I remember turning 29 and setting a goal that by the time I was 30 I would achieve the body I’d always wanted. At this point I’d been dieting for the last 10 years and was currently the leanest and most comfortable I’d been in my body since I was 19…but I could still do better I’d thought.
I’d started to realize, however, (with much resistance) that maintaining the body I’d achieved left me hungry and tried most of the time with a lingering low level anxiety that I would have to sustain these diet rule forever. I’d lost my period, had extremely dry and cracking skin, and had trouble sleeping, all things I knew were red flags but I was in denial that these things had anything to do with the 10 year battle I’d been fighting with body.
Just 3 months into 29 and I knew I had to make a change. I knew I’d have to learn how to eat without the rules. I stopped food tracking and starting researching. I was in unchartered territory as I began my rejection of the diet mentality and began my journey of relearning how to eat. For the last 8 years, after coming out of the worst of my eating disorder, I hid behind “Health”. “Health” didn’t have the negative connotation that “Diet” did, but the truth is, if you can mess it up, if you can break the rules, if you have “cheat” days, it’s a diet.
In the first 6 months of “No Rules,” I’d ended up putting on ALL of the weight that I’d lost over the last two years following an ultra low carb/If It Fits Your Macros plan. Turns out that all the stuff they say about diets and gaining the weight back even applied to ME. ME! The fitness professional, the perfect eater, the health nut. I was ashamed and crawling in my skin. I had a few desperate moments that I decided that I would just follow the rules again but I couldn’t. My mind and body had started rejecting the cage that I was trying to lock it in.
I won’t/can’t go into all the research here but I strongly recommend that anyone who has ever had an eating disorder, disordered eating, has ever tried to lose weight, has ever thought about trying to lose weight, has ever wanted to change their eating habits or body in anyway, who is a person in the world, read Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon and Intuitive Eating 3rd edition by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. These books have changed my perspective and flipped everything that I thought I knew on its head.
The struggle IS real when it come to disordered eating and continues to be an ongoing, nonlinear process, but here’s where I’m at right now: I can, for the first time, go to a restaurant and order something other than a salad if I want it. I can stop eating when I’m done even when the food is delicious. I can say no to sweets or yes to sweets without guilt. I can have a taste of something without then eating the entire thing, stand next to the desserts at a party and not eat them to the point of feeling sick, and, if I do overeat or start to feel bad about my body, I can give myself compassion and not fall back into my old restrictive and self-hating habits.
I still have struggles, mostly with accepting my slightly softer body and feeling the pressures of what our society tells us that a fitness person is “supposed” to look like. But each day Intuitive eating becomes easier and I become more accepting and respectful of my body shape. I’ve made an effort to unfollow people that makes me feel like i’m not enough and start to follow body positive women who represent a wide variety of body shapes and sizes and show what normal eating looks like.
Besides the books I mentioned above here are a list of podcasts that I listen to regularly that give me a sense of community around eating issues and inspire me to stay the course and continue to develop an even better relationship with food and body:
- Food Psych Podcast
- The Love, Food Podcast
- Nutrition Matters Podcast
- The BodyLove Project