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.
Today I’ve hit another rock bottom in my life. I’m in a tremendous amount of emotional pain and truly, truly feel like a terrible person. Like everyone else, I have my days, but today is definitely a low point.
I’ve been doing some personal development with someone over the past few weeks and lots of emotions are getting kicked up. I thought I was coping okay until yesterday when I had a really negative meeting with some colleagues. The call was not what I was expecting and was very reactive to some of the things that were said. Words were said, feelings were hurt, and opinions were changed. Sadly, I cannot turn back the clock.
The remarkable thing about this is that I’ve been in this place before in my life. I’ve felt the despair, the sadness, the confusion. I’ve asked myself why I keep doing things in a certain way to get the same unfavorable outcome, but I continue to come up blank. When this has happened before, I know that the feelings don’t last forever, but while they’re here, it’s really uncomfortable.
Even though this incident happened yesterday, I was still feeling the after effects of it today when I woke up. In fact, I felt worse today than yesterday. I was emotionally hung-over. I was feeling desperate and knew I had to do something to feel better.
Back in the day, I used to chronically binge (I struggled with BED for years!) or emotionally eat to numb my feelings. Since I’ve been following Intuitive Eating for a handful of years, food is no longer my drug of choice! So, I had to ask myself what could I do now to relieve myself of these feelings now?
Today I chose to move my body in ways that made me feel good about myself. I rode my bike to the gym and felt the warm sunshine on my back. I followed that up by doing some cardio while watching an episode of Ellen. Now I’m writing about this in hopes that it will help me feel better and that it may inspire someone else who might be wanting to reach for food to soothe their feelings.
Now that I’m feeling a bit more grounded, I’ve gotten clear about a few things:
- My behavior follows a pattern. I know this because similar interactions with people have led me to act in the same manner and given me the same results none of which have been favorable.
- I haven’t learned the lesson yet. Unless I get to the root of why this keeps happening, it will continue to happen. I believe that the Universe keeps presenting these situations for me so that I’ll do it differently the next time around. Until I resolve the issue within myself that is causing me to react in this way, I will continue to be given chances to do it differently. That’s comforting, but also distressing because this is so unpleasant!
- Personal development work is tough. There is no doubt about it, digging into the inner corners of your soul is not always pleasant. What I see now after so many years of doing personal development work, mainly around my relationship with food and body, is that it frees you up so you can start loving yourself on a whole new level.
- You’ve got to have tools. It would have been so easy to just fall back in to old behaviors and stuff my face for a few hours or even days. However, if there is one thing that all this internal work has taught me is that that wouldn’t have solved anything. It also wouldn’t have given me the clarity that I have now.
- This is a blessing. Even though I feel like crap, I’m choosing to see all of this as a blessing in disguise. This blessing will help me to see the parts of me that still need healing. By doing that, I will see real change in my life.
- I still need help. I’ve come a long way in my life and my relationship with myself, but I still need someone to hold my hand for this kind of stuff. Discovering these patterns and dismantling them isn’t easy and having that person there to support me is what allows me to keep going.
- The love is still there. Yep, I feel like crap, but I still love myself. I have faith that I’ll work this out and be a better version of me when it’s over.
I know these feelings will pass. I’m thankful for the tools that I choose to use instead of food because they will continue to help me grow as a woman, mom, wife and as a coach.
I’ve come far enough in my journey to know that I’m never alone in my feelings. If this resonates with you, I hope it helps you to feel less alone. I know how scary it can be to feel like you’re the only person on the Earth who feels a certain way so I know it’s not pleasant!
If you struggle with food, I hope it gives you hope that food isn’t the answer. After being a slave to bingeing and emotional eating for several decades, I know better than anyone how easy it is to grab for the food when the tough emotions hit.
Food for thought:
How are you dealing with your inner demons?
What patterns keep showing up in your life that are making you feel bad about yourself?
When these feelings clobber you over the head, what are you willing to do instead of eating?
What are you willing to do to rid yourself of these painful patterns so you can grow?
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.
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