Emotional Eating in Athletes: Revolutionary You with Dr. Susan Kleiner, a follow up

One of the very cool things about writing this blog has been that it gives me a chance to connect with some of the folks who produce the content that I devour! Well, lucky me, one of those people is Jason Leenaarts at Revolutionary You, and he often is kind enough to share these posts with the folks he interviews.

Last week, I shared this episode of Revolutionary You, with one of Jason’s excellent conversations with Dr. Susan Kleiner. The next two episodes are equally good and important, and I have a lot to say about them, but not this moment. For now, I want to share Dr. Kleiner’s generous response to the question I posed in that last post: if we recognize that food meets other needs besides being nutrients, how do we approach changing eating behaviors for our goals in a way that recognizes those needs still need to be met? Here is her response:

“Jason, This is a great question. My approach is always from a positive place, and begins with focusing on all the foods we need to eat. That gives a client a lot of good material to process, negotiate and act upon throughout the day. Biochemically they are fueling their body and feeding their brain so well that the historical unmet nutritional needs that may partly lead to cravings are reduced. And they are busy with exercise as well, blending their energy and nutrition to enhance emotional and physical well being. There’s then, practically speaking, less time and opportunity to eat those highly palatable foods that one might crave. And of course, we talk about all this. Perhaps most importantly, we discuss their favorite comfort foods, or stress foods, or celebration foods, etc. None of these need to disappear. Foods that are highly desired are planned into their days just like all other foods. No negative messages. We plan for when they eat something unplanned, discuss being mindful about it and making the decision to eat it with intention. Savor it! And then get back to your plan. No reason to look back unless you feel that there is some lesson that you’d like to take away, but only one look back and no more.”

A few things I notice about her response: She emphasizes focusing upon what someone is adding in rather than taking away. She talks about planning for highly desirable foods into a dietary plan rather than trying to avoid them entirely, and when eating goes unplanned, she normalizes it and encourages the athlete to be mindful and intentional. Not only are these recommendations kind and compassionate, they are scrupulously evidence-based from everything I’ve heard and read elsewhere. There’s so much power in shifting our mindsets away from shame and towards mindful self-compassion, and it’s one of the areas I think diet culture is so deeply wrong about. We don’t need to punish ourselves–it isn’t effective or necessary. I love her comment at the end that we don’t even need to “look back unless you feel that there is some lesson that we’d like to take away, but only one look back and no more.” It’s a great reminder for those of us who are heading into the week of Christmas and increased holiday eating. Make a plan, include our favorite foods in that plan, and if we deviate from that plan, enjoy it and move on!

Do you have thoughts on this post? I’d love to hear them! Please leave a comment below or find and follow Progressive Strength on Facebook and join the conversation over there!

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