Season 2 Episode 1 of Quiet the Diet Podcast with Michelle Shapiro, RD and Nicki Parlitsis, MS, RD, CPT
How Others Influence our Food Behaviors
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Michelle and her staff Dietitian, Nicki Parlitsis, are back for Season 2 to discuss the impact that people and situations around us can have on our eating behaviors. Specifically on vacation and holidays, how do we navigate these pressures and situations in order to prioritize our health and nutrition goals/ concerns?
- The influence of culture and family on our eating habits during holidays
- How to best prepare yourself to feel great nutritionally on vacation
- Navigating both emotionally safe and unsafe family dynamics around food
- Feeling disengaged from your body during group eating
- People pleasing vs. prioritizing your own health needs
- Tips for dealing with (and preparing for) all of the above!
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I know I don’t have to tell you this but this episode is only for educational purposes. It is not nutrition or personalized medical advice.
How Others Influence our Food Behaviors
We are so excited to be in season two of quiet the diet. Thank you so much for calling back. And if you’re new, thank you so much for joining us. Today’s episode, we are going to talk about how other people’s comments inputs. And just the aspects of socializing can really influence how we eat and our food behaviors.
This can range from if we’re trying to make changes related to our weight. And we hear negative comments about our appearance or even in anticipation of social events. Knowing we might have had weight changes, and really the palpable fear that we experience in that we also talk about how to navigate food changes from the perspective of being in a chronic illness journey and how it can feel like we’re really different and how like we have to eat a certain way to feel well.
And it can make us feel different and isolated from others and how to navigate those conversations in a social context to a big part of this episode is also discussing what to do during holidays and while traveling to prepare yourself best for these activities, not only from a food perspective, but from a navigating socially kind of perspective.
And as always, we are going to try to give as refreshing and unique of a standpoint as we can. And in that what I think I’ve been seeing from a societal plane is the conversation around weight or the conversation around how to talk to other people about what you’re eating, how to avoid those conversations.
The solutions I’ve really seen put forward are set really hard boundaries with people let them know it’s not okay, it’s inappropriate to comment on your weight. And I really wanted to give solutions today along with Nikki, our incredible staff dietician, I really wanted to give solutions that were for people who are not comfortable setting really hard boundaries, if you want to be a little bit softer, a little bit more playful.
If you don’t want to confront the issue head on. Maybe you’re not, again comfortable with that confrontation, I wanted to give some alternative solutions where it might not be totally appropriate to set those really strong boundaries. So I’m excited to illuminate that we are going to have a lot of fun in this episode.
And this season. We have some amazing guests coming for you. Oh we also have a really fabulous freebie for you this week. It’s a healthy travel guide and you can find that in the show notes. And you’re just going to hear a little word about our amazing sponsor this episode. And then we’re gonna get right into it see in there.
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Experiencing chronic illness symptoms in social situations
Welcome to season two episode one of quiet the diet, I am so happy to be back. It was a three week break. But it kind of felt like forever. I’m bringing back our amazing, amazing Nikki, Nikki, thank you so much for calling back.
Hello, I think I had so much fun on the finale, I’m so excited to be here for the premiere of season two,
I want you to be our bookends beginning and end of every season and then like a bunch in between two if we could, because you freaking rock it every time. So this episode, we’re gonna be talking about how other people can influence our food behaviors, how our environment can influence our food behaviors.
And we want to give you the listeners some strategies to have when you’re in those social situations on vacation during holidays, to help regulate yourself. And if you want to change those food behaviors, how to set yourself up for success in those situations.
Yeah, it can be something where if you’re on a nutrition journey, or health journey, a weight change journey, like it can be something where going into social situations can cause anxiety. And the goal, especially when we talk about overall wellness and wellness from a holistic perspective is to you know, reduce stress as much as possible and really be able to look at this as a sustainable journey for the rest of your life like long term.
So we’ll kind of give some tangible tips to of how to approach these situations so that you can live your life while also, you know, approaching whatever goal you have, or, you know, illness that you know, managing any symptoms that you’re dealing with.
I remember the promise of Weight Watchers was always that you could basically go anywhere and live your life while still, you know, losing weight or whatever the kind of goal was, let me that was the goal of Weight Watchers, obviously. And I think about that idea when in the 90s. And to the early 2000s.
What I picture dieting to be is like people always say like, oh, I have to sit with my frozen dinner meal, you know, this idea that we have to kind of isolate in order to make health changes. And in some ways, you know, again, dining from home might be more helpful. But I think engaging in community and living your life while engaging those changes is probably going to produce the best and happiest results.
But they it’s hard for people to reconcile that you can live your life and still pursue those health goals and to know where that balance of sacrifice versus joy is. Have you experienced that and your kind of chronic illness journey at all, Nikki,
have I experienced that that’s been that’s been my experience. It’s, you know, you go through, you go through periods where especially when you’re either you’re first dealing with symptoms, because we can’t even talk about like first being diagnosed with something because you’ve been usually you’re dealing with stuff way before that. So you first have symptoms and you’re trying to manage it, there’s this confusion.
And a lot of times if it’s an illness that no one can see, like it’s something gut related, or whatever’s going on. It’s very isolating, because you’re venting to friends or family about it. And they’re like you keep talking about this. But you know, they don’t see it, they don’t understand kind of what you’re going through unless there’s someone else who’s kind of been through it.
So to be and then on top of that you know that either certain foods or certain situations, increase your symptoms, but you’re not sure as to why so then you kind of feel like there’s the social aspect of I don’t want to be judged for having to avoid certain things. I also don’t even know what to eat to make me feel better. And sometimes there’s also this mental health component that there’s this a little bit of like depression and sadness that comes with it a little bit of hopelessness.
So you kind of sometimes lose the drive to go out with other people from those two perspectives. It’s like you don’t want to emotionally but then with all of the physical things, you don’t want to do that either. So it can be something where, you know, it’s very isolating in that way, and we know that social interaction, and, you know, support can actually improve your health outcomes.
So how do we manage your situation to get kind of the best of both? How do we figure out how to manage those social situations to get that support and to get that social interaction, but, you know, in the in a way, that doesn’t make you feel worse physically?
How to Best Support People Struggling with Chronic Illness
Yeah, so there’s two things working at the same time, which is that sometimes these social situations can be mentally fulfilling, and physically damaging somewhat. And then because you kind of when you’re eating out, you do have less control over some of the foods you’re eating, you have less control over the ingredients they’re using and things like that. And then also, for people who are more introverted social situations can be mentally not fulfilling, they can be quite taxing.
And when you’re already not feeling well, it can sometimes make you feel worse. So there’s really a great need to tap in with yourself and see where you’re at. And if a certain thing that you’re going to do is going to give you what I would call, like the best bang for your buck, either physically or emotionally. Something else you said that’s really important is that people are going to these social events, and whether they’re talking to their family members in private or at these events, they’re expressing their symptoms. And I know I’ve been this, in this experience you’ve been in this experience.
And what people are generally met with is, well, why don’t you go to a doctor for that? Well, why don’t you do this for that. And if someone says, Hey, I’m trying to be gluten free, you know, I don’t want to eat this, they might be met with well, why you don’t have celiac disease, or they might be met with you shouldn’t be eating that you said you didn’t want to eat any gluten. So there’s a problem with chronic illness and socializing and food choices when people start holding others accountable for the pain they’re going through.
And I think that it should be really a top priority for someone who is a supporter, a friend of someone who’s going through chronic illness to just listen, when they’re going through that experience and not hold them accountable. To go to a doctor to do these things. People with chronic illness are the people who don’t want chronic illness the most. So when people come up with solutions that are it’s like go to a doctor, people chronic ulcer, like I’ve been to 40 or any, okay, like, give me some novel information here.
So, and again, the people who are going through it are the people who want it the least. So when they’re met with suggestions, or you know, action based reactions, I think that people get feel even more isolated, they feel more abnormal in those situations. And I think just for the person receiving the information, the best thing to do is just listen and be that space for them to just hold it just hold that feel that discomfort hold that feeling with them.
Because no one reacts well again, when we’re told what to do when we’re given instructions and unsolicited advice. So I think that’s just really important to say, too, and this, again, experience of going out to eat and doing all these activities is is definitely a challenge for people with chronic illness.
How to Stop People-pleasing and Prioritize Your Health over Others’ Opinions
And that can also influence the actual food behaviors, which was, you know, the title of the episode well, how do others influence our food behaviors? I think that when you’re in those situations, you also are more likely than if someone says, You’re not celiac, why aren’t you eating gluten to just eat gluten them, right?
And that person’s input and social stigmatization of you actually influences our food behaviors, because we want to fit in we’re humans to huge, huge need of ours is to fit in to not feel ostracized, to not feel isolated? And who’s the person who’s going to be sick then with, you know, stomach pain if they’re gluten intolerant? Who’s going to be sick with brain fog after the actual person who’s sick, right?
So or who made that choice, not the person who was recommending that choice. So I think what is really important in these situations is always checking in with yourself and just taking back your agency around your food choices, regardless of the fact that it’s really challenging from a social standpoint, because a lot of these things are pretty taboo. And the experience of having chronic illness is not felt by other people.
Like you said, it’s something that just you’re going through, and it’s feels different for other people, even though a lot of us are going through it. So I think that’s just so important to still kind of stand your ground in those situations, too.
Yeah. And I see it a lot with people that which is I think a lot of our culture is that people pleasing, the tendency, and there’s this feeling of, I don’t want either I don’t want someone to feel uncomfortable or I don’t want to have to deal with whatever pushback I’m getting. So let me just please everyone else for this brief moment. But then that even if that means I have to deal with this physically, or emotionally wherever your symptoms are showing up for Are the next couple hours days week.
So it you know, I think what this kind of comes back to to is being able to prioritize yourself and, you know, really put yourself first over other people’s feelings, which is much easier said than done. But I think that’s kind of what this comes back to along with many other components of your health journey,
you need to reiterate what you just said, because it’s so important. Put your health before other people’s feelings. This is so so hard for people. So I know that we’re giving this advice of just stand your ground and how do you do that. But I think we can come up with also some more interesting or, or unique strategies for that. I often say, when I use a mirroring strategy with my clients, I use two strategies. One I call the mirroring strategy. And when I call the confusion strategy.
The mirroring strategies if someone had said, Nikki, are you even celiac, I just have people ask the same question back. Are you celiac? And just ask the same question back and see how they feel when you ask the same question back. Because sometimes it’s hard to set like really hard boundaries. And sometimes it’s socially inappropriate. Like, you can’t talk to me like that. I’m gluten intolerant.
I don’t want people to feel like they have to explain the science to anyone, you don’t have to justify yourself and how you’re eating. So sometimes you can be a little playful with it. Yeah, it’s a little gas lady. But you know, if it if it gets people off your trail, I think that’s okay, you know, off your tail. The mirroring strategy is one completely fake strategy that I have people using the confusion Strategy is a strategy that my sister came up with, when this is just unbelievable, I’m saying this on a podcast, but she had a coffeemaker and the coffeemaker came in, and it was broken when she actually got it.
And the company was unyielding, to give her the return. She literally used it for like one day and it was in a broke, and it was obviously a manufacturer defect. So she called them and they were just saying we can’t do this return this is no returns whatever it was. And she would just say basically, what, and act confused until they acquiesced. So I think that what a strategy could be again, and that situation of Nicki, do you even have celiac disease? You can just be like, what? I don’t know what you’re talking. What do you mean?
I think that applying a little bit of playfulness, confusion, throwing people off your trail a little bit, I think those are fine strategies to it doesn’t always have to be this hardcore boundary setting. Don’t talk to me like that. You don’t know the science. Like, there’s times when I’ve definitely in bold and, and feel comfortable doing that. And then when I’m not feeling well, and I start getting badgered, and my resources are low, ready, I just don’t want to deal with it. So that’s when I apply a little humor.
If it’s something like celiac again, if someone’s ever asked me, Why don’t you consume gluten, I’m like, you want to head to the bathroom with me after this conversation, see what’s going on? Or you want to you want to talk to me tomorrow when I’m like depressed off my face, because I eat this like, it’s you know, and it’s not really I’m using gluten as an example, because it’s an easy way to explain it.
But again, you don’t have to in these social situations always be so embolden and brave and strong. Sometimes you can just be playful and brush it off or question the person back or, you know, be a little confused. I think that’s totally okay, too.
We have to also remember that, think about the amount of times that you’re at a party and someone is talking about the new wild fat diet that they’re on, and no one is questioning them. So just remember that whatever you’re expecting, not always, but often when whatever you’re expecting to hear is worse than what you may actually be hearing. So sometimes you might actually say, Hey, I, you know, I don’t need XYZ, it doesn’t make me feel great.
You don’t have to say it doesn’t make me feel great. I just don’t need it. And then sometimes the other people are that are around you are like, okay, and sometimes you work this up to be bigger in your head. Again, sometimes it’s not. And so we’ll talk about that too. But it’s also important to remember that all of the times that you’ve been in a situation where someone says some wild food behavior that they’re doing, and no one questions it, no one asks for the science. So you know, also remember that too, if you’re nervous about it,
I think the reason that people feel comfortable not badgering the person talking about the diet versus the person talking about the healing aspect is just because people are more comfortable around diet talk. And I think people want to lose weight really bad. So they would like to know the answers from the other person. But it’s harder for people to put themselves in the shoes of someone who is trying to heal. So it’s, it’s it is complicated and odd, but that is definitely the case.
And it seems socially acceptable to talk about reducing body size in a public setting, but it doesn’t feel safe to talk about any sort of healing, which I guess is just a reflection of like the healthcare system and societal stuff anyway, right? But that’s just a reflection of that. But even if people are saying things, other people don’t care about what we’re eating as much as we think that they do, which is always good. To remember, when we feel like the spotlights always on us. And we’re like the, you know, the freaks in the situation who, you know, oh, we can’t be quote unquote, like normal like anyone else.
We can’t just go out and eat like anyone else. This is a big rhetoric I’ve heard from my clients is that their parents would say them when they were kids, like, why can’t you just be normal? Like, why is everything such a problem for you? Especially because a lot of my clients are highly sensitive people like myself, like you. And in a beautifully positive way we pick up on, you know, the energy of other people, and we pick up on what’s going on in a situation and it influences our food behaviors and influences how we feel about things.
How other people’s comments & behaviors influence our eating habits
So this, this rhetoric again, of, you’re not normal, you’re weird, you’re sick, you’re all these things. I also want people to kind of remove from their identity. And let’s just play things down a lot. Like you’re saying, like you like, now you’re just choosing to not eat gluten right now. It’s not that you’re any of these things, you’re not different. You’re not abnormal, you’re not chronically ill, you’re not, it’s none of that. It’s just that right? In this moment, you’re just not going to eat gluten. I think that’s a way to do it.
Like, if, again, if someone asks you, Why aren’t you eating it? Instead of having to justify yourself scientifically, put a little play on it and just be like, Yeah, I don’t want to eat it right now. Thank you, you know, and I think that’s, it’s okay to not go the highest and strongest route and these situations.
So what I want to talk about is, what happens when someone does make that comment? Why aren’t you eat gluten? You don’t have celiac disease? Or whatever it is, you know, Oh, I thought you were trying to lose weight. Why are you eating that? That’s not healthy, why? And from people who don’t know what healthy is? And how that influences the person’s actual food behavior? So take us through that. Nikki? What impact could that have these comments from other people if we don’t shield ourselves? or downplay the comments or set boundaries?
Yeah, so a lot of times, the first thing is, it can also lead to second guessing yourself, of, you know, in a situation where maybe there, maybe you had been eating something that was just really making you feel crappy. And then now what you’re eating now is actually making you feel better than before, but to someone else, it’s still quote, unquote, unhealthy.
And so you feel like proud of yourself, like I’m making this choice, I have my balance plate, I’m really, you know, working on these things that I’m doing for my nutrition, and then you get a comment from someone, and whatever confidence you are feeling in that moment, can totally derail. The flip side to is, if you, you know, are you feel like you’ve been changing your eating behaviors and you but you’re now you really want to have something that is, you know, something like a dessert or something that maybe you wouldn’t have all the time, but you really want to engage in this dessert mindfully or whatever you’re having it just really we’re craving it.
And now someone’s commenting to you. And while you didn’t even think twice about eating it, now, you’re second guessing, should I be eating this, like they’re telling me I shouldn’t. Now everyone’s looking at me. And it’s never an enjoyable situation. Like we can’t enjoy something when we feel like all eyes are on us either. So in both of those situations, it kind of takes whatever you are feeling and shifts your emotions, not based on anything that you were thinking or feeling. But based on someone else’s perspective, whether it’s real or perceived.
And it just changes your entire eating environment and puts you into a state of fight or flight. Like now you’re activated, you were calm, you were just enjoying your meal. And now were feeling unsafe, as you said. And so that can be just very dysregulated. And then, again, lead to you not wanting to be in that situation again, because it’s, of course not a pleasant situation to be
Yeah. And I think you’re also going to literally eat differently as a result of that if we feel isolated. And we know that eating is going to be a safe way to feel normal around the other people. We’re going to do that because it’s smart. And it makes sense. And I think that in a lot of social situations can be very unsafe and dysregulated, especially when people are commenting not only on the food we’re eating, but commenting on our appearance, and we definitely are going to talk about that.
But one note that I have to add. It’s just something that I really want people to understand is that if you were eating in any different country with a different cultural food patterns with different cultural foods, how you would be perceived as eating would be different in every single environment. So Nikki like you’re Italian and Greek, I’m Jewish, even eating, not that different.
But in either eating in either of our households might look completely different. The rituals of eating the way that we’re eating, what we’re eating might look totally different. So I just want people to understand that even if you feel like a freak and a social situation. Everyone’s a freak and a different social situation. So whereby it might be totally normal in America. to eat a salad that’s the size of a table versus, you know, if you went to India where they’re practicing iron Veda and eating raw food like that is totally taboo.
Just know that everyone has their own style of eating. And it’s influenced again by the society that we live in. But it really should be influenced by what you actually want to eat and what feels good for your body. So just know if you feel like a freak in one situation. Everybody’s a freak, in some situation, I love freaks, I think I use the word freak in a very positive way. But just want people to understand that just because it’s what’s important or hot right now, doesn’t mean it has to influence how you feel about yourself.
And I think we’re seeing so many more people with chronic illness now, where it’s actually the norm to be chronically ill in America versus it’s the majority versus the minority. So I think that we’re gonna have an I guess, one positive from it, there’s no other positive is that we’ll have a little bit more understanding from people, because everyone’s going through it in one way or another, for sure.
So let’s talk about when people are when we’re in social situations, specifically, let’s talk about vacations or holidays, and how what other people are telling us about food can influence our food behaviors, how that feeling of isolation can influence us, too. So vacation wise, I’ll kind of kick us off because part of my disordered eating in the past was being very fearful of getting foodborne illness. And I don’t know if this is partly a dietitian thing, by the way, because we learned so much about foodborne illness. And I was just really scared of getting sick. And my mom is like quite phobic of stomach illnesses.
So I think that’s part of my, you know, lot in life. But I think for me, when I was traveling somewhere that felt a little more unsafe for whatever reason, whether it was rational or not, I wanted to bring with a lot of food with me, like I would bring a bunch of snacks, a million supplements. And as I’ve kind of gained more safety in my environment, and in my nervous system, I haven’t needed to bring as much but there still are essentials that I do bring with me everywhere.
And I am, I am quite literally the person who has like some sort of gluten free bread and avocado and I’m like cutting it up on the airplane. I’m making avocado toast like I’m passionate on the airplane like that’s, that is that’s me, that’s you. Because I know if I’m going to feel not Well, I want it to be for something that felt really awesome not for like airplane food, you know what I mean? Like, I want to get the bang for my buck in that situation of what’s going to make me not feel well.
So traveling is interesting, because I think that I’ve often been very worried about who I’m traveling with, not my husband, like he’s the most chill person, a non judgmental person in the world. But that if I’m bringing snacks with me, if we’re bringing things with me that I’m preparing myself, for, I will feel stigmatized or different or weird. But I’ve needed that less over time. But there are definitely some essentials that I bring with me because I know for a fact that I might not feel well.
And I’ve really just learned to accept this as a part of who I am that I’m just I’m an overly prepared person anyway. And I end up sharing snacks with people instead. And that’s kind of what I how I’ve navigated this. Niki, tell me about your experience with socializing, and vacationing and traveling and kind of what your essentials have become as a result of that. Tell us about that.
How to feel good physically on vacation & while traveling
Yeah, I, in my eating disorder, like the height of my eating disorder, I would bring full meals with me like it was like, but to that extent, I think, now I’ve come to a place where there’s certain things that I want to bring with me because I know if I have the alternative, I won’t feel so good. But then the other things I’m like, you know, what, if they have eggs at the breakfast, brunch, or the breakfast bar, like, I’ll have their eggs, it’s not going to kill me like, I’ll be okay.
So I actually was just on vacation this weekend. And again, I brought a bunch of snacks with me and I brought some essentials. Of course my supplements, one of the things I brought with me was, so when it comes to coffee, I’m kind of just very sensitive to coffee that has, you know, either mold or a lot of coffee can kind of just be contaminated with pesticides and mold and things like that.
So I luckily had my Purity Coffee for the people on YouTube, I’m kind of showing them these little sachets they have these little to go sachets. And so because Purity Coffee is third party tested free of pesticides and toxins free of mold. It doesn’t give me jitters like I have increased focus, increased energy, but not from like a jittery standpoint. I knew like if I start my day with the hotel coffee, I might not feel so good. I know that from past experiences.
So I’ve done things listen to how my body reacts. And now I can just make a different choice to have a different outcome. So something like bringing that with me is very helpful versus you know, having the hotel coffee and then not feeling great for the rest of the day. So kind of just being prepared in that way is very helpful. Did you
feel because coffee is something that’s very social to How did you feel actually like drinking it amongst friends and things like that? How did that experience go for you?
So it’s actually a joke now like my friend group kind of just knows, like, Oh, if you need a snack, go to Nikki’s room like she’s got, she’s got a suitcase full of snacks. I think that also kind of, because I feel safe with that friend group. And I know that, like, they accept me for who I am, like, it’s, you know, I feel very comfortable with them.
I don’t really think twice about it. Like if I, you know, it’s one thing, if I’m like, let me sequester myself in my hotel room and have my cup of coffee while everyone else is downstairs. That’s a very different situation. That’s where, you know, these food choices are kind of negatively impacting your social experience. And there are times where that may be necessary. But in a situation like this, you can kind of tweak it and have the best of both worlds.
So you can kind of bring let’s say, You’re to go coffee sajit. Go downstairs with everyone else, have your coffee with everyone, you’re still engaging in that behavior, you’re just consuming something different. And so I always like I’ll talk about with clients setting an intention going into a social event. So is the intention the food, sometimes it is or is the intention, socialization, which sometimes it is, so food might be like you’re going to Italy and they have this pasta, you want to go to this Italian restaurant in Italy, and they have pasta and you are dying to try it.
That’s where your intention might be the food versus a holiday up someone’s birthday. The point is getting together and just celebrating that person being with people you love. That’s the intention. So I think first kind of setting your intention going into it. For me in that moment, the intention was being around my friends, it wasn’t trying some coffee at some, you know, boutique Roadsters, like, you know, you were just Sarla? Yeah, yeah, it was just an eye for water. No, nothing crazy. So I think that setting an intention can be really helpful going into something.
There’s a reason we chose Purity Coffee, specifically as a sponsor, for this episode, and we’re coffee is a really interesting and bigger conversation. Because I feel like as a dietitian, people are either really against caffeine intake, or really for it. And I think, like Nikki, you, yourself are a coffee drinker. So you know, you’re going to need coffee, it’s just important to know what your baseline and habits are.
So Nikki, you for yourself, you’re thinking I’m traveling, it’s really important to me to have this with me. And that provided again, the ability for you to engage in the situation, but still not feel like crap leaving it and the alternative would have been sure you could have sat and had the hotel coffee or something like that. And then you’re gonna feel sick the entire rest of the day, which is taking away from your initial intention to spend time with people. So instead of us also feeling oh my gosh, like I shouldn’t be drinking coffee in front of other people, because coffee is not healthy.
You know, there’s that whole other piece of it, which is that as dietitians Funny enough, people are always more interested in what we’re eating and doing. And I like that you just own like coffee. First of all, coffee is not innately bad or good. It really depends on the person and the environment that it’s going into. I like that you acknowledge coffee is an important part of my routine. And if I’m going to have coffee, I really want it to be high quality. So I think that that’s important to his understanding what’s important to you and your routine. For myself, what’s really interesting about all this is, I need to have some sort of protein and carb with me, like I like every four or five hours generally.
And when I’m traveling, I could totally forget to eat. But as we’re walking around, we’re museums, we’re doing things. So I just like, if even if I have an apple or something on me, if I have beef jerky, or something like that, I know my things that it is that are important to me.
And I think that’s really important for people for you. Coffee is one of them. It used to be a full meal for you now it’s just snacks. And that’s a piece of the conversation that’s really complicated and interesting to is how disordered eating can make us again, feel that many foods are on safe. And that’s just a bigger conversation. But it’s really interesting. And I like that you drew that line.
How to navigate food during social events
But I think that’s part of this conversation is before you’re going into these social situations, know what your things are, know what’s actually important to you, either with working with a practitioner or just tracking for yourself, like, I know, I’m not going to feel good if I don’t have a beautiful cup of coffee in the morning. That’s, you know, not the hotel coffee that I’m randomly getting.
And I know it’s really important to me to engage in social situations with adequate blood sugar like that’s really important to me and so that’s kind of like I know my Michelle things you know, your Nikki things and I want the listener you to know your things and know what’s important to you. And then it becomes very undeniable, what you need to do to prepare for these situations and how to interact in these situations.
I can guarantee you if someone tried to make me gluten from a shame perspective, at this point in time, I would be like, okay, you know, it would not even be a question because I know how it makes me feel so the more that we get to know how we feel It’s actually becomes easier to set boundaries and advocate for yourself, you just have to find out what those things are. And it is hard when you’re in a state of disordered eating, because it feels like everything’s your thing.
It feels like you can’t eat gluten, dairy, you know, soy, or, you know, all of these things can possibly make you sick. So I think that’s part of the healing journey from a mental perspective and a physical perspective to is learning what your real non negotiables are and what your real, I have to have this arm again, for me having some carbs and protein with me for you having you know, high quality coffee with you. I think that’s really important for people to understand, too.
Yeah. And that all comes from being able to be in tune with how you’re feeling and yourself, which, of course comes over time. And with practice, and just kind of tuning in, like, if you have something that doesn’t agree with you, or you didn’t bring something with you that you knew you, that would be helpful, and you had something maybe that was just the best thing in that moment. And then your body reacted a certain way. It’s all just data, like, it’s all just information from your body. And it’s like, oh, okay, cool, I’m not a bad person for having that. I had it, I realized how I feel afterward. And now maybe next time, I’ll bring something with me to prepare a little better. So I’ll feel better. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s not as you know, we don’t have to feel guilty about something for the rest of the vacation. It’s just something where it’s like, okay, I that made me feel a certain way, maybe next time we go, I’ll bring something with me like a coffee statute or something to just make sure that it changes the course of my vacation after that.
So so it takes a lot of checking in. And I think when you’re in social situations, it’s really easy to be totally dysregulated not check in there kind of like out of body experiences, like you’re just not feeling into yourself at all you’re feeling into what other people are feeling. You’re thinking about what other people are thinking about you, you’re not focused in on what your body’s experiencing, and what your body needs, we’re focused a lot more on the external and those social social situations.
And sometimes it’s a beautiful thing, because we’re spiritually connecting, we’re in a different realm, sometimes an amazing thing, right. And then sometimes it’s, it’s hard to know what your body needs and to feel into those hunger and fullness cues. It’s almost impossible in social situations.
So I think that a big piece of this is noticing how you feel from a hunger and fullness standpoint, even with all the stimulation and distraction around you. If you just run to the bathroom for a second, take a deep breath, tap in with yourself, that can be really important. And also, if you’re noticing that someone else is interacting with you in a way, again, that feels antagonistic about your body, your health, anything like that, to allow yourself to experience what that meant to you.
So again, if you’re feeling overheated, you’re feeling uncomfortable, take a step away for a second. And just notice, like, that comment was a kind of a big deal to me that that kind of you know, I wasn’t really able to brush that off in the moment that felt like a lot to me. And when people do make comments about our body and our health, specifically about our body, it can be traumatizing. I mean, that’s the actual word I would use. Because it really puts us into a state of, again, feeling like you’re on a pedestal feeling judged, feeling out of the community feeling abnormal.
And, you know, I, the the word I’ve used, the kind of phrase I’ve heard from my clients is it makes them want to like jump out of their skin, like they don’t feel safe inside of the bodies that they’re in, we’re already all fighting to feel safe inside of the bodies that we’re in. But especially if you’ve gained weight, you know, anytime recently, and you’re seeing people that you haven’t seen before, it can be a really threatening experience to see people. And that feeling of judgment is really hard on us. Take us through that a little bit to Nikki. Yeah,
it’s an especially, I think a lot of this can also come down to sometimes you grew up in, let’s say, a family that the culture is to comment on other people’s bodies or eating or, you know, situations. And so the advice I would give it is kind of different in into situations. So if you are, it’s different, I think if you’re with new people versus people that you know, you’ll be with all the time.
So if you’re with family, and it’s been years and years of oh my gosh, I don’t want to go to this holiday because I always get comments about things. If you feel safe enough with, let’s say, one of your family members, it doesn’t even have to be everyone just one person, you know, outside of that holiday, maybe just on a random day or before the holiday even just having a conversation and it doesn’t even have to be from an accusatory place because a lot of times they don’t even realize the impact that they’re having.
So it’s kind of just about having that preparatory conversation of hey, listen, I know you mean well. I know you have my best best interests at heart I know you love me if you’re fortunate enough to be in a family where that’s the case. You know, but when you say these things or when other family members say these things, it makes me feel like I’m being watched it makes me feel unsafe.
It I don’t enjoy holidays because of these calm It’s, and even if it’s a situation where maybe that family member can either a have your back in those situations like, hey, let’s not do that that’s kind of like weird that we’re commenting on her food, or on a separate side, you know if they are having that those conversations with those family members away, like, Hey, listen, you know, some people feel XYZ, when we make these comments, let’s maybe try not to do that going forward. I actually did that a couple of years ago, and it changed everything. I mean, I thought for some, for some reason, I thought, like, Oh, this is the situation, I have to sit in this now. And this will be every holiday for the rest of my life.
But just having like, again, people need reminders sometimes. So after a couple conversations, and just trying to advocate for myself in that way, just as we talked about advocating for yourself in the doctor’s office, it totally shifted, you know, the holidays and social events for me. And I know that some people aren’t in a situation where they have that type of support. And so they you know, there is different work to be done in that way. But if you are in a situation where that can be helpful, it is something that, you know, should be considered if, if you can do that,
and I want to add to your beautiful sentiment, which is when you say to the person who you love, thank you so much for caring for me, thank you so much for asking about my health. If I need any help, you’ll be the first person I’ll ask. I think that can totally transform a conversation, even if it’s really antagonistic, like, I think you should lose weight, I can’t believe you gain so much weight coming from parent or something. If you just say, You know what, thank you for looking out.
For me, I know that your goal in saying that is to help me, I don’t need any help right now. But when I do, you’re the first person I would ask, you’re the first person I would come to, that can make the person feel included. Generally, again, when people are making comments about our weight, or our bodies, I know it’s really hard to understand. But I do believe a lot of the time it comes from a place of protection and love and, and fear.
And they just don’t want the person to be sick or, again have stigma pressed upon them, even though they’re the ones pressing the stigma upon them in that moment. But I think it’s from a place of protection. So I think responding with that same level of protection and compassion can be really helpful. And again, like we said, it really, you know, we have to be real to Nicki, which is that, like, sometimes, there are situations where there’s compassion and love and reciprocation and communication.
And sometimes there’s hostile situations for people where there’s comments being thrown at them darted at them, and they were completely unprepared for them. And if they said something to that person, like, thank you so much, they might laugh back in their face, let’s be you know, let’s be real on this podcast like that is, that is a real scenario that people experience.
So I think in those situations, again, if you need to use a little more cheeky of a tactic, it’s completely fine. But the most important thing is not the response you have, but the responsibility you have to yourself to check in, just notice how you feel, check right back in with yourself, worry much less about what you need to say to them to get them off your back and more about what you need to do. And it’s completely fine.
How to deal with food during high-stress holidays and family situations
To literally exit the situation. I mean, it is absolutely okay to do that, you know, get up and walk away, if you have to do that. And then tap in with yourself. And then after the social situations. I mean, I do this really with all social situations. It’s just notice how you feel. Just notice how you feel take inventory. Hey, what happened there? Whoa, I feel weird. That was like a lot, right.
And I usually do this with my sister, you can do it with yourself or with you know, a loved one. And we recap a lot of these events and the experience that we have and how we felt after. And that really brings me back into regulation. I also take an Epsom salt bath after like every social situation because I’m buzzing like be always when I’m out and about and it just takes time for me to like come back down after that. And that’s just what’s important, again, to me, and I will think about how did these interactions lift me pull me down? How did how do I feel. And I think that’s so important in all of this.
Because, you know, again, the point of this episode is talking about how others influence our food behaviors if we do if we let other people’s opinions of what we should eat, influence what we eat, or we let other people’s opinions influence how we feel about ourselves, we’re not going to make those autonomous food decisions. So the important thing is separating what other people feel from what we feel what other people want from us from what we want for ourselves.
And that’s what we need to keep tapping into what do I want? What do I need? And what other people want need has to be put on the backburner for us. And I know also in these social situations again, if it feels more hostile and I need to apply more humor, I certainly can too. And I remember in my household at least that way, it was definitely a topic of conversation both again, my sister and I grew up in larger bodies.
My sister has been joking with me about how I don’t mention her enough in this podcast. She’s like the soul episode. So there you go, Jen. Yeah, you’re mentioned okay. But in those situations where weight was was often for lot of our family members would say, I think you’ve eaten enough and kind of those situations now as an adult now that I’m not occupying a larger body, the conversations have become less, which is a privilege that I now have that I don’t believe I gained through fair action.
I think it’s just unfair that people who are in larger bodies have to face that stigma and that people feel they have a right to comment on people’s bodies when they’re larger when people are sick, which I actually feel like you have less of a right because people are acutely aware of what’s going on in their own bodies more than you are. But I started to kind of say, as an adult, you know, I, this is the most boring conversation in the entire world when you know, family members of mine again, Jewish culture in New York, people are definitely talking about other people’s body sizes.
And what I do is absolutely never engage in those conversations. And in addition to that, I say, this is not only weird that you’re talking about who gained weight, but I think it’s creepy. Like, I think you should stop staring at people’s bodies and analyzing them. Like it’s really creepy and weird. So that’s my strategy for it. I don’t know, if you have other, you know, unique strategies. Again, we’re not trying to give the same old you know, it’s okay. Everything’s alright. But that’s, that’s one I used to.
Yeah, and I think it’s also we had been talking about chronic illness, but it also made me think about, especially if you have emotional eating behaviors or binge behaviors, and being in a situation like that, where you feel uncomfortable or attacked can be a trigger. So especially it’s and it’s some people feel this feeling of confusion because they’re being attacked for their weight.
And now the response is to eat more. And it can be confusing for people. And it’s one of those things where it’s, like you said, the first step is really tapping into how do I feel in that moment, when I’m experiencing those comments? How am I feeling? If it’s really difficult to do, like you said before, as well, you can step into the bathroom, like, take a break, take a step away, and just do a quick body scan of like, how is this impacting my body right now? Like, how is this impacting my feeling?
Because a lot of times the reaction can be immediately to just eat more than you’re comfortable with, or eat past fullness, just as a feeling of safety and just to feel more regulated with your nervous system. So even just taking that pause that step away of like, listen, I can’t control what this other person is saying to me. But I can control how I react to it. So let me see how my body’s feeling.
And then let’s take some next steps after that whatever I need personally, do I need to leave the situation? Do I need to, you know, do some breathing techniques right now before i go back in just really connecting with yourself in that way? And sometimes stepping away is the best way to do that.
Yeah, definitely. And what we’ve talked about on season one, episode three, the binge eating episode was that a lot of our food behaviors are driven by feelings of unsafety feelings of dysregulation. So it’s no wonder to me that when someone makes a comment about our bodies, and puts us in a, in a really scared state, that we end up eating in a way that helps us regulate, right.
And again, that’s kind of the same thing, in these holiday events in these social situations that we’re doing unconsciously, is we’re regulating because there’s a lot of different chemical reactions going on in our body. And our body’s trying to compensate to soothe those transitions and to sue that. So it’s really important to understand again, that eating around other people receiving comments about your body, your health, anything around other people can be dysregulated.
And the answer is not to be harsh on yourself is not to judge yourself for what you’re eating, but to understand what you need in that moment to actually regulate yourself. And that’s super, super important. It’s just okay to acknowledge that when someone throws a comment at you, it’s a big deal. And it can influence you. And it’s also okay to acknowledge that we can do things to mitigate that that’s, it’s we and we can certainly so when it comes to also eating in a social situation where we are not only being influenced by others words about our food behaviors, but just influenced to eat differently, because we’re eating around other people, right?
There’s a huge social aspect of foods. So if we’re kind of all sharing food, you might want to just jump in on what someone else is eating foods awesome. Like we want to eat all these different things. I think what can be really helpful for people in these situations because I know a lot of my clients are really scared of overeating. I’m going to put that in quotes and social situations on vacation and things like that. It’s funny because I often see clients eating even healthier, quote, unquote, on vacation, because they’re regulated. Their stress is so much more regulated.
So like yeah, I just ate when I was hungry and you know, felt better. That’s an anon stressful situation for some clients. But thinking about again when we are in these situations and we have a The abundance of food people are eating differently what they’re eating is influenced what we’re eating. I think one strategy I like and you can add on is just kind of making one beautiful plate of food. Having whatever you eat, be within your conscious awareness, aka, you see it, you eat it, versus you take one bite of food from here, one bite of food from here, one bite of food from here, what can feel dysregulated about dining out is also when we get a really strong feeling of fullness.
And we don’t understand why we feel so full and uncomfortable. Because we weren’t aware of what we were eating. Now, I’m not saying this in the classic like, eat mindfully way and like in that disordered kind of view of it, but consciously noticing how you feel while you’re eating and just literally being able to see, in totality, the food you’re consuming, I think can be really helpful for people not saying you can’t have the second plate or whatever your everyone’s goals are different.
But just instead of picking at random stuff, and then being shocked by what your body’s doing, being able to see anytime you eat, what you you know, what it is you’re eating is really important. And I think eating from a seated position comfortably is also important versus standing grabbing stuff and and kind of doing that anything where you can introduce that pause and introduce that moment of consciousness is so essential, because you won’t have to catch up from a regulation standpoint, because you’re gonna be like, what just hit me, that kind of feeling will be less.
And I think, especially if you’re thinking, what first comes to mind is like a cocktail party, when everyone’s walking around with appetizers, there’s looking at all the stuff. And what I hear from people a lot of the time too is saying, Oh, well, I don’t want to have too much that. So let me just have a bite. And then that happens repeatedly, you know, for let’s say, two to three hours before like actually sitting down to dinner.
And now you feel full and unsatisfied. So there’s this feeling of like, well, now the food that I that is actually coming the dinner plate that looks delicious. I can’t even enjoy it because I’m physically full. And so as you said, maybe there’s a way that we can pick and choose like take that second to figure out like survey all of our all the food and think like, what do I want right now? Is there something that that I really want on my plate.
So we have maybe it’s something where when you’re making that plate, you have some protein because you know it’s filling, and it’s satisfying, and then maybe throw some veggies on there, because you’re like, let me get some nutrients and some fiber. And then if there’s something that’s, you know, a food that you don’t really have too often, or it looks so good, you can throw that on the plate too.
That way, you’re still enjoying it, but you’re not at that place past fullness, where you can’t even actually enjoy the food. If we’re having something that we don’t have too often, we really want to enjoy it and have it be satisfying. So maybe making that play and actually sitting down with it. And really just figuring out what you actually want in that moment. By the end of that meal, you may feel physically comfortable and even more satisfied than grazing on a couple of things throughout the night.
Food and nutrition strategies to use in social situations (for chronic illness and weight loss)
Definitely add this the satisfaction factor, which we’ve heard of and intuitive eating before absolutely is so important. And I think that’s something I want to emphasize too. And you mentioned it with the coffee before too. You’re not getting off the couch for the hotel coffee, like you’re not really excited about that. Just because there’s an abundance of food around us doesn’t mean that we have to eat in a way that’s incongruent with our bodies. It’s also okay to do that and not judge ourselves.
That’s totally completely fine, too. But if you’re looking to, you know, feel well and you’re already not feeling well, again, it’s okay to be really selective and get the top choice. Like it’s okay to, you know, if someone again, if you’re at a hotel is a good example. But if you’re at a hotel, and they have, like pastries at the hotel, and it’s like a not like an impressive pastry selection, like definitely ones that were from a supermarket that they’re putting out.
If you want a pastry, go get yourself the best pastry, like you said on that trip to Italy, do you get the pastry, that’s where you get the pastry, that’s where you’re getting the beautiful coffee. That’s that’s a worthwhile kind of investment of your tastebuds investment of your energy and your attention. I think it’s also just, it’s okay for us to just eat the thing that we really, really want. And that might be not as available in other ways. I know freeness is a problem that all these events to like, because you know, holidays, vacations, everything like food being free, which is like what we see on cruise ships to where people are just, it’s like, we’re humans, we’re wired this way.
It’s like free we but we kind of paid for it again with the package. And we want to get the most out of it. What’s free and abundant for us does not always feel well inside of us. So just pick your top stuff, it’s not disordered. To have the best possible choice. You don’t have to eat everything to not have disordered eating. So it’s okay to just eat what like you really want and that’s going to influence your digestion in a really positive way too. And that’s gonna be a much more positive experience from a health perspective.
If we just choose the top stuff, it’s okay to not eat the random crap you can get from anywhere and just get the thing that looks the best and that you’re excited about and feels different. and are unique. And consider that and making choices in these situations to this is also bringing me to another idea too, which is, there are certain social situations around holidays with family where, again, culturally like we spoke about it is inappropriate to not consume the food on your plate it there’s much heavier and harder conversations around that too.
A strategy might be maybe bringing something that you cooked from scratch for yourself to let you know, you know that you can have that in addition to making a plate of whatever foods it is. So again, in a situation where you’re going to a steak house, and you’re not socially offending people, by ordering what you want, take advantage of those situations, to really be more selective, we have to understand there’s a degree to which we can have autonomy and different foods situations without offending people, because we do also exist in a society and exist around other people.
There’s also a difference between advocating for yourself, when it’s easy and advocating for yourself when it’s hard, right. So again, at a steakhouse you can just get, maybe you just want shrimp or something and sad, because that’s what you’re in the mood for, that’s going to be lighter for you to eat, or if you’re eating late or something like that. So we’re acknowledging there’s different levels and layers to it from a societal standpoint.
So I think I would in a situation where I know I’m not going to be socially ostracized, I’ll just do you know what I can in those situations. And in a situation where I know I’m going to, to appease, you know, cultural standard, or another kind of person who cooked for me or something where I need to do that, I’m still going to go with my non negotiables, like, I’m never going to eat gluten, I’m never going to whatever the things are, for myself, I’m always going to need, like we said some protein and carbs.
But I might have more flexibility in those situations. So when it is a situation where you’re, there’s no fear, and it feels really safe, take advantage of that and just be as highly selective as you can, in a situation where you there’s a risk of offending someone, I think it’s okay to surrender a little more than you would while still considering those non negotiables. For yourself of like, I just, I use a phrasing like this, I’m a person who doesn’t eat gluten. So it’s not an identity thing.
As much as that it’s just, it’s not a part of my wife, it’s just not what I do. So there’s not going to be a situation where I do that. That being said, I’m not really a person who consumes too much sugar, but it’s not a hard line. For me, I can have, you know, a gluten free dessert or something, especially if someone went out of their way to get it for me. And it’s not like that random supermarket pastry or whatever you know, it is if it’s a special thing again, and that’s a gift or something, we have to acknowledge that’s a piece of this.
So when you’re in a situation where you can take advantage of it, I would say go for it and be as highly selective as possible when you’re in a situation where you can’t still hold strong on your non negotiables. And then introduce little flexibility if it makes you feel more comfortable, which is it’s okay to do that, too.
Yeah, and I know I like what you said about kind of, you know, sometimes when we’re in a phase of when we’re dealing with a really intense set really intense symptoms of illness or disordered eating, or something’s going on, we have so many boundaries. And then as we kind of learn ourselves more, we kind of figure out what are the boundaries that are, like you said, hard non negotiables.
And then what are those other things I can be flexible on. And if I know I don’t eat gluten, but I also come from an Italian family. So sometimes, there’s not one dish there that doesn’t have gluten in it. So in those situations, it can be really nice to just make something bring it with you make it for everyone else, they can try it. In almost every one of those situations, I bring something.
And again, it was like probably just a good recipe. Not that I made but that I got online, you know, not I want it to my own horn, because in this situation, I definitely didn’t make it myself. And you bring it and people are like, Oh my God who made this, this is so good. And like, and I’m like, yeah, it’s gluten free. Like this is going phrase, it’s delicious. And so it’s kind of also just making sure that you have something to eat, but you’re also kind of sharing this new experience with other people. And it can be kind of also you know, change it up a little bit too if you know that there’s not going to be anything within the boundary that you have. I went to
a Yom Kippur war break the fast at my in laws house, and they have like a huge, amazing break the fast and I brought a friend by the way bakery, they had like a lemon Poppy cake. And it was a smashing head. And I only revealed to everyone that it was gluten free at the end of it. I mean, gluten free can taste as good because it can put as much sugar in it as anything else. So there’s no there’s no reason it should taste different. Yeah, exactly.
But that’s certainly a way and then people are like shocked and excited to share that experience with you too. So you’re flipping a potentially contentious or scary experience and to something that can be positive and sharing and introducing more community and more conversation. But it doesn’t have to be the conversation doesn’t have to be about you being gluten free. bring the conversation back to the yummy food. That’s what the conversation should be about. I love that Nikki.
So let’s kind of summarize the different strategies we have and have given people because we went through a lot of different strategies. I think the first thing that’s so important is know what your things are, know what your non negotiables are in any social situation and on vacation anything Unlike that to prepare yourself and then I guess the next step would be prepare yourself. In those situations, the strategies you can use are my silly strategies, we’ll call them the mirroring or the confusion mirroring being asked the same question to someone, if they ask you a ridiculous offensive question, ask the same question right back to them with the same expression they gave it to you.
Or my confusion is just What? What? Why are you asking that? What? Plus, you can play with that a little bit. If you’re being more serious and not as silly, you can also say to the person, thank you so much for thinking of me. Thank you so much for trying to protect me, I’m actually okay, right now, I’m getting all the help that I need. If I ever need more help, you’re the first person I would ask.
And I love that you brought that into it, Nikki, that’s really important. Again, with travel, listening to and tapping in with yourself before the trip during the trip after the trip. Same thing with a holiday, listening to yourself. And then if you’re kind of battling those really tough conversations in criticize criticisms and comments about your body, take that minute to yourself, walk into the bathroom feel into it, the whole kind of biggest strategy we have is just constantly be checking in with yourself what you need, what you’re feeling what you want.
That’s all that matters when it comes to making food decisions. The healthiest people in the world, I always say this are the most selfish people in the world. Like the people can focus on themselves and do things based on what they need, not what anyone else wants or needs from them. Did I miss anything or anything you want to add Nikki?
No, I just also want to add that it’s really interesting because even just talking about this with clients, like when you get to a place where you can do this with food, or whatever your food needs are, it actually kind of becomes a skill that you’ve learned and can translate into other areas of your life. Like if you’re doing this in order to avoid people pleasing. You start to develop a skill that all of a sudden you’re at work, and you’re like, actually, I don’t have time in my day to get that thing done. I can do it tomorrow, though, like it. And all of a sudden, now you have these skills. And sometimes it can food can be I mean, depending on it can be an easier place to start, it could be a harder place to start. But it is a skill that translates into other areas of your life. I
think that’s so beautifully stated and so true. Because if you’re learning to make boundaries, understand what you need and advocate for yourself, it will trickle into other areas of life, so much so that I’ve had clients who felt very threatened and scared to start that kind of this component of their journey, because they were nervous that it would trickle so much into other areas of their life, that relationships would have to change and that things would have to change.
So it is powerful. It’s a powerful starting place for learning about ourselves and listening to ourselves and getting whatever we need for ourselves. So thank you, Nikki, for your amazing contributions today. We’ll see you and you know, in the back end of every single episode or many other episodes of season we have a I don’t even know the word a beyond killer season coming for you guys.
The guests are just so outstanding the topics and we learned so much from doing season one that we’re just pulling it all together for season two, and we cannot wait for you to listen so keep listening and thank you so so much for your time today and for future episodes. Yeah, we can’t wait to see you there.
I’m so excited. Thank you again for having me as always and thank you all for listening. It’s gonna be a killer season
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