If you haven’t read What Is Fear-Free Eating then I recommend you start here: What Is Fear-Free Eating?
When I’m not creating recipes, writing books, and coaching clients, I teach yoga and run retreats.
And I’ve just got back from hosting Eat. Play. Move. 2018. – my Spanish yoga retreat. I had so much fun with so many beautiful yogis and the food was out of this world. And not just the food, the entire eating experience was amazing. New foods. New flavours. New friends.
Three times a day one of the chefs would hit the gong in the dining room to let everyone know food was served. We would then help ourselves to a buffet of beautifully cooked vegetarian food, most of which was grown at the retreat centre itself as part of the permaculture projects going on there. We’d then gather around big tables of six to ten people and spend a good 30-60 minutes talking and laughing and connecting over this amazing food. If you were still hungry after your first plate, you could go back for seconds (or even thirds!) and if you were satisfied even though you had food left on your plate, then you could happily leave whatever was left because you knew there would be another opportunity to eat in a few hours. And if you were hungry between meals, there were plenty of snacks available too!
Whilst I was there, I realised that this was the perfect opportunity to practice Fear-Free Eating – eating intuitively in a way that respects your body, honours your hunger, and expands your life rather than restricts it.
Over the course of the retreat, a few people looked at what I was eating and made comments like, “I can’t believe how much you eat” and “I don’t know where you put it all” which made me smile because, during my teenage years with anorexia, I took pride in how little I could survive on. Now, I take pride in how well I can nourish myself and it is incredibly important for me to be a role model to the people that I work with – to show them that I eat without restriction and in a way that makes me feel amazing.
I tried pretty much everything that was cooked up at the retreat, I left food on my plate if I was full, I went back for more if I was still hungry, I ate bread with gluten and bread without gluten, I had a second serving of the brownie even though I was full because it tasted so good, I stayed away from the goat’s yogurt because it didn’t agree with me, I drizzled olive oil over my salad because it was freshly pressed and tasted delicious… By eating without restriction, honouring my appetite, and really enjoying my food, I gave everyone else on the retreat permission to the same.
Because, before we went, some of my yogis were worried about the food (research shows that yoga practitioners have a very high rate of Orthorexia). A few people had emailed me before we left for the retreat to say they were worried they would gain weight eating three meals a day, or they were anxious about not being able to track calories, or they were concerned they would be eating too many carbs because it was a vegetarian diet.
And this highlights one of the many problems that comes with dieting. It might make you feel safe while you are living your day-to-day life and can eat the same foods and control how much you eat by weighing them or eating a set portion size, but the moment you step outside of your routine and do the things that make you feel fully awake and fully alive, anxiety creeps in because you have no idea how to eat without measuring and weighing and following food rules and meal plans. And this anxiety detracts from the beauty of the whole experience. Dieting relies on external controls and rules rather than internal cues which disconnects you from your body and destroys your trust in it. So, when those external measures and control mechanisms are not available, you end up feeling lost, anxious, and confused.
This is why Fear-Free Eating is so important. This is why taking the time to connect with your body instead of trying to control your appetite is so important. So that when you go somewhere exciting, like a yoga retreat, or a holiday, or even a day out or around to a friend’s house for dinner, food anxiety doesn’t ruin the whole experience. And instead you feel the freedom, connection, peace, excitement and joy that comes with getting outside of your comfort zone and exploring the widths and depths of life.
What I Eat In a Day
Below is the kind of things I enjoyed while at Eat. Play. Move. 2018:
- Fruit salad
- A couple of slices of toast spread with ghee and topped with the creamiest scrambled eggs have ever eaten and a sprinkle of seeds
- A slice of banana bread or a little banana muffin
- Jacket potato with homemade baked beans and grated goat’s cheese, and a mixed salad with olive oil
- Lentil soup with cheese spelt scones, sliced goat’s cheese, and garlicky pesto toast
- Quinoa nut roast with hummus, sweet potato wedges, and a couple of different salads
- Black bean chilli with rice, grated goat’s cheese, tortilla chips, a wrap, and a mixed side salad
- Sesame coated tofu with kale in a peanut and chilli sauce, whole roasted carrots and roasted new potatoes
- Spanish chickpeas, aubergine stew, rice and a selection of vegetables
- Raw chocolate
- Almond milk magnums (you can’t get these in the UK but I hope they’ll be available soon as these are delicious!)
And what I really love is that everybody ate a little differently. The above is just what worked for me. And, even though I have been eating intuitively for a couple of years now, I have brought elements of what I learnt about what works for me on the retreat into my everyday eating back home. I am eating a bigger breakfast (because I felt so good having a three course breakfast on retreat!), I am exploring cooking with lots of different beans (because I was stuck in a bit of a chickpea rut!), and I am currently testing out a Quinoa and Hazelnut Roast that will be on the blog soon!
What I really want to get across in this article is that Fear-Free Eating and intuitive eating aren’t some kind of idealistic ways of eating that aren’t practical in everyday life. Nor, when you let go keeping a tight harness on your appetite, will you binge on everything in sight and gain a tonne of weight (this is a common fear for a lot of people).
I want you to see that Fear-Free Eating will give you freedom.
And it will take practice and patience to trust your appetite again, especially if you have been ignoring it for years. But it is worth it. My eating experience at Eat. Play. Move. 2018. really highlighted that for me. Giving up dieting is worth it. Unlearning all the food rules is worth it. Learning to nourish yourself is worth it. Taking the time to understand your body is worth it. Letting go of the need to control your weight is worth it. Allowing yourself to enjoy food is worth it. Freedom is worth it.
If you want to get started in your Fear-Free Eating journey, then the articles below are a place to start:
- What is Fear-Free Eating?
- Non-Diet Eating Strategies
- Eating Essentialism
- Chocolate Ricotta Pancakes (because these are just delicious!)