Archive of ‘Health’ category

Intuitive Eating: An Anti-Diet Approach for Health

The concept of “Intuitive Eating” was coined in 1995 by Evelyn Tribole, a registered dietitian, and Elyse Resch, a nutrition therapist in their book by the same name. The concept: listen to your body for cues on what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. While the concept is simple, it can be difficult to put into practice because we have so much telling us NOT to listen to our bodies. Intuitive eating may not be for everyone, but it can be incredibly liberating for those of us who have listened to years (if not decades) of gurus or magazines or blogs (or even medical doctors) on the “correct” ways to eat. 

There have been over 100 studies on Intuitive Eating that show health benefits including “increased well-being, lower risk of eating disorders” as well as increased self-esteem and body image.  Practicing intuitive eating can help you develop a healthy relationship with food, mind, and your body.

Tribole and Resch lay out 10 principles of Intuitive Eating:

1. Reject the Diet Mentality

Diet culture is rampant in our society. Its the voice in our heads (and in the media) that says we should be a certain body shape, and that if you’re not that shape then you have personally failed (ie. lack of willpower). The first step of intuitive eating requires us to fight back against that voice in our head that thinks “maybe this next diet will work.”

2. Honor Your Hunger

You need calories (energy) to function. Our bodies are incredible at letting us know when we’re hungry. We’ve just been taught to ignore our hunger cues for one reason or another (eg. you shouldn’t have time for lunch if you’re a “hard worker;” or you must eat 3 meals a day, or you shouldn’t eat after 6:00pm, etc.). Ignoring your hunger signals often leads to overeating.

3. Make Peace with Food

Tribole and Resch request that you “give yourself unconditional permission to eat.” Following the advice of your “shoulds” can lead to cravings. This step is all about eating those foods you’ve been avoiding or afraid of, and giving yourself permission to eat as much as your body asks you to. Once you’ve given yourself permission to eat those foods, often you find they’re not as enticing as your mind would have you believe (because they’re not taboo). And for the foods that you find you absolutely love, it can be freeing to be allowed to indulge and experience the joy of eating without guilt. 

4. Challenge the Food Police

The food police are the voices in your head (and in society) that implement shame and guilt to govern your eating habits. They are the ideas that suggest you’re “good” or “bad” for eating certain foods or even that certain foods are themselves inherently “good” or “bad.” Sometimes you just don’t have any interest in eating a salad, and what you need right now is a scoop of ice cream. Other times the reverse is true. Listening to your body can help you determine what you need to eat. 

5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

Remember what it felt like to feel pleasure when you eat food? Think about how much you used to enjoy that chocolate pudding you ate in 1st grade during snack time. That’s the kind of pleasure we’re talking about! One of my favorite studies that Tribole and Resch mention in their book show that test subjects ate LESS of a milkshake when it was described as “rich” and “indulgent,” AND they found it more satisfying. This, in contrast to the test subjects who were given the same milkshake that was described as low-calorie. 

6. Feel Your Fullness

Mindfulness features heavily in this step. If you can slow down and eat food without distractions (eg. keep your phone in your pocket, don’t set your food up in front of the TV, etc.) you’re more likely to be attuned when your body says it’s satisfied. This is one of the harder steps for me, and so I take it as a win whenever I do this, rather than expecting perfection every time I eat.

7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

Emotional eating is a fact of life in almost every culture. In the US, we celebrate birthdays with cake, we grieve heartbreak with icecream, not to mention all the holiday eating. This step reminds us not that we shouldn’t eat with our emotions, but that eating can be one of several ways we cope with our emotions. It can become unhealthy if we consistently rely on food to be our only coping mechanism, but this step helps us develop other ways to manage our emotions. 

8. Respect Your Body

You’re going to live in your body for the rest of your life. It might be time to start appreciating all the amazing things it does, rather than criticizing it for all of its perceived “shortcomings.” You deserve to love and be loved NO MATTER what your body looks like. 

9. Movement—Feel the Difference

Sometimes even just replacing the word “exercise” with “movement” can change your relationship to your body. You don’t have to sweat away in a gym to be happy. The goal here is to simply enjoy how your body feels, and movement can be an incredible way to access that. Maybe you love how your body feels after a sweaty workout, but also maybe what works for you is a leisurely stroll around your neighborhood, playing frisbee, or dancing in your kitchen.

10. Honor Your Health—Gentle Nutrition

Lastly (and they put this last for a reason!), paying attention to nutrition can help you feel good after meals. This can help you determine what kind of meal you want for the kind of day you’re expecting. For example, you may need extra carbs if you’re going to be active during the day, or extra protein to recover after a workout. There needs to be a balance between taste and health. 

Walk and Talk Therapy: Is it Right for Me?

Walk and Talk Therapy is an approach to traditional talk therapy where the therapist and client take their session outdoors and walk together while discussing the client’s issues. This type of therapy is becoming increasingly popular and provides similar benefits to those found in mindfulness, physical activity, ecotherapy, and more traditional psychotherapy.  

Benefits of Walk and Talk Therapy:

Some of the benefits include:

  • Reduced Stress and Anxiety: Walking is a proven stress reliever and can help reduce feelings of anxiety. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters that help to alleviate stress and anxiety. When you combine walking with talking about your feelings, you get a powerful combination that can significantly reduce your stress and anxiety levels.
  • Moving Forward: Taking a walk with your therapist can help shift the focus towards moving forward; this added movement and momentum can help in getting unstuck. Walking can also provide a natural rhythm to the conversation, making it easier to stay on topic and keep the conversation flowing.
  • Bilateral Stimulation: Bilateral stimulation is any method of stimulating the body and brain in a rhythmic right-left pattern. It is often used in therapeutic settings (such as in EMDR therapy) to help reduce the symptoms of trauma, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Bilateral stimulation can help regulate the brain’s response to stress and trauma, promote a sense of relaxation and well-being, and allow for the processing of emotions and memories previously stuck in the nervous system. Walking is a simple form of bilateral stimulation, stimulating and balancing the right and left brain. (EMDR founder Francine Shapiro was taking a walk in the park when she first realized the potential benefits bilateral stimulation could have on the nervous system.)
  • Supplemental Health Benefits: Walking is a low-impact exercise that is beneficial for both physical and mental health. When you participate in Walk and Talk Therapy, you get the added benefit of exercising while working on your mental health.
  • Healing through Nature: Spending time in nature is linked with many physical and mental health benefits, including decreased depression, decreased stress and anxiety, improved ADHD symptoms, increased focus, improved sleep, and improved overall well-being. (For more research, see’s Benefits of Nature page.)

Risks of Walk and Talk Therapy

Like any form of therapy, Walk and Talk Therapy carries some risks. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Safety Concerns: Being outdoors has inherent safety risks, such as from a sunburn, bug bites, or other injury. If you’re walking in a park or other public space, be aware of potential hazards such as uneven terrain, traffic, or other people.
  • Weather Conditions: Walk and Talk Therapy sessions are subject to the weather. If it is too hot, too cold, or too wet, it may be uncomfortable or even unsafe to continue the session. Consider having a backup plan (such as telehealth) and be ready to communicate with your therapist concerning any last minute changes.
  • Distractions: Walking in a public space can be distracting, with other people, animals, or vehicles around. These distractions can make it difficult to focus on the therapy session and may reduce its effectiveness.
  • Confidentiality Concerns: Walking in a public space may make it more difficult to maintain confidentiality. While therapists will continue to take measures to protect their clients’ privacy, it’s important to be aware that you might encounter someone you know on the trail, or a stranger could overhear part of your conversation.

Is Walk and Talk Therapy the right form of therapy for me?

Here are some reasons why Walk and Talk Therapy might be right for you:

  • You enjoy being outdoors and find it safe, calming, and relaxing.
  • You’re tired of traditional talk therapy sessions that take place in an office or clinic, and want to try something different.
  • You’re feeling stuck and are curious to try a more active and dynamic approach, as compared to more traditional talk therapy sessions.
  • You need a change in routine. You’re hoping to get in more steps, spend more time in nature, and reap the benefits of regular exercise and time spent outdoors.

As with any form of therapy, Walk and Talk Therapy has its own unique risks and benefits. With proper planning and precautions, many of these risks can be minimized. If you’re curious to learn more, talk to a licensed therapist or counselor to discuss whether Walk and Talk Therapy is a good fit for your specific needs and circumstances, and to address any concerns you may have.

Written By: Jim Rowell, LCSW
Currently offering Walk and Talk Therapy in Northwest Hills, Westlake, and East Austin.

4 Mindfulness Practices for Your Family

Mindfulness may be a term you have never heard or hear all the time. Regardless of how familiar it may be, it is often hard to define. When I introduce mindfulness into therapeutic work, I use Jon Kabat-Zinn’s simple definition: Paying attention, on purpose, without judgement. This perspective allows for full appreciation and engagement with the present. 

Imagine the benefits of being just a bit more present-focused and mindful in our lives, work, school, and especially in relationships with ourselves and others. I have included a few mindfulness practices and resources at the conclusion for families with people of any age to foster awareness, acceptance, and connection.  Breathwork

1 – Breathwork

Imagine paying attention, on purpose, without judgement to your breath. By being mindful of our breath, we can begin to realize the power that it has. The breath is the most effective way for us to affect our nervous system. Each inhale engages the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) and each exhale engages the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Bringing awareness to our breath can have a direct effect on our entire nervous system in an effort to bring it into balance when feeling dysregulated. We often encourage children or adults to “take a deep breath” in overwhelming situations without being mindful of what that looks and feels like. It takes practice and practicing as a family can further solidify its effectiveness. 

Belly breathing – Place your hands or a stuffed animal on the belly while lying down. Practice breathing into your hands or making the stuffed animal move up and down. In this way you are taking a true deep breath by expanding the lungs completely so that the diaphragm pushes the belly to move. 

Ratio breath – Ratio breath acknowledges the different parts of our nervous system that an inhale and exhale engage. By working to extend the exhale to be longer than the inhale, we engage our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Begin by breathing in for 4 seconds and breathing out for 6 seconds. Adjust this ratio as needed to practice extending the exhale.

2 – Yoga/Mindful Movement 

Imagine paying attention, on purpose, and without judgement to your body and what it may be trying to tell you. Research shows the tremendous benefits yoga has on the mind, body, and connection between the two (The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk). Whether yoga is familiar or new to your family, it is accessible to everyone. I have included free resources to reference at the conclusion, but also feel free to define what yoga or mindful movement looks like for your family. My favorite option is to let the child(ren) lead the class and choose what postures feel most comfortable, challenging, and relaxing.

3 – Guided Imagery/Meditation

Imagine paying attention, on purpose, and without judgement to our thoughts and feelings. Guided imagery and meditation are grounding practices that encourage mindfulness, stillness, and relaxation. This can become a part of your morning or night routine by listening to or creating moments of stillness as a family. 

Guided imagery can be used in combination with a total body scan or progressive muscle relaxation by imagining a warm light traveling throughout the body, recognizing, and releasing any physical tension along the way. Another accessible option for all ages is a counting meditation. Start by simply counting your breath and each time a thought or feeling comes up, pause to notice and then start over counting from 1. See if you can count 10 or 20 breaths uninterrupted. Finally, the following is a short grounding meditation focusing on the 5 senses to bring our awareness to the present moment. 

Identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste or say aloud 1 positive self-statement. 

4 – Nature Walks 

Nature is therapeutic as it is. Taking a walk outside and paying attention, on purpose, without judgement to what nature has to offer can benefit all the parts of ourselves and our ability to connect with others. While enjoying a nature walk with your family, I encourage mindful curiosity which could look something like the following: 

  • Having a conversation about what parts of nature stand out on the walk for each person and why. 
  • Creating a family sculpture with natural objects found in your yard, a walk through the neighborhood, or a local park. 

Online Resources

written by Emily Koenig, LMFT-Associate, Supervised by Kirby Schroeder, LPC-S, LMFT-S

Meet Emily!

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