Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Book Nook: Nourish - How to Heal Your Relationship with Food, Body, and Self

Close to 95% of people who diet will eventually gain the weight back, plus more. This has had little to no impact on the $60 billion diet industry as every day we hear about a new trend or fad in dieting. And while the conversation of mindful eating is gaining steam, it’s clear that dieting continues to be the most popular method when it comes to losing weight. Most diets tell people what to eat, as opposed to teaching them how to connect to their inner wisdom and life experience to make decisions about food, physical activity, and ultimately self-care.

Author, nutrition therapist and registered dietitian Heidi Schauster knows what it’s like to have a struggling relationship with food. As a young dancer she battled bulimia, food restriction and binge eating. Her recovery twenty five-years ago led to her life-long passion of helping others get past obsessions with food, self-criticism, and negative body image. In her new book, Nourish: How to Heal Your Relationship with Food, Body, and Self (which I got to review) Heidi shares over two decades of wisdom on disordered and emotional eating that will guide anyone struggling to transform their eating from self-control to self-love. It's a comprehensive book that is so much more than just a diet book, and really works well to unpack the fact from the fiction and create a nourishing mindset.

I had a chance to interview Heidi to learn more.

Why did you decide to write this book? 
I wrote Nourish because over the two decades that I’ve been working as a nutrition therapist, I frequently got the question: “Could you recommend a good basic book on nutrition?” I couldn’t recommend one in good conscience because so many nutrition books are diet books in disguise. They are triggering for those who may be in recovery from eating disorders and they ask us to disconnect from our bodies and eat what someone else thinks is best for us. I wanted to write a book that is based on my experience with hundreds of people who have worked with me on their relationships with food and body. The key is re-learning how to listen to the inner wisdom that our bodies have about food and self-care choices.

Why is the focus on weight loss all wrong? 
Focusing on weight is based on the premise that my body is wrong and I need to fix it. There is nothing wrong with our bodies. Our bodies are unique, diverse, different, and they all deserve feeding and care. I believe (and I’ve seen this over 22 years in practice) that we care for our bodies most when we accept them and treat them with dignity. Focusing on weight loss often makes us do punishing things (starve, exercise to exhaustion) that are not at all aligned with taking good care of our bodies. And the research shows over and over that about 95% of people who go on a weight loss diet will gain the weight back (often plus more because of metabolic shifts that happen due to food restriction). I don’t do weight loss counseling because I believe it’s unethical. It does make the diet industry a lot of money—approximately $60 billion, in fact. This is based on the fact that when the diet eventually fails, or is not sustainable, we will keep coming back for the next diet book, pill, or product. I propose a self-directed, embodied, mindful route to self-care that is far more rewarding. I can’t promise weight loss (and please beware of anyone who does!), and it’s sometimes hard work, but feeding and taking care of our bodies from a place of love and connection is powerful on so many levels.

How can people shift their thinking towards healthy eating instead of weight? 
This is not easy in our weight-focused culture. I outline ten non-linear steps to healing your relationship with food, body, and self in my book Nourish. It involves applying some nutritional common sense, mindful and intuitive eating, and identifying emotional and disconnected eating patterns that you will work on non-judgmentally and compassionately examining and changing. You get to decide what healthy eating means to you: what feels good, what doesn’t feel good, and what ways of eating connect with your values and needs. And paying attention to your deeper needs and values is part of the picture, too. Our relationships with food can be complicated and go way back. A more attuned, mindful, nourishing focus with food can take some practice if you feel out of touch with your body and your deeper needs, but I believe that it’s worth it to be free of the obsession with self-control around food. It frees up your life for so much more richness and meaning when your focus is on self-care and self-love instead of self-control.

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