I Don’t Know What to Eat!


This week I had a potential new client ask me ‘As a mid-40 year old woman, I just don’t know what to eat?!?’ My response to her was ‘You do. You know more than you are giving yourself credit for and this is the work we will do together.’ I went on to say to her that I don’t give diet plans (she asked!). They don’t work. I could hand her a meal plan with a set number of calories to follow for two or three weeks. She would end up maybe coming back to see me once, hating her body even more, and feeling even more hopeless in her relationship to food and her body.

Last year, I wrote a very personal piece for Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Aside from the challenges of distorted social media, friends, or family obsessing over their looks or food ALL THE TIME, a person must also overcome their own limiting core beliefs in terms of size, weight, and nutrition.

Our core beliefs are driven into us starting in utero. So when I work with someone in their mid-50s (or even 20s and younger) we try to reframe and undo years, and years of FEAR (False Experiences Appearing Real) around food or body and completely hijacked thoughts, feelings, and actions. This takes work.

I have dug deep to determine what normal eating is for me, both personally and as a clinician. I’ve always used Ellyn Satter’s definition, but after many years (24!) in the field, this is my own….

  • Normal eating is relearning your own way and changing your thoughts, feelings, and actions around food and your body.
  • Normal eating is leaving the body hate behind.
  • Normal eating is not letting the scale mandate your feelings for the day.
  • Normal eating knows bodies change and all bodies are beautiful.
  • Normal eating is baking and eating cookies at 10 PM with a friend, or pasta or a leftover cheeseburger and fries for breakfast.
  • Normal eating is trying a food trend but knowing there are no ‘perfect’ foods.
  • Normal eating is relating food to your body in a nourishing way as fuel, strength, wisdom, and some extra icing just for fun.
  • Normal eating is maybe trying vegetarianism for a few years but then perhaps deciding animal protein really works well for you, your body, and your movement goals.
  • Normal eating is not what or how much others eat, it’s what YOUR body needs in that moment, that meal, that day.
  • Normal eating is knowing our appetites change meal to meal, day to day, and honoring this process.
  • Normal eating is keeping these words out of thoughts and conversations about food and your body: good, bad, sorry, should, can’t, and healthy (or unhealthy, and certainly ‘clean’!).
  • Normal eating is respect, inclusion, peace, knowledge, and confidence around food and your body (not the size you were at age….??!)

My answer to the comment, ‘I don’t know what to eat!’ besides, ‘Yes, you do!’ is my own definition above. My esteemed colleague, Karen Chinca, included the definition above in her most recent blog post titled, A Journey Into Mindful Eating. You can read it here.

For more events on Eating Disorders Awareness week look to these websites:

Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association

National Eating Disorders Association

Binge Eating Disorder Association

The International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals

Robyn’s Monthly Morsel

MorselAs a nurse practitioner in private practice (and a registered dietitian – I do both), I have an MD who is my ‘collaborating’ go to. John Sharp, MD and I have been working this way together for over two years. John’s recent TEDx talk is amazing and related to his second book, released just a few weeks ago called The Insight Cure: Change Your Story, Transform Your Life.

John and I communicate frequently and I was able to ask him a few questions related to his new book.

Your last book, The Emotional Calendar: Understanding Seasonal Influences and Milestones to Become Happier, More Fulfilled, and in Control of Your Life seems very different from your new book, The Insight Cure: Change Your Story, Transform Your Life. What brought you to creating a steps book with the latter and what’s similar about the books?

What’s similar is that they both stem from my experience with patients and my interest in what I’m seeing and what I’m able to do about it. I always use this quote from Yogi Berra ‘If I hadn’t had seen it I wouldn’t have believed it.’ Both books came out of clinical work. I wanted to explain to myself what I was seeing and how I was able to help people get better with stories to engage people’s curiosity and interest. With the latter book I wanted to go deeper and work on what is the real problem – which is working on the more central problem and giving people the power to change.

Your recent TEDx talk was amazing and appeared to be a short version of your new book. Is part of the new book based then on your own journey? How long did it take you to get to this point and in disclosure of your own journey?

In our profession there is a lot of teaching and in general less is more. When I first had a therapist I wanted to know that I could relate to him – his past experience and little things that gave me some sense of a person. I’m open to some sharing in my work, but I wouldn’t share my TEDx story with a patient – it’s a good example of too much. TEDx experts said I had to make it personal but I felt, I’m a psychiatrist and I cannot really pull this all out, but it was a central thing that was worth sharing. After friends, school, and career I still felt inadequacy and I am happy to have had the TEDx coaches to reveal this in a way that was clear. The most interesting part is that the effort it took to condense the 200 page book into a captivating, eight minute TEDx talk was harder and longer than writing the book! It was amazing to do the work to craft a tight story.

Is there a certain type of person that you would recommend read your latest book (besides everyone)?

My new book is geared toward the general public who feels that something is not matching up. Maybe they are looking to their insides instead of their outsides. It is for anyone with curiosity about themselves, or senses that something does not exactly line up. It’s not that it’s easy to do the work but it’s appealing to do the work and edit one’s story to make it healthy. It’s for those looking to gain a life beyond what they thought was possible.

In light of the significance of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I strongly recommend John’s book. To anyone struggling in this way, or to those who want to do the work to have the best life possible. You can find his first book here and his most recent book here.