If a doctor prescribed to you a treatment that had a 5% chance of success, would you take it? What if the same treatment had several serious side-effects such as depression, anemia, or developing a life-threatening eating disorder?
Did you know that 95% of people who diet will gain back even more weight within 5 years, and develop a disordered relationship with food? Dieting is the largest predictor of future weight gain. These statistics are not scare-tactics. It is research, plain and simple.
Burned out dieters know that diets don’t work. However, our society values a thin ideal. Dieters are seen as virtuous to the public at large.
I was one of those dieters.
I lost 60 pounds over a 2-year period of time. Life was good. I had done an excellent job of exercising excessively and restricting myself to what I deemed healthy food. However, after a few years I was unable to keep myself from eating unhealthy food. I tried everything to keep my weight gain at bay. Jenny Craig, Seattle Sutton, Weight Watchers, you name it. I experimented with diet pills, personal trainers, boot camp, food diaries, going to the dietician, and more.
I hated myself for gaining weight. I hated that I couldn’t follow a diet. What was wrong with me?
Soon unhealthy behaviors followed: over-exercising twice day, self-hatred, chewing & spitting out food without eating it. Eventually I came a cross some literature that showed me I wasn’t the only one struggling with this problem. And I soon learned that I wasn’t the problem at all, diets were.
Through reading nondieting books, I realized that using external forces (diets) to lose weight was doing nothing but evil to my physical body & soul.
Intuitive Eating is based upon the principle that we are all born with internal wisdom as to how to fuel our bodies. It showed me that food is not the enemy. Intuitive Eating says that all foods are acceptable, and that if we learn to tune in to our natural hunger & satisfaction signals, we could bring our weight to its natural set-point.
Do you think it is any coincidence that every time I get the flu, I get a huge craving for steak? My physical body (not my mind) craves steak because it is lacking iron! What about when women crave chocolate during their menstrual periods? Often times women are lacking magnesium during that time.
We are born with this internal wisdom. Think about how toddlers eat. They eat a few bites here, a few bites there. They stop when their bellies feel full or satisfied.
Our bodies DO tell us what they need. However, we have learned to tune it out. To relearn this skill, it takes time, patience, & practice.
Tired of fighting my body, I stopped dieting. It was the most powerful decision I could have ever made. I was no longer restricting, but still struggling with overeating and bingeing.
My first step as a recovering former dieter was to unhook exercise from weight loss. In the past, during my diet-mentality days, I looked at exercise as a means to an end, weight loss! If I wasn’t attempting to lose weight, exercise was not a part of my daily schedule. Exercise was sweat, hard work, feeling fat and unfit, and drudgery. What did I enjoy about exercise? Being done! Burning calories!
I tried all kinds of different exercise classes, and I loved them! I felt stronger and more confident, even energized. I brought home the “high” that movement can bring. I discovered that listening to your body was important not just for being aware of when you are hungry or satisfied, but also for letting you know what type of movement it needed as well!
I now experience what exercise can really be like: joyful movement. I am able to connect with my physical body and focus on what it means to feel pleasure in the moment of exercise – not just being done!
My body needs walking, hiking, strength training, yoga, and a little bit of step class from time to time.
Today, I find myself moving joyfully most days of the week. I continue to enjoy my practice of yoga and walking outside when the Midwest weather permits. Not because of the calories it burns or as a form of punishment; rather, I do it because it is now a part of my life. What else is a part of my life because of movement? Sleeping better, more respect for what my body can do (as opposed to what it looks like), more energy and strength, and having peace that my relationship with movement is being healed.
Ditching the diet mentality includes ditching exercise for weight loss. I know the exercise I do may or may not lead to weight loss. I only participate in movement activities that bring me joy, regardless of the impact upon my weight. This decision has lead to sustainability.
I didn’t really think my eating habits would change as a result of all my joyful movement. After all, this was an area that I’d stayed stuck in for years. However, I started to experience that trusting my body felt so good.
My bingeing and overeating has lessened, and slowly I’m making peace with food and my body. I now feel my feelings, instead of eating to numb out. I want to stay connected to my body, and that is big change.
I haven’t totally kissed fast food goodbye, but I’m making my path towards eating more whole, unprocessed foods that feel good in my body.
I’m now on a journey of joy, instead of a journey of hate.