Have you heard of Geneen Roth? I love her… She’s incredible at talking about making peace with food. One of my favorite books from her is a workbook called “Why Weight.” In this workbook, she talks about her “Eating Guidelines,” which she now calls her “Seven Steps to Freedom with Food,” which are what I’m going to share with you today.
On a call she hosted recently, she talked about how people will turn “guidelines” into rules within 30 seconds. So true. I’ve experienced this myself with intuitive eating, and have seen it in my clients. In my opinion, it’s OUR responsibility to look at guidelines as what they truly are: pathways to HELP us and NOT to restrict us or make us feel bad/guilty when we don’t follow them.
So, as I share these steps/guidelines, hear that the guidelines are speaking this to you: “Hey, you will feel your best if you follow us, and if you don’t, no worries. You’re not a terrible human being, you may just not feel as good as you could. No one gets these right 100% of the time, so go easy on yourself.”
Geneen’s SEVEN STEPS to Freedom with Food:
- Eat when you are hungry.
- Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.
- Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, and intense or anxiety-producing conversations, and music [Ladies, FYI, I listen to music when I eat sometimes, as long as I feel calm while doing so!].
- Eat only what you want.
- Eat until you are satisfied.
- Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
- Eat with enjoyment, pleasure, and gusto.
I’ll talk about each one a little bit more below…
1. Eat when you are hungry.
If you’ve been out of touch with your hunger for a while, this will take some getting used to. A lot of people feel afraid to feel hungry (I once did!). However, over time, as you learn that you can ALWAYS eat when you’re hungry, you’ll start to feel more safe in this area. When you’re not hungry, what other things will you be freed up to enjoy instead of eating? Like, engaging in a project you like, taking breaks, taking your dog for a walk, or playing with your kids. Just being present in your life.
Also, I would encourage you to think through the times that you’re most likely to eat when you’re not hungry. For me, this used to be late at night when I’d be super tired and studying. I didn’t want to be studying anymore, so I’d avoid studying by eating. I had to learn that I HATED studying at night, give myself permission not to do it then, and wake up extra early in the mornings when I was WAY better at studying, and it didn’t make me feel bored.
2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment.
This does not include the car.
This is one of my FAVORITES. For me, it was a game changer to learn how to eat when I was calm. When I wasn’t calm, it helped to learn how to GET CALM first. For example, if I’m SUPER stressed about something, instead of going to the cupboard and grabbing a snack, I need to take care of myself and the stress FIRST.
So, I’ll take 2 minutes or so, sit down, and remind myself that things are okay I might say something like: “It’s okay, I’ll get everything I need to get done, done. I always do. It’ll be fine.” If I’m around family and things are super hectic from so many people being around and I’m feeling overwhelmed with how to listen to my body in that moment, I may sneak off the bathroom, center my mind, and check-in just for a moment with how I want to feel while I’m eating, even as there’s a ton of noise, laughter, and talking going on around me.
3. Eat without distractions.
Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations, and music.
This one is also huge! Eating without distractions. Putting my phone away, remembering that there are OTHER times to scroll through Instagram, and reassuring myself that I can have BOTH and MORE not either/or. I can eat my food AND spend two minutes afterward looking at Insta. I can eat my food AND THEN get back to work and finish what I’m doing. I can eat my food AND THEN finish watching my favorite TV show. I don’t have to clump everything together into one activity. In fact, if I separate eating from doing other things, then I’ll get MORE pleasure out of both things that I’m doing, instead of being half distracted from each.
4. Eat only what you want.
This is a great one. If you start eating a candy you thought you loved, for example, and you realize “this really isn’t that good,” then you can stop eating it. You’re not a sinner if you continue eating, but why would you continue eating something that you really don’t care for? Remember that you can get something better later. Create a mindset of abundance in that moment. Say things like “I can have any candy that I want. The very next time I want something sweet, I’ll treat myself to something that I do really like. I don’t have to settle for this candy that I’m not enjoying. I can stop here.”
5. Eat until you are satisfied.
This is similar to eating until you’re full, however, most people struggle with knowing when their bellies are full, and sometimes (a lot of the time) it takes a 20 minute break to register that you actually don’t want more of something… so I love the way Geneen phrases this: eat until you are satisfied.
And when in doubt, when you’re not sure if you’re satisfied and you have that feeling like “I think I want more of this food but also am I going to feel to stuffed and regret it?” give yourself a 20 minute break.
I did this last week as I was eating almond brittle. I had one piece, wanted more, grabbed another piece, and again, wanted more. Then I thought to myself, “this is so good, I could easily eat loads more.” Because I didn’t want to feel sick, I decided that I’d wait 20 minutes, and if I still wanted it then I could have more. I simply wanted to create space for myself to see if it would feel good to have more. Turns out, 45 minutes passed and I had forgotten about the brittle and felt totally detached from it – I was satisfied, and didn’t want more. I knew I could have it anytime.
6. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
This one has to do with how we hide from others when we are eating what we really want. To follow this guideline, order what you want around whoever you’re with. If you’re with friends and you REALLY want a sandwich but everyone else is ordering salads, don’t have shame. Order your sandwich. Don’t make eating a sandwich something that you ONLY do in secret. Always eat as if you were in full view of others so that when you are with others, you can normalize your feelings around food. If you would normally eat X amount of food when you’re alone, eat the same amount (or at least give yourself permission to) when you’re around others.
If you’re struggling with someone else commenting on your food, you have permission to ask people to not make comments about what you’re eating. You can ask me more about this, if that’s the case.
7. Eat with enjoyment, pleasure, and gusto.
Yay! I love this one. I always say, find pleasure in your food, just don’t have food be your ONLY pleasure. Increase ALL pleasures in your life simultaneously with small incremental upgrades – nothing too overwhelming. For example: put your food a plate instead of eating off a napkin. Or, choose your favorite coffee mug instead of drinking out of a cup you don’t like. Or, plan a date with a friend you LOVE spending time with vs. just saying yes to any ol’ plan. Eat your favorite Italian food instead of throwing together pasta at home that you don’t enjoy. Or, remake your favorite Italian food at home with lots of love. Whatever ideas come to you around MORE enjoyment, pleasure, and gusto, go for it!
I hope you girls enjoyed this post! Like I said, these guidelines are from Geneen Roth, who I adore. If you want to check out her “Why Weight” workbook (which is where I grabbed these guidelines), you can do so here.