Not too long ago I changed my Instagram username from @fueltoperform to @gracefueled_rd (the grace fueled dietitian), and while it might not have been a huge deal to the outside world, it was a significant move for me. Even though it's just a social media username, it reflects something bigger, it reflects my philosophy as a practitioner. Hopefully, if you've been following along with me on social media and/or you know me in person, you're aware that my faith is very important to me and that it colors everything in my life, including my work. This doesn't mean that I don't respect people with different beliefs or that I don't work with people who aren't Christians, but I think in order to understand my approach to eating, it's helpful to know where it comes from.
You see, I encourage people to act and live from a place of grace and trust--for eating, living and moving, to give grace and have trust for their health and their happiness. It might sound woo-woo, but the principles of this grace fueled eating (as I call it) are backed by reliable research. Besides that, these principles set people free from food worries, guilt, yo-yo dieting, and poor body image.
So what is grace-fueled eating? It's a way of eating that recognizes that food is not the real answer to, nor the cause of our problems. Grace fueled eating is not the perfect way of eating, because there is NO perfect way of eating. Grace fueled eating is similar to attuned eating, normal eating and intuitive eating. Only, I emphasize grace to help us remember that by grace we have been set free from having to be perfect, free from striving for position and recognition. We are already worthy and free to live a life of love and purpose. By God's grace, at the cross, Jesus redeemed our lives and set us free to shift our focus from laws to His love. We aren't made worthy by any work of our own, but by the fact that He loves us. There is now no food that can make you unclean, "for everything God made is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving." (1 Timothy 4:4).
In fact, it's God's will that we live an abundant life of freedom and purpose, but we can't do this if we are constantly condemning and judging ourselves for food, exercise and weight.
So like most intuitive eating dietitians, I totally agree that we have to stop attaching morality to food, condemning ourselves for eating one way or praising ourselves for eating another way -- it only leads to guilt and an unhealthy obsession with food and our body. But even though the food we eat has nothing to do with our morality that's not to say the way we eat isn't related to our soul. In fact our soul, which is the immortal part of us -- our mind, intellect, will and emotions--is certainly intertwined with our physical health and the way that we eat.
Grace fueled eating recognizes that certain aspects of the soul--mindset, body-image, self-confidence, purpose, identity and emotions--play a huge role in how we fuel and care for our bodies. Whereas the exact foods that we eat play a much smaller role in our total health than we realize. Turmoil in these aspects of our soul may outwardly manifest in a disordered relationship with food. When this happens we only see the end result, the symptom of inward unrest (not the cause), and we tend to blame the food.
In reality, a disordered relationship with food and exercise might jus be a signal for us that some unhealthy and untrue beliefs are festering on the inside, and that maybe it's time to have a new thought. Notice I did NOT say that our relationship with food said anything about our soul's fate after we die, whether or not we are worthy, loved, etc, it doesn't--just that it may be a sign that we aren't living the abundant life we're meant for.
So the good and exciting news it that our wrong beliefs about food and about ourselves can be changed overtime with some knowledge, a little practice and a lot of grace, trust and compassion.
With this truth as our foundation, grace fueled eating means:
1. Realizing that diets DO NOT WORK and actually only harm in the long run. Diets include anything that causes you to micromanage what kinds of foods you eat, how much you eat or how much you exercise in an attempt to "control your body" or "manipulate your body size". Literally when it comes to weight loss, research proves time and time again that diets don't work and may actually cause the opposite effect. Besides weight loss, there are sneaky food laws and eating rules that mascarade as the answer to perfect health. These too, don't work for weight loss, often aren't research based for promoting health and may actually cause harm to our relationship with food and our self-worth.
2. Making peace with food and understanding that it is good, that EVERY food group was made to be enjoyed and used for our nourishment. And that no one food can make us lose our health or condemn us to a life of disease.
3. Making peace with your body and caring for it -- not through starving it or restricting certain foods -- but through feeding it when hungry, listening to it, giving it gentle, enjoyable movement. This also means letting go of trying to control your body size and allowing it to come to its natural size (which typically occurs over time when we remove the wrong beliefs and start giving ourselves permission to eat what we need)
4. Learning and practicing helpful nutrition habits. Wanting to be healthy and feed your body with nutrient rich foods is not a bad thing. It just has to come from a place of peace and trust. Grace fueled eating means you can nourish your body well while still realizing that there is no perfect way of eating, and that God is our ultimate healer, comforter and provider. It allows room for flexibility making it more sustainable than all-or-nothing styles of eating (like with dieting, strict meal planning or food rules).
This is where a lot of the knowledge and training I received as a Registered Dietitian comes into play. By teaching you how to incorporate helpful, evidence based nutrition habits, my aim is always to make nourishing your bodies less stressful, more enjoyable, simple and sustainable--in a world where a lot of the nutrition guidance we receive does the exact opposite of this.
Nutrition is not as complicated as we have made it out to be, and that's coming from someone who spent years and years studying it and thousands and thousands of dollars attaining degrees and certifications in it! The really hard work begins with changing our mindset about food and ourselves. In my practice, I help people both restore a normal positive relationship with eating and exercise and implement simple, beneficial nutrition habits that help them live their lives nourished and free to think, love and do what they were called to do. This is my passion, MY "called to do" thing. If this is something you are interested in, I'd love to work with you. One-on-one nutrition counseling is where we really get to break down strongholds and set you on a path towards nourishing your body well.
Since I know that not everyone can afford one-on-one nutrition counseling, I am designing an online course on grace fueled eating to help you cultivate a positive relationship with food and your body, as well as learn the research proven tactics for nourishing your body well. If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, please leave me your email below and I will notify you when it's launched!