Another important piece in this is, of course, diet. We are so conditioned by the incessant barrage of messages about food and weight that any focus on size or weight sets us up for the psychic leap to Diet Mentality. Diet Mentality is the all-or-nothing, good-food/bad-food way of thinking about how we nourish ourselves. It inherently sets people up for a cycle of restriction and overindulgence. Just think about how this might apply to you, or people you know. How often have you said "well, I had an extra slice of pizza, so tomorrow I better do an extra 15 minutes on the treadmill"? Or how about "I think I'm going to be bad and order dessert."? Or "I was so good all week that I deserve to cheat on the weekend."? Sound familiar? I am willing to bet that if you eavesdropped on almost any dinner conversation among a group of women in a restaurant you would hear any number of statements to this effect.
So let me pose this radical idea. What if we stopped labeling foods "good" or "bad"? What if, instead, we think about what our bodies really want and how the food makes us feel? What if, instead of eating an entire pint of ice cream (because, after all, you've already blown it so you might as well eat the whole darn thing!), you portion out a serving and pay attention to how it smells, how it tastes, how your body feels afterwards? This is, in essence, intuitive eating. It involves an inherent trust in ones body to make choices about food and nourishment without imposing all kinds of rules or judgments. Intuitive eating doesn't restrict, it guides. Are you craving a cupcake? Have the cupcake. Choose a really nice one. Be present in the moments as you thoroughly enjoy it. Savor it. Pay attention. How do you feel? Do you feel satisfied, guilty, full? Again...don't judge. Just notice. Observe.
Intuitive eating takes practice and patience. So many of us have overridden our natural ability to do this by years of Diet Mentality and weight cycling. It can feel really scary to let go and trust our bodies to make the right choices. It also requires that you be honest with yourself. Maybe cupcakes give you heartburn. Maybe pizza makes you lethargic. Maybe oatmeal causes bloat. Pay attention and tune in to your body and your feelings. Over time you will naturally sense what, when, and how much you need to eat to be comfortably satisfied and properly nourished. Your decisions around food will happen in a more organic, comfortable way, and you can stop beating yourself up for making "bad" choices. You will be able to stop "dieting" and start eating in a way that will promote a sense of well-being and fulfillment.
Some resources if you're interested in reading further:
Excellent primer on Intuitive Eating, Author Geneen Roth,
now in its third edition known for her work in this area