A Dietitian's Story of Disordered Eating: Part 2
Last week, in part one, I shared my story of disordered eating. So where am I now with my eating habits? After years of living on and off diets, how did I stop? How did I make peace with food and stop the restrictive eating that later lead to overeating? Read on to find out!
After YEARS of diets, I began to experiment with ways of eating a whole foods based diet that made me feel my best. No diets. No weight loss schemes. I just focused on finding a way of eating that made ME feel great. I had to stop allowing my eating habits to be influenced by social media, by friends and family and even my own thoughts of how I felt like I should eat. I played around with my nutrient intake (carbs/protein/fat ratio). I played with taking out gluten, dairy and meat in my diet. I ultimately decided all of these feel best in my diet. I chose to start eating in a way that made me feel the most energized and always tasted amazing. I understand the science behind our eating habits and how that translates into our body composition, but my food choices are guided by intuitively eating. Eating when hungry, stopping when comfortable, eating for comfort yet recognizing it, eating because food tastes amazing, eating socially and eating to fuel workouts are all part of how I view intuitive eating. (My What I Ate Wednesday posts can give you an idea of how I eat intuitively on a daily basis.)
Through mindful living, I began to listen to my body and eventually my hunger and satiety levels became the signals I needed to eat. I didn't choose to eat because of the amount of calories I allowed myself to eat. Or because it was the time of the day to eat. Sometimes I can eat breakfast and still need a snack two hours later and other times I can go until lunchtime. Sometimes I need a nighttime snack after dinner and other days I feel comfortably full from dinner. Each day is unique and different, and so should our eating. Our bodies are wonderful at telling us what they need, if we just listen.
While I love to eat healthy foods, I NEVER restrict myself to only eating those foods. All foods fit in my diet and once I let go of the restrictive mindset that I should not eat cheeseburgers and ice cream, I could finally enjoy those foods for their AMAZING taste and the way they nourished my soul. Part of having a healthy relationship with food is recognizing that foods you deem as unhealthy can fit too. Once I stopped restricting these foods I also stopped obsessing over them. A common side effect to diets is that they make a person obsess over foods, particularly foods that we deem as not allowed. Once the restriction is gone, they are simply just food that you can enjoy. And savor. I allow my body to tell me how much of those foods to eat, and once I am no longer enjoying it, I stop. I no longer have to eat until I am so full I feel sick. Nor do I constantly think about foods that I 'wish I could have'.
I stopped weighing myself. Throughout the years, I had often decided what to eat and my own internal happiness based off the number on the scale. I told my clients to never weigh themselves at home because the scale fluctuates so much on a daily basis, but was a hypocrite and would weigh myself multiple times a day. I threw the scale away so I wouldn't be tempted to step back into this unhealthy habit. I knew I needed to learn to gauge what and how to eat based off my needs, not because of a number on a scale.
After years of Jazzercise, I quit after getting bored of doing the same exercise for years. I started practicing yoga and eventually added in strength training. The feeling of strength is one I have never known in my life and I have absolutely fallen in love with both yoga and weight lifting. Moving my body everyday helps me deal with the stress, sleep, digestive issues and straight up just makes me feel AWESOME. Exercise has nothing to do with trying to lose weight or burn calories. Exercise has everything to do with how it makes me feel.
Throughout this time, I found a support system. My sister has struggled with the same restricting and binge eating cycle that I have, and she has been there for me every step of the way. We have sent countless emails, texts and phone calls to each other about it and helped each other realize that it wasn't a way to live our lives. My sister and I are both very fortunate that our husbands are wonderful intuitive eaters and helped guide us to recovery as well.
My own story, and one I hear often- from clients, friends and family members, is why I do not feel diets, counting calories (or counting macronutrients) and weighing yourself are part of the path to healthy living. I have been on and off diets since the age of 16. At the age of 24, I vowed to stop the yo-yo dieting. I gained weight. I learned to love myself anyways. I began to eat for nourishment AND enjoyment. I stopped caring about calories and instead ate foods that made me feel beautiful from the inside out. I listened to my body and found a way to eat what made me feel my best. I learned to deal with my emotions as well as listen to my body's internal cues through mindful living. I created a solid exercise routine because of how it makes me feel, not how it makes me look. I stopped caring what people think and let go of the perception of how I felt like I should look. Eventually, my metabolism healed after years of damage from constantly being on diets. I could finally eat the normal amount of calories that my body needed without gaining weight. With time, I found my happy weight. At the age of 27 now, I am the healthiest and happiest I have ever been (neither of which have anything to do with my weight or size). My life is not perfect, but it is perfect to me. I am grateful for the battle to get to the point I am at now, because it was so, so worth it.
If you have had the same struggles, I really, truly understand how desperate it can feel at times. But I promise, the "just one more diet to get to my goal weight and then I'll stop" isn't going to work. If my own story isn't enough to convince you, know that there is SIGNIFICANT research to back this up now. Intuitive eating isn't just a phrase anymore, it is backed by studies. I HIGHLY recommend reading the book, Intuitive Eating, by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. I have just started reading it, and so, so wish I had read it when I was going through all those struggles. I will also go more in depth in the next week or two on the scientific evidence as to why diets don't work.
No questions today. Just your honest thoughts.