{via etsy by Robert Crum}

Here’s the last part of my interview with nutritionist Michelle Allison, who blogs at The Fat Nutritionist.

Below, Allison shares how readers can reconnect to their hunger and fullness signals, the importance of enjoying food for nourishing yourself and much more.

Q: After yo-yo dieting or engaging in disordered eating, many people lose sight of their satiety and hunger cues. What’s a helpful way for individuals to reconnect to these signals?

A: As I said before, having regular meals at regular times can help with this. Trying to start off by deciding “I’ll just eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full” can be difficult for some people, because what if you don’t know what hunger and fullness feel like? I didn’t.

Instead, deciding “I’m going to have a real breakfast, a real lunch, and a real dinner” for a while, even taking a single bite of something if you don’t think you’re hungry, can help to reconnect you with those feelings and even stimulate them to be stronger.

Q: On your website, you write, “When eating stops being fun, it means you’ve taken a wrong turn.” In our society, the idea that food can be fun is foreign, or worse, dangerous. What do you mean by that statement?

A: Ellyn Satter, the dietitian and therapist who developed the eating competence model, says “When the pleasure goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.”

It means that, when you’re not enjoying food and the process of eating it – and also if you don’t like your body enough to take care of yourself with food – your health and the nutritional quality of your diet, over the long run, will be poorer.

People who don’t enjoy their food won’t have good enough reason to do all the things it takes to get food into the house, on the table, and into themselves at regular times. When you don’t eat regularly, nutrition definitely suffers, as does your connection to your body.

If you think the only food that can be fun is “bad food” or “junk food,” eaten in quantities that make you feel bad, that’s a red flag that you think in black-and-white, all-or-nothing ways about food, and that you haven’t learned to listen to your body or to enjoy a wide range of foods.

When you have a good relationship with food, all kinds of food can be fun and enjoyable to eat.

Q: It seems like, by and large, today’s nutritionists help people lose weight or watch their weight. Why do you think the field seems to lean this way?

A: I think it leans this way partially because this is what clients want, and sometimes demand. Our culture has somehow conflated the concepts of health and weight control, such that people see them as the same thing, that you can’t have one without the other.

Nutritionists and dietitians also live in this culture, and most of them hold that same belief.

People often express that they want to lose weight for health reasons, but since health can be pursued independently of weight loss, there are often other reasons at play.

Most of those have to do with wanting to fit into a society that values and caters to thinner people, and wanting to not be stigmatized or treated differently for your size. Wanting to belong and not be excluded.

These are legitimate reasons, but they point to the fact that the trouble with weight is not located in the individual body, but in how our culture treats people and values people based on their size.

The culture needs to change. Not fat people.

Q: What’s your favorite food?

A: Spaghetti!

Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know about normal eating, nutrition, body image or a similar topic?

A: I want people to know that deep down, they really do know how to eat, even if it’s been covered up or they’ve been disconnected from that knowledge. They know how to eat for them, and that might look differently from how anyone else eats, and that is okay.

People have the right to eat however they want, because our bodies belong to us.

Not only do we have the right, but the obligation to make our own food decisions.

Sartre says we are “condemned to be free” – we not only are free to make choices, we have to make choices for ourselves. Refusing to make a choice is a choice.

Deciding you will follow someone else’s rules is a choice. And if you’re going to have to make a choice, it may as well be one that actually makes sense for you.

You are free, whether you like it or not.

Thanks so much to Michelle for her insight! I’m honored to share her work on Weightless.