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It's easy for us to blame food when we are making poor choices, or say we have addictions to food, or that we are out of control with food. And even easier to blame our body when it gains weight, or doesn't look the way we want it to. We think it's fighting against us.
What I have learned through my years-long struggle with food and body image issues, is that both are blameless. I only blamed them because I wasn't looking deeper at what was driving me to eat the food and hate my body. I had to start to take responsibility for my actions and behaviors, and that meant looking at what was behind my need to set food rules, and what was behind my emotional eating, and all the other crazy ideas I had in my head about food and my body. Food was just the symptom of something else going on that I wasn't ready to face.
How often have you said to yourself, "I will never eat [insert "bad," "unhealthy" food] again," or "I will start over tomorrow and be "good?" Those two lines were famous in my vocabulary for years. I started over a million times, and I swore I would never eat cupcakes again for as long as I was alive. But that just kept me stuck in the vicious cycle with food and my weight, and I NEVER kept those empty promises to myself.
The truth is; our issues with food have NOTHING to do with the food.
In today's VLOG, direct from my Facebook LIVE training, I offer 2 strategies you can use to start to take responsibility for yourself, and to stop blaming the food and your body. These strategies will help you to take a step back, and to begin to relate to food and your body in a different way so you can be more of a "normal" eater.
When it comes to accepting your body, do you need some serious help? What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see a body you like and accept? Or do you pick it apart and criticize every little thing you want to change about it? I'm guessing it's the latter.
A large majority of people, particularly women, do not like what they see in the mirror. In fact, they downright HATE what they see in the mirror. I would've included myself in that majority up until about 5 years ago.
Now, I'm not saying that I always LOVE what I see in the mirror, but the difference is that I have come to learn to appreciate what I see, instead of hate it, criticize it or pick it apart.
For years, I had this crazy morning "ritual" where as soon as I woke up and got out of bed, I would walk to the bathroom, pull my shirt up, look in the mirror and see how big (or flat) my stomach was. It was my Morning Fat Check.
If I was dieting or depriving myself, or I had started some new meal plan or fat burner, I would check to see how much weight I was losing, or if any of the pudge had miraculously disappeared overnight.
If was off the rails with my food, which happened more often than not, I would lift my shirt, stare at my bloated belly, pinch my love handles and curse myself. Then I would swear to start over and "be good" for the rest of the week.
I would start to make the running list in my head of all the foods I had to stay away from, and make a promise that I would only eat salad for the next 10 days and nothing else.
It was exhausting, and seriously detrimental to my well-being AND self-esteem.
I truly hated what I saw every time I looked in the mirror. It didn't matter if I was thinner than the day prior, or not. I would criticize, poke, pinch, prod and shake my head in disgust. This was the way I started every single day for years, so you can imagine how I entered into the day feeling about myself.
Sometimes I would end up on the floor in a ball of tears when I was trying to get dressed for work. Other days, I felt on top of the world, because my stomach looked flat that morning, and I was convinced that whatever I was doing was FINALLY working, and I was a rock-star. But that didn't last long, because I would eventually overeat and break that big lofty promise I made to myself, yet again.
Basically the Morning Fat Check set the entire mood of my day into motion. Most of the time, it resulted in a SHITTY one (excuse my French) of devastation, feeling like a failure and riddled with shame and disappointment.
The big turning point for me was the day I called a close friend of mine for support. I was in tears about how fat I felt. I hated the way I felt in my skin. I was gaining weight and felt puffy, bloated and defeated. And I was out of control with my eating. I was looking for someone to be in the trenches with me; to feel my pain.
But what I got instead was a hefty dose of tough love. The words my friend said in that moment stung me, but they were the catalyst to me deeply healing the years long battle with food and my body,
After she waited for me to finish whining and complaining, she calmly said, "I'm sorry you feel this way and you are struggling, but this obsession with your body and weight is SO self-absorbed. GO OUT and BE OF SERVICE. STOP feeling sorry for yourself, get off the couch, get outside and make a difference in someone else's day that needs you."
BAM! It was like a stinging slap in the face, but it was just what I needed to hear. Those words set a series of events into motion that dramatically transformed the way I see myself, and my body to this very day.
So, here are a few of the steps I took in order to learn to come into acceptance with my body, and stop hating myself. This change didn't happen overnight, but I was committed to the process. It required patience, consistency and a tremendous amount of courage.
The first thing I did was give up the Morning Fat Check and I stopped looking in the mirror so much. As hard as this was to break, it was a huge part of my healing process.
Beating my body up and criticizing it first thing in the morning, left me feeling depressed, angry and defeated. No matter what I did, it was never enough.
And the crazy thing is, weight can fluctuate anywhere from 2-7 pounds within a given day depending on circumstances, so I never knew what it was going to be from day to day and that created even more uncertainty and feelings of failure.
So, I vowed to stop lifting my shirt, looking in the mirror and stepping on the scale first thing in the morning. I even threw my scale away!
At first, I had a huge fear of getting out of control if I wasn't constantly checking my weight or size. Because how would I gauge if I was getting skinny or not? How would I know what to feel about myself that day and if I was reaching the goals I had set to lose weight?
But, what started to happen, as I let go of the constant slew of externally focused, self-deprecating comments and lifting my shirt each day, was that I started to focus on the amazing other qualities I had and how I felt from the inside.
This was a powerful practice for me in body acceptance. Once I gave up my Morning Fat Check, and started to focus on how I felt internally, it prompted me to truly feel connected to the miracle of my body.
As a nutritionist, yoga teacher and former massage therapist, I have studied a lot about the body. I understand a lot about the anatomy of it, and what foods are good for it, etc. but I always treated my body as a separate entity. I was disconnected from it, and felt it to be a burden.
I hated that it wouldn't listen to me, or drop the weight I wanted it to, when I wanted it to. I felt like my body was constantly betraying me and I was in a constant battle with it.
Each day I committed to writing down and/or saying three things to my body that I appreciated about it. I focused on it's strength, health, and all the little intricacies of my body that I often don't think about because they run on auto-pilot, literally.
This practice alone helped me to create such a deep appreciation and honoring of my body that I didn't want to say mean things to it anymore. And
the funny thing is, after a while, my clothes started to fit looser. Go figure.
As I mentioned in step two above, I was in a constant battle with my body and completely disconnected from it. By practicing the daily appreciation of my body, I was also able to attune to it more.
I started to pay closer attention to the subtle and not-so-subtle signals that my body would give me. After I ate, I would notice how I felt in my body, not what my mind thought about what I ate (which was usually full of judgement, by the way.)
This would help me feel connected, and be able to give my body what it needed. I stopped listening to the craziness in my mind, and the outside world, and starting listening to the wisdom of my very own body.
This usually looked like resting more often, not working out as hard, or pushing as hard and doing a whole lot less than I was used to. I relaxed more, and ate less because I was paying attention to my satisfaction cues. I slowed down at meals and enjoyed what I was eating. I was getting fuller quicker and didn't overeat as I normally would when I was distracted.
All of this led to me feeling so much more at home in my body. I would check in and see what type of movement would feel good instead of what I think I should do (to lose weight.). Some days it was yoga, some days it was hiking, others it was weight lifting.
My body appreciated this. And it started to change. It didn't happen overnight, it was a journey, but one that has been so empowering and transformative.
Not only was I implementing these steps on a daily basis, I was also doing some further personal growth work to look at my skewed relationship with food. Although it's all connected, I had to dig deeper to get to the core of some of my eating behaviors.
These 3 key elements mentioned above were the most powerful and truly helped me come to an incredible acceptance of my body, which resulted in my body normalizing to it's natural weight over time.
So, I'm curious; How do you feel when you look in the mirror? What has been your experience with your body? Do you feel accepting of your body? Or do you loathe it and fight against it? 'd love to hear your thoughts and comments below.
When I begin working with new clients and I hear from them that they have tried every diet known to man with no “success,” I always know there is something deeper happening than their desire to lose weight. Of course their desire is valid, but usually it’s not just about the weight that they are carrying and they want to shed. They’ve struggled with yo-yo dieting and cleansing and many other avenues that they thought would get them healthy and lean, but they ended up back where they started or even further back.
The reason I became so interested in food and nutrition, is because I have struggled most of my life with emotional eating and a distorted body image. I must say, it hasn’t been an easy road at all and I have done so much work around deeper healing and looking into why I have this “issue”. Some days I have intense feelings that keep me up late into the night obsessing over the bag of rice chips I ate, or the ½ pint of coconut ice cream that I downed when I wasn’t even hungry. I can also tend to obsess over body image issues…that my jeans are tighter today than they were yesterday, or my belly is not as flat as it was the day before, or if every calorie I put in my mouth is going to make me fat. These times come much less frequent these days and I am not going to say that I have totally healed, but I have definitely dug into deeper parts of myself to see what is running these parts of me and learned how to give myself what I really need in those moments to move through them much more gracefully than in the past.
Eating is something we need to do to stay alive. It’s not like other addictions where we can give up said substance and still survive, even though it may feel like we are going to die without it. Food is our nourishment, our vitality, our life. If we don’t know how to relate to food and our bodies in a healthy way, then we will have issues with weight, overeating, under-eating and so much more. I think you get the picture.
Our emotions and feelings play such a big role in our lives. It’s so important to look deeper into these feelings we have around our body, eating and food as they will give us messages of what our bodies and our souls really need. It’s not about the next quick fix diet, or cleanse or fast. It’s about really going inward and asking your body what it needs, or asking your soul what it needs and most of the time that answer is – Love.
Loving ourselves is such a huge part of learning how to live with emotional eating. I don’t think this “addiction” ever fully goes away, but the more we learn to love ourselves, the more this little, or big, monster will calm down and take the proverbial back seat. I know that some of you may be thinking that you are not ready to look at what it is that is driving your overeating, or emotional food choices or body image obsession, but I am here to tell you that the only way out of this, is through this.
If you struggle with any of the things that I have mentioned, seek out help with a professional, start to write in a journal, begin to really get in touch with “WHEN you are eating, WHY you are eating and WHAT you are eating.” Start to notice what you put in your mouth and why. Is your body really hungry or are your emotions screaming out to you for something else? Are you craving love, attention and affection? If so, how can you give this to yourself? Maybe you could call a friend, or stop and take a few deep breaths – whatever it is that will help you really tune into what is going on internally, before you fill your mouth with an unhealthy food that will not nourish you in any way except to feed your “in the moment” craving for something else bigger.
Begin to really notice those moments when you have a craving and see if you can stop, take a breath and check in with yourself. Do you really want that sugary donut, bag of chips or chocolate bar? Or do you really want a hug from someone? So many of our food cravings are brought about by memories of comfort when we were kids. So it’s normal to want certain foods if we are feeling down or sad, but the wise thing to do in a situation like this is to skip the food and find a way to comfort yourself. I know this sounds strange, but the love we give to ourselves and feel for ourselves is the most important love of all. So where and how can you start to love yourself more so that you don’t become slave to your emotional eating, which can lead to extra pounds, depression, shame and self-loathing?
Just one small, positive action can start to break the cycle…what will yours be?