Did you know that your body and brain cannot understand dieting? What is the connection between perfectionism and binge eating disorder? Is intuitive eating a healing method? In this podcast episode, Dr. Cristina Castagnini speaks about binge eating, perfectionism, and the human brain with Alana Van Der Sluys.


Alana Van Der Sluys is a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, author, speaker, and eating disorder survivor. She is the founder of Freedom with Food and Fitness, an online community dedicated to empowering those who want to heal their relationship with food, weight, and their bodies through intuitive eating and movement. Visit Freedom with Food and Fitness and connect on Instagram. Her book, Freedom with Food and Fitness: How Intuitive Eating is the Key to Becoming Your Happiest Self will be released by Urano Publishing next spring. FREEBIE: 5 Ways to Boost Health with Intuitive Eating


  • What is binge eating disorder?
  • Your body doesn’t understand dieting
  • Perfectionism and binge eating

What is binge eating disorder?

Some of the main aspects that constitute binge eating disorder are:
  • Eating very quickly
  • Eating to the point of feeling uncomfortable
  • Feeling embarrassed about the amount of food eaten
  • Eating a lot of food while not hungry
  • Feeling shame or guilt after moments of overeating
When we’re diagnosing binge eating disorder, those are the typical criteria we’re using. (Dr. Cristina Castagnini)
If you’re struggling with three or more of the criteria mentioned above, then consider seeking professional mental health guidance to talk it through.

Your body doesn’t understand dieting

Your brain and body do not want to lose weight. They do not understand dieting, because dieting is not natural to a human being.
When you’re on a diet and you’re on a calorie deficit, you are restricting whole food groups that you truly enjoy, your body doesn’t perceive that as a diet. It doesn’t know how to do that. It’s perceiving the diet as famine or starvation. (Alana Van Der Sluys)
Your body’s primary function is to keep you alive, and if it thinks that you are starving, it will drive you to “binge”, especially if you are dieting heavily or frequently.
Anytime you binge, it’s just your body trying to save you and keep you alive. It’s not sure when after this moment the next time you’re going to allow it to eat [will be]. (Alana Van Der Sluys)

Perfectionism and binge eating

The black-and-white thinking that goes with perfectionism is often also found in binge eating disorders. The “all or nothing” mentality can trap you into feeling like if you “fail”, then you may as well go “all the way”. If you leave absolutely no room for error or no forgiveness for mistakes, you are more likely to fail, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Let go of the control. You have to throw out the scale, stop calorie counting, and [start] listening to your body and it will tell you what it needs. I crave ice cream and I crave broccoli on the same day, it does happen. (Alana Van Der Sluys)



I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


Did you enjoy this podcast? Feel free to comment below and share this podcast on social media! You can also leave a review of Behind The Bite on Apple Podcasts (previously) iTunes and subscribe!

Podcast Transcription

[DR. CRISTINA CASTAGNINI] Behind The Bite podcast is part of a network of podcasts that are good for the world. Check out podcasts like the Full of Shift podcast, After the First Marriage podcast and Eating Recovery Academy over at practiceofthepractice.com/network. Welcome to Behind The Bite podcast. This podcast is about the real-life struggles women face with food, body image and weight. We're here to help you inspire and create better healthier lives. Welcome. Well, hello everyone, and welcome to the show. I really appreciate and have been really enjoying reading all of your posts, comments, and incoming messages over the past few weeks. Please, please keep them coming in because whether you know it or not, they really do play a part in what topics I have here on the podcast, and it's really great to know who's out there on the other side of this. I really love having an idea about who's out there listening. It really means a lot. So this week as I was reading through some comments and questions, one that popped out at me is actually really quite relevant to the show we have on for you here today. I got a question from Kathy in Oregon about binge eating. She wrote, "Hi, my therapist recently diagnosed me with binge eating disorder, but I honestly think she's wrong. I think I'm just lazy and need to try harder to not eat so much at night. How do I know if I'm wrong or she is?" Well, what a great question, Kathy. Thank you for sending that in to me. I've certainly had many people over the years wondering just the same thing, and it's really common for people who have binge eating disorder to have a history of dieting for years and years and because of that, they've really come to believe that they're the problem. Because with each failing diet, instead of placing the blame where it belongs, which is on the diet, they blame themselves. They tell themselves that they lack willpower, they're lazy, they didn't try hard enough, just all those things you put in your question and then they vowed to it, "the next time." So when you have this history, you're already believe those things about yourself. Of course, it can be really difficult to believe you have a diagnosis of an eating disorder when you already have this long-standing belief about yourself and your relationship with food. I don't want to get too clinical here, but basically, someone who has binge eating disorder eats a large amount of food more than they would normally consume in that amount of time. They feel out of control of their eating during these times, they feel distressed about their eating behavior, and they experience at least three of the following things I'm about to say, eating very quickly, eating to the point of being uncomfortable, eating a lot of food while not hungry, feeling embarrassed about the amount they're eating, or feeling guilty or negatively about themselves after overeating. They don't follow these things up with compensating for their overeating with doing things like purging or fasting. Again, I didn't want to get too clinical, but I just wanted to give a sense of like, when we're diagnosing binge eating disorder, those are the typical criteria we're using. So if anybody out there listening can can go, oh that sounds like me and you've been wondering the same thing as Kathy, if you're not seeing a therapist already or you've been wondering if you're struggling with binging or eating disorder of course it's a great idea always, I advocate going in and seeking a diagnosis or a clinical assessment just to see if that's really what you have, instead of maybe beating yourself up and saying, oh, I'm just lazy, or, I'm not doing this right. I keep failing. So, Kathy, I hope that clarified some things for you, and I do hope you continue discussing more of this with your therapist. For any of you out there who can relate to Kathy, I do hope that some of this information also helped you as well. That's why I love the questions continuing to come in because I think that the questions I'm seeing coming in, I know that it's not just the one person who's sending it in that has those questions. So as I read them off week by week on the podcast, I hope that it helps many of you out there who ask them in your own minds. That being said, the guest here today and I are certainly going to delve deeper into binge eating and just the daily struggles of what it's like to have an eating disorder. Alana Van Der Sluys is a certified intuitive eating counselor, author, speaker, and eating disorder survivor. She's the founder of Freedom with Food and Fitness, an online community dedicated to empowering those who want to heal their relationship with food, weight and their bodies through intuitive eating and mood. Well, Alana, welcome to the show. [ALANA VAN DER SLUYS] Hi, Cristina. How are you? [DR. CRISTINA] Good, how are you doing? [ALANA] Doing well. I've the day off from my actual full-time job as a teacher. So it's a good [DR. CRISTINA] Day,. That is a good day., what's beautiful where you're at? Where are you located? [ALANA] Northern New Jersey. So having some nice crisp fall weather. It's my favorite season, so I'm very happy. [DR. CRISTINA] Those of you can't see what I am seeing there's these beautiful trees in the background, and I'm just going, oh, that's so beautiful. [ALANA] I live in the sticks, so we have lots of nature. [DR. CRISTINA] Awesome. Well, you and I had talked before and I think this topic does need to really be discussed on the podcast. I've had people talk about it before, but not really just focused on binge eating disorder. I really appreciate that you're here and willing to discuss openly about that in your experience. So with that being said I'm just wondering, would you mind sharing a little bit just so the audience gets to know you a little bit more, maybe about you and why you felt like that was such a great topic just for us to talk about on here? [ALANA] Sure. Part of the reason that I think it's such an important topic to talk about is because not only my specific journey but also the fact that I don't think a lot of people even realize that they have an issue with binging. I remember very vividly in college coming across binge eating disorder, like on the internet, and I was like, I definitely don't have that and then a few years later I realized I definitely did have that. I just didn't realize what it was because what I thought it was and what it actually is are two very different things, and I'll go into that in a second. But for my journey, I had always grown up knowing my next steps in life. I was all very like get the A and excel in your extracurriculars. I was always the good girl and the people pleaser, and I did everything right. I would get, as all children do in school, I would get marks for it. I would get all the A's and the 100s and everything, and I could quantify my worth into those things. Then when I graduated college, I didn't have those parameters anymore. I didn't have anything to measure how worthy I was. I'd always used external validation to do those things and I felt very lost and out of control in the trajectory of my life. So I wanted to control something. A lot of times people get caught up in diets and restrictive eating and disordered eating because they feel like they want to control something, so they try to control their weight or their food and their food intake. That's exactly what I did and it resulted in binge eating disorder, which is a diagnosable eating disorder. I, myself was never diagnosed because I'm in a body very similar to I am right now. I'm in a straight sized body, and everybody saw me as the thin-fit one, the healthy one. No one ever flagged me as having an issue because I was so ashamed of it and kept it to myself. Nobody realized behind the scenes what I was doing and things that I was doing, which are very indicative of binge eating disorder is Monday through Friday. I would eat super, super clean. I would eat the least amount of calories I possibly could without passing out. I would only eat "safe foods," like egg whites and oatmeal and your yogurt and whatever, foods I still enjoy today, but were the safe ones then. Then like Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday, I would go out with my friends, we have a few cocktails and my inhibitions would be lowered, and I'd start thinking I really deserve all those x, y, z food. I don't have that during the week. I've been so good. I deserve this. I would allow myself to have those foods, but I was so malnourished and so restrictive during the week that when I had those foods, I would just binge on them. What I was saying before about what we perceive binging to be sometimes and what it actually is, I thought binges were people that had like 15 calories in, 15,000 calories in one sitting but it wasn't that. It was just, for me, it was just eating way more than what my body really needed and eating past comfortable fullness and the shame that that came along with that, and feeling like I had, "messed up my diet," that I was going to gain a bunch of weight and that I had to make up for that, not only with exercise, but with restrictive eating starting on Monday. Then the cycle would go on and on and on. I was stuck in the cycle for so long because I didn't realize that the only way to get out of it was to actually adequately, consistently nourish my body because that's a very scary thing to do right after a binge, is to actually keep feeding yourself. That was my journey, and it went on for years. [DR. CRISTINA] That's interesting. So you read about it, and I think that's the thing, is that it sounds at least a lot of eating disorders, they sound on paper or they read on paper, like very specific. When people try to relate to it's like, that's not me. That doesn't sound like my day-to-day. Or even like if you watch a video or something, like, for me, I'm older, it was like the after school special. It was like, that's not me. There's a very prescribed, like a stereotypical thought of what that looks like, and it's really like, oh no, there's a dissonance if there's a disconnect of like, that's not me. So yes, much to your point, it's like I'm screwing up a diet or I'm doing something wrong, I just have to do this better and not really realizing what you're doing is disordered. [ALANA] Right. A lot of people will tell me that they're addicted to certain foods and that they can't trust themselves around certain foods. The studies show that food addiction is a very, very rare thing to actually have. It's really coming from restriction. If you're not going to allow yourself to have Oreos in the house or anywhere, like once you come across a real-life situation where like maybe you're at a party and there are Oreos, of course you're going to binge on them and hyper fixate on them, and it feels like an addiction because you feel like you can't control yourself around that food. But it's really not an addiction per se. It's a food being put on a pedestal because you are giving so much weight and value to it. [DR. CRISTINA] Curious, did you have those thoughts for yourself, like, oh, I can't have these kinds of things in my house, or I don't trust myself around these things? Did you have that mindset for yourself even, because I mean, I know I work with people and I had my own disorder in the past, but I hear that a lot. So anyone listening might be going, come on, there's no way I absolutely cannot trust myself around X, Y, and Z food. Are you kidding? If I had that in the house, it'd have been gone in two seconds. Do you remember having that thought about things too? [ALANA] It was never a specific food that I had that about, but what would be my downfall would be like a holiday or a party setting. If there was, I used to think I had a huge sweet tooth, and don't get me wrong, like I love sweets, I love ice cream and brownies and whatever, but I used to think it was a bigger sweet tooth and like a problem because I would go to like a holiday and they'd have the dessert table. I would get like one of everything and I would have to eat it all. Afterward I would feel so sick, like physically just over full, very sluggish from all the sugar. I would feel so much shame for what I had done, wondering if people had seen me do that or like, if it was all in my head that I looked like a crazy person shoveling food down my face. I would eat things on the dessert table that I don't even like. I would just be like, oh, pineapple upside down cake. All right, well, since I usually don't allow myself to have sweets and it's available to me, I'm just going to eat it for the sake of it being there. But I don't even like that type of dessert. So it was just very bizarre that the rational part of my brain would click off and the primal brain would click on and be like, just be, like don't die, don't starve to death, just eat, eat, eat, eat. Then you'd come out of that and you're like, oh my God, what have I done? [DR. CRISTINA] That's an interesting word you use, the primal part, the part about trying to survive. It's beyond you at that point. I mean, because you were saying earlier trying to control something. Then at this point completely being out of control. But that's your body's, like you said, it's your body's way of making sure you stay alive. [ALANA] That's something that I don't think a lot of people realize is when you're on a diet and you are at a calorie deficit or you are restricting whole food groups that you truly enjoy, your body doesn't perceive that as a diet. It doesn't know how to do that. It's perceiving the diet as a famine or a starvation, like back when we were like cave people. That's all it thinks it is. Your body's primary job is to keep you alive. The way to do that is to feed you. So if it perceives a famine or starvation, the minute it sees food, especially, and this is why we tend to binge on like high caloric, high fat, high sugar foods, is because those are the most calorically dense, those are the, so our body seeks those out and it's like, oh my God, we're going to save ourselves, eat, eat, eat, eat, eat. this is all it's doing. Anytime you binge, it's just your body trying to save you and keep you alive and it's not sure after this moment when the next time you're going to allow it to eat. So it's storing up for winter the way that a bear does and it makes sense and it's just, it's not your body trying to thwart your diet goals. It's just trying to keep you alive. [DR. CRISTINA] Exactly. I wish people understood that more because then, like you said, the shame would be gone, the guilt would be gone and that inner ED, talking to you and beating you up, like, my gosh, you screwed up. What'd you do again? I don't know if you had that too, just the incessant critic of just like berating you after [ALANA] Yes, and that's, it's beyond the bite. It's just like, it's not about the food. There is so much that goes into that. Part of the reason that I had an eating disorder was because I was, and probably still a little bit of a recovering perfectionist. I had a lot of black and white thinking, a lot of all or nothing thinking. It was, I don't, I'm sure you know Brene Brown, I'm sure everybody knows Brene Brown at this point, but she talks about the 20-ton shield of perfectionism and you're trying to carry this thing around in order to protect yourself from criticism. So I was trying to be the thinnest I possibly could because I was socialized to believe that thin meant I would be accepted and I thought that that was going to be my shield from criticism. So if I could stay as thin as possible, no one could hurt me and that wasn't the case. I was just hurting myself. I mean, disordered eating can come from a million different places. It could be perfectionism, people pleasing, past trauma. It could be a bunch of different things. It's not about the food. It's what is causing you to have a broken relationship with food. So it's not that you're addicted to food necessarily, it's that you have some unresolved issues with your thoughts and beliefs that need to be teased out. [DR. CRISTINA] I think that is such a big statement. So people probably who are listening just trying to grapple with this or try to understand this or maybe you don't have disordered eating or eating disorders going, wait a minute, it has to be about the food. Because I hear that all the time, what do you mean it's not about the food? Just I hear they'll think, why can't people just stop binging or why can't I stop binging or why can't I just eat more? It's just that we're just right. It's not a behavior. It's looking at the behavior and saying what's again behind it. There's the biological drive for us as humans, we want to survive. I mean, our bodies want to take care of us. So if we could just look at it just like you said so beautifully and say, my body's really trying to take care of me and keep me alive and hopefully that could over time really just squash the shame and the guilt and say thank you for trying to save me. Instead of it being like, I screwed up it's no, my body's really trying to protect me and keep me here. Now I got to look at what's happening here. Why would I want to do something that's ultimately going to hurt me? So my biological being has to step in and like override the system over and over and over again. [ALANA] Yes. It's a lot of us fighting biology. I mean, 80% of our body size and shape is determined by genetics. Especially with this like integrative medicine trend of just bio-hack your way to living forever by the foods that you eat. It's like, of course nutrition plays a part. Of course, it does. It's the 10th and last principle of intuitive eating, is gentle nutrition. We do incorporate nutrition, but it's not this like end all be all thing. And people fixate on weight, which again is not the best indication of health. It's not a direct correlation between the two. So we're trying, everyone's trying to be thin and like, this is like the worst thing for me to say. I feel a lot of guilt having to say it as a straight sized person but like, not everybody can be thin. That's not the way that we were built. I'm not genetically made for six pack abs and I wanted that my entire life and it definitely contributed to my body dysmorphia because I would obsessively body check because I wanted a body that I wasn't meant to have. There are things about my body that I had wished were different and that other people wish were different about their bodies and a lot of people want to be thin and it's just, everybody's varied the way that all other species are varied. Wrapping our head around how much of this has been socialized and it wasn't always this way. It wasn't until the 1900s that the fuller figure was not in Vogue anymore, but for a lot of history you wanted to be a fuller figured woman because that meant that you had wealth and status. It's changed now simply because of the culture. But you don't need to be a certain weight to be healthy. You don't need to be a certain weight to be accepted or loved or any of those things. Fighting your own biology will simply result in things like binging and binging the rest of your life because whatever you do to get to whatever weight you're at, you're going to have to do for the rest of your life. [DR. CRISTINA] Well, not only that, but speaking of health, if you're really fighting biology and you're doing these things to try to control the size you are meant to be, you're actually going to cause your body to be in a state of unhealth. A lot of people do very drastic things, like you said, starvation, just horrible things to their bodies that create disease and illness just to try to be in a smaller body that biologically, genetically they're not meant to be in. Unfortunately, our society praises them and says, oh my gosh, good job. That's horrible to me because I'm going, all these people are out there struggling, suffering. Their life is like occupied and their whole life revolves around all these behaviors, disordered behaviors and they're actually making their bodies very unwell and unhealthy and that's a shame. [ALANA] Yes, and I mean, there's a lot to be said about how mental health plays into our overall view of what health is. I would argue at my lowest weight, I was my most mentally and physically unhealthy that I've ever been in my entire life. I am the heaviest I've ever been in my life and I am way better off, way better off. My nails were super brittle, my hair was falling out, I couldn't think about anything but food and exercise. My social life suffered. It was very hard. My brain fog was very hard as a grad student to concentrate, I ended, this is anecdotal and I don't know if this had a correlation, but I'm going to say it anyway, I ended up not being able or having trouble conceiving because I had a benign tumor on my adrenal gland. I probably had so much adrenal fatigue that I had this tumor, I had to get taken out. My blood pressure was through the roof. I had high cholesterol, all these things wrong with me. That's something that I came across later on is if you are someone who is very restrictive with your food or you've been diagnosed with anorexia, you may have really high cholesterol as a result. I forget the correlation, but like these things happen and it's really scary what you can do to your overall health in the pursuit of "health" diet culture's version of health. [DR. CRISTINA] Yes, exactly. I found that myself and a lot of my patients are shocked I always have them get labs and people who are restricting their cholesterol is very high and they're always shocked. I found that myself, my cholesterol was super high on my labs and I'm going, what is going on? Unfortunately, if anyone's listening, this is something very interesting if you find this out because a lot of medical doctors will then prescribe the symptom and they'll say, well, you need to cut down on your saturated fats. You need to eat less fatty foods, less fried foods. I know for myself, I was already doing that, so it just made it worse. That's actually going to make it worse because then you just go into further restriction as if that's possible. But that's a telltale sign too. I think that that needs, if you, I have people just Google it real quick. I'm not a big fan of Dr. Google, but it does come up, if you Google high cholesterol and eating disorders, it does show up. It's an actual thing. Note to people listening, like a lot, the body does do very horrible, interesting things when you are not providing it enough nutrition and fuel. [ALANA] Yes. I mean, I don't know if you talk to your patients about this, but there's your weight set point. There is the five-to-10-pound range where your body runs most optimally and feels most comfortable. It's not the same as BMI. It's very individual. You know that you're there when you are not restricting, when you're listening to your hunger full and satiety cues, when your weight stabilizes, when you feel energized and just good in your body. It's not going to be the same for every person. So you have to really, and it's such a scary thing because it was really scary for me, you have to let go of the control. You have to throw out the scale, you have to stop calories running and you just have to listen to your body and it will tell you what it needs. I crave ice cream and I crave broccoli on the same day. Does happen. [DR. CRISTINA] Yes I think people don't understand that like all food is food and just as you said that, wait a minute, like what? But it does get to that point where you just realize getting rid of even the labels or the ideas about what foods are like "good" or "bad" or healthy, unhealthy and getting to that point of it just being like, that's what I want right now and not having a certain feeling about it or a certain emotion or a certain idea about what that means for your body or what that means for the rest of your day or even the rest of the week. It's so freeing when that happens. [ALANA] It is. A lot of people don't realize that when you stop the binge, restrict cycle, you might, and this is not a guarantee by any means, but you might actually lose weight because you have to think about it this way. If you want a cookie, if you get to a place where you want a cookie and have a cookie, then you go on with the rest of your day and you're not thinking about the cookie anymore, because you had it and it was great but if you want a cookie and you deny yourself the cookie and then you're just thinking about the cookie and thinking about the cookie and then you have 12 cookies when you could have just had the one that's where we run into trouble with weight, and then also the shame and all the other things that come along with binging. [DR. CRISTINA] Not to advocate weight loss, that's not the goal, but in terms of what you're saying, in terms of like the whole point of if you're "dieting" to lose weight it's really ironic that a lot of the times dieting is actually going to cause the one thing that you are trying to get away from. [ALANA] Right, exactly. No, we're not advocating weight loss here. I mean, I gained weight ultimately on my journey, but if you would've told me back in the day that I would've gained weight on this journey, I would've been terrified and would've told you, heck no and not have gone on it. But where I am now, I love my body so much more because it's not my worth. I see myself as a whole person who is worthy no matter what she weighs and has all these other things in her life that I'm very grateful for. Like, I think gratitude practice is a huge thing in healing because you stop fixating on the one singular thing about yourself and making it mean everything about you. So, yes, it's not a weight loss guarantee by any means, but you hopefully get to what your body was always meant to be at. [DR. CRISTINA] When we talk about that, I think that's the whole point is really looking at what are you hoping to get from doing all of this? What's the ultimate outcome? What is the life? What is the feeling? What is it when people will say like, oh, I can only be happy or I can only do this, or I can, but I think you said something a couple minutes ago of like, if you're doing all of this to get to some ideal body or some ideal weight or some ideal something in your mind, you're going to have to do that the rest of your life. [ALANA] Yes. That's tough. That's really tough. Again, as I said before when I was my lowest weight, I was my most miserable, did not bring me happiness. What I've learned in my journey is that happiness isn't, I mean, this is like, people always say this, it's not a destination. It's the journey. I think a better way of saying that is it's a conscious decision to make in the present moment whether or not you're happy. Because happiness, if you keep thinking it's the next thing in your life, it's always a moving target. So for me, in my disorder, I had a goal weight in mind. I would reach that goal weight and I would be happy for like maybe a little while and then I'd be like, okay, well I can get lower, I can get lower. I was chasing something that I never quite found and I'm sure your high achieving listeners will resonate with this as well, who might also be disordered eaters is I would get all these accolades and awards and degrees and I would do all these things and none of them were, I thought they were going to bring me happiness, but they never did. I was chasing happiness in awards and external validation and I never quite found it. I was like, oh crap. It's not about that next award or thing or accomplishment. I just have to be happy as I am now because nothing I ever amass is going to give me it. [DR. CRISTINA] I think that's part of the perfectionism. That's part of the people pleasing, that's part of what you're talking about this, like, what is it you're really trying to get and you get those plateaus of, like you said, you hit a certain goal of whether it's the degree or the weight or whatever, but then it's fleeting and it's like, why doesn't it stay that way? It's not constant. And that's the scary thing with the eating disorders like, okay, maybe if I hit that and it was a moment of happiness, maybe a little bit more is better. Maybe if I just get a little bit less and a little bit less than a little, you've done that slippery slope and then that's a really scary place to be because you start losing your perspective. [ALANA] Well, that's the thing, that's what I try to do with my clients is like zoom out their thinking about their lives and about who they are. I always say, going back to what we were saying before, there are four things that people are looking for when they're pursuing weight loss for happiness. It's, they're looking, I call it salve, like the salve you would put on a wound. It's safety, acceptance, love, and validation. Those are the three, they're the four things that we look for as human beings to fulfill. Some of us try to do it with our weight because of the society that we're in. [DR. CRISTINA] So when you work with people, so are you, do people more come to you because they're more working on the internal or they coming to you because they're frustrated with, "Hey, my diet's not working and I'm really frustrated with my weight." What stage are people at when they're coming to you? [ALANA] They usually come to me where they are still dissatisfied with their body, their weight but they've gotten to the point where they're starting to realize that diets aren't working for them and they don't know what else to do. Some of them know about intuitive eatings, some of them not really. Very rarely do they come to me and already know like the underlying mental anguish that is causing all of these issues. [DR. CRISTINA] Okay, so with, I mean, I'm just curious for you, what do you think it is that helps people really understand, like, they're not failing at diets, they're not doing something wrong with the food, like this is beyond them needing to figure out how to eat better or diet better, or that they're not failing, they're not like lacking willpower? [ALANA] Sure. Two things. Number one is the science. I show them the scientific studies. I'm like, "Hey, 95% of diets fail and people regain the weight in one to five years. It can't be all of us. It just can't be. Back to what we were saying before, like it's not all, most diets aren't sustainable long-term and that's why they only work in the short-term. So science for sure, I'm a big, I used to be a journalist as well, so I love research, I love journalism, I love scientific studies, give me all the studies. Then the second thing is that, a big part of my group coaching program is like the intuitive eating principles and how to apply those in like a very actionable and realistic way but the other half of the program is the mindset work because you can, I mean, and I see this with intensive eating disorder programs. It's like they put them on a refeeding program and they give them a meal plan, but they don't tell them, they don't really go through, and I'm not saying this is all programs, but some of them don't go through like why these people have been having issues with eating. Like what is the mindset behind all this? If you're not going to give them those tools to challenge their beliefs and change their beliefs, then they're just following another plan almost. So I try to tease out with my clients what their thoughts are about food and about weight in their bodies and challenge them. Like, are those thoughts really true? Are they really serving you? Can we find truth in maybe the opposite of that thought? I don't know if you know Byron Katie, she has an inquiry-based coaching called the work. So I try to apply a very similar thing to my own programs. [DR. CRISTINA] Based on the work you do with your clients, is that what the basis for, I know you have a book coming up. Is that more of what the basis for the book is or is the book based on something more personal? I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about what's coming up in, I think you said April, right? [ALANA] Yes, it's the spring basically. They're not there, they haven't like nailed down a definitive release date yet, but it's going to be in the spring of 2023. The working title as of now is Freedom with Food and Fitness: How Intuitive Eating is the Key to Your Happiest, Healthiest Self. The book is split in two, it's half food, half fitness because I don't think there's enough discussion about how to incorporate intuitive movement into your life because so many of us are just like punishing ourselves with exercise and trying to burn off whatever we've eaten and how to not only find something, that type of movement that you enjoy, but how to find the time in a busy schedule to do it consistently. This consistent movement is really, really great for health. So I discussed that and then I discuss the food portion of it. A lot of the book has anecdotal stories of mine through my struggles, things that I've done throughout my journey and then just a lot, a lot of very practical tips and hacks and things like that because I feel like that, we have the Intuitive Eating book by Evelyn Trioli and Elise Rush that walks you through the principles and things like that. But I felt like there was a hole in the market for a book that was like actual just tips in terms of how to apply it to your own life in a way that's, that you could do today. [DR. CRISTINA] Awesome. Well, that's, I mean, that's exciting that you got a book out and I think that's the thing is how to actually implement the principles and things into real life and having actual examples from somebody who's been there and gone through it and to somebody to relate to. That's a lot of why I do the podcast, is to have people like yourself on here to discuss, hey what did my real life look like when I was going through this? Because I think a lot of people out there listening probably are going like, okay, yes, maybe I'm at that point where I'm trying to, I'm hearing things and going, is that me? Do I have something that's disordered or am I really just a bad "dieter" or sparked some things or even listening to somebody like yourself and saying, "Wow, she got through it and maybe I can too." That's hopefully sparking some hope. And then maybe even having heard, okay, what is intuitive eating? I've heard about it, but like maybe I need to figure out how to actually put that into my real life. What does that look like? I can understand the principles, but on a day-to-day, what does that look like, like using those principles. So it's really helpful [ALANA] Do we need a definition? Should we throw out a definition of intuitive? [DR. CRISTINA] Probably, yes. For anyone who's, I mean, I have had Evelyn on the show, so anyone want to go back and listen to that podcast, maybe go back and find it. Evelyn was on a previous podcast. Yes, I think it's important to, absolutely. For sure. [ALANA] Sure. I do love Evelyn, by the way. She's so sweet. She was the one, out of Evelyn and Elise, she was the one that did my certification with me. She's such a sweetheart. It was a full circle moment for me too. I was like, oh my God, you saved my life. But anyway, yes, so intuitive eating is the anti-diet framework. It's backed by science and it basically, it teaches you how to listen to your body cues, your interceptive awareness, your hunger, your fullness, your satiety. There is a component where we follow what we call gentle nutrition, so we do keep nutrition in mind, but we're just not like really obsessive and restrictive over it. There is a joyful intuitive movement piece where we find movement that we enjoy. Like, if you don't like CrossFit, don't do CrossFit. Garden, take walks, do whatever makes you happy. I like to say it's health without obsession. We are trying to do health promoting behaviors, but we're trying to do it in a way that is not super controlling, super obsessive and anything like that. That's intuitive eating to me in a nutshell. But I think, going back to the book, I think a lot of people are like, well what about if I work outside of the house all day? Is meal prepping a lab? Because they think once they're an intuitive eater, they're not allowed to plan anything and everything has to be on a whim and everything has to be like whatever they're craving in the moment. It's like, no. I'm a teacher. I work outside of the house most of the day. I have to pack my breakfast and my lunch and a snack. So there is, you can still plan but it's not something you have to be rigid for. Then some people are like, I would love to meal prep, but I don't have an entire Sunday to do that. I'm like, girl, you don't need an entire Sunday to do that. You need maybe two hours. You can use convenience foods, like frozen foods to do a lot of it. So I talk about a lot of that really practical stuff like time management within the book because I think it's super important for somebody who really does want to apply this to their lives. But everybody has a different life. Everybody's hustle, culture, we all have, I hate the word busy, but we all have really full lives so how do we do it in the context of those full lives? [DR. CRISTINA] Absolutely. I know, I think that's the thing people are always looking for the rules. When you have something like intuitive, it's like, wait a minute, are there rules to this? How do I, it's always like still people are looking for that holy grail of like, okay, this is the perfect way to do it. [ALANA] Yes, it's for the rule followers. They're like, well, what are the rules? How do I know if I'm doing it right? It's just like, I totally get that because that was me too. But it's just, it's like I've never listened to my body in my entire life. What are you talking about? [DR. CRISTINA] There is that difficult transition. So it is, I think there is the important part of working with somebody and getting that support because it can get very confusing and you need the support just to go, oh my gosh, I'm really struggling here. [ALANA] Well, tell you, I recovered by myself. I do not recommend it at all. I'm an only child, so I'm very like stubborn and independent and I was like, I don't need anybody. I'm going to do this on my own slash shame, slash shame. A lot of people myself included, I didn't want to invest in having somebody help me. I was like, I'm not going to pay money. I don't have the money was my excuse. Yes, I was a grad student, don't get me wrong but looking back on the time that I could have had back in my twenties when I was supposed to be having fun that I wasted, that I didn't have to waste if I had just hired someone with the expertise in the background to give me accountability and support, I wouldn't have backslid a million times when it's just, it's hard. It's really hard to admit that you have a problem to invest in yourself when as a disordered eater you might not have a lot of self-worth to make the investment to heal. It's hard. [DR. CRISTINA] I hear you. I think having been there myself, I think there was a lot of shame and embarrassment just reaching out for help and admitting even to myself, let alone a therapist. I talk about all the time I'm here like, I lied to my therapist so many times because it was like, I'm not telling you. So I get that part. It's hard to even reach out and probably a lot of people listening are going, yes, no way. I'm not talking to anybody. [ALANA] Well, that's why I offer group coaching. I don't even do one-on-one is because I think there's something, and again, maybe this is also partially because I'm an only child and I like seek a group. I'm just like the accountability and support that you can get from people and just the realization that you're not alone. When I found Intuitive Eating podcast and people talking about the things that I was going through, I was like, oh my God, other people do this? Like this is a thing? It blew my mind. [DR. CRISTINA] Even if someone's listening today and getting anything out of this or relating at all, because it can be scary, too, to join a group, that can be intimidating. I hear lots of people I work with one-on-one going, I'm not joining a group. That's scary too. But to your point, it can be really helpful to hear other people and know you're not alone and relate. So lots of different avenues for getting support and help. Listen to things, read books when they come out, just understand you're not alone. What you're doing is not you being a failure or screwing it up or lacking willpower. If you're struggling it's because you're struggling with something that's bigger than you. You can definitely reach out, get help and I'm glad there's people like Alana out there that's doing the good work. We need way more of you out there. [ALANA] Good to you. We need both of us cloned a lot. [DR. CRISTINA] So if people do want to work with you, how can they find you? [ALANA] My website is freedomwithfoodandfitness.com. You can find me on Instagram at Freedom with Food and Fitness, on Facebook at Freedom with Food and Fitness. I have a Facebook group called Defy the Diet and Beat the Binge. Yes, if someone wants to work with me, as of 2023, I have four different packages available, four different price points. So depending on the level of support you would like and how long you would like that support you can go to freedomwithfoodandfitness.com to check that out. [DR. CRISTINA] Fantastic. I love your posts and everything, so you're doing great work and I can't wait for your book to come out. Keep me posted on that as well. Alright everyone, I'll have all her information in the show notes so if you didn't get that down, do not worry, you can also go to the website and get all her information from there too. So, thank you again. Any last words before we end? [ALANA] You are not alone, and as you said, this is your, it's part of a bigger issue that is not, that doesn't lie with you. So find the support, find the help, find the community, and start your journey. [DR. CRISTINA] Awesome. Thank you so much. This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regards to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or any other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.