Do you ever worry “eating what you want” will 100% backfire on you? Like you can’t handle the responsibility of being without ANY kind of structure or plan? You’re not alone. Having grown up in a diet culture – it would make sense! Many generational dieters never had a role model for a healthy relationship with food and need more structure than the boilerplate Intuitive Eating advice to “eat what you want”.

In this solo episode, Melissa covers what can go wrong when you don’t have enough structure in your Intuitive Eating journey, how to figure out how much structure you need, and how to recover from common pitfalls like: feeling even GUILTIER as an Intuitive Eater than you did on a diet, struggling with excessive fullness, feeling low-energy, or feeling like you’re only eating “junk” food all the time. Melissa covers how to plan ahead, without getting “diety” and how to stop falling trap to the latest tik-tok food trend that makes you feel bad about the way you eat. Loving the pod? Don’t forget to rate and review so others can find out about it. You can even share this podcast with a friend who’s looking to break the diet cycle, too!

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Melissa mentioned a blog post that summarizes the tips in this podcast episode, you can find it here:

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Connect with Melissa on Instagram: @no.more.guilt

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This episode was sponsored by No More Guilt with Melissa Landry. Reminder that though we are dietitians, we’re not *YOUR* dietitian. Podcasts don’t constitute treatment. If you have concerns about your dieting behaviors, seek out guidance from a medical or mental health professional. And if you’re looking for the process, support, and focus you need to live life without food guilt apply for a coaching program from today’s sponsor. No More Guilt with Melissa Landry is currently enrolling clients into 1:1 programs, group programs, and, recently added a do-it-yourself learning format: the Ex-Dieter’s Guide to No More Guilt.

when “eating what you want” backfires transcript

Melissa Landry  0:02  
Hi there, I'm Melissa, a registered dietitian specialize in intuitive eating for on again off again, chronic dieters, and I'm here to help you take the guilt and stress out of eating so you can be the first in your family to break the diet cycle. I'm interested in helping you unlearn generational diet trauma, so you can be who you are without food guilt. Be sure to follow on Instagram at no more guilt for more support between these episodes. Are you ready? Let's jump in. 
Just you and me today. And that's all right with me. I don't know if you knew this about me. But my love language is quality time. So I relish and treasure anytime I get to spend with other people. This is kind of a metaphorical spending time with people. Truth be told, I am sitting alone in my bedroom. But you get the gist. I'm compelled to caveat that when I did the love languages quiz, I also evenly ranked for words of affirmation. And truth be told, I think I'm all the love languages. I'm just a glutton for love. There's never enough love. So if you want to deliver it to me, I will receive it. That is my love language is all of them. Okay, I don't know what that's about. But that's the truth. If you don't know what I'm talking about love languages is a what do we want to call it? personality quiz that helps you figure out how you like to give and receive love. There's five categories. I don't know how scientifically backed it is, but it's frickin fun to do. So if you haven't done it yet. Go ahead and do that. It's a fun little get to know you exercise. If any of my friends are listening to this right now they are 100% rolling their eyes because low key my favorite party activity is asking people what their love languages. I don't know. I just curious. I like to talk about it. I like to learn about other people. It's a fun little icebreaker. Okay, if we're ever at a party together, don't worry about it. I'll ask you. I'll help you figure it out. Because I like to talk about it. 
I digress. We're here for some very important business. We are going to talk about what to do if you feel like your intuitive eating work is starting to backfire on you. What I mean by that is you are following the advice to eat what you want. And you are noticing some not so desirable stuff. Stuff like maybe an increase in guilt as you eat what you want, instead of a decrease. Maybe feelings of discomfort, excess fullness, low energy grogginess, and you can't help but think that the intuitive eating is driving this. And if only you would change your habits, you wouldn't feel this way. It can backfire because many of you have decided and understand diets aren't working for you, you've made the choice not to go back. And so when you step into intuitive eating, if you do that too fast, you can feel really spirally really swirly because it's like, well, I can't diet anymore. But now this thing doesn't work. And I want to set the record straight for us today, there is nothing wrong with you, if you are going through it that all is not lost. what this might mean is that you actually need just a teensy tiny bit more structure than the phrase eat what you want. And that would make sense, wouldn't it? You know, for so many years, think about whenever you started dieting. For so many years, you have had an external plan, dictating what, where, when how you are going to eat. And if you completely take that away from yourself, of course, you're going to feel a little disoriented. And just like when you go bowling, you can get those bumpers put on the sides to help you make sure you hit the pins.
You can put bumpers on your intuitive eating process. And then little by little if you'd like you can remove the bumpers and eat what you want doesn't become such a scary phrase. It's just a simple thing you do and you move on. But I want to be clear. It does not mean you're a failure, or this doesn't work if you're experiencing that turbulence or that roadblock. And that's what I want to offer you today. You know, it's funny, I don't know if it's this time of year or what? It's fall. You know, we just finished Labor Day. Every single one of my clients is asking for support with meal planning. Again, maybe a coincidence might be the time of year and we're working on that together, you know, we're talking about how do we approach that as intuitive eaters, so it doesn't become this rigid, suffocating, guilty Shamy rigamarole in their life, they want it to be helpful. And I want that for you too. And so that's what we're going to talk about today. 
Generational die of trauma makes you especially susceptible to comparison itis, your mom dad caregiver, maybe they didn't have a great relationship with food. Nick could show up in a couple different ways. Maybe they were super, super, super rigid, super, super, super structured. Lots of rules, lots of authoritarianism over the food, right, you can't do this, you can do this. Or maybe they were on the other end of the spectrum where they were very loosey goosey with food. There weren't a lot of structured mealtimes, there wasn't a lot of guidance. Maybe they weren't big chefs or cooks themselves. Of course, if you don't have that role model, you can't do what's called apprenticeship style learning with your parent. Apprenticeship style learning just means that when you hang out with a master at something, they're naturally going to show you how to do things, they're going to create a culture around, you know, food, maybe they're going to delegate certain things to you, at appropriate times, at appropriate levels, so little by little, you can approximate you get a little bit closer to their skill level. So if you didn't have a parent like that, one, know that you are not alone. That is not a unique experience, I would say, given diet culture influences in our country, given how much pressure parents are on how much lack of support there is for both mental health and eating disorders. Just because no one ever taught you how to trust yourself around food doesn't make you bad, broken, less than unlovable, whatever you're calling yourself, whatever you fear, internalize my words, you're not bad, you're not broken. Because you didn't have a role model, or no one ever taught this to you. And now you get to learn it. One of the best things you can do for yourself is remove the shame that you need support. figuring this out for the very first time, there is no rule or law that says by x age, you better know how to run a household and feed yourself perfectly. 
There's no rule that says that our school systems or culture or society, I don't know if you went away to college, but for me, they had a meal plan. There wasn't any need to learn how to feed myself. The only reason I myself know how to cook is because I became a dietitian, I took special interest in it. I went out of my way to try to learn it as part of my job. My friends, who were also my age, didn't necessarily have those skills until later in life when they had more money and time and resource to do it. So I don't know if that helps get rid of the shame. If you're someone who's like, oh, when someone tells me to eat what I want, I don't know what to do, you're not supposed to if you never learned. Another thing I want to go into this conversation making sure you and I are on the same page is about nutrition itself. Diet culture taught you to put the most pressure on every frickin meal and snack. Every meal and snack is the most important meal and snack when you are on a diet not so as intuitive eaters.
That's based on science that's based on the evidence. Nutrition doesn't happen in one meal. It doesn't even happen over the course of a day. Nutrition happens over weeks, sometimes months. And it happens when you're eating enough. It happens when you're eating consistently when there's good balance in your nutrition. And when you hit the unique variety of foods that is right for your body and your metabolism. What we try to do is invert that. We say oh well, let me figure out the perfect food I'm supposed to eat. Instead of thinking about Balanced consistency enough food. That's really where I want us to start focusing as we think about what it means to successfully eat what you want. I hear a lot of my clients and people talking about that recipe they saw on Tik Tok, and for as fun as Tik Tok can be, as fun as new recipes are there this like weird effect of making people feel less than? Oh, that person is making roses out of salami. I should make roses out of salami, no, sometimes you just want to open the salami pack and eat one, okay? Sometimes we don't need to make it a shokudo reboard fit for a king, or queen. So when you're watching tik tok or when you come across a what I eat in a video, remember, they're not better than you for posting their food. 
What they posted isn't even a reflection of their nutrition, their health or their relationship with food, you have no idea. At best, it's entertainment. So if you are entertained by seeing pictures of people's food very well enjoy. Don't mix that entertainment up with a template or a law or a guide of what you should be doing. They're not you, they're not in your body. And they're only showing you one snippet of life that they curated. They're sending a message out. They're not better than you just for posting. Remember that. 
And lastly, as I mentioned before, moving from dieting to intuitive eating to fast, does feel scary, especially for black and white thinkers, who aren't yet confident they can guide their eating on their own. Without that list of rules and regulations and a full blown plan like you might have been used to. If eating what you want makes you freeze up either because of shame or fear of the uncertainty of it all. Okay, it's just a signal, it's a sign you need more structure, it's okay to need that. You can have that as an intuitive eater. And we're going to dive into a few things that you can be doing. If you experience that freeze, overwhelmed feeling every time you go to just try and eat what you want. The first thing you can be doing is neutralizing your food rules. I had a client the other day where we sat down and we talked about all of her expectations on lunch, there were about 15 conflicting things she was asking herself to do through that lunch in the middle of her day. With all the pressures of work. And by looking at those rules together, we were able to determine which of those rules are coming from her. Her values her needs her wants and which of those rules came from her parents society, diet culture, her comparison itis because so and so eats this way, and maybe she should too. So that's one thing that you can do is challenge that food police and make sure that the rules you're imposing on your meals and snacks are valid. Are they legit? Do they pass the sniff test? Or is it bullshit, just some diet culture bullshit that you're pulling into just a simple choice you're making around food. 
Another thing you might want to consider is once you have figured out what the true expectations are for foodis cutting them in half, and then cutting them in half again, we are under so much pressure for everything to be perfect and excellent and the best all the time. It can't be perfect and excellent and best all the time. Sometimes food will be just food. And if you struggle if you would self identify as a perfectionist, as a black and white thinker, as a high achiever this I'm especially talking to you cut your expectations in half and cut them in half again and do that with the confidence that one meal is not going to make or break your nutrition or your health. It just won't it can't. Unless you are ingesting poison, okay, that would immediately impact you. That nutrition does not have the capacity to harm you in a single instant. Unless you are anaphylactic highly allergic to that food. That food does not have the capacity to to harm you in an instant. So, you know, if you struggle with food allergy, we would be having a different conversation. Maybe one meal would make or break things for you. But otherwise, it's not how it works. So lower your expectations, particularly if they are around nutrition. What would it looked like to eat good enough? Maybe instead of saying I'm going to eat what I want, you can say I'm going to eat good enough. Maybe that would be a better shift or interpretation on that invitation than trying to keep it's open ended. 
That's really what we're looking to do as intuitive eaters who need structure we're looking to invite enough structure to, I don't know, quickly make decisions to feel supported by the process held by the process, but not so much structure, we feel like we're dying. That's the sweet spot. And it is different for everyone. It's true in other areas of life, right? Think about travel, right, you probably have that friend where, before they go on a trip, they make a line item itinerary. They know where they're going to be every minute of every day. They know what they're doing for how long they know what they're wearing down to the meal, they're going to order at the restaurant that they got the reservation to. That is the level of structure that makes that person feel good. And then you have other people who look at that itinerary and feel absolutely suffocated, they are going on vacation to see what happens, they do not care about plans, they just want to go with the flow, then there's people who are somewhere in between, whatever you are is okay. Whatever you are is okay, we're looking for your relationship with food to match who you are, as well as your values and your goals. For many people, the superduper rigid planning doesn't actually feel supportive. So if it doesn't feel supportive permission to loosen it up, but you don't have to loosen it up so much that you feel like you're floating out to sea. That's the sweet spot. 
So lowering expectations can sometimes I don't know be a path at that, you know, if you're making an itinerary for your vacation every single minutes plan, because you expect to have the most perfect, elegant, amazing trip, maybe lowering the bar to say you know what my only expectation for this trip is that I get to the beach at least once and I get at least one calm, quiet moment when I'm on that vacation, if I can do that this vacation will have been a success, then maybe if that were your wish, you would schedule beach time, you would make sure that that time is protected, because that is your expectation. And then maybe the other stuff you would like loosen up a little bit on right like that. So this is all just metaphor, an example to show you how maybe there are other areas in your life where you used to be more rigid, work, vacation family relationships, but you learned how to loosen that rigidity, so that you have the right level of structure and focus for you, you can do that with with this intuitive eating process two. 
So so far, we've talked about some mindset. Actually just tackling all mindset work. If we're if we're categorizing it, about half of intuitive eating skills are what are called cognitive skills, they mean to adjust your thinking about foods so that your behaviors follow suit. So neutralizing your food rules is absolutely a mindset or a cognitive skill. Lowering expectations, again, is a mindset or a cognitive skill. The third one I want to tell you about is a little bit of a cognitive skill, but it's also a biological skill. And that is focusing on how you feel. Conjuring up the memory of how certain foods make you feel, can be a helpful tool. So for example, sometimes when I'm working with clients, I might ask them, hey, what's an example of a lunch that you eat, that when you eat it, you feel satisfied, like you feel satisfied during the meal, immediately after the meal, it has decent staying power, it can kind of hold you, you know, a good amount of time, amount of time that you feel good with what is that meal? 
Most people can answer at least one meal that they know is tried and true for them. That's divorced from diet culture thinking if the meal is quote, healthy or not. They're just responding to how that that meal makes them feel. And I bet you have an answer to that question too. And if you do, that could be one of your backups. When you're thinking what do I want to eat? Well, you could you could just choose that meal. And with practice, you could keep experiencing meals in the pursuit of finding more in that category. That would be a very fine way to approach your intuitive eating. So focusing on how you feel can be a cognitive act to try to, you know, remember what tends to work for you. It can also be a biological act or a biological skill where sometimes when I say what do I want to eat, diet culture is going to say Well of course you want it eat the things that you never get, of course, you want to eat all those delicious, desirable, quote fattening foods, because the forbidden fruit phenomena is something that is part of the diet mindset, right? There are certain foods that are put on a pedestal, they're bad, we have them on cheat days. And so if you're thinking that, well, if I eat what I want, I'll eat those foods forever. I challenge you to broaden the idea of want beyond your deprivation. 
Right now, deprivation mindset, or the experience of deprivation, might be making certain foods sexier or more enjoyable than they really are. This is why I'm always pushing my free guide on you guys, there is an exercise in there, which asks you to reflect on what you want your food freedom journey to offer you. When you take that step. When you say, I want to feel energized, I want to feel well, I want to feel what, when you clarify that for yourself. Then when you tell yourself eat what you want, it means those things. It means your vision for the work, it means why you're here, it means your health values, it doesn't mean deprivation mode, which is what it historically has meant. So this is part of creating safety. And creating support. This is an example of putting the bumpers up on your intuitive eating work, you haven't done that step. And you're just scrolling Instagram, and you're like, oh, I'll just eat what I want, oh my gosh, it's not working. Part of that may be due in part to the fact that your brain has not defined what you want. And so you're just defaulting to deprivation mode. And this is work that I do with my clients all the time, where we actually take that time to expand their vision, we define it very clearly I push them and I dig deep with them to really uncover what they want so that when I'm working with them, I can give them actual feedback that points them in the direction of what they want. Not what I want, not what the client before or after them wanted. But what you wanted out of this work, because it's okay for that to be unique. It's okay for you to need the kind of structure you need and to be different from someone else in this work. That's the beauty of it. We're not all forcing ourselves into one plan, we're getting skills to design the plan of our own. 
And for some of you that plan is not going to be structured. For some of you that plan is going to be I show up, I eat what I want, I move on, I don't like plans, they don't work for me. And for some of you having a bit of routine makes a ton of sense. And thinking particularly some of you that have like shiftwork jobs where you only have a certain amount of time to eat your lunch. A plan is critical for folks like you, or people who have kids, and they just don't have a lot of time. You're feeding other people, I don't have time to just go with the flow, I do have to live a more planned lifestyle in this season of my life. For other folks, maybe doesn't matter so much. That's okay.
This leads us to planning ahead. You're allowed to do it. And this is another one of those cognitive skills. It's a thinking skill. And if diet culture weren't a thing, we could have what's called Home Economics class. Did anyone actually take home ec? I don't think we had it. I think it was an elective, and they offered it like one time like you had to get in in the spring or the fall, it was only one time of year. And if you didn't get in tough patooties. Now you don't know how to run your household. But if we were to offer Home Economics consistently, if we were to have had role models to consider how do I want to run my household, particularly as it relates to the planning, acquisition and implementing of my food? Which is to say food, shopping and cooking? What would that look like? Right? If you were running you're eating as if you were running a business or if you were caring for someone else? How would you go about it? No right or wrong way. There's different philosophies out there. You get to pick what's yours. 
Some people will say eating out at restaurants is part of my lifestyle. I go out with clients once a week I go with my girlfriends once a week. I like taking a walk and getting lunch. If that is part of your lifestyle. There is no guilt or shame associated with that make it part of your lifestyle plan for it. Plan for it. If you do you're gonna be more able to tap in to how you feel, you're gonna be able to set expectations for yourself in those settings that are more aligned with intuitive eating. Others of you will tell me things like, Oh, I hear this all the time. I people say like, I don't even want fast food. I'm going to like Popeyes every day, not because I want it, because I'm hungry. Because I know I like it. It's fast. I don't have to make a decision when I get a fried chicken sandwich. I just get it I eat it I move on. That points more to maybe some planning need. The next question usually becomes well, how do I motivate myself to do it? How do I figure that out? How do I do it in a way that doesn't retrigger all my trauma around what meal planning used to mean? And that's where we come back to the sweet spot. You can loosely ask yourself, what meals and snacks make you feel best. So you can loosely ask yourself about how often do I need to eat to feel energized? And well, you could ask yourself those questions, you can use the answers to define out a loose plan, and then work towards implementing that plan. If you're not motivated, and you can't figure out why you don't want to do it. That brings us back to neutralizing food rules and lowering expectations. 
I hope this episode is giving a little more insight into why just saying eat what you want, does not immediately snap your finger translate to you becoming an intuitive eater, you are being asked to integrate quite a few skills when you eat what you want. And what you want. Doesn't need to just mean respond to your deprivation. We can go beyond that. That's an option. It's okay to build flexible structure. Now. I am a registered dietician, but I'm not your registered dietician. And so with the advice that I have given you today, I want you to think thoughtfully about what it would look like to tailor this if you are truly feeling it would benefit you to have somebody in your life help you to sort through what is food rules from diet trauma of your past and what is the real you trying to poke out and guide you here so that you can feed yourself in a way that you feel confident and strong and good. That is what I do. And so I hope that you got some real tangible takeaways from this podcast episode. I'm gonna leave a link to a blog post that summarizes everything I just taught you. But if you're feeling like you want support building out the bumpers and then maybe taking them off so that you have a more consistent, livable sustainable way of eating at the right structure level for you without it turning all diety we can do that.
You can apply for coaching on my website, Melissa Landry, you can message me over at no more guilt and ask about coaching, we can talk more about what we do and if it'd be right for you. I'd love to work with you. I do this all the time. And it's really fun for me to help people design a way of being around food that truly works for them. You deserve that. And especially if you didn't have a role model. It's okay to get one. 
Most I just want people to stop beating themselves up when they see someone making the rose Salamis on tick tock Okay, can we do that? Can we stop beating ourselves up because some somebody out there who is a full time content creator spent three hours gutting mangoes into a shape and that made you feel like you need to do that you do not need to do. It's okay. There's plenty going on in your life. I'm positive. It doesn't need to be that let's you want it to that makes you happy. Cut the mangoes into shapes, do whatever you want. But it's not a criteria for being a good or a healthy person. I bet you we could do a full podcast episode where people call in and tell me about the Tik Tok video that made them feel bad about themselves. I bet you we could feel 40 minute podcast episode because those videos are driving people crazy. Don't be one of those people. Be yourself. It's okay. Get inspired by that stuff. But stop asking yourself to be content creators. It's a whole thing. You don't need to do it. All right. I'm glad we talk this out. Thanks for some quality time. I will see you next week. Until then be good to your good body. 
Growing up I was the last to go to sleep at the sleepover and now as an adult Professional I am the last one to leave the podcast. The reason I'm here is I'm wondering if you found benefit in the podcast if you might rate the podcast five stars, leave me a review or if you're feeling extra generous, tell someone in your life about it. It means the world to me knowing we're getting the message to break the diet cycle out there. And that has always happened because of listeners like you. I really appreciate your support. And if you have the time to do it, I'd love your view.