I thankfully discovered Intuitive Eating a year ago—just in time for me to avoid starting yet another diet. You may see yourself in my story. Lord knows too many of us have suffered in our relationship with food and our bodies. Here is a snapshot of my story below.
When I turned 40, I went up a couple clothing sizes and panicked. My doctor warned that although the amount of weight that I put on was fine, I shouldn’t keep doing this every year. Ugh! Worrying about food and dieting brought up so many awful feelings.
When I was a junior in college, I became an Olympic level dieter (AKA an eating disorder). I was swimming in diet culture—like we all are, but I had the perfect storm. My aunt was on Weight Watchers and drinking absurd amounts of diet coke because it was zero points. My mom, in her love for me and desire for my happiness, told me I “just” need to lose 5 pounds (those damn five pounds!) and in the thick of all this I saw myself in the mirror one day and did not like what I saw (never mind that I taught aerobics five times a week and had a great relationship with food and my body). Sadly, my great relationship with food went out the window as I decided to lose weight.
I became obsessed with food and restricted so much that my period stopped for a year. But the compliments! Oh the compliments! Who cares about fertility when you are 19 and everyone is telling you how thin you are! My GPA skyrocketed—my orderly living made me focused in every way. But let me tell you, I may have been an external success (good grades, small clothing sizes) but boy was I a drag to hang out with. I went to Israel for a summer and came back and asked my friends if it looked like I gained weight while I was there. Really? After a summer in one of the most spiritual places in the world, I was worried about my weight. What a waste!
Luckily, I only suffered this way for about a year. I got sick of dieting and went back to my previous love of food and big appetite, which also translated into a renewed love of life and robust appreciation for my blessings.
Fast-forward 20 years when my doctor warned me about my weight gain, I panicked. I am not good at the whole dieting thing. I hate watching what I eat. I hate using any brain cells managing my food. I hate weighing myself. And the feminist in me knew this was simply not right. I didn’t want to be the cliché—spending my days restricting food and over-exercising. I had successfully rebelled against this for 20 years. But once again I had the perfect storm. My sister was on Whole30 and I thought maybe I could curb my weight gain by going on it. My husband and I did it together and it was kind of fun. My clothes felt looser. It seemed kind of easy (don’t all diets feel that way at first?). But of course when the 30 days ended, I binged on all the food that had been restricted for 30 days. Welcome to the binge-restrict cycle. 30 days of herculean monitoring of food and then 30 days the pendulum swings the other way. I learned later in Intuitive Eating that this is one of the reasons why diets rarely work (failure rate of at least 95%–if you look beyond a year after a diet). Then I started working out a gym that seemed holistic and and not weight centered. I was trying to hold onto my rejection of diet culture while not gaining anymore weight (of course I would learn that rejecting diet culture and managing weight are mutually exclusive). Except that they weighed me every time I came in and admonished me for eating too many bananas (yes, you read that right). It was the perfect storm again. People around me were no longer drinking unlimited amounts of diet coke, but there were plenty of new shenanigans in the name of weight loss.
Thankfully, I discovered Intuitive Eating right as I was getting pulled into the Disordered Eating tornado. I quit my training and said no to Whole30. I decided I was going to heal my relationship with food and my body for good, no matter what it took–even if it meant gaining weight.
The goal of Intuitive Eating is to trust yourself again and follow your internal cues about food and exercise rather than relying on external rules. Just like babies cry when they are hungry and stop eating when they are full, we are all born with the ability to have a healthy relationship with food and our bodies. Giving myself FULL permission to eat food was both terrifying and liberating. Allowing all food moral equivalency –which is quite rebellious in a world where food is so moralistic, almost religious (read Alan Levinovitz to learn more about this fascinating analysis of the Wellness culture). I had to completely let go of weight loss as a goal. I ate for satisfaction, nourishment and connection with my body. I only exercised in a way that rewarded me rather than punishing me or compensating for eating “too much”. In other words, I treated my body with love and compassion and pushed away any external rules or judgements.
The first principle of Intuitive Eating is Reject Diet Culture. The process of untangling myself from this was so challenging and revealing. Seeing the pervasiveness and insidiousness of diet culture is key to the Intuitive Eating process and I highly recommend you begin by noticing all the diet culture around you. You will be shocked. The diet industry is a trillion dollar industry. Keeping people unhappy with their bodies and seeking outside “experts” is essential for the diet industry to survive.
Intuitive Eating has changed my life for the better. I continue to be curious about my relationship to food and my body and I am building a community with other people who are rejecting diet culture. Eating should be easy, and I am on my path to looking inward instead of outward. Rejecting diet culture frees up time and energy to pursue the things that really matter to me.
If I have piqued your interest and you want to start moving in the direction of body trust and liberation, start here:
-Stop complimenting people on their appearance. There are zillions of other things we can compliment people on. And stop judging yourself on your appearance while you are at it. You are so much more than a body!
-Befriend people who have a healthy relationship with food and their body. Follow influencers on Instagram and Facebook who make you feel better about yourself, not worse.
-Exercise in a way that is joyful and life affirming.
-Approach your relationship with your body in a curious and non-judgmental way.
-Whenever you are pulled into the compelling world of dieting, ask yourself what you are trying to avoid (dieting is a great distractor), and how can you better utilize your time and energy in this one precious life you have been given.
To learn more about Intuitive Eating:
-Read the newest book Anti-Diet : Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-being and Happiness through Intuitive Eating by Christy Harrison.
-Preorder the original Intuitive Eating book by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, which comes out in its fourth edition in June 2020. Check out their website www.inutitiveeating.org in the meantime.
-Finally, if you are panicking that anti-diet is anti-health, fret no more. Learn more about Health At Every Size (HAES) to learn the science around body size and health rather than the fear mongering of the Diet industry –who stands to gain a whole lot from this fatphobia and fear of weight gain. Reading books like Body Respect by Lindo Bacon is a good place to start to learn more about the science around the HAES movement.
Feel free to reach out to me for more resources from this growing and empowering community.