In my practice as a Registered Dietitian, I talk a lot about food. Clients ask about which foods to eat, how much to eat, when to eat… Many are extremely confused with the information they have gotten from friends, family, colleagues, healthcare providers and the media. It can certainly be challenging to make food choices when we are always bombarded with conflicting information.
It can be both reassuring and unsettling to know this truth:
There is no single way of eating that will work for everyone.
Often, this is not what people want to hear. Instead, they want the magic formula that will give them health and happiness. Unfortunately, I can’t provide this (and nobody can, no matter how good their marketing is!).
Instead, I can offer support, compassion, and guidance. Although everyone’s needs are different, here are some general themes I address with many clients.
1. Eating on a regular basis
For most people, having regular meals and not going too long without food is beneficial. While needs vary greatly, more than 4-5 hours without eating is detrimental in many cases. Not everyone will require snacks, but they can certainly be helpful. Explore what works best for you based on your schedule, your preferences, and your body’s needs.
2. Being curious about your body’s signals
Our body gives us many clues regarding our needs. If you are in the early stages of healing from an eating disorder or chronic dieting, you may find that your hunger and fullness cues are unreliable or simply non-existent. This is quite normal. At first, you may need more structure around meals. However, you can still try tuning in to see what your body is telling you. Maybe you are tired and need more rest, or maybe you are thirsty and need hydration. Be curious about what your body is telling you. It’s smarter than you think!
3. Eating a variety of foods
One of our best ways to ensure we are getting enough nutrients is to diversify the foods we eat. It sounds overly simple, but getting foods from a variety of sources can be helpful and ultimately, much more satisfying. For many healing from eating disorders, food choices can become very limited. When you feel ready, and if you are able, connect with a therapist or dietitian who can guide you in experimenting with fear foods in a safe way.
The bottom line
There is no such thing as the perfect way to eat. What works for one person may be completely inappropriate for someone else. Explore your needs and wants, and try noticing what works for you. What brings you the most energy, the most happiness? This is most likely what is best for YOU.
Remember: You are doing the best you can. You’ve got this!
Josée Sovinsky is a passionate Registered Dietitian working in a community setting in Toronto, Ontario. After facing her own struggles with disordered eating during her degree, she developed a strong interest in helping those affected by eating disorders and mental illness. She decided to learn more about intuitive and mindful eating, body acceptance and Health at Every Size®, which now strongly guide her work. She dreams of a world free from mental health stigma, body shaming, and disordered eating. When she is not helping others make peace with food, she enjoys baking, photography and doing yoga in her living room. Visit Josée's website and connect with her on social media.