I always talk about how awesome Intuitive Eating is and how it changed my life, but let's not pretend there haven't been a couple detours. Last year after ditching diets for 5 months and adapting to a new life of food freedom, I found myself struggling with weight gain, my perception of self, some insecurity and holiday season was upon. Suddenly I didn't feel so confident that I had made the right choice to ditch the diets.
I found myself caught in a comparison trap, complete with jealously and seconds guessing. I watched people reaching goals, shouting success and proudly proclaiming "I lost ___ pounds!!" I watched as they made the same claims I used to market my former business- anywhere from "I'm a better mom" and "I'm no longer self-couscous"! The list goes on.
It was October and I couldn't fathom going into the holidays the way I looked. At that point I had gained back 35 of the 40 I had lost post-pregnancy, it wasn't slowing and it had happened very quickly. How could I have thought this was a good idea?! Why did I quit dieting and give up on ME?! How can I take pictures looking like THIS?!
So I freaked. I went on the South Beach Diet with one of my friends after confessing to her I felt horrible about myself. I realized after 4 days what a huge mistake it was, and I realized right then and there diet culture is heavy and seductive. I made it through the rest of the holiday season with no freak outs and found myself relieved that I was able to apply Intuitive Eating Principles, enjoy time and food with family with no restrictions, weight gain or binging. It was all fine and dandy until….
February hit. "SWIMSUIT SEASON IS ALMOST HERE!!!!! Don't let the world see your fat, cellulite and in order to do this EAT ALL THE FAT AND FORGET ALL THE CARBS!!!" Ahhhhh, my fallback (low carb) diet has made a crazy comeback. I've been added to so many freaking Keto OS groups I want to vomit. I even told my clinical nutritionist I thought I needed to go lowcarb to once again solve the problems in my life. She told me politely what I already knew: "well, it's very hard and yes it can work for weight loss BUT it's very hard to maintain. I don't recommend it." Against her advice I still decided I had to do something because the rest of the world was losing and cruising. My all or nothing mindset kicked in and 1-2 weeks later I realized again the mistake I made and reeled it back.
I learned a lot those 2 incidents. I think the biggest thing I realized is diet culture is pervasive, seductive and heavily prevalent in every facet of our lives. It's hard to turn your back when your culture is obsessed with eating a specific way and are preaching messages demonizing anything that doesn't follow their specific diet. Other things I learned:
- I turn into flipping crazy person. Weighing myself, my food, measuring every flipping thing, obsessing over timing of meals, making sure I was "on plan/in compliance". Playing the mental game that goes with placing oneself on a diet is exhausting. When you're on a diet, every waking moment is consumed with said diet. (And this has been normalized by our culture).
- The diet/weight loss industry preys on so many of our fears: death, judgment, ridicule, and we like to blame literally every medical illness on obesity. Many obese people even avoid making appointments because they fear instead of being seen as a patient, they'll be seen as a person that simply "needs to lose weight" rather than being seen as a whole person needing more than just a guilt trip about how being fat is ruining their health.
- I realized I was treating Intuitive Eating like a diet. Ever since the beginning I had told myself "if it doesn't work, I'll just go back to diet XYZ". I had one foot in, one foot out.
- It's hard to think you're succeeding when you are used to being to measure results, can say you were "good" or "bad", or hop on a scale and quickly confirm if you are still winning your personal fight against yourself.
- I had to admit to myself that yes, becoming smaller is still a desire of mine. BUT I also knew I wasn't willing to do anything that included restricting food groups, buying a program, counting stuff, following black and white plans, or basing my successes on numbers. I later found a solution to this quandary which I'll share in the future.
- I was faced again with some white hot truth- dieting does not work. I had an "ah ha" moment when I was going through my Intuitive Eating workbook and tracked every diet I had been on, the length of time it lasted, my start weight and the end weight. The path led up, up, up. I had convinced that my increased weight was because of my food addiction, lack of self-control, and blaming myself. Reality is there is a huge correlation between dieting, weight gain and obesity.
Here is the single most important thing you can take away from this: Intuitive Eating has no measure of success or failure or perfection. There is no end date. If you think you're failing you're wrong- you're learning.