Some people are on blissful terms with food. For the rest of us, it’s a complicated relationship: stressful, restrictive, confusing, exhausting.
If you’re seeking out a little more peace or clarity in this area of your life, a good place to begin is page one of an excellent book, Alissa Rumsey, M.S., R.D., certified intuitive eating counselor and owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness, a virtual coaching practice based in New York City, tells SELF.
“Books are a great way to start to examine your history with food and your body,” Rumsey says. They can also open your eyes to new ways of relating to food and your body and yourself that aren’t predicated on diet culture. Books are a wonderful way to learn about weight-inclusive, anti-diet approaches, Rumsey says.
Where to start, though? Well, who better to ask for recs than R.D.s who help clients heal their relationships with food—and have done that work for themselves? We talked to R.D.s about the books that helped them transform their own relationships with food and that they recommend to clients. They run the gamut from intuitive eating to approaches that draw from spirituality and mindfulness. Maybe one will speak to you.
Body Kindness: Transform Your Health From the Inside Out—and Never Say Diet Again, by Rebecca Scritchfield
“I found Body Kindness shortly after I buckled down and got serious about a non-diet approach in my personal and professional life. I had embraced intuitive eating but was working on the adjacent challenges of body respect, self-care, and being less rigid in other areas of my life.
This book explores many facets of self-care and supports your journey of healing your relationship with food and body image. It’s a natural building block to add to the principles of intuitive eating, because nourishing your body is only one of many ways to show kindness to yourself.
I loved the friendly, conversational way Rebecca wrote this book. It made me feel like I was sitting down at the kitchen table with a confidante for some real talk about real struggles. It was also easy to understand and put into practice, so it never seemed daunting or intimidating to implement the strategies she shared in this book. Rebecca has years of experience in counseling and client-based work and the personal stories and anecdotes she shares throughout add even more authenticity.” —Cara Harbstreet, M.S., R.D., licensed dietitian, of Street Smart Nutrition
Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, by Linda Bacon
“Before I read this book, I was practicing what I believed was mindful eating. However, I was still taking a weight-normative approach to health. I believed that weight loss was an inherently positive thing, and [it was] something that I helped my clients strive for as a dietitian.
When I first read this book, I felt so many light bulbs go off. I had to reconsider the way I was viewing weight and health. What I know now is that our habits and behaviors, even in the absence of weight loss, can have a bigger impact on our health than the number on the scale. The thing that really resonated was the fact that we don’t have as much control over our weight as we’d like to believe. This book gave a very evidenced-based breakdown of how metabolism really works and how fighting against our body’s natural set point may make it hold on to more weight in the end.
I also like how this book focuses on body image but also gives lots of evidenced-based information on nutrition for health. I do feel like many people may not be sure about the fundamentals of nutrition, and this book doesn’t shy away from talking about that.” —Jessica Jones, M.S., R.D., certified diabetes educator, cofounder of Food Heaven, founder of Jessica Jones Nutrition, and SELF columnist
Eating in the Light of the Moon: How Women Can Transform Their Relationship With Food Through Myths, Metaphors, and Storytelling, by Anita Johnston
“I first read Eating in the Light of the Moon as a new R.D. over 15 years ago. My nutrition background had taught me so much about what to eat and the nutrients needed for health, but I never examined why I ate, and all of the messages I’d received about my body, my worthiness, how much space I could or should take up in the world, and the harmful messages women often absorb from unattainable societal ideals.
The book explores women and their relationship with food through myths and archetypes from around the world. It was a starting point for sifting through my own baggage and letting go of what I don’t need. I loved how I could see myself in so many of the stories. It gave me a mirror into ways I was pushing down my feelings with food, and how I was using food as a way of distancing myself from my deeper needs.
Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
“This is the bible on intuitive eating, and it changed my whole outlook on food. I used to be obsessed with clean eating, and it was significantly impacting my physical and psychological health—I’ve talked a lot about my experience with orthorexia on my YouTube channel and book, Mindful Glow. When I read Intuitive Eating for the first time, my aha moment was learning about the diet mentality and really seeing how far I had been drawn in when I learned to recognize the signs.
The intuitive eating process has completely changed my view of food and how I eat. I realized how amazingly intelligent my body is, and that I didn’t need to count, measure, weigh, or manipulate everything I ate; that if I learned how to listen, I could trust that my body would tell me what I needed to be my healthiest self. Intuitive eating has also made me much more compassionate about my changing body throughout pregnancy, breastfeeding, and just aging in general.
Eat to Love: A Mindful Guide to Transforming Your Relationship With Food, Body, and Life, by Jenna Hollenstein
“I was drawn to Eat to Love because of its unique Buddhist framework. The author, Jenna Hollenstein, combines spiritual wisdom with practical strategies to overcome food obsession and body-shame. Hollenstein uses Buddhist teaching to beautifully explain how to heal our relationship to our bodies and how to make peace with food again. She also does a fantastic job touching on the oppressive force of weight stigma and the toxicity of diet culture.