6 May 2021
Embrace Your Inner Nutrition Ally
6 May 2021
In my last post, I talked about how holding onto unhelpful thoughts about food can get in the way of achieving our health and wellness goals. Our self-defeating inner voices don’t help us to get healthier – they just serve as a barrier. Banishing destructive food voices (ie: the Food Police, Nutrition Informant, and Diet Rebel) will help you to discover your internal motivation and boost your self-confidence, both of which will propel you to achieving your goals. However, challenging negative thoughts is only part of the process of becoming a healthier you. It’s also critical to embrace your inner nutrition ally (Aka. Positive self talk).
Practising positive self-talk has many benefits. It’s a great way of providing yourself with encouragement to continue working towards your goals. Additionally, showing yourself compassion through positive self-talk helps you to learn and grow from your mistakes. And it’s a helpful way to reduce stress, which will improve your mental health. Given how tough things have been during the pandemic, we could all use a little positive self-talk!
Nutrition Ally Voices
To help my clients foster positive self-talk about food and their eating habits, I use the Intuitive Eating approach. Intuitive Eating involves learning particular skills that will help you tap into your Ally Food Voices: the Food Anthropologist, the Nurturer, and the Nutrition Ally. These are the labels Intuitive Eating gives your constructive food thoughts. They’re the inner voices that build you up and enable you to carry out healthy behaviours (aka: positive self-talk).
Let me explain each Ally Voice so you can see how embracing them will empower you to reach your goals.
The Food Anthropologist
An anthropologist is a researcher who observes human behaviour to learn about different cultures and their society. They gather information in a way that is objective; not judging the people they observe. The same goes for the Food Anthropologist: it’s a neutral observer. This is the inner voice that makes observations about our eating behaviours – without making judgements. Being able to take a step back and look at your own eating choices will help you to understand your personal barriers to eating healthy.
Here are some examples of observations the Food Anthropologist might make:
- I tend to overeat when I get home from work.
- I skipped breakfast and was ravenous by 11am.
- My fridge was empty so I ordered pizza for dinner.
- I ate ten cookies.
- I noticed I felt overly full after lunch.
Notice how these are all facts with no judgements attached. This food voice isn’t telling you whether you’re good or bad, it’s just telling you what happened. When you remove emotion from observations of yourself, that’s when you can understand exactly why you make certain eating decisions. Rather than feeling guilt or shame over what you ate, you can put your investigator’s cap on to figure out what caused that behaviour.
For instance, why did you eat ten cookies? Were you sad or stressed? Were you starving after a busy day? Have you been avoiding cookies for a while, causing you to go overboard when you finally let yourself have some? Beating yourself up over eating ten cookies will only make you feel bad and won’t get you any closer to your goals. However, the Food Anthropologist will help you determine why you made an unhealthy eating decision. And then you can use that knowledge in the future to make healthy choices.
Getting in touch with the Nurturer will provide you with one of the most important tools required to build long-term healthy habits: self-compassion. In the process of becoming a healthy eater, you’ll experience both ups and downs. You’ll have days where you make healthy choices and other days when you make less-than-healthy choices. Self-compassion will enable you to learn from your mistakes and carry on towards your goals, rather than giving up. The Nurturer fosters self-compassion because it is a gentle, soothing voice that provides us with reassurance.
The Nurturer tells us things like:
- It’s ok to eat dessert – it’s normal to eat dessert!
- I ate to the point of feeling overly full tonight, but it’s going to be okay. Tomorrow is a new day.
- I’m getting more in touch with the causes of my emotional eating every day.
- When I eat to the point of being comfortably full, I feel great.
- I’m doing so well; I only skipped lunch once this week.
When we speak harshly to ourselves about our eating decisions, that makes it difficult to learn from our mistakes and move past them. If we wallow in our guilt and shame, we’re more likely to give up on healthy eating than to continue trying to build healthy habits. The Nurturer provides us with the support we need to live moment-by-moment, leaving our mistakes in the past.
The Nutrition Ally
After you’ve banished the Food Police, the Nutrition Informant (a destructive food voice) will be transformed into the Nutrition Ally. The difference between these voices is that the Nutrition Informant uses nutrition information to make you feel bad about yourself. For example, “Bread has carbs, so eating bread will make you fat.” Whereas the Nutrition Ally uses nutrition information to help you make healthy choices in a way that doesn’t make you feel guilt.
Here are some examples of things the Nutrition Ally might say to us:
- I’m lactose intolerant, so I know that if I eat dairy ice cream, I’ll get a stomach ache and feel bloated. I’ll choose a coconut ice cream instead.
- Fibre helps me stay regular, so I’m going to compare these brands of cereal to see which one is higher in fibre.
- When I eat sweets in the morning, it makes me feel tired. So I’ll choose the breakfast sandwich instead of the donut for breakfast.
- I’ve noticed wheat upsets my stomach, so I’ll have gluten free pasta noodles for dinner.
The Nutrition Ally empowers you to make eating choices based on your health and satisfaction, not restriction and dieting messages. Following the advice of the Nutrition Ally will make you feel good – physically and emotionally.
By Karissa Giraldi, RD
Legg J. T. (2020). Positive Self-Talk: How Talking to Yourself Is a Good Thing. Healthline. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.healthline.com/health/positive-self-talk
Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2020). Intuitive eating: A revolutionary anti-diet approach. New York: St. Martin’s Essentials. pp 130 – 138.
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