I was recently asked what I mean by Real Food, Real Life - the tagline you may have seen on my logos, business cards and website. In our current nutrition culture which pushes clean eating and “real food” diets, it might feel at odds with the anti-judgment, anti-diet messages I share here regularly. It’s definitely not.
Real Food, Real Life was born out of my desire to help people make peace with food. I’ve worked with too many people who rely on calorie free dressings, low-carb protein bars, powders, meal replacement drinks/shakes, supplements, frozen diet meals, 100 calorie sandwich thins…basically food that pretends to be food.
Because these “foods” aren’t food, they aren’t satisfying. So many people run scared of feeling satisfied because they equate it with overeating or weight gain, or at least weight maintenance but never weight loss. Since I’m a big fan of making decisions independent of weight or body shape, eating for the intent to feel satisfied actually leads to making peace with food. I’ve said it before - feeling full and satisfied from your meals is your solution. Not feeling full and satisfied is what leads to problematic behaviors. Once individuals embrace their innate drive for physical and psychological satisfaction, they quit feeling guilty, they quit blaming their behaviors on a lack of willpower or self-control, they realize that diets and food rules are their problem, they embrace food as nourishment and pleasure and they become more connected to their intuitive signals. They also quit overeating or under-eating, since neither of those are satisfying (more like painful and uncomfortable). My number one goal for anyone I work with is to normalize eating behaviors, which not only leads to satisfaction but trust, confidence, and naturally moderate food selections. Restriction, under-eating and lack of satisfaction is positively correlated with overeating. Basically, you are setting yourself up for exactly what you are trying to avoid.
In addition, diet foods create false standards for satisfaction. For example, a frozen diet meal could have between 200-300 calories…hardly a satisfying meal. That’s more like a snack! But you eat the frozen meal and when you don’t feel full and satisfied, you believe there is something wrong with you. When hunger strikes an hour or two later, you have all sorts of judgment about your lack of willpower and self-control and unruly hunger. (Side note: have you ever noticed how we talk about hunger like it’s a character flaw? It’s a natural physiological signal.) So basically, when you don’t feel satisfied from these “foods” that aren’t food, you feel like there is something wrong with you instead of something wrong with them (it’s them).
Instead, I encourage you to embrace whole, real foods - full fat, full calorie, full flavor. Avocados and potatoes and (full calorie, thick sliced) whole grain breads and peanut butter and chocolate and butter and, yes, even full fat dairy if you like. And all the rest! Like, just eat the food. Decide what you like to eat, eat what you find satisfying and notice how wholesome foods (as opposed to low calorie, low fat and low flavor “diet” foods) make you feel (not weigh). Cook meals from ingredients, not packages. Connect with your food and think about where it came from. Instead of eating for calorie or portion control, aim to eat for satisfaction. When you give yourself full permission to eat and enjoy your food, you naturally gain full permission to stop eating when it’s no longer satisfying. You will be truly amazed at how much you CAN trust yourself, how much more physical and mental energy you have and how you naturally gravitate toward foods that you find nourishing AND pleasurable. Treats and fun foods included!
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD