Gifts of Intuitive Eating… Let me count the ways

person-writing-a-listIt has been just over 4 years since I first learned of Intuitive Eating.  As I began reading it I immediately sensed that finally, somebody understands me!  This book was my answer; my way out.  I had reached diet bottom.  The thought of going on another diet was something I did not want to do, yet I was fearful of not being ‘guided’ by one.  I was spent and I was tired.  Tired of feeling as though I was not good enough, strong enough, thin enough or that I lacked willpower.  I wanted a sense of peace.

It has been quite a journey since I first opened that book.  The emotions were raw.  Fear, anxiousness, self-doubt.  Can I do this?  How can I possibly eat anything?  Can I really accept my ‘here and now’ body?  Doesn’t this mean I am giving up on the dream?  Little by little, the self-doubt became trust.  The misguided judgments and criticism turned into words of self protection, forgiveness and patience.  I began, for the first time, to really experience my life.

One of my students, a cancer survivor of 4 years, told me “I am four years old”.  His diagnosis spawned a change in lifestyle that enabled him to lose more than 200 lbs. and to overcome 15 operations.  As he so aptly put it, “I am living on borrowed time. My life began 4 years ago.”  The words of this inspirational man resonated with me.  While not a personal life or death situation, I feel what I learned from Intuitive Eating has given me a new birthday as well.

When contemplating a change in lifestyle, I often encourage my clients to reflect on what they will gain.  Answering the question “What’s in it for me?” can be a powerful motivator to sustain change.  A firm believer in the theory of practice what you preach, I began to think about what Intuitive Eating has given me over these last four years.  When the self-doubt creeps back in, as it inevitably does, I read my list.  This helps me appreciate how much I have learned.  I choose not to focus not on how far I still want to go, but just how far I have already come and I am inspired move on.

Here is just a sampling of my Intuitive Eating gifts.  With your help, I want to add to this list.  Together we can inspire and motive each other.

Here goes…

  1. Feeling comfortable around food.  Knowing that I can choose what is best for me.
  2. Pizza
  3. Silencing the food police
  4. Practicing patience, not perfection
  5. Being able to truly enjoy my food
  6. Knowing I am my best advocate… and really believing it.
  7. Trusting that I can stop eating when I am full
  8. Knowing I can eat when I am hungry
  9. Being able to wear clothes that fit (not trying to squeeze into my ‘skinny’ jeans)
  10. I have the power of choice
  11. Being able to experience my feelings and not stuff them down with food
  12. Exercising because it’s fun
  13. Pizza
  14. Enjoying an ice cream with my kids on a hot day
  15. Realizing that food is not the answer to my problems
  16. Being able to look in the mirror and not criticize everything I see
  17. Throwing away the scale
  18. Giving away my skinny jeans
  19. Exercising because of how it makes me feel
  20. Trusting my and honoring body’s needs
  21. Realizing there is more to me than the number on the scale
  22. Viewing ‘failures’ as an opportunities to learn
  23. Knowing I don’t have to be perfect
  24. Seeing the value of ‘play food’
  25. Experiencing a good piece of chocolate
  26. Appreciating my body for what it does each and every day
  27. Melted cheese on a slice of pizza (ok, sensing a theme?)
  28. ‘Quiet’ brownies… Knowing I can have them in the house, but don’t have to ‘eat them all’
  29. Being able to enjoy a dessert if I choose to
  30. The satisfaction that comes with eating something I really want
  31. Learning I can say no
  32. Asking for help if I need it
  33. Appreciating quiet, stillness
  34. Trusting my body’s wisdom, in all things
  35. Believing in myself
  36. Freedom from diet rules
  37. Not having to ‘diet down’ for special occasions
  38. Learning to respect and appreciate who I am
  39. Seeing how my confidence has translated to other areas of my life
  40. A sense of inner peace

What about you?  I would love to add your thoughts and ideas.  What has the practice of Intuitive Eating given you?

Authors note:  Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D. and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A. teaches you how to make peace with food, stop chronic dieting and rediscover the pleasures of eating.  For more information, please visit their website: http://www.intuitiveeating.org.  I wish to sincerely thank the authors for their continued work.  They are inspirational professionals who have changed many lives!

Chasing Thinness — Your Ideal or Mine?

This morning I watched a spider weave her web.  Like an aerialist, she crossed back and forth from the chair to the table edge performing her task.  The intricacy of her work was only visible to me when the sun caught it’s reflection.  I thought about how beautiful spider webs can be, if you take the time to notice them.  I also considered if it’s that beauty that ultimately captures its prey  …

I work in the fitness industry where accomplishments are defined by numbers “How much weight have you dropped?”  “What’s your body fat %?”  “How many inches have you lost?”   Coveted images of the ripped, hard rock abs of the long and lean set the standards; this is what you could look like, IF you work hard enough.  Some consider  this inspiration… I have to question, is it?  For many these statements and visions foster a sense of friendly competition, for me, they can be a constant reminder of what I am not.

I have lived the life of the extreme exerciser and dieter.  I have lost weight and gained it back.  I have exercised to the point of exhaustion and chronic injury but could not stop.  I have struggled with my eating from the extremes of not eating to binge eating, all in an attempt to control my weight and ‘fit the image’.  I am now a practicing Intuitive Eater.  I have found a peace and balance that enables me to eat and exercise reasonably.  I am happy and in a place I never thought possible, but fully aware that at times, the lure of the web still taunts me.

When my main reason to exercise was attaining my ‘magic numbers’ I firmly believed that when I weighed 120 lbs. or wore a size 4 I could feel accomplished;  then I could be proud of who I was.  It was during this time I felt most out of control.  I was willing to do ANYTHING in order to look the way I thought I needed to look.  I was defining my self-worth from the outside in.  If I had stopped to pay attention, I would have noticed my actions weren’t making me feel good.  Physically, I was hurt and exhausted.  Emotionally I beat myself up.  If I strayed from my regimen I chastised myself for having no willpower.  I wasn’t strong enough.  I wasn’t good enough.

Finally, after years of feeling like a failure, I stopped and asked myself “Why?”.  What was I accomplishing other than making myself miserable?  That’s when I realized the truth:  the standards that I fought so hard for were not my own.  I was trying to be what I thought I needed to be… Instead, I needed to be honest with myself and question, what did I really want?  My answer was simply health and to remain physically active.  In order to do that I would have to treat my body differently.  Over exercising and starving myself were not helping me achieve my goals, they were pulling me further away.

For me, thoughts of thinness are a compulsive trap.  If I allow myself to get too caught up in the ideals of ‘body perfection’ I can fall prey to my former life;  translation:  you are not good enough.  Becoming an Intuitive Eater taught me to respect and appreciate my ‘here and now’ body for what it CAN do.  I am not a size 4 or weigh 120lbs. but today I make choices based on what’s important to me.  Instead of deriving my motivation negatively, always telling myself what I am not, I choose to appreciate who I am, and work patiently towards who I aspire to be.

Unless you live under a rock,  it is hard to get away from what we perceive to be the  ‘thin and beautiful’.  I would be lying to you if I said I don’t occasionally find myself thinking about what could be.  This is when I feel most vulnerable… stuck in my spider web.  When pervasive thoughts of thinness pop back into my head I know I need to stay grounded.   Here are some thoughts that help keep me connected to my ‘here and now’.

  • Be sure that what you seek is something that’s important to you.  Honesty required:  What is my motivation to lose weight?  My current weight is healthy for me… what is making me think I need to lose weight?
  • What will accomplishing this goal give you?  Clothes shopping may be more fun.  Seriously, do I really think others will perceive me as more accomplished if I am thinner?  If so, do I really want these people in my life?
  • Are the actions necessary to attain this goal congruent with your values and beliefs?  I believe strongly in health for body and soul… Are starving myself or denying myself foods I enjoy only to be thinner healthy actions?
  • How can this hurt you?  For me, focusing on weight loss leads to absolutes; ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods or days.  A ‘bad’ day leads to feelings of  shame, guilt, no willpower, and failure.  Is this how I want to live my life?
  • Would you encourage your son/daughter to follow your behavior?  I want to encourage my kids to look beyond appearances only.   Am I setting a good example by emphasizing the importance of being thin?  
  • Can your goals be met in other ways?  Back to question 1, what is my motivation?  Is it feeling better about myself?  Isn’t a commitment to treat my body with respect something I should be proud of and feel good about?  
  • Is pursuit of your goal denying you enjoyment in other areas of your life?   Am I putting my life on hold?  Wrote a whole blog about this one!!  You can read about it in You Matter.

As a personal trainer, the majority of my clients come to me because they want to lose weight.  If I ask them what weight loss is going to give them, they almost always tell me losing weight makes them feel better about themselves.  What I want most for my clients is to help them understand that making a commitment to treat their body well IS an accomplishment to be proud of.  Acknowledge who you are right now; appreciate what you can do; and look forward to realizing what you can become.  Your life is here and now, not 15 or 20 pounds from now, right now.

I would like to offer this Abraham-Hicks quote:

You can be fully satisfied with where you are, understanding that you’re eternally evolving. When you get into that place of feeling appreciation of where you are and of who you are, and appreciation of what you are, and you accept that you are a never-ending, always unfolding Being, then you can stand in that delicate balance of being optimistic about what is to come, without being unhappy about where you stand. Find a way of eagerly anticipating future changes, while at the same time you are in love and satisfied with who, what, where and how you be.  

If your are having a tough time achieving your goals, take the time to re-evaluate what you seek.  Chasing thinness did not work for me because it did not come from my heart.  In order to achieve the image I believed to have been set for me, I had to disrespect my body.  Now I understand the importance of  staying true to who I am and to pursue what has meaning and a purpose for me.  Learn to question where your motivations come from.  If it’s always a place of negativity (I’m so fat, I need to lose weight), stop and listen to the words you say to yourself.  Is this how you would choose to motivate your children?   Do your actions feel right to you?  Don’t let others set the standards, believe in yourself enough to define your own.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Always looking for new inspiration and motivatation, I subscribe to several different sources.  This morning I read an article that caught my attention.  In “12 Lies To Stop Telling Yourself”*  I found one point of particular interest to me:

I am stuck with people who hurt me. – Life is too short.  Look out for yourself.  If someone continuously mistreats you, have enough respect for yourself to leave them.  It may hurt for a while, but it’ll be OK.  You’ll be OK.  Oftentimes walking away has nothing to do with weakness, and everything to do with strength.  We walk away not because we want others to realize our worth, but because we finally realize our own worth.

Reading and absorbing those words made me think of dieting.  In her book, Life Without Ed, best selling author Jenni Schaefer associates a persona to her eating disorder.  She called him ED.  In doing so, she was able to separate and free herself from this destructive relationship.  Breaking free from the dieting world can be like that too.

What is a dieter to do?  I am stuck.  I want to lose weight.  I need to lose weight.  I decide to diet.  I am good for awhile, but then I start wanting the foods I can’t have.  I give into my cravings and eat way too much!  I am out of control.  Now I feel guilty.  I broke the rules, again.   What is wrong with me? … I have NO willpower.  I will be better this time.  My diet begins again.

STOP.  Ask yourself, “What exactly is different this time?”  What is going to make your diet work this time?  Being stuck in the world of dieting is like being in a bad relationship.  Re-read the words above… Life is too short.  Look out for yourself.  It is in your best interest to think about your health, emotionally as well as physically.  Consistently putting yourself in a place that causes you stress, feelings of guilt and shame doesn’t feel good.  Thinking that you aren’t good enough as you are is mistreating yourself.

Breaking up is hard to do.  It’s scary at first because this is the world you have always  known.  Sometimes we remain in bad relationships because we know what to expect.  Been there, done that.  But for me, I decided enough was enough.  I owed it to myself to break away.  Why consistently expose myself to a place that was not helping?  If dieting worked, I should have been a model by now!  I have spent the better part of 30 years stuck in that relationship.  It wasn’t working and only left me feeling miserable about myself.

I had a choice.  I decided to walk away.  Intuitive Eating gave me the skills and confidence to divorce myself from my unhealthy relationship with dieting and poor body image.  I now feel empowered because I have choices.  I no longer have to “follow” the diet rules.  I can choose, according to what my body tells me I need.  I have trust and faith in myself to know what is best for me.  Ultimately, I am my own best advocate.  I am the expert of my body.  Learning to trust myself, and break away has given me the peace and freedom I have longed for.

Oftentimes walking away has nothing to do with weakness, and everything to do with strength.  We walk away not because we want others to realize our worth, but because we finally realize our own worth.  I have learned to respect myself.  I broke up and I am happy.  I am worth it… and you know what?  So are you!

* Source:  Marc and Angel Hack Life, Practical Tips for Productive Living, http://www.marcandangel.com/2012/03/12/12-lies-to-stop-telling-yourself/

Special thanks to Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch for giving me my life back.  For more information on Intuitive Eating:  www.intuitiveeating.org

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