Can we talk about the silent war?
And by silent war, I mean the battle that many women face day in and day out.
A war that they wage against themselves, their bodies, and food.
A war in which their self-esteem is victimized, their self-worth and body image are violated and the scale is both friend and foe.
At this time of year, whether it is doughnuts and latkes or the anticipation of holiday food for those who celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve, or if you are going on vacation, this is intensified.
This is a battle not unfamiliar to me and one that I believe I have fought bravely, and now act as the defender and advocate for those who are tired and frustrated by this ongoing attack against themselves.
As an innocent 13-year-old, I was weighed in gym class. Before that moment, which became a turning point in my life, I had no concept of weight or body size. The number staring back at me also meant nothing, until my friend got onto the scale next and lo and behold, her number was 1kg less than mine.
In that instant my belief about what it meant to be loved, accepted, and appreciated changed. I felt less than, all from being 1 number more than.
And so I went on my first diet- to put things in perspective according to BMI tables and weight-height charts I was perfectly in the normal range.
Of course it was easy, I lost 2 kg quickly but it was restrictive and I felt deprived. The lack of sustainability and my panic at being starved caused the rebound overeating and bingeing that is familiar to many.
The temporary high of having lost weight, and boost to my crushed self-esteem disappeared in the blink of an eye, and so started my love-hate relationship with my body, food, and myself.
When I was “good”, “in control”, and stuck to my diet I felt motivated and positive. But that never lasted long and, with the cravings for sugar setting in due to the ridiculous restriction protocol that I could never maintain, my weight went ever higher.
The spiral of weight gain was uncomfortable and made me so self-conscious. I imagined people looking at me while I was eating and thinking, “She shouldn’t be eating”, so I ate behind closed doors instead and chose to eat “perfectly” whenever I was in public.
Oh, the shame.
Oh, the guilt.
Oh, the pain.
Oh, the self-loathing.
Oh, the lack of self-control.
I would go to bed each night and promise myself that the next day I would be “good” again.
These thoughts occupied me day and night.
And then I studied to become a dietician. I was still fragile but began to understand more about what my body needed.
When I was happy and felt good about life, food and my weight were less of a concern.
When emotional and when I encountered challenges the old voices crept back in.
But I was determined, I needed to heal this.
And so I embarked on a path of intellectual pursuit and through both the guidance from what I learned and the support I received, I began to integrate into my life new habits and thought processes that allowed the familiar battleground to feel less intense.
Alongside my own recovery, I worked in private practice, guiding my patients to understand and nourish their bodies, challenge their food beliefs, and remove the dieting mindset that kept them locked in their own food and dieting jail.
Each client I helped along the way felt exhilarating for me and reaffirmed that the difficulties I had gone through were worth the support I could now offer others.
As you read this, if any of the messages resonate for you then allow me to share some tips that can begin to lift you out of the dieting trap.
- Waiting for the perfect time to start your “diet”, to be “good” and to take “control” is a trick. There is nothing different or a magic energy that January 1st or Monday brings.
- If you have high expectations of what you want to achieve and how little you want to eat the chances of failure will be higher.
- If you have a magic number that you want to get to and you always get close but can never stay there (or never get close but keep beating yourself up about it), you may want to stop weighing yourself and focus on other measures of success.
- Start small and build habits slowly.
- Relying on willpower alone will keep you breaking promises to yourself, time and time again.
- If you find yourself overeating, don’t beat yourself up about it, notice why it happened, and with compassion refocus your efforts to make the next nourishing choice you can.
- If you feel like you’ve “fallen off the wagon” or “blown it” starving for the rest of the day or planning to starve yourself the day after will just keep you stuck in the same negative cycle.
- While healing your relationship with food and yourself, take weight loss goals off the table. You can always revisit these when you are coming from a place of balance and compassion.
(There is so much to unpack about this and the theme of various modules that I teach my clients and online group program members)
Dear reader, if you are feeling validated by this blog then I hope that you will seek out a way to end this tug of war.
Feeling like a prisoner to food cravings, low-calorie sugar-free promises, intense exercise, unrealistic diets, portion control, time-based eating that leaves you starving and denying your hunger is robbing you of your joy and ability to show up in your life as the most whole and wonderful person that you are.
Isn’t it time you threw off the shackles and surrendered?
The difference in stepping off THIS battlefield is quite the opposite.
You see in this respect, surrender is a victory and the result is a life of freedom to enjoy your food, and feel at peace in your body and with your thoughts.
This is the gift of a lifetime!