8 Ways to be Free of Diet Culture 🎈

What’s the best way to NOT get sucked into contemporary diet culture.  Is there a formula?  Is there an answer to being happy and content in your skin?  To being able to just eat what you feel like eating.  Stopping when pretty full?  Being okay with celebrating and eating more than usual but, still feeling fine about that because that is what humans do? To stop punishing yourself for not exercising like a gerbil on a treadmill every day?  Okay, so here are some things you can try…gerbil

  1. Cleanse your social media.  Ruthlessly.  Stop following skeletal, compulsive exercisers with six-packs. Stop friend-ing folks who talk about being ‘good’ for not eating something or ‘bad’ for eating something.  Do friend folks who are diet neutral.  Un-friend those who talk about being on a diet or the newest word for diet: cleanse.  Diets don’t work. They are torture and they make you gain more weight later.  Un-friend.  Start coming to terms with the fact that we all have different sized, shaped and coloured bodies. Some of us are in bigger bodies.  Some of us are in smaller bodies.  This is normal and it is totally OKAY!!!!!  You do you.  Own it.cake and cherries
  2. Don’t demonize food.  Food is just food.  Food is not the issue.  The trillion dollar diet industry is. Eat what you want and pay attention to how you feel and what you are craving.  Just last night I was craving something CRUNCHY.  For once, I didn’t want my favorite: chips.  Carrots worked.  I crunched some carrots.  I am not saying to eat carrots instead of chips.  I am saying to listen to what you really want.
  3. Stop looking in the mirror so much.  But when you do, gaze at yourself with compassion. If you work with mirrors, like in the beauty industry, just avoid LOOKING and checking yourself out.  Okay, after you eat a spinach salad, or a spinach anything, check out your teeth in the mirror to ensure you don’t have a honkin’ huge piece of spinach stuck in your teeth.  spinach in teethBut other than that, it is possible to lessen mirror time.  Instead, FEEL how you look. It’s wonderful to FEEL and ACCEPT yourself.  The mirror can be very critical.
  4. Wear clothes that fit.  If you clothes are too tight, replace them.  Hit up a thrift shop to save money.  Wear clothes that are comfortable.  Get rid of anything that is uncomfortable, no matter if it is in style right now.  Just get rid of it.
  5. Pretend you are your nine or ten year-old self and behave THAT way with regard to food and movement.  Play! Nap.  Run.  Skip.  Throw a ball.  LAUGH! Dance.  Last night I took my dog for a walk up the hill and around through the cemetery with my good friend Jessie and her dogs.  I had my music playing as I climbed the hill to meet Jessie.  Suddenly, I found myself dancing.  It felt awesome.  Try it.
  6. Conscientiously THANK your body for ALL THAT IT DOES for you.  It is keeping you going and managing all your bodily functions, even while you look at it with disgust.  Try looking at your body with compassion, gratitude and respect, instead.
  7. For Pete’s sake, smash your scale.  That number on there will make you crazy and the pursuit of a certain number on the scale is a big waste of your time and energy. Let you body be the weight it wants to be.  Everyone has a set point range where their body performs optimally.  Trust your body to find it’s set point range.  But, if you have been disordered for a long time, it could take your body a while to get there, so be patient.  A couple of years even.

scale

8.  Here’s a little secret that someone like me needs to tell you.  You see, I was trapped in the diet mentality for about 36 years.  Ya, THIRTY-SIX YEARS!!  I finally got free of it, after hitting rock bottom which you can read about here: The Body Positive 🙃 and here: BoPo Revisited and it all started here: Not-So-Sweet Sixteen 🙏.  The secret is: you do not need to diet. No one does.  No one. You do not need to compulsively exercise. You just need to chill.  Seek non-diet counselling (make sure the counselor is up to date on this — you don’t want a counselor who puts folks on meal plans.  Uh uh.  No meal plan.  So be sure.  My first two links above mention a few you can check out.)  If you are disordered or if you are in the grips of a full-on eating disorder you may need professional help.  If you can’t afford counselling, find a friend who has a really great body image attitude (never talks about diet, has no problem with any foods, wears horizontal stripes..that kind of friend). No friend? Reach out to the many, many closed groups on facebook, that I mention in the above links.  Write to me or comment here….I will do my well best to help you.

Your turn…what else can we do to be free of diet culture?  To be free to just be?  Without judgement or harassment and with love and compassion?  Leave a comment if you are up to it…  We GOT This!

~M

end diet culture

BoPo Revisited

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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”.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Copyright 2007-2017. intuitiveEating.org All rights reserved.

IMG_0148

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: playinwiththeplayers@gmail.com

~M

The Body Positive 🙃

Finding a body image positive podcast helps me to shed decades of disordered eating, over-exercising rules and thigh-gap pursuits…

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.

old-montreal-2016

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…

OH

MY

GOD

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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”.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Copyright 2007-2017. IntuitiveEating.org. All rights reserved.