By: Jocelyn Sherman, RD, LDN, Food and Nutrition, Butler Hospital

In today’s culture, we are inundated with conflicting messages about diets, nutrition and our bodies.  Simply Google search “diet” and you’ll find an endless amount of misinformation, fear-mongering and guilt.

We may feel guilty if we’re not “clean-eating” or fear because “they say” gluten is not good for us. These are just two examples of what we see and hear daily at the lunch table, through news and entertainment media, and through social media. We are living in an era when a myth can be made into a meme and suddenly become reality by being shared over and over again.

So what is a consumer to do to stay healthy?  Many people focus on dieting, but what if we shifted our focus to “intuitive eating,” an approach that hinges on thoughtful nutrition, respecting and appreciating your body, and healing your relationship with food and eating.

You hear dieters say they eliminated certain foods, either because a certain trend says to or they’re focused on calories. But what about the nutrients lost in the shuffle? That is truly what food is for: nutrition, energy, and well-being. Instead of eliminating foods and creating strict rules, the intuitive eating approach suggests healing your relationship with food. Let go of the rules.  As we know, if we break rules, we feel bad or guilty. Tying emotions to food choices can become a vicious cycle. Let’s break the cycle and heal the relationship.

Intuitive eating speaks to me as a nutritionist and even more so as a mom of two girls in elementary and middle school. Body shaming and negativity is sadly widespread among girls even as young as mine. As their mom, I don’t have total control or influence over their body image, but I do have some. Here are several ways my husband and I focus on creating healthy relationships with food for our daughters and ourselves:

  • Respect our bodies and avoid comparisons. Raising daughters, we overhear the occasional body comment and/or comparison. This generally leads to a discussion about how body sizes vary, that there is no right or wrong body and kids have growth spurts at different times.
  • Aim to have meals together as a family. This can be quite a challenge with busy work schedules, afterschool activities, etc., but, in our house, we make it a priority to sit together every night for dinner. One meal is prepared (no short-order cooking) and this allows us a time to check in and reconnect. No electronics are allowed at the table and the television is off.
  • Avoid the diet mentality. In our house, we do not diet. We enjoy a variety of foods, none of which are categorized as “good” or “bad.” We aim for color, variety and deliciousness when meal planning and shopping. And sometimes, as messy as it gets, we let the kids cook for us!
  • Enjoy physical activity. We like to take walks or hikes; sometimes it’s a bike ride through the neighborhood. It is our time as a family, in the fresh air, enjoying some activity. The approach is a positive one. We avoid using exercise as a “punishment” for eating something deemed “bad.”

As you embark on your own journey with nutrition and your body, know there are many resources available to provide sound information as you decide what’s right for you. You can learn more about intuitive eating from dieticians and authors Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, and Elyse Resch, MS, RD.  Ellyn Satter, MS, RDN, is another dietitian who offers guidance to help adults and children find joy and confidence with eating. Also, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides sound, evidence-based information.

Learn More

If online resources are not enough, you can find more help through Care New England Nutrition Services, available at multiple locations across Rhode Island.

About the Author

A registered dietitian, Jocelyn has worked in Food and Nutrition Services at Butler Hospital for the past 16 years. She is the mother of two girls, ages eight and 11, and married to her college sweetheart, Peter.