everything discussed in this blog series is derived from Intuitive Eating and The Intuitive Eating Workbook. As you read these posts, I strongly encourage you to purchase and read both as this series will not be as thorough and informative as the books. Each month we will focus on one principle at a time. Allow yourself the space to simply look at that one principle. My desire for you, dear reader, is that these posts will 1) allow you to dig deep into understanding your relationship with food, 2) that kindness and compassion for yourself will grow, and 3) that you will experience real flourishing as you develop trust with your body.
My earliest dieting days were dreamy. I lost five pounds in a week and felt exhilarated. I went from eating a bag of chocolate chips every day after school to counting Weight Watchers points, so the weight I was told “shouldn’t” be on my body came off quite easily.
Man, how I wish I could go back in time and look that precious young girl in the eyes. I’d hold her in my arms and tell her she’s ok. I would let her know it makes a lot of sense she wants to eat as much chocolate as she can in order to avoid her pain. I’d listen to how overwhelmed and lonely she is as she sifts through her parents divorce. I would assure her she is enough so that maybe she could stop trying so hard.
But alas what happened, happened. And that young girl became enslaved to a dieting mentality for well over a decade. She restricted, she starved, she grew more and more anxious around food. She believed her body and internal signals about food were the enemy.
Dieting consumed me. It harmed me. It harmed my body and it harmed my mind. I stopped trusting myself. I lost a lot of friends. However, I did gain something. By being so entrenched in diet culture, I had no room in my brain for anything else. Which means I didn’t have to feel my feelings. If someone hurt me, I didn’t have the emotional capacity to let it sink in; I was too busy calculating the next meal’s calories. So, in other words, dieting kept me from my pain but it also kept me from knowing myself.
Just like any dieter, I allowed external sources to determine how “good” or “bad” my body was. Calorie counting, fat checking, regular weigh-ins, you get the point. These numbers proved whether or not I was acceptable in that moment. I had no concept of my hunger or fullness cues. I had no idea what foods I actually liked because satisfaction in food was not the goal.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Is this your current reality? Do numbers (calories, carbs, fat grams, pounds lost or gained, certain times in the day) determine what and how you eat?
If so, let me assure you friend that I’ve been there and I know how isolating it can be. The first principle in Intuitive Eating is rejecting the diet mentality. If you’re a seasoned dieter this may take time and that is absolutely and one hundred percent ok. You do not have to be anywhere other than where you are right now. You don’t have to achieve anything in order to start this process. All you have to do is be honest and kind with yourself.
To reject the diet mentality means to slowly unhook from diet culture; how it’s caused you to distrust your body and your internal cues. It is intentionally looking at how you have bought into the lies that your worth as a human being is somehow tied into how “healthfully” you are eating or how thin/strong you are.
Every single experience with food is an opportunity to learn about your body. Be curious and kind. Paying attention without judgement. When you start judging your body or the way you are eating I guarantee you, change will not happen.
As you ponder these questions and pour over the book and workbook, remember you are acceptable RIGHT NOW. There is no such thing as perfection on this journey.
I started this post by sharing a story of how I used to eat a bag of chocolate chips every afternoon. Well, a few days ago I found myself in a similar situation. I was in the thick of making a decision that would impact my daughter for years to come. I knew it was a stressful decision but I didn’t realize how much it was impacting me. As my husband and I were sifting through our options, I reached for a bag of Hershey Kisses and ate without noticing taste or feelings of hunger or fullness. I was about 10 kisses in before I was able to name what was happening.
My brain and my body knew to shift into what was familiar in order protect me from feeling not-enough. By eating the kisses, I didn’t have to feel the sting of “what if this decision makes me a bad mom?”
I’ve been intuitively eating for years now and still have moments like this. I don’t see this moment as failure; it was an opportunity for me to learn and grow. As I became aware of what was happening, I allowed curiosity to replace condemnation. I was able to ask myself what was really going on and even begin to connect to the really uncomfortable feelings I was afraid of. What’s more, I was thankful that i have this outward warning signal that lets me know something deeper is at play.
I’ll say it again: wherever you are on this journey, you are acceptable RIGHT NOW. There’s no room for perfection if you want real freedom. I mean that for you and I mean it for myself. I hope you join me as we spend the rest of the year digging deeper into intuitive eating.