When the Words Return…

mirrorimage.I was hungry before teaching cycle.  Apparently, my snack didn’t have enough time to digest and class left me feeling nauseous and uncomfortable.  It was the pain in my throat that woke me in the the night but it was the thought in my head that stabbed me more… “Good, now maybe you will not be able to eat and you will lose weight.”

REALLY?  Those words haunted me like the monster under my bed did when I was a child.   How could I possibly still be having such a thought?  I have spent the last several years working as a coach and a mentor, sharing the benefits of mindful eating practices, discussing the how the pursuit body perfection kills our self-esteem and ruins our relationship with food and eating.  How could I still be thinking this way?

Six years ago, when I read Intuitive Eating for the first time, I instinctively knew I found what I had been looking for.  For the majority of my life I have been a prisoner of my own obsessive and destructive thoughts and behavior.  I was the lifetime dieter; toggling somewhere between binging/purging, restrictive eating, and excessive, punitive exercise.

Intuitive Eating taught me that the perfection I was striving for was a representation of  a largely unattainable fitness/beauty ideal created by society and the media.  I realized there is more to me as a person than just what I look like and I began to appreciate who I am and what I have to offer.  I paid attention to how ‘feeling fat’ changed my mood and became aware of how preoccupation with my appearance was interfering with my ability to live my life.  I learned how many advertising images are digitally altered making them both more appealing and less attainable.  I know and believe all this, yet I still find it difficult to look at my body in a mirror.

I am not aware of any hidden fascination with being a vampire as my reason for not having a mirror image.  Truth is, I am afraid.  For so many years, I listened to the words in my head… “You’re not good enough, strong enough or determined enough.  You’ll never succeed.  You lose weight and then gain it back, what is wrong with you?”  I am afraid of what I will ‘hear’ if I look.

If I fully believe in my heart and soul I am more than just an object to be looked at, compared to and judged, why would I think what I did?  How could I possibly want to deny my body nourishment in order to wear a smaller pants size?  Thankfully, I did not act upon this thought.  In fact, I’m grateful it happened.   It has made me aware that I am still struggling with my self-image.   This surprises me.  I have felt more free and in control since I discovered Intuitive Eating than any other time in my life.  I have let go of dieting and the food rules associated with them.  I eat when I am hungry and I eat what I want.  I worry less about food and as a result, I am able to enjoy living.  So what is keeping me stuck?

I know for certain changing my thinking is a process.  Intuitive Eating teaches us that we need to be patient.   There is no ‘wrong way’, only learning and discovery.  I have to remember to treat myself with patience, understanding and kindness.  I listened to those hurtful words for a very long time.  Change does not happen overnight.

In order to move on, I have to face my fears and look in the mirror.  I need to practice what I teach and focus on the things I like more than the things I don’t.  I need to acknowledge my accomplishments instead of what I have yet to do.  I remember what it was like living in that world when the only thing that mattered to me was the number on the scale.  Ironically, it wasn’t pretty.  Perfection does not exist and living my life in pursuit of it is a waste of valuable time.  Life is to short for that.

I now realize that the title of this blog is a misnomer.  I’m not sure that the words in my head ever truly went away; I instead chose not to address them.  Perhaps, up till now, I wasn’t ready to.  First, I needed to rebuild my relationship with food, for without that, I would not have the solid belief that I am doing what’s right for me.  This experience opened the door to where my work ahead is; finding true confidence in myself as a woman, inside and out.  I have always held the belief there will forever be something I can ‘fix’, but then again, maybe the true lesson is paying attention to who’s words are telling me that it’s ‘broken’ in the first place.  😉

To my readers:  I wrote this post today for a very important reason.  One of my main sources of support along my journey has been feeling that I am not alone.  Knowing there are others that have the same thoughts and fears that I do makes me feel understood and gives me comfort.  So here I am, sharing my fears.  Maybe you can relate and I don’t want you to feel alone.

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8 Comments

  1. What a beautiful and poignant post. No matter how long one has been on this road, that old voice emerges…tenacious…but in awareness that inner wisdom speaks

    Reply
  2. Thank you Peggy. I appreciate your thoughts. It’s scary when the old voices re-emerge, but at least know I have the knowledge not to listen to them. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Jennifer

     /  December 5, 2013

    I struggle with feeling like I’m eating a “right” or “wrong” amount, as I dont get proper hunger/fullness cues. What’s a good way to not look at it as right or wrong?j

    Reply
    • Hi Jennifer!

      That’s a great question! The answer is built on trust. Trusting that your body “knows” what it needs, when it needs it and how much.

      A necessary precursor to satisfying and trusting your hunger is to ensure that you do not allow yourself to get too hungry. If you begin eating when you are ravenous, it’s going to be difficult to stop. (hence you feel as though you can’t trust your body) Check in regularly throughout your day sensing hunger. This is a learning process and may take some time to feel comfortable. If you sense your “hunger meter” is broken (and dieting for a very long time will do this to you), try not to go longer than 5 hours without eating something.

      Pay attention to the hidden signs of hunger. You may not necessarily feel the “grumbling stomach”, your hunger may show up as tiredness, headache, moodiness, inability to concentrate. For me, I began to notice I got very cold when I was hungry.

      Finding fullness can feel like you are shooting at a moving target! Keep in mind this is going to change meal to meal – day to day. It depends on several factors including your activity level, what you ate at your last meal.

      One very important thing to remember here is that you have “unconditional permission to eat”. Here is your trust factor again. You know you to can walk away from your food because if you find yourself hungry again soon after you have permission to eat!!

      Jennifer you have touched on two very important concepts in Intuitive Eating. Everyone’s circumstance is different. Please realize this is a process that takes time. Be patient with yourself. Every time you eat you have an opportunity to learn. Practice patience not perfection.

      As an additional resource I would like to introduce you to the Intuitive Eating Online Community. This is a free service full of people like you and me who are learning! It is a question and answer forum. Please check it out here: http://intuitiveeatingcommunity.org/

      Good luck!!!
      Janine

      Reply
      • Jennifer

         /  December 6, 2013

        Thank you so much for your reply!! It was so encouraging for me to hear, and thanks for sharing your life to help others. I hope I can one day do the same!
        Right now my doctors want me to force feed myself snacks to get my weight up (I am battling chronic lymes disease). When do you think I can trust my fullness signals enough to know if I need to eat a snack or not? Doctors havent been much help in this area so I’m wondering when you think I can trust my signals again.
        Can’t wait to check out the community!! Thank you!

  4. Oh Jennifer I wish I had an answer for you!! The best advice i can give you is to be patient and keep trying. Think of it this way, what you are doing is new for you. Anytime we are learning a new skill it takes practice. Whenever you eat, think if it as an opportunity to learn about your body; how it feels and responds. In essence, you are practicing.

    It’s going to be necessary to devote your full attention to your eating experience. Make sure you are fully present by removing other distractions (phone, T.V., computer). Not an easy thing for many of us.

    It may seem tedious, in the beginning… all this focus on eating. But the more you do it, The more natural it will become. Each little win you experience along the way will be a building block for your foundation of trust. Stick with it; you are worth it!!

    Best wishes to you!
    And thank you for your kind words. I appreciate that 🙂

    Reply
    • Jennifer

       /  December 6, 2013

      Thanks again!! That really puts things in perspective. Do you think it’s worth seeing an intuitive eating nutritionist?

      Reply
  5. That is totally up to you. I’d suggest to follow your gut 🙂
    Here is the link that will direct you to certified Intuitive Eating professionals in your area. http://www.intuitiveeating.org/content/resources?q=content/certified-counselors

    Good luck!!

    Reply

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