Do you resonate with the following scenario?
“Wow. I’m doing so good right now. I haven’t had sugar in like, 12 hours.”
“Crap, there’s a donut. Don’t look at it. Ignore the donut. You don’t need the donut. Think of how BAD it is for you.”
Ignores donut. A few hours later…
“Oooh, I could really go for that Reese’s peanut butter cup sitting right there. It sounds soooo good.”
A few minutes later…
“Well, it’s only around ___ calories. If I have that, then I just won’t have the apple I was planning on having for a snack. Yeah, that works, I’ll do that.”
An hour later.
“I totally screwed up. I’m so weak. I hate that I can’t have willpower. Ugh, I’ll never look the way I want to look. Bathing suit season is only a few months away. I’m going to be the fat friend again. Guess I’ll go find that donut.”
This was me, almost my entire life. Good foods, bad foods. Restriction, permission. Guilt, shame, pride. Negative self talk.
Dieting completely screwed up my ability to trust my body.
Dieting taught me to be legalistic and judgmental with myself.
Dieting taught me to punish myself with exercise.
Dieting taught me to obsess over numbers… the scale, the size, the label, the amount.
Dieting taught me to say no, even when my stomach was growling.
Do you relate?
There is a better way. The last few years, I’ve been on a journey to explore my relationship with food. I’ve deleted calorie-counting apps. I’ve deleted fitness tracking apps as well. I engage in movement because I want to, not because I felt forced to address the evil of overindulgence. I stopped tracking minutes exercised or miles ran. I started exercising food freedom.
My journey is my own, so not everyone will follow the same path on the same time frame. I LOVE studying nutrition and finding out what foods and nutrients do what to my body on a cellular level, but I also feel just fine indulging in a piece of chocolate, or a cookie, or a whole milk London Fog latte (which I’m currently enjoying as I type this out).
The key to my change? I’ve learned to listen to my body. When I’m hungry, I think of what is going to fuel it the most and satiate me without leaving me even hungrier (as some food does). I used to hate salads, because I felt that they left me hungry and I associated them with restriction. But I learned I needed to eat them with more fat. I need a variety of flavor to keep my tastebuds interested. I don’t eat a lot of refined carbs, not because of what they do to my weight (which I don’t even use as a measure of progress or success anymore), but because they make me tired and hangry and BLAH within a short amount of time. Sometimes, let’s be honest – it’s worth it. Sometimes it’s not. I’m learning to find what works for me.
As a holistic health coach who believes that emotions and food are intertwined, I am also learning the negative triggers that cause me to want to overindulge in the things that don’t make me feel so great. Stress, loneliness, unresolved emotional pain, hunger left unchecked…all those things can impact my cravings.
If you are sick of the dieting/self-shaming cycle, please contact me. I’d love to work with you. Here are a few tips that may help you get started on your own healing journey.
- Address your relationship with food. Do you moralize it? See some food as “good,” other food as “bad?” Do you feel guilty after you eat certain meals? Beat yourself up? That needs to be addressed before any progress can be made.
- Learn to listen to your body. For me, that meant learning to reset my hunger hormones through a variety of strategies, but that might look different for you. As you work on positive self-talk, adjust the way you talk to yourself when you’re deciding what to eat. You don’t need permission to eat a cookie. If you want a cookie, eat the cookie and address the emotions that come up. Chew slowly, savor the flavors. When you’re finished, ask yourself how you’re feeling. You don’t need permission to eat it, but I do give you permission to ENJOY it.
- Stop exercising. Choose MOVEMENT. For so many of us, exercise is connotative of punishment or permission to indulge later. You may not even do it consciously. But just like with food, address your relationship with movement. Is it a “have to” or a “want to?” Maybe you need to quit it entirely until you get that worked out. Does the thought make you cringe? Explore that further. Engage in movement that fills you with joy. Sometimes I love running. Sometimes I don’t feel like it but I do it because I know I’ll feel great after. Sometimes I don’t. Both are okay.
- True nourishment is more than the food on your plate. We receive nourishment from our relationships, our work environment, our spiritual practice, etc. When you are finding your life out of balance in one of those areas, it can directly impact your health.
- Get off the scale. Throw it out if you need to. Repeat after me “my worth is not determined by a number.” I don’t care what your doctor says (or the trainer, or the magazines)…until you address all of the above, you will not find true sustainable health. And that health will look different for everyone. Speaking of magazines…
- Quit subscribing and following. I used to love People Style Watch (RIP). But it awakened my inner comparison demon and negative self talk because I have never, in my entire life, been as small as those people on the pages. That angered me and kept me from being present and grateful for the health I had. I stopped getting magazines, but then Instagram took over my life. The same thing happened. Stop following the fitness/nutrition people who are promoting a one sized fits all solution! They may even be positive and loving and wonderful, but if viewing those stories steals your joy, UNFOLLOW.
- Breathe. I’m serious. Learn to incorporate deep breathing practices into your life, whether during yoga, or a warm bath, or just while you’re lying in bed trying to fall asleep. When you breathe through your nose, you activate your parasympathetic nervous system and take your body out of fight or flight and into rest and digest mode. This has positive benefits for your entire functioning body.
Life is too short to be stuck in the dieting cycle. There is healing and hope. Begin to address the ROOT of your issues with food, perfection, exercise and dieting…and find FREEDOM.