5 Ways to Pivot to a Peaceful Relationship with Food and Your Body in 2024
As we navigate midlife, it's common to continually reassess our relationship with food, given the dramatic bodily changes it undergoes. With the pressure of New Year’s resolutions or a “hard reset” waiting just around the corner for us, I want to share five tips that can transform how you approach your relationship with food and your body.
First and foremost, we need to address our default programming and language concerning eating habits. Often, we fall into the trap of labeling our choices as 'good' or 'bad.' We need to take a much more objective look at ourselves. When we dig deeper, framing these habits as shortcuts our brains take, we can begin to understand the underlying triggers.
We also need to learn to question our 'bigger why.' Instead of fixating on goals like weight loss, try shifting the focus to how you want to feel. Even if you do want to focus on a health goal like lowering your blood pressure, make your goal weight-neutral. Remember that skinny and smaller are not emotions.
The struggle with capacity and willpower resonates with anyone trying to follow a strict diet. The truth is that the problem is not about lacking willpower but is more often the never-ending demands of midlife. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good, and don’t fall into the trap of “starting over” on Monday.
And when you’re setting your health intentions, find ways to let those intentions serve more than one purpose. Your food choices may lead to body changes but what if that was just an incidental outcome? If adding certain foods to your plate helps you feel more full and satisfied or provides you with more energy and supports your digestive health, your body is going to benefit regardless of any changes in body size or shape.
Lastly, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face is resisting the urge to rely on numbers to measure progress. Traditional metrics often foster all-or-nothing thinking. As unfamiliar as it may feel, looking for positive changes in energy, activity, and overall well-being is the most accurate way to measure progress as an intuitive eater!
So if you’re ready to learn how to take action when it comes to your relationship with food and your body, but you know you are ready to break up with dieting, I’ve got you covered!
For the entire month of January, I’m offering my non-diet resolution challenge again. Take advantage of this free support around setting goals and intentions in 2024!
JOIN ME HERE: https://www.menopausenutritionist.ca/nondietresolution
Jenn Salib Huber
Hi and welcome to the Midlife Feast, the podcast for women who are hungry for more in this season of life. I'm your host, Dr Jenn Salib Huber. I'm an intuitive eating dietitian and naturopathic doctor, and I help women manage menopause without dieting and food rules. Come to my table, listen and learn from me trusted guest experts in women's health and interviews with women just like you. Each episode brings to the table juicy conversations designed to help you feast on midlife. And if you're looking for more information about menopause, nutrition and intuitive eating, check out the Midlife Feast community, my monthly membership that combines my no-nonsense approach that you all love to nutrition with community, so that you can learn from me and others who can relate to the cheers and challenges of midlife.
Hi everyone, welcome to what I think is the last episode of 2023, which has been an amazing year. We've had some incredible guests, experts and also story sessions. We've had some fun new episodes doing some Q&A-style questions, so lots of new things that we've thrown into the mix this year. So I thought that I would end this year talking about some of my top tips. I guess you could say they are for having a healthier, more peaceful and nourishing relationship with food at any time of year, but especially at this time of year, when we tend to be bombarded with all things related to New Year's resolutions and dieting and what you can and can't do and shouldn't shouldn't do. So I guess we're going to call this five tips for setting nutrition goals for a better menopause or just a more peaceful menopause.
The Need to Change The Default Programming In Our Brains
So let's kind of start with one of the things that I love talking about, which is changing our default programming. So if you feel like you're just constantly stuck on this hamster wheel of I keep trying, I keep feeling this way, I keep doing this and it's not working, I want to challenge you to change your programming by changing your words. Let's use habits as an example. So how many of you have said at some point oh, I have some good habits, or I have some bad habits, or this is a good habit, like going for a walk every day is a good habit, but snacking at night is a bad habit. So let's shift that, let's undiet that language and that belief around habits. So habits are just shortcuts that our brain takes.
Our brain doesn't love to spend energy learning new things. It likes to have things on autopilot, it likes to know what it's going to do and it likes to do it relatively quickly. So we develop these shortcuts to help our brain do something more quickly. And when we develop these shortcuts, sometimes they do service work, whatever you want to call it. But when they're not, if you can see, like on the in hindsight, it's like oh you know what? I don't feel good when I sit down and eat a whole bag of chips every night. Instead of saying that such a bad habit, try and shift it to what is happening during my day that is leading up to this intense moment of emotional hunger in the evening that my brain takes this shortcut.
Is it that you're not eating enough during the day? Is it that maybe some of your meals could do with a bit of a top up for balance or variety or satisfaction? Maybe it's that you're not getting enough sleep? Maybe that you have a lot of stress that you're having a hard time managing? Instead of saying it's a bad habit, try and figure out why your brain is taking the shortcut. So Language matters, words matter. How we talk to ourselves matters, and especially if we're trying to get out of the diet cycle, for example being able to have more neutral language, to maybe have that anthropologist's non-judgmental view of your behavior so that you can really dig into this next tip, which is connecting to your bigger why.
Identifying Your Bigger "Why"
So you know, why is something that gets like thrown around a lot Like what's your why? But when it comes to food, we're so used to maybe having kind of what I call these more superficial why's that we say, well, I want to eat better to lose weight, or I want to eat better to lower my cholesterol, or I want to eat more protein because I know I should, and all of those things aren't a why. They're actually more of a what, because the why is how do you want to feel? So, if you're trying to make changes to your diet, to your movement, to whatever it is that you're trying to change, really trying to dig deeper into like, why am I doing this? I want to do this because I want to feel strong and healthy as I get into this next season of life, so that I can enjoy, you know, retirement. Or I can enjoy, you know, having more freedom and flexibility in my schedule because my kids are older. Or I want to just feel better in my body instead of always being focused on my body, so that I can be more confident and have it take up less space in my life. So all of those are bigger why's. And if we're talking about emotional eating, which is something that comes up a lot, especially at this time of year, trying to connect it to the bigger why of why do I want to have a more peaceful relationship with food?
And if you're an emotional eater and if this time of year especially brings up a lot of feelings, maybe your why is undiating your beliefs about food so that you can enjoy this time with family and friends, so that you can end the year feeling like you know what. I was able to just have my normal rhythm and routine, with some added satisfaction added in. All of those are great examples of redefining your why. But if you are someone who maybe is working towards a health goal, for example let's say it's cholesterol or high blood pressure, or even yes, or whatever it is if you're trying to work towards a health goal with food, don't make your why about the food. Make your why about how you want to feel as a result of doing this. And I'd really encourage you to make that a weight neutral goal Because, just like we always say, fat isn't a feeling. Neither is skinny or neither is smaller. Those are not why's.
Make Your Goals Multipurposed
So if you need some help with that, let me know. We also might want to make our goals multi purpose. So I'm going to use like a technology analogy here. So anybody who has an iPhone or an Apple device knows how frustrating it is that they have their own courts right, that they have their own lightning chargers and that pretty much every other device uses one of the USB ones. So it's far more multi purpose. So if you have a battery bank and I use this analogy a lot when I'm talking about willpower and motivation I use the analogy of capacity. So if you have a battery bank that's at full capacity and you have a spot for one charger, if you have to charge an Apple device, then that is the only charger you can have plugged in. But if you have another charger that can charge another device, you have many options of recharging. And the same is really true when it comes to our food goals.
So if you are someone who has only, or mostly ever set intentions around food based on how is this going to help me lose weight or how is this going to help me follow this diet? Those are like those are single note goals. Right, they have like one goal in mind and that is the measure of success. But what if we just made what happened to your weight like an incidental thing? What if it was just something that maybe happened, maybe didn't, but it wasn't the reason why you were eating more plants on your plate, it wasn't the reason why you were being more intentional with protein, it wasn't the reason why you were adding tofu. So you want to kind of look at your intentions, your gentle nutrition goals, and say is this like a single-note goal that I'm only doing it because I think it's good for me and good in one way, or will this help me to feel more full and satisfied? Will this help me to have more energy so that I can be more active in the ways that I want to be active in my life? Is it going to also support my heart health or my digestive health? So really making sure that your goals are multi-purpose.
Why This is Not An Issue of a Lack of Willpower
So and I just want to touch on this idea of capacity and willpower too, because I can't tell you how many times people will say to me oh my goodness, I know what to eat, I just don't have the willpower, or I'm always self-sabotaging myself and what I was saying earlier about capacity matters so much because we all have a finite level of capacity in our lives Capacity to devote time and energy to doing things, to learning new things, to managing things and we do want to have some capacity set aside for choices and behaviors that not only support our health but also support kind of how we feel in our bodies. And if you are in a time of life, for whatever reason, that you feel like you just don't have the capacity, the willpower, it probably is because you don't have the capacity, that there may be other things that need more of you in this moment, which is, I think, a great why.
If you need a why, it's a great why for redefining your relationship with food, so that you can have a relationship with food that feels more sustainable, that feels like it's in a rhythm and routine, that has flexibility to adapt when life gets life-y and has some flexibility for you to not have to think about it all the time. So remember that it's never a lack of willpower it really isn't it's a lack of capacity.
Move Away From Using Numbers to Measure Progress
So the fourth is resist the urge to use numbers to measure your progress. So you've probably heard me say before that numbers are a false profit and that is 100% true, and numbers are all or nothing. Right, they're discreet and some people love that about numbers, especially if you're into math and engineering and that kind of thing.
But it is not the best way to measure progress with goals that are related to your relationship with food and your body, because the number may not be something that you can achieve in the same way that you could if you were coming up with a budget, for example, where you have control over many of the variables. So, instead of setting number-based goals where you're going to feel like it's a pass-fail whether you reach that number target or not, try and come up with some goals around maybe how you feel in your body, maybe it's more energy, maybe it's more activity, maybe it's more confidence.
Ditching All or Nothing Thinking and Goal-Setting
Maybe it is not feeling like your hunger is a runaway train in the middle of the day when you get home from work. Maybe it is feeling like you have less reactive eating in certain circumstances, like getting on the couch at 9 o'clock at night. Maybe it's that you just have more peace with food. All of these are goals that I think can be done in a way that still feels like you've achieved something, but part of it is redefining your why and then having this list of things that you're going to do that are connected to that, that are multi-purpose. So it's, you know, more than one goal is being, is being targeted with these changes, but it's also not having a yes, no pass, fail, all or nothing way of measuring your progress. So I know that this is hard, but we talk about it a lot in the community in the midlife feast about, like, lowering the bar. It's okay to be okay, it's okay and that's kind of. The fifth one is that you can lower the bar with your nutrition goals and I know it always sounds funny when I say that, because you would think that a dietician would be telling you to like raise the bar. But diet culture and wellness culture has kept the bar set far too high for far too long.
And if you feel like what you're trying to do isn't achievable, isn't sustainable, that you can never get there, that you're always feeling like you're doing something wrong or making the wrong choice or don't have the will, but whatever it is, lower the bar. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good. I really need to look up who said that, because I love that quote. And if you are caught in this all-or-nothing thinking, this perfectionistic thinking of if I can't do it perfectly, it's not worth doing, if I can't eat only plant-based, then there's no point, is an example of one.
If I can't start the day with my big bowl of fiber oatmeal, well, then I might as well just start tomorrow. Is another one. If you are trying to have maybe a more flexible relationship with food and find yourself following a set of rules that that you end up saying screw it again eventually, having self-compassion for that and lowering the bar, that maybe you don't try and do all the changes all at once, if we can lower the bar and give ourselves permission to be imperfect and to recognize that our relationship with food will never be perfect, that it cannot exist in a perfect world because we are not perfect and we don't exist in a perfect world, I think it can feel better when we lower the bar, because then we're doing something instead of nothing.
So I hope these five little tips maybe just give you some food for thought in December and you know, I know that this is a time of year when we're both kind of pushed towards thinking about a resolution and also pulled away from all the extra time that we need, or think we need to do that, because of all the things that happened in December for most of us.
How to Join My Non-Diet Resolution Challenge
So I just wanted to let you know that I'm going to be doing my non-diet resolution challenge again in January. I'm going to be doing something fun this year. I think I always do something fun, but this is the sixth year. So this is the sixth year that I have done some free support around setting goals and intentions, but very much in the spirit of a non-diet resolution. So if you are interested in taking my course for free in January, so this is my intro to intuitive eating for midlifers that I did last June or June I think it was yeah, it was last June and people loved it. I'm going to be doing that again in January for the entire month, instead of seven days, this time for the entire month, and I'm going to be pairing it with some of the fun things that we did last January through some email challenges.
So if you were listening to this any time before the end of January, you can click the link in the show notes and you can go to the sign up page and you can get started. We're getting started on January 1st and this is going to be pretty low key in the first week because I know that we're all kind of getting back into the rhythm and routine and you'll have a whole month to take in this course for free. So I wish you all a lovely holiday season. If you're listening to this in December, and I will be back.
We'll be back on January 8th with a very special guest for our first episode of 2024. All the best for a lovely holiday season. Thanks for tuning in to this week's episode of the Midlife Feast For more non-diet health, hormone and general midlife support. Click the link in the show notes to learn how you can work and learn from me. And if you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, please consider leaving a review or subscribing, because it helps other women just like you find us and feel supported in midlife.
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