I know, this is a very provocative question, right?
I cannot tell you how often I hear my clients say, “I feel so fat!” (and fat isn’t a bad thing) or “I just hate my _______ (fill in the body part)”. I get it. There was a time when I would often say things like this too. It’s much less often now, but when I realized that all of that hating was just a distraction from looking at the underlying emotions that were really causing the lack of body acceptance, things began to change for me.
To help my clients with this, I’ll weave intriguing questions like this one into our discussions to uncover what could be going on beneath the surface. When we dig a little deeper we’ll discover, for example, that they’re feeling discomfort about establishing boundaries with a family member or friend; they’re lacking confidence in a particular area; or they’re feeling unworthy or “not enough” in some capacity of their lives. Or, if they’re still entrenched in diet mentality, they could also be feeling guilty about a food(s) they recently ate and it’s masquerading as body dissatisfaction. (HINT: This is why it’s so important not to ignore body image issues.) Asking these questions helps my clients experience a shift in perspective or belief. When this happens, the proverbial light bulb goes off in their minds which creates space for new thoughts and behaviors to begin developing. This is where the seeds for real growth are witnessed.
Fostering this awareness can be a game changer in relation to improving relationships with food and body acceptance. If we continue to believe that having X type of body and/or seeing X number on the scale will make us happier and/or feel fulfilled, we will continue to be dissatisfied and frustrated with our current weight, body and life. On the contrary, when we are willing to translate what these harmful messages are really trying to tell us, the possibilities for healing grow exponentially.
I’ve attached a free resource for you to use the next time you find yourself saying “I feel ______ (insert negative word here).” This image was created by Me and My ED . I encourage you to check out their website for other great resources. Click here to download your help sheet.
How is this concept landing for you? Do you believe that your constant or occasional body dissatisfaction could be an indication that there is something deeper to explore?
One of the most important things that has helped me in my Intuitive Eating and body acceptance journey has been faith. Not necessarily faith in terms of God/Source/Universe or a Higher Power, although it doesn’t hurt to have that too if that’s your thing, but to believe and have faith that things could be different.
I’ve always been honest and said that when I first read the Intuitive Eating book, I was skeptical that I could experience the kind of freedom and peace that they described. After all, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch (the authors who I later trained with) didn’t know the depths of my disordered eating.
They didn’t know that I had suffered for years with an undiagnosed eating disorder.
They didn’t know how ashamed I felt about my binge and emotional eating.
They didn’t know how embarrassed I felt about expanding and shrinking my body.
In my mind, I was the most disordered eater on the planet! Most days I believed that I was beyond help and that my life with food and body would never change. However, after reading a good portion of the book and nearly convincing myself that it was all BS, I could hear a little voice inside of me said “Yeah, but what if it could work for me?”
That little voice was telling me to have faith! Faith that…
- My life with food and my body could be different.
- My obsessive thoughts around food could one day subside.
- That I could find comfort in my body regardless of what I weighed.
- That I might be able to experience a magical transformational like others I had read about.
- That I could eat one or two cookies (if that’s all I desired) without feeling compelled to eat the whole darn dozen!
- That I could feel less guilt and remorse around my food choices.
- That my relationship with movement could be more balanced and less focused on just burning calories and/or punishment for what I had eaten.
- That all of this might be possible if I tried Intuitive Eating.
So, I tried it.
At first, I was excited to be free from dieting. However, shortly after the excitement came the fear and feelings of overwhelm. It sounded kind of easy when I read about it, but putting it into practice was a different story! That’s when I hired my first coach. I believed freedom could be mine, but I knew I needed help, so I got it.
It’s true that, at first, I was a little overwhelmed by all ‘mechanics’ of Intuitive Eating. She helped me with that, but what I really needed support navigating around was all the emotional stuff that surfaced when I stopped using food as my only coping mechanism. And, she also helped me to see one of my biggest blind spots which was my lack of consistent self-care. No, I’m not just talking about the occasional manicure and pedicure! I’m talking about big girl panty stuff like:
- Learning to establish boundaries with friends, family and co-workers.
- Starting to embrace that body acceptance wasn’t giving up but was a step toward true contentment.
- Understanding that to heal, I had to approach my disordered eating with curiosity instead of judgment.
- Understanding that self-love included all of me…even the emotions and behaviors that we’re so pleasant.
- Acknowledging that my chronic ‘comparisonitis’ was linked to my profound feelings of unworthiness. Gulp!
- Recognizing my own prejudices about people in larger bodies.
- Forgiving myself and others.
Like I said, big girl panty stuff!
Discovering food and body freedom is a journey that never ends. Based on my personal experience, and the experiences my amazing clients have had, faith needs to be an essential part of the journey. To succeed, you’ll need to have:
Faith in yourself.
Faith in the process.
Faith in your body.
So, if you’re in a precarious place right now in your journey, perhaps sprinkling in some faith may help to change your perspective. Holding a vision for what you want in your life is one of the most powerful ways to create it. Without faith, it’s too easy to give up and return to disordered eating behaviors (diet mentality, food policing), abusing movement, engaging in chronic negative self-talk, etc.
Remember, dieting is much easier than Intuitive Eating. Those who are courageous, open to change, and prepared to live a new life will likely come out on the ‘other’ side transformed. It doesn’t happen overnight, but being consistent, having reliable support measures in place, and remembering to have faith in yourself and the process most often yields freedom! I’m living proof!
I’d love to hear from you. How has faith been a part of your no-diet journey? Feel free to share with us in The No-Diet Sisterhood.
This article was originally published here but has been updated to remove references to weight and size as they are often triggering. Be sure to read the article update at the end.
My story is definitely not the typical before and after weight loss tale, and that’s okay. It’s the story of how finding peace with my food and my body gave me the freedom that being a size X never did or never will.
If you are considering going on another diet because you’re unhappy with your weight, this article is for you.
Two years ago, I had a rude awakening. After finding and maintaining my small size X body and remaining at that weight for over two years, I began to gain weight very quickly. I had struggled with food and body image for 30+ years, but when I became a vegetarian three years earlier, I thought I had found “the” answer to controlling my weight.
I was no stranger to yo-yo dieting. In fact, I had dieted for a good part of my life. You know the routine. Losing weight and then gaining it all back again (usually plus more). It’s a confidence-crushing cycle that many of us have become accustomed to doing.
What made this weight gain different from all the others was that I was now a Certified Holistic Health Coach and the way I looked was important for my job…or so I thought. I remember thinking to myself “How will my clients see me as healthy if I’m not thin?” and “How will my clients take advice from me about eating if I cannot stop eating myself?” These thoughts consumed me and often made me feel ashamed and confused.
What no one knew is that the reason I had gained the weight was because I suffered with a serious bout of depression. I diligently took herbal remedies and tried doing more of the things that provided some relief like yoga and meditation, but they were not helping enough to make a difference in my day-to-day life. After suffering for nearly a year, I decided to go on anti-depressant medication. For those of you who aren’t aware of this, anti-depressant medications (specifically SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) drugs) are notorious for weight gain. As hard as I tried to control this with a nutritious diet and exercise, I was not able to escape these side effects. So, while I crawled out of my depressive state, my appetite became ravenous and my waistline grew and grew until I was no longer able to fit into any of my clothes. It was a very emotional time in my life.
I chose not to weigh myself because I knew the number would likely upset me, but I had a really good idea of how much based on the size of the clothing I was not fitting in to. Aside from the emotional side to this, there was a physical piece too. To have your body change so dramatically is not easy, especially in just a few short months. I felt sluggish, tired and uncomfortable often. I remember feeling like I was carrying big heavy sand bags on my back. The heavier I got, the heavier the sand bags felt. It was emotionally and spiritually debilitating at times. The most frightening part was that I didn’t see an end in sight because I was like a bottomless pit and could not stop eating.
On an emotional level, my confidence was shot, my self-esteem had plummeted, and I was more embarrassed and uncomfortable than I had ever been about my body.
Once I began to come out of the depressive fog I was in, I was determined to heal my body. I knew that I couldn’t tolerate going on a diet to lose the weight, but I didn’t know what else to do. By sheer luck, I stumbled on the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch. Reading this book was like a breath of fresh air! Once I began living this “no-diet” approach to life, I began to feel more hopeful for the first time in months. Within a few months of practicing Intuitive Eating, my life began to transform in ways I never thought imaginable.
I want to be clear that my life didn’t transform because I lost weight. My life transformed because my perception of how I viewed a “healthy” body changed.
This is how I redefined health for myself:
I didn’t have to be thin to be healthy.
I didn’t have to be thin to be fit.
I could develop a healthy relationship with food regardless of how many years I’d struggled.
I can love my body unconditionally.
Feeling sluggish and uncomfortable was only short term.
I can listen to my body and honor its needs on a physical and emotional level.
I am an amazingly strong woman and my experience only intensified that.
I can inspire others regardless of my weight.
Dieting will never improve your relationship with food and body the way practicing self-love and self-compassion will. Practicing Intuitive Eating and taking control of my depression were instrumental in giving me back my life after feeling so out of control with food for so many years. This former size X, now size X go-getter, is happier and has a healthier relationship with food than she ever thought possible. I eat nutritious foods; I’m healthy by medical standards; I don’t deprive or restrict myself from eating foods that I enjoy; I acknowledge daily that I’m more than my weight; and love to move my body in ways that I enjoy without being militant about it. I have found true food and body freedom and I’m so grateful!
UPDATE: April 20, 2017 – I’m happy to report that my depression is now being managed well without medication, I’ve been a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor for over two years, and am living a satisfying and happy life.
How do you measure progress?
Please know that if you’re still basing your progress on the antiquated Body Mass Index (BMI) you may never be satisfied with your body.
Body satisfaction needs to come from within. We don’t need an index, chart or any other external thing to tell us that we’re enough. We can decide that for ourselves.
The important thing to realize is that if we’re stuck believing that there is one “ideal” body or one way to eat, we will never have a balanced relationship with food and body.
The only one who can decide that your body is already ideal is YOU.
So, put away the magazines and stop following people on social media that make false promises about the “perfect” diet and/or exercise regime that will give you the ideal body and the optimal health. A one size fits all approach never works.
By freeing yourself of all the things that are telling you what you should be doing, you will be creating more space to listen to your body. Amazing things will begin to happen when you shut off all that noise and just lovingly listen. When you listen, you’ll learn what foods work for your body and what type of movement you enjoy. You’ll also learn what other ways you can honor your body to experience more freedom and joy. This is how we develop a more balanced relationship with food and body. Once that balance is created, more robust health often follows.
Until we start listening to ourselves, we will never think that we’re already enough as we are.
For the record, knowing that we’re enough doesn’t mean that we don’t want to improve or develop new habits. It simply means that despite that, we still love ourselves. All of ourselves…insides and outsides. So, instead of repeatedly saying or thinking “I’ll be enough when I _________.” we acknowledge that reaching ____________ will simply enhance our enoughness not make us enough.
How would your life change if you acknowledged that you’re already enough?
Forgive me. I’ve been absent for a few weeks. I got a burst of inspiration today after seeing something on Facebook and decided to share my thoughts about it here because the topic is so important!
Just because you may emotionally overeat, binge eat, or don’t exercise consistently doesn’t mean that you don’t love yourself. I see memes all over the place that say, “Exercise is an act of self-love.”. While I understand the premise behind those words, I think we need to be so careful when we say them or read them as they have the potential to make us feel like sh*t about ourselves.
The truth is, sometimes we get stuck. That isn’t always an indication that we don’t love ourselves. Sometimes people just really don’t know how to get out of their own way and need someone to help them see that they are the one’s putting up that barrier. That may or may not have to do with loving oneself.
Many women who struggle with food & body image issues have had these issues for decades. It’s VERY rare that I meet women who just suddenly started to experience these issues. If they’re honest, they’ve been around for some time. These types of patterns take time to develop and sometimes take even longer to unravel. However, if you want to see lasting change, the unraveling is absolutely necessary to move forward.
So, if you cannot get out of your own way and are tired of struggling to make things “right” with your food & how you feel about your body, what is stopping you from asking for the help that you need to move forward?
If you say it’s time, that’s simply an excuse and an indication that you’re engaged in self-sabotaging behaviors.
If you say it’s money, I would also say that is also self-sabotage because you don’t know how much it costs.
Self-sabotage runs rampant in all of us and is not easy to figure out on your own. Remaining in this type of behavior will not serve you and will never ever give you the results that you crave AND deserve to have.
If you are committed to moving forward and healing your relationship with food & body, and want help from a pro who has earned her stripes by living through the worst of it with her own food & body issues, reach out to me for a complimentary 30 minute consultation. I don’t bite and I feel confidently that you will gain at least one or two tips about how you can begin to shift your mindset. I look forward to connecting with you. Schedule your session here.
Last week one of the women in my private Facebook group Intuitive Eating & Body Loving Rockstars (click here to join us) asked me these questions:
“How can I determine if I want to exercise because of unhappiness with my body and weight OR because of health? Are there any tell-tale signs that someone is doing it for the right reasons? Lately I’ve been feeling like I want to do some strength training but I’m having trouble determining my true intentions.”