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Feed Yourself Like You’d Feed a Loved One: Part 3 of the Happiness Lab Podcast Series

TW: This podcast mentions dieting, binging, eating disorders, disordered eating behaviours, and bullying. If these topics are triggering to you, please use caution when reading this blog post and/or listening to the podcast. 

Feed Yourself Like You’d Feed a Loved One is the third installment of the Happiness Lab’s podcast series, Smarter Strategies for Achieving your New Years Goals. This episode, host Dr. Laurie Santos welcomed Andrea Wachter, a psychotherapist who specializes in disordered eating and diet culture. Together, they challenged one of the most common New Year’s resolutions: to lose weight. Instead, they promoted using a more self-compassionate approach, as it is the key to becoming happier with our bodies and healthier in what we feed ourselves.  

Throughout the podcast, Andrea reflected on her own lived experience with eating disorders and shared that she was able to get off what she called “the diet riot rollercoaster” by getting sufficient support that took her deeper than her body size. Through this kind of support, she was able to: 

  • Learn what she was eating over, not just what she was eating  
  • Stop restricting herself and start having a new relationship with food
  • Learn how to approach food according to how it would make her feel, rather than how it would make her look
  • And ultimately, let go of her obsession to change her body, learn how to treat her body respectfully, and make peace with whatever that body was going to be as a result 

What I learned: 

Even though the diet industry is a hugely successful, multibillion-dollar industry, it’s got a 95% failure rate.

  • People think they are failing, but they’re just failing the diets.
  • These diets we are given as “solutions” are actually part of the problem. 

The way to love your body is not to change your body - the way to love your body is to love your body! 

Mentally, when we deprive ourselves of food, we become obsessed.

  • We do this because we are not getting what we need.
  • Consider this example: when you are cold and you don’t put on a sweater, all you can think of is how cold you are. This also applies to food. When you are hungry and you don’t feed yourself, all you can think of is how hungry you are! 

There are hormonal changes that happen as a result of dieting and attempting to lose weight unnaturally. 

  • We have hormones responsible for hunger and fullness and when we diet or lose weight unnaturally, our hormones will adjust to try and get us back to our natural level.
  • As a result, our hunger hormone will increase as it wants us to eat more and our satiety hormone (the one that tells us when we are full) will decrease as it wants us to get more food and calories because we need them! 
  • Instead, if we eat in a loving, respectful way, where we don’t starve or stuff ourselves, our hormones are able to regulate themselves. 

Our metabolism will adjust if we deprive ourselves and if we go lower than our natural weight range.  

  • We all have a natural weight range just like we have a natural foot size or height. 
  • Our natural weight range isn’t one number and it can fluctuate. 
  • When we diet, this range tends to fluctuate enormously and unnaturally. As a result, our metabolism will try and adjust to get us back to our natural range. 

“The diet riot rollercoaster” concept:

  • When you’re dieting, you are going to want to rebel from your diet. 
    - When we deprive ourselves of food in some way, the body sets up a natural response to want to eat everything that the diet mentality tells us not to eat. 
    - When we act on this response and turn towards binging, it is known as “rioting.”
  • When you are dieting and rioting, you often can’t hear the kind, calming voice inside of you. This voice is the one that knows what a body needs to feel healthy. 
  • If you have a history of dieting and/or rioting, you’re often cut off from your natural hunger signals. As a result, it can be hard to know whether you are hungry or not. 
  • When we stop starving ourselves, we are then able to stop stuffing ourselves. 

We have 3 different mind moods:

  1. Unkind mind
  2. Kind mind
  3. Quiet mind
    - On the diet riot rollercoaster, we often have an unkind mind.

Not everybody diets. In reality, some people just binge and don’t diet.

  • We possess a natural knowledge of how to treat our body.  

We’ve been robbed of this innate knowledge of how to feed our bodies because of the diet industry. 

We get to have different bodily needs as we are not the same as everybody else. 

You don’t have to have extreme behaviours to deserve and warrant help. 

Strategies to incorporate into your life:

Use this four-legged table analogy. 

In order for this table to feel stable so that we feel more healthy and balanced, we have to deal with all 4-legs of this table. 

1. Physical

This includes letting go of the extreme dieting and rioting and learning to feed yourself lovingly and respectfully. 

As you approach the kitchen or a menu, ask yourself what feels loving and respectful to this body?

Ask yourself: if I were feeding someone that doesn’t diet or riot and I love them, how would I feed them right now? 

3 things to pay attention to when you’re picking food that should feel loving.  

  • Nutritious
    - We do need to nourish our bodies and this looks and feels different for everyone.
    - There are ways to nourish our bodies (e.g. by eating from the food groups or by tuning into that inner knowledge mentioned in the points above). 
  • Delicious
    - When we diet, we often eat tasteless food, and so we need to make sure the food we are eating is delicious.
    - It’s not loving to just eat cookies and it’s not loving to just eat salads, so work towards finding a balance between delicious and nutritious. Oftentimes, these foods overlap!
  • Moderate
    - What’s a loving and respectful amount for your body?
    - Our bodies know when they’re satisfied, so it’s learning to listen to that cue.
    - This is easier said than done, especially if we haven’t worked on the other legs of the table. 

2. Emotional

This includes learning how to cope with and tend to your emotions, rather than thinking certain ones are good or bad.

3. Mental

This includes looking at your thinking, as disordered eating equals disordered thinking.

Look at the quality of your thoughts and how you’re speaking to yourself. 

  • Work to upgrade your thinking and your quality of thoughts so that you’re speaking to yourself kindly. 

If you’re struggling with this, ask yourself: how would I speak to someone I love? 

Question which internal voice you are listening to. 

  • Are you listening to the dieter voice, the rioter voice, or are you using loving, respecting and compassionate self-talk?

Reach out to a safe support to help you challenge the thoughts you are having and point out when they are unkind. 

Ask yourself: would I ever speak to someone I love like that?

Be mindful and bring consciousness of the way you talk to yourself. 

4. Spiritual

This includes how you’re feeding yourself spiritually -- how you’re connecting with yourself or deeper areas of life. 

By dieting and/or binging, we’re doing the best we can to fill ourselves up or to find comfort. They are valid efforts, however, when we really fill our spirits, we feel better afterwards - we feel fulfilled, not regretful, stuffed or that we hurt or deprived ourselves. 

Create a spirit filler list.

  • These are guilt-free things we can do to fill our spirit in a way that feels better afterwards. 
  • Ex. Rest, nature, yoga, baths, meditating, connecting with loved ones, reading, comedy, painting, doodling. 

Check-in with yourself. 

If you want food, you want to ask yourself: am I hungry or unsatisfied from my last eating experience? 

  • If you’ve eaten and it was a nutritious and delicious meal/snack then you’re probably not hungry. So, ask yourself: am I experiencing certain feelings? If yes, do you need to tend to these emotions?
  • If not your emotions, what are you thinking? Are your thoughts sending you in an unkind direction?
  • If not your thoughts, are you needing something? Is there a deeper need here? For example, do you need some sleep, to go outside, or move your body? 

How to eat more mindfully:

  • Pay more attention in general. 
  • Be more aware when you’re eating and not eating.  
  • Be more aware of how you’re treating yourself and how you’re speaking to yourself 
  • Learn to parent yourself.
    - This means caring for your body, mind, and needs. 

How to fight societal forces:

Firstly, you have to believe in what this podcast talks about. 

  • You have to believe the fact that a diet is not the solution to a body image issue or feeling unhealthy in your body. You have to believe it is part of the problem.
  • Once you believe it, stand by that belief and act accordingly.

Be brave, take a stand, and be committed to doing things differently in your own life.

  • Remember, it takes courage to go against diet culture and its norms. 

This work takes time. But by doing this work, you will feel more free and able to see what else there is to life. You will have more time to live and not miss out on life’s moments. 

To hear more from Andrea Wachter, visit

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