Give yourself permission to enjoy food

At this time of year I find myself at more backyard BBQs and festive gatherings than usual. It can be a tough gig being a Dietitian around a buffet table. Anyone who doesn’t know me is inclined to think that I’ll be conducting a detailed analysis of their food choices. The conversation usually begins like this…

“I’m being naughty today…”
“This (insert food here) is so bad, but…”
“I’ll be good tomorrow/next week/next year”
and this one… “Don’t look!”

If you ever meet me over a smorgasbord, please know that second-guessing your food choices is the furthest thing from my mind. I’m busy practicing my own “nutritional judo” as Ellyn Satter eloquently calls it and I have no business interfering with yours. Ellyn Satter, pioneer of the Division of Responsibility in Feeding describes the art of nutritional judo beautifully:
“Go with your desire to eat as much as you want of foods you enjoy rather than fighting against it. Provide yourself with structure and pay attention while you eat, and you are well on your way to being eating competent” says Ellyn

If you practice nutritional judo whenever you eat throughout the year, then there’s no need to be concerned about “controlling” how much food you eat in December and you won’t be compelled to “make up for bad choices” in the New Year with restrictive dieting. And the best thing? You’ll BE happier! Adults and kids who are eating competent don’t feel good or bad when eating certain foods. They aren’t unkind to themselves with negative self-talk. They sincerely and whole-heartedly enjoy eating food.

A person who is skilled at practicing nutritional judo will:
Trust their body cues of hunger, satiety and fullness
At parties and gatherings, choose simply to eat food they find most appealing
Sit down to eat it if possible or find a quiet spot where they can focus on the food rather than be distracted and mindlessly munch on food
Give themselves strong permission to go back for more food until they feel satisfied
If they do eat past “comfortably full” it’s not a big deal because they trust that their body probably won’t be quite so hungry tomorrow. The nutritional judo continues…

Eating mindfully and practicing nutritional judo isn’t about being perfect. It’s about practicing how to tune in, reflect and learn from our food experiences. We can do this at any age. If you’re just starting out, you can begin by simply observing and reflecting (without judgement) on the cues that influence you to begin, continue and decide to stop eating. Judgement stifles awareness, but AWARENESS allows us to be open to endless possibilities.
Wishing you all a delicious December and January.

Eat happy!

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