If you are like many of our listeners, you love the idea of intuitive eating, but you still have questions. Many of you email saying that you are having trouble applying intuitive eating to your life. Or that the “lack of structure” makes you feel unsettled. Others wonder if there is space for weight loss with intuitive eating.
On today’s episode, we go beyond the basics with intuitive eating expert and award-winning registered dietitian nutritionist Alissa Rumsey. As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Alissa helps people cultivate a healthy and peaceful relationship with food and their bodies.
We also did something different with this episode by featuring a special guest, Paris Alexandra, co-founder of BK Yoga Club, who asked some of her gnawing intuitive eating questions that she wanted answers to. We PROMISE this episode is a must-listen!!
Paris Alexandra is a singer, songwriter, & creative entrepreneur located in Brooklyn, New York by way of Minnesota. Paris is the co-founder of Bk Yoga Club, a body positive yoga studio in Brooklyn.
In this episode, we’ll talk about:
- How to eat intuitively when you prefer structure
- Can people who want to lose weight practice intuitive eating?
- What to do when you “intuitively love to eat all foods”
- How we can create non-elitist intuitive eating conversations
- How to unpack eating for emotional rather than physical reasons
- & MORE
Alissa Rumsey’s Resources:
- Alissa’s Body Image Healing Course
- Intuitive Eating / Body Image Support Facebook Group
- Intuitive Eating Crash Course
- Intuitive Eating Beginners Guide E-Book
- Free Mindful Eating Exercise
Paris Alexandra’s Resources:
- Paris’s Instagram
- Brooklyn Yoga Club
- BYC Instagram
- BYC Facebook
- Workshops & Events
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Speaker 1: The following podcast is a dear media production.
Wendy Lopez: Hey, it’s Wendy.
Jessica Jones: And it’s Jess. And you’re listening to the Food Heaven podcast.
Wendy Lopez: Your online resource for delicious and nutritious living.
Jessica Jones: Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of the Food Heaven podcast. We have a really special treat for you guys. This is an episode that’s a little bit different, something we have never done before. But we’re kind of tying in two different guests together. So we’re going to start off the episode talking with Paris Alexandra, who is a singer, songwriter and creative entrepreneur. Located in Brooklyn, New York by way of Minnesota. Paris is the co founder of BK Yoga club, a body positive yoga studio in Brooklyn. As a singer, Yogi and wellness practitioner Paris vision is to inspire women to celebrate all of who they are. Her passion for bold storytelling and creative imagery is an underlying thread throughout her work.
Wendy Lopez: And just a little backstory of how I met Paris, I had gotten an email from the BK Yoga Club, which she co founded. And the email was inviting me to their launch event in Brooklyn. And it was saying, this is a body positive yoga studio co founded by two black women and I was automatically like, just drawn in because I’ve never heard of a body positive yoga studio in New York. And it’s just like, so rare to find that anywhere, really. And so I was like, Okay, I have to go I have to support. So I went to the opening of the yoga studio to the launch event, and met Paris, and we were talking and yeah, she was asking me like questions about intuitive eating and how to incorporate it in a practical way. And in my head, I’m like, “Oh, my God, these are such good questions. It would be great to do a podcast episode about all the things that she’s asking me.”
Wendy Lopez: Because I feel like these are questions that come up all the time with people that are trying to incorporate intuitive eating, but feel conflicted or feel like it’s not practical in some ways. And I, of course, also wanted to bring her on to talk about the amazing work that she’s doing with her yoga studio. So Paris, welcome to the podcast. We are so excited to have you.
Paris Alexandra: Hey.
Wendy Lopez: Hey, girl.
Jessica Jones: Hey.
Paris Alexandra: Hey, girl, hey.
Wendy Lopez: What’s going on? So I think it would be great for you to kick things off by telling us why you started the BK yoga club.
Paris Alexandra: Well myself and my business partner Elisia we met in yoga teacher training and honestly I just wanted to incorporate yoga more into my practice. It was something that I wanted to utilize with my artistic expression. So incorporating poetry and yoga. And then she actually brought the idea to me and I was like, “Okay, yeah we could do this.” And then one day she was showing me her vision board and I was just like, “Wow, this sounds like something that could be really exciting because I love bringing people together.” And so fast forward, like a month later we really started talking about what it would look like to have a yoga studio. And then we started looking at different spaces and gave us ourselves like a year timeline. But then I started to put yoga events together.
Paris Alexandra: My first event was in Minneapolis where I’m from and so I put an event together in Minneapolis and then I actually put one together in New York at the studio that we are currently housed at. And then the woman who actually owned that space, her name is Lucy. She invited us to bring our yoga there and then we started our yoga studio there, subleased the spot. Fast forward to now, which is four months later, we actually are opening our new yoga studio, our very own yoga studio across the street. So it’s just been a lot happening in the last four months. And I graduated from yoga teacher training in December, but I’ve been practicing for about 14 years.
Jessica Jones: Wow. That sounds amazing. Can’t wait to come to New York and try out this studio. Can you talk about some of the classes that you offer?
Paris Alexandra: Yeah, so right now we have a lot of different classes, but mostly yoga focus. We have a curvy vinyasa flow, so that’s really open to all body types. We have a mixture of like pilates and yoga, strength training and yoga, so it’s all yoga centered and it’s all body positive. Meaning that we’re focusing on coming from a positive space of wherever you are right now. That’s like where you’re supposed to be and dishonoring wherever you’re at, because at some places you might be trying to get a summer body or a spring body or winter body wherever, but like BK Yoga club is just like, let’s be where we are and focus on moving and breathing from a place of like love and cultivating acceptance like wherever you are in that process.
Wendy Lopez: Yeah. I was just talking to Jess about a yoga class that I took yesterday and it was like a restorative yoga class and the instructor was like, “All right Charles summer’s coming, let’s get those summer bodies together.” And I’m just like, “Okay, really? Are we doing this again? Y’all.”
Paris Alexandra: Especially in yoga, especially you’re tying to like restore yourself. That’s just the opposite of that in my opinion so.
Wendy Lopez: Yeah. Are there things that you do within your yoga classes to make them more inclusive, accessible for women who have larger bodies?
Paris Alexandra: I would say like, I think just people in general, regardless of body size, have different abilities. So we always, I just try to be really in tuned with that and ask questions beforehand. We do offer for all types of people like modifications because that’s… and then you can build up from the modifications if you want to take a fuller expression. That’s cool. And if you don’t, that’s cool too. We also just encourage people to do whatever they want. So if there’s a particular sequence that we’re doing that you’re not feeling like, don’t do it, you know? So that’s pretty much that. That’s been our approach.
Wendy Lopez: Love that. So I want to dive a little bit into intuitive eating because we have that conversation around, yeah, just some of the things that you’ve struggled when it comes to intuitive eating. So can you talk a little bit about that? Like what your perception of intuitive eating is and yeah. How your experience has been in trying to incorporate it into your life.
Paris Alexandra: I think the idea of intuitive eating sounds really great and beautiful. But for me I’m very challenged when it comes to actually incorporating it into my everyday life. I love food. I’ve been on several journeys with food including going vegan and doing the vegetarian thing, exploring raw foods, doing all different types of things. And so I came to a point maybe I would say 10 years ago where I was like, okay, this is just enough. Like I really just wanted to chill out. I don’t want to be so focused on like food in that way for me. So I read this book about intuitive eating and in that moment I definitely needed that because it just gave me permission to eat what I wanted because I felt like I was restricting myself and I was like covering it up with like really beautiful and flowery words.
Paris Alexandra: Like, “Yeah, I don’t want to put that into my body. I’m honoring it right now by not eating that chicken.” And so for me I was just like, for me reading that book was helpful and then now I’m in a space where I am a little confused because I don’t get how to actually apply it because it feels like there’s no structure, and then I feel like I’ve been listening to different things and I’m not totally like agreeing with everything, so I’m just like, how can I actually apply this to my life if I am a person who wants to release weight? Like is that a negative thing because it does intuitive? Is there a space for that when it comes to intuitive eating? And basically how do I make it a part of like my lifestyle?
Jessica Jones: Yeah, I think that you’re definitely not alone. There are a ton of people who have even, yeah, I can think of a family member who’s like “I don’t think intuitive eating is for me” because she felt like she needed to be told more what to do exactly. So I feel like there are probably more peope who don’t really understand it then who do or feel like there’s so many different like layers and nuance. So I think this is a great opportunity to bring in another expert who just focuses on intuitive eating to answer some of these common questions. I know that you provided some questions and we also opened it up to other folks to provide questions as well. So we’re going to bring that person on to answer some of those. But before we do that, can you just let everybody know where they can find out more about your work, where they can take your class where they can follow you online?
Paris Alexandra: Yeah, so our yoga studio is BK Yoga club. We are located downtown Brooklyn in Dumbo on Instagram it’s BK Yoga Club, online it’s Bkyogaclub.com and then if you want to connect with me personally, I am on Instagram, Paris_Alexandra.
Jessica Jones: Awesome. Well Paris, thank you so much for hopping on with us today. We’ll talk to you later.
Paris Alexandra: Okay. Thanks so much for having me.
Wendy Lopez: Bye.
Paris Alexandra: Bye.
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Wendy Lopez: All right, so now we’re going to talk to Alissa Rumsey about all things intuitive eating. Alissa is a nationally recognized and award-winning registered dietician and the founder of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness. As a certified intuitive eating counselor, She helps people cultivate a healthy and peaceful relationship with food and their bodies. Alissa is also a monthly contributor to US news and world report. and has appeared in over 100 media outlets including NBC nightly news, health magazines, South and women’s health.
Jessica Jones: We’re so excited to have Alyssa here because she if you’d like Google, intuitive eating, her blog post and her website is like the first thing to come up. She has been working in this space and I love like her Instagram and her posts because it’s very relatable, realistic. And we actually met her, we went to her talk in our dietitian conference a couple of years ago and we were super inspired by the work that she was doing. Then we met her at a conference called blog her and we’re like, “Oh she’s so cool.” So ever since then we’ve been like networking and she’s been like one of our close dietitian like friends and our circle that we can kind of bounce ideas off of.
Jessica Jones: So that’s been awesome. And we’re just really excited to get to talk to Alissa, about this intuitive eating beyond the basics kind of concept. So welcome to the podcast, Alissa.
Alissa Rumsey: Thank you. I am so excited to be here with you guys. It’s funny like hearing you talk about how we met, because I feel like I’ve known you for so long but it hasn’t been that long.
Jessica Jones: I know. Same. So for those who don’t know how did you get into intuitive eating? Because I feel like you have an interesting story. I know that you were like a clinical dietician, right? So talk about a little bit, yeah. Like about your journey and why you decided you wanted to do more intuitive eating work?
Alissa Rumsey: Yeah, so it was definitely a roundabout way that I got here. So yes, my background was in clinical nutrition. So I worked for over six years a really big teaching hospital in New York city and most of that time was spent working in the ICU actually. So doing some very different nutrition stuff and I really loved it. And I started there as a brand new dietician and I learned so, so much and really loved it. And then also did some management work there. And then towards the end was trying to figure out what my next step would be and realized that I had all these different interests and really the only way I’d get to be able to do all of those things would be to work for myself. So then four and a half years ago I quit my, the hospital job to start my own practice.
Alissa Rumsey: And so at that point I was doing one on one coaching and nutrition coaching and I had always considered myself to have like a non diet perspective. At that point what that meant to me was that I didn’t subscribe to like fad diets or cutting out big food groups or things like that. But at that point I was still working with people for weight loss and was incorporating some different mindful eating components but was giving meal plans and making portion size recommendations and helping them, trying to help them lose weight.
Alissa Rumsey: So for the first couple of years, my business that was a large part of what I did. And a few years in after the first couple of years was really, you guys know this but we get no business training in our education. So I was doing all this work to grow my business and to learn like all these different workshops and things like that. And so finally I’m like, okay, business is doing well. Let’s start to do some continuing education stuff on counseling skills. So I was doing some Googling and found Evelyn Tripoli’s six week intuitive eating teleseminar, like pro skills, tele seminar on intuitive eating. And I was literally like, “Oh intuitive eating. I think that’s the same as mindful eating or similar. Let me sign up for this.”
Alissa Rumsey: I had not read the book, I was familiar with the book but I had never read it. I actually took it out from the library like probably a decade ago and then it was due back for a time period. So I had never read it. And yes. So like webinar number one with Evelyn, I’m going in again thinking it’s going to be like mindful eating. I had these plans for like a mindful eating for weight loss course and Oh my God like first webinar, my world was just totally rocked and everything she was saying, she really introduced intuitive eating and the true, what I consider the true non diet or anti diet approach.
Alissa Rumsey: And talked about health at every size and how intuitive eating is health at every size or HAES aligned, meaning that it’s weight inclusive. It’s not meant for to use with for intentional weight loss. And I was like, “Well, there goes my whole plan out the window.” But everything she was saying made so much sense and it really cued me to, well, first of all, go back and read the book, but then also dig more into the research around Health At Every Size. And it was like, once I saw that and the research is so, so clear, it was like, okay, I can’t go back to what I was doing before. And so that was only a few years ago and I was lucky enough that I had several different streams of income in my business. And so I actually kind of pause the client in the one on one client work for a couple of months and did finish the six weeks training, did supervision one-on-one with Evelyn and a few other dieticians and really dove into all of that kind of training.
Alissa Rumsey: And then relaunched, I felt like I was starting from scratch with my client work, but relaunch that and yeah, that’s now been about a year and a half going full speed with the intuitive eating HAES aligned and non diet approach now.
Wendy Lopez: Wow. So it sounds like you’re the perfect person to talk to about all the questions that we have about intuitive eating. And we’re going to dive right in. And I do want to say that for a lot of dieticians who are practicing intuitive eating like ourselves, we tend to start off in a similar place like you, Alissa, because we aren’t trained in things like intuitive eating or entrepreneurship or so many other things that are like very useful and practical for the people that we work with. So, yeah, we share a similar experience to you as well.
Wendy Lopez: So I’m going to dive into the first question. And so Paris was telling us that one of her main struggles with intuitive eating is the lack of structure. So just feeling like you can just kinda eat whatever you want, whatever your body is feeling like eating and how she doesn’t necessarily know what that is and she doesn’t, or not necessarily just her, but anyone, like they might not feel like that is aligned with the health goals that they’ve created for themselves. So really like, what would you say to people who want to find some structure, is that possible with intuitive eating?
Alissa Rumsey: Yeah, great question. And it’s such a normal question. This is something all my clients like literally all start out the same way where they’re like, “Okay, what do I do? What’s the next step? What do I work on?” And that’s totally normal, right? Because like we are really used to following a structure and rules when it comes to eating and our diet because that is what the majority of the messages that we hear about diet and health are wrapped around like, rules do this, don’t do that. You should do this, you shouldn’t do that. So it makes so much sense that that’s kind of what people might be looking for because that’s what we’re used to doing. And that does make it easier. Like that’s why I always say, diets are really easy at the beginning because you have this structure and you have these rules, and you’re like, “Okay, I know what I’m doing.”
Alissa Rumsey: But part of the reason a lot of diets or diets fail is because that structure and those rules get harder and harder as time goes on because they’re not ment, they’re not built, they’re built on this external kind of thing. They’re not taking into consideration your life and your body. And so it’s not something that’s sustainable for the long term. So with intuitive eating, I always say it’s kind of the opposite where it’s much harder in the short term and at the beginning because it’s very different than what you’re used to. And it’s requiring a lot more tuning into your body and like interoceptive awareness, which is something that we are not really taught at all. And if anything, if you’ve been someone who’s done lots of diets or different eating plans, you’ve gotten really far away from what your body is trying to tell you.
Alissa Rumsey: So becomes really tough at the beginning, but it gets easier and easier as you go on until eventually you don’t really have to think about it at all. And that’s really the goal is being able to listen to your body and eat and check in with yourself and all of that. So that being said, so there’s a reason why we don’t have rules and structures when it comes to intuitive eating and tuning into our body. But there are certain things like I kind of think about, again, it depends on each person and where they’re coming from. But I tend to, with my clients at the beginning, really focus on the bringing awareness to diet mentality thoughts, and like the diet culture that’s around us. And so while it’s not like, okay, follow this rule, there’ll be things like, okay, I mean this was, I had a new client yesterday was our first follow up.
Alissa Rumsey: So we met last week and then we met again this week and she was really struggling with this because she’s like, “Okay, I have rejected the diet mentality and allowing myself to eat everything. But Oh my gosh, it’s not working and I feel like I’m out of control” And so I said, “Okay, that’s one piece of the diet mentality is like not restricting yourself but what other stuff have you done?” She’s like, “Well that’s it. Isn’t that rejecting the diet mentality?” And so we talked a lot more about sneaky ways that diet mentality comes in, you know, in terms of like feeling guilty. And then, in her instance feeling guilty then leads her to be like, “Oh well I’ve been really bad, I’m a failure.” And then like she just shuts down and like doesn’t listen to her body and just sits in front of the TV and eats.
Alissa Rumsey: So we talk about like how that’s unhelpful. So now her, ‘homework’ for the next few weeks is to bring more awareness to those like sneaky diet mentality, thoughts. So it could be something like that, or it could be a lot of times we also start out with hunger cues. Like, “Okay, your homework for the next few weeks is really focused on what does that hunger feel like?” And you know, every day and ideally for a couple of meals throughout the day checking with your body. So there are ways to do it where you don’t feel, and this is the benefit of working with a trained professional with this is because they help you through this. And they help you kind of like put these pieces together. So it’s not rules of like eat this, not that, but there are certain things we can do to create a little bit of structure.
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Wendy Lopez: Yeah. I’m also thinking like for people who might not be intentionally restricting but who have a lot of things going on and maybe like skip meals, like is having some kind of structure where it’s like, okay, aim to eat at least three meals a day and incorporate snacks. Because I think for people who does have a very, all over the place routine, those hunger and satiety cues are just very thrown off. And they might like for them going with how they feel doesn’t equate to like nourishing their body.
Alissa Rumsey: Yeah, yeah, that’s such a good point. And totally, and so that’s why it is so individualized. So yeah, if you’re someone who has a really crazy schedule and you’re so busy that you’re not noticing hunger cues and then yeah, next thing you know, it’s 4:00 PM and you’ve had like maybe nothing that day, then certainly yes, that would be someone where we’re like, okay, let’s create some structure around, you know, meals in terms of whether it’s three meals a day and a couple of snacks or, “Okay, I’m going to setting timers for eating something in the morning and then setting like a timer for like five hours from now.” Or it’s like, “Okay, I’m going to take a break and get something and just, yeah, building in a little bit of that for sure.” That’s a really good point.
Jessica Jones: So the next question is, this one is from Paris as well. She says is someone who wants to lose weight for health reasons and feel more energized in my body is intuitive eating, not for me. Again, probably one of the most common questions that we get asked as well. What are your thoughts?
Alissa Rumsey: Yeah. Yeah. So okay, so well I guess first to address the piece of like losing weight for health reasons. So weight and body size or body shape are not good indicators of health. And this is supported by lots and lots of scientific research and study after study shows as that it’s not so much the weight or our size that makes a healthy body, it’s our behaviors. So it’s our behaviors around food, around movement, around stress, coping skills. So it’s really our behaviors, not our size and healthy bodies can come in a whole variety of shapes and sizes, which really means that losing weight, ‘for health’ is not necessary. The other piece of that that I think is so important is that the majority of people, I mean research shows anywhere from like 80 to 95% of people who do lose weight will regain that weight back.
Alissa Rumsey: So that means that most of the time weight loss is not going to be permanent. And not only that, but about two thirds of people who lose weight will end up gaining it back and gaining back more than they lost. So ending up at a higher weight than they started out at. So not only does kind of this pursue of weight loss and altering like dieting, altering our food to try to make us thinner. Not only does it not lead to weight loss, but it can also, it has a lot of really negative side effects. So the studies show that diets and the pursue of intentional weight loss can lead to an increase of preoccupation with food in our bodies, can lead to overeating, bingeing leads to lower self esteem, disordered eating behaviors, eating disorders, and really, focusing on that way and that number detracts from our other health goals.
Alissa Rumsey: Because what we see is that people who, that’s what they’re focusing on is that number. They tend to do things that are not necessarily actually supporting them in health. I think personally I think one big example of that is the keto diet. Like yeah, the keto diet can help you lose weight in the short term, but is that actually making you healthier? Like they’ve all these articles around like how crappy the keto diet makes you feel. So I think that right there is a prime for me, a prime indicator of how sometimes our pursuit of weight loss can lead us to make decisions that are actually not in line with health. So that’s part one about losing weight for health is not necessary.
Alissa Rumsey: And then when she said feeling more energized in my body, Oh my gosh, like that is 100% aligned with intuitive eating because intuitive eating. So we kind of put weight on the back burner and instead intuitive eating another, and this might be part of one of the other questions, but I think one of the big misconception is that like intuitive eating is oh, just eat whatever you want whenever you want. But intuitive eating is 100% in line with health and is 100% a method for achieving health, including increasing energy and feeling more energized in my body.
Alissa Rumsey: So really what we’re doing with that is instead of putting the focus on eat these certain foods don’t eat these. And again, when we think about what people will do for weight loss, often it is not eating enough, which is going to be an energy tanker right there, often it’s pushing their body too much again in eating like these set foods that might not be ones that make you feel most energized. So when we put this in from the lens of intuitive eating, what we’re doing is really tapping into your own body because everybody is different. And figuring out like, “Okay, what foods do make me feel energized? What foods don’t.” And both types, amounts, timing of food. Like how does that feel? And so really like putting that into your own hands and letting, that’s where what I hope my clients do is like figure them out, figure that out for themselves what is going to make them feel most energized?
Wendy Lopez: So, yeah, there’s definitely this idea that for people living with chronic conditions intuitive eating isn’t for them because there seems to be just like very rigid recommendations for people that have certain chronic conditions. And I love that you mentioned the health piece because I think within intuitive eating, there’s this idea that there is no space for honoring nutrition and honoring health. And because… this is really leading me into the next question, which is for someone who has a family history of diabetes, how responsible is intuitive eating? And I think that that is a great question because of all the ideas around chronic conditions, like I was saying, and we actually have a whole podcast episode about this where we interviewed a registered dietician that talks about intuitive eating with a chronic condition.
Wendy Lopez: But there definitely is a place for nutrition and I think especially if you do have certain risk factors for chronic conditions, there are things that you can do to help mitigate those risk factors through food. And I think that that’s okay to incorporate that into your approach to intuitive eating. So what do you think about that?
Alissa Rumsey: Yeah, I definitely agree. So intuitive eating, like I said before, it’s very pro health and it’s for everybody. It’s a framework we can use for everybody, not just people with disordered eating behaviors. And you know like the problem with like food rules and diets, even if it is for specific health issues, is that that type of… like if someone feels restricted that is still going to trigger overeating or bingeing. So in the case for example of diabetes, if someone is told, “Okay you have diabetes, you shouldn’t eat as much sugar or you should count your carbs.” Okay, yes, that is in a line for helping them keep their blood sugar stable. But if that person body interprets that either like physically restricted like, “Oh not keeping this stuff in the house can’t eat it.” Or like mentally and emotionally restricting of like, “Oh that’s bad for me, I shouldn’t have it.”
Alissa Rumsey: Our body biologically is still wired from thousands of years ago where any type of restrictive feeling like that triggers our body’s starvation response. So even though it’s in the name of health and for this case diabetes, you try and say, “Okay, I should count my carbs. I shouldn’t eat this, I should have that,” Is still going to trigger that bodies starvation mechanism. And so even though you have food all around you, what your body thinks is that like, “Oh, restriction is coming, I’m going to be starving.” So it triggers cravings and it triggers over eating and eating often past the point of comfortable fullness. So really with this, instead of making things off limits, like unless there’s a truly immediate life threatening situation, which in the case of diabetes or generally is not, what we do is really work to help people understand and help people make peace with food and give themselves permission to eat while tuning into their own body.
Alissa Rumsey: So once they’ve really learned to trust their body and trust and kind of figure out what certain foods do to it and trust your… remove that kind of restriction mindset and replace it with, “Okay, I’m allowed to have whatever I want, but if I eat X, Y, Z food, I know that my blood sugar goes up really high and then it crashes and then I’m hungry again. And so this is probably not the best thing to do all the time.” So really, with this, like in the case of diabetes, if you’re craving like a certain food, instead of like, “Oh no, I shouldn’t have it,” Maybe eating it. And then noticing, you know, being curious, okay, how does that make you feel? What does that do to your blood sugar? Do you have an energy crash after does that thing actually tastes good? Kind of using all these different pieces.
Alissa Rumsey: So, it is getting that framework of intuitive eating and those bases down first and then starting to work in some gentle nutrition. Because intuitive eating, I mean gentle nutrition is one of the 10 principles. So nutrition is 100% involved. And with this case with diabetes, it would be nutrition for blood sugar balance. But really we need to make sure that we’re not triggering that restriction mindset. So, in this case too we might talk about, okay, instead of things we’re taking away, what can we do instead to add to your diet to help improve these health conditions or improve blood sugar management. So from a place of abundance rather than scarcity or restriction.
Wendy Lopez: And I think also specifically with diabetes, it’s just like the first thing that comes into people’s heads is no carbohydrates like, “I can’t have any sweets, I can’t have any carbohydrates” Or people that have hypertension, “I can’t eat any salt,” And these are not the recommendations that we give in a clinical setting. So I think just automatically this idea of restriction just naturally comes with a lot of these chronic conditions.
Alissa Rumsey: Exactly, exactly. And again, it may be needed to help with health conditions like a restriction of some sort, but just knowing that that restriction, if we come at it from that place of like, “Oh I shouldn’t be doing this,” It’s going to trigger our body’s starvation mechanisms. So if we can instead work on some pieces of have in the intuitive eating, you know with the intuitive eating model to get you to a place where it doesn’t feel restrictive and instead you’re making these health decisions or these food decisions from a place of self care, that’s going to be really, really powerful.
Wendy Lopez: And I’ve also found like in clinical practice it helps with blood sugar control. When you just have like more of a balance, like patients tend to do better with how they’re feeling with their lab values because they aren’t so extreme with it and they’re able to maintain their blood sugars more controlled over long periods of time.
Jessica Jones: Right. Then just counting everything out.
Alissa Rumsey: Oh, 100%. Yeah. I mean I see this too where like a lot of people, it’s like, Monday through Friday like things are great and like everything is on point. And then the weekends that like all goes to hell. Yeah. So yeah, with this it becomes more even, I also think too, it allows you to obviously yes, food plays a role, but it’s not the only thing. Actually, like right before this I was on Twitter and someone had tweeted about this study that was looking at people and their a A1c and their blood sugar levels and it was something like, okay, 2003 A1C is 15, 2018 and 2003 or 2013 homeless with an A1C of 15, 2018 has a home A1C is eight, 2019 homeless again A1C up to 15 so, it’s not just food that comes into play here, it’s stress and it’s our coping mechanisms and it’s all sorts of things. So yeah I think with intuitive eating it allows you to really like see the whole picture, not just okay let’s cut this out to get blood sugar down.
Jessica Jones: Exactly. I really like this next question because especially as Wendy and I were learning more about intuitive eating and when we were working with basically poor people in underrepresented populations, it felt intuitive eating. The conversations felt kind of more theoretical and for people we were working with almost like a little bit elitist. So how can we create more non elitist feeling, at least intuitive eating conversations that are practical for everybody, no matter if it’s somebody who is working two jobs and maybe has some food access issues or somebody who which is a more common picture that you see like has struggled with disordered eating. Like how do we yeah, make it so it doesn’t feel elitist for some folks?
Alissa Rumsey: Yeah. Oh my gosh. I think this is such a good question. And I also, I’m really looking forward to hearing both of your input too because I do not work with this population that much, but you’re right. And this is something that I have and I’m definitely not doing it enough, but I’m trying to more and more like preface a lot of what I talk about with intuitive eating is a privilege, to be able to eat what you want, when you want to have access to all these foods, to be able to play around and taste different things and see what you like and see what you don’t like and throw away food if it’s something that doesn’t taste good. That is like totally comes with privilege. So for someone with, for financial reasons or like access to food reasons like survival is number one.
Alissa Rumsey: So if we think, I always think of like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we need to have consistent access to food and to nutrients and really that breaks down to like calories at the end of the day. And if we don’t, yeah, a lot of this like doesn’t matter. And so yes, like definitely baseline the access to food thing is huge. And if you’re living with like financial struggles, barriers are just multiplied, whether like you mentioned someone working couple of jobs probably going to have limited time to prepare food. You’re not having access to try like lots of different kinds of food.
Alissa Rumsey: But I think it can still intuitive eating, the sense of just like tuning into your body and noting within your excess that you do have noting like what feels good and noting like hunger cues, noting fullness cues, different things like that. I think it can certainly still be framed, once we kind of take care of that, that access to the food thing.
Wendy Lopez: Yeah, those are really great points. From working with people that have low access to fresh fruits, vegetables, produce, people who are struggling financially, I have found it. The most helpful thing that I have found is to just really listen. Because I think especially as health professionals, we just kind of like recommend, recommend, recommend and we don’t really take into account everything that’s going on. And yeah, with people that have food insecurity, there’s just so many issues beyond food, like mental health, housing. So really just trying to understand the full picture and asking a lot of questions.
Wendy Lopez: And also understanding that they might not be in a space to be able to eat intuitively. And I think that that’s okay too because yeah, I mean I’m just remembering like a lot of the patients that I was working with in the clinic, mostly undocumented patients and they would be working like 18 hour shifts and they would only be able to eat one meal a day because yeah, they had a very small window to eat and then they would just go to bed and then work for like hours on end. So just really exploring everything that’s happening. And also, like you said, like at that moment when you are eating that meal, what is the best that you can do at that moment to try to be present with the meal that you’re eating and to try to, I think just be more mindful because a lot of us… I think just in this kind of society that we live in, we just eat on like automatic. We’re not really tuning into how we feel when we’re eating.
Wendy Lopez: And also a lot of people just don’t have that basic education about okay, what is a carbohydrate? How do you balance a plate? And that dental nutrition I think comes in very useful, especially for people that don’t have high health literacy, they don’t know the first step into balancing a plate. Just having those basic guidelines and doing the best that you can with whatever it is that you’re working with.
Alissa Rumsey: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that’s what’s so cool about gentle nutrition, right? Is that the emphasis is like zooming out and not obsessing about like every little thing you’re eating. But really about like the overall pattern and it’s kind of the opposite of this wellness culture, which is very elitist and it can make it, wellness culture says to us like you have to have all this money to be healthy with like all these expensive super foods and gyms and all of this stuff when you guys know this too. But like real healthy eating is definitely, it can be accessible and while there certainly can be some barriers there, whether it’s access or time. That’s what I think is so cool with intuitive eating is that, if someone is deciding that they want to work on their health, which again can be a privilege to be able to decide that you want to do that. The gentle nutrition piece really is very accessible I think.
Wendy Lopez: Right. I think there’s also the idea that intuitive eating is only for people that have disordered eating habits. And we got one question asking about people who eat when they’re not hungry or it’s not necessarily disordered eating, but like lets say they’re in a social gathering and yeah, and they’re just eating because there’s food there. Does that mean that they’re not able to practice intuitive eating or like what are the exceptions?
Alissa Rumsey: Yeah, so you know, again, theme of this episode, intuitive eating is for everybody and you know, we tend to talk a lot about it around people who have a history of tidying or restricting food intake, but it is 100% not just for those types of people. It really is for everybody. And you mentioned that hunger or like eating in the absence of hunger or like eating in social situations. First of all, just to address that point specifically, totally normal to eat when we’re not hungry. And there’s going to be times that we’re going to do that and that’s totally fine. I think that example is a great one. Like you’re at a party, there’s food there, maybe it’s not like dinner time yet or maybe this isn’t the food that you really feel like, but you’re like, “Eat some of it.” And intuitive eating you said before, like bringing the mindfulness piece in.
Alissa Rumsey: And that’s what I think about here is we’re really using mindfulness to help people become more aware of their own body cues, which is helpful for everybody, not just people with disordered eating behaviors. Because you’re really like learning more about your body and becoming more aware of your body. And it also puts the emphasis on paying attention to, is this food enjoyable? Does it taste good? Do you even feel like eating or is it more kind of eating on autopilot? And it does it in a way that’s not like judgey or Shamie like, “Oh no, no, you know, only eat when you’re hungry. Not at all.” It’s about like, “Okay, you’re eating when you’re not hungry. Like what’s going on here? What’s kind of coming into play?” And getting curious rather than using judgment.
Jessica Jones: Absolutely. My next question, actually, this is our last question that we’re on the address that was submitted and it’s my favorite one because it comes up a lot. How do you practice intuitive eating when you love to eat all foods, including like calorically dense sweet foods, for example, what if I always intuitively want a doughnut? What are your thoughts?
Alissa Rumsey: Oh my gosh, you’re right. This is definitely the number one question I get. Like, “Oh, if I just eat what I want, I’m always going to want a doughnut.” And I’m like, well, so the thing is you think that because it is like we are taught like dieting, the dieting industry is, is multi multibillion dollar industry that teaches us that and it’s in their best interest to teach us that we are able to control what we eat. And in order to eat healthy we have to like follow these external rules because for left to our own devices, we’re just going to eat all this not so great stuff. And that’s not the case at all. So what ends up happening with intuitive eating or I guess the other piece of that too is it’s important to realize that thinking like, Oh, I’m always going to want a donut that is signaling to me that you have some restriction built up around doughnuts there, whether it’s physical, where like you’re not letting yourself buy them or eat them or like mental of like, “Oh, doughnuts aren’t healthy, I shouldn’t have them.”
Alissa Rumsey: And like going back to what I said before, our body reacts that restrictive like mindset or the actual physical restriction by increasing our cravings for those foods. So it’s totally normal to feel that way. And yes, when first starting out with intuitive eating for many people like the foods that they haven’t been allowing themselves, in this case, maybe a doughnut. Yeah, they might want a doughnut every single day. And I encourage them to get that tone in every single day because what you have to do is really work through that and get to a place where your body and your brain trust that. Like, “Okay, I want a donut, I’m going to let myself have it.”
Alissa Rumsey: Because right now what’s probably happening is like there’s that like internal dialogue, like, “Oh, I really want a doughnut but I shouldn’t have it. I already had dessert, I have this.” And so your body is getting this message of like, “Oh, she’s not going to let me have this. So I got to like increase these cravings more and more. So once you get to this place where it’s like your body trust, like, “Okay, I have access to this food, I can have it when I want it.” You actually get to a place where you don’t, you’re going to not always want that. Like yes, you might be like, “Okay, do I want a doughnut right now?” And you’re going to get to a place where going to be like, “You know what? I don’t have one if I want it, but like not really what I’m feeling like.”
Alissa Rumsey: This also brings us to food habituation, which is super fascinating. And there’s a lot of research around this and habituation is, I always joke and we’ve seen this during this podcast episode, living in New York city, I’ve lived here for 11 years. I do not even notice when a siren goes off. Meanwhile, like friends of mine who don’t live here, they’re like, “Oh, what’s happening? What’s that?” And I’m like, “What are you talking about?” And that’s because I’ve been habitual. I become habituated to the noise around me. Same thing happens with food. When we are around food all the time and we’re eating it all the time, it becomes not as special and not as exciting versus when we don’t allow ourselves things or we don’t have them, then they become more exciting. We want them more and more.
Alissa Rumsey: So for a while, yeah you might be in that doughnut almost every day, but eventually everybody gets to this place. We’re naturally, they come to this like natural balance of eating, and this is also where the gentle nutrition comes in, but eating, a good chunk of the time like eating nutritionally dense, healthier foods. And then a smaller amount of time with like those fun foods or play foods.
Wendy Lopez: Yeah, well I think also that’s where that basic structure comes into play because if you’re under nourishing throughout the day, you’re going to want to crave those like instant satisfaction foods more. And I have found with the people that I’ve worked with that when they’re always gravitating towards sweets or carbohydrates that they see as like special treats, it’s because they’re under eating throughout the day and they want like a quick boost of energy and they want that quick satisfaction.
Alissa Rumsey: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Exactly. No, that is such a good point. And that is also something I see with all of my clients. Like once we get them to a place where they’re actually eating like consistently throughout the day, which eventually they might not have those hunger signals immediately, but eventually like that our bodies naturally want fuel like every couple of hours. And yeah, once they’re doing that, like those cravings totally plummet because your body has like, you’re honoring your hunger and your body’s like, “Okay, she’s going to feed me when I’m hungry. I don’t need to like increase his cravings” And yeah we get cravings for those like high fat, high sugar foods that are calorically dense. Because again, if we think about our bodies are still wired from thousands of years ago when there wasn’t a lot of food around.
Alissa Rumsey: So as a survival mechanism, those calorically dense foods were really important. Like if we really weren’t going to have much access to food then yeah that. So that’s how our bodies are wired and that’s how we’ve developed. And so even though food for those of us who are lucky enough to be food secure, food is everywhere. Our bodies still react to the same way.
Wendy Lopez: And just a quick question that came up in my head from this conversation. What about for someone? Because we get this a lot where people are just like, “I’m not a breakfast person.” And just, seeing how that can manifest into the eating habits that happen later on throughout the day where it’s like they either feel undernourished or they gravitate towards foods that give you quick energy because they skip that breakfast. But they just might not be hungry in the morning. What do you think about that? Because in my experience I’ve been like, “Okay, well let’s try to do the whole like habituation where maybe you introduced something small in the morning just to get your body adjusted and to having that first meal within a few hours of waking. But what are your thoughts? Like is that something that should be done?
Alissa Rumsey: So I think it totally depends and I think with where I typically think about is like, okay, let’s do some trial and error. Let’s play around with this. So, okay, you’re not hungry in the morning. Totally fine, don’t eat anything and then see what happens the rest of the day. So for people who are maybe not hungry right away, I would say, okay, if there’s someone who has a really flexible schedule where they’re able to maybe at like 11:00 AM eat something, then okay, let’s play with this. Let’s not eat right away and let’s still like be tuning into your body so that when you feel that hunger, like then you eat. Now this doesn’t necessarily work as well for someone like a teacher for example, who has like a really set schedule and maybe doesn’t have a lunch break til 1:30 so again, trial and error, okay, let’s see what happens if you don’t have breakfast and you can’t eat till 1:30 what is happening prior to 1:30.
Alissa Rumsey: And I think for a lot of people what they’ll notice is, “Okay, I’m getting really hungry by 11 but I can’t eat. Then by 1:30 I’m starving, my blood sugar is low, I’m getting a headache.” So it’s like, “Okay, eating something in the morning, even though I’m not super hungry yet is actually going to help me.” And then it’s trying that out. Okay let’s practice. Let’s like eat something in the morning and then see what happens come 1:30. So it’s really giving them that autonomy to trial and error. And again, instead of like judgment, just that awareness is so, so key and just paying attention and getting curious to what happens.
Jessica Jones: This reminds me of your Instagram posts that I have been using with people where you talk about travel hunger versus physical hunger versus planned hunger. I love the idea of planned hunger where you’re, maybe you’re not hungry but you know that you’re not going to have an opportunity to eat because of X, Y, and Z. So you need to have something that’s going to last you as long as you need it too. And just like reminding people to think about that. Like if your schedule is insane and you’re, let’s just say like I work with a lot of maybe medical residents and they’re on in their clinical whatever rotation and they’re on the floor for eight hour shifts. Like they don’t have time to have six small meals, even though in their mind they’re like, “Oh, I shouldn’t be doing that.”
Jessica Jones: And so then once you like tease out what’s actually feasible for you, it can help people come to like the path of what is intuitive eating for me? Because all of those things are factored in.
Alissa Rumsey: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Jessica Jones: So what are three things in wrapping up three things that people can do to get started with intuitive eating today?
Alissa Rumsey: Oh, that’s such a good question. Okay. So, well first I would say the number one thing, and this is kind of Evelyn talks about this is kind of the foundation of intuitive eating, starting to bring your awareness to… so we talked a lot today about what intuitive eating is and what it isn’t. So starting to bring your awareness just to the different dietary type messages that you hear, that you see that you read throughout the day. And then starting to create what I call like a diet free bubble for yourself. So, just bringing awareness, like I mentioned earlier in the episode about this client of mine who was like, “Okay, I’m not restricting. So I’ve rejected the diet mentality,” And it’s like, well, and we talked about all these other things that were still diet mentality.
Alissa Rumsey: She was still like tracking her steps for example and was still like logging food. And so just starting to bring awareness to these types of messages that you’re getting and then trying to start to build a bubble. So things like getting rid of books or magazines that you have that are, maybe they are like calorie focused recipes or maybe they are like, you know, losing weight type of focus books. Like getting rid of those types of things. If you’re someone who uses a lot of social media, really curating your feed so that you’re not following a lot of those diet type messages. And starting to follow people that share more positive, more inclusive, more intuitive eating related messages. I actually have a blog post where I share, gosh, probably at least like 50 different accounts that I recommend.
Alissa Rumsey: I’m happy to share that with you guys from maybe the show notes. People are looking for that. But yeah, so really starting to bring awareness to the how much diet culture there is around naming that as like, okay that is diet culture or that is diet mentality and then starting to do things to move away from that. And the other thing I would say is another great place to start, just starting to bring more awareness to your body throughout the day. And what I mean by that is more specifically with like hunger and like how your body feels hunger throughout the day. So thinking about, okay, when are you feeling hunger? How does that feel like in your body? Are you, what sorts of things like if you’re eating end up satisfying that hunger, what things don’t satisfy that hunger? Are there times that maybe your body’s signaling hunger and you’re not feeding it and how come?
Alissa Rumsey: And really starting to just bring more awareness to how that shows up for you throughout the day can also be helpful to do that to use like a hunger fullness scale and looking at, okay, before a meal, like checking with yourself, “Okay, where am I on the scale now?” And then partway through a meal, “Okay, where am I now?” And then as you finished eating, so really again to bring more awareness and more consciousness to how your body’s feeling. And then the third thing that I think is really powerful is starting to ask yourself, “What is it that I want to eat right now? What sounds good to me right now?”
Alissa Rumsey: So often we get into these kind of just routines where it’s like, “Okay, this is my weekday lunch,” Or “This is what I’m having, or this is what I’ve meal prep. So I’m eating it.” And instead, taking that pause and saying, “What sounds good to me right now?” And if you’re someone that doesn’t do this often, or if you’re someone who’s been following a lot of external rules or just, yeah, ignoring your body signals, this is going to be really hard. And at first you might be like, “I have no clue what I want to have right now or what sounds good.” So you have to do this like day in, day out for a while and then you’re going to start to… and again, trial and error.
Alissa Rumsey: Okay, “I’m not really sure like I was going to get a salad but let me try a sandwich and see if that’s satisfying.” It’s like, “Okay, no that didn’t really do it.” And so like the next day trying something else. But really this is going to help for that satisfaction piece and also to help you start getting more in touch with what your body needs.
Wendy Lopez: Great. This is literally the last question. It’ll be real quick. I’m sure. I know you got to go. We might have to do a part two because a lot of questions are coming up in my head, but I know you mentioned the steps and that’s something that a lot of people do, like tracking steps. And you were saying how that can play into diet culture for someone who does well with just having more of like a fitness structure because maybe they just want to keep track or they’re very forgetful or they want to, yeah. Just have more of a regimen. Is there, does that like definitely not align ever with intuitive eating or what do you think about that?
Alissa Rumsey: So, with like the steps tracker in particular?
Wendy Lopez: Yeah. Because a lot of people do that. Like I’ve done that in the past and sometimes I even do it now where it’s like, especially when I’m traveling, I want to try to stay active and sometimes the only thing I can do is walking, and I want to try to incorporate, yeah. Like at least a certain amount of walking per day and it just serves as like a good reminder for me.
Alissa Rumsey: Totally. Yeah. So I think again, you really have to like, I encourage everyone to, if you are using a step tracker okay, get curious as to how that affects you. For a lot of people that focus on the numbers can get really like the keeping up overly fixated on the numbers and get really preoccupied and then feel really guilty or feel like, Oh I failed. I didn’t get those steps and then, okay then what happens then do you then be like, “Oh well screw it. Like does not worth it to like walk down the block because like I’m not going to hit 10,000,” Or like what kind of happens also is tracking like is that causing you more stress? So are your stress levels increasing? Because you’re either trying to get those steps in or you’re feeling bad because you couldn’t, is it affecting like your social life or your relationships?
Alissa Rumsey: So really just, I think for some people seeing some numbers or having some data can be helpful, but there’s a line. And so really figuring out for yourself, is this something that’s actually helpful or is it not? So for example, for myself, I used to… this is not a step tracker, but it’s another kind of health thing, which I think is really interesting. I started tracking my sleep last fall using a sleep tracker app. And at first I was like, okay, this is helpful and like seeing stuff. But within just a few days I realized that the app was actually getting to be more harmful because not only could I like, not fully understand even what the graphs ment, but then I really got really discouraged when the app didn’t match how I felt.
Alissa Rumsey: So like one night I slept so great and I was like, okay, awesome. And I looked at the app and the app said that I slept poorly and then I felt really bad. So, it’s like, okay, this is not actually helping me, it’s causing me like more stress around this. So I think just again, getting curious and seeing about like how does this really make you feel? And are you able to use it in a way that’s helpful without being harmful?
Wendy Lopez: I love it. Yeah. I’m also just being compassionate and yeah, embracing the gray areas because I think yeah, sometimes a tutoring meeting is presented in a very black and white way. So it’s like it doesn’t, you don’t have to have the exact answer and things can be very flexible depending on where you are with it. This has been great. I learned so much. Thank you so much for hopping on with us. Alissa, tell our listeners where they can learn more about your work.
Alissa Rumsey: Sure. So my website is alissarumsey.com and then you can also check me out. I’m on Instagram. I know we mentioned my Instagram here. I spent a lot of time there. So that’s @alissarumseyRD. I also have a Facebook support group for intuitive eating and body image support. So that is facebook.com/groups/ditch the diet support. So that’s a really awesome group. And we talk a lot more about all of these kinds of topics as well.
Wendy Lopez: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Alissa. We will talk to you later.
Paris Alexandra: Okay, sounds good. Thank you guys so much for having me.
Jessica Jones: Bye.
Alissa Rumsey: Okay, bye.
Wendy Lopez: Thank you so much for tuning into another episode of the Food Heaven podcast. If you loved this episode as much as we did, make sure that you leave us some stars. Give us a thumbs up. Listen up to this review by. Yes, Vega. Today was my first day listening to the podcast wides and my makeup for a webinar. I have impressed, stopped and already listened to three episodes during my get ready routine. I’m glad I found you girls.
Jessica Jones: Glad you found us too, and make sure that you all subscribe to our podcast takes one second and that way you’ll never miss an episode. Our episodes are released every Wednesday and we cover tips and tricks for how to make lifelong changes that help you live a healthy, balanced life. We also interview experts in health and nutrition to pick their brain on how to cultivate a healthy life that you love. If you’re feeling social. You can also connect with us online. We are on Instagram @foodheaven and we hope you enjoyed this episode. We’ll catch you next time.
Jessica Jones & Wendy Lopez: Bye.