Changing Direction

I have done a great deal of soul searching over the past few weeks. I have been exploring my relationship with food and my body in a way I never have before. I have been reading more about intuitive eating, weight bias, health and wellness. I have been getting very honest with myself about my thoughts, beliefs, feelings, ambitions and needs. This process has led me to make some significant changes; some private and some you’ll see reflected here in my blog.

It began around the time of my last blog post. I had started considering embracing intuitive eating. The prospect was daunting as I had a lot of fear regarding losing all the “progress” I’d made in weight loss. As my readers know, I began an endlessly cyclical weight loss journey more than 10 years ago. Within the first year of that journey, I had lost more than 100 pounds. I spent the subsequent years yo-yoing, regaining and losing anywhere between 10-40 pounds over and over and over again, never sustaining weight loss for long and never reaching my “goal weight”. The thought of regaining any of that lost weight was paralyzing until recently, when I began to realize that fear was driven by the anti-fat biases I held and directed at myself. 

I had always known I had been a victim of weight stigma; it was difficult to recognize and admit that I am perpetrator of it. I believed I saw the world through a lens of compassion and body positivity or neutrality, but I didn’t. How could I look at anyone without judgement when I couldn’t look at myself without judgement? My first memory of weight bias and diet culture occurred when parents began dieting, eating their little frozen diet entrées while the rest of the family ate a normal dinner. The first time I felt targeted by weight bias was in middle school when I began to be teased for having a soft chin, and when I had to be publicly weighed in my P.E. class, discovering I was the only girl in the (dreaded) triple digits. I was now indoctrinated into diet culture, drinking my first Slim Fast shake at 13 and buying my first box of Dexatrim diet pills at 16. Young, impressionable, plagued by the insecurities of puberty, living with past and experiencing present trauma, I was diet culture’s perfect victim. Over time, I developed a sort of Stockholm Syndrome regarding diet culture – being both victimized by it while also buying, lock stock and barrel, into the culture and becoming a propagator if anti-fat beliefs. 

My past of jumping on every diet trend to come my way is well-documented. I believed I had solved the diet riddle in 2010 when I learned to count calories and macros and started working out five times per week. I believed what I was doing was healthy. I believed my “discipline” was something to be admired. However embarrassing or painful it is now to acknowledge and take responsibility for my thoughts, I believed my ability to restrict my food intake to that degree and with that level of consistency actually made me better than other people. I thought my willingness to choke down an unappetizing cinnamon roll-flavored protein bar (because it fit my macros) instead of the actual cinnamon roll I was craving made me better. I believed my willingness to sit with hunger, to go to bed hungry, made me better. I believed my dedication to going to the gym and suffering through tedious hours of walking in place on a treadmill, watching the estimated calories burned display tick up and up and up, made me better. I believed working out with injuries rather than resting made me better. In reality, all those things robbed my life of joy day after day. All of those things robbed my body of vital nutrients. All of those things were damaging to the psyches of others, pushing the exact same diet culture bullshit that had been pushed on me, onto vulnerable people and, perhaps, persuading them to embark on the same joyless path I had beaten down. 

I find myself, today, at a new place. I don’t feel the need to atone for having pushed diet culture as long as I did and that is because I was a victim of it myself. I do; however, feel a responsibility moving forward to take ownership of my past and to share openly, willingly and unabashedly that I am realizing now I was wrong. Furthermore, I feel a desire in my excitement for the future to continue to share my experiences, my progress and my changing beliefs and desires. In the past week, I have cancelled my premium membership to MyFitnessPal. I have deactivated my weight loss-specific Instagram account. I have stopped tracking workouts and walks with my Apple Watch. I have changed the description of this blog to reflect this new journey towards food freedom, joyful movement and true wellness. In coming months, as embrace more and more of the principles of intuitive eating, I will begin to make changes to this site’s content to reflect this new journey. Let’s see where this new road takes me. 

Intuitive Eating

So much has happened in my life over the past month; I have been experiencing so much chaos, confusion, frustration, and anxiety. In the moments of calm; however, I have not wasted the opportunities to reflect. As we have dealt with the rapidly failing health of a loved one, those reflections have often pertained to health and wellness, especially long-term health. In a roundabout way, that has led me to the concept of intuitive eating. 

Intuitive eating isn’t a new concept to me. Being a perpetual dieter and spending a lot of time online and offline in this space, I have some understanding of it. I have a half-finished book, “The Emotional Eaters Repair Manual” by Julie M. Simon on my nightstand that talks in great length about it. That book is unfinished largely because, while exhilarating, my knee-jerk emotional response to the concept is fear and mistrust of my own intuition.

I have endured an ever-evolving eating disorder for the past 30 years. I have sought and received professional treatment for bulimia and binge eating disorder. I find myself now questioning whether the past 10 years of dieting is nothing more than a restrictive, control-based counterpart of disordered behavior surrounding food. When I am counting calories, when I am pre-planning and preparing my weekly meals and weighing out portions on my little kitchen scale, I feel like I am being “good,” like I am being disciplined and healthy. But maybe this isn’t self-care – maybe this is just another extreme. I believe I fall short of orthorexia, but I also believe that the emotions I feel when I think about having this relationship with food for the rest of my life tells me this isn’t right, it isn’t sustainable, it isn’t what I want for myself. At the same time, giving that up feels like risking the weight loss and improved overall health I have achieved thus far.

It’s scary to imagine giving up control. It’s scary to imagine learning to trust my intuition. It’s scary to think I may not be able to tell the difference between my intuitive voice and the voice of my trauma. Yet, it is equally scary to imagine being 60 years old, my mobility limited by nearly a lifetime of being overweight, tugging my little food scale out of the cabinet to weigh out one ounce of chickpeas. 

When I think about a successful transition to intuitive eating, I feel this potential for liberation. What would that feel like? What if there are no more “good foods” and “bad foods?” What if there were no more counting calories, no more weighing foods, no more refrigerator full of little snack-sized zip top plastic bags of portioned grapes or carrot sticks? What if I never looked at others again with envy at their “normal” relationships with food, if I didn’t feel like there is something wrong with me?

I have been driven by my goals to where I am now – the incessant calorie-counter, the persistent dieter, constant “pinner” of online fitspo. My weight loss journey has been driven by the pursuit of a physical ideal I have imagined for myself, sculpting the body I see in my mind’s eye. I have paid some lip service to the idea of overall mind, body and spirit wellness but, honestly, those were superficial thoughts I invented to justify my quest for a certain type of body I saw as worthy of love and respect (something I have never felt I’ve had in my life). I find myself, today, in a head- and heart-space, of wanting something different from what I have wanted before: wanting true and lasting overall health and wellness. I find myself, today, wondering if adopting a practice of intuitive eating along with a more natural, intuitive and holistic approach to fitness, emotional health and mental wellbeing might be the path for me. It’s scary. It’s exciting. It’s enticing. I wonder…