This post has been a long time coming and I have honestly put it off because I just don’t know what all to say or how to say it best. I hope that through this brief glimpse into a very personal struggle, I can can help others to see food and themselves in a different way that is more positive, encouraging, and loving.
In third grade, starting public school after being home-schooled, I began to view myself as “fat” and, on a deeper level, “unacceptable”. Although I had a good group of friends, others in my class teased me because of my weight and some of those comments still ring in my head over 20 years later. From that age onward, without me even knowing it, I started a war with my body. A war to mold and force my body into what society said was most acceptable and beautiful.
I have always loved food, as I still do today. We were a very social family and many of my most pleasant memories from childhood center around sharing meals at our home and out at restaurants with my best friends and family. With this war that was being waged inside my head, I slowly began to see food as “the enemy” and something I needed to strictly control. Throughout my many years of seeing food in this way, I jumped on the diet mentality wagon and have tried diet pills, juice cleanses, weight watchers, restrictive eating techniques such as intermittent fasting and calorie counting, slim fast, the special K diet, low carb/high protein, Whole30/Paleo, and everything in between to get my body to where it should be. In college I struggled with excessive exercising mixed with severe calorie restriction in order to lose weight. Because of this constant search for the one thing that would finally work, I fell into a cycle of weight loss and gain from intense restricting and then when I would “fail” and eat something “not allowed/bad” (i.e. chips, cookies, ice cream, etc. that are typically labeled as such in society) I would fall into a deep pit of shame and guilt.
In February of this year, my struggle hit an all-time high. I noticed that I would feel guilt for eating any food at all, even the foods I had qualified as “good”. I was in a constant state of panic and anxiety around food and my mind raced with calorie counts, the “need” for exercise, and how each bite of food would affect my appearance. I “body checked” throughout the day and either avoided any reflection of myself or stood in the mirror and spewed hatred at what I saw before me. I believe those very rough weeks in February were a defining moment for me. Did I really want to continue this defeating, exhausting, hopeless, shame-inducing cycle all my life? How would I explain this to our future children if I want to empower them to love the bodies God gave them? Something had to give.
I sought out a local counselor experienced in disordered eating. In our first meeting, she introduced me to the concept of Intuitive Eating and, little did I know, this approach to recovery from disordered eating and Eating Disorders would play a pivotal role in the radical change in my relationship with food, exercise, and my body. In posts to come, I will be sharing the concepts of Intuitive Eating in more detail and the practical ways in which Intuitive Eating has changed the way I look at food and my body. For now, I wanted to share just a bit of education on what Intuitive Eating is and some of the research behind this amazing approach to recovery.
Intuitive Eating is a nutrition philosophy developed by two prominent nutritionists, Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD, Fiaedp, FADA, FAND. Simply put, Intuitive Eating reconnects you with your body’s hunger and fullness cues, removes moral value from food (i.e. “good” and “bad” foods), helps you learn what is nourishing for your body, and has a great deal of research to back it up, which I am all about. This is no diet (Thank GOD.), it is a mindful approach to more intentionally enjoying food, without letting the food be the one in control. Below are the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating and you can follow the link to read more about this great resource and the 10 principles in more detail.
The 10 principles from the book Intuitive Eating are:
- Reject the Diet Mentality.
- Honor your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Respect your Fullness
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Honor Your Feelings without Using Food
- Respect your Body
- Exercise – Feel the Difference
- Honor your Health
This path to peace with food is definitely a journey. There are still really bad days but by God’s grace and patience with myself, I am making progress slowly but surely. I can’t wait to share what I am learning along the way and hopefully help others in the process!
*Disclaimer: if you are struggling with a diagnosed eating disorder, Intuitive Eating is not meant to be the first step in recovery as you will most likely have too many food rules to approach this practice of eating in a productive and healthy way. This is just a step in the recovery process and I encourage you to seek out a counselor and/or dietitian in your area specializing in ED treatment to begin the process of healing.