Connecting to Ourselves: Tuning out the Shoulds

First off, I want to say that tuning out the shoulds and tuning into our body’s needs when it comes to fuel is a process and journey. There will be some ups and downs along the way, but the longer that you tune out what you “should” be doing and view eating in a self-care, nourishing manor, the more freedom you will start to feel in your journey with food and your body. The longer you practice paying attention to your body the more you will connect with yourself and your needs, food and otherwise.

So, what does tuning out the “shoulds” mean when it comes to healthful eating? Here are a few principles that I came up with through my journey of paying attention to my body’s needs and health.

1) Tune out what healthful foods you “should” eat and listen to YOUR body’s palate (aka what healthful foods you ENJOY eating). Healthful eating includes trying new foods but also tuning into your palate. You don’t have to eat lima beans or whatever foods you do not care for to be healthy! There are plenty of other fruits and vegetables out there. Focusing on adding healthful foods you enjoy (like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts) to your eating allows you to connect with your body and keeps healthy eating from being a dirty word. It’s not about perfection- it is about learning YOUR body’s needs.

2) Tune out the “shoulds” of anytime you are feeling deprived when it comes to eating. A lovely RD, Julie Dillion, tweeted this the other day: dieting doesn’t = wellness. Nourishing without deprivation is ticket to #health. I could not have said this better if I tried. So often, we hear that we need to “eat better” or discipline ourselves or have more self control around food. We can try to force ourselves into “eating right” or choosing healthful foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, etc.). But, this usually backfires just like dieting does. I tell people all the time that I have learned that the only “diet” I want to be on is one that I can live the rest of my life doing, and this means for me that I don’t feel deprived, focus on health and good fuel, use food to keep my energy up, and focus on nourishing my body (which does include sweets sometimes!). Through tuning into my body and not the “shoulds” or deprivation, I have learned that one of the most healthful and satisfying things is leaving a meal energized and not stuffed. Through the process of intuitive eating and no deprivation, I have gotten to this place because I have learned that I enjoy the feeling of being “satisfied” after a meal best, and my body is ok with this since it knows I will honor my hunger when it comes again.

3) Tune out how much you “should” eat (based upon what other people are eating) and listen to your body’s hunger/fullness.
We all have different energy needs. Our energy needs can be very different from other people (this hopefully is not a surprise!) and our own energy needs fluctuate throughout our lives. Tuning out the shoulds means trying not to compare what you eat to what other people eat. There are always going to be people who need more food or less food than you, but ultimately your body knows best and it will tell you through hunger and fullness. For example, I am a tall, active person and my body needs a good amount of fuel throughout the day. I used to feel ashamed of the fact that I would eat more than other girls and went through a period where I was trying to eat what I felt like my body “should” need instead of listening to hunger. This deprivation period was eventually followed by a period of overeating, and I have learned that in the end my body knows best and will tell me how much food it needs.

True health comes from appreciating our bodies and wanting to take care of them and nourish them. Tuning into our bodies is learning our body’s unique signs of hunger and fullness and feeling confident in our body’s ability to tell us what it needs. You see we can be told eat your fruits and vegetables, move more, don’t overeat, etc. But, none of these things will be lasting if they don’t stem from a desire within oneself to care for his/her body. So, are you tuning into the “shoulds” or tuning into your beautiful body and its unique needs? I hope we can all learn to cherish what our bodies allows you to do, care for them in a way that helps us live life fully, and nourish them to give us health and energy!

Note: Connecting to Ourselves is a monthly column written by Janet Zimmerman. Janet will be writing about a wide variety of topics to help you connect with the best ways to take care of YOU! Janet is a dietetic student, positive body image advocate, and intuitive eating promoter. You can find Janet on twitter @JanetZimmerman where she loves tweeting yummy recipes, positive quotes, and mindful tweets.


  1. FANTASTIC POST!!! i completely agree! dieting does not mean you are HEALTHY. being skinny does not mean you are HEALTHY. every body needs different things. there’s isn’t one diet or lifestyle that everyone SHOULD follow!

  2. This is a great post and something I really struggle with. I’m in recovery from an eating disorder and “the shoulds” are almost worse when trying to eat normally! It’s all about taking time to tune into what our bodies want and need. I think most people,

    ED history or not, fall into “the shoulds” without realizing it.

  3. I agree with you guys. We are all susceptible “shoulding ourselves.” It’s great to be reminded that what each of us need varies from what other people. And that’s ok!

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