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How Intuitive Eating Impacts Your Health

It’s Intuitive Eating Wednesday when I answer your questions and troubleshoot your challenges around intuitive eating and emotional eating.

 

This week’s Intuitive Eating Wednesday Question comes from Dorica, and it is:

 

“Can intuitive eating improve someone’s health, such as migraines or upset stomach?”

 

The short answer is yes! Let me explain.

 

There are 3 reasons why intuitive eating will help improve your health, specifically migraines or an upset stomach (there are many other ways your health can be improved through intuitive eating, but I am specifically answering this week’s question about migraines (or headaches in general), and GI issues).

 

  1. Intuitive eating is stress-free!

 

Stress…. it’s a very powerful word which has a lot of effects on your body. When you live in a chronically stressed state, the switch to your stress response, known as ‘fight or flight’, stays on. This affects you in various ways including cognitively (memory problems, difficulty concentrating), emotionally (moody, irritable, depression), behaviorally (sleeping problems, social withdrawal) and physically (bowel irregularities, nausea).

 

What causes stress? Dieting! Hands down, calorie counting, restricting food, tracking points, logging your food into an app – all causes stress. And this stress triggers your internal stress response. As long as you continue dieting, you will stay in a stressed state and deal with the negative effects of it.

 

Once you decide to give up dieting and embrace the path towards intuitive eating, it’s like a ton of bricks is lifted off your shoulders. The stress disappears, and I bet you’ll see the headaches and gastrointestinal discomfort does too.

 

 

  1. Intuitive eating results in more consistent eating patterns

 

When you ditch eating by the clock, as most diets tell you to do (you know, all those rules that you follow), you learn to tune into your inner hunger and fullness signals. This likely results in a more consistent pattern of eating, specific to your inner wisdom. This consistency will improve the gastrointestinal symptoms you are experiencing, a.k.a. an upset stomach. And, will decrease any headaches that might have come from low blood sugar due to an inconsistent eating pattern.

 

Another point here to make is this. If you are still dieting, you probably find yourself in the restrict-binge cycle. So you restrict foods that you deem as bad for you, but at some point you can’t take it anymore. So, you end up eating said foods, but you don’t just have some, you overeat on those foods, leading to a binge. Then, you experience a flare in your IBS or other GI symptoms. Your mind goes right away to “You see, I can’t tolerate those foods”, but in reality, it’s the dosage of the foods you are eating, not the actual food itself.

 

So, give up dieting and restriction and embrace intuitive eating. You will find that you have more energy and your stomach is digesting food just the way nature intended.

 

 

  1. Intuitive eating encourages you to tune inward.

 

When you practice intuitive eating, you are engaging in mindful eating practices along the journey. That means you are learning to slow down, savor your food and tune in to how your body feels after you eat something. You are moving from auto pilot eating into conscious eating and this allows you to attune, not only to your inner signals, but also to your body’s reaction to food.

 

As a dieter, you listen to what the diets or health gurus tell you to eat. Many times, you don’t even enjoy it. Most of the time, you finish your meal and have had minimal to no pleasure in it. As an intuitive eater, you have rediscovered the pleasure in eating. If you had pleasure after eating when you were dieting, it was likely accompanied by guilt. That guilt turned to shame.

 

No more.

 

Without the guilt and shame and food worry, you can listen to what your body tells you in terms of how it feels. Then the next time you are about to decide whether to eat a food or not, you’ll remember how you felt the last time you ate it. Did your belly hurt? Did your blood sugar plummet? These factors will then play a role in whether you decide to eat that food or not.

 

Wow! Isn’t intuitive eating amazing?

 

Yes, it is!

 

Ready to start YOUR intuitive eating journey? Just email me and say “I’m Ready!”

 

 

 

When Diets Rule All Your Life’s Decisions

This week’s Intuitive Eating Wednesday topic is inspired by a client of mine who shared her frustration about some members of her family who are dieting. I will only share the relevant info, as to protect the privacy of her and her family.

 

We are knee deep in December and holiday festivities. My client, let’s call her Jane, has given up dieting 3 months ago when she committed to working with me in my Freedom to Eat Forever™ 5 Step Intuitive Eating Program. She is so happy and so sure she is NEVER going to diet again, and she is enjoying the holiday parties she is attending without fretting about the food that will be served (what a relief for her, can you relate?)

 

So why is she frustrated?

 

Her family holiday party is coming up. She was in charge of hosting this year and she takes pride in planning a fun time for her immediate and extended family, both with delicious food and fun, interactive games. But here’s what happened.

 

She got a call from a family member who basically told her that she would like to host the holiday party this year. Jane asked her why and told her she’s already been planning and prepping. But her relative said that she just really wants to, and to PLEASE let her. Well, Jane felt she had no choice but to say okay. Only later did it occur to Jane why this relative was so insistent.

 

Can you guess? I’ll tell you.

 

This relative, her husband and her adult children are all on a diet. They’ve been losing weight and have been boasting about it all over social media. The diet they are on is quite restrictive, although they’ll tell you it’s a “healthy lifestyle”. Yep, the diet companies have hijacked the words “healthy lifestyle’ and are masking their diet rules under the guise of eating healthfully. And worse yet, the diet company encourages their dieters to pull other people into their web “If I did it, you can too!”.

 

Jane’s family members don’t want to be tempted by food they cannot eat. Yes, I said ‘cannot’ eat because when one is on a diet, they have a list of foods they can and cannot eat. Jane remembers last year’s holiday party when this family was just beginning this diet. They came to the holiday party and were salivating over the food, and were found sneaking bites in the kitchen. They were overheard saying, “it’s okay, we’ll get back on tomorrow’.

 

Oh, so sad, just so sad. Is this how you want to live your life?

 

Do you want your diet to rule your life’s decisions?

 

Decisions such as:

“Do I go with my spouse to his holiday party or not?”

“Should I go with my friends on that cruise?”

“Will I attend that party I was invited to, or make up an excuse why I cannot go?”

“Should I breastfeed my baby? Hmm, I’m drinking these chemically-filled weight loss shakes, so perhaps not.”

 

If you resonate with any of this, it’s time to realize that the diet you are on is RULING YOUR LIFE! You are not living free! You are probably thinking about food 24/7. “What did I eat, what am I eating, what will I eat?”

 

This my friends, is FOOD OBSESSION. Yes, dieting causes food obsession.

 

I’d like to encourage you that you don’t need to rely on any diet. You can trust yourself to make food decisions on your own. I recognize that if you’ve been dieting for a while (and most likely if you are following my work you have been), then you have lost that trust in yourself and your food choices. But with the right support, you can learn to trust yourself again.

 

You know how to eat. You know about proteins, carbs and fats. You know how to balance your plate. I’m not saying there aren’t some things you can learn. I’m sure there are. But you know the basics. You don’t need to be drinking shakes, eating bars or following a diet that doesn’t let you live your life to the fullest.

 

Commit right now to stop the madness. I’ve got your back.

 

Comment below: “I will no longer let a diet rule my life’s decisions”.

 

 

3 Tips to Shut Down Diet and Food Talk at Your Thanksgiving Table

It’s Thanksgiving and I couldn’t be more excited. I just love this holiday where we stop and say thanks and show gratitude for all we have in our lives.

 

I also love cooking all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Since I’m off from work on Thanksgiving, I take my time cooking, with my daughters by my side helping. No pressure, no rushing, just some music, laughter, great conversation and recipe making.

 

We then sit down to an intimate meal with my immediate family and bond. I love it.

 

But for the intuitive eater in training (that might be you if you are in the midst of your journey), the whole thought of sitting down to a Thanksgiving feast might be intimidating. Maybe you still have some food fear and haven’t fully allowed all foods into your life yet. Or, maybe you have made peace with food and feel super comfortable approaching this holiday meal, but the issue you are worrying about is what others might say or think when they see you eating stuffing, sweet potatoes and pecan pie.

 

Let me back up and explain.

 

The Struggle for an Intuitive Eater in Training

 

You have been on your intuitive eating journey for some time. You have made peace with food and your body, and you are ready to approach your very first Thanksgiving as an intuitive eater. You have no qualms about eating what you love. But, what about all those family members who have seen you dieting for most of your adult life?

 

You know the ones. Your sister-in-law, mother, or cousin who have dieted with you in years past and who have joined in with you at the holiday meal saying things like “I shouldn’t eat this but …..”, or “this has SO many calories, and is SO bad for me, but I’m going to eat it anyway”.

 

They are probably still dieting, but you aren’t (lucky you)! But when they see you eating and NOT commenting with them about how guilty you feel or how stuffed you are, you may feel they are judging you.

 

Or, there may be family members who just know you as the ‘dieter’ and have never seen you eat in public. They don’t realize that when you’ve restricted in the past, you’d just go home and eat whatever you can find. So for them, they may say outright to you: “YOU eat that now? I’ve never seen you eat this.”

 

3 tips to shut down the diet and food talk at your Thanksgiving table:

 

  1. Say with confidence: “Yes, I eat all foods. Food is just food”. And, leave it at that.

 

  1. Say with boldness: “Please do not comment on what I am eating. Let’s focus on the beauty of the holiday, not my food.”

 

  1. Say with firmness: “This house is a diet-free talk zone. We don’t discuss diets or shame people for eating. Thank you for respecting this house rule”.

 

The most important person is YOU. Have confidence in yourself and in your food choices that you are making to honor and respect your body. You are in the drivers seat now, you are no longer a passenger on the diet train.

 

If you’d like my support at any point on your journey, just reach out to me HERE.

 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

 

Can You Mindfully Eat Fast?

Mindful eating. Sounds simple doesn’t it?

 

Actually, it’s not! If it was, many more people would be doing to. Why is it so difficult to eat mindfully?

 

I think a big reason is the chaotic lifestyle that a lot of people live.

 

We live in a society where we are constantly running, running, running, doing, doing, doing. If we aren’t ‘running’ and ‘doing’, then we are considered lazy.

 

When we have a chaotic lifestyle like this, chances are our eating is chaotic as well. We don’t plan, and even if we do, we don’t have time to carry out the plan, so we just grab what we can when we can.

 

Some people call this winging it.

 

Do you experience this?

 

Let me share a story with you. This is an experience that happened to me 2 weeks ago.

 

It was Wednesday.

 

Wednesdays are very busy days for me with client appointments often back-to-back. I planned a lunch break into my schedule, but this particular Wednesday morning time got away from me. It was 12:40 pm and I was 10 minutes late to leave the office for lunch. But, I figured that’s alright, my next appointment isn’t until 1:30 pm, so I will work for another 10 minutes to finish up a project, and then I’ll still have 40 minutes left for lunch.

 

My assistant then says to me, “Bonnie, you need to break for lunch. Your next appointment is in 20 minutes at 1:00 pm”!

 

I jumped up, looked at my appointment book and in fact, the next appointment was only 20 minutes away. I made a mistake in my timing. I was noticing gentle hunger, and I knew I needed to eat lunch before my next appointment, otherwise I won’t have a break for many hours.

 

I left the office, went to my kitchen and prepared my lunch. I was intending to have soup and a salad (I love soup and it was a bit chilly out), but noticing the time, I knew I would not have enough time to mindfully eat and enjoy.

 

So, I changed course.

 

I asked myself what else would I enjoy eating now, that I can prepare quickly and not rush eating? The answer was a sandwich.

 

By the time I sat down to eat the sandwich, I had 10 minutes to eat. Oh no, I thought. Can I mindfully eat my sandwich in 10 minutes?

 

The answer is YES!

 

Here are the things 3 mindful eating strategies I used that you can use too when you are in a hurry, and still want to eat mindfully:

 

  1. Sit down at the table, do not eat standing. This is so important. If you eat while standing at the counter, or running around the kitchen, you won’t actually process that you just ate your lunch. So, while you may fill your belly, I can tell you that psychologically you won’t feel satisfied and you’ll be searching for something to eat the moment you have a break.

 

  1. Put your fork down in between bites. Or, in my case, I put my sandwich down in between bites so I can focus on what’s in my mouth and not on the next bite I am about to take.

 

  1. Avoid all distraction. Mealtime is not the time to catch up on your texts, emails or the local news. Give your food the attention it deserves.

 

 

I mindfully ate my sandwich in 10 minutes and returned to the office just in time for my next client appointment. I felt satisfied, both physically and psychologically.

 

Now it’s your turn: Tell me a time when you have eaten mindfully when in a rush! Comment below!

 

 

Revealing Your Dirty Little Secret…Night Time Bingeing

You’ve worked really hard to get the amazing body you have now. You’ve been on diet after diet but this last one was THE one. You lost the weight you wanted to, but to do that you eliminated lots of foods that you love.

 

You know what I mean. Bread. Simple good old-fashioned bread. The kind you make a sandwich with.

 

Sandwich you say? Oh, you haven’t eaten a sandwich in years. As a matter of fact, if you’re being honest with yourself, you’re probably afraid of eating a sandwich. If you eat a sandwich, your inner critic starts screaming at you that you’ll gain the weight back, you’ll get fat again, and tomorrow you’ll wake up with an additional 3 pounds on your body. Bread is bad!

 

Does this inner critic voice sound familiar to you?

 

To quite the voice, you stick to the rules you followed that helped you lose the weight. No bread. No pasta. No cookies, No ice cream. No carbs!

 

People admire your body, tell you how great you look, how good you are when they see you eating your salad for lunch. But when you get home after a long hard day at work, what happens?

 

Fatigue, hunger, deprivation all set in and you have just one cookie. But that leads to feeling guilt and shame, and then another cookie. Then you feel even more guilt, shame and alone, and that leads to finishing the cookies and binge eating for the next few minutes, hours or even the rest of the evening.

 

But no one knows, except you! It’s a secret you are hiding from the world. You look perfect, you act perfect, and you eat perfect. Who would know that your dirty little secret is that you binge eat at night all the foods you don’t allow yourself to eat during the day.

 

How can you get out of this binge eating trap?

 

3 Steps to Stop Binge Eating

 

  1. Stop restriction yourself and allow all foods into your life again. I know this is so scary! But it’s important if you are ever going to have peace with food and your body.

 

  1. Be aware when you are binge eating. Don’t numb out like you usually do. Stay present, experience it and you will find that you will stop eating before the cookie package is finished.

 

  1. Breathe through it! Yes, identify the emotions you are feeling and breathe through it. Once you know what the true underlying feeling is, you can address it without food.

 

You are not alone. There are others who are experiencing exactly what you are! Seek out the support you need to beat binge eating. You don’t need to fly solo.

 

There’s a community of women ready to welcome you who understand what you are going through. Click HERE to get the support you need.

 

 

 

 

How Can You Tell When You’re Feeling Satisfied?

This week’s Intuitive Eating Wednesday Question comes from Kristy, a member in my online community.

 

She asks:

 

“How can you tell when you’re satisfied??”

 

A short straight to the point question. But often so difficult for someone to figure out.

 

Kristy is referring here to when she is eating a meal, how does she determine when she is satisfied enough to stop eating.

 

If you’re someone who has dieted for quite some time, then likely you’re also struggling with not being able to hear your fullness signals. The mere act of dieting causes your signals to atrophy.

 

Why?

 

Because you aren’t using them. You are stopping your meal when the diet plan tells you that you have had enough. You are pushing the plate away when it’s empty. You are putting your fork down based on a limit imposed on you by an outside source. This means, it’s a source external from your internal signals that truly guide your eating.

 

Remember, you were born an intuitive eater. You were born knowing when you were hungry to start eating, and when you felt satisfied to stop eating. You didn’t need to ask this question, because it was just a feeling you had. And, you TRUSTED it, because you knew no other way but to trust your body.

 

All these years and oh so many diets later, you no longer feel those signals. And, you don’t have that trust in yourself either.

 

Which makes it so difficult to know when you’re truly satisfied enough to stop eating.

 

Okay, so you get this. But now what?

 

I’m not going to tell you how to feel your signals. This is something you need to relearn. And it IS POSSIBLE, with the right support, as you travel down your intuitive eating journey.

 

But before you do, you must do these 5 things:

 

  1. Make the commitment to never diet again.

 

  1. Re-affirm this commitment to never diet again.

 

  1. Stay strong in this commitment even though you are surrounded by diet culture and its harmful messages (and family and friends that might be dieting and want some company).

 

  1. Move away from determining success on your journey based on a number on a scale.

 

  1. Re-affirm your commitment to never diet again

 

You see, if there’s any part of you that is still holding on to “maybe that will help me lose a few pounds”, then you will turn intuitive eating into the hunger-fullness diet (aka ‘The Intuitive Eating Diet’).

 

I’ve seen this happen way too many times. So, check in with yourself and ask yourself if you’re truly ready to leave your dieting habit and the scale behind.

 

Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

When Eating is a Non-Issue and Food Decisions Just Happen

When you want to get into a routine and build something new into your life, one way to do so is to schedule and plan.  As a chronic dieter, this was (or maybe still is) also true for you when it comes to eating for weight loss (a.k.a. dieting).

 

You schedule the number of meals you’ll eat that day based on when the plan tells you to, and you restructure your life around that plan.  You find that you’re constantly thinking about what you’re supposed to be eating next, will you be eating it “on time” and if you didn’t pack it with you, will you be able to find something comparable.  You find the only thing you are thinking about is food.

 

I want you to remember a time where you weren’t worrying about your weight or your food.  You lived your life and when you were hungry you ate, you stopped when you were full and you weren’t frantically wondering if a food fell into your plan if you wanted to have it.  For many of you trying to get back to this memory, it might take you all the way back to your childhood days—and that’s OK.

 

When you were younger and there’s less to worry about, that carefree attitude translated easier to food.  Eating was just something you did in between all the other fun things you did each day. And you enjoyed every bite you took.

 

This is intuitive eating at its finest….when

 

…..Eating is a Non-Issue and Food Decisions Just Happen

 

Now that you are older and have been influenced by the diet culture that surrounds you, well, it hasn’t been so easy for you to return to the way you were born.

 

I know you have this deep desire to become an intuitive eater again. I know this because I have spoken to hundreds of you wishing it were easier.  I know how easy it is to fall back into diet mentality, and I also know how important support is for you on this journey.

 

Free Training

Join me tomorrow, Thursday September 7 at 8 pm EST for a Facebook Live training where I will discuss how you can make intuitive eating second nature again.

 

I’m going live in my private Facebook group, so if you aren’t yet a member of our group, click here now to join us for free.

 

Here’s what you’ll learn during our Facebook Live training:

  • The #1 reason you struggle with implementing the intuitive eating principles
  • What it really takes to make intuitive eating a part of your being
  • How you can be at peace with food and yourself so you can enjoy life to the fullest

 

Oh, and if you are not on Facebook and want to watch the replay, just send me an email to Bonnie@DietFreeRadiantMe.com and I’ll send you the recording.

 

Intuitive Eating While on Vacation

This week’s Intuitive Eating Wednesday Question comes just in time for the mid-end of summer vacation that you might be planning.

 

It comes from a woman who has been following my work for over a year and was ready to speak about starting her intuitive eating journey. At the end of our talk, she asks me:

 

“Do you think this is the right time for me to start this journey? I have a vacation coming up, and then the kids are starting school again…” (she speaks quietly and her voice trails off.)

 

As I began to answer her question, she stops me and says, “this is my diet mentality speaking, isn’t it?”

 

Yes, it is!

 

Remember the last time you were thinking of starting another diet? You would think to yourself that maybe it wasn’t the right time? You had so much going on and you feared you would not be able to ‘stick’ to the diet.

 

When you apply the same thought process to either starting your intuitive eating journey, or continuing it as you plan your vacation, this is your diet mentality speaking.

 

Here are 4 tips to help you navigate your intuitive eating journey during your vacation.

1. Stay strong against the chatter in your head that is screaming “I have to lose 10 pounds before vacation!” This will only put you back into diet mentality and onto the latest quick fix which will keep you riding the dieting roller coaster. Continue on your intuitive eating journey with confidence. And, if you are contemplating starting the journey, now’s as good a time as any.

2.  Be aware of mindless snacking while vacationing. Oftentimes when you’re on vacation, you have less structure to your day. You might be laying on the beach where your friends are passing around the snacks; or touring through a new city, walking the streets and trying the local fare. So just pay attention and have an awareness of whether you’re hungry or not before you dig into the snacks.

3. Be prepared. Whether you are sitting at the pool, lying on the beach, in an amusement park or on a full day tour, you are going to get hungry at some point. It’s very important to be prepared and have snacks with you so you don’t have to wing it. Remember, one of the principles of intuitive eating is to honor your hunger. If you wait too long, you tend to not choose the most healthful choices and you tend to overeat, so be prepared.

4. Stop when you’re comfortably satisfied and not when you’re overly full. I know when you’re on vacation it’s so tempting, especially if you’re at a resort hotel which is all inclusive. This means that all the food and beverages (including alcohol) is included in what you’re paying for the hotel. It’s very tempting to just eat and eat and eat to “get your money’s worth”. This is not staying true to your intuitive eating journey.

 

Honor yourself and honor your body by paying attention, being aware and making conscious food and beverage decisions. Stop when you’re comfortably satisfied so that you can enjoy your vacation without regret and without guilt.

 

Which of these tips will you focus on during your summer vacation? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

 

How to Get Pleasure in Your Meals

The room is dark, the noise is loud. There is a buffet of luscious food awaiting. I walk over to the buffet, pick up a plate and can’t help but wonder “what is in front of me?” It looks like quinoa salad, or is it couscous? That must be a lentil patty, or is it a tuna croquette?

 

I take food, sit down at the table, and begin eating. All my friends at the table are saying what I am thinking, “anyone know what this is that we are eating?” I take a few bites, put my fork down and decide I have had enough.

 

Have you ever stopped to think about how important your senses are to the pleasure and satisfaction you get from your meals?

 

If you’re a chronic dieter, you’ve probably been eating what you think you should be eating, and not what you truly want to eat. And I might suggest that more often than not, you finish a meal and don’t say “wow, that was amazing!”. And, if you do, you likely have tremendous guilt that you enjoyed what you ate, and food is not meant for enjoyment.

 

One of the most beautiful benefits of being an intuitive eater is recapturing the pleasure in eating. The ability to use all of your senses during a meal to truly appreciate the food that is in front of you is something that you have lost in all your years of dieting. But, you can reclaim it on your path towards being an intuitive eater.

 

Here are 3 ways to get the most pleasure in your meals:

 

  1. Before you begin eating: take a moment to observe the food in front of you and appreciate it. Think about where it came from, send gratitude to the people involved in preparing the food for you and observe the various colors, textures and aroma of the different foods on your plate.

 

  1. During the meal: Pay attention to all aspects of the food. Notice the taste on your tongue, the texture in your mouth, the sound as you chew and how the flavor changes as you eat the bite.

 

  1. At the end of the meal: notice how your belly feels, satisfied and content? Full or overfull? Stuffed? Perhaps your having indigestion or acid reflux. Take note and decide if this is a food that feels good in your body, and if it’s something you will want to eat again.

 

 

Learning to slow down and be mindful when you eat is an important part of your intuitive eating journey. It takes practice and patience, but it is worth the lessons learned.

 

I was not able to see the food I was eating at the party I was at, and I did not enjoy it. So, I honored myself and stopped eating. It’s a good thing I honored my hunger before leaving my house for the party and had a snack.

 

Your turn to take action: Try these tips above and comment below how it enhanced the pleasure of your meals.

 

 

 

 

4 Intuitive Eating Tips for Kids Heading Off to Summer Camp

Summer is here, and I am beyond thrilled. I love the warm weather, long days, and homework- free nights. Many of my clients are busy packing up their kids to head off to sleep away camp for the summer. While a lot of their friends are worried about what their kids will eat at summer camp, I’m happy to say that my clients are calm and confident.

Here’s why!

They’ve been practicing the strategies I’ve taught them about intuitive and mindful eating in the home and they have been role models for their kids. Instead of all the diet talk that used to fill the home, now the conversations revolve around the importance of family meals and checking in with their bellies to determine hunger, fullness, and food preferences. Their kids are getting involved in the shopping, cooking, and meal prep; it’s a family affair.

It wasn’t always like this in many of my client’s homes. To clarify, when these clients came to me, they were chronic yo-yo dieters. They were going on and off various diets, engaging in diet talk throughout the home, and body bashing when they looked in the mirror (“oh, I look so fat!”). Since they started working with me in my Freedom to Eat Forever™ 5 Step Intuitive Eating Program, they are no longer dieting, body bashing, or filling the home with diet talk. They are learning the principles of intuitive eating and how to incorporate them into their lives in a consistent daily fashion.

And, they are role models for their kids. This is SO important. Kids soak up everything they see and hear.

Many of my clients have asked me how they can teach these important intuitive eating principles, strategies, and tips to their kids in a child-friendly fashion. They don’t want their sons and daughters to go down the same rabbit hole of diet after diet, battling food the way they did.

In response to their requests, I started working with several children to teach them intuitive and mindful eating practices.  It’s still important to teach nutrition but I do so in a non-rule based manner. I teach them to listen for hunger and fullness, and how to respond. I teach them how to figure out if they want to eat because they are hungry or because they are upset at someone or something. I teach them the difference between high nutrient foods and low nutrient foods (notice I didn’t say “junk food”?).

A number of my “kid” clients are now heading off to sleep away camp for the summer. While they and their parents worried in the past about the food at camp, they are no longer worried. These kids will take with them what they have learned and will have a fun time focused on friends, laughter, and good times.

If your child is heading off to summer camp, here are 4 tips to help him/her make healthy mindful choices and feel good doing it:

1) Survey and Take 3!

Encourage your child to survey the food offerings at each meal, and choose 3 foods that they like to put on their plate. This will prevent an overlarge portion of one food item that might be a low nutrient option. For example, if the main lunch option is mac and cheese, suggest that your child choose a veggie to go with that. It could be cucumbers and tomatoes, or green beans, whatever they like. Camps usually offer raw veggies and cooked veggies. Then, they can finish off their meal with a fruit or cup of milk. This is much better than saying “don’t eat the mac and cheese”. This will set them up for wanting it even more, overindulging in it, and then feeling bad.

2) Tune in!

It’s very easy to be distracted when eating at a table with a bunch of other kids in a noisy dining hall. Remind your child to put his fork down mid-meal and check in to see if he/she is still hungry. If he/she isn’t, then let him/her know it’s okay to stop eating and not finish what’s on his plate. Speak to the counselors in advance to be sure that no one is forcing your child to clean his/her plate in the name of not wasting food!

3) Drink up!

Water, water, water. Need I say more? Send water bottles to camp with your child. And, encourage your child to hydrated throughout the day to replenish the lost fluids through perspiration and running around.

4) Put money in a canteen account

It is totally okay for your child to enjoy ‘play foods’ every now and again. Please don’t put rules on your child such as: “You can only buy ice pops or sorbet from the canteen”. Pleaassse. This is never going to happen. All you will do is set your child up to sneak eat and not tell you the truth for fear of getting in trouble. Taking conditions off food and not labeling foods as good or bad is key to having a good relationship with food. As long as you’ve been offering your kids wholesome food options while at home with play food options available, have confidence that they will continue to make these choices when they are away.

Here’s to a fantastic time to all the kids heading off to summer camp. Enjoy and take it all in!

Your turn to take action: What will you do to help your child have a healthy mindful summer?