I have been completely messed up about body image, weight, diet, food and exercise, since I was fifteen and became painfully anorexic after starting a Weight Watchers diet when there was no need (see post: Not-So-Sweet Sixteen 🙏 )
I have been living by these completely unreasonable, restrictive diet and exercise rules and if I failed to follow them, I would berate myself and slip into hours or days of self-loathing. Did I mention that I AM FIFTY effing YEARS OLD!!!! This is completely and utterly unbelievable that I would still be governed by this mind-blowing waste of time. This waste of time that robs me (and millions of others) of the time and energy to pursue other passions, talents, skills or to just to be at peace. Do I want to be on my death-bed one day thinking of how great it was to stay skinny my whole life but, to do nothing else???! For me, staying skinny (because my body is not naturally skinny – it is naturally medium/large-size) was a full time job. This is some of what I would need to do on a daily basis.
Wake up, pee, get on scale naked, record number – berate myself for that number; pat belly, turn sideways and pull it in, check image, scowl; drink green tea and water at every opportunity; never eat past 7:00 pm; exercise daily; take the stairs, not the escalator or the elevator; walk everywhere trying to cover ten kilometers per day; between meals have only fruit for snacks; at mealtimes, eat mostly vegetables and very little of anything else; never eat cheese or dessert or nuts; never drink pop; do squats while brushing teeth; do back bends in the shower; check image again and again and berate myself for cellulite; suck in belly and hold it forever; hold plank for two minutes min per day; do pushups and sit-ups before bed; if going out for a meal, exercise hard just before to earn the meal; when hungry, put off eating as long as possible; spend a lot of time deciding what should be eaten – do I deserve a snack or should I just drink water or what exactly have I earned today; work hard to eat only organic foods or local organic or vegetable rather than grain – lean meat only, no GMOs; don’t sit if I can stand — no relaxation until the day’s exercise has been hammered out…
And there was more. There was always another new rule lurking in the wings.
Dean and Leo, who is now 17, and I just spent a heavenly ten days on the road to Ontario with a two-night stop-over in Old Montreal. We walked all over the cobble-stone streets.
We had cheese fondue and special coffee. We ate chips in the car and burgers and fries and poutine in diners. The reason for the trip was to attend my eldest brother’s 60th birthday and to check out some Universities for Leo who will be heading off next September. We had such fun. It was a joy to see almost all my siblings and all the new little grand-babies coming along. We ate cake and burgers at the party, building up an appetite with charades and ping pong, laughing and joke and storytelling.
We visited Flo in Walden and after supper went to the mall, all six of us piled in one vehicle and chuckled all the snowy way there; we walked downtown Toronto, stayed with friends in Richmond Hill and then over to my favorite cousin’s farm near Uxbridge where we went sledding, built a snowman, laid in the snow looking up at the stars and went on skidoo. After that it was to Kingston where we looked at Queen’s campus and the main street which was very nice with many shops, boutiques and pubs, then on to Sherbrook to see Bishop’s and a quick peek at Mount Allison on our way back to Nova Scotia. I had promised myself that this would be a fun trip. I would let my restrictions take a back seat. I wouldn’t fret over being out of routine. So…
…on the road home I began to have a feeling of dark foreboding. I was going to have to pay the reaper. What was the scale going to report when I stepped on it at home? I knew I had gained weight. I could feel it in my legs, my hips and my boobs. All parts felt fleshier and rounder – if I was truly honest, I felt more womanly. What was I going to do to get this weight off this time? What strategies, restrictions and exercise regimes would I need to employ? Salad for months on end? Six liters of water a day? I felt truly awful to think of this fun, unrestricted time having to come to an end. I dreaded the return to the regime. I felt very dark and worried about this. Back to prison.
Suddenly, I had an idea…. find a podcast about this subject. I had recently started listening to podcasts on my iphone. There were so many interesting topics to listen to while I walked my miles every day. If I found one about this topic, I would be able to listen while Dean was driving. We still had a long way to go. I went into my podcast app and searched: body image + feeling bad. What came up was Meret Boxler’s LIFE. UNRESTRICTED. With the following description, in part: This podcast is for you if you are tired of being governed by food and exercise rules. If you are tired of hating your body, tired of counting calories, tired of feeling guilty for eating, tired of negative self-talk…
I was not alone in this struggle. I began to listen. I began to change my thinking. I began to respect my wonderful body that does so much for me and is so good to me, that is so healthy, strong and womanly. I decided to break free and to never again live in a restricted regime based on society’s ideals of how a woman should look (skinny!). As soon as I changed my thinking, I freed up my mind from the constant abuse of restriction. I have embraced the notion that a heavier body will allow for a happier me. My body will find the place and the size that suits it. I got rid of my scale, for me that was a huge step and a testament to how serious I am about being body positive. I will always be active and will always do yoga, just not compulsively and not for the wrong reasons, anymore. I want to move my body because it feels good to move, not because I want to burn calories.
Since finding Meret’s podcast, I have found myriad other similar ones: Linda Bacon, Summer Innanen; Tabitha Farrar; Christy Harrison; Evelyn Tribole, and Elyse Resch of Intuitive Eating (see below) and several others. I have made a study of them over the past months. 2017 is my year to transform. A large weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I cannot believe what a profound RELIEF it has been to let go of the rules stated above. Instead, to ask my body how it is feeling. What it wants to eat, or not eat. Does it want to move or does it want to rest.
As soon as I freed up my mind from negative and unattainable body image crap, I started this blog and now I am looking into being involved in a self-help support group so that I can pass on this wonderful news: WE need to APPRECIATE and RESPECT our wonderful bodies. (Our bodies that can do hand-stands like me in the photo above). Our body is working hard to keep us alive.
10 Principles of Intuitive Eating
- Reject the Diet Mentality Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.
- Honor Your Hunger Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for re-building trust with yourself and food.
- Make Peace with Food Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, binging. When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.
- Challenge the Food Police. Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created. The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.
- Respect Your Fullness Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence–the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough”.
- Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.
- Respect Your Body Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size. But mostly, respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.
- Exercise–Feel the Difference Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.
- Honor Your Health–Gentle Nutrition Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.
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