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.”
I would say the majority of the female population gauges their relationship with their bodies based on their weight. Wouldn’t you agree? If your body is at what you consider an “acceptable” or you’re at your “goal” weight, there is generally less self-loathing. Sadly, most women don’t find their weight to be acceptable and they rarely stay at their “goal” weight for more than a few weeks before the jeans start to get tight again. It’s safe to say that there are a lot women out there who are very unhappy with their bodies. Are you one of those women who’s often saying, “I’d be so much happier if I could just lose these last 10 or 15 pounds!” (more…)
Confidence is defined as:
- Freedom from doubt; belief in yourself and your abilities;
- A state of confident hopefulness that events will be favorable;
- A trustful relationship
Do you believe in your ability to recognize that you’re eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full?
Do you feel hopeful that you won’t overeat the next time you go to a party or celebrate a holiday?
Do you trust yourself with salty chips, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream or fresh baked Italian bread?
Well, if you answered ‘no’ to all or some of the questions above, know that you’re not alone. In fact, lack of confidence around food and body image are the primary reasons why my clients seek me out. (more…)