You Don’t Have to Justify Your Food Choices

“Oh, I don’t normally eat this, but…”

“I worked our really hard today, so…”

“Well I already ate all of my vegetables for today, so…”

Phrases like these probably sound familiar to you. Maybe you’ve heard them come out of a friend or family member’s mouth. Maybe you’ve said something like this before. I know I have. But why is it that we always feel the need to justify our food choices?

You Don't Have to Justify Your Food Choices

I see this time and time again scrolling through my social media feed or in conversation with friends and clients. Heck, I see dietitians on social media qualify their “less healthy” food choices all. the. time.

During college, I had a blog called Paving the Rugged Path. During the time, the writing served as a form of therapy and was a creative outlet for me. However, there is one post in particular that still stands out in my memory. I remember the days leading up to a Coldplay concert I was going to (and my goodness was I ecstatic about that concert!!), I did a lot of baking to bring along to Minneapolis to share with my friends. During this time, I was in the crux of my disordered eating and excessive exercise patterns/lifestyle. When posting on my blog the days prior, I remember talking about how I had run 6 miles in the morning but then I ate “too much of my sweets” while baking, and so I felt like I needed to run more…so I ran another 4 miles. At the time, not only did I feel guilty, but I somehow felt like I owed an explanation to my audience on my blog as to why I, a dietetic student, would eat that “junk.” But I also was justifying it for myself.

“Oh I don’t normally eat this, but at least I did run twice today so…”

Fast forward to today—not justifying my food choices is something that has taken a lot of practice and awareness. The age old dietitian phrase is “I don’t always eat this way, but…moderation.” Sometimes I cringe when I hear the word “moderation.” Because really, what does that actually mean?  Since the term is often used in diets masquerading as “non-diets”, I’ve grown to not trust the word so much. This all goes back to the morality of food and confronting our inner food police. If we looked at food as neutral—with no moral compass—not good or bad—then it’s just food. We wouldn’t feel the need to justify our choices. We would feel at peace with foods and ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, even I go back to my old ways every now and then. Sometimes when I am around people from my disordered eating days or those who do not realize I practice as a non-diet dietitian, it’s easy to feel the need to make cliché comments about my food choices. It’s how society talks and sometimes it seems easier than saying “but actually I don’t need to feel guilty about eating this and neither do you.”  It does take a little practice to get out of the habit of qualifying what you are eating. However, I believe it is SO important. Even if you are utilizing intuitive eating and believe in Health at Every Size (HAES) wholeheartedly, defending your food choices is an expression of doubt in yourself and what your body is telling you.

What if Other People Comment About Your Choices?

You might be in a different situation. Perhaps the problem is that other people make judgmental comments about your food choices and the amounts that you eat. *I want to preface by saying that almost always the reason for someone commenting on your food choices has very little to do with you. I would venture a guess that this person is insecure with themselves or struggling with something else that is manifesting in their rude comments towards you.* This doesn’t change the fact that someone has commented about your eating, but I think a little perspective can go a long way in not taking things too personally.

There are some options that you have in a situation like this. How you respond may depend entirely on the situation and your relationship with this person. Your first option is to say nothing at all. Sometimes when people comment about what I’m eating as a dietitian (“That doesn’t look like a dietitian approved option…” , etc) I will simply smile and change the subject. I do not have to justify to someone why I chose to eat ice cream at this moment in time. And neither do you.

There are also some phrases you can use that may be simple, yet helpful. I recommend staying calm and doing your best to not come across as defensive. (Easier said than done, I know!) You don’t owe anyone an explanation, but you do have the choice to respond. Here are some that I use that may be useful for you.

  • I don’t restrict foods in my life. I believe that all foods can fit.
  • This (insert food) is delicious!! Why would I ever eliminate it from my life?!
  • This ice cream (or whatever food) has protein, fats, and carbs–it’s powering me through my day!
  • Do you not enjoy (insert food)?

Those are just a few. (I’m sure I will think of some brilliant responses as soon as this post goes live 😉 ). I usually try to keep things light and playful to avoid awkward moments.

How do you respond to people policing your food choices?

Do you catch yourself justifying your food choices to others or yourself?

Let me know in the comments!


Get Snackin’: Tips for Everyday + Pre-Workout Snack

When working with clients, one of the first things I ask when diving into their history is how often they eat. Of course, when you are listening to your hunger and satiety cues, this may vary depending on the day. But most clients I meet with are not at that point and typically eat based on a routine. I’m always amazed with how long people go without eating. (Meanwhile, my stomach is growling just thinking about it.) While my ultimate goal is to move people towards intuitive eating, I often use a customized plate method in the meantime. The plate method is what I consider a bridge to intuitive eating. We all have to start somewhere!

At the same time, I often encourage eating every 3-4 hours until your body finds its own rhythm. When I taught outpatient diabetes classes as a clinical dietitian, I often recommended snacks in the afternoon and before bed to stabilize blood sugars. (Sometimes I’d even recommend a snack in the morning depending on how early someone woke up). In my experience working one-on-one with clients, the importance of snacks between meals holds true for everyone in keeping energy levels consistent. I’ve even noticed this with myself. If I get wrapped up in my work in the afternoon and start to get groggy and lose focus, this is often my body telling me that I need a little something to keep my blood sugars stable.

Tips for Everyday + Pre-Workout Snacks

So what do I recommend for snacks? 

By now, you guys know that I’m not a fan of food rules. I hate them. But when people are lacking ideas for snacks, I do have some tips up my sleeve. I usually encourage snacks with at least two components: carbs + protein. The carbs give you a boost in energy and the protein can help stabilize blood sugars to sustain your energy levels. A lot of the time, these snacks will naturally have some fat in them too–which is bonus points in my book!

For some people, the recommendation to include carbs and protein in each of their snacks, still seems too “diet-y.” I totally get it. If you’re breaking away from food rules, then I usually recommend striving for two food groups in your snack. Like I mentioned, there are no rules as far as these snacks go. Do some experimenting with what feels best to YOU.

Snacks Image

These recommendations are not “black and white.” They are simply meant to give you a loose structure to work with. Your snacks won’t always look like this and there is NOTHING wrong with that. (In fact, just yesterday I had a donut for an afternoon snack and I felt like a million bucks! 🙂 ) But below are some examples of how you might pair a protein-rich food with a carbohydrate. The ideas on the bottom are ones that are already “paired.” For example, I like to keep a Nature Valley Protein Bar or Kind Bar in my purse for when I am on the run. (I linked my personal favorites!)

Snack Ideas Diagram
What about before workouts?

For pre-workout snacks, my recommendations are a bit different. While protein, fat, and fiber work well to balance our meals the rest of the day, they can leave you with gastrointestinal (GI) distress if consumed before exercise. In addition, fat can also inhibit the body’s ability to absorb carbs consumed during exercise for fuel because the carbs stay in the stomach with fat rather than being efficiently passed to the small intestine for absorption.  So stick with a snack that emphasizes carbs for energy and make sure to hydrate as well. This may depend on the time of day. For example, when I go on a mid-distance early morning run, my body feels best with half a banana. While it may be tempting to skip a carb before workouts (especially in our carb-phobic society), there are a number of benefits of a pre-workout snack (1):

  • prevents low blood sugar
  • helps settle the stomach, absorbs some of the gastric juices, and abates hunger feelings
  • fuels the muscles
  • pre-exercise beverages can provide fluids to fully hydrate as well as additional carbohydrates

I could probably do an entire post on sports nutrition. In graduate school at Illinois State University, my sports nutrition class was easily one of my favorite courses. Sometimes I still want to frame the 20-page literature review I wrote on whey protein. I called it “‘Whey’ing the Benefits: The Efficacy of Whey Protein.” (still proud of that food pun haha!) While I’ll write about the 4:1 or 3:1 carb to protein ratio for post-workout another time, today I just want to briefly mention the importance of carbs before exercise. 🙂 (Let me know if a sports nutrition post is one that you would like to read more about in the future).

I hope your week is off to a fantastic start. I have more frequent posts planned for the upcoming weeks. Now that I am on “summer break” from teaching my college class and also have completed the course I was taking, I should have a bit more time to dedicate to the blogosphere. 🙂


  1. Clark, N. (2014). Nancy Clark’s sports nutrition guidebook. Fifth edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.




Principle 7: Cope with Emotions without Food

It is my honor to have non-diet Dietitian, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and Health At Every Size® advocate, Vincci Tsui guest posting today. Vincci’s passions lie in helping people find freedom in their relationship with food and with their body, so that they can worry less and get the most out of life. She is a wealth of knowledge and one of my favorite blogs to read. One of my favorite blog posts of Vincci’s is Embracing, not Fearing, the Potential of Food. Check out the rest of her website and services here. While you are over there, be sure to download a free copy of her eBook, Stop the Food Fight, Start Making Food Peace. Today Vincci is talking all about Principle 7. Enjoy! 🙂 -Amanda

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Principle 7_ Cope with Emotions.png

I’d like to start this post by saying that I don’t love the way that this principle is worded, as I think it could be interpreted to mean that it’s not OK to eat as a way to cope with your emotions.

My attitudes toward emotional eating changed when I heard this quote from Isabel Foxen Duke on the Food Psych podcast:

“If diet culture didn’t exist, if food was a real, free, liberating thing and it just didn’t really matter what you ate, and no one was judging you or shaming you around what you were eating, or your body size, no one would give a crap about emotional eating, quite frankly.”

Principle 7- Vincci Tsui Photo

Emotional eating is a normal and healthy coping behavior. It’s not surprising why people turn to food to cope with their difficult emotions. Biologically, eating causes our body to release serotonin and dopamine, the “feel good” neurotransmitters. Food is inexpensive and readily available, and frankly, a safer coping mechanism than drugs, alcohol or self-harm.

However, emotional eating can become problematic when it is:

  • The only way you are dealing with difficult emotions
  • Getting in the way of you addressing the situations that are causing these emotions
  • Triggering more difficult emotions, such as guilt and shame, thereby leading to more emotional eating

These problems are what this intuitive eating principle is meant to address. Here is a step-by-step guide to addressing your emotional eating.

1. Press Pause
Often, emotional eating can feel mindless and automatic. So the first step is to create some space for some mindfulness. Practice stopping for a few moments of mindful reflection every time you eat. The questions below assume that you are asking yourself before you eat, but it’s OK if you don’t remember to do this until you’re in the middle of eating. Just taking the time to practice means you are responding to the situation differently than you normally would, thereby changing the eating experience.

2. Hungry
Principles #2 and #5 discussed getting in touch with our physical feelings of hunger and fullness. If you notice that you have a desire to eat, but you don’t feel hungry, then that might be a sign that there is an emotional trigger behind your desire to eat.

Where things can sometimes get complicated is when physical and emotional hunger show up at the same time. A way to help tease this out is to feel your emotions. All emotions have physical sensations that are associated with them – that’s why they’re called “feelings”. Practice noticing how and where different emotions (i.e. happiness, sadness, anxiety, fatigue, etc.) feel in your body.

3. Emotion to satisify
As you get more comfortable in feeling your different emotions, you might notice some patterns in your emotional eating. Often we use food to distract or numb from difficult emotions. Perhaps eating is your way of relaxing at the end of the day. Maybe you like to use food to “chew through” stressful situations. Perhaps you like treating yourself with food, or maybe you’re not sure why you eat. It’s just become a habit.

4. Satisfy emotion
Once you’re able to pinpoint the emotions that you are trying to satisfy, invite yourself to think of some other ways that you can soothe that emotion without food. This list created by Am I Hungry author Michelle May might provide some inspiration.

If you try something different and still decide that you want to eat, that’s OK! You allowed yourself to respond to your emotions in a different way and are learning what works and doesn’t work for you.

Sometimes, you can satisfy emotional hunger while satisfying physical hunger. Principle #6 is all about finding the satisfaction factor.

5. Self Care
Intuitive Eating authors Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch have said that if there were an 11th principle, it would be self-care.[i] While having alternative coping mechanisms is helpful, without regular self-care, it can feel like you’re just keeping your head above water.

Self-care is not about bubble baths and pedicures, but about identifying and meeting your needs, whether they are physical, emotional or social. Regular, sustainable self-care can help you better manage difficult emotions and situations.

Here are some journal prompts to work through for the fifth principle.

Principle 7 Prompts

Special thanks to Vincci for posting for me this week! Be sure to check out her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts!


  1. Tribole, E. & Resch, E. (2017). The intuitive eating workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.



Principle 6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor

In our society today, we are so concerned with eating “guilt-free” foods like kale salads and green smoothies that we often forget to ask ourselves what we actually enjoy. Maybe those foods are ones that you truly enjoy. Maybe they aren’t. Either way, it takes getting in touch with mindful awareness to discover which foods satisfy us.

Principle 6; Discover the Satisfaction Factor

This week we are diving into Principle 6 which revolves around discovering the satisfaction factor of food (1). To me, this is a fun principle. As you begin bringing more awareness to what you are eating and how you are eating, it’s like being a kid again and discovering foods for the first time.

Principle 6 Quote1

In our efforts to be thin or healthy, we often overlook the pleasure and experience that can be found in eating. We typically see foods as either off limits or within our diet. This brings back the idea of thinking in terms of morality with food. However, consider past experiences when you have settled for “healthier” foods that you weren’t actually craving. When I was in college, I often did this. I would tell myself that I couldn’t choose a dessert in the dining hall. Instead, I would settle for a WeightWatchers cake from my dorm room instead. However, I typically found myself eating a couple of them plus extra snacks because I hadn’t experienced the same satisfaction I had been searching for in the first place. However, if I had just challenged the food police to begin with and eaten the dessert, I would have likely eaten far less and felt satisfied. Can you recall a similar situation happening to you?

Instead of depriving yourself of pleasurable foods, why not explore what you actually like?

In Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, there are 5 steps to discovering satisfaction in eating.

Principle6 Point 1
Think of a time you went out to eat at a restaurant. You may have been eyeing a cheeseburger on the menu; but then, out of guilt, ordered a salad instead. However, it’s time to ask yourself what you actually want to eat, not what you should eat. Consider which foods taste good to you and you look forward to eating. Sometimes we’ve restricted ourselves of foods for so long that we have trouble figuring out what it is that we like. The next steps should help bring some clarity.

Principle 6 Points2
Have you ever heard someone say they have a sweet tooth? Or maybe you’ve heard someone say they prefer salty snacks? Do you know what your flavor preference tends to be? Now is a good time to explore.

Take some time to consider your senses. Do you like foods that are savory, sweet, bitter, tart, rich, salty, spicy, mild smoky, or bland? What textures do you prefer? Do you like crunchy, chewy, or creamy? Do your preferences change throughout the year and with the seasons? Does the way your food is plated make a difference to you? Use your senses! Try different foods and bring awareness to whether that food is something you would want to eat again.
Principle 6 Point 3
How many of you have felt rushed or stressed while eating a meal? I think we can all safely raise our hands on this one. Often at work, I’ll get so distracted with my work that I’ll quickly eat something while catching up on emails. I certainly feel a difference in the enjoyment of my meals when I am in a peaceful, relaxed environment versus eating on the run. Think about what your eating environment is currently like. What do you like? What could you improve?

When I work with clients who feel that they eat very quickly or don’t have pleasurable eating experiences, I encourage them to take a mindful bite at the start of their meals. This video from Fiona Sutherland describes the process and this additional TED Talk takes you through the chocolate mindfulness exercise I frequently walk through with clients. Every once and awhile when I feel like I am not feeling as relaxed at meals, I will go through the iEat Script from The Intuitive Eating Workbook (2). I recorded myself reading the prompt so all I need to do is press play and continue with the activity. You can do the same if you have a copy of the workbook.

Other cultures do an incredible job of creating experiences around foods. Some European countries spend hours eating together. When I studied abroad in China and Taiwan, I loved the family style eating. It allowed me to try a little bit of everything and decide what dishes tasted good to me.


Family style meal we ate together after touring the Great Wall.
Hot pot in Taiwan
Enjoying gelato in Taiwan.

Principle 6 Step 4 

What happens when you find a food that you really don’t care for? Most of us have grown up in a “clean plate club” household, so leaving food on the plate seems sinful. However, repeat after me: You are not obligated to finish food that you do not enjoy. This also goes for eating past the point of hunger. You do not have to clean your plate. Period.

Principle 6 Point5
As you are eating, check in with yourself periodically. Does the food still taste as good as it did when you first took a bite? Sometimes we tune out our senses or become distracted during meals. When this happens, we aren’t typically aware of how our food tastes. Whenever I order a Dairy Queen Blizzard, if I’m eating mindfully, I will notice that the first couple of bites taste the best. After I’m partway through, it tends to lose its appeal. Do you notice this with certain foods that you eat?

As you work through the activities for the sixth principle, don’t forget to have fun! Making peace with food doesn’t have to be all serious. Go out and try new foods or prepare old recipes from your childhood. Explore the foods that bring you joy. To help you along the way, use the journal prompts.

Principle 6 Prompts

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #SpillingTheBeansOnIE on social media or tag me in any posts while you are going through the principles with me.


1.  Tribole, E. & Resch, E. (2012). Intuitive eating, 3rd edition. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin.
2.  Tribole, E. & Resch, E. (2017). The intuitive eating workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger  Publications.

Principle 5: Feeling Our Fullness- Something We Are Born With

Today I am beyond excited to feature my first guest bloggerCate from Feeling Full Nutrition. When we first discussed collaborating together for my Spilling the Beans on Intuitive Eating Series, I was immediately drawn to Cate’s blog when I opened it to read: “build a longer table, not a higher fence.” Yes!!! For the fifth principle, Cate’s experience in working as a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) provides a unique perspective in feeling your fullness. You guys are going to love this! -Amanda


Hi everyone! My name is Cate and I am excited to be a guest blogger for Spilling the Beans today! I am currently finishing up my dietetic internship through the University of Delaware, and am also credentialed a Registered Nutrition and Dietetics Technician (NDTR) and Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC). Some of my many passions include public health, sustainable food systems, food justice, and breastfeeding education. You can check out my blog over at

Today I’m going to be contributing to Amanda’s series on the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating. So here goes:

Principle Five_ Feel Your Fullness

Back in 2016 when I underwent training to become a Certified Lactation Counselor, one of the first concepts I learned was the importance of feeding on demand. In plain terms, this means feeding infants when they are hungry and stopping when they are full- and can apply to both breastfed and formula-fed infants.

Here’s how it works: If an infant is moving their hands or fists into their mouth, making sucking noises, or moving their arms and legs and whimpering, these are cues they may be hungry and should be offered a feeding. On the other hand, if they close their mouth, stop sucking, or turn away from a feeding, these are cues they could be full.1 Even the tiniest of newborns can communicate these hunger and fullness cues to their caregivers, which is pretty cool!

With the exception of pre-term infants or infants with certain medical conditions2, knowing exactly when, how much, and for how long to eat is an innate knowingness that infants are born with—that we are ALL born with!

Principle 5 Quote Pic

However, for an infant caregiver or parent who may be accustomed to feeding based on portion sizes and food rules, feeding on demand can look very irregular. If fed on demand, some infants may do something called “cluster feeding”, where they want to eat every hour for a number of hours (eating more than you could imagine!)- then go many hours without wanting to feed at all. Unfortunately, clinicians taught by conventional diet culture may also see this type of feeding as abnormal, and may prescribe feeding certain amounts at certain times.

But on a regimented schedule, infants are forced to eat when they are full and refused food when they are hungry.3 Besides not allowing them to trust their innate biology, enforcing this structured feeding can lead to an infant developing side effects like reflux, gassiness, colic, or even rapid or slowed growth. When this happens, a caregiver may want to stop breastfeeding altogether, in favor of some “special” formula to relieve their infant’s “symptoms”- which may never have never have existed in the first place had they fed according to their infant’s hunger fullness cues.4,5


Why I’m bringing this up is to point out that for so many of us, our ability to honor our fullness is skewed before we are even able to walk. And even if you were fed on demand as an infant, chances are your internal regulation may have been skewed as you went through childhood. Clean plate club anyone?

We are taught from a young age that we cannot trust our bodies to know how much to eat. Diet culture tells us there is one recommended portion size for each food, and that this portion size should be used for all people. That’s kind of crazy, considering how different everyone is physically, mentally, and metabolically. Portion sizes have nothing to do with how you should eat. How you eat should be determined by what makes you feel good, and honoring your hunger and fullness.

Trying to find what fullness means for us can be a struggle. I hear you on that. Many of us may have no idea what comfortable satiety looks like. Sure, we may know what it feels like to overeat and be stuffed, but actually feeling full eludes us. A big reason why I named my blog Feeling Full Nutrition is because I want to help people to know what it feels like to feel a sense of joy and satisfaction after a meal. Even if this seems like a far-off dream for you, it is something you can do, because you were born knowing how.


First, take the blame off yourself for having difficulty feeling your fullness. This is not a personal character flaw. I hope from this post, you’ve learned that diet culture, portion sizes, and feeding schedules are instilled in us from a young age.  Its something that’s been drilled into you. Know that you can and will unlearn this.

Secondly, learn what comfortable fullness actually feels like. Here are some descriptions by clients of the authors of the Intuitive Eating Book:

  • A subtle feeling of stomach fullness
  • Feeling satisfied and content
  • Nothingness- neither hungry nor full6

The sensation is unique to everyone, and is difficult to describe. The authors of Intuitive Eating even compare it to describing what snow feels like- you can describe it endlessly, but you have to feel it yourself to truly know.

Once you have thought about this, work on conscious eating to develop a comfortable fullness level for yourself. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Pause in the middle of a snack or meal to check in with yourself. Check in with how your body and taste buds feel. Does the food taste good? Or are you eating it just because it is there? Does your body feel comfortable? Are you still feeling physically hungry? Are you beginning to feel physically full?
  • Don’t feel obligated to leave food on your plate, or finish it all. As chronic dieters or chronic members of the clean plate club, this can be difficult. But instead of thinking about how much you are eating, be fully present with the sensations in your body to tell you when you are finished.
  • Whenever do you finish eating, ask yourself where you are with your fullness. You may want to use the scale back from principle number two.

Remember to be patient with yourself and know that this is a process.  It may take you a long time to get to the point where you feel comfortable feeling your fullness. But remember, you were born knowing how to do this. And even if it may be a feeling buried deep within you, its there.

Here are some journal prompts to work through for the fifth principle.

Principle 5 Prompts

Special thanks to Cate for contributing this week! Be sure to check out her blog and Instagram account. 


  1. DiSantis, K, Hodges E, Johnson S, Fisher J. The role of responsive feeding in overweight during infancy and toddlerhood: a systematic review. Int J Obes. 2011;35:480–492.
  2. McCormick F, Tosh K, McGuire W. Ad libitum or demand/semi-demand feeding versus scheduled interval feeding for preterm infants. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;2:138-139.
  3. Fildes A, Cornelia H, van Jaarsveld A, Llewellyn C, Wardle J, Fisher A. Parental control over feeding in infancy. Influence of infant weight, appetite and feeding method. 2015;91:101–106.
  4. Hodge S, Murphy P. Crying Newborns: The colic and reflux situation in New Zealand as depicted by online questionnaires. Int J Community Based Nurs Midwifery. 2014;6(8):97-107.
  5. Ventura AK, Inamdar LB, Mennella JA. Consistency in infants’ behavioural signalling of satiation during bottle-feeding. Pediatr Obes. 2015;10(3):180-7.
  6. Tribole, E. & Resch, E. (2012). Intuitive eating, 3rd edition. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin.
  7. Iacovou M, Sevilla A. Infant feeding: the effects of scheduled vs. on-demand feeding on mothers’ wellbeing and children’s cognitive development. Eur J Public Health. 2013;23(1):13-9.
  8. Rodgers RF, Paxton SJ, Massey R, Campbell KJ, Wertheim EH, Skouteris H, Gibbons K. Maternal feeding practices predict weight gain and obesogenic eating behaviors in young children: a prospective study. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2013;10:24.
  9. Tylka TL, Lumeng JC, Eneli IU. Maternal intuitive eating as a moderator of the association between concern about child weight and restrictive child feeding. 2015;95:158-65.
  10. Lampl M, Johnson M. Infant Growth in Length Follows Prolonged Sleep and Increased Naps. 2011:34(5):641-650.
  11. Brick, N. Ad Libitum or Demand/Semi-demand Feeding Versus Scheduled Interval Feeding for Preterm Infants. Clin Nurse Spec.

Principle 4: Challenge the Food Police

In my last post on Intuitive Eating, we discussed the importance of making peace with food and some strategies to begin the process. Chances are that you still may have some underlying rules that you maintain regarding food. That’s normal at this stage. As we explored in the first three principles, your mindset won’t change overnight. You are likely working against years of ingrained restrictive eating rules. However, today’s post is all about challenging your inner voice that defines foods as “good” or “bad” (1).

Principle 4_ Challenge the Food Police

I often get the impression that people think dietitians are the food police. We do have diet in our job title after all. However, other non-diet dietitians and I will tell you that people stuck in the diet cycle are their own worst critics. Have you ever categorized a food as good or bad? Maybe you’ve labeled your favorite chocolate dessert as sinful or told yourself you can’t eat after a certain hour of day. This is the internal dialogue in your head that acts as the food police and leaves you feeling guilty for even taking a bite of your favorite food.

Make Peace with the food police

In order to be at peace with food, you must stand up to the food police. It’s time to think about foods in a neutral light. Eating a certain food doesn’t make us good or bad. Eating one specific food also won’t make you gain or lose weight. The morality of food language is something I talked about in detail in a post from a couple months back. (Check it out for more in depth analysis as to why diet talk is not helpful.) One of the first steps to take in confronting the food police is identifying what your current food beliefs are. Here are some examples to get you thinking:

  • Carbs are bad for me
  • I’ll gain weight if I eat dessert
  • I’m not allowed to eat after 6pm
  • Fat will make me fat
  • Gluten is bad for me 

We often hear statements like these from the media, celebrities, friends, family members, and even our local gyms. We weren’t born with these beliefs about eating. Rather, we have internalized these messages (and many others) over time due to the diet culture environment we live in. Bringing nonjudgmental awareness to your thoughts and then countering them with facts will help you move to a place of peace with food.


One of the first things I often ask people to do is make a list of some of the beliefs they have about food. It’s hard to address our inner dialogue until we bring awareness to it. Once we realize our recurring thoughts, we can begin to use a method called cognitive behavioral therapy to reframe them (1,2). Lets’s look at the following example:

Unreasonable thought—cognitive distortion: I should never eat carbs, especially pasta and bread.

Questions to ask:
Is it really realistic or enjoyable to eliminate carbs?
How do I feel when I don’t eat carbs?
Do I tend to crave carbs more when I take them out of my diet?

Don’t carbs play a role in my body’s daily functions?

Thought reframed: Whenever I have eliminated carbs in the past, I have felt tired and don’t have the energy to do the activities that I enjoy each day. 

Once you have begun to reframe your thoughts as you come up, you can then reflect on the result. For this example, perhaps you have found that you are more focused in class or at work and have more energy to hit the gym after dinner. Maybe you learn that you don’t binge on foods now that they are no longer off limits.

Find ways to challenge your inner food critic this week. This may entail sitting down and journaling about your dieting history and some of the distorted views about food that you have. You might also keep a special note section on your phone to jot down any thoughts as you notice them. I have included a  handout and journal prompts to get you started.

Principle 4 Prompts

Want to share some of the distorted thoughts that you notice and how you have addressed them? Don’t forget to use the hashtag #SpillingTheBeansOnIE on social media or tag me in any posts while you are going through the principles with me.


  1. Tribole, E. & Resch, E. (2012). Intuitive eating, 3rd edition. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin.
  2. Tribole, E. & Resch, E. (2017). The intuitive eating workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.



Why I Love Being a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Today is National Registered Dietitian Day and I am feeling all of the nostalgia towards my relatively short career as a dietitian. I can still remember the timeframe I became interested in pursuing a career in nutrition. I was a junior in high school. Prior, I had been interested in interior design or possibly business. However, in my Biology II class, I was struggling to maintain my A. (If you knew me back then, then you know that losing my 4.33 GPA was the end of my world.) Our last chapter for the semester was on nutrition. I made that chapter my life to get my desired grade. In the prospect of achieving a desirable grade, I realized that I genuinely enjoyed learning about nutrition. From there, I started researching the career more. I could write an entire post on my journey to becoming a registered dietitian and how my obsession with food and exercise influenced that, but today I want to focus on the reasons why I love my career.

Why i love being an RDN (1)

Reason 1
After 4 years of undergraduate study, 2 years of graduate school, and my dietetic internship, I’ve immersed myself in countless hours of nutrition education. While I love using this knowledge in my own day-to-day life, it is incredibly rewarding to help others learn more about food. We are always bombarded with the newest trends in dieting.  However, dietitians have the background knowledge to be able to look at the science and tell clients whether this makes sense. An excellent example of this is Robyn Nohling’s post about the ketogenic diet on her blog recently. Dietitians dig deeper than news headlines. We are typically trained to understand research design and peer-reviewed publications. We also understand the limitations of research. I personally love translating research into advice for my clients to guide them in the right direction. Dietitians get to play detective—move aside Sherlock Holmes! 

Reason 2
This may sound cliché, but working with students and future dietitians has been a passion of mine since my time at South Dakota State University. Back then I was a member of the Dietetics and Health Sciences Club (DHS Club) and later was elected as president my senior year. By nature, I am a competitive person, but I’ve always loved building up my friends and classmates in nutrition. I mean, why not?! Our DHS Club also started a series about getting matched to an internship. We showed videos, provided resources and handouts, and invited guest speakers to our meetings. Naturally my interest in working with students led me to speak for the Club after becoming a dietitian myself. Now I even offer additional services specifically for students through my website. I love working with students as a preceptor or inviting students to volunteer at some of my Hy-Vee events. It’s a win-win for all! I know how much of a role my preceptors played in my life and I hope that I can be even a fraction of a positive influence for future dietitians.



Reason 3
While I love the science of nutrition, gaining lifelong friendships has been the best part of my career—hands down! I may be bit of a softie, but I teared up while rounding up pictures of a few of my dietitian friends. I don’t see these ladies and gentlemen nearly as much as I’d like to. After losing my good friend, Angie (the cute blonde in the middle of the upper right picture) this past summer to cancer, I have begun to understand how important it is to nourish the relationships in my life.

While I have friends outside of my profession, there is something I cherish about having dietitian friends. My friends outside the field probably don’t want to hear me rant about the specific struggles of my job. But my dietitian friends can always relate and then vent about their struggles as well. We also celebrate the little victories within our field. In the era of social media, my group of dietitian besties has only expanded. The day I was matched to my dietetic internship in 2014, I connected with my now friend, Kailey. The catch? We’ve never actually met in real life. Such millennials. Luckily, we will FINALLY be meeting next month. I’m blessed to have dietitian friends all across the globe. 🙂



Taiwan Friends

Reason 4
I’m not sure about other professions, but the learning doesn’t stop once you pass your RDN exam. While maintaining continuing education hours may sound like a pain to some, I love it! I’m always tuning in for webinars. Recently I enrolled in a special private practice class online. This has been incredibly useful in building my business and also learning more about the profession. The beauty of learning outside of an academic setting is that I no longer feel the same pressure to obtain perfect grades. Now I learn because I genuinely want to. I highly recommend Today’s Dietitian and Wellseek. Many of the webinars I watch are free, but I have no problem paying a little bit to learn about topics I am passionate about. Plus, I can write them off as business expenses for my taxes. 🙂


Reason 5
Hallelujah for the Non-Diet movement in the dietetics world! You might be surprised to know that my original interest in dietetics was weight loss. Oh how things change! Here are a few of my favorite posts that spread the non-diet message:

Happy RDN Day! Not a dietitian? Be sure to reach out and thank one for all they do today! 🙂


Principle 3: Make Peace With Food

While I think that all of the principles of intuitive eating are important, making peace with food may top my list. We kicked off this series by rejecting diet mentality and then we learned to honor our hunger. Now, it is time to make peace with food and give yourself unconditional permission to eat (1).

Principle 3. Make Peace with Food (1)

It would be difficult to continue on the journey of intuitive eating without first addressing this principle. In the second principle we talked more about biological deprivation, but principle three relates more to our psychological deprivation.

Unconditional permission to eat? Say what! I totally get it. When I tell people that there are truly no foods off limit (minus allergies, of course), they think I must be joking. We live in the era of a new fad diet every other day, so it probably seems like there must be some kind of catch. But there’s not!

While this may sound liberating, the idea of no food rules often elicits fears in most people as well. This is the nature of diet cycling and restriction. We tend to cling to our food rules and the false promises they offer. But take a moment and reflect with me. Think of a food that you’ve forbidden yourself from eating or labeled as “bad”. Now consider your relationship to that food. As soon as you told yourself it was off limits, did you find yourself craving it more? Did you have your “last supper” in preparation for your latest diet? This is often the case. In fact, forbidden foods tend to have a paradoxical rebound effect that actually triggers overeating.

Dietitina Impedes Habituation
via Intuitive eating, 3rd edition (1)

There are a number of theories and studies that can help explain why we crave these foods more. Some studies illustrate that forbidden foods even sound more attractive to non-dieters. In a study from 2007, a group of kids was given M&M’s but told that they could not eat the red ones (2). While we all know that each of the colors has the same taste, which color do you think they were immediately drawn to? Naturally the red M&M’s were all they could think about. Similar studies have been repeated. You’ve probably noticed this in your own life. As soon as you feel deprived of something, the more you want that item. Sometimes people even notice this with more nutritious foods. When I studied abroad in Taiwan, for example, I was surrounded by an abundance of noodles and dumplings. However, by the end of my trip, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a fresh salad. This was because I had been deprived of such foods for a period of time.

A lunch box I ate while in Taichung, Taiwan

Another trend that is often seen in dieters is the all-or-nothing or what-the-hell effect (3). This often occurs when people set themselves up with food rules and as soon as they perceive that they’ve broken the rules it’s “What the hell! Might as well throw in the towel today.” This is followed by bingeing on the foods you consider to be off limits the rest of the day. When people perceive that they broke their food rules, this triggers overeating (4).

So how can you transition from restrictive eating to allowing all foods a place in your life? 

When working with clients, I often will have them make a list of the foods that they consider to be off limits. To help jog your memory, it’s helpful to categorize these foods by grains, fruits, sweets/desserts, processed foods, and fats/fatty foods (5). Once the list is compiled, I often have people set specific times when they will eat those foods and document their experiences. In the process, you might even notice that the foods you have been fearful of don’t appeal to you as much as you had anticipated. This also helps with habituation and makes foods seem like less of a luxury that you will binge on.

In contrast, I also ask people to make a list of foods that truly appeal to them. You are now allowed to explore foods and your preferred flavor palate. At times this process can be frustrating, because people realize that foods lose some of their allure when they are always available to you and not off limits. This transition allows you to see foods in a new light. Instead of looking at them as “good” or “bad”, you might ask yourself more questions. Is this food satisfying? How does my body feel after I eat this food? Does this food taste good to me? Do you feel connected to your taste buds and the flavors?

Have fun with discovering the foods you love! You can save/print this handout to remind you of the principle as you go.

Principle Three Prompts
Don’t forget to use the hashtag #SpillingTheBeansOnIE on social media or tag me in any posts while you are going through the principles with me.


  1. Tribole, E. & Resch, E. (2012). Intuitive eating, 3rd edition. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin.
  2. Jansen, E., Mulkens, S., & Jansen, A. (2007). Do not eat the red food!: Prohibition of snacks leads to their relatively higher consumption in children. Appetite, 49, 572-7.
  3. Herman, C. & Polivy, J. (1984). A boundary model for the regulation of eating. Eating and Its Disorders. New York, NY: Raven Press.
  4. Urbszat, D., Herman, C., & Polivy, J. (2002). Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we diet: effects of anticipated deprivation on food intake in restrained and unrestrained eaters. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 111(2), 396-401.
  5. Tribole, E. & Resch, E. (2017). The intuitive eating workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

5 Thoughts

Sometimes my thoughts are just not coherent enough to form one solid post. TBH they are often all. over. the. place! This is definitely shown in the numerous to-do lists I’m always compiling and re-compiling. I think when I have several projects going (teaching, taking a teacher class, business, actual work, etc) it can be hard to focus on one thing at a time. So in the spirit of my scattered brain, I just wanted to talk about five random thoughts of mine recently.

Calendar Edited

1 random thought1
During college, reading sort of lost its appeal when I was forced to read textbooks. (I about get traumatic flashbacks just thinking about that organic chemistry book!!) But when I was younger, I always had a book in my hand. I looked forward to being in the summer reading program every summer for as long as I can remember. Now that I am no longer forced to read textbooks, I’ve finally started getting into the groove of reading again. Often times I waste so much time on social media on my cell phone when I could be reading. Recently I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to take that time to read instead. I downloaded the Kindle app on my phone so I always have a book on me. So far I’ve read 2 books this month! My genre has definitely been in the “self-help” realm. (Let’s be real, I can use all the help I can get!) I just finished 10% Happier by Dan Harris and Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown just prior.

What other books do you recommend? I’m compiling a reading list!


2 random thought1
I used to be one of those people on the Arctic Zero and Halo Top bandwagon. I mean, you could eat the entire container for x amount of calories. But since incorporating Intuitive Eating in my practice and own life, I’d much rather eat my favorite ice cream. Can you say Talenti Caramel Cookie Crunch Gelato? Yup, my mouth is watering.

While I can understand why people may opt to eat the lower-calorie versions, I just prefer to have the one that is most satisfying to me. For me, that’s not Arctic Zero or Halo Top. I also tend to think that these options promote binge eating which is something I tend to try to get away from with my clients. (But more on that a different time. 🙂 )

3 random thought1
I swear I’ve tried every face product under the sun. While in grad school, I finally went to a dermatologist. I was prescribed Spironolactone for my hormonal acne (which shows up right around my mouth). I was on it for a couple of years, but recently I decided I wanted to see what would happen if I went off of it. (Note-I don’t recommend going off medications without advising with your physician first). Prior to going off of the medication, I had started using more natural beauty products. My skin looked the best it had looked in my 26 years! So I wanted to experiment and see if my new routine would stand on its own. So far I’ve had a couple of flare ups around my mouth in the last couple of weeks, but nothing major. These are some of the products I have been using most recently (pictured). I like products from Cocokind and Franklin and Whitman’s (not pictured) in particular. This last year, I’ve stopped wearing as much makeup and switched to BareMinerals foundation as well.  That has probably helped a lot too.

I’m DEFINITELY no skin expert. I’ll save that for the dermatologists of the world. But I like seeing what other people use in their routine. 🙂

Skincare Edited

4 random thought1
Getting enough sleep has been a constant battle my entire life. I’m just not good at sleeping. (Unless you count my ridiculous nap habit).  There was even a period of my life in the 3rd grade where I slept walk. (I’m sure my mom can tell you how fun that was to deal with). I’m naturally more of a night owl and so even on days where I’m going to work the next day at 7am, I have a tough time going to bed earlier. When I first started my new job as a Hy-Vee dietitian, I initially developed a bedtime routine…then life got busy. And here I am at square one. I love hearing of other blogger’s bedtime routines. It sounds like the perfect way to end the day. After how exhausted I have been the last couple of weeks, I think it’s perhaps time I prioritize sleep again.

5 random thought1
I’ve been so distracted with working lately, that I haven’t had as much time with my friends as I’d like. Finally this last weekend, I went home for my friend, Tasha’s bridal shower and bachelorette party. It was a great reminder of how important it is to take a break from working and prioritize time with friends. I’m already looking forward to the wedding and a mini vacation to Colorado next month.

Tash and me

Bach Party Unedited

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend! I will be teaching a Kids in the Kitchen class at Hy-Vee tomorrow, then relaxing and cooking the rest of the weekend.



Why I Dislike Before & After Pictures

They seem to pop up everywhere. Whether you are scrolling through your social media feed or a commercial promoting the latest weight loss regimen flashes across your television—they are difficult to escape. I’m talking about “before and after” pictures, of course. It’s easy to get caught in that trap. You see a “transformed” body and instantly want to throw your money at that product or program.

Before After Photo Cover

Being an anti-diet dietitian, it probably comes as no surprise that I am not a fan of “before and after” pictures. By now, most of us are at least somewhat aware that with current photo editing technology, it’s pretty easy to manipulate the appearance of your physique. Even without editing, a person can twist and turn their body in such a way to create the illusion of change in the new photo. These are all the more obvious reasons why I don’t care for comparison photos. Nothing new here.

What if I told you I don’t care for any kind of #TransformationTuesday photo?

I know what you’re thinking. “But Amanda, what about the pictures where people show a needed weight gain between the two photos? Why wouldn’t you be in favor of that?

My answer is simple—before and after pictures, of any kind, continue to draw focus back to our physical appearance.  Isn’t that part of what got us in this weight-obsessed predicament to begin with?

Before after quote.png

While I don’t think there is anything wrong with being proud of progress you make in your eating disorder or chronic dieting journey, the “before and after” photo trend often reinforces misconceptions of what an eating disorder looks like. For example, many of you have probably seen photos of someone while they were struggling with an ED as a “before” photo and the next picture shows them in their recovered body. Often, you see a noticeably thinner body in the first photo. While this can certainly come across as inspiring to some, this is problematic for others. People in EDs often tell themselves “oh but I’m not that skinny, so my eating disorder isn’t that bad.” This happens all too often. However, the truth of the matter is that EDs and disordered eating does not discriminate based on size. I often still find people comparing their bodies to the people in any of these “before and after” photos and justifying to themselves that they are not “sick enough.” The use of photo comparison further exacerbates this problem.

Awhile back, I remember hearing the phrase: “true humility is not thinking less of yourself: it is thinking of yourself less.” That quote really stuck with me. I couldn’t help but think of all the time in my life I have wasted by fixating on my physical appearance so much. That’s time I will never get back.

Humility Before After Post (3)

At the end of the day, for me it all boils down to what I truly value most in life. For the longest time the cognitive dissonance between striving to be thin versus what I truly value (family, friends, relationships, helping others…my dog!) did not bring me happiness. Once I let go of caring as much about my outward appearance, it freed up all this extra time to focus on the things that I actually care about in life.

Oh and while we’re on the topic of things I love, I thought I’d share the only “before and after” picture I am a fan of—my dog, Bela. <3

Before and After Bela

It comes down to sitting with yourself and thinking about what it is you care about. What are your goals in life? What is important to you? How do you want to be remembered? I think if you are honest with yourself, you will find that the answers to these questions have nothing to do with your outward appearance at all.