Body Image: Why Connection Matters

Body Image: Why Connection Matters

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a body image workshop for clinicians in Chicago with Marci Evans and Fiona Sutherland (two complete all-stars in the world of dietetics and body image healing - yes I am fan girling). I learned so much from them over the two days, I'm still unpacking it all (and likely will be for next month or two!) BUT there was one takeaway message that hit me hard early on and has stuck with me since. This is it: Body image is extremely complex and very closely tied to our sense of connection.

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Soul Health

Soul health

Over the past 3 decades or so, our scientific understanding of the mind and how it effects our physical health has grown exponentially. Research has started to reveal the truth that scripture has shown  all along. The health of our soul (mind) goes hand-in-hand with the health of our bodies. 

"Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul." {3 John 1:2}

It's why I emphasize soul nourishment so much with clients -- health and behavior change begin with our thoughts and beliefs.

That being said, I think a lot of people misinterpret what that means. For instance, I am not saying that your health depends on how good of a person you are. That's works mentality -- not the gospel. 

To understand the concept of soul nourishment, we have to clear some things up first.

The soul is a mysterious thing. We can't see it, touch it or taste it. But we know there's more to us than just our physical, tangible bodies. We have a soul. We also have a spirit. Taken together, we are body, soul and spirit. 

This is where it get's a bit tricky. Isn't the phrase mind, body and soul? Or is it mind, body and spirit? The words soul and spirit are often used interchangeably, and herin lies the confusion. Both are mysterious, seemingly intangible concepts that deal with the inner workings of a person, but they are not the same. 

The soul is our mind, will, intellect and emotions. The spirit, however is something else. In everyday speak, the spirit is the real meaning, the intentions, energy and character behind something or someone. We often use the word heart to mean spirit, as in, "they have a good heart" or "the heart of the matter is..."

It's hard to put into words, but when we understand the difference between body, soul and spirit it changes how we view ourselves, which has the potential to totally transform the way we live.

Even though human words may fail to explain the difference between soul and spirit, the word of God is capable of discerning between the two.

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." {Hebrews 4:12}

When we believe in Jesus and confess that He died and was raised from the dead to forgive us our sins and give us an abundant, eternal life, then we are given a new heart, a new spirit. This new heart is completely pure, and right in God's sight-- forever. It is this Spirit, the Holy Spirt, that enables us to carry out God's will. Not our own self -effort, but the power of God's Spirit within us. 

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. {Ezekial 36:26-27}.

If we ask God for it, we have a new spirit, a spirit of love, power and sound mind. But sometimes it doesn't feel like we're all that new and different. Why?

This is where the soul comes in. Our soul, or our mind, will and emotions is still the same. Our bodies still appear the same. If you still think and believe in your mind that "unclean" foods will defile you, then they still might cause you distress, but if you renew your mind with the truth, a truth that you now have a deeper knowing of in your spirit, then you will be transformed, soul & body. 

Let's keep with this example. Say someone believes that eating sugar and bacon makes them a bad person. This person looks at God's word and sees that Jesus says:

"it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person -- Do you not yet realize that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then is eliminated? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a man. " {Matthew 15: 15 - 18}

After reading this the person decides to believe it. Whenever thoughts arise that eating bacon or sugar should make them feel guilty, they refute the thoughts with the above scripture. Eventually they no longer have those thoughts or feelings. In this area, their soul has been transformed to align with the truth, to align with their new heart, their right spirit. 

Now how does this effect their body? Do they just eat unlimited sugar and bacon all the time. Probably not. Actually, intuitive eating research shows that when people give themselves unconditional permission to eat all foods, they end up overeating far less often. Further, this type of eating and a lack of food guilt are associated with better self-esteem and improved health markers ( better blood sugar control, blood pressure, BMI and blood cholesterol levels).

That's just one example of the transformative effect of renewing our minds (souls) with the truth. There are countless other examples I could share. In fact, you probably have some of your own.

To me, soul health means dismantling harmful lies about ourselves and replacing them with the truth. It also means taking time to rest and do things that nourish our mind and spirit -- like cultivating your gifts, reading a new book, hanging out with family, and meditating. These are all just examples of ways we can nurture a healthy soul.

But in our effort to nourish our soul, let's not forget that we didn't earn the right to love, worth, acceptance, or health through our own "soul nourishing" activities. We are loved and accepted just as we are, because we are God's children and it's His will to love and bless us. His love and the knowledge of Him set us free to care for our souls in the best way possible and empower us to be transformed into His image.

So it's my prayer that you'll receive love, nourish your soul, and be transformed!

Until next time, happy fueling & stay nourished <3

The Fruit of Self-Control & Eating

The other day a friend (and fellow dietitian) gave me the book, “The Weight of Grace” by Paula Neil Coleman. She told me that it was one of the only books she’s read that truly aligns with the principles of intuitive eating and God’s Word. After reading a few pages, I felt like I’d already pulled out a million nuggets of truth to share with you guys. But there was one thing the author said that really stuck out to me. She said that the discipline of dieting is not the same thing as self-control. Of course, I knew this in my heart, especially with all the intuitive eating work I do and research I’ve found to support it, but still, up until this time I was struggling to be able to explain the concept of self-control as it relates to our eating, in a grace fueled way. This post is my attempt to do just that, but likely not in the same way you've heard it before.

The Self-Control Conundrum

You see, for a lot of people, not being able to stick to a diet or clean eating regimen leaves us feeling like we have zero self-control. But if we truly believe God’s word, we know this can’t be the case. 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For God gave us a Spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”. And again, in Galatians 5:22-23 Paul writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” The moment we believe in Jesus Christ for our righteousness, the bible says we are a new creation on the inside, filled with the Spirit of God, which among other things, gives us self-control.

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So why doesn’t this gift of self-control make us able to follow a diet plan?

Let’s look at the definition of the greek word “sōphronismou”, which is translated to self-control in 2 Timothey 1:7. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon the word means an admonishing or calling to soundness of mind, to moderation and self-control. Likewise further translations of the verse use sound mind and wise discretion in place of self-control.

Soundness of Mind & Intuitive Eating

Soundness of mind legally means to have the capacity to think, reason, and understand for oneself. Every person has inside of them a consciousness or intuition which allows them to do these things. Yet as Christians, we are told that we have a supernatural ability from the Holy Spirit to think, reason and understand for ourselves things that are not understood by the rest of the world, “for we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16”). So understand this: obsessing over a diet / rules for eating that come from outside ourselves and outside God’s word is not an expression of soundness of mind or wise discretion, it’s simply following the world’s rules in attempt to get something we already have through Christ, whether it’s health and healing, validation, worth or love.

On the contrary, when don't look to the world for answers but to the Holy Spirit within us who has the ability to overwhelmingly shape our intuition and who gives us “wise-discretion”, we are able to make nourishing decisions for food that will meet our own individual needs. “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure,” (Philippians 2:13). Listening to him and to the physical cues he’s designed in our bodies when it comes to what and how much to eat will lead only to good.

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Our natural inclination is to nourish our bodies, not harm them through overeating or eating so called “bad for us” foods. Yet most people are convinced that if left to follow their own intuition they would continually cause harm to their health. The truth is you can trust your body and the spirit within to guide your eating. “For no one hates his own body, but feeds it and cares for it,” (Ephesians 5:29). Self-control then is just the power to choose what is best for us, to say no to sinful/harmful things. But my friend, feeding your body is NOT sinful, and breaking somebody else’s diet rules isn’t a lack of self-control. The word of God does not condemn you for eating any food and neither should you. The new testament makes clear that all things created by God are good and nothing is to be rejected if received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:4).

Maybe it’s a harmful mindset on food, a lack of understanding of our true value and worth in Christ, or an incomplete knowledge of His love for us that drives us to diet or worry about eating a certain way. In any case dieting is not what we need, so why would we expect God’s spirit of self-control to help us with dieting, when it just might be a path to destruction?

While I agree that overeating any food can be harmful, I believe that if we will stop following food laws & worrying over what to eat and instead listen to our intuition, to the Spirit’s leading, we’ll leave space for knowing when to eat and when to stop. We’ll listen and understand when our hunger is physical or emotional and how best to satisfy it.

Transformation comes with new thoughts

It’s time to have a NEW THOUGHT about feeding and caring for our bodies. One that is rooted in truth and not the patterns of the world. New thoughts come through hearing the truth of the Word of God. Transformation comes from believing the truth and putting it into practice.

If you’ve felt out of control, guilty, or ashamed about your eating and your body and you’re ready to find a new way of eating, one that nourishes both soul and body, one that’s rooted in the truth of God’s word, please join us for the grace-fueled eating e-course launching this Friday! The introductory course will only be available for the first 50 people. To reserve your spot, visit the e-course page and enter your email.

As always if you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. Until next time, happy fueling :) 

What is Grace Fueled Eating

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. 

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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!



The Opposite of Controlling Your Diet

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of control lately, especially as it relates to my own desire for control over the situations and people in my life. Like anything new that I learn, the concept keeps smacking me over the head everywhere I go, in books and posts that I read, in conversations I have, and in messages that I listen to.  In other words, this post has been a long time coming.

As a non-diet dietitian, I consistently encounter people who are rigidly managing their diet, weight and exercise in the name of health. But if we’re honest with ourselves, a lot of our “healthy habits” are just another way to get our control fix.

Many of us are terrified of releasing this control—we’re afraid of what it might say about us. We’re afraid it means we’re giving up on our health, happiness, identity, etc.. But the opposite of control is not giving up—it’s trust.

The opposite of controlling your diet

What we’re essentially saying when we seek control is,” I don’t trust that I can be happy, healthy, well-adjusted without micromanaging this thing.” Sometimes it’s “I don’t trust my body or my intuition to have my best interest.” But other times, it has nothing to do with our physical health.  Maybe it’s, “I don’t trust this challenging situation to turn out for good, so I’m going to try controlling these other areas of my life.”

The beauty of intuitive eating is that is helps us foster trust in our body and in our selves. Often, this let's us see other areas of life where we’re attempting to have control. It gives us permission to start trusting for more than just our body’s physical appearance. It gives us an opportunity to exercise our faith in new ways.

So if you’re tired of constantly controlling what you eat and how you move, know that it’s okay to stop. You aren’t giving up on health; you’re giving up on a false illusion and hopefully, trading it in for trust and a simpler way of living. If this sounds like something you’d like to do but need some help with, I'd love to work with you. Head on over to the nutrition counseling page to check out my services or contact me to set up your free discovery call.

For all the scary uncontrollable areas of life, the good news is that if you trust in Jesus Christ, He promises to work all things for your good.  In my own experience, even when I wasn’t able to see it, He has always had a good plan for me. His control has always been better than mine, and faith has always produced more than my own forced efforts.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28

Lovely Food

If you've been following along with the graced based eating series here and on my Instagram page, then this is the final installment folks.  I am finally going to talk about nutrition. Weird, I know. I mean it's not like I'm a dietitian or anything....


If you have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, and this is your first time here, that's okay, welcome. If you've got time, I would encourage you to go back and read those Instagram posts, or maybe just start with this blog post  I wrote on radical grace for eating and make your way forward from there. OR, you could just forge on ahead and read this post blind, because hey, who am I to tell you what to do?

In truth, only you can make that decision, just like ultimately only you get to decide what you eat, what you enjoy eating, what makes you feel like an all-star, and what foods satisfy you. See what I did there? That's called a transition ladies and gents.

But in all seriousness, I am PASSIONATE about nutrition. But you know what sets me on fire even more than this? People being set free from fear and shame, especially when it comes to food. And you know how this happens, it happens when they decide that they are no longer going to focus on their own inadequacies or failures, but instead they set their eyes on what is lovely. That is, what is lovely today, right now, not just what will be lovely. It happens when people let go of food fears and doubts and face forward, ready to nourish their bodies and souls, one noble and true thought at a time.

There is a reason that honoring your health with gentle nutrition is the last principle of intuitive eating and often one of the last topics I talk about with chronic dieters. Even gentle nutrition education fed to the wrong mindset can be perceived as another set of hard and fast rules to live or die by. This is not my intention. I want people to have the freedom to choose foods that taste good and make them feel their best. Guilt and weight loss don't deserve a say in what you eat. On the flip side, health AND enjoyment (together) definitely do. The key is whether decisions made with health in mind are based on fear (of weight gain, or toxins, or loneliness, or you name it) or whether those decisions are based on a true desire to feel and perform excellently. This is like walking a tight rope, I know. 

Once you're able to look at food neutrally -- Believing and knowing that eating X  food one day does not make you a bad person and will not make you nutritionally deficient or chronically ill, and instead able to recognize that it is the over arching patterns of our lives that determine our course -- then things get fun. It's exciting to start experimenting with new foods. Likewise, it's fun to explore recipes that actually taste good and pack a nutritional punch, adding nutrient rich foods to your meals as opposed to taking away foods out of fear.

I do not believe that there is one way of eating that works for every single person. Nutrition is so individual and the food we eat and enjoy is far more cultural than we realize. People from all different parts of the world eat completely different diets: high carb, high fat, vegetarian, lots of meat and cheese, you name it. And there are examples of healthy people among them all! 

I do believe that we should focus on the lovely tenets of food and there are many. Here are a few of those basic truths... 

1. Food gives us energy and strength to accomplish our purposes here on earth. It allows us to take care of our kids, enjoy a run in the park or a walk with our friend. Food supplies us with the energy to fuel deep creative thoughts, thoughts that invent, thoughts that solve problems and thoughts that help people. Food supplies energy and energy is good.

2. All three macronutrients, carbohydrate, fat and protein, are excellent for providing energy and essential for optimal function. Each plays its own special roles in helping our body run efficiently. Further, eating a balance of all three, which seems to be our natural inclination, leaves us satisfied after a meal for several hours, allowing us to focus on other things besides food and hunger.

3. Fruits and veggies are powerhouses for fighting chronic disease and improving health. Seriously, need I get on my soap box here? I am no vegetarian, but we could ALL benefit from adding more fruits and veggies to our lives, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants, fiber --- nature's medicine. If you're still stuck in a diet mentality, this truth can feel like a broken record that you DON'T want to hear. But once you realize it's your choice to add nutrient rich produce where you see fit, you may change your tune. There are a lot of options out there to choose from. As a side note, you will find that cooking veggies in fat for a change does your tastebuds good, just sayin ;) 

4. While we're at it, minimally processed whole foods in general are gonna up your nutrition ante.  The closer the food is to how God created it -- the more nutrition it likely contains (obviously, I do not consider cooking as "processed" here - in fact cooking some foods actually makes the nutrients more available to our body than eating them raw). Also, to clarify I mean ALL foods God made, the ones that grow from the ground (whole grains, veggies & starches, legumes), those that grow in trees (fruits, nuts & seeds) and those whole foods provided by animals (meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs). All of these foods have lovely nutrition to offer (notice I'm not saying that you personally enjoy / feel good eating these foods or that you HAVE to eat them to be healthy, just that all of them have good qualities).

5. Food is a connector. There is nothing like the sacred art of sharing a meal with someone to build and deepen relationships. Families and friendships are often strengthened over 1000 different family meals or coffee shop dates. Beyond that, food is a way in which we can show love, by nourishing someone else. We can provide a person with energy, health, satisfaction and connection all with one simple meal.

Please hear my heart, do not take any of what I've said and make it a measuring stick with which to see how well you are doing. Instead, I hope this encourages you to remember the lovely things about food and to nourish your body with these admirable truths in mind.

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such truths" [Phillipians 4:8].

Why You Should Sign the Peace Treaty with Food

Peace. What a word -- and with so many connotations too. For some of you it might bring to mind a certain era in the 60's where people gave up shaving, hygiene and working -- or maybe it's an individual like Mother Theresa, Gandhi or Bob Marley that pops into your head.

For me, the word peace conjures up memories of my childhood home. It's me sitting alone, criss cross applesauce at the very edge of our boat dock, looking out at the sunset across the water. I grew up on the lake you see, and this was the spot I went to when I wanted to calm a chattering mind, to rest; it was a place where I knew I would not be disturbed.

A picture of Lake Freeman from --- the very lake I grew up on --- my idea of peaceful.

A picture of Lake Freeman from --- the very lake I grew up on --- my idea of peaceful.

The very definition of peace is a freedom from disturbance, a state of quiet and tranquility, wholeness. And peace is arguably the most valuable/ sought after possession. You see a calm and tranquil soul and a mind that is wholly undisturbed is beyond just emotional wellbeing. We now know, from a scientific standpoint, that this type of peace has a powerful effect for good on our physical health as well. 

Take food for example. Our bodies are amazing, we were designed to be able to digest just about any food and turn it into energy for our use. When we're in a restful (peaceful) state and our parasympathetic nervous system is in the driver seat (the system responsible for "resting and digesting"), digestion occurs how it was meant to happen: food is broken down to its smallest parts, nutrients are absorbed and utilized or stored for later, and waste is either filtered out or excreted without issue. Hormonal cascades signal to the brain that you are satisfied and you've had enough to eat.

A date night treat at hurts donuts - cookies and cream and peanut butter all in one. Something i may not have been able to enjoy without guilt and/or overeating without this concept!

A date night treat at hurts donuts - cookies and cream and peanut butter all in one. Something i may not have been able to enjoy without guilt and/or overeating without this concept!

On the other hand, when we are overly anxious or worried about something, our sympathetic nervous system is triggered, we switch to "flight or fight" mode. In this state, digestion is drastically slowed or even stopped. This can cause heartburn, nausea, and constipation. If we're chronically in this worried or anxious state we can develop some real digestive problems, not to mention dysregulation of our hunger and fullness cues. In light of what we know about the effects of eating in a state of anxiousness, worry or guilt, we can argue that it's much more damaging to our health to worry over the food we eat than it is to just eat so called "bad" foods from a place of peace and rest.

This is why the third principle of intuitive eating, "making peace with food" is so important. It involves giving yourself unconditional permission to eat any food without judgment or guilt. Keeping our definition of peace in mind, following this concept means not allowing any food to cause you disquiet or to disturb your thoughts. In order to do this, you must recognize that food has NO power over you. You can have any food you want, when you want it with no guilt, because there is NOTHING wrong with eating. It then becomes clear that food will always be available and permissable for you, because of this, some "forbidden foods" may lose their luster. Think about it. When you tell a little child they can play with any toy in the room except one, what do they automatically do? They try their darndest to get that ONE toy. When you act as though it's no big deal for them to play with something, they usually set the item down after  exploring it for a short time. Food is no different.

Don't believe me? Try this out. Make a list of 5 foods you truly enjoy, but you haven't allowed yourself to eat (excluding food allergies of course). Now go buy them/make them and keep them in your house. Eat those foods one at a time in a relaxed setting (when you are hungry), savor that food, now ask yourself, "do I really like this food, or did it just hold a certain 'forbidden fruit' appeal?" If the answer is YES, I love this food, keep it in the house, remind yourself that you can enjoy it whenever you like, because food is good! It is for our nourishment and no food is off limits. If the answer is NO, I don't really like this food, well now you know, and you can let it go and move on to something you do enjoy.

Hear me out here - I'm a dietitian, I am NOT saying that all foods are nutritionally equal -- we know that's not true. I am saying that all food should be  emotionally equal. We should no longer let any food cause us disturbance whether out of extreme desire for it or guilt for eating it. This is easier said than done for many people. A lot of us are so wrapped up in food rules and fears. We live in a hyper food and health aware culture and are constantly told to fear food. Someone is either telling us to turn to food or away from it as the answer to all of our health and life concerns. All this focus though results in fear and anxiety, deepening our issues with food and distracting us from focusing on the one thing that matters.

Attempting to wrestle this child into taking a picture with me - he thinks he's one of those sharks that must continue moving at all times or risk dying.....&nbsp;

Attempting to wrestle this child into taking a picture with me - he thinks he's one of those sharks that must continue moving at all times or risk dying..... 

The good news is there is grace for everyone. Deciding to let go of food anxieties is hard, but it's possible and immensely beneficial. For those who believe in Him, Jesus helps us. He promises, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

So take His peace, which is the assurance of salvation through Him. The assurance that you do not have to strive to earn His love or favor. You can rest in the quiet place, undisturbed by guilt shame and worry, because He has already removed those things from you.  This kind of peace kind of makes fretting over the cake you had at lunch a little I right?



Radical Grace for Eating Part 2

In part one of this post, I discussed the paradigm shift I've had regarding eating and health.  In part two here, I hope to give you an idea of how this shift translates into my eating and the way I counsel clients. If you didn't get a chance to read part one, make sure to check it out here. If you're caught up, then by all means  - read on!

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A Tiny Introduction to Intuitive Eating

First off, much of how I apply Radical Grace to my eating aligns with the concept of intuitive eating. If you aren't familiar with intuitive eating and you want to learn more I highly suggest reading the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. For those of you that don't have time to read a whole book right now (understood), I'll be posting on the 10 principles of intuitive eating over the next few weeks via Instagram, so make sure to follow along with me under the hashtag #gracebasedeating. Today though, I'll give you a synopsis of how I apply this to my eating in the context of Radical Grace.

Intuitive eating is eating based off of your internal cues (or intuition) instead of external/environmental cues (calorie information, social pressures, stressful situations, or "good or bad" food labels). Put simply, this means eating what you really want when you are hungry without passing judgement on yourself. It means listening to your body's signals of hunger and satiety and honoring those signals. It means giving yourself unconditional permission to eat ANY food. Intuitive eating works at shutting down condemning thoughts around food and allows you to eat and enjoy, not count calories and fret. 

That kind of freedom will sound scary to some, but trust me it's worth it. When you give yourself permission to eat the foods you crave and refuse to label foods as good or bad, you free yourself from the mindset of restriction and "splurging" (or bingeing), instead you open yourself up to eating, enjoying, and being satisfied. With practice, intuitive eaters learn what foods feel good, what foods satisfy and what foods leave them energized. It's a process, one that involves examining the root of your eating behaviors and reframing the restrictive "diet mindset" to one of self-care and freedom.  But at the end of the process, once food has taken it's rightful place, you'll likely find yourself with a whole lot of extra energy, peace and time to put back into the things that truly matter.

A Day in the Life

In my own life, intuitive eating looks something like this: 

I wake up in the morning, wait until I am hungry (which is usually pretty soon for me :D) and decide what I want to eat, then I make it, and I sit down and enjoy it. I try to have several foods on hand that I like, so I know I have a choice. If I have a busy day ahead, I might make something the night before, this way I have food ready for me in the morning. Next, I start my day, whatever that may entail. Throughout the day I make sure to pay attention to early hunger signs (stomach gurgling, etc.), when they start showing up that's when I start thinking about what I might want to eat based on what's available, either at home or out working. 

I have a rough idea of when I will eat next, so that I can make sure I'll have food around me or available. Generally speaking, I eat within 1-2 hours of waking and every 3-4 ish hours afterwards. This loose schedule is helpful when you first begin eating intuitively. Especially for those who are used to ignoring their hunger cues and/or have a history of dieting, it can be hard to recognize early hunger signs in the beginning. By following a general schedule, and by at least "checking in" with yourself and your hunger every 3-4 hours, you'll fuel your body well and begin to recognize what early hunger and satiety feels like. That being said, there are no hard and fast rules here. With intuitive eating you simply observe your habits with curiosity and not judgement.

I try not to let myself get too hungry, because if I do become too hungry I know I'll feel tired, most likely overeat, and still not feel satisfied. This is a huge difference from the "diet" mentality, which says that our bodies can't be trusted to tell us when we are hungry, and we should ignore them and only feed them salads on 6 hour intervals. This of course usually results in a huge dinner or even full blown bingeing in the evening. On the other hand eating when I'm hungry also means I try to respect when I am full and notice emotional hunger vs. physical hunger.

As far as what I eat -- well, sometimes I eat the same thing several days in a row, and sometimes I want to try something new. Sometimes I have dessert every night and sometimes I don't want anything sweet. While honoring my hunger and cravings, I try to have foods that I know are satisfying to me and foods that I have noticed make me feel my best (something I've discovered over time and am still discovering). Focusing on the benefits of food for my body and my energy level is huge!

During meal time and shortly after, I try to take my time eating (hard for this former swimmer) and enjoy every bite, noticing those signals of both fullness and satisfaction. I try to savor my food, try being the key word - its not always going to happen that way, but that's OKAY. 

What I do NOT do is feel guilty about overeating, forgetting to eat, or choosing certain foods. Instead, I try to notice how those situations made me feel physically and or emotionally and then move on. That is it. Notice and move on.

Individual Differences

My day may look completely different than someone else's day, and both are healthy. Nothing is set in stone. Intuitive eating is all about your individual needs. You are the expert at your own body, no one else.

All this to say, becoming an intuitive eater is more of an art than a science and takes time and practice. This is what I promote with my clients. My focus is helping you become a healthier, happier, freer version of yourself by walking you through the intuitive eating process, one small step at a time. This is the way we have long-term success. Research shows that time and time again diets fail in the long run. The temporary high we get from restricting and losing weight often spirals into guilt and shame once we return to old habits and regain the weight. You see, because it requires a NEW way of thinking to transform your life -- a way of thinking that doesn't conform to the common views of our culture, the views that say smaller is better, "clean" foods mean you're good and "junk" foods mean you're weak, the views that say exercise should be forced and willpower is king.


Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." 

This is my goal as a nutrition counselor, to help people step out from the worldview of slavery or obsession with food, diet and body image and gain the freedom to discover what's really important in life.  If you think you're ready to start working towards this kind of transformation, sign up for my newsletter by leaving your email under the "Stay Up To Date" header or click on over to the contact page under "About Aubrey" and shoot me a message. I have some exciting news coming, you might be interested in!

Until then, happy fueling :)


Radical Grace for Eating

This post is significant for me. It reflects a major paradigm shift in how I view food and nourishment. This transformation didn't happen over night, but rather over a half a year or more, and if you count my original journey with nutrition as a stepping stone, it really began 6 years ago.  That being said, I don't expect to completely change your beliefs around food and eating with one blog post, but hopefully I can start the 'wheels a turnin', as they say (but who's they any way?).

I don't think I've shied away from the fact that I am a christian, but in case you weren't aware before, now you are. This post is unabashedly bold/open concerning my religious beliefs and how they have transformed my views on eating and pretty much everything else. I understand not everyone believes the way I do, but if you are a Christian, definitely read on, because what I'm about to say is NOT the popular opinion when it comes to "biblical eating" books, teachings, etc.

If you aren't a christian, of course I'd love for you to read on. I'm hoping you'll see an entirely different side to christianity than the one you probably know now: a system of rules, judgement, guilt, religious activities, etc. I'm hoping you'll find something radically different, that you will find Radical grace.

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Merriam Webster defines radical as: favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions. Grace is defined as the unmerited, unearned, favor, love and kindness towards someone. 

I would argue that to give someone kindness, love, and favor that they don't deserve is a pretty radical thing; it's an extreme change to our existing practice. We're used to earning everything we have, especially in America. That's our value system - work hard, earn money; be kind, gain friends; do good for others and it will come back to you. Now maybe you know a hard working person who isn't kind, but when they get a good job or a promotion, you tell yourself, "well, at least they DO work hard" and you feel semi-okay about it. But what about people in our lives who we think are lazy, mean and selfish? Not many of us could truthfully say we hope that person gets a killer job, wins friends and favor at work, and receives regular promotions. 

This is why grace is so radical! God, who is perfect, had love for us even while we were underserving, so he sent his son Jesus to die on the cross as a punishment for our sins, rise from the dead to conquer death and condemnation, and redeem our imperfect lives. Now we have God's unearned love, kindness, and favor for our lives - if we will trust in Jesus's finished work for it.  Better yet, God promises this unearned favor, love and kindness will NEVER run out no matter what we do or don't do. Now that is radical.

But what does this have to do with eating, nutrition and my job as a registered dietitian? Well, everything. When I finally grasped that God's love and favor on my life were (and still are) real regardless of what I did or didn't do (and it's only really been revealed to me through experiences), I realized that this knowledge should and does change my perspective on everything. I began to understand how Good God is. So I thought, why not trust him with my passion, my career, and my everything else?

As a dietitian and a nutrition nerd, I used to get caught up in all the research, and the back and forth nutrition discussions rittled with "expert" opinions. I found myself getting whiplash from the ever evolving nutrition "theories" out there, all in the name of trying to help people "solve" their own nutrition/health puzzle. It's part of why I was attracted to nutrition in the first place, I love problem solving and the constant pursuit of knowledge. But after a while, when despite my best efforts, the people I loved and I myself continued to have "nutrition hang ups" (as I will call them), when all the knowledge in the world only led to confusion and a constant obsession with thinking about food, body image and exercise, I needed something new. I needed a form of understanding I could not get from any woman, man or institution - it had to be God.

So as any good millennial would, I googled things. I searched for: Christian nutrition, diet, health, etc., but nothing I read lined up with the loving, grace giving God I knew. Most articles talked about "honoring the temple" or "eating clean", some even suggested we go back to old testament food laws. The majority promoted a strict guideline of rules supplemented with prayer for "self-control".  This was all just more of the same, and something about these strict food rules didn't sit right with my soul or my experiences. 

So I did what I probably should have done in the first place - I prayed.  However, don't misconstrue that for a pious religious activity. It would be better to say that I complained to God.  He led me to...wait for it... the bible (via the bible hub website of course, but still, THE BIBLE). I looked at every verse concerning food, especially those in the New Testament. It was important for me to consider the New Testament with the Old Testament, because as Christians we follow the new covenant of grace. And God's covenant of grace is different than the covenant He made in the old testament, which centered around rules and absolute obedience. When I came across verses I didn't understand (and there were many), I asked God to make His word clear to me. Over time and still today He is revealing the truth to me. 

This is what I've found: I've found that NO food has the ability to make someone good or bad and that all that God created is good. Jesus himself said that nothing that enters a man defiles him, only that which comes out of him defiles him, thereby making all foods "clean" or lawful to eat. I read that later, God spoke to the apostle Peter and told him that nothing was to be considered impure that He has made clean (referring to all animals for eating). Further, the bible says nothing is to be rejected if received with thanksgiving. Therefore, food laws and regulations deeming some foods "good" or "clean" and some foods "bad" or "unclean" are NOT in line with God's Word and Jesus's sacrifice. { 1 Timothy 4:4, Matthew 15:11, Acts 10:10 - 15 }

I also found that while all things are lawful, not all things are beneficial, but God does not tell us WHAT is not beneficial, he leaves that to us to determine for ourselves. He says there is NO condemnation for those who rest in Jesus's finished work. This means the food you eat cannot bring judgement on you from God and should not cause you guilt. He also tells us to set our eyes on him, to set our thoughts on good things. This means taking food off the pedestal and making God the source of our nourishment. {1 Corinthians 10:23, Romans 8:1, Hebrews 12:2, Philippians 4:8}

But what about the verse that talks about "taking care of the temple of God" in reference to our bodies? Well, God does tell us to take care of our bodies, but first of all this verse is not even in reference to food (read it yourself if you're curious). Secondly, truly taking care of our body does NOT mean starving it or beating it to submission, as many in our culture are accustomed to doing. In fact, the apostle Paul writes that these things are of no use when it comes to becoming more like christ. {Colossians 2: 20 - 23}. No, taking care of our bodies would entail feeding them regularly and honoring the inner wisdom God gave us!

Finally, God promises that he will withhold no good thing from those who love him, so why would he withhold the enjoyment of good food, energizing movement and a healthy life (all good things) - he wouldn't!  {Psalm 84:11}

There is so much to unpack here, but I can't do it all in one post. In the future I hope to use this blog to touch on these principles from both a scientific and faith based perspective.  I've had a lot of "new thoughts" (to me) when it comes to nutrition and health, and I know they're going to help someone else, because they've already helped me. 

Stay tuned for part 2, where I will talk about how this has affected my eating specifically and the way I view nutrition counseling.  Until then, stay fueled :)