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.
With Intuitive Eating, we often talk about “letting go of the fantasy.” The fantasy that says “When I’m thin, I’ll have everything I’ve ever dreamed of.” Or, “When I’m this weight/size, then I will go on that vacation, start dancing again, join that dating site, apply for that job, ask for a promotion, start my own business, etc.”
Growing up, I believed that if I could get and stay thin, my life would be perfect. I’d find true love, I’d get a good job, I would get to be a Mom, I’d have a nice house, a nice car, and go on nice vacations.
I’ve never been smaller than a size 8. In fact, any time I reached a size 8, I picture it like a bouncy castle where I bounce into the “size 8 wall,” and immediately bounce right off. My body didn’t stay there long - no matter what I did. Sadly, until the age of 35, I did not think that my body was acceptable unless it was a size 8. A size that my body clearly communicated it cannot achieve through physically and mentally healthy means. There was a point when I was 18-years-old, that a size 16 was getting too tight. For the majority of my life, my body has been in the size 10-14 range (with the exception of pregnancies and maternity clothes).
At each point in this size spectrum, I had deep and meaningful friendships, romantic relationships, academic success, and career success.
I forced my body to get to the smallest size I could manipulate it into, when I was married to a man whom I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with. He ended our marriage. The reason he gave me, was that he could never be happy with the size of my body. This was my worst nightmare. It’s as if God said to me “OK Tiffany, the most devastating, painful, and humiliating thing that you could ever imagine happening to you, has happened. It’s time to move on.”
God has since blessed me with a man who loves me unconditionally - no matter what size of body I’m in (he’s experienced the whole spectrum). However, he makes it VERY clear that he appreciates the more voluptuous state my body naturally gravitates towards.
So...I'm married to my best friend who completely rocks my world. I’ve been hired for every job I have ever interviewed for. I’ve achieved my ultimate dream of becoming a Mother. I own a TWO-story house (as a kid, I thought that this was the sign that one had really made it in life). I love my old Acura, and I am grateful for the many vacations I’ve been able to experience. Living in a body that is larger than what I used to deem acceptable for myself, has not prevented me from achieving my dreams.
It’s important to note here that I also experience a tremendous amount of privilege. I am a white woman who comes from a middle class family, with college educated parents. I had financial support while I earned my degrees. I am able-bodied and heterosexual. I can walk into department stores and find my size. I can fit comfortably in an office chair and airplane seat. These are some of the aspects of my identity that make life less challenging/painful for me than it is for others.
This doesn’t mean that I haven’t experienced deep pain from living in a “large” body within diet culture. Through my Intuitive Eating journey, that pain has transformed into anger and annoyance towards diet culture, and has led to a beautiful place of self-compassion and self-love.
Where are your fantasies misguided? What is it that you want to do, that you’ve mistakenly believed you had to reach a certain weight or size to do it?
I went to a water park with my Mom when my son was an infant. We were having a conversation about another diet product that I had just ordered. I was excited! I was always excited to start a new diet - oh the promises of a better life once you are thin!
Two thin women in bathing suits walked by. I told my Mom that now that I’m done having babies, I can work towards having a body like theirs. She said “Ya but Tiffany, look around. Most women don’t have bodies like that.” I could see that, but I also believed that remaining in a body my size was not an option or acceptable. Bodies are categorized, and I wanted to be in the thin category.
My Mom has been in a large body for as long as I can remember. I always knew that she would prefer to be in a smaller body. However, I never sensed that she experienced the shame that I experienced when I was in a larger body. Maybe it was because she had no problem putting on a bathing suit anywhere, anytime. In fact there is no way that my Mom would let the size of her body or a diet, keep her from any opportunity for fun, or connection with others. This is what I now refer to as “Living More.” She loves to swim - so do I. Unfortunately, putting on a bathing suit for me was so emotional from a very young age.
I was always MORTIFIED in any locker room with my Mom, or when I had friends over. My Mom had no problem stripping down in a crowded locker room completely naked. Nor did she feel like she needed to close a door at home when she was changing. I would “yell” in a whisper “MOM!!!! HOW EMBARRASSING!”
Now I look back, and am in complete awe and admiration of her comfort in her body. To her, her naked body is no big deal.
I have arrived at a peaceful place where I can accept that my body was not designed to look like the women who walked by us that day at the water park. For twenty years, I tried to force it to be something it could never be, and was miserable in the process. My genetic blue print is stronger and more powerful than any diet.
Today, most people who see me in a bathing suit would put me in the “large body” category. However, I love water. I love water slides. I love water rides. I love pools. I love hot tubs. I love swimming in warm ocean water. I’m also a Mom of a 7-year-old daughter, who is watching me very closely. I want my daughter to look back and say that her Mom was comfortable putting on a bathing suit anywhere, anytime.
I’m lucky to live in a time where I can look around and see positive representations of bodies my size. I can see that there are many bathing suit companies who design beautiful bathing suits, with my body in mind. I have the opportunity to follow body positive role models who are living it up this summer. My favorite right now is Allison Kimmey (look her up!)! My Mom didn’t have those positive representations of larger bodies available to her. At 36, I’ve realized that she was one for me all along.
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.