Intuitive Eating with Laura Cragun · ep. 40 · 10 for Teens + Tweens

Laura Cragun, Intuitive Eating Coach, looks through a pink sprinkled donut

Intuitive Eating Coach Laura Cragun @lauracragun joins the show to discuss what this approach to health and wellness is/isn’t and why it’s important for tween and teen girls (and women, too!).

I also want to provide a content warning as in our discussion we touch on disordered eating and eating disorders. If at any time you feel you’re in crisis, like you might harm yourself or others, get help immediately or call 9-8-8.

I’m so excited to welcome our special guest today. We have Laura Cragun. Thank you so much for joining the show!

LAURA: You’re welcome! Thanks for having me.

So before we launch into our very important discussion, I want you to tell the girls bit about who you are and what you do. 

LAURA: Yes, I am Laura Cragun and I am an intuitive eating and body image coach and I help people learn how to ditch diets, find food freedom and discover body acceptance.

Oh that’s awesome. Could you share about what led you to discover intuitive eating?

LAURA: I think my first formal diet was 15, but even before that, I would take out food groups and have a lot of rules around it,  and my mentality was a little bit off. That led into then later on, I had to go to a program to get some help and keep myself safe, and I realized I also had those eating disorders, orthorexia–that’s just the religious clean eating–and binge eating, because they kind of they feed off of each other, you can only be so limited and keep things to a tee for so long, but then your body will binge. Then I got some help and this is what helped me get to a better place. And now I have to share it.

That is incredible and I’m so glad that you were able to discover this but then also you’re like, I want to help others. How would you describe intuitive eating, like what it is and what it isn’t? 

LAURA: Intuitive eating started with these two dietitians that came out with a book about 30 years ago. It’s really a dynamic idea that we use our instincts, our emotions, and our rational thought. As a short answer, it is how we ate as children. We come to this world with a very intelligent body knowing what we need and what we crave and when we’re full and what really satisfies us. As a long answer, I’d say Intuitive Eating is taking these external guidelines that have been proven, but then also–just as equal–our own intuition, this inside part to us that we understand and know for ourselves what works for us. And then in that middle, where that Venn diagram comes together, there is that beautiful middle of our own authentic health, and it is 10 different principles that intuitive eating helps us understand in that step by step process. It starts with rejecting diet mentality as principle number one, going through with honoring our hunger and coping with our emotions without using food, respecting our bodies, all the way to gentle nutrition–which is usually where everyone in the health world goes to first but it actually is principle number 10. Understanding here are some mechanics of good nutrition, we need some fiber, we need a colorful plate. But that’s backwards, we have to get a better foundation with our mindset in respecting our body, knowing these different tools of self care that can really buoy us up so we’re not using food as a way to cope. It’s just a beautiful process that really helps it blend all together to find your own authentic health. It also encompasses foods you like, and how you grew up, and the programming that we need to unravel from your past. Maybe what you’ve been brought up with, where your value lies, with how bodies look, or demonizing certain food groups that aren’t necessarily the case. All food is equal, it doesn’t have moral value. It may have nutritional value that differs, you know, a Twinkie to a head of broccoli, but really it’s the same as far as it’s morally concerned. So when we put that much into it that way, it it starts to influence us in such a way where it’s not healthy. And a lot of times if we go on these diets, we feel like we have failed. And that’s why we’re saying there’s that backwards effect. It’s actually the diet has failed us because it’s not it’s not something that will work for people for the masses, it may have worked for one person, but maybe that person didn’t end up being all that emotionally healthy after the fact. So it’s really questioning, “Actually it might be the system.”

Wow, okay, Intuitive Eating is a very different school of thought toward health and not like eating healthy, but Intuitive Eating really is just about empowering yourself so that you can take care of you as a whole person. Why is intuitive eating important for girls, especially now?

LAURA: So important. We are in that age where our bodies are objects. We don’t need to objectify ourselves because we are “More than a Body” in what we’re shown to the world as, in what value we give as far as what the eye can see. And that’s not the case. So Intuitive eating, like I said before, will give you those steps to figure out how to eat and think and what food you’re putting in your mind through this diet culture that you will have to sift through and you will start to see it and it becomes a whole new lens. You’re going to be someone you’re going to be someone that can thrive and be an example and just rise above and not even worry and have that freedom and peace that we’re all looking for in our bodies to do these things that we are meant to do as we come here and have purpose beyond our body. 

Oh, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on that! Us girls, we are so much more than a number; we are more complex, we are more wonderful and we are also changing, like literally month to month. We change in the things that we need based on our hormones based on our cycles. And it’s not healthy to say well you have to fit your nutrition in this box all of the time, because you have different needs all the time.

LAURA: Right. The world is going to do its thing. So we’re in charge of our thoughts. And I like to use this example, the ski slope, where we are used to going quickly to a thought. We’re at the top of the hill, we’re going quickly to that lodge at the bottom. That thought might be I am not enough. I’m seeing these people on the phone. I’m seeing them at school and seeing them at the store. I don’t feel like I’m enough. I’m just going to probably separate myself and play small. That’s that ski slope is very groomed because we’ve ridden it a lot of times. But there is a whole other lodge somewhere else. So we need to consider and know Actually I am worthy for people to get to know me. And we will have to take that ski slope quite a few times before it becomes more groomed and it feels more natural. It’ll feel really weird and rocky and you’ll hit those boulders and hit the trees. This is basic CBT therapy, a very popular form of therapy where we are in charge of our free-forming our thoughts, that we will get to that result that we want. We have to start believing it first, then we arrive at that result.

Oh, that’s a really good metaphor. I’m all about imagery. So I appreciate you sharing that. How has Intuitive Eating changed you and the girls and women that you coach? What’s that transformation?

LAURA: The transformation is what comes out of them once they have all the mess out of the way. It brings freedom and it brings peace. And that then is the fertile ground to be a creator of your life to do things that are more than your body. It’s hard to do if your brain is already occupied somewhere else about the scale or about what else you didn’t put into my fitness pal or whatever. 

I think that I think that some people they some people see intuitive eating as, “Oh, I could never do that because I could never control myself.” I’m sure you have feelings about that. And you’re like, actually, that’s not what it is. And that’s not what happens. So can you talk a bit about like, how you don’t have to live restricted for rest of your life. That freedom that you actually do gain with this intuitive eating mindset. 

LAURA: Right? Oh, that is a very common misconception of Intuitive Eating is just eating whatever you want, go hog wild. No, it’s not. I really feel like this could be a helpful analogy for it. When we are breathing through a straw, we feel like okay, that’s how we are when we’re dieting, we only allow this much. When you find that that straw go, which at some point all diets have to end, you take a huge deep breath. So you are going to eat all the food and you will eat it anytime of the night and you’ll eat all the portions you want. But you know, when our breath starts to level out, just like after you’ve breathed through a straw, it really does level out and you’re not going to want to, and you’ll feel sick even or to the point where you’re just you don’t like the way it’s giving you energy throughout the day. So if you’ve let your body be smart for you, you will level out. Trust that process; it’s within letting go and not always having to micromanage our body in that way, you will actually come to a level place. You can trust yourself with food; when you start saying you don’t, you’ll start to behave that way. But if you start saying No, I can. It’s possible.

Learning to regulate yourself, learning to trust yourself, there’s so much empowerment in that.

LAURA: And intuitive eating includes joyful movement, it’s number principle number nine. It’s basically just putting the new label on it of exercise. Every time we talked about food, it’s just talking about exercise, too. We figure out what feels good for us, we have a plethora of things to choose from, and we can dabble in all these things if we want. There is no shame or guilt on the amount of time or what time or how much.

Yeah it’s now a punishment, it shouldn’t have to be, “Oh well I made this choice with my nutrition so I have to make these other choices with my fitness to help myself feel better about it. Just accept that this is how I’m choosing to move and fuel my body. This is how I’m choosing to treat my body. Learning that self intuition of this is what I need right now, this is what I feel like, this is the energy I have–based on where I am in my cycle, because that changes throughout the month.  

LAURA: I guess as we move on to the more of that body image piece, I’d like to use example of dogs because everyone loves dogs and if any of the girls who are listening right now that have dogs, you just love your Fido! And this really helps us understand that we all have a genetic blueprint and that we are different. So Intuitive Eating is talking about that. We need to have this body acceptance at a very core level to our bones. Until you get to that point this is going to be hard to get through. But one way that helped us understand that is I have an English bulldog. They are droopy,  they are slobbery, they’re really muscley, they can sometimes be pretty fat, too. He’s so cute. I love him all the better for having this body, and that’s how he was bred and everyone just loves it. And he’s accepted his genetic blueprint because he’s just happy with who he is. I have a bunch of golden doodles are in my neighborhood, and he’s great friends with these golden doodles. He tries to keep up with them, and he can’t necessarily do that but he tries, he loves them. But no matter how hard he tries with his diet or exercise, he’s never look like a poodle (we also have a poodle near here). He’s never gonna look like that poodle. They’re like almost exact opposites. And that’s okay. We love him all the better for having that body and this poodle for having that body. They’re beautiful in their own ways. So think of that analogy of dogs every time you start to feel those feelings of lower self worth and not measuring up with other people you may be comparing yourself to. You need to respect and honor that genetic blueprint that you were born to have. And there are many people that love you and your higher power, I believe it to be God, loves you, and your parents. So you you be kind to that to that person you are.

Thank you for sharing that example. I want to ask (could be any topic) what is the most important thing you want girls listening to know? 

LAURA: Wow. Radically accepting yourself and taking the means necessary to understand who you are. 

Oh, the girls today, they are incredible. You have more power within you than you understand. I really appreciate you Laura sharing your knowledge to help empower the girls listening and helping them to see themselves as they are and to work toward accepting themselves. Before we wrap up, I would love for you to share we’d love for you to share where they can find you and connect with you. 

LAURA: Yes, you can find me on Instagram, just @LauraCragun and that’s also my website, LauraCragun.com. I have a If you want to dip your toe into itI have a 14-day workbook they you can purchase at a smaller amount that will really help you get started with 14 days of the Intuitive Eating, the step by step approach. A step up from that would be my course. And then a step up from that would be one-on-one coaching and I do it along with that course. So it’s just really all these tools but a lot of free stuff. I have my own podcast as well I should probably mentioned since these are podcast listeners. It’s called Latter-day Intuitive Eating and I talked a little bit more towards that Latter-day Saint community. I like to involve these principles in there with our faith, but it’s definitely a lot of intuitive eating stuff over there that they can learn. 

Fantastic. Thank you so much, Laura. It’s been honestly an absolute pleasure. I am so glad that we could chat about this, that I could learn more about intuitive eating, and that the girls listening could also feel boosted up with messages and and visual images and examples you shared. I’m gonna be thinking about the ski hill and your adorable dog!

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