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How to Embrace Your Fears Around Not Dieting and Cultivate a Healthy Relationship With Food

January 23, 2024

Self-Paced Course: Non-Diet Academy


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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

Hey there, Katy here, and welcome back to Rebuilding Trust With Your Body. Today we’re going to be talking about your fears around letting go of dieting and stressing about healthy eating – and how to cultivate a healthy relationship with food instead. 

When we can notice our fears and name them, it allows us to get curious about them and to work through them – rather than letting our fears control us and keep us stuck.

I would be willing to bet money on the fact that your fears about healing your relationship with food fall into these 2 categories: weight gain and health worries. 

You’re probably thinking, “Oh my gosh, she’s in my head.” Yes, I am. Because I get it. Not only did I used to have these fears myself, I have worked with hundreds of people who talk about these fears over and over. So I am VERY familiar with these fears – and even better, I know how to help you work past them, so that you can have peace and freedom with food.

You see, healing your relationship with food will give you the freedom to LIVE LIFE MORE FULLY because you won’t be constantly stuck in your head thinking about food and thinking about how to make up for something you just ate, or about how to save up for something you’re going to eat later. I want you to be able to choose what’s satisfying while also honoring your health – without obsessing about healthy eating.

All of this is possible – and it’s going to require you working through your fears. Don’t worry, I’ve got you.

Let’s talk about these fears. Let’s unpack them. Because if we don’t name the fears that you’re experiencing and address them head-on, these fears will hold you back and keep you stuck. 

The Fear of Weight Gain

The first fear is weight gain. OF COURSE you’re afraid of weight gain. We’ve been taught that this is one of the worst things that can happen to us – AND that if we gain weight it’s our fault for not trying hard enough to control our eating, so weight gain not only seems like a bad thing but it also feels like we failed and did it to ourselves. It makes sense you’d want to avoid this and protect yourself from this pain. 

Weight gain is also a big fear because we associate it with so many negative things:

  • Being unhealthy (more on this in a minute)
  • Feeling uncomfortable in your body
  • Pain, joint issues, back issues, skin issues
  • Feeling less confident
  • Feeling unworthy – which equates to shame, which feels like a threat of disconnection and therefore a threat to our survival. We are hard wired to want to fit in and be accepted. 

It makes sense that you’re afraid of gaining weight when this is what you assume will come with it. Of course you don’t want to be unhealthy, or uncomfortable in your body, or have pain and joint issues or feel unworthy. That’s a really crappy way to feel. And it’s why dieting and the pursuit of weight loss are so enticing – because it promises to solve all these problems. 

And yet, the research, and most peoples’ lived experience, shows that dieting actually makes all these things worse. Yes, you might lose weight initially, and you might feel more confident and have fewer aches and pains, and you might see some improvements in your bloodwork. But it’s temporary. Because almost every single time the weight is regained, often plus some, and that process of yo-yo’ing up and down is hard on our bodies. It tends to worsen bloodwork – so if you’re prone to high cholesterol or high blood pressure or high blood sugar, those things usually go up with weight cycling. 

The fantasy that dieting is going to make us happier, more confident and healthier doesn’t hold up to be true. The reality is that dieting does the opposite of all those things. Even if it looks like it’s working initially. 

I know this is all kind of a bummer, and don’t worry I’m going to give you some good news here in a minute. But we need to sit with the suck of all this. It sucks that we’ve spent so much of our time, money, energy and efforts trying to follow these diets and healthy eating plans, and that it’s all been basically a scam. Let’s give ourselves compassion and validation for how hard it is to acknowledge and accept this reality. In fact, I have a free resource that is going to help you with this, and it’s going to help you start to shift your inner dialogue about your body. It’s a free guide filled with body image journal prompts. These prompts are designed to help you dig deeper and to get more comfortable in your own skin. You can grab a copy here

Now let’s move onto the good news…

The Non-Diet Approach to Health 

By using the non-diet approach, you can work through your fears. These fears of becoming unhealthy, of living in pain, of being unworthy – they are things we can directly address with the non-diet approach. And the best part is that we can address them in ways that are actually sustainable. No more quick fixes, no more gimmicks, no more nonsense. It’s time to bring in some strategies that are actually proven to work. 

Let me give you some examples of what’s possible with the non-diet approach:

  • Improve your blood sugar by learning how to strategically pair foods together
  • Reduce joint pain by going to physical therapy and strengthening the muscles around your joints 
  • Experiment with adding in foods that might help improve your cholesterol or blood pressure
  • Work on your deeply held beliefs about your body and your worthiness, so that you can learn how to feel comfortable in your own skin – without it being contingent upon your weight.

If you can embrace the fact that the non-diet approach is a path towards feeling better in your body and improving your health without having to restrict and control your food, you open the door to so much more peace and freedom in your life. 

Cultivating a Healthy Relationship With Food

Let’s shift gears a little bit and talk about what it means to cultivate a healthy relationship with food. That phrase gets thrown around a lot – but what does a “healthy relationship with food” even mean?

I actually hesitate to use the word “healthy” to talk about our relationship with food, because the term “healthy” has been so misused and distorted by diet culture. Diet culture would lead us to believe that it’s healthy to:

  • Skip meals by calling it “intermittent fasting”
  • Not eat processed food – yet also we “should” be drinking Athletic Greens (which is indeed a processed food)
  • Avoid carbs, despite the fact that our brain runs solely on glucose which is carbohydrate and carbs are overall the body’s preferred source of energy
  • Force yourself to work out twice a day, no excuses, even if you’re sick or exhausted, oh and don’t forget to drink a gallon of water and spend all day in the bathroom – because 75 Hard will allegedly make you a better person

The absurdity of what we’ve been told is “healthy” is mind boggling when you slow down to scrutinize it more closely. 

So when I use the term “healthy relationship with food,” here’s what I’m referring to:

  • Being able to recognize your hunger, and to honor it by eating something
  • Choosing satisfying food, without rules and judgments about the food
  • Being thoughtful about nutrition, without rigidity
  • Paying attention while you’re eating, so you can actually enjoy your food and recognize when you’re full and satisfied
  • Stopping eating at a comfortable level of fullness
  • Being able to attend parties, holidays, football watch parties, happy hours, and other social events and to actually participate in the food without being stuck in your head doing the math trying to figure out what you’re allowed to eat or how much you need to work out to burn it off
  • Grabbing McDonald’s for yourself and your kids when you’re out running errands or you’re in between games at a weekend soccer tournament, and not feeling like a bad mom for feeding your kids fast food, and not feeling like you’re bad for eating it either
  • Cooking meals at home and including all the food groups at most meals, so that you and the people you live with have the opportunity to choose from all those food groups to get the nutrition and satisfaction they need

You see, having a healthy relationship with food includes being intentional AND flexible with your eating. You can be intentional with your nutrition, while also having the flexibility for it to not always be perfect (there is no such thing anyway). 

Another key aspect of having a healthy relationship with food is that you don’t feel guilty for the things you eat. Even if you overeat. Overeating becomes a signal that you pay attention to, and you get curious about what happened, rather than shaming and blaming yourself. We don’t learn or grow when we’re in shame. 

This is one of those things that we really work on inside Non-Diet Academy, which is my most comprehensive program that’s all about healing your relationship with food. One of the concepts that we explore in depth in the program is how to figure out what it is that you’re ACTUALLY needing when you overeat, or when you binge, or when you want to eat even though you’re not hungry. Diet culture tells us to just exert more control over our food, or to keep those binge foods out of the house so you can’t eat them, or to trick yourself into not feeling hungry. These tactics will backfire eventually, and they don’t address the root issue in your relationship with food – in fact, they make it worse. So inside Non-Diet Academy, what we do is something I call “collect the dots, and then connect the dots.” We get curious and gather information about what happened, and we connect the dots to understand why you used food that way, and what you can do differently moving forward. For more info on Non-Diet Academy click here. You can also reach out to me to see when my next cohort is starting!

The next thing I want to touch on is how to make peace with food and to think about food with a positive regard. What I mean by this is that you can see food as a positive thing, and not something to be afraid of or feel guilty about. 

Viewing Food With Positive Regard

At the end of the day, food is something we all HAVE TO have. It’s not optional. Without food, we eventually die. Therefore food is an inherently good thing. Eating enough food is a good thing. Enjoying food is a good thing. 

Food serves multiple purposes for us, and I think that’s really cool. You see, food is biologically necessary for our survival, AND it is a beautiful way that we connect as humans in many ways. We don’t need to be afraid of food. When we can embrace food as something positive, it allows us to be relaxed around it, rather than stressed out. Stress is not a helpful ingredient in our relationship with food. In fact, stress will actually interfere with your ability to listen to your body and eat intuitively.

The other thing when it comes to having a positive regard towards food is putting food in its proper place as only one area of importance in our lives. We don’t want food to be the ONLY way you connect with others, or the ONLY way you celebrate special occasions. Having an over-emphasis on food in our lives crowds out other things that would be interesting and enriching for us.

You see, cultivating a healthy relationship with food means having a balanced relationship with food and the rest of LIFE. 

This is exactly what I teach inside Non-Diet Academy, and it’s why only 1 of the 5 modules in the program is actually about food. The food part is important, AND there are so many other important elements of life and health, so I help my clients look at the big picture and put all of the pieces in place, which also includes working on your mindset towards food/health/body, as well as body image, self-care (which includes dealing with your emotions, relationships, healthcare, and other things that aren’t just bubble baths and pedicures), and exercise. 

Make sure you hit play to listen to the full episode with all the juicy details and examples inside!

Resources Mentioned in Episode:

Download My Free Body Image Journal Prompts

Join Non-Diet Academy

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