Diet Culture - The Silent Killer

Diet Culture - The Silent Killer

When lead paint, asbestos, cigarettes and BPA were found to be harmful to ourselves and our children, we made every effort to minimize or eliminate them or at least post warnings about them routinely.   Diet culture is another nefarious intruder that we need to protect ourselves and our children from.

Diet culture is like carbon monoxide, killing us silently in our sleep. Which is why I want everyone to wake up. 

Read More

Does Dieting Keep You From Feasting on Your Life?

Does Dieting Keep You From Feasting on Your Life?

A few things I am wondering about……

I often hear women say that they don't want their children to have the same body issues that they do.  They fully agree that children should not hear diet talk and be made to feel self conscious of their bodies. They want their kids to be confident. And so these mothers don't talk about their diets in front of the kids.

But they continue to diet and they bring the diet talk underground.  I want to hug these mothers and say - you should not be hearing this talk either. Why do you talk to yourself the way you would never talk to your child? You are worthy of loving your body too.  And self confidence doesn't come from being skinny, it's from connecting with this sense of worthiness.  We are all worthy, only some of us have forgotten. 

Read More

How Do You Want to Feel This Holiday?

How Do You Want to Feel This Holiday?

How do you want to feel this holiday? Did you know you have a choice? Here is an excerpt from my journal many years ago.  Trigger warning: I was in the thick of diet mentality and hated myself. I have also included an excerpt from a more recent year showing how things are different and how I feel now. Nothing has changed materially in my life circumstances but everything has changed internally and it makes all the difference.  

At the end of this post, I will tell you the top 3 things I did to change my perspective and change my life for the better. Read on and tell me, which way do you want to feel?

Read More

Dear Family Members during the Holidays

Dear Family Members during the Holidays

I know you have been raised in a generation of dieting.  I know that you have been taught not to trust your body.  I know that our society idolizes a thin ideal and this has been ingrained in your head.  I know you have been taught to try and change your body over and over again in order to fit a norm deemed acceptable to society.  I know you have lost weight more times than you can count and gained it back again.  I know you are ashamed and embarrassed by fat on your body because generations before you told you you should be.  I know that you are bombarded by ads and messages hundreds of times a day that tell you have problems to fix and encourage you to look like everyone else. 

Read More

Do you have Diet Mentality?

Do you have Diet Mentality?

I am always surprised when people don't realize they suffer from diet mentality. 

While walking the dog yesterday, I bumped into my neighbor who is in her 70's.  She was asking what I do for work lately and I told her I am coaching women to help them find peace with food and their bodies.  She told me that she was going to sign up for a local weight loss program and that she hadn't gotten around to it yet.  (I guess she thought that peace with food can only come when you lose weight.)  She then shared that over Halloween she bought and ate a half a bag of candy corn. She said it was disgusting and she was so mad at herself for eating it but she couldn't stop.  She also said when she was lying in bed later that night, she hoped her husband didn't see the bag she left on the counter because she meant to hide it or throw it away.  

Read More

50 Truths to help you break up with Diet Culture

50 Truths to help you break up with Diet Culture

Need a good reason to break up with diet culture? How about 50 great reasons! Things that make you go Hmmmmmm..........

  1. 98% of diets fail.
  2. Dieters gain most of their weight back, if not more, within 3 years. 
  3. "Dieting causes the condition it's supposed to cure.  Most people who diet would be happier, healthier, and thinner if they never dieted." Paul Campos - The Obesity Myth
  4. There is no proven method for sustainable weight loss.
  5. The largest predictor of weight gain is a diet.
  6. Dieting is the most common precipitating factor in the development of an eating disorder. https://eatingdisorder.org/eating-disorder-information/underlying-causes/
  7. It’s hypocritical for us to prescribe behavior to fat patients (labeling food good/bad, restricting intake, relying on the number on the scale for feelings of success) which we would diagnose as eating disordered in thin patients. (Deb Burgard - http://www.bodypositive.com/top10.htm)
  8. Dieting is a $61 billion dollar industry based on getting you to not like how you look so you will spend money on it's solutions.  (Even better for them that they offer solutions that don't work so you will keep having to come back. A previous CEO if Weight Watchers even admitted they know most of their business is based on repeat customers.)
  9. BMI was never created to accurately give any information about someone's health, it was created by a statistician to describe the weight of a population.  All weights under the BMI bell curve are NORMAL.  Only the middle part is average.  (So why do Dr.'s say everyone should be in the middle?) For more reasonsBMI is bogus (as if you need any more)  - http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106268439
  10. Over weight - over what weight? Who says what is over?
Read More

Secrets From the Eating Lab - Book Review

Secrets From the Eating Lab - Book Review

I just finished reading Tracy Mann's Secrets From the Eating Lab.  With regard to the concept of not dieting - it was filled with great and useful information to support why diets don't work.  I would recommend it to people looking for studies and scientific data to support why diets are not good for you. 

The author also aptly suggests - why are we all concerned with weight anyway? She explains that fat is not going to kill as much as we have been led to believe, if at all, and that heavier people actually tend to live longer than smaller people.

However, spoiler alert,  I actually didn't like the book at all and I’m about to tell you why. 

Read More

Dangerous Deception in News Article about Not-Dieting

Dangerous Deception in News Article about Not-Dieting

My friend sent me an article about intuitive eating.  It was titled "What Happens to Your Brain when you go on a Diet".  Articles like this intrigue and disgust me. We all know that diets aren't as trendy anymore.  So it says all the right things; dieting makes you gain weight, everyone has a set point weight that the body wants to get back to after dieting, they make note that the “calories in and calories out” is “old”, and they even mention that you can maintain a healthy diet and gain weight which is true.  They warn of bingeing in reaction to deprivation and how the stress hormones from dieting can impact your health. They mention how dieting makes you stop listening to your body’s own cues. They even say that being slim doesn’t mean your healthy – they say it in parentheses (as if they don’t really want to say that).  It all sounds like they are against dieting – right?  

Read More

My Girl's First Day of Middle School

My Girl's First Day of Middle School

My daughter's first day of middle school is today.  6th grade.  Last night she confided that she is nervous and wants to go back to elementary school.  She is afraid she will get lost. I am afraid she will get lost too, but in a different way. 

I am afraid she will get lost emotionally and spiritually as is so common with girls in middle school. I am afraid she will start to value her looks over her intelligence. I am afraid she will start comparing her body to everyone else and judging herself or others. I am afraid she will find herself lacking from listening to other women complain about their bodies, or listening to other girls going on diets, or from participating in social media full of photo shopped and filtered pictures or by watching tv and seeing the millions of ads telling her what is wrong with her and how she can fix it for only $19.99 a month.

Read More

What I Wish All Parents Knew About Their Children's Weight

A child can no more control his or her size than they can control their height or hair color or gender or sexual preference.  It’s also true that children are born knowing how  to eat.  They know what they want to eat and they know how much to eat.  Too often, well meaning parents step in and interfere with that natural process which can lead to years of disordered eating if not full blown eating disorders. If your child seems like they are eating more than they "should" or that their body is bigger than you think it "should" be, if their size has always been consistent on their growth chart, it's time to check your assumptions.  Who says how a big a person is supposed to be? I believe there is a myth among parents that left to their own devices, kids will eat and eat and eat.  That is simply not true.  The body is a biological machine and when kids are taught to listen to it's cues, they will eat the amount of food that is right for their bodies.  That amount might be more or less than a predetermined amount that you think is appropriate.  It might be more or less than the serving sizes on a box.  It might be more or less during a given meal, a given day or a given week depending on how the child is growing and what his/her nutritional needs are for the time period.  It is not up to you.

Read More

Why Counting Calories is Bullshit (for me)

On Mother's Day I posted on FB a picture of what I got from my kids.  They gave me loads of chocolate with the nutritional information blacked out. I was thrilled and posted it, along with the sentiment that "counting calories is bullshit".  This post is inspired by a conversation I had with a loved one who didn't agree with that sentiment. In our subsequent conversation, I assured my loved one that yes, it's true, people can do whatever they want with their own bodies.  And yes, everyone is on their own journey.  And yes, counting calories might be "working" for some people. (But what does "working" mean?)  I do agree that there is no one right way to do anything for anyone. And my work is all about helping people listen to their own inner guidance to help them make decisions and to trust their bodies above anyone else's opinion. So I explained all that, but at the end of the day, I have to say that I still think counting calories is bullshit and I'll tell you why.  What I will caveat that with is - that's totally fine if you disagree!

Read More

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Making dietary changes and setting exercise goals in the name of health is often not the way to get where you really want to go.  It might even be holding you back. If you are truly concerned for your health, first, have you gone to a doctor or naturopath and had a full physical and blood work up? Is there something actually wrong with your health?

Ok - so let's say in this case that there is nothing wrong with your health, your blood markers are all in a standard range and yet you still want to have habits that will help prevent an illness or disease.  Or you want increased energy, or you don't want to have more than the occasional ache and pain and you want to feel happy and content and at ease in your life.  These are understandable desires.  How do you do that?

Read More

One Chocolate Chip Cookie

One chocolate chip cookie.  Sitting in a bag on the counter.  How did no one eat that yet? It was homemade and everything.  This is something that a few years ago would never have happened, and I was struck by it's significance. I used to cook up a batch of chocolate chip cookies and I'd eat half the batter before the cookies even made it in the oven.  Nauseous and disgusted with myself I would then continue to eat the cookies until they were gone or I had to leave some for my family.  They were so delicious and the guilt from feeling like I shouldn't eat them only made me want to eat them more.

I stopped making cookies. I couldn't take the pressure and the guilt and the shame of how I ate them and I thought that making them was the problem.  I was clearly addicted to sugar and had no control over myself.

And then I started practicing Intuitive Eating.  There are many parts to this practice but one of them is making peace with food.  This means allowing yourself to eat what you want when you want it.  There is no trickery. It's not trying to get you to eat less.  (Although eating less of something  often happens as a natural byproduct of not restricting.)

To make peace with food, first, you must put weight on the back burner.  Not because you are going to gain weight, but because you will continue to restrict yourself if you still have weight as a focus.  "But I'll get fat or fatter", you might worry.  That is a genuine concern since our society puts an overemphasis on the thin ideal.  But stay with me here and lets walk through what could happen.

Let's say you eat the cookies and you eat as many as you want for as long as you want until you don't want anymore.  It may take a day, it may take 3 weeks.  Trust me, eventually you will no longer want to eat the entire batch in one sitting as long as you aren't trying to stop yourself in any number of subtle ways.  There is a phenomenon called "food habituation" that occurs when you eat one food over and over.  You won't actually want it as much anymore.

So by giving yourself the freedom to eat the cookies, you will stop feeling at the mercy of the cookies or __________. (insert your forbidden food here)

So what is the problem? Why wouldn't everyone give themselves full permission to eat? Oh yes, that dreaded fear of weight gain.  That is a doozy to dismantle isn't it? And when it comes down to it, the fear of weight gain is the main reason most people continue to restrict, abstain and live in fear of forbidden foods.  Or people worry that it's not good for their "health".  This often means they are concerned with their weight, but yes, some people will also restrict because they are concerned with certain health markers. This fear of forbidden foods is even why some people  think they are food addicts.  (For more on dispelling the food addiction myth - check out the awesome Love, Food podcast, episode number 70 with Julie Duffy Dillion and Marci Evans.)

So what sounds healthier to you? Bingeing on chocolate chip cookies whenever you make them and sending your body into a stress spiral and filling yourself with the negative emotions of guilt, shame and sadness? Feeling disgusted and out of control and depressed over........cookies? Or feeling joy at the experience of eating delicious chocolate chip cookies and enjoying every single one that you eat, no matter how many.  Not feeling stuffed and nauseous, feeling nourished and supported and loved.  Which experience would you rather have?

When you are afraid of food, you are in a state of constant stress and struggle. This is not good for your mind or your physical body.  Foods will always seem to be forbidden and tempting.  There will always be guilt and shame and perhaps eating more than you were really hungry for since you don't know when you will have certain foods again.  You will be unable to respond to your internal hunger and fullness cues.

The more you try to control your food, the more it controls you. 

Getting past the fear of food by giving yourself unconditional permission to eat  is the key to break the cycle of stress, guilt and shame.  What it comes down to is basic psychology.  People want what they are told they can't have. It's perfectly understandable. So give yourself full and unconditional permission to eat.  It's the only way out of the fear of food.  It's the only way to leave a chocolate chip cookie on the counter and not hear it calling your name.

I now make chocolate chip cookies again.  When I make cookies now, I eat some batter if I want it, or I don't.  There is no compulsion. I also sit down with a plate and a glass of milk and the warm cookies and enjoy the experience of eating each one.  I usually find I am full after a few and I save the rest for the family. I'm not trying to only eat a few, I am listening to my body and it tells me quite clearly when I've had my fill.  I know I can come back later or make them again tomorrow if I want more.  I have cleared myself of a major source of guilt, and despair and no longer have this Jekyll and Hyde feeling when it comes to food.

Do you have forbidden foods or foods you feel out of control around? For more help on giving yourself unconditional permission to eat, you can read the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, or check out their Intuitive Eating workbook. If you still find you need help putting the principle of unconditional permission to eat into practice, support from someone who has been there can be helpful too.  You can message me at elizabeth@elizabethehall.com if you want to schedule a session with me for more support.

F*ck the Joneses

A checklist is defined as a list of required items that need to be completed.  For most of my life, I have  been comparing myself to a checklist that I did not create.  My checklist included some typical elements that you might expect and that I relished completing.  However, my checklist also had elements that didn't leave much room for creativity and deviation.  My list included going to college, getting a job, getting married and having kids.   It also included details on how I was supposed to dress and where I was supposed to shop  and how many friends I should have.  It specified what I was supposed to do to be a good mother, how my house was supposed to be decorated and how much money I was supposed to make.   And it even included what I was supposed to weigh and what foods I was supposed to eat.  It was an extensive list. I have always been a conscientious person who wanted to do what was expected of me.  I took my checklist to heart and worked diligently to complete  it's challenges. On paper, everything was going according to plan. Until one day,  I realized that while I was doing a good job at completing everything on the checklist, I was not enjoying  my day to day life. Things felt hollow, like something was missing.   I wondered what was wrong with me.  Of course it must be me, I figured.  I must not be a very interesting person, I assumed. I'll need to try harder. What I didn't realize is that I had never questioned why I was doing what I was doing and whether I even wanted to do it or not.  I was trying to keep up with the Joneses without regard for whether I even wanted what they wanted.

The first time it occurred to me to question the validity of the checklist came when I  learned that there was something called "diet culture" and that I had bought into it -  hook, line and sinker.  I never knew that I was processing everything in my life through this diet culture filter.  Diet culture told me what weight to put on my checklist and how many times I should workout during the week (to look good of course, not because it's good for you).  Diet culture told me what I should eat and how much.  Diet culture also taught me I was supposed to be embarrassed and ashamed and I wouldn't be loved or respected if my weight didn't fit the societal norm (i.e. the checklist).

Soon I realized that diet culture was a microcosm of a much bigger and more troubling picture.  Our entire culture is built upon shaming people into feeling like they need to look and behave like everyone else in all areas of their lives. It's been shocking and painful  to awaken and realize that the world is trying to turn us into Stepford wives while it promises to make us into our best selves. So our best selves all look the same and live life the same way?  It feels like we have all been slipped a roofee in our drinks  and someone has taken away our power to make decisions on our own behalf.  How had I not seen this? How did I not know I was being manipulated to feel the need to buy beauty products that would fix my "problem areas".  How did I not see how our culture squelches individuality? How did not I not see dieting as the internalized oppression that it was?

Once I saw this, I started to take back my life.  I stopped dieting. I stopped talking to myself negatively and judging everything I did as good or bad.    I stopped reading People magazine. I stopped comparing myself to my friends and neighbors.  Thanks to Theodore Roosevelt, we all know comparison is the thief of joy.  I noticed gossip for the insidiousness that it is when it crept up around me and I changed the subject every chance I got.  What right does anyone have to judge or comment on anyone else's life? I changed who I followed on social media, I stopped looking at my Facebook feed and assuming that all the shiny happy people had better lives than I did.  I realized there was nothing to be fixed in my life because I was not broken.  The way I was taught to look at the world is what was broken.

Newsflash - the checklist that defines the societal norm is bullshit.  All of it.  There is no one way any of us should live our lives. We can't get this life living thing wrong.  Our biggest failures are often our biggest lessons.  Ultimately,  we are here to discover the beat of our own drum, even if it is messy and looks nothing like anyone else's experience.  Success can be defined in an infinite number of ways, not the few narrow ways our checklist suggests.   The true goal is to follow your unique path and see where it takes you and to make room at the table for both the highs and the lows that will ensue.   Trying to make everything in your life look nice and neat and perfect is soul sucking and frustrating and so worrisome!   In the end, there is no extra credit given for neatness.

If you can relate to this, I suggest you stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. How are you trying to live up to a checklist that you did not create? How are you trapping yourself  and striving to achieve something you may not even care about? What feels like a "should" every time that you think about it and creates a knot of tension in your belly? What things in your life make you worried because they don't seem to fit the "norm"?  Many of us have a high level of stress in our lives and are chasing new ways to reduce the stress. I suggest we go to the root of the problem and recognize it's the checklist that is causing the stress.  It's time to toss it out and challenge what we keep telling ourselves that we need to achieve.

We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. - Joseph Campbell

Create your own checklist for how you want your life to look and taste and feel and smell.  What brings you joy and satisfaction? What makes you smile and feel good?  Try to control less.  Be more curious.  Cultivate playfulness.  Become aware of your desires and preferences.  Explore and experiment.  Let go of the worry and the doubt.   Be willing to be different. Be willing to fail and fail big. No matter how much you try and control things - life is going to continue to happen and it seems to me that it would be much more enjoyable to invite it in from a place of wonder than to try and keep it out from a place of fear.  And most importantly, when you don't know what to do or how to proceed, seek guidance and trust the advice from the only one who really knows the answer.  You.

My Mortality

death-2024663_640.png

Over the last year, I have finally given up trying to control my food in order to control my size.  But what I realized this week is that I am still trying to control my food to control my mortality.  The truth is, we can't control our food, our weight or our mortality and I think that makes us all very uncomfortable, to put it mildly. If I plan out a day's meals, half the time I don't want to eat what I planned. These days, there is no way I'm going to force myself to do so if I am not going to enjoy what I am eating. I am going to eat what is appealing in the moment, whether it's a cupcake or a bowl of bran cereal, a plate of broccoli or a cheeseburger.  It's not sane thinking to think that I can control my instincts or my wants and needs. Not to mention the number of times we think we know what we are doing in the day, week or month and then plans change.  Babies are born, vacations come and go, we move, we get new jobs, kids get sick.  There is always a measure of instability in our lives that is impossible to plan around.

For some months now, I have been okay with that.  It's ok that I'm going to be the size I am because I am going to eat what I want and I'm not going to try and control it, because its futile.  But then I see a new book or read a new article about all the foods I should be eating for my "health". Before I know it, I am back to thinking about how to control my food. This time for "health's" sake. And what do I mean by health? It's ok, I'll say it.  Not dying.  That is what I mean by health.

The media has me convinced that I need to eat certain foods  in order to be healthy and, in my mind, avoid disease (cancer) and not die.  There are lots of people who have cured themselves of disease because they changed what they ate, among other things.  I believe that can happen and I powerfully believe that food does influence and affect your body and even your longevity.  But it's not the only thing that can affect your longevity and it's far from foolproof.  Even those that cured themselves were not only changing their food, they were changing their whole mindset on life and that is the ultimate in powerful healing tools.

I realized yesterday as I was listening to a great podcast -(Food Psych with Christy Harrison) that here I am still trying to control my food and this time, it's not because of my fear of fat, it's because of my fear of dying and leaving my 3 young children without a mother.  I am no longer afraid of fat and no longer think that fat is going to kill me. I have  the book and the movement Health at Every Size (Linda Bacon) to thank for that.  So why am I still convinced that if I don't eat a mostly plant based diet and avoid sugar, alcohol, coffee and fried or processed food that I am a goner?

That fear has gone deep for me and I am only now really beginning to tease it out into the light.  The truth is - I could eat all those things that I equate with a long life and I could still get hit by a bus tomorrow. The bigger and deeper step that food is asking me to do now is to accept the unknown. Accept the uncertainty.  Accept the lack of control.  We try to find ways to control what scares us but the only thing you can really do is let go of the fear.

I woke up this morning to take my daughter to band and saw that a neighbor had crashed their car into a tree on our street.  I don't know if they are ok as I write this. All I can think of is how useless it is to worry about whether I ate enough spinach yesterday or drank enough water.  We cannot control our mortality or the life things that are going to happen around us.  On the way back from band, driving through my neighborhood again and about to pass the accident scene,  a giant deer raced across the street at top speed and I missed hitting it by inches.  The universe is blowing my mind this morning, teaching me to get over this idea of a perfect diet or controlling my food as a way to be sure that I will be here tomorrow.

This is not to say that those who promote such ways of eating are wrong.  This is a reminder to myself that it's not the whole story.  It can't promise anything.  Our bodies also react to the thoughts we have inside and if you are eating healthy foods and thinking toxic thoughts then you aren't doing yourself any favors.  It's a balance. The goal is to aim for the things that ultimately make you feel good,  not feel wrong and fearful.

Don't waste time trying to perfect everything around you, like your food. Instead your time would be much more wisely used to appreciate what you have and to be present for all the things going on around you.  Life is short, and for that very reason, it does not make sense to spend your time living in fear that you are doing it all wrong. It's a lesson the perfectionist in me is still learning, but now that I can see the truth in my behavior, I am resting easier than before.

Let go of the fear, that is the thing that will really kill you.

My Path to Peace with Food

When people first hear about the principles of Intuitive Eating, they think it's mainly about eating whatever you want whenever you want.  Many people may react to the idea with disgust, thinking it is irresponsible and can only lead to weight gain. (And we all know what our society thinks of weight gain.) I remember when I first read about this concept a few years ago.  This is what I wrote in my journal: So the latest book I read says eat whatever I want. I am going to do it. I know this isn’t entirely a new concept. It’s “intuitive eating” and apparently your body will go a little nuts with freedom and then will start craving salad.  But what if it never does? What if it is perfectly happy with a plate of nachos for dinner every night? Then where does all my healthy and clean eating research go? All the paleo ideas, the natural sugars, almond flours, healthy fats and all the things I’ve focused on for the last several years. I actually like eating that way but I’m afraid I will eat crap just because I can and if I don’t eat the crap I will feel like I am subconsciously depriving myself. Wow – it gets really messy and complicated fast. Add to that the emotional eating aspect and I’m a mess. But what an awesome time to do this eat anything you want experiment! It’s the beginning of summer and I’m going out with friends and out for my birthday and to the Cape and to a bunch of parties. I would love love love to eat whatever I want! Onion dip and ice cream here I come. Margaritas and guacamole with a bowlful of chips, baked potatoes with butter and sour cream, fried mozzarella (I never ever eat that and now I am craving it because I can). Oh but wait, eat only when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full and don’t make it a rule.  This is so messed up. I feel like I will be walking off a cliff. I can feel the weight coming on and it’s summer, I want to be light and fit, not bigger than ever.

This book also said that exercise doesn’t matter. What?! Now I have actually been doing exercise so long that I like it but if I don’t have to do it 7 days a week then 3 is probably all I’ll do. The book says that’s ok.  Then it says you should go walking because it’s good for your mood. Ironic how that would also get you off the couch and not eating and moving and burning calories. I think all these books are just trying to trick people into doing things to lose weight without saying move more and eat less because lets face it, that would suck. No one wants to hear that. How boring and awful is that? So anyway, I’m going to give this all a try.  We’ll see what happens! Oh and I’m not going to weigh myself. I know if I’m getting fatter or thinner and sometimes the scale agrees and sometimes it doesn’t. I am going to accept myself as I am and say Fuck it to the scale.

And so I began my journey.  It can take awhile for the principles of Intuitive Eating to really sink in. It is also a practice and as such, some days are better than others.  I have been practicing it for a few years now and I still have debates with myself in my head over it.  I realize that the negative side of the debate is often fueled by what I think other people must think about it.  So I am constantly seeking to quiet the critic and remind myself of the evidence that Intuitive Eating is the right thing.

As it turns out, Intuitive Eating is the "right" thing.  For me.  I recognize that it is a choice and it may not be for everyone.  Some people may choose to keep dieting and if that works for them then that is ok too.  We are all different people at different places in life with different wants and needs and we all need to make our own choices.

Scientifically, I know that diets fail 98% of the time.  Scientifically, I know that overweight people actually have lower mortality rates than thinner people. Scientifically, I know that intuitive eaters are happier and healthier than their peers.  Intuitive Eating is evidence based, which means that there have been studies that show it is a safe, healthy and effective way to feed and nourish our bodies.  There is not one study that can say the same about dieting.

So scientifically, I'm sold. I am on board and I will never diet again.  I get it and it makes so much sense and I love it.  It is validating and empowering and freeing and has brought so much more joy to my life in feeding my body and my family.  Where I stumble is with the external appearance/body image part of the work.  This part is so much harder.

When we live in a world that is constantly telling us we should be thinner and we are unattractive if we are fat, and in a world where diet talk is the norm, and people are admired and praised for restricting themselves, it can be very triggering and challenging to hold your ground as an intuitive eater.  Especially if the journey leads to weight gain.  That might be where some folks simply want to get off the train.

The truth is, intuitive eaters may gain weight, may lose weight or may stay the same when they start intuitive eating.  It all depends on the history of the person and at what point in the diet cycle they may be in.  I gained weight when I started intuitive eating.  And for two years I blamed that weight gain on intuitive eating.  It wasn't until a few months ago that I realized - wait a minute - what was I doing before intuitive eating? I was DIETING. So what was bound to happen when I stopped dieting? I gained weight. I was a really "good" dieter. I was able to restrict myself for years and years until it started to get harder and harder. I stopped for the sake of my sanity.

I can't believe it took me so long to make the connection between my weight gain and dieting even after reading how dieters gain back their weight plus more within 1-3 years of every diet. That was eye opening for me. It helped me understand that it's not my way of eating now that is "causing" my weight gain and that my weight is simply trying to find it's normal place in the world after 30 years of my fucking with it.    It doesn't know what it's doing right now and my mission is to help it out and to give it some time. "Do what you need to do body - you are now running the show.  I'm sorry I tried to control you and override your needs and wants for so long. I hope you can forgive me. "

The other thing I would like to note is that when I started eating what I wanted, what I wanted changed.   So for the people who think they will eat cookies , cakes and pies and continue to gain weight, that is simply not true.  I ate my fair share of all the forbidden foods that I would deny myself on diets, and then I got sick of them.  They didn't hold their appeal when I knew I could have them anytime.  And while I gained weight, it also then leveled out and has been the same for the past year or so.  I know because of how my clothes fit.  I haven't stood on a scale in years.  (I face the other way when I go to the doctor and ask them not to tell me, I know the number is completely irrelevant to my state of health).

So what is my long winded point? If you are curious, Intuitive Eating is more than worth checking out.  I want people to know there is another way to live that does not involve restriction and misery.  If you are tired of hating food and your body and have spent years on diets and are still miserable, it is the light at the end of the tunnel.  And that light will guide you through even though the process may be long and is not at all a straight line. It's a process and can be slow and does not promise any quick fixes. But it gave me my life back and maybe it can give you yours too.

Freedom Comes From Letting Go

shutterstock_462857875.jpg

I’ve been feeling very grateful for the practice of Intuitive Eating this holiday season. It is so much more than a way of eating. It is a doorway into getting back in touch with yourself.   That is the real goal. Once we are more in touch with ourselves, there is nothing we can’t accomplish and when we trust ourselves, there is nothing to fear. When we diet, we hand over the fulfillment of our needs, wants and desires to an outside source. We let a book or a diet program or a weight loss guru dictate what we should eat and how we should move our bodies and tell us how we should feel.  They also tell us when to eat and move and how much to eat and move. We think that we are gaining control by following these plans and taking steps to make sure we live a long and healthy life with our slim waists and healthy eating.

However, there are no guarantees. No matter how healthy we eat, we still might get sick and even die. Bad shit may still happen. Not to mention, there is no guarantee that a certain way of eating will give us a slim waist. That is not always true because it depends on so many other factors. Not being in control can be frightening and often we try to control what we think we can.  However, the truth is, we cannot control our food either.  The diet industry and our culture would like you to think you can control your eating but trying to tell ourselves not to eat when we are hungry or not to eat what we are hungry for is like trying to control our breathing, or the weather or how tall we are going to be.  If it were that easy then the we would all be the same size already.  It’s not like we haven’t been trying.

Studying and practicing Intuitive Eating helped me see the futility in what I was trying to control. It also opened me up to the fears that I was trying to combat by using my appearance. Walking through the doorway of Intuitive Eating has allowed me to spend this year learning more about myself.  What do I want to eat turned into what do I really want in general? What do I like? How do I want to spend my time? What is meaningful to me? Is it really dependent on my size?

My son talked me into watching a movie this morning.  It was a Friday morning and I had work to do, bills to pay, errands to run and a house to clean. I was going to exercise too and wrap some Christmas presents. I had a long to do list and little time. But he told me I had to see a movie that really impressed him recently and I know that it’s a unique and special opportunity when your teenage son is home on a Friday morning and wants to watch a movie with you, even if it is 10 am.  I hesitated for only a second and then said yes.

He wanted me to watch the Black Swan.  It’s an amazingly powerful film that has many levels of meaning. I had the vague notion that I had seen it before but I couldn’t remember what was going to happen or what message it was going to convey.  In the end, the movie was summed up by 3 sentences spoken near the end of the movie; “The only person standing in your way is you.  It’s time to let her go.  Lose yourself.”

I connected with those words instantly.  I have been standing in my own way for a very long time. Always thinking that something was wrong or needed to be fixed. The movie also gave the message that trying to be perfect can kill you.  If it doesn’t kill you literally, it can also most certainly kill you figuratively. It kills your spirit and it kills what makes you uniquely and wonderfully you.  When we diet, we are striving for a perfection that we think exists and we are all standing in our own way.  We are standing in the way of creative expression and wild abandon and spontaneous joy.  We are standing in the way of knowing ourselves and honoring ourselves and most importantly, trusting ourselves. When we live in this state, something is always going to feel wrong and we will never be at peace.

Not coincidentally, because I don’t believe in coincidences, this week I framed a quote and put it on my desk.  It said “Freedom comes in letting go.”  I didn’t know when I bought the quote that it was going to be the lesson I was supposed to learn this week. I even wondered why exactly I was buying the quote.  Yet, when we let go of the idea that we have to be a certain way to be accepted in this world, our world explodes with limitless possibilities and potential that we could never have imagined.

Let go of the one thing you think you should be and you can be anything you want.

I am humbled and grateful to have received this message today, through my son.  Letting go of the diet mentality has opened my eyes and my heart and my world to so much beauty and grace that it hurts sometimes. I so appreciate the shift in my thinking and I know that I will never go back to the small and fragile world that I came from. I invite anyone else who is reading this to consider reflecting as we enter a new year, am I holding onto something that is holding me back? In what way can I let go and be free?

Holiday Survival

Holiday Survival

Are you looking forward to the holidays? No? Sort of? Too stressful? Too much food? Too much family? Too little family? The holidays can be a bittersweet time. It’s supposed to be joyous and full of good cheer, but can feel forced and full of pressure and stress. Here are a few things I like to keep in mind during the holiday season. First, when it comes to food, I hope by now that you have rejected the diet mentality and you are not listening to the all the people telling you in a panic how many calories you are going to eat between now and New Year’s.  That message only plays on our fears and does not serve us.

Read More

#ihaveembraced

Wow. The Embrace documentary is a powerfully moving film that makes you think on so many different levels.   I have spent the last few weeks contemplating the movie since I saw it for the first time and I have been wondering what people thought of it.  On the one hand, I have received wonderfully supportive feedback.  My community was moved and impressed and they texted me and emailed me and posted on Facebook to thank me for bringing the film to our area.  There was also some talk as people left the movie of -" what do I do now? I am so much more aware of this issue and I don't know how I can help".  I actually had one dear sweet friend ask how she could help support me support the movement. I have an answer for that although at the time we were talking I felt just as overwhelmed as she did by the enormity of the problem concerning women and body image in our society. I also spent time wondering about the people who did not reach out and tell me what they thought.  I wondered if they had a negative reaction.  Did they not relate to any of it? Did they think we are all bunch of cry babies lamenting our larger figures? Many of my less positive thoughts were not at all productive but I welcomed them because they made me re-examine my beliefs and caused me to challenge my own ideas about body image.  That is always a good thing for me because every time I do that, I come back stronger in my belief that dieting is not the answer, we are all beautiful and perfect human beings just as we are and we all have a light to shine that we may be hiding somewhere.  And for god's sake, 90% of the time, it's not about the food.

maddenspictureAt one point, while I was wondering what people thought of the movie, my friend shared with me this picture.  Her 13 year old daughter  drew it after watching my screening of the movie.  I saw that and burst into tears.  I don't normally burst into tears but I was overcome with the emotions of gratitude and validation for what I was trying to achieve.  The picture reminded me that I will never know what impact the movie has on people exactly but if there is one person, like this amazingly talented young woman, who can draw a picture like this after seeing the movie, then everything I was trying to achieve was accomplished.  I stopped wondering what the impact on everyone was or whether people loved or hated it.  If I at all had any doubts, I was back on track with my mission.

Why doubts? The short answer is I think we all question what we are doing as we are doing it.  Even though my gut and my heart tells me I am on the right path the majority of the time, my head and my inner critic and my ego are trying to get a word in edgewise.  Not to mention that pull of society and the media.  I've been conditioned to think a certain way for 40 (alright 46) years and it's not going to dissolve in an instant.  It's not entirely fun to have doubts, but I welcome them because they lead me to more clarity and more conviction once I work it out.  I happy to say I feel stronger than ever about my belief that life is simply better on the other side of the scale.

What to do about the "what do we do now" questions?  When women walk out of this movie, they may be more are aware of society's impact on their body image or maybe they are now able to name something they felt but didn't know how to identify.  That can feel raw and exposed and overwhelming.  The issue might be understood intellectually, but how do we move on from there?   The answer is, we each individually have to do what we can and what feels right to forward the movement for ourselves and not worry about the mountain of work there is to do around this issue.  I was talking to someone yesterday who reminded me of a quote by Confucius. He said, "The man (or I'd like to say woman) who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones."

So if people can examine their own lives and find that one way they can forward the movement, before you know it, we will have moved the mountain.  What might this look like? It might look like canceling your Weight Watchers membership.  It might look like signing up for that dance class that you always wanted to try but were too scared to go for.  It might start with following a body positive stream on Instagram or reading a book about body positivity.  It might look like not commenting on your child's weight or food intake.  It might look like doing some research into the science behind Health at Every Size.  It might look like stopping yourself when you are about to lambaste your back fat in the mirror.  It might look like getting rid of the scale and ditching the magazines that are full of false promises.  It might look like making time to go for a walk by yourself or cooking something for dinner that you can't wait to eat.

There are actually so many ways that we can start to move this mountain, right now, today. I am not feeling overwhelmed anymore, I am feeling inspired.  Personally,  I'm going to write this blog post for my approximately 0 subscribers and hope that maybe my mom reads it or someone glances through it on their trip around the web late one night.  What are you going to do today to support the movement? Feel free to comment below (mom) - I'd love to hear your ideas.