I was wondering if it would be helpful to share some milestones that I have crossed following the non-diet lifestyle. What a long strange trip it's been. I could say so much more about all that I have learned, but here are some of the highlights.
It all started when I realized I was hyper-focusing on food ALL THE TIME. Like many others, I thought I was addicted to food and sugar. And I was focused on food because I thought my body was a problem and I thought food was the solution.
I love books and whenever I want to learn something - I go find a book. So I started to look for books that addressed food addiction and emotional eating more than dieting.
Once I started looking for books that talked about how to heal my food issue, instead of how to diet, I had unknowingly turned a corner. Mingled in with the books on how to find peace and get thin, were also books and blogs and websites on how to find peace, period. (I also learned that food addiction was not really a thing, and it was my years of trying to diet that had messed up my relationship with food.)
Milestone 1 – I stopped physically dieting. I remember that summer well. We were taking a road trip as a family in Western US and I remember stocking up on car snacks that I never would have ever considered before. Oreos and Cheetos and candy. It felt weird. And freeing. And scary.
I'm sharing some excerpts from my journal during the phases of my awakening. (Warning - in the clip below I am still worried about getting fatter and eating "bad" things and turning intuitive eating into a set of rules and trying to figure out how to do it "right".) Oh my, how I have come a long way.
"And Leon is getting larger. So I have been eating ice cream and chocolate chips with butter about 4 nights a week. I eat what I want at every meal. I don’t feel like I am eating beyond my hunger too much but I’m eating the ice cream in front of the tv. Everything else I have been good about eating without distraction. But I am not truly savoring or aware of what I am eating. I need to go over the rules of intuitive eating and concentrate. I am thinking about the eat whatever you want part too much and forgetting the rest. I am trying to love myself even though I am gaining weight - but there really is a limit. Much fatter and I won’t like myself at all. What a conundrum. You hate being fat but you have to love yourself fat before you can lose the fat. I hid the scale - I don’t want to know. I need to - review the guidelines (don’t call them rules!), research healthy recipes, look into yoga because I’ve been talking about it forever, love yourself, what else? I need to review a few more websites about people who have done this intuitive eating and see what I am doing wrong. Do I give myself a time limit on getting fatter? Is it better to be fatter and not dieting or dieting and grumpy? Am I less grumpy because I am not dieting? I feel like I am but I still have bad moods of course. It does feel wonderful not worrying about going out with friends and what I am going to eat all the time. It does feel wonderful not to think about carbs and protein and what to eat when. It still feels bad to eat things that I think are bad for me but have decided I am hungry for anyway. There is still guilt and that’s when I decide to eat it just to prove to myself it’s ok to eat it. And that’s why I am gaining weight and eating things that I would not have eaten while dieting. It’s hard to tell what I really want and what I am just proving to myself I can have. Ok - off to research. I love myself, I love myself, I am not perfect, but I am ok, I am not perfect, but I am ok, I am not perfect, but I am ok...... I am tempted to say I am such a loser - but I’m not supposed to say stuff like that. Dang. And now I’m hungry. I think it’s real hunger. I’m going to get something to eat."
Ouch - I was off to a rocky start. I continued this way for at least a year or two. I still kept thinking I was doing it wrong. I still thought certain foods were bad and were making me fatter. I thought maybe I could become a nutrition coach and teach people how to eat healthy and love their bodies. But most importantly, I keep working at accepting my body and being patient with myself.
Milestone 2 - I looked online for support. In looking for help, I was shocked and delighted to find blogs and websites talking about body positivity and Health at Every Size and body acceptance and chronic dieting. I was still pretty deep into diet mentality but I didn't know it. One sentence in my journal would be about loving myself and the next would be about eating less sugar and cutting back on seconds and how desserts were still calling my name. But new ideas were creeping in as well and I was following them like a trail of warm homemade chocolate chip cookies. They were bringing me home to myself.
Milestone 3 – I began an exploration into all the parts of me, not just my food story. What made me tick, what did I want to do with my life, what did I like and not like? What were my fears and limiting beliefs? How did I want to feel? My world was expanding. Curiosity and compassion became my new favorite words.
Milestone 4 – I learned about emotional restriction. I learned that while I wasn't limiting my food physically, the judgment I had towards my food was still a form of restriction. And so I was still rebounding and backlashing and feeling this push and pull with food because I felt like I shouldn't eat things that I ate. Identifying this subtlety was very eye opening for me.
Milestone 5 - I had my eyes opened to the truth about weight and health and size and beauty. I never knew that fat people are actually oppressed and that by dieting I was giving my power away. I started learning more about how fat has gotten a bad rap as unhealthy and unattractive and how neither were really true.
This was a big shift, because now I was angry and now I saw diet culture as the enemy and not fat or my body. Wow - there was so much that I hadn't known.
"I guess overall there is a spectrum of bodies and there is a spectrum of reasons for the different bodies and the fundamental underlying truth is that everyone has the right to their body and has the right to make the decisions about their body that work for them. Weight loss is really simply irrelevant and should never be the focus of anyone’s life. It should always be on the back burner as people analyze their life and what is working and what is not. At most it can be a symptom of an underlying issue but it is never the main issue. That is what people need to know fundamentally so they can put their attention and their energy in the proper places. It is never about the weight. So what does that mean for me? Well - like I just said, I mostly want a body that moves more easily and there are a dozen things I can do to support that if not more. I also want a life that is lighter and more fun and more aligned with who I am. So my body and my soul are still slightly misaligned. And they are coming into alignment for sure but it takes some time. So this process of getting comfortable with yourself takes time. It’s like building a muscle at the gym. You can’t do it quickly. This process of learning about yourself takes time. This process of recognizing diet culture and rejecting it takes time and practice. This awareness of the privileges you have and the oppressive messages you have internalized takes time. There is no instant fix and no magic methods. I’m still curious if I can look at my past with fresh eyes and write a new story."
Milestone 6 - I connected to something beyond food. In the end, it's not about the food at all. Food is a metaphor and a doorway and a coping mechanism and a distraction. What I was really looking for all along was self acceptance and a feeling of purpose and more joy and pleasure in life. What I was really learning about was how to listen to my intuition and follow it to make decisions on my life - whether it was about food or career or relationships.
“I love being here. I love learning this. I want this to continue. I want the connections to grow. I want the synchronicitys to flow. I feel like I am on fire. I feel like I have so much to share where I never felt that before. It’s not about the fucking sugar!!!
Was I done? Had I arrived? In many ways, yes. I had stopped physically dieting, I had stopped fearing fat. I was accepting myself. I was stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things, meeting new people and I was exciting about what I was learning. And yet, there were still some places where I was holding back and still not giving myself full permission.
Milestone 7 –I turned toward full permission to be myself. Finally, in year 4-5 I was able to see the places where I was still judging myself and I was still judging my food and my movement and I still had internalized bias and fat phobias and assumptions about food and weight. There was still much to learn but my awareness was at new heights. And without awareness, nothing is going to change.
They say that our conscious minds are only 5% of our thoughts and that 95% of our thoughts are run by the subconscious. My subconscious programming was still stuck in diet mentality at times. It was deeply ingrained.
But I also learned that our brains can be rewired and we can forge new paths. If we keep going over the new thoughts and feelings that we want to feel, and take action in new directions, you will get where you want to go.
"This year, I really did start to shift my thinking and felt a lot of liberation and also started to shift my personal life and felt more liberation there too - doing more of what I wanted, more self care, more internal focus."
Milestone 8 - I connected with gratitude and appreciation for this life, this body and this opportunity to be here on the planet. Part of this also included connecting with something bigger than me. For me that is the Universe and the belief that we are in this together.
At this time, I began a morning ritual called Gratitude and Guidance. Each morning I sat and thought about all the things I was grateful for and then I asked for help with anything that felt bigger than I could handle.
"Sunsets, milkshakes, long walks, warm blankets, open windows in spring. So many lovely things. I am very grateful for all I have and very grateful for all the possibility surrounding me and I am looking for guidance to enjoy it and be more present and peaceful and less fearful and worried."
Milestone 9 – I began surrounding myself with like minded people. To help the new neural pathways stick, I continue to take trainings, read books, listen to podcasts and reach out to others on the path so I can also bring this work to the world and so I can continue to feed my soul. It is amazing to be surrounded by women who take risks and think outside the box and who are fiercely supportive and compassionate. I daresay I found my tribe.
"I am not the same person anymore. That is for sure. And yet I am. I am not the same person on the outside but I am coming back to the same person I have always been on the inside. I am no longer interested in what people think of me or keeping up appearances. Instead I love cultivating what makes me happy - these are the exciting things that I want to pursue and enjoy. "
It's this sense of possibility that is really what it's all about. I know there is more to come on my journey, but I am more excited than ever before. I wish you the best of luck on your journey too.
"I closed my eyes and gave thanks for this journey. It came to me that this journey is like an archeological dig - unearthing structures that have been buried and carefully bringing them out and preserving them so they don’t crumble. And along the way - finding treasure."