fulfill your request. You’ll have to learn to let these people go. We only want people in our lives that will support what makes us our best selves, and we know that people pleasing (keeping people around even if they’re toxic) doesn’t serve us. We may fear we are being “oversensitive,” that we should just be able to let things go, that it’s not that big of a deal; but it is. Your mental health and happiness are huge deals, and you have every right to safeguard them, while asking others who supposedly care about you to do the same. They might not understand your journey, your requests, or how they themselves are wrapped up in diet culture, but they should still be willing to respect your requests. If they can’t do that for you, they’re not meant to be in your lives in the first place.

Everything becomes boring…

So many clients tell me they’re scared of reintroducing fear foods back into their diets. They’re afraid to eat chocolate or bread because if they allow those foods again, they’ll never stop eating them; and if they never stop eating them, they’ll gain more and more weight, forever.

This is a super normal fear to have. Of course, when something is forbidden or a special occasion, we want it even more. I haven’t traveled in three years because of pregnancy and then the pandemic, so suffice to say, I am CRAVING a vacation. Any vacation.

My favorite place in the world is Disney World. I’m able to go once every couple of years, and when I’m not there, I’m fantasizing about being there or reminiscing about times I was there; because it’s not an everyday, or even every year, event.

When I was in my eating disorder, I used to binge a lot when I went out to dinner with my family or friends. There would be food there that I wouldn’t normally keep in the house. I would order something I’d normally never make for myself. And I would binge on it because I knew this was the only time I’d allow myself to have it, so I would have to eat the entire thing, despite whether I was already full. I would eat past the point of fullness because of my scarcity mindset. This food and this opportunity would be gone so I had to get my fill now.

Graphic by Alana Van Der Sluys

Habituation is when we expose ourselves to something so much that it becomes routine and not special.

A new job

A new video game

A new love interest

Saying, “I love you.”

Kissing.

These are all things that lose their magic (admit it!) when we’ve done them a million times.

So here’s the big question:

Why do you think your fear foods are any different?

I eat chocolate every, single day. I eat ice cream several times a week. I have wine every week. I have carbs with most meals. These things don’t have the power over me that they once did, because I know I can have them whenever I want. Sure, they’re still delicious but I don’t have this overwhelming, anxiety-inducing pull to binge on them all day, every day.

A lot of this process is trust. You have to trust that you will get to the point of habituation. And it DOES take time! At first, as I did, it’s likely you will eat more of those foods than you feel comfortable with. Yes, you might gain weight. But the LONG-TERM healing, to be able to have the power that food has, all food seems to have, over you go away? That’s worth some temporary discomfort and learning to once again live with that food.

You’ll actually be able to enjoy it!

So, trust the process. Your fear foods WILL become boring to you.

The waitlist is filling up for my FREE FOOD FREEDOM MASTERCLASS series this spring! Send me your email below, DM me on Instagram–@FreedomwithFoodandFitness or at freedomwithfoodandfitness@gmail.com

With freedom,

Alana