I found this picture at my parent’s house maybe a year ago. It instantly filled me with emotion. I knew I needed to have it. I knew that I needed to write about it. Every time I’ve tried, I just stared at a blank screen or a blank piece of paper. I’ve had writer’s block in general since last March. This morning, I sat down to work on my Body Trust Provider course work, and I felt the need to go find this picture again.
Let me “paint this picture” for you. I was twenty-five. The approximate age that your brain becomes fully developed. I had a master’s degree, I was teaching full-time at WSU, I was working full-time for a domestic violence and sexual assault agency, I was married, and we owned our own home. My parents came for a short visit - I don’t remember the occasion. As you can see, clearly I didn’t feel as though I could take a break and enjoy their visit. I had work to do. My Dad was hanging out on the bed with me and my beloved cat “Chase” - while I worked. My Mom took this picture.
The first time I saw this picture (not very long after it was taken) I was mortified. Why would my Mom take a picture of me when I looked like that?!?! All I could think of when I saw this picture, is that clearly all of my restriction and daily workouts were not enough. I was not enough. I had to do more/try harder. Never mind that I worked two FT jobs, and devoted every spare waking moment to making sure that I consumed the bare minimum, and practiced unhealthy “tricks” (which became habits) to decrease my hunger pain as much as possible.
Over the last two years that I have been researching and practicing Intuitive Eating (IE) and Health At Every Size (HAES), I’ve learned how common it is for people in average or larger bodies to be dismissed when they seek help for an eating disorder. In fact, the very behaviors that can lead to a diagnosis of an eating disorder in a person with a small body, are prescribed to those who are deemed “overweight.” I sought help twice. Once at around the time this picture was taken, and again maybe a year or two later. I was told that I didn’t look like I had a problem. Um, I indeed had a problem.
When I look at this picture now, I feel SO maternal towards the young woman looking back at me. She wanted so badly to be successful at ALL things at ALL costs. Self-care was non-existent during this time. There were no bubble-baths, reading for pleasure, naps, or lazy weekends. Being "lazy" or seen as "lazy" was the worst thing I could have imagined. Most of my workouts were at 6:00AM. Why? Because in my mind, nobody could think a person who worked out at 6AM every morning was lazy. I wish I could hold her, tell her how beautiful she is, and encourage her to redefine success. To consider that success could include productivity (I would have had to lead with that), fun and rest. That success certainly doesn’t mean a number on the scale or a size of clothing. It means working towards creating a fulfilling life that allows for flexibility and self-compassion. I would tell her that it is possible to develop a healthy relationship with food and her body. The process for this likely would have been a lot quicker had I began this journey at twenty-five, rather than at thirty-five.
As I've said before, I don’t wish my twenty-year experience of chronic dieting on anyone. I’m also so grateful that my body did it’s job and demanded that I re-feed myself, in between very restrictive dieting and over exercising - even though I didn’t like the results of that at the time. I’m grateful that my hitting “diet bottom” looked the way it did. It could have been a lot worse, like it is for countless others.
I’m still in a constant state of healing, learning, and connecting. One of the best areas of growth is that now I can read for pleasure, take a bubble bath, hang out with friends, go on dates…even when there is work, errands or chores to do. Learning to take guilt-free naps is still a work in progress for me. With IE and HAES, we talk a lot about redefining what health means to us. I believe that is an ever evolving construct even as we define it for ourselves. Over the last two years, I have revised my definition of health several times. When I look at this picture, I’m reminded that a large part of redefining health for me, is redefining success.
With the exception of a sprained ankle and a scary car accident, I’ve managed to remain injury free over the last thirty-six years. I have taken my generally pain-free life for granted until recently.
My ability to listen to my body and check-in with my emotions, has increased drastically since I began my Intuitive Eating journey. I am WAY more in tune with my hunger, fullness and satisfaction cues. Cues that were muted and ignored through decades of dieting. I have also learned to check-in with myself when necessary and ask “What am I feeling right now? What do I need?” This is an exercise that I learned through Intuitive Eating, and one that Evelyn Tribole (co-author of Intuitive Eating) really drove home for me.
Despite this relatively newfound connection to my mind and body, I injured myself. An injury that gave me big (obvious in hindsight) warning signs, and was completely preventable! I was doing free workouts on YouTube almost every day for a couple of months. The first series I was doing wasn’t high impact, but it did include repetitive movements that I was doing barefoot. They were fun, I enjoyed and looked forward to them, and I felt great afterwords. I was enjoying it so much, I wasn’t taking a rest day. They weren’t strenuous workouts…I justified to myself. Eventually, this series of workouts were getting too easy and I was getting bored.
I stumbled across an indoor walk/jog series of workouts. I’ve always been very vocal about how much I hate jogging. I don’t know why I clicked on this particular series. I was feeling energetic and wanting a challenge. To my surprise, I loved it. I started doing it multiple times a week. Now, it should be noted here that I’ve been exercising consistently for twenty years, even through pregnancy. I know the importance of taking rest days, cross-training, and progressing slowly with new activities. For some reason, I ignored this knowledge because I was enjoying it so much, and it felt good while I was engaged in the activity.
At some point in these two months, my lower back started hurting. I was sure it was because of our bed. I also started noticing that my calves felt REALLY tight - a sensation I had never felt before. I would think to myself that I really should stretch more often. These two warning signs were ongoing. However, I did not attribute them to the fact that I was jogging in my home barefoot - several times a week - while increasing the duration almost every time.
On February 18th, I did my longest walk/jog workout yet (BAREFOOT). I felt great during and afterwards…until that night. My feet and ankles looked swollen to me. I started googling of course. I was certain that I was dying from organ failure. I fell further into the google hole, and came across several articles about common injuries for beginner joggers. Long story short - I diagnosed myself with Plantar Faciitis.
I read that often times you only get Plantar Fasciitis in one foot, but I had it equally in both feet (I tend to be an overachiever). Being the good student and rule follower that I am, I set out to do all the things that I read can help one heal from Plantar Faciitis. The actions that I took in an attempt to heal include the following (I AM NOT A DOCTOR, nor did I see one about my injury):
The pain in my lower back went away almost immediately after I started doing all of the above (I guess we’re not getting a new bed). I massaged the knots out of my calves myself. It hurt so bad that there may have been a lot of cuss words involved, but it worked. The pain in my calves is gone and the knots haven’t come back. The area between my heals and the balls of my feet however, is stubborn. When I would massage my feet on the golf ball or in the bath, I about wanted to puke from the pain. That pain did not decrease one iota for nine days. For the last five days, the arches of my feet have felt increasingly better. Again, I’m not a doctor nor did I see one - this is just what seems to be working for me.
Yesterday, my daughter and I got pedicures. The foot massage was still tender, but nowhere near where the pain level had been. I have a whole new respect and appreciation for my feet! I am beyond grateful that my body tried to give me warning signs (even though I didn’t listen), and for my body’s ability to heal. I realize how blessed I am that this pain was temporary and preventable. I’ve done a lot of work towards appreciating and respecting my body over the last 18-months. I feel like this experience is a blessing in disguise. It certainly brought my appreciation for my pain-free body to a whole new level. Through my extensive daily self-care routine (in an attempt to feel pain-free ASAP), I was forced to look at/feel/connect with my body in ways that I never have before.
I often ask my kids to be "first-time listeners." Hopefully from ow on, I will be much better at listening to my body the first time it tries to communicate with me.
Walkie-talkie games, collecting jelly fish (dead), playing with babies (dolls & humans), bikes, swimming, magic shows, forts, playing school, rolling down sand hills, writing and performing skits, reading (Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Ann M Martin, R.L. Stine) and watching TV - these were the things I enjoyed playing/doing as a child.
I found myself wondering what it is that I enjoy as an adult? As a parent? Before I had kids, I had demanding jobs and I worked around the clock. I made time for exercise at the expense of my sleep, and I made time to obsess about food/counting/planning/strategizing. I made time for the occasional night out. To allow myself a night off/out was a big deal because it was a night off of both working/productivity and also my diet. Therefore I had a “Go big or go home!” mentality, to really make it “worth it.”
As a mom who worked outside of the home, I didn’t feel like there was time for hobbies. Um…laundry? Grocery shopping? Taking a shower? I still made time to workout - again at the expense of my sleep. My only “hobby” beyond that was my obsession with dieting/weight loss. I didn’t even read for pleasure during these years.
I now have the luxury/privilege of being a Stay At Home Mom, who can work from home as much or as little as feels comfortable. I also have worked hard to become an intuitive eater and reject the diet mentality. One of the many gifts of Intuitive Eating is that you are given back so much time. Chronic dieters know that dieting and the obsession with food and our bodies, is like having a part-time job. That time can now be spent on much more fulfilling and satisfying activities. And, when you are not constantly restricting/hungry…you have the energy to enjoy these activities!
My kids are getting older and entertain themselves more than they used to when they were really little. I enjoy helping with/supporting/encouraging their various activities, but those are not my activities/hobbies. I’m not a big TV watcher. Aside from family movie nights, or snuggling up with my husband to watch something, it’s not something that I choose to do on my own. If I do sit down to watch TV with him, historically it’s been with wine or an IPA. I prefer doing and/or learning rather than watching.
The way that I started to explore new interests last month was quite by accident. I decided to participate in “Dry January” - a month where you take a break from alcohol. This is something that I’ve done many times before. In years past however, it had more to do with calories and dieting than anything else. I’ve never participated in “Dry January” as an Intuitive Eater.
What did I discover?
The time that I have gained back since giving up dieting and obsessing over food, was multiplied while simultaneously taking a break from alcohol! I pray more, I want to exercise more, I want to read more, I want to sleep more, I want to drink more water and tea. My new favorite drink is cucumber melon sparkling water, with frozen blueberries - yum! I’ve done some de-cluttering/organizing projects. All behaviors that I listed as part of my 2019 self-care intentions. We’ve gone out to eat less, which has saved a lot of money (for new interests below). I made a new recipe. I wish I could say that I’ve developed a love of cooking, but that hasn’t happened. It still mostly feels like a chore on the “to-do” list. I’ve discovered an interest in house plants, essential oils, and pretty items on Etsy. I’ve discovered that I like to have a Lindor chocolate truffle every once in a while. I’ve never been a big fan of chocolate, but these are good and hit the spot! Fruits and vegetables are even more appealing than they already were. I’ve started sending some of my friends postcards to be more intentional about connecting with them. Most importantly, I have increased my connection with my mind and body.
What does this mean going forward?
I want to have an answer when somebody asks me what my hobbies are - beyond exercise, my kid’s activities, TV, and wine/IPA. Those are fine answers/pass times, and can definitely be a source of self-care for many people. For me, I want to keep learning and trying new things. I want to be intentional about discerning habits vs. hobbies.
My plan was to just take the month of January off. Technically, my self-imposed restriction has been lifted. Alcohol just isn’t appealing to me yet. Maybe it will be during a Valentine’s getaway with my husband this month, maybe it will be when we celebrate his birthday next month, maybe it will be during our spring break trip in April. Maybe it won’t. What I do know is that this break has felt good, and has been a very positive experience for me. I will file this experience away, and refer back to it as I make future choices. This is a skill that I learned from Intuitive Eating, and one that has proven to extend itself well in other areas of my life.
My daughter was born on Christmas Eve, 2010. I wanted to be a Mom more than ANYTHING.
I longed to be able to hold and snuggle my infant/toddler as much as possible. When I was a baby, I would have been content in my Mom’s arms 24-7. When she dropped me off with my baby-sitter, she had to bring an extra shirt. She would leave the shirt that she had been wearing, and my baby-sitter would put it on. I was okay…as long as I could at least smell my Mom.
My daughter however, wanted “down” as soon as had the skills to make that request physically and/or verbally. She was happy to be dropped off at daycare. She fed herself as soon as she was able. She hasn’t allowed me to pick out her outfit or dress her since she turned two. She didn’t want me to walk her down the hall to her preschool classroom, she wanted to go by herself. You get the picture - an independent soul.
As parents, there are so many things that we would do if we could, to create an ideal world for our children. For me, that would include creating a world where diet culture doesn’t interfere with her life. I hope that diet culture never…
My daughter is the greatest Christmas present I could ever receive. I have realized over the past 17 months of my Intuitive Eating journey, that one of the greatest presents I can give back to her, is for me to be PRESENT.
For almost the first seven years of her life, I had obsessive thoughts about food and my body - every day. I packed her up, and took her to a Weight Watchers (WW) meeting when she was THREE DAYS old. A meeting that I had planned to attend and anxiously waited for, months before she was born. I remember being at a WW meeting after I had a lost a significant amount of weight. I was being congratulated (for my obsessive life-sucking thoughts and behaviors). I was asked how I was so successful. I replied “I never deviate from the plan. I know how I’m going to spend my daily and bonus points for the entire week ahead.” Even the WW leader had the wherewithal to feel and look concerned. He asked “What about the unexpected treats in the office break room, or a surprise date night?” I replied:
“I don’t allow myself to participate in anything unplanned - it’s not worth it.”
Um…what? It’s not worth it? Avoiding spontaneity and surprises at all costs? How sad. This mentality continued no matter what diet I was on during the years that followed. If I was following the plan, I was a superior being. If I deviated in any way, I was disgusting. Needless to say, I was not PRESENT. I wasn’t present or connected in/with my own body. I certainly wasn’t fully participating in life.
I was very happily married, I was proud of my jobs, and I loved being a Mom. Simultaneously, diet culture was robbing me of so much time, energy, and opportunities for fun and connection.
I can now easily enjoy spontaneous sushi dates with my daughter. I can do this without feeling stressed about going “off plan,” or considering it a “cheat meal.” I can easily eat the special Christmas cookie that she made me, without trying to estimate how many calories I’m consuming. I can go on a walk with her and our dog, without being frustrated if we aren’t going fast or long enough to be “worth it.”
I couldn't dream of a better Christmas present than my daughter. Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size has given me the gift of being able to be PRESENT for her, the rest of our family, my friends, passions, clients and…me.
How are you after the fall holidays?
If these are your first holidays on your Intuitive Eating (IE) journey, they can be challenging. They can be challenging anyway, even if you are not new to IE. There are the short/dark/dreary days, intense emotions (both positive and negative) that can come from holidays, and likely stress (costumes/outfits, decorations, cleaning, hosting, shopping, etc.).
Last holiday season I was relatively new to IE. I was definitely giving myself permission to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, but it wasn't without a bit of anxiety and fear. I've recently been learning a lot about how eating with anxiety/guilt/shame/fear impacts your digestion, and how food feels in the body.
This year, I've felt much more calm. The clothing sizes stopped increasing. I am SO much more connected to my body. I trust my body. It feels like my body is beginning to trust me.
I've always known that I'm much more of a salty than sweet person. Fries and chips were some of my favorite play foods when I was little. However, in the past I've enjoyed snickers, PB cups, and peanut M&Ms at Halloween time. This year, I didn't have any candy before, during, or after Halloween. I certainly would have if I wanted it, but it never appealed to me. It occurred to me that historically, I'd eat quite a bit of candy on the day of Halloween. I recognize that as "Last Chance/Last Supper" mentality. The diet mentality of "This is the DAY that it's acceptable - get it all while you can." I now know and fully believe that it's acceptable any day/any time, and candy is as acceptable as an apple or broccoli. Obviously there are foods that are more nutritious than others, but there are not good or bad foods. You are not good or bad depending on what you eat.
On Thanksgiving, I thoroughly enjoyed the jalapeño poppers, pasta salad, green bean casserole, corn pudding, creamed peas, brussel sprouts with balsamic vinaigrette, and the wine. I'm pretty sure it was the first Thanksgiving in my whole life that I didn't have multiple pieces of pie. I didn’t have any. I certainly would have if I wanted some. I planned on it. I thought I would. It just didn't appeal to me.
I remember last December I was enjoying some white wine while making white chocolate peppermint cookies. I'm not a big cookie fan, but those things are DELICIOUS! Especially when they come out warm and gooey. As I worked towards making peace with this particular treat, I ate so many that I didn't feel good. I've since dramatically strengthened my ability to identify not only what appeals to me and tastes good, but also what and how much feels good.
Other recent observations: I'm having dinner leftovers for breakfast more often. . Sometimes, it's the only thing that sounds good to me when I'm hungry in the morning (NO, I'm not pregnant🤣). I can also comfortably and easily open a container of hummus and not finish the entire container. Not that I wouldn't allow myself to enjoy the whole thing if that's what it took to feel satisfied. I just find myself comfortably satisfied with 1/4 or 1/2 of the container more often than not. This is something that I never would have thought was possible.
Our bodies know what they need. However, it can take a long time to learn how to listen to our bodies if we have put them on "silent mode" as a result of diet culture. The longer they were silenced, the longer it may take to re-connect. I suspect that many of us think (my former self included): "This all sounds well and good for other people. Unfortunately, it's just not possible for me. I must be broken - the signals no longer work." For me, it was SO worth the effort to really put in the work and time to try. It takes a tremendous amount of patience and self-compassion...but it's possible.
My husband and I had the opportunity to go to Kauai for our anniversary last month…WITHOUT KIDS! It could not have been any more blissfully fantastic…except if we just had two more days! I have been to Hawaii six times - this was our fifth time together. Every big trip I’ve been on (Hawaii or elsewhere), I’ve gotten my nails done for the trip. That has always been a part of my vacation preparations. There’s the shopping, the packing, and the mani/pedi. I happened to get really sick leading up to this anniversary trip, and I just couldn’t get it done. I was super bummed.
The pretty nails weren’t the only thing that I didn’t do in preparation for this trip. I have never been to Hawaii (except when I knew I was pregnant with my daughter), without an intensely restrictive diet + over-exercising, leading up to departure. NYC for my birthday last spring, was the first big trip that I’ve gone on without diet preparations, followed by Palm Springs last August. However going to Hawaii as an Intuitive Eater who respects and appreciates my body (most of the time)…was extra special.
I didn’t have the stress, anxiety and exhaustion that comes with traveling with kids. I also didn’t have the stress, anxiety and exhaustion that comes from worrying about food, weight gain, shame, guilt, etc. I was a billion percent present with my husband, the beautiful scenery, and the fun activities that we had the privilege to enjoy.
We went on a coastal hike where I was taking in the gorgeous flowers, the colors of the ocean water below us, the sea turtle we could see from the cliff, and the surfers in the distance. It was a relatively short hike. In the past, I would have been so consumed with thoughts of the hike not being long enough to be “worth it,” or feeling lazy for not doing something more strenuous.
We spent two days on my favorite beach in the world (so far) - Hanalei Bay. The time flew by as we relaxed on the beach, swam, and took in the beauty around us. Prior to this trip, the last time that I was on that beach, I was frustrated that I couldn’t wear my Fitbit in the water to log all of my activity. I no longer wear a Fitbit or any related tracking device.
We went on a tubing adventure on a sugarcane plantation that was so fun, it felt like I was a kid again. I brought five bathing suits and wore them all confidently. In fact, I think I felt more comfortable in my bathing suits this trip, than I did on our last Kauai trip when I was significantly smaller. We laughed and laughed. We met lots of neat people. We ate delicious food. I read a fun page-turner of a book. We dreamed of island living.
There wasn’t a moment during or after the trip that I felt like I would have had a better experience had I gotten my nails done, or punished my body through diets/food rules prior to the vacation. I guarantee my husband didn’t think twice about my nails, and he very much appreciates my current body. I experienced more, I laughed more, I saw more, and I lived more because of the peace that eventually comes with rejecting the diet mentality.
As I look back at old pictures of me, I would have described myself as a child with an athletic build. I likely would have been described as average size until around the age of eight or nine. My first memory of being aware that I was larger than my peers was in elementary school. We were preparing for a 50s Sock Hop musical that my grade was performing. It was obvious which girls were going to be twirled and flipped around, and which were not. Another lasting impression from that performance were the outfits. I didn’t have the poodle skirts that a lot of the girls were wearing. In a pinch, my Mom let me borrow an old skirt of hers that she said looked like a 50s style skirt. I was pleased with this solution, and went on my merry way.
Either before or after that performance, I ran into my beloved second grade teacher. I was excited! I told her that I was wearing my Mom’s skirt. An important side note here is that my mom was very petite before she had children. I was almost as tall as her by the time I was in 3rd grade. The expression on my teacher’s face looked to me as one of concern or disappointment. Who knows what she was thinking. Maybe she felt bad for me that I wasn’t wearing a poodle skirt (I wasn’t the only one). Maybe she was anxious to get home after a long day of teaching (it was an evening program). However, I walked away from that interaction feeling like she thought that it was bad that I could wear my Mom’s skirt. I felt like something was wrong with me and my body. I wasn’t able to shake that feeling until I read the book Intuitive Eating at the age of 35.
If I could go back, I would point out to my elementary school self all the ways she loves to have fun. She loves to swing, play kick ball at recess, ride her bike, swim, and read. I would highlight how easy it is for her to make friends, and how much her teachers appreciate that she is a “Truman Self-Manager.” That’s what matters. I would ask her to please not watch diet pill, Slim Fast, Weight Watchers, and Jenny Craig commercials, and dream of what could be. I would tell her that she is beautifully designed.
If I could go back, I don’t know what I would tell my middle school self. I’m not sure I could have stopped or gotten the attention of that hormonal puberty train! If I managed to do so, I would tell her that she is worth so much more than the attention she gets from the opposite sex. I would tell her to write more, read more, not to spend every spare moment on the phone (usually with boys). My middle school self did A LOT of walking. This was solely for the purpose of getting from point A to point B (usually to see boys), but often those were long distances. I would encourage her to notice how much she enjoys walking outside, and how good it feels. I would encourage her to hone in on the unique gifts that she has. She is a writer, a nurturer, and has excellent interpersonal communication and listening skills. I would encourage her to sign-up to become a peer mediator even though she thinks it’s nerdy, or is afraid of what others might think. I would tell her that she is smart, and help her to see that she likes to learn. I would let her know that many of the friends that she is making now, will be lifelong friends. And…I would tell her that she happens to be right - live music will eventually lead her to “the one.”
If I could go back, I would let my high school self know that she is an introvert, and that is not a bad thing. I would point out that while she can easily tap into her extrovert skills, she gets her energy and her focus from being alone. I would tell her that it’s OK that she would rather be at Barnes and Noble finding books, and spending time with her Dad on weekends instead of “going out.” It kept her out of a lot of trouble in the beginning of high school. I would congratulate her on discovering that she loves exercise. I would beg her to not start dieting. I would again explain to her that her self-worth is not dependent upon her body, or the opinion’s of the opposite sex. I would tell her that she is smart. She is capable of being a very hard worker with a strong work ethic, and has a strong sense of integrity. She is loyal and an excellent friend. I would tell her to take less risks and follow her intuition. Her Guardian Angel can only work so hard and eventually, she might not be able to keep up with her. I would let her know that the friends she depends on now, will be many of the friends she will still depend on in her 30s.
If I could go back, I would tell my 20s self that she is on the right track. She is recognizing her academic ability, and her capacity to achieve challenging goals. She has discovered the kind of person that she wants to be. The only thing that is really holding her back is her need to perfect her body. I would encourage her to continue to engage in the exercise that she loves, and to savor the wide variety of foods that she enjoys. I would beg her to stop dieting. I would tell her to re-read the book that her friend gave her, written by Geneen Roth. I would tell her that the information in that book isn’t just something that could be great for other people, it can apply to her too. I would tell her to read Intuitive Eating and dive into the research. Her body and it’s signals are not broken. I would tell her that with every diet she goes on, it increases the likelihood of evolving into an eating disorder, promotes weight gain and ratchets up her set-point. I would tell her that she will likely gain back what she lost (possibly more) with each diet. Diets don’t work - not in the long-term - they are not sustainable. I would point out that she is increasingly restricting and over-exercising with every diet. That is not her purpose in life. It’s taking way too much of her energy and time. It is keeping her from living fully. I would tell her to continue to work hard for her academic and professional goals, but be present and have FUN. Don’t take life and yourself so seriously. I would tell her that he is SO wrong, and that her body is BEAUTIFUL.
If I could go back, I would tell my early 30s self that she is kicking ass at most areas in life. Despite this, she will embark on the last of her countless rounds of Weight Watchers. She will follow this up with her final diet. The diet that will completely suck her into trenches of diet culture. This is when she will hit diet bottom. This is when she will realize that this is no way to live. This is when she will realize that she has so much more to offer the world, and that she would be so sad, if her kids devote their lives to diet culture/the diet industry.
Looking back, it all led me here. I don’t wish my experience with diet culture on anyone. Yet, there is nowhere I’d rather be in life than exactly where I am. With my husband, with our children, with the life that we have created together, with my academic and professional background that I’m proud of, with the work I’m able to do now as a result of my experience, and with the new goals that I now have professionally and personally. I didn’t need a certain type of body to accomplish any of that. I now have an abundance of compassion for myself as my body and mind heals from diet culture. I have found the peace with my body and with food that I would have loved for my younger self to have, that I want my kids to have, and for everyone to have.
I believe that change is happening thanks to the brilliant dietitians, researchers, advocates, and spokespeople presenting the evidence that supports Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size. I believe that change is happening thanks to the brave voices coming forward with their personal stories of the harmful effects of dieting, and the hope that exists with IE and the HAES movement. I’m excited to have a very small part of creating that change, and to LIVE MORE in the process.
I LOVE waterfalls. When I used to hike regularly with my Dad, I prioritized hikes with waterfalls.
I had the honor of hiking with a group called Fat Girls Hiking last weekend. I was pleasantly surprised when our hike culminated at the waterfall pictured above.
Following our hike, we went to a beachy area of the Columbia River, that I had not been to before. Anna Chapman led a workshop where she asked my husband to play the guitar in the background. That was pretty spectacular for me. I even wrote in my journal "I can't believe that I'm in an Anna Chapman workshop, AND that she asked my husband to play the guitar!” I first learned of Anna Chapman from a The BodyLove Project podcast interview. I’ve admired her and her work ever since, but I had never had the opportunity to meet her before last weekend.
During the workshop, we did some light yoga stretches, meditation, and journaling. She asked us to write about an intention that we have - something that enhances our life, not something that comes with shame. She then asked us to write about what we want to let go of.
My intention is to go back to my Miracle Morning practice, but on my own terms. This is something that I learned from Hal Elrod's book called The Miracle Morning. I practiced his SAVERS (Silence, Affirmation, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, Scribing) routine almost every day at 5AM, for almost a year. While there are many parts of that practice that I loved...it was also VERY much entrenched in diet mentality and diet culture for me.
It was a part of my high and mighty, I am so tough and disciplined persona that I was striving for. What I thought made me a better person than I've ever been in my life.
However, that period of my life was so unhealthy. So restrictive, so isolated, filled with unrealistic expectations...I missed out on so much.
In the book Intuitive Eating, the authors write about dichotomous or black and white thinking. This is something that I have experienced my whole life, but especially as an adult. I was determined to be a successful and accomplished adult...at all costs. This thinking was also a driving force of my diet mentality.
When I read their suggestion for how you get out of the dichotomous thinking trap - "Going for the Gray" - it really spoke to me. I definitely needed more balance, more gray, as opposed to the dramatic extremes of black and white.
Just as some individuals might need a break from certain types of exercise, certain food items, or other things that they feel represent or trigger their former dieting mentality - I needed a long break from my Miracle Morning practice.
What I want to let go of is dichotomous thinking, and unhealthy/unrealistic expectations. I'm ready to go back to my Miracle Mornings - gray style. No set start time (it can be a Miracle Afternoon or a Miracle Evening!), no set amount of time that I engage in each component of the process, and no set amount of days of the week that I engage in this practice. I will aim for 1-3 days a week. However, I will allow space and grace for more or less.
In honor of my one-year Intuitive Eating anniversary, I'm inspired to read the Intuitive Eating book from start to finish - once again. Something new speaks to me every time I read it, and I look forward to gleaming new insights after a full year of practicing. However, if I feel drawn to a different book during the reading portion of the SAVERS practice - I will honor that choice. This is something that I never would have allowed myself to do before. If I had selected a book, that was the book that I was going to read until it was finished.
What is an intention that you would like to set for yourself? What would enhance your life? What would you like to let go of? The answers to these questions from Anna Chapman last weekend, certainly aid in our ability to Live More.
When you don’t believe that the body that you live in is good enough, that toxicity infiltrates throughout every aspect of your life.
Your love life can reflect this belief.
Your social life can reflect this belief.
Your career or job choice can reflect this belief.
Your closet can reflect this belief.
Your self-care most definitely reflects this belief.
You may be depriving your body of what it needs, and exercising for mathematical/formulaic purposes. Or, you might be punishing yourself by eating to a point where you are uncomfortable. And/or, you could be denying yourself the joyful movement that you desire, because of what people will think of you when you when you enter that gym, that dance floor, that community pool, etc.
We have been brainwashed by diet culture our entire lives. Why? So that we spend our money, and focus our attention on what is wrong with us. But guess what?! Our bodies are not a problem to be fixed! Our bodies know what they need, when, and how much. Our bodies have a genetic blue print that determine the size/weight range that they need to be. AND, if your body is larger than what society deems acceptable, that does NOT necessarily mean that it is unhealthy. There happens to be decades of scientific research that indicate otherwise.
My husband has remained pretty steadily in a large body our whole relationship. I have weight-cycled like a maniac, trying to get as small as possible during our relationship. There is scientific research that shows that he is better off than me health-wise in this regard. Why? Because he has remained at a larger size consistently over the years, while I was dramatically weight cycling/yo-yo dieting. It turns out that weight-cycling (what almost all dieters experience) is more harmful than consistently staying at a higher weight.
I remember the desperation before I embarked on my last diet. I was so disgusted with my weight and myself (because of diet culture and weight stigma). Being the hard core and excellent student that I am, I jumped in with full gusto! I’m here to conquer this problem! I’ll show everyone how strong I am!
Except…it resulted in isolation, misery, painful hunger, mood swings, and lost opportunities for fun and connection.
I am in a larger body than I was when I embarked on that “life-changing diet”, with that “life-changing” company. However, it didn’t change my life in the way they wanted my life to be changed. They wanted me to continue to believe that my body could be even smaller, one pound at a time, one workout at a time, one dollar at a time…before and after pictures galore! I bought in like the diet culture victim that I was - reasonably so! It wasn’t my fault - it’s not anybody’s fault. I’ve been soaking in every diet culture message since I was in elementary school. What this company didn’t expect I’m sure, is that the rock bottom it would lead me to, would result in me finding Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size.
Oh diet company, if you could look at me now!!! I bought 3 bathing suits for this summer! One is even a bikini - OH MY! I am larger than I was when I started your soul-sucking meal plan because, well…prolonged deprivation! Now my body and mind are healing.
Wanna know what’s even more exciting diet company?! I just got rid of all of the clothes that you promised me I could fit into again one day! Because…guess what?! When you follow people who lose weight intentionally through diets/meal plans/food rules for more than five years…at least 93% of them gain the weight back! Some of them even more than the weight they lost! Oh what a fun and lucrative business plan for you!
Except…you’ve lost one customer. I went out and bought clothes and bathing suits that I feel great in - at my current size! I’ve unfollowed everybody that promotes your harmful message, while realizing I used to be one of them. I just gave my closet a major makeover, so that I no longer see my former “tester” clothes.
I accept that my clothing size may or may not change, once my mind and body have fully healed from you.
As much as I’m sure this irks you to the bone diet industry: I’ve learned to love myself, and to have compassion for myself as I am. Why? Because of all that I’ve endured as a result of you, and because I want to Live More.
When I first started going to Barre3 classes, a specific song was often played during class. It was a remake of the 1967 classic, “For What It's Worth” by Buffalo Springfield. The line “There’s something happening here” is repeated several times. The song gave me chills every time. It is so beautiful, and it was played at a pivotal point in class - when change was happening.
Throughout my Intuitive Eating (IE) journey, I’ve known each day that things were happening. I wasn’t always clear what, or how to describe it to others, but I knew it was necessary and significant change.
I recently reviewed a diet history worksheet that I completed in the IE workbook. You fill out all of the diets you’ve been on. You reflect on why you started each diet, how long you were on it, did you lose weight, if so, did you gain it back, etc. I thought that my main takeaway would be recognizing that intentional weight loss, results in regaining the weight (and sometimes more) for 95% of us. However, it was a different column that stood out to me the most.
My answer for why I started every one of the MANY diets I tortured myself on for twenty years, was “shame and comparison.”
Last weekend I took a risk. I drove 45 minutes (over a scary bridge that TERRIFIES me), to join a group of strangers for a writing workshop, and a short hike. This is FAR beyond my comfort zone. I did it because I enjoy writing and learning. I also did it because I love the group’s mission of welcoming ALL people, but asking that participants refrain from body shaming, and diet/weight loss talk. Every time I started to talk myself out of going, I came back to the feeling that I was supposed to be there.
It was during the writing workshop that it became clear to me that during the first ten months of my IE journey, I was focused on learning and practicing. While learning and practicing are ongoing, I am now more focused on healing.
It can take the mind and body a long time to heal from diets and diet culture. I have realized that it’s not only important that I have learned to trust my body, but that my body is still learning to trust me. Ten months of IE vs. twenty years of chronic dieting. I suspect that my body is likely waiting for me to ignore it, and deprive it on another diet. Not going to happen!
Because I took a risk, drove over that scary bridge, and allowed myself to be vulnerable with complete strangers…I came away with two gifts:
1) The realization that currently, the “something happening here”, is the letting go of shame and comparison (to the extent humanly possible).
2) My intention for the summer: To heal my former self with compassion, community, and nature, while exploring a new vision/version of me.
Tiffany was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. She lives with her husband, kids, and chocolate lab. Her favorite vacations so far (beyond camping in the family motorhome), have been to Kauai, Key West, New York City, and Sayulita. She looks forward to expanding that list!
A heartfelt thanks to Julie G Photography.