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?  

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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.

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What I Wish All Parents Knew About Fat Phobia

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.

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I Gained Weight

I admit there are times when I am describing intuitive eating to people that I feel a littlenervous.  I know the amazing sense of freedom that has come to me since I started intuitive eating and yet I can feel the tension and resistance coming off of people's bodies when they consider the idea of not dieting or easing up on how they exercise. I can also feel the judgment and a microburst of shame when they look at my body and consider their options. I get it.  It's not the easiest concept to grasp.  When you tell people that they can trust their bodies to know what to eat and when and how to move and when, people don't believe it.  They are skeptical.   I know people are worried about either gaining weight or being unhealthy.  That makes perfect sense since we are told from the time we can understand language that you need to watch what you eat and workout in order to be thin and healthy.  We are also told that if we are thin and healthy then everything will be perfect.

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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!

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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?

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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

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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

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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

xmas-memeAre 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.

Let go of what does not serve you.

If we didn’t restrict ourselves all year long with dieting, then we wouldn’t have anything to fear at the holidays. The only reason all that food looks enticing is because we have waited a year to have it. It’s not the holiday eating that is the problem, it’s the 11 months of restriction leading up to the holidays. The rubber band has to snap sometime when you pull it tight.  If you eat intuitively, and allow all foods all year with full permission to eat what you want and when, you diffuse the novelty and the mystery in the rich and high calorie foods. In addition, if you practice intuitive eating then you will trust yourself at the holidays to eat what you want without making yourself sick.  The bonus is, when you take away the stress that the guilt over holiday eating can cause, your body is already functioning in a more optimal manner mentally and metabolically.

Next, what do you do when well meaning family comment that you haven’t been to the gym lately or have put on a few pounds? Or what about when they are talking about the great diet Aunt Alice is on and doesn’t she look fabulous? Maintain your boundaries. You don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to talk about and

your body is not up for discussion.

Change the subject, leave the room or tell them straight out that your body is none of their business. Internally, keep in mind what you know, that 98% of diets fail and that dieting actually makes people gain weight. Read the studies for yourself and refuse to give in to the fear that our diet culture promotes.

Also, what are you doing to take care of yourself? When I worked with Rachel Cole (Rachelwcole.com) she used to ask,

“How can you make yourself 10% more comfortable in any given moment?” 

It’s a great question. Can you change your clothes? Shift your position? Go for a walk? Stretch? Listen to music while wrapping gifts or baking Christmas cookies, shop by catalog from the comfort of your couch?  In what ways can you reduce the stress that you put on yourself? Take exquisite care of yourself with time to rest and and a schedule that includes pleasurable activities that you enjoy, whatever that looks like for you.

Also, can you lift up someone else’s spirits? Compliment someone who looks stressed or irritable, or be a secret Santa to someone in your community who needs an extra lift. It doesn’t need to cost money, it can be as simple as a smile or a helping hand at the right time. Let them take the parking space, let them go in front of you in line when they are buying one item.  Your positive actions will cause a ripple affect around you and will improve the holiday for us all.

"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha

Finally, this year I learned all about setting intentions. What do you want to get out of an experience? Do you want to be reactive and have something just happen to you? Do you want to feel like you “had” to do this and that? Do you want to expect the worst and get it and feel justified? Do you want to get mad or have fun? How about expecting better? You create your own reality. Thoughts become things. Think about how you want to feel going into an event and picture it going just the way you want it to. Imagine yourself moving and talking and being the person you want to be. Hold onto your intention for the days leading up to your event and you have actively changed your course for the better.  Come back and tell me how it worked out, I’d love to hear your story.

Holidays 2016: How do you want to feel?

How do you want to feel this holiday? Did you know you have a choice? Here is an excerpt from my journal from 2008.  I was in the thick of diet mentality and hated myself. I have also included an excerpt from 2015 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. Read on and tell me, which way do you want to feel? Friday Nov. 28, 2008war-227167_1280So I am constantly trying to figure out my relationship with food. We just had Thanksgiving.  I knew it would be a food fest and I would overeat and I am ok with that.  I am ok with having one day where you overdo it.  The rest of my family also over does it on Thanksgiving.  Lots of people over do it and they don’t have issues with food.  The fact that I have issues with food makes overdoing it so much worse.  Even before the holiday starts, I overeat - mostly because I am telling myself I can’t eat.  And then on the days following the holiday, like today, I also overeat, throwing it all into the holiday weekend.  And the whole time I hate myself. 

 And I hate that I am still the fattest person in my family even though I am the one who works out the most and thinks about eating the most.  And I don’t really know what triggers the food anxiety or how to fix it.  It’s not that I don’t know what to eat.  It’s not that I don’t exercise. I feel bad about being the fattest at my family events and it really kills me when I work so hard at it. I am always bigger then I should be and it shows.  I see myself in the mirrors and think - why did I ever think I looked good?  And I feel worse this year because I’m not exercising like I should and I can feel the flab getting flabbier.  It’s one thing to weigh too much but it’s worse to weigh too much and be totally out of shape.  But I read magazines and try to figure out why things are hard for me and I can’t figure it out. I know I am jealous that no one else has my struggle.   I know I am jealous that everyone else can overeat but reasonably.  I don’t even eat what I am hungry for necessarily - I just open the flood gates and go for it and somehow end up so depressed about it that I can’t even get back on track and I feel less then motivated to do better. 

 I am not opposed to eating healthy.  That’s why I can’t figure out why, when I have all the tools, I am still failing. I know I should be happy that I lost some weight this year and maybe I can lose more next year, but at times like this, I am happy just not to gain back the weight that I lost this year which is already creeping back on.  I feel apathetic and not really interested in what is going on around me in my world. I guess I need to eat better and have a plan.  I’ll spend my time tonight and tomorrow planning my food and maybe I can make it through to Christmas without gaining and even looking a little better. I’m appalled that I am the fat one, but when others do the right thing and eat less or go running, it makes me want to eat even more which makes no sense.  I fulfill the role of the fat person and fail at abstaining every time.

Can you feel the pain and the sadness and desperation in reading that? Oh that poor girl! I want to give her a big hug.  Now here is how I felt last year after Thanksgiving.

Friday - the day after Thanksgiving 2015.  I had a wonderful holiday.  I really enjoyed the food for the first time ever.  I wasn’t hungry for the appetizers so I didn’t eat any and when the meal came I thoroughly enjoyed it.  And I went back for some seconds even though I was full.  I didn’t really want pie either but it looked yummy so I had a some. I heard and listened to my stomach for the first time on a holiday.  It was definitely full but I had none of that desperate need for food where your stomach feels like a bottomless pit and you can eat a whole wheel of baked brie by yourself.  What a lovely day.  I tried hard to be open to conversation with friends and family too.

 I have also been taking some classes lately, topics that interest me and make me think.  They are moving along and I’m excited that over this holiday I have so many things to occupy my mind.  I have classes, I have meditations and spiritual holiday challenges that I signed up for online. I have plans to get even more involved and go deeper into my journey in the new year.  I am excited to set my intentions for the new year. I also still have all the podcasts and books I’ve accumulated to listen to and read. I am excited to decorate for Christmas, actually, and even do some shopping.  I also need to take care of myself and go easy on myself and stay healthy. I have some shopping to do and some cleaning and some work and today I’d like to exercise and move my body.  I have to make sure I make time for me too.  I will ask for help from the Universe this holiday in opening up my heart while at the same time maintaining my boundaries so I do not feel like I am giving in or giving something up. I’m going to meditate on it for a minute and then go move my body.  Overall I am feeling pretty good. I am also recognizing that there is so much potential out there for me and so many possibilities and directions my life can take and I’m excited to get started.  Bring on the New Year!

Wow – big difference huh? Notice that in this post I didn't even mention my weight or my size.  Yes, the change was many years in the making but that was mostly because the old me didn’t know what I was missing and she was firmly entrenched in the diet culture in which she was raised. I didn’t know there was another way.  I didn’t know that I could immerse myself sooner in a world that I loved so I kept trying to make the best of the world I knew.

What were the biggest things I did to cause the shifts illustrated above?

  • I stopped dieting and started recognizing how diet mentality was all around me and how it was making many people miserable, whether they were fat or thin. When people are talking about other people’s size, that is their own insecurity but it doesn’t have to be mine.
  • I became interested in something to fulfill my soul – I took classes and listened to meditations and podcasts and read books that were uplifting and inspiring and reminded me of the magic and mystery of the world in which we live. Being thinner started to seem like a very small and very shallow goal.
  • I became aware of the need for self care. Self care comes from being loving and compassionate towards yourself and taking the time to truly nourish yourself on all different levels. Dieting and punishing exercise that makes you feel guilty is not self care.

All of the things I did were 100% free and available to all. Books at the library, podcasts online, not dieting, talking nicely to yourself. The dieting industry is a 60 billion dollar enterprise. Wouldn’t they be bummed if everyone found out that you can actually get the happiness that diet culture promises all within yourself and all for free?  Share this and help me spread the word.

Blast From the Past

223284a8be2ba891c9ef4a67aea7be7d I have been practicing intuitive eating for three years now.  However, I thought it would be interesting to go back and read a journal entry from the start of my adventure with intuitive eating.  Take note - can you relate to any of this? Ready? Here we go. I am obsessed with everything food. I am obsessed with books about eating and food. Some are diets, some are about your mind and food. I am obsessed with what makes you eat because if I can figure that out then maybe I can reverse it and stop eating. And with every book I buy late night on my kindle, a little spark of hope begins that this is the one that will help me solve my problem. I read more books about eating then I do anything else these days. No more chick lit ( I really hate that term), no more beach reads.  It’s Paleo and the 8 Hour Diet, the Fast Metabolism Diet, the Science of Skinny, This is Why You Are Fat, just to name a few. I didn’t realize I was such a cliché. I am the average American woman, overweight, and spending all my money on “diets” that might fix what ails me. 

Fat comments go right to my heart and take my breath away. The latest comment was this weekend when some girlfriends were talking about another mom wearing a string bikini and the pictures being posted online. And I said – well could she wear a string bikini? And the other woman said, yes, but if you could would you? And I said (cheekily) well I can but no I wouldn’t. (And of course I could never ever wear a string bikini but how dare someone else presume that I couldn’t).  So then this woman turns to someone else and says – you could probably wear one, you are so tall and thin. So obviously, whatever props I was giving myself and saying I could wear a string bikini – no one else was buying that story.  So it was hammered home to me, you are fat and other people think you are fat. 

I just finished a book that I don’t even know the name of.  Oh it’s “Thinside Out,  How to have your cake and your skinny jeans too." (Josie Spinardi). I devoured the book, much like a late night plate of nachos. It gave me hope and terrified me at the same time. And now I’m all ready to try it but it might backfire pretty bad. The idea is to eat whatever you want whenever you are hungry. Whatever I want! Great! I like that. Whenever I am hungry? Hmmm. I know I am going to mess up on that one. If I can eat whatever I want, I don’t have to be hungry to put away mass quantities of food. So how do I know I am really hungry and not just letting myself pig out? And how do I stop once I am “full”? What is that? I know she explained it in the book but I really am not sure if I can tell when I am full.

So that means I will eat whatever I want, whenever I want, and how much I want, and when I am heavier in 2 weeks I will say the book was a crock and I will be back to the drawing board looking for the next quick fix. A few weeks ago I read a book called the Fast Metabolism diet. Now that seemed like it really was going to work. I wasn’t counting calories but I was eating certain foods from a list on certain days. 2 days of grains and fruits (no fats), 2 days of meat and veggies (no fats ) and 3 days of a little bit of everything including healthy fat.  But no cheese, no sugar, wheat, flour, coffee, alcohol. I figured even if I messed up all the crazy rules (eat within 30 min of rising, eat 5 times a day, eat only what is on the list and only the food groups allowed) then I would still lose weight, just by not eating all that crap that we all know we are not supposed to eat.

I lost 2 lbs. I have probably gained that back. But I never really finished the diet. I was great for 2 ½ weeks and then it was my 25th high school reunion. There was no way I was going through that without alcohol, not to mention a few cigarettes for old times sake. So I drank a little here and a little there and the next thing I knew I was eating myself out of hearth and home all day Sunday with the promise that I would get back on the bandwagon on Monday. And I did, only to fall off big time by Wednesday and start wondering what on earth I was going to do next. I even bought cupcakes last week and ate just the tops off (two ginormous cupcakes) along with a cinnamon bun and a doughnut. It was insane. I didn’t eat it all but just the tops off. And I wonder why I have a muffin top and why my muffin top has a muffin top.

So this latest book says eat whatever I want. I am going to do it. The author claims she lost weight on this plan but there is not one before picture of her on the web or in her book. She also says she ate Doritos and doughnuts when she started on the plan, but did she gain weight before she lost? 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 year. 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. This author also has a book that will address emotional eating but it’s not done yet. I don’t know if I can wait. And 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, 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 a big fat slob. 

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.

So that is where I started three years ago.  Can anyone relate to the food obsession? I was so nervous to try Intuitive Eating.  And now, 3 years later, there have been huge shifts and miraculous changes. It is really incredible how far I have come.  There are so many things I would tell the former me above who wrote this journal post.

First I would tell her - wow - you are really in for some big changes. They are all going to be good so don't be scared. Even the ones you might think are going to be bad are going to be good and even better than you ever thought possible.

Then I would tell her how much society has influenced her to feel the way she does and it's not her fault.  It's a collective problem and she is beautiful and there is nothing wrong with her.  There is nothing to fix. She is not a cliché and she is a unique and strong woman who has so much more to offer the world than trying to please the world with the size of her body.

Then I would tell her that, yes, anyone can wear a string bikini.  When my former self asked  "could (this other woman) wear a string bikini?",  it  was a testament to how perverse our society is when it comes to our bodies. Of course she could wear one and I can see my former self recognized that at the same time that she squashed the thought down.  Her instincts were absolutely right that anyone can wear a string bikini and she didn't need to be cheeky about it.  That feeling that it's wrong to judge people's bodies was absolutely 100% on track and while it might take a few years for my former self to fully comprehend and cultivate that idea, she was so right to be offended and bothered by the talk she was hearing around her.   Soon she will learn about body positivity and Health at Every Size and she is going to learn what it means to have a healthy body image and that it is entirely possible even in a world filled with negative fat talk.

I will also tell her that relearning hunger and fullness cues takes some time but is completely doable.  And she will no longer want to eat mass quantities of things when she is not hungry.  That will no longer be an issue since she is not restricting her body from eating what it wants.  She will not be "letting" herself do anything.  She will give herself full permission to eat.  Then there will be nothing to rebel against and no reason to binge from physical restraint and hunger.

I would also gently remind her - how have the other diets been working for you? How did that Fast Metabolism diet work out? Think about the cupcake binge.  Restricting is getting harder and harder, isn't it? And lasting for shorter and shorter periods of time and ending in bigger and bigger binges and weight regains. You owe it to yourself to try something new. A "new" diet is not new at all. It's the same thing over and over again and clearly not working.

Next, I would tell her that yes, after you stop physically restricting, you will also have to work on how to stop emotionally restricting.  You may find that you are trying to tell yourself you are hungry for a plate of spinach when you really want fried chicken and you may find that you congratulate yourself when you eat quinoa and plain grilled chicken.  Even if you have a cupcake for dessert and think that you are allowing yourself something, you will still have to stop assigning foods the "good" or "bad" labels and this too can take some time.

Emotional eating work will also take some time. Understanding how our feelings and emotions are tied up in our food and understanding what makes us want to emotionally eat in the first place is another piece of the puzzle. Eating is often emotional and that is not a bad thing. This will be another layer to unpack and unwind.

Another crucial layer that will need to be studied and practiced is body image work.  This woman is suffering from a terrible body image and calling herself a big fat slob is the proof in the pudding. This is another area that is crucial in the recovery from chronic dieting and also something that takes work but has an immeasurable payoff in peace of mind and feelings of self worth.

Joyful movement is another component this young woman is going to have to wrap her head around. She has looked at exercise her whole life as something she had to do to burn calories and lose weight or stay slimmer. She has hated it at times and has come to begrudgingly enjoy it but still feels like she has to stick to a certain schedule or the pounds are going to pile on.  She will need to learn to relax into knowing that exercise is wonderful for our bodies but should be enjoyable and not punishing and that it's ok if some days we take a nap instead of go for a run. Our bodies know what they need.

This woman is about to begin a journey into listening to her body which she hasn't been doing for who knows how long.  I am so excited for this woman for all that is to come in the next few years and all that she is going to learn and all the peace that is going to come her way.  The one time she was 100% correct in the post above is when she said "Fuck the scale".  With that statement, she is boldly on her way.

I would also tell her, it won't be a straight road and it may not always feel measurable. There will be times when you won't feel like you have made any progress at all. And then there will be times when you are stunned and amazed by all the progress you have made and life is so beautiful that you want to cry.  The great news about intuitive eating is that you are not going to fall off the "eating food" wagon or suddenly forget to stop feeding yourself. It's a process that is sustainable and that is key. Once you start, you won't want to go back.

I am so grateful to actually be this woman and to have had this experience over the last 3 years. I have learned so much and come so far and I can't even believe that was me who was full of such hatred and pain and shame. There is so much more to this journey than just a way of eating. It's a way of living because how we do food is how we do life. I didn't know when I started down this path that I would make those connections and that I would change my relationship to food and that that would change my life. There was so much I didn't know.

So what is my long winded but hopefully poignant point?  I want people to know there is another way to live that does not involve diets and restriction and misery.  If you are tired of hating food and your body and have spent years on diets and are still miserable, intuitive eating and all the pieces that go along with 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 slow and is not at all a straight line. But it gave me my life back and maybe it can give you yours too.

 

 

Dieter's Cycle

I am amazed and fascinated by the dieter’s cycle.  The persistence and the denial and the inability to see what is really happening in the big picture is awe inspiring.  I am having my own revelations about my history even now, looking back years later. The statistics show that 98% (or so) of diets fail.  Psisyphusgifeople lose weight and then they gain it back, plus more quite often.  Diets fail for many reasons that all stem from the same main underlying reason, that the diet is not sustainable.

And yet, the dieter never sees the failure in the diet.  They completely and 100% assume it’s a failure in themselves.  If it’s a failure in themselves, then the next time they try it, they will work harder or try a different approach and then it will work.  We think that every time, over and over.  We rationalize why the last one didn’t work.  We list all the reasons why we were not able to eat what the diet required or work out the way the corresponding fitness plan suggested.  But it’s all our fault, not the diet’s.  It reminds me of the Greek myth of Sisyphus, whose punishment for eternity was to  roll a boulder up a  mountain over and over again, only to have it roll down the hill every time he gets it to the top.

With dieting, whenever the boulder rolls down the hill, it gets bigger and it's even harder to roll it to the top the next time. What if everyone were  to ask themselves, why am I struggling so hard to roll this boulder to the top? What will be different when I get there? What if I stop struggling and simply step out of the way of the boulder and let it go?

Instead, we blame ourselves for not being disciplined enough, for not having enough willpower, for not following through, for being tired and lazy, for getting sick, for having too much work to do, for having to take care of aging parents or a pet or a child.  We never ever consider the idea that it’s the diet that is the problem, not us.  We even glorify those few months or few years when the diet was working and think – oh if only I could go back to the time where I worked out 5 days a week and had a kale salad every day for lunch – then I will lose weight again!

So why don’t you go back to that? Because it wasn’t sustainable.  For whatever reason, it wasn’t sustainable.

Here’s the thing – the place your body wants to be weight wise, is the place it is when you eat without thinking and move as your life requires and as it feels good to you.  Maybe you walk a few times a week or maybe your job has you on your feet all day and you don’t specifically “work out”.  Maybe you eat pancakes for breakfast one day and nothing the next – because you are busy and not because you are trying not to eat.  Eating and moving naturally is sustainable. Eating and moving without thought and by instinct is sustainable.

Whenever it takes enormous extra effort or special planning or requires ingredients you don’t normally like to eat or exercise you don’t enjoy doing, it won’t be sustainable.  How do we fail to see this over and over again? It’s the forcing ourselves that I am trying to point out is a problem.  If getting up and running 5 miles a day is as natural to you as breathing and is your connection with nature and your meditation and your lifeline – by all means, that is sustainable. But if it isn't, you can’t force it.  You might be able to experiment and play and come to love new behaviors, but if you are robotically trying to follow meal plans and fitness programs that don’t feel natural to you, that is where – ok everyone all together now – it’s not sustainable.

You body always wants to get to the place of pleasant equilibrium, where there is no stress and no struggle to maintain it.  Imagine eating what you want, when you want it.  And moving when you feel inspired or energized or cooped up and in need of some release.  When you listen to your body and give it what it wants, you are not in a place of struggle, stress and resistance with yourself.  This is where your body always wants to be.  So if you have to force yourself to do anything in particular, because you think you should, or because you promised yourself you would even when you don’t really want to, and you do this not once but over and over again, that shit is going to blow up.

I’m amazed how we don’t make the connection.  In looking back, I always lamented the fact that I gained 15 pounds over the first 3 years of my marriage.  I blamed it on playing house and cooking lots of dinners together and spending time together and not exercising as much as I could have.  I assumed I got rather lazy and was rather embarrassed about it.  Only recently did I put two and two together.  What do we normally do before a wedding?  DIET. And what happens after a diet ends? WEIGHT GAIN.  Holy shit – how did I not make that connection before? Did I really gain weight because I was lazy? No! It was because I was forcing a way of eating and moving that wasn’t natural and then I stopped.  It was inevitable. My history is actually littered with those stories. And every time I praised the diet for working when it did and blamed myself for failing when it didn’t.  And I am only realizing it now.

That time I lost 10 pounds on the Flat Belly diet? That was an amazing diet and I don’t know why I couldn’t keep doing that. (Non sustainable). That time I went to the gym and worked with a trainer two times a week and wrote down all my food and got down 10 pounds? Why can’t I do that again? (Non sustainable.) I hear this story all the time from people.  “Well I used to run 5 miles a day and only eat 1200 calories and I felt great and if I could only get back to that…..”.

Question for you, if you felt great, then why didn’t you keep it up at the time? Because it was NOT SUSTAINABLE.  I think you get it.

The whole very simple point is –if it were doable all the time, then you would do it all the time.  It’s not your failure, it’s the failure of the diet.  We aren’t meant to live like that – rigid and controlled with very few options and no spontaneity.  Who would want to live that way anyway? Life is never that structured.  There is always going to be something changing and something getting in the way of your plans.  This isn’t bad news.  It’s an invitation.  It’s an invitation to open up to the flow and joy of life in a way you never have before.  It’s an invitation to leave behind the rules and the “shoulds” and all the things that are making you feel tight and restricted in your life and in your body.  Not dieting offers a freedom like you have never experienced before and can open up your life in multiple directions that you didn’t even know were possible. Who is ready to let go of the vise grip dieting has on our psyches and relax into a life of freedom, choice, comfort and joy? It is more than worth it, and so are you.

#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.

Embrace

embrace-facebook-friendly-ad-1200x628On September 28 and October 19, at 7:30 pm, I will be hosting screenings of the documentary EMBRACE. This film is encouraging women around the world to love their bodies.  I am very proud to be a partof this experience and to be spreading the word about how challenging having a good body image can be and what we can do about it. Maybe you already saw the movie and that is why you are here reading this? I could probably write about a dozen blog posts on all the things going through my head getting ready for the Embrace movie screening.  I’ll try to keep this to one topic.

Why did I want to share this movie with my community?

I wanted to share this movie because the trailer resonated with me deeply.  I can relate to being sucked in to what society said I should look like from a very young age.  I didn’t know any differently and I didn’t think anything of it.  Of course I would want to change myself if I don’t look like the women on the pages of Seventeen magazine, or later Cosmopolitan.  Isn’t that what we are all striving for?

Bring on the meal plans, bring on the diets, bring on low fat, no fat and Brummel and Brown yogurt butter.  Bring on carrot sticks and diet coke.  Bring on the daily vow to get up and run or work out in some fashion, hello Jane Fonda!  Let me start snubbing my nose at those that eat cake in public, knowing full well that I will go home and eat all the cake when no one is looking.

I remember my mom taking a picture of me in a leotard as motivation for working out.  I remember standing there sheepishly in the front hall while the picture was being taken. I was about 12 or 13.   It wasn’t her fault, a nutritionist suggested it.  I remember being both excited about the prospect of my imminent change and slightly humiliated at the same time that I wasn’t good enough just as I was.

And that is the insidiousness of our world’s “healthy” messages.  As we try to change ourselves, we are constantly telling ourselves we are no good without even realizing it.  Then we are reinforcing that message to ourselves over and over with every diet that ends and every new one that begins.  I am not perfect and therefore I must change.

A couple years ago, my odd diet behavior was escalating and it was getting harder and harder to keep the weight off, so I kept trying harder and harder.   I was eventually only reading non-fiction books at night like This is Why You are Fat, Grain Brain, Wheat Belly, the Anti-Inflammation diet, the Zone diet, Paleo, The Flat Belly Diet, The Sonoma Diet, The Fast Metabolism Diet, The 8 hour diet….you get the idea.  I will admit that some of these diets have valid and legitimate advice.  But…..

The problem is, if you are reading any of these with the only goal being weight loss, they will not help you get where you want to go.  They will only perpetuate the cycle you are in and possibly make it worse. The problem is, you are not starting in the right place when you are hating your body and think your life will be perfect if you could only lose 5,10,25, 50 pounds.

With this mindset, your body will be in a constant state of stress and you will most likely be overriding everything she is trying to tell you with something that a book said you should do. Eventually you will rebel and as Newton’s law of motion says -  if one object exerts a force on another object, then the second object exerts an equal and opposite reaction force on the first.  Chances are, your diet is not going to end well.

As luck would have it, during my quest for non-fiction literature that would “fix me” or “solve my problem”, I stumbled across Intuitive Eating for the first time. I have to admit, the premise sounded pretty amazing.  Eat what I want and be happy in my body? Get out – not possible.  I also immediately thought “hell no – I’m not giving up yet!”.  Wow – I can’t even believe I was in it so deep that I couldn’t even see it.  Giving up what? Misery? Self flagellation? The desire to never leave the house again?

The idea of Intuitive Eating percolated for awhile and my non-fiction reading started taking a turn.  I moved onto Health at Every Size and realized there was a whole genre of non-dieting books out in the world. A non-dieting book? What??!! I was intrigued and dug in.  Slowly I got past my reservations with intuitive eating and decided to give it a try.  Holy moly. Powerful stuff.

I eventually realized that food was not a problem at all and the simple fact that I kept trying to control it is what was sending me back to food over and over again. It was a self fulfilling prophecy.

Long story short, (?) that is why I wanted to bring this movie to my community.  Because there is another way, there are a million ways, there are infinite ways that you can choose to live your life and write your story that are so much more rewarding and satisfying than the narrow minded world of weight loss would have you believe.

I wanted to share this movie as a part of my healing.  I am still scrambling out of the hole I have been hiding in for years and years and sometimes I start to slip back.  This movie is like a lifeline reminding me that I didn’t make this all up and it’s a real and big problem with our world. This movie reminded me that I am not alone in my struggle and that I am 100% on the right path with my journey through intuitive eating and health at every size.  When I present this movie, I will be standing up for myself in a way that I never have before.  It feels powerful and emotional and it’s all I can do not to get all teary eyed every time I think about it.  I am so appreciative and so grateful that I found my way out and I have never been more excited for the rest of my life.

I wanted to share this movie and my experience on the off chance that there is anyone else out there who knows how I feel or is going through the same thing or who may need some extra support to get out of the hole she has put herself in. If you identify with dieting mentality or any mentality that says you are not worthy the way you are right now, today, then it’s that mentality that has to change.

My hope is that at a minimum, women walk away from this movie feeling better about themselves and that they recognize their worth as human beings.  It would also be awesome if they would walk away improving how they talk to themselves. And when they improve how they talk to themselves, they will improve how they treat other people too and whammo – the world just became a better place.

So yeah - I guess I brought my community this movie because ultimately I think it will make the world a better place and I am proud and honored to be a part of the movement.