Jenna Hollenstein, MS, RDN, CDN, is an anti-diet dietitian who helps people struggling with chronic dieting, disordered eating, and body image. She uses a combination of Intuitive Eating, mindfulness techniques, and meditation to help her clients move toward greater peace, health, and wellness. Jenna is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and a Certified Dietitian Nutritionist (CDN) in New York State. She has a Bachelors degree in Nutrition from Penn State, a Masters degree in Nutrition from Tufts University, is a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and an Open Heart Project meditation guide. Jenna has been featured in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, Health, Lion’s Roar, Mindful, Vogue, Elle, Glamour, Women’s World, and Fox News. Jenna is the author of Understanding Dietary Supplements, the memoir Drinking to Distraction, Eat to Love: A Mindful Guide to Transforming Your Relationship with Food, Body, and Life, and Mommysattva: Contemplations for Mothers Who Meditate (or Wish They Could). Coming in December 2022: Intuitive Eating for Life: How Mindfulness Can Deepen and Sustain Your Intuitive Eating Practice.
Intuitive Eating and meditation will allow you to:
- Listen to your body to tell you what, when, and how much to eat
- Discern physical hunger from emotional hunger
- Decipher which nutrition guidance is worth listening to and which is thinly veiled dieting propaganda
- Move your body that make you feel wonderful and well
- Appreciate and treat your present-moment body with respect
Where Intuitive Eating and Mindfulness Intersect
Intuitive Eating and mindfulness are innately compatible and complementary. Both seek to work with reality, which in one sense is that certain things are out of your control, while others are at least somewhat within your control. The size and shape of your body are largely determined by factors out of your control such as genetics. How you think and feel about your body, however, is subject to your influence: you can change how you think and feel to focus less on how to change your body and more on how to care for it. Reality also means the constantly changing needs of your human body, how your body protects you from starvation (ie, dieting), and how battling with your body only intensifies suffering. By working with reality, you stand squarely in the middle of your real life, not some imagined future where everything is perfect.
Mindfulness helps you practice the first principle of Intuitive Eating by recognizing that diets don’t work based on your own lived experience. Non-judgmental curiosity reveals how you have repeated the same pattern over and over again: trying one diet after the next, or even semi-consciously choosing foods you think are health-promoting while avoiding foods you fear will lead to weight gain. Once you accept this truth, there is no going back.
Both Intuitive Eating and mindfulness are embodied practices deeply connected with interoception – the ability to sense inward, accurately interpret what is happening in your body in the present moment, and respond with precision and kindness. Honing interoception through mindfulness supports you to honor your hunger, discover satisfaction, respect fullness, develop a sustainable movement practice, and ultimately experiment with nutrition. This work is enlivened by respect for your innate intelligence: you are the only true expert of you. You possess wisdom that is sharpened by working with your mind and listening to your body and heart.
Both Intuitive Eating and mindfulness teach you the importance of tolerating discomfort. Making peace with food, challenging the food police in an ongoing way, and more precisely sensing and responding to your emotions require you to feel, allow, and stay with your experience even as it becomes uncomfortable. This helps you become more cognizant of automatic reactions to discomfort. By slowing things down, you can respond skillfully instead of reacting automatically, gradually breaking dysfunctional cycles that cause you harm.
Mindfulness helps you recognize how Intuitive Eating affects your life in small and large ways. You learn that whatever you do, you are just trying to feel ok. Sometimes this is through dysfunctional thoughts or behaviors, but mindfulness and Intuitive Eating support you to feel ok by enacting true self-care: learning to respect your body unconditionally, cultivating self-compassion, and bravely turning toward your real life empowers you to work with each experience authentically.
Finally, both Intuitive Eating and mindfulness are paths, not destinations or endpoints. You can’t mess them up. Both processes unfold at an appropriate pace for you. And – spoiler alert – this unfolding continues for the rest of your life.