Control VS Trust: How to Sniff Out the Counterfeits

It has been so interesting, pulling together the podcast series on Intuitive Eating, Health, Weight, & Body Image for KIDS! (Episode 2 is live today, btw:)

When working with adults I use the Intuitive Eating Model, as designed and research validated by Tribole & Resch. For children, I use Ellyn Satter's Feeding Competency Model, designed and research validated by Ellyn Satter and research partners.

The models are incredibly similar - and it is SO COOL for a dork like me to re-read Ellyn's work and find the results that Resch, Tribole, Bacon, Aphramor, Mann, and many more researchers have also found - at different times, in different places, with respect to different populations. These are women who don't just research and release soundbites to the media, they APPLY the information over decades with real, live humans, living real, human lives - with all of the beauty and complexity of this LIFE experience.....and though their models differ slightly (I'll explain in a sec), the foundation is the same.

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Both models are built upon a foundation of TRUST:
Our bodies can be trusted to want to eat, to know how much food we need, to desire a variety of nutrients, to grow in a way that is correct for our genetic blueprint, to be hungry and full at the right times and to adjust for any mistakes we make in listening to our body along the way.

Current nutritional models, focused on managing weight and/or meticulously managing "health" as defined by the individual serving up his/her/their ideas about health are founded on messages of CONTROL:
We must learn what foods are "right", feed them to ourselves in specific ways, at specific times. We must manage our appetite, limit our sugar (dairy, gluten, meat, x, y, z, etc), moderate intakes, manage blood sugar, stop eating when we are "X"% full, and not eat after certain times. These models also tell us that "emotional eating" is wrong, food is fuel, and if - for whatever reason - we aren't wanting fuel foods, we are being emotional. It distorts many normal, regular eating behaviours and body types, arbitrarily defines certain things as healthy or not. It changes decade after decade. It changes from practitioner to practitioner. The rules change too.

Intuitive Eating Model and The esFeeding Competency Model recommend two simple things: a combination of PERMISSION and DISCIPLINE (founded on trust).
Permission to eat all foods and follow messages of hunger, full, and satisfaction.
to drown out external noise, while staying in touch with our bodies and inner biological messaging. With the esFeeding Model I use for children, the one big difference is that the parents assist with the discipline in the form of regular, structured, meals and snacks when children are too young to do it for themselves. Kids are already deeply in tune with inner messaging. All we need to do is protect it!

A lot of the work in teaching either model is helping women (and men and families:) understand how to operate from a place of TRUST. Control messaging has become so normal, it can be hard to spot it and easy to get sucked back in.

On top of that - as more and more people learn how counterproductive food restriction is and as they recognize that those trying to manage their weight via restriction and deprivation are struggling - the landscape is shifting...

Consumers are demanding more and more non-diet, non-weight-specific approaches.
Professionals are working to offer those services.
Companies are changing their marketing and advertising.

While many are doing amazing work - there are also far too many instances of professionals jumping into this work before they fully "get it" themselves and companies shifting their adverts but not their attitudes. We, as a community, NEED to be able to discern between TRUST and CONTROL messaging so we can spot the COUNTERFEITS.

{Note: I respect those trying to do good work in the world, I certainly appreciate the guts it takes to put yourself out there, and I think most people are genuinely motivated to share the non-diet, intuitive eating, health at every size message for the right reasons....not including major corporations who are clearly doing market research, learning new buzzwords, and rebranding their diet & weight-loss companies as "non-diet", healthy lifestyle approaches - I think they know exactly what they are doing! That said, I've worked with far too many women who have invested in Intuitive Eating and Emotional Eating Coaches, only to find themselves in the exact same position at the end of their work - stuck struggling with food. So, we need to talk about this.}

Control Message - came up in a recent 1:1
"I tried to only eat 2 pieces of pizza and then see how I felt" (It's a control message because the individual is trying to decide how much is "right" and manage her appetite. Within this context, anything past the arbitrarily decided two pieces was "more than needed").
We talked about shifting to THIS trust message next time:
I'm going to enjoy eating this pizza until I feel satisfied.

Another control message I heard recently:
"If you are hungry, consider eating an apple. If you aren't hungry for an apple, you aren't really hungry".
Trust message would be:
When you feel hungry, considering what you are hungry for and honour that.

Control Message:
Sugar is a sometimes food.
Trust message:
Sugar is a play food. Play foods are incredibly important to overall nutrition. You will manage sugar naturally by staying in touch with your body and savouring the food you eat.

Control Message:
Serve vegetables first, all other foods after.
Trust Message:
Serve all foods at once, family style. Your body will need different things on different days and when foods are considered equally important and of value - that is, when we are emotionally neutral with regards to food choices - we are able to easily attend to our changing needs.

Control Message:
Every time you eat a meal, sit down and chew slowly.
Trust Message:
Make eating important by taking the time to enjoy meals.

It can be subtle, huh? Food restriction and control is so deeply embedded in our thinking that even professionals, working in this field, often unconsciously put a controlling spin on their food and health messages.

"Since I couldn't possible list all the counterfeit non-dieting messages, here is a litmus test: If the message or tactic encourages you to eat less, avoid foods you like, or to lose weight, it is negative and controlling and will undermine your eating competence" (Satter).

Trust AND Control messages cannot exist together - Ellyn Satter calls this "paradigm straddling" . With even a little bit of control tainting the message - individuals get confused and then fall back into old, comfortable, controlling ways......and they (WE) stay stuck, struggling with food.