I have been anti-diet, size neutral, body positive and into Health At Every Size and Intuitive Eating since Jan 1, 2017, an auspicious day when the prison bars opened and I walked out into freedom. (If you are unaware of just how messed up I was regarding body image and food, take a look at the post: Body Positive. The Body Positive 🙃) I received a request from my sister Amy to revisit the topic, now that some time has gone by and I have completely changed my disordered ways.
Well, let’s start with what I have been doing differently. Instead of constant restriction or worry about calories and types of food, I have opened the flood gates and have been eating whatever the hell I feel like eating and at whatever time of day or night – tuning in to my hunger and cravings instead of tuning them out. So, I feel like some chips? I eat chips. The first time in early January that we were at a restaurant together and I ordered (gasp) fish, Leo looked at me quizzically and says, Mom, no salad? When I got over the fact that my teenage boy noticed me, I started to feel bad for the messages that I have obviously instilled in him about what mom’s should or shouldn’t order at restaurants. Shit! I didn’t want my body image baggage to affect him. For his whole life though, I have usually ordered salad at a restaurant unless the prerequisite burning of significant calories had occurred. Well, NOT ANY MORE. Now I order WHAT EVER I WANT, like the previously forbidden fish & chips; a burger; a curry. WHATEVER.
From my research on recovering from eating disorders / disordered eating and over exercising, this is the stage where I am lifting the taboos from all foods…even foods like chocolate brownies. It’s key that for a number of months, or a year or so, I just go with whatever I am hankering for and try to really tune in to the exact food that is being craved. Almost always, initially, it will be previously demonized foods like: french fries, desserts, melted cheesy-foods. After paying some attention to those particular foods (the previously demonized ones), they will lose their power and I won’t need to indulge in them as often. I am already noticing that some foods are losing their attraction, just because now they are allowed. Their allure is lessening. Don’t get me wrong. This intuitive eating method is NOT a weight loss method. It is rather, a way to learn to be in tune with your body and what it needs and wants. What ever develops from that…so be it. Some people gain weight. Some people lose weight. Some people stay the same. It’s a mystery what will happen with me. I don’t care, as long as it feels like I am respecting my wonderful body and moving when I feel like it and feeding it when it is hungry.
Another big step was to rid my social media sights of anything or anyone who would trigger my thinking back to the old ways. So, I unfollowed or unfriended sites and folks with mentions of dieting, weight-loss, green smoothies (YUCK!), cleanses or over-exercising. Also, I had to let some friends know that I wasn’t going to be a gym-rat anymore and that I was going to now take exception to body-slagging and diet talk. I also called a couple people out on fat-phobia talk. I have some really great friends, so that wasn’t a problem at all.
As for exercising, I am doing a lot of walking, because I enjoy it and because, while I walk, I can educate myself using podcasts. I have now listened to hundreds of hours. My favourite podcasters are:
There are also life changing books available:
- Linda Bacon’s Health At Every Size;
- Harriet Brown’s Brave Girl Eating; and
- Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
Another thing that’s good about walking: I can do errands, like fetch the mail and a few groceries items. Can’t do that on the treadmill. I am also still doing yoga. So basically I am down to walking and yoga. Instead of compulsive exercising for the purposes of looks or to burn calories, now I exercise because it feels good. Exercise is a gift to my body, much like slaking my thirst with a glass of cool water.
So, what has changed for me. OH MY GOD. I am free. At last. I do not wish my previous shit on anyone. That was a horrible way to live. I have gotten rid of my scale so I don’t know how much, but I have gained weight. But, seriously, who cares? WHO THE HELL CARES if I have a bigger dress size? I know one thing for sure, Dean is enjoying my bigger boobs. A win win. (Wink wink).
Is it difficult to do a 180 degree turn at this stage in my life? Well, you know that saying: fake it until you make it? That’s me. I’m pretending to be one of those people who eats whatever they want. We have all known at least one friend like that, right? That’s me. It’s working and it’s exciting to be able to just EAT WHATEVER I WANT and NOT OBSESS ABOUT IT. God. It’s so much better this way. I welcome you to join me. Let’s go out for dessert!
When I’m having a bad day, I check in with a couple of closed facebook groups which I belong to and are full of people going through exactly what I am going through. I was having a really bad day a few weeks ago — scared about my changing body and hoping I was on the right path. I posted to the Food Psych podcast facebook group and within a few minutes I had answers to my gnawing worries. One person encouraged me to simply lessen my mirror time. Imagine. I don’t have to check myself out so much and that will make me feel better. It works. Another person responded that I may want to go buy some larger clothes because wearing tight clothes can be distressing at this stage. Off to Frenchy’s I went and found some beautiful jeans that fit so well at thrift prices. Their responses really helped me and I was touched.
I am now taking steps to become a helper to people with eating disorders / disordered eating. I had a meeting with a key contact and I will be doing a short survivor’s talk (ie: my story) at an Eating Disorders Recovery Education seminar. Reader, if you know anyone who needs help with this, tell them about the resources listed here or even about me. I would love to help even one person to get out of the restriction / over-exercising hell. If I could save one person from wasting themselves in the diet-culture crap, that would have all been worth it.
I will end with truisms that I have learned so far:
- All bodies are good bodies. This is key.
- Our body knows what is best. Tune in.
- Diets don’t work. Why does Weight Watchers have a lifetime membership? Think about it. It is a profit driven business based on diets NOT working. Am I right?
- If it feels like a chore to exercise, take a break. Sit down and enjoy a rest.
- If your Instagram is full of skeletal women with six-packs, that’s not helpful. Unfollow.
- Diet talk is not helpful. Step away from those people or help them to know they are triggering you.
- Journaling and meditation helps work shit out. Meditation can take place while walking, if that works for you.
- Juice fasts are diets. So are cleanses. Diets don’t work.
- Not only do diets not work, you will likely gain more weight afterward. This is because your body thought there was a famine and slowed your metabolism.
- Some lifestyle choices are just glorified diets. Diets don’t work.
- If you get a feeling that someone is anorexic (because you have never seen her eat and perhaps she is skeletal – but not necessarily) she probably is. Anorexia is a very secretive condition. However, if you can, reach out to her in a gentle way. Tell her you care. This will mean a lot. I was there. I know.
- Anorexia is a mental illness which can be fatal.
- If we don’t buy into it, we can beat the trillion dollar per year diet industry….together.
Just in case you would like to read these again:
Intuitive Eating Principles
- 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, bingeing 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 under 1000 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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The best thing about this pic are the footprints in the sand. It’s a journey my friends.
Reach out to me, I would like to help…@playinwithus on twitter or email: firstname.lastname@example.org