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.
Day 1 – Three bags
Day 2 – Six bags in SUV ready for donation
The above pictures capture the six (6) bags of clutter I cleared from my spare closet, sweater shelves, bedroom closet and laundry room this week. I was getting tired of looking at the overflowing shelves in my bedroom, the dusty clothes on the shelf in my laundry room and having stuff spill out of my office closet whenever I opened the door! Every time I did laundry and tried to put the clothes back on the shelves, I had to strategically move the other clothes because there was nowhere to put them all! A girl can only tolerate so much! So, I took a few hours over a span of two days and purged!
During all of this, I was thinking that this project might help me stop feeling like I wanted to move to a bigger house with more closet space. I was reminded of the words I often say to my clients in the most loving way, “If you cannot find happiness at your current weight, you will not find happiness when you lose weight.” We need to find happiness and satisfaction where we are, not when ________ happens or when we lose _____ pounds. I knew in my heart that rather than continuing to complain, I could do my part to maximize our space by purging all the crap that wasn’t serving me anymore.
I’ve never been a fan of clutter and I’ve done massive purges before, but somehow, I still had stuff lingering in my house. Ugh, I’m sure you can all relate. Well, this week I decided to turn my frustration into action and do something about it. That action resulted in packing six (6) bags of sweaters, old dresses, belts, shoes, and workout clothes for the needy. All the items are in great condition but for one reason or another (style, fit, color, etc), they no longer serve me.
This all started last week when I asked the women in my Facebook group if having clutter in their lives affected their eating. The answer was a resounding YES!! Some even said that clutter makes them binge!! Thanks to my ongoing internal work and practicing Intuitive Eating all these years, this wasn’t affecting my eating but it was affecting my mood, my energy levels, and some other areas of my life that I wasn’t even aware of until now. These are some of the realizations I had once I decided to let go of this stuff.
Holding on to things that no longer serve me is like an anchor.
These anchors weigh me down.
These anchors make me feel like I’m stuck.
These anchors don’t allow me to make room for the new things the universe is trying to teach or show me.
These anchors make me realize that there is still some shame around what was and what no longer is.
These anchors don’t allow me to truly express who I am today but express who I was years ago.
I now see that even though I thought I had released many of these things on an emotional level, until I released them on a physical level, the circle of healing was incomplete.
These anchors also reminded me that if I cannot be happy and content where I am than I won’t be happy anywhere.
These anchors helped me to see the importance of periodically assessing our lives to see what is and what isn’t serving us anymore.
So, now it’s your turn. If you have clutter in your life, how does it make you feel?
Here are some other reflective questions to ask yourself that may help you tap into those emotions.
Do you think you have things in your space (dwelling, office, car, etc.) that need purging?
Do you think that holding on to some of these things may be stunting your growth?
What do some of these things that you’re holding on to symbolize or represent?
What can you do today to minimize clutter and disarray in your space?
How do you think you’ll feel once your space is free of clutter?
If you choose to donate clothing, etc, who might benefit your generosity?
Feel free to leave a comment if this blog inspired you to take some action and release some of the things that are no longer serving you. I cannot tell you how much lighter, freer, and peaceful I feel now that this stuff has been released from my life.
Want more support? Join my online Facebook group the Diet-Free Sisterhood for daily inspiration, connection with other like-minded women, and giggles.
With affection I call myself a *Diet Bullshit Slayer* because I love to help women see that their “enoughness” is not tied to a number on the scale or by the shape or size of their body.
My goal as a coach is to help you find your natural weight without the use of diets, detoxes, restricting food, or exercising solely to lose weight.
Instead I focus on achieving metabolic balance, finding foods that make you feel great in your body, learning to love yourself no matter where you are on the scale, and learning to speak to yourself in with kindness instead of with words that are self-loathing.
I believe strongly that our bodies already have all they need to be well but we need to learn to listen to them. This is a skill that dieting has robbed many women of but I can help you tune-in to that voice again.
I focus on empowering my clients by giving them tools to love themselves more (independent of weight), feel their feelings more without trying to self-soothe with food (or emotionally eat), learning to listen to their intuition, acknowledging their “enoughness”, building confidence, shutting down the BS ideas what makes a woman beautiful.
If you’re looking for a more intuitive, less restrictive and more fulfilling way of living your life with food and your body, I’m the one who can make this happen for you.
I can help you make 2017 your year for self-discovery beyond your wildest dreams. Let’s talk and see if we’re a good match. Schedule your complimentary Appetizer Session by clicking here.
I’ve been struggling with some strong emotions the past few days. Some patterns that I thought I had undone have resurfaced. This has left me wondering how far I’ve really come in my journey. Ugh!
Today I felt an important shift and I wanted to write about it because if I’ve learned anything in my journey, it’s that I’m not alone in my feelings.
We all have setbacks now and again.
We all sometimes think that we’re “cured” and that we’ve conquered all our demons.
You know what? We’re all on a journey with no final destination. We will continually be challenged in life and have things come up that we have to address…even when we thought we already had. Many of these situations will make us uncomfortable and make us question our progress. This is also part of our journey. While I will be the first to say that as we heal many of our challenges do often become easier to manage, that doesn’t mean that we’re impervious to feeling crappy sometimes.
It’s all okay.
What I was reminded of this week is that even though crap will continue to surface, I can still do my best to love myself unconditionally through it all.
I don’t have to get down on myself about it.
I don’t have to belittle myself by saying “You should know better by now, Michelle.”
Instead, I can be kind, self-compassionate, patient and love myself through the icky feelings while doing my very best not to judge myself.
This is where we see our growth!
Life will continue to challenge us. How we decide to treat ourselves during those challenges dictates how much healing takes place. I want to continue to heal and learn the lessons that life’s challenges are attempting to teach me even when I’m in pain and feeling crappy. I want to love myself under allcircumstances, not just when things are going my way.
After all, unconditional love knows no boundaries.
How can you love yourself more through your challenges?
Let’s talk about emotional triggers for a few minutes.
Emotional triggers are things that make you react or behave in negative ways. It could be that something that someone says to you or to someone else that triggers a negative response in you. For example, it could be how you react when someone talks to you, directs you or even criticizes you. Or, it could be something you experience when you watch a movie or listen carefully to the lyrics of a song. So many things can make us react in ways that we might not necessarily be happy about.
I’ve worked super hard in the last few months at recognizing some of my emotional triggers and while I’ve come so far, I still have a long way to go. In fact, I’m learning that there will always be triggers around for me and for most people. However, how easily we are able to recognize when we are triggered and how we react to the triggers and is what really matters is what I believe is key in overcoming them. At least that has been my experience.
When I used to stuff my face at the simplest little things, I would feel so awful afterwards. NOT so much because I emotionally ate or even binged (although that was quite upsetting), I would be more upset at the fact that I wasn’t able to recognize when I was begin triggered. Or, even when I knew I was triggered, I didn’t take the time to take a step back, collect my thoughts and think about my behavior before I actually responded. Instead, I would react from a place of anger, hurt, frustration, loneliness or abandonment and this never made me happy. While it’s perfectly normal to feel those types of emotions, for me, it wasn’t okay to react in negative ways around them every single time I was triggered. It was exhausting and I often felt like I should know better not to react in such a manner, but nothing ever seemed to change. Reacting so often also made me feel OUT OF CONTROL and I loathed feeling that way! So, you know what, when I felt that way, I would eat more to numb those feelings!
As my dear friend, Elysha Maughan, says, “One way to reframe emotional triggers is to see them as opportunities for growth.” When we are emotionally triggered, this is an indication that we need healing in a particular area of our lives. So, it’s really our body’s way of telling us to look more closely at something. It’s telling us to dig a little deeper.
Isn’t it just amazing how are bodies are always looking out for us?
It is possible to heal from being over reactive. I used to get so pissed off when people used to tell me that I was over reacting to things! In fact, that was an emotional trigger for me!
After having done so much work in this area with my own personal development coach, and discovering what the source was for so many of these triggers, it’s getting easier for to me to heal from them.
However, the first step in doing this was acknowledging that these emotional triggers existed in my life in the first place!
Some questions to ponder:
What kinds of emotional triggers are you struggling with?
Are you able to recognize your emotional triggers?
How do you react when you’re emotionally triggered?
I’d love to hear form you! It would be so great and much appreciated if you’d leave a comment below.
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?