The room is filled with the sounds of celebration—from polite laughter to raucous merriment. The click clack of heels mingles with the swooshing of skirts, and the almost silent breathlessness of corsets. The expanse of stone walls stretch beyond sight and are only broken up by the majestic columns adorned with wreaths and flowers. The grandeur continues to the ceiling where it looks as if the stars’ light has been harnessed for it sparkles with gold and silver. Dozens of fireplaces line the walls, the flames engulfing the chill air that swirls in tendrils every time the doors open to introduce new guests. It smells gently of cinnamon, but more overwhelmingly of perfume, as the ladies dance to the gentle thrum of the orchestra.
I stand hesitantly by the door as my coat is taken and the pressure to mingle and dance stirs within me. I should be used to this by now—I masquerade as a lady dressed in silks, opals glitter at my neck and barrettes garnish my hair. But there is a more powerful force within me—a self-disgust and self-doubt that constantly repeats that I will never be enough. I bury this deep within my heart and vehemently shove the key into the lock, hoping I locked it tight enough to avoid escape for the evening. I smile as friends approach me—I laugh, I commiserate, I cry and hug, I dance and serve. Yet, deep within me, the insecurity that I locked so tight is seeping through the cracks. It gnaws its way out like a persistent hunger, desperate for satiation. Once I realize it has broken free of its cage, I redouble my efforts to hide it, but the more I try to hide it, the more I pretend that it doesn’t exist or doesn’t really affect me, is the more power I give it.
BENEATH THE MASK
I masquerade in these beautiful garments, smiling, and laughing, hoping against hope that my façade will convince the most doubtful person—myself. I hope that if I dress pretty enough and pretend I have confidence, then I may begin to believe they are really true. But, the force locked within me never seems to loose its grip on my heart. Who am I deceiving? I am trying to be someone that I am not. I am not beautiful, no matter how many fashionable clothes I buy. I will never be judged as skinny no matter how many workouts I complete. I will never be happy as long as I persist in this façade.
What brought this sudden, seeming backslide in my recovery? Well, a whole host of things combined against me—the holidays, the plethora of wonderful food, the need to impress family, stress-induced acne, and a recent attempt to restrict my diet. Truly, I didn’t even realize I was restricting because I had convinced myself that I really wasn’t hungry, that my body didn’t want any food. And yet, my body saw through the lie—so that soon enough, I was bingeing uncontrollably and felt as if I was drowning again. I was emotionally vulnerable and had not prepared adequately for the stressors ahead, so that when these factors all hit at once, I had doomed myself.
So, where does this leave me? It leaves me feeling extremely vulnerable, as if I am naked on stage, the audience horrified. I feel like wearing fashionable clothes is how I help myself feel better about who I am and the body I have, but that is not the permanent fix or inner change for which I yearn. I do not feel that wearing fashionable clothes or makeup is wrong, however instead of wearing them because I enjoy how my body feels in the fabrics or because I like the way the bronzer enhances my bone structure, I wear them to hide my flaws and to enable me to look in the mirror without cringing. It is these motives for wearing the clothes and makeup that cause them to be a masquerade instead of a statement of confidence or personality. I am only just realizing this and feel that there is a long road ahead of me to change these core beliefs about my body and the role of clothes and makeup. In some ways, I feel as if I am back at the beginning, realizing again, yet also for the first time, that I hate my body and I don’t know how to fix it. In other ways, I feel like this is just another step along the path toward acceptance, gratitude, and joy. Quite the contradiction, isn’t it?
So, a candid picture of me was taken recently and when I saw it, the words that ran through my head were, “Urgh. I am so ugly. Delete that picture immediately.” So, apart from the idea that this is exactly what I am working against with Intuitive Eating, a new thought occurred to me. What if, well, what if that were true? What if I were really, truly ugly? (I am ignoring the whole idea that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” for the moment…Just go with me.) So, what if I were ugly?
Do I act less than my potential? Do I think that I deserve a second-hand life? Do I try to isolate myself so others would not have to see my ugliness? Do I think that my ugliness means I do not deserve a husband and two special daughters? Do I believe that I should not buy fashionable clothes and jewelry; that only beautiful people should wear such things? Do I feel like I am an inferior human being? Do I feel like I cannot inspire and leave my mark on the world because I am too ugly to do so? Can I not have hopes and dreams like other beautiful people? Am I not worthy of love?
Now, if I were to look at another person whom society deems ugly and ask those questions about them, I would immediately and truthfully say that’s absurd. Of course, someone who is ugly is worthy of love, is not inferior, and certainly does not deserve a second-hand life. Of course, they should hope and dream, and leave their indelible mark upon the world. Of course, they can buy and wear fashionable clothing. And, of course, people who are ugly do not have to—for even one second—act less than their potential simply because of how society perceives them. And, to my great surprise, when I really, truly embrace the idea that I am one of those whom society deems ugly, I believe the same is true. I believe that I am worthy of love, am not inferior, and hope to never live less than my potential.
So, the idea behind this line of thought is the idea that even if my worst fear—being fat and ugly—were true, I wouldn’t even think of living a life different than I am now. Now, don’t misunderstand me, the point of this discussion has nothing to do with how I actually perceive my beauty. I am simply discovering that if my worst fear were true, I would still believe that I am worth loving and am not inferior.
Note: The above photo is of Stephanie Nielson, a woman who was severely burned in a plane crash a few years ago. She has an amazing story of her own about beauty, joy, ugliness, trials, and faith. If you are interested, check out her video below (I’ll be writing future posts on her experiences and what they mean for me and my journey. But for now, here’s some inspiration!) Merry Christmas!
I did it. It was my first Thanksgiving since embracing Intuitive Eating and, though I was petrified because I have never been able to not overeat at Thanksgiving, I was optimistic. I hoped that with the proper preparation, I would be able to enjoy Thanksgiving for what it was—a holiday to celebrate family, enjoy food, and offer thanks to God for all the blessings in my life. Previously, my inability to enjoy food at Thanksgiving—due to anxiety that I would overeat and then actually overeating and feeling disgusted with myself—dampened the joy of the other experiences of the holiday—time with my family and counting my blessings. But I was determined to make this year different.
At the forefront of my success was the holiday bill of rights as a constant refrain in my mind, and almost more important than that was my conviction that I was going to do this, that I was going to listen to my body, enjoy the food, and stop when I was satisfied. When I sat down at the table—smelling the spiced turkey and stuffing, seeing the steam of the mashed potatoes rising in tendrils—I knew that everything was going to be okay.
As I filled my plate with a little bit of everything, I knew that I would be satisfied with that and so I started my internal dialogue: Wow, this food is delicious. It has been so long since I have tasted turkey this tender and oh, the Martinelli’s is perfect. I’m beginning to feel satisfied and I already decided that I want to remember the food as being delicious and something I can recall with joy, not disgust. I’m seeing everyone going back for seconds and I’m getting worried that there wont be any food left when I want more later. Remind myself that I can make my own Thanksgiving meal again next week if I feel like I haven’t been able to enjoy each dish as much as I would like. There is no reason to overeat. I can do this. I am listening to my body right now, and I feel great.
The result of this dialogue was that I enjoyed my food, did not go back for seconds, and most astonishingly, felt no desire to go back for seconds and overeat. I did not feel deprived whatsoever. So, just in case you need a recap, the “secrets” to my success were the following: (1) holiday bill of rights as a constant refrain in my mind, (2) a strong conviction of my ability and a decision that I was going to listen to my body’s cues, and (3) a running inner dialogue that both acknowledged how I was feeling in the moment, what I wanted to do based on the emotions, and reminded myself of my convictions and how following those convictions was going to make me feel.
I know that what I have said might seem impossible for some of you and I want you to know that I have been there, just a few months ago. I never could have imagined that I could possibly be where I am today, but I am, and I truly have faith that you can to. You have power, more than you think you have, and even if you feel like no one is in your corner, know that I am. I am right beside you, cheering you on, and comforting you when needed. I may not know each of you individually, but I know that a common struggle binds us together, knitting us together and forging a new identity for all of us and maybe, possibly, for our world. I have hoped and prayed that your Thanksgiving holidays were also successful, but I would love to hear all your stories in the comments below, whether they were positive or more of learning experiences.
The midafternoon sun is devilishly misleading, for its bright rays beckon warmth when it is really the crisp autumn air that regulates the chill in the air and wafts with cinnamon and apple. The delicious smells spin in tendrils of steam from the crack of an opened kitchen window. But the window is not the only thing that is open in this house—the front door is wide and inviting as people stamp their boots on the welcome mat and hang their coats on the wall. The laughter mingles with the spicy aroma as they gather around the table. For a moment the scraping of chairs drowns out the greetings, but soon everyone is seated, the prayerhas been said, a cornucopia full of candy corns is being passed around. As each person drops a candy corn into the cornucopia, tears fall unchecked down their cheeks as an outward sign of the joyful heart that lies within. Gratitude for blessings is the common language of this Thanksgiving meal, and it leaves each person fuller than any turkey, stuffing, or pie.
Growing up, my parents always upheld the beautiful tradition of saying things for which we were grateful. We passed around a cornucopia filled with candy corns and we dropped more in as we enumerated our blessings. It was a sacred, special tradition, but I have never been able to say that I was truly thankful for my body because all I saw was flaws and all I felt was disgust. Not once did I feel gratitude. I intend to change that this year.
Before I launch into my new plans for this year, I want to share with you something deeply powerful that I learned about gratitude from Elizabeth Smart. I recently read her memoir “My Story” that discusses in intimate detail her nine-month kidnap, rape, and abuse over a decade ago. I knew going into it that she must be a strong woman, but I was unprepared for just how courageous she was—I finished the book overwhelmed not only with a desire to be a better stronger person, but with the knowledge of how to do so. Near the end of her memoir she speaks about how she was able to survive the ordeal and return to her normal life afterwards—and one of the most meaningful things she mentioned (which incidentally, shook me to the core) was her ability to maintain perspective through gratitude. Here is what she says (emphasis added):
“Gratitude has also helped me to keep a healthy perspective.
One of my favorite movies is Ever After with Drew Barrymore. For those of you who have not seen it, it is another version of Cinderella. Once of my favorite lines from the movie is when the evil stepmother tells Cinderella, “We mustn’t ever feel sorry for ourselves, because no matter how bad things are, they can always get worse!”
Now I know that sounds kind of pessimistic, but when I was being held captive, every time I thought that things couldn’t get any worse, somehow they always did.
So instead of looking at the evil stepmother’s words as being coldhearted and mean, I now translate them to say, “We always have something to be grateful for because there will always be something that could make your situation worse.”
The first time Mitchell made me go naked and said we were playing “Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden” I didn’t think anything could be worse.
Now I look back and I am grateful that I wasn’t being filmed and then exploited and traded through the Internet like so many other children have been. I’m so grateful that my captors were strangers and in no way connected with me. I don’t have to go home every night and see them, or see pictures of them hanging on the wall, or know that even though my family is so upset with what they might have done to me, there is still a piece of their hearts that cares and loves the abusers because they are their children, or parents, or brothers and sisters.
And there were other examples too.
Just when I though it couldn’t get any worse, Mitchell made me do something that made me sick. Just when I though it couldn’t get any worse, I went seven days without anything to eat. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, Mitchell made me drink until I woke up in my own vomit.
Knowing it can always get worse, I try to be grateful for whatever good I have” (My Story by Elizabeth Smart and Chris Stewart, pg. 303-304).
When reading this, I was floored that she could really have anything to be grateful for when she was in such a horrid situation. It made me weep with overwhelming desperation to want to be like Elizabeth Smart, not in an envious or self-deprecating way, but in a way full of admiration and the deepest respect. I want what Elizabeth has. I want to be able to see all my situations, most especially ones involving my body, as opportunities to actually see and feel gratitude for what I have.
Below is a section of a talk given by an elder of the LDS Church named Russell M. Nelson. He was a heart surgeon and subsequently had a deep respect for the body. I read the words he spoke about the human body and immediately felt overwhelmed with understanding. I focus on everything I perceive that I lack that I have never even tried to feel gratitude for what my body can do, and is, now.Following his talk, is my own personal “Gratitude for My Body” list that I have labored many hours over, so that it reflects my truthful and deepest feelings about my body. And to my surprise, I discovered that there are so many things I deeply appreciate about my body.
“THE HUMAN BODY
My professional years as a medical doctor gave me a profound respect for the human body. Created by God as a gift to you, it is absolutely amazing! Think of your eyes that see, ears that hear, and fingers that feel all the wondrous things around you. Your brain lets you learn, think, and reason. Your heart pumps tirelessly day and night, almost without your awareness.
Your body protects itself. Pain comes as a warning that something is wrong and needs attention. Infectious illnesses strike from time to time, and when they do, antibodies are formed that increase your resistance to subsequent infection.
Your body repairs itself. Cuts and bruises heal. Broken bones can become strong once again. I have cited but a tiny sample of the many amazing God-given qualities of your body.
Even so, it seems that in every family, if not in every person, some physical conditions exist that require special care. A pattern for coping with such a challenge has been given by the Lord. He said, “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; … for if they humble themselves … and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
Stellar spirits are often housed in imperfect bodies. The gift of such a body can actually strengthen a family as parents and siblings willingly build their lives around that child born with special needs.
The aging process is also a gift from God, as is death. The eventual death of your mortal body is essential to God’s great plan of happiness. Why? Because death will allow your spirit to return home to Him. From an eternal perspective, death is only premature for those who are not prepared to meet God.
With your body being such a vital part of God’s eternal plan, it is little wonder that the Apostle Paul described it as a “temple of God.” Each time you look in the mirror, see your body as your temple. That truth—refreshed gratefully each day—can positively influence your decisions about how you will care for your body and how you will use it. And those decisions will determine your destiny. How could this be? Because your body is the temple for your spirit.”
Keeping in mind both Elizabeth Smart’s message of gratitude and Russell M. Nelson’s enumeration of the blessings of our body, I made the following personal list for my own body. As I wrote this, I wept, cheered, and gritted my teeth–every word of it is true, which made it all the more difficult.
I am grateful for…
My eyes that not only captured the heart of my beloved husband six years ago, but allow me to take in all the beauties of this world with the need for contacts lenses or glasses—from the tender smiles of my children to the changing fall leaves.
My nose, which helps me enjoy one of my greatest passions—cooking. It usually leads me right when experimenting on new dishes.
My ears, that allow me to hear the sweet music of instruments and voices, the laughter of my children and family, and God’s chorus of angels.
My tongue, which allows me to taste the bounties that are available on this Earth, especially since Intuitive Eating, where I have been truly able to savor all sorts of flavors.
My voice, which allows me to sing sweet lullabies to my children at night as I rock back and forth in the quiet darkness of their rooms. I am grateful that I can speak my mind and can be heard by all.
My mind, which is usually keen and helps me ask questions and find various solutions. I can think clearly for myself and keep a store of precious memories for later perusal.
My hair, which allows me to feel as vibrant as Disney’s Pocahontas as it sways in the wind and adds variety to my everyday wardrobe.
My arms, which are constantly moving, reaching, carrying, and playing my violin and flute (music has always been a special part of my life).
My legs, which allow me to run, walk, work, and play. They are strong and sturdy and help me feel powerful as they take me where I want to go (they are also good at reminding me when I have gone too far in one day!)
My muscles, which help me move with strength and the building up of which helps me feel powerful and relieves stress.
My stretch marks that symbolize the birth of my two precious and healthy daughters (This one was hard to write, but in the end, I really felt it was worth it. In fact, almost on a daily basis, I am reminded about how much I am grateful for what they symbolize as I laugh, play, and teach my girls.)
My breasts, which not only symbolize my womanhood, but allowed me to nourish my children after they were born.
For pain and illness that my body has always been able to heal. They teach me to cherish the days when not in pain or ill all the more, and show me the miracle of healing and strengthening.
My heart, not only the physical muscle that pumps blood and sustains my every breath, but also my compassionate, empathetic, loving heart that opens its arms wide to encircle others with love and understanding.
This list is not all encompassing, but I believe that it is a courageous and wonderful start to my Thanksgiving season. To all who have been with me so far on this journey, I challenge you to make a list yourself. It can be private or provided in the comments below, but do it. Take some time to really be truthful and sincere and please share if you feel so inclined. Happy Thanksgiving!
The holidays can sometimes be a challenging time for a variety of reasons—loss, especially of loved ones, stress, financial strain, and for me, an abundance of triggers, binging, and empty promises of new diets. However, the holidays also bring some of the most special, spiritually strengthening, and unifying times of my life. And yet, for as long as I can remember, I cannot recall ever having a holiday without the bitter memories of overeating to the point of sickness, and disgust for my body, and in my view, a bone-gnawing display of weakness.
But, that is going to change this year—after being engaged in Intuitive Eating for almost 6 months now, I feel like I have a real shot at having a wonderful holiday not haunted by shame and binging. And here’s how I’m going to do it (I’ll be sure to give a full report once the holidays are over.) Below is a blog post by one of the author’s of Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole, reproduced with her permission, while the Italics are my own thoughts and ideas.
Intuitive Eater’s Holiday Bill of Rights
by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD
What if peace on earth could begin at the dinner table? Imagine experiencing an inner peace, free from incessant worry about what to eat. It’s hard to enjoy the holidays when you are preoccupied with eating or worried about what to say to relatives who have an annual tradition of telling you what and how to eat.
Consider your Intuitive Eating Bill of Rights, as we enter the holiday season, to help you foster inner peace with food, mind and body.
1. You have the right to savor your meal, without cajoling or judgment, and without discussion of calories eaten or the amount of exercise needed to burn off said calories.
I certainly know that I won’t be starting any conversations about calories or exercise, but that has never been a problem for me since starting Intuitive Eating. So, I think the real clincher for this “right” is to either know how to gently but firmly confront loved ones who seem bent on discussing these things over meals or ignore them and deal with their inevitable triggers.
In my case, I feel my loved ones to be very respectful of Intuitive Eating and therefore my response might be, “Hey, guys, I would really appreciate if we could nix the calorie and fattening talk while we eat. Is that okay?” Now, I think I will face some inevitable triggers anyway and I am still in the process of pinning down my mantras, so I’ll post when I’ve finished it, but for now, start thinking about your own mantras, positive thoughts, etc. that you will use to combat the holiday triggers, especially from loved ones. Here’s my starting point though: “Wow, this trigger is really hard; I want to revert back to feeling shame and disgust and overeating. But I’m not the same person now. I am learning to embrace Intuitive Eating and I can get through this.”
2. You have the right to enjoy second servings without apology.
3. You have the right to honor your fullness, even if that means saying “no thank you” to dessert or a second helping of food.
I don’t know about you, but this one is going to be a hard one for me because the food at Thanksgiving is certainly food that I don’t have all the time so there is a lot of the “last supper” mentality. So, here’s my plan for this: “This food is really good. It’s been so long since I’ve had it. I know I’m really full, but my mouth wants more. I know I feel like I may not have this food again for a long time, but if I want to I can make more of it. I would rather savor what I have had than feel sick and disgusted later. I know everyone is having pie and ice cream now, but I’m not ready and I will have it when I am hungry again. I can do this. I want to remember this holiday for what it is about—giving thanks and being together, not shame and bingeing.”
4. It is not your responsibility to make someone happy by overeating, even if it took hours to prepare a specialty holiday dish.
For my family, this “right” might go something like this: overeating is notsynonymous with Thanksgiving, and other holidays. I don’t have to eat more food at this meal than at any regular meal, no matter how much time it took to prepare.
5. You have the right to say, “No thank you,” without explanation, when offered more food.
I always feel like I have to give an explanation when I don’t want something, and though at times it is appropriate and helpful, I do not need one when saying no to food. I have spent years using excuses like “I’m full” when I’m really not, or “I don’t like that” when I really do in order to not eat food in front of others and instead binge on it later. So, for this holiday season, I can say “No thank you” without needing an explanation or excuse. Yay!
6. You have the right to stick to your original answer of “no”, even if you are asked multiple times. Just calmly and politely repeat “No, thank you, really.”
7. You have the right to eat pumpkin pie for breakfast.
Remember, no one, except for you, knows how you feel, both emotionally and physically. Only you can be the expert of your body, which requires inner attunement, rather than the external, well-meaning, suggestions from family.
•Rights to Reproduce: You may reproduce this post, as long as you leave it unchanged, you don’t charge for it, and you include the entire copyright statement. Please let us know you have used it by sending a website link or an electronic copy to Etribole at gmail dot com.
DISCLAIMER: The information is intended to inform readers and is not intended to replace specific advice from a health care professional.
I felt things were going okay with Intuitive Eating and I thought I was making progress, especially in the “respect your body” arena, however, my latest adventures proved me otherwise, well, at least, I went in unprepared, so it got the better of me, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
I attended a Social Work conference at the local university—the once from which I graduated almost 2 years ago—and instead of just a conference where I would alternative between bouts of inexcusable inattention and moments of soaking in knowledge, it also turned out to an unofficial class reunion of my 2012 MSW cohort. Some of them I hadn’t even seen in nearly 2 years since our graduation. After the initial euphoria of meeting and chatting wore off, I immediately retreated into the woman I had been when I had last been around them, particularly around those whom I admired.
I was hyper vigilante of my appearance, especially my body size because since seeing these people, I had given birth to my second child, an event that significantly changed my body shape and size. Even though I left that morning extremely comfortable in my body and in my clothes choices, all I wanted to do during the conference was keep my coat and scarf on despite the heat of 800 plus packed bodies in one room because I was too worried about how my fat rolls might show in the top I was wearing. When I was not absorbed by the presenters’ words, all that occupied my thoughts were constant comparisons of the other bodies in the room and plans on how I could skip eating lunch in hopes that the ravenous empty feeling in my stomach would help me feel better about my body. And, I was unable to pull myself out of the situation emotionally—so I followed through with my plans and ate little for lunch, reveling in the empty feeling in my stomach. By the time the conference was over however, I felt nauseous, light-headed, and dizzy. My body was unused to this brutality of restricted foods and water for breakfast and lunch.
By the end of the day, I felt as if I had been through the washer on the extra-spin cycle. I knew that I could not do that again (the conference was two days). So, I resolved to do better the next day and I purposely left my coat home so that I could not use that to hide (like that was going to help my thoughts and emotions, right?) Anyway, the moment I stepped back into the room, I immediately felt the same as the previous day—disgusted with my body, inferior to all the others, and with an overwhelming urge to run and hide in the bathroom. I did not prepare and arm myself with combative thoughts, positive mantras, or rational beliefs. I did not do anything different for this second day and then I was surprised when I still felt worthless and disgusted.
GETTING BACK ON THE HORSE
Looking back on this experience, I am beginning to realize that I need a serious reimmersion into Intuitive Eating. I kind of felt like I was doing “well enough” that I stopped recognizing each victory, stopped listening to my hunger and fullness cues, and stopped recording my experiences. I was an autopilot, not even realizing that instead of flying straight, I was consistently loosing altitude. This distance from Intuitive Eating, however small or short, was too much for me. I am not yet ready to ride without training wheels and when I do come to a situation as huge as meeting old friends, I need to emotionally and mentally prepare myself with all the lessons, thoughts, mantras, and positive experiences I have learned since beginning Intuitive Eating. This was a good experience for me—it felt like a relapse, but it was so profound, that I feel thoroughly chastened and excited to be back on the horse.
So, the flu gets everyone down, and I have had it for nine days now—fever, chills, body aches, extreme sore throat, congestion, the works. But, in addition to the normal difficulties that illness brings (and these were enormous considering the fact that my husband and 11-month-old daughter also had the flu, which left my 3-year-old to her own precious devices), I also deal with the emotional side effects of illness. Being sick, especially an illness that propels me to eat lots of Ramen noodles and soda, has always been and is a huge trigger to body bash for me. To get better, I drink lots of juice, water, Ginger Ale, and have soup, and because I don’t have any energy to make food, I eat processed soups like Ramen noodles, and Campbell’s. While these are not inherently “bad” foods, they are processed and as I discussed in an earlier post, my body does not react well to too much processed food.
So, here I am lying in bed, alternatively sweating and shivering, my stomach bloated from processed foods, every breath rattling through my sandpaper throat because my nose is congested, and all I can think about is how I feel so fat and disgusting, and all I want to do is get better so I can exercise again. Even though all I want to wear is pajamas—elastic pants and humungous sweatshirts—so I can rest easily, there is another reason. I wear these clothes because they have no shape and will not cling to what I perceive are my newly enlarged fat rolls. I feel like even when I start to feel better, I cannot wear my regular clothes because they don’t fit me well anymore, as if in a short period of 9 days, I have outgrown my clothes.
My physical body is weak and vulnerable and I allow myself to be emotionally vulnerable as well and sink into the darkest abysses of the mind—I guess I wouldn’t stand well against torture. I was unable to climb out of the abyss while sick. Now that I am better—the flu banished from my body—I have been able to exercise again, see things in perspective, and retrace my footsteps and return to the Intuitive Eating path.
However, my mouth is thick with the bitter taste of my own weakness, clinging to my tongue so that no matter how many times I swallow, its rancor remains. It is so intense that when I breathe deeply, its stench rises through nostrils and causes me to choke. I feel defeated, a failure. So far, the only remedy for weakness (after feeling the feeling of course) that seems to make a difference is to plow forward with an almost vehement vigor in the direction of strength—so that’s what I’m doing right now. However, the memory of weakness remains and I’m uncertain whether that memory gives me more determination to go forward or encourages me to give in to failure. And yet through it all, in the back of my mind, is a little voice telling me that in the end, I actually hope to embrace weakness as human and know that someday they can become strengths through God.
Hey peeps! In my endless quest to end the war with my body, food, and my eating disorder, I have been taking time the last several weeks looking for answers. And I have found–I think–several essential pieces of my puzzle, and I would like to share them with you.
Below is an article from Evelyn Tribole, one of the authors of Intuitive Eating where she succinctly talks about the harmful effects of dieting. Although the harmful effects of dieting are not news to many of us, she describes them with such candor and tenderness, that this article is well worth reading and sharing with others.
Not that my own personal case study adds much more to the credibility of her research, I would like to add my voice to what she is saying below. In the years I have been dieting, I overeat more, binge more, and gain more weight than when I am Intuitively Eating. Since my weight has begun to normalize with Intuitive Eating, I have actually noticed a definitive increase in my metabolism, as if, when I was dieting, it was in hibernation mode–storing everything I ate for later. Now, I feel my body actually digesting faster–I need to eat more frequently and less at each meal to feel satisfied and feel constant energy throughout the day, and I have stopped the endless cycle of gaining and loosing weight!
Evelyn Tribole also has a video that is a companion to this article that I also posted below. It’s a great video because Evelyn’s personality really comes through. Oh, and if you want to understand the title of my post, then, you’ll have to watch the video…hee hee! Enjoy!
Warning: Dieting Increases Your Risk of Gaining MORE Weight (An Update)
By Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) asked if I would contribute an article on the dangers of dieting (specifically, how dieting increases weight gain) as part of their outreach for National Eating Disorders Awareness week, which begins February 26, 2012. Of course, I said yes, and here it is.
While many people seem to know that dieting doesn’t work in the long run–most are shocked to hear that the process of dieting itself, (independent of genetics), increases your body’s propensity to gain weight. Scientists call this “dieting-induced weight-gain” and it may be a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic.
Dieting is biologically akin to compound interest—but in a negative context. If you put your money in a compound-interest savings account, you will accelerate your earnings, resulting in more money accumulated, compared to an ordinary savings account. In a similar way, dieting amplifies the amount of weight gained, compared to a nondieting person with similar genes and body. Far-fetched analogy? Not according to a new study on twins.
The weight-amplifying effect of dieting was evaluated in a novel study on over 2,000 sets of twins from Finland, aged 16 to 25 years old (Pietilaineet al, 2011). Dieting twins, who embarked on just one intentional weight loss episode, were nearly two to three times more likely to become overweight, compared to their non-dieting twin counterpart. Furthermore, the risk of becoming overweight increased in a dose-dependent manner, with each dieting episode.
The results indicate that dieting itself, independent of genetics, is significantly associated with accelerated weight gain and increased the risk of becoming overweight. The researchers concluded, “It is now well established that the more people engage in dieting, the more they gain weight in the long-term.” This study adds to a body of research dating back to World War II, which shows that dieting and the ensuing cycling of losing weight, re-gaining weight, and gaining more weight with each subsequent diet, ratchets the baseline weight up even higher, beyond the original weight
Here are other compelling studies, which indicate that dieting promotes weight gain regardless of age, gender, or athleticism.
Research on nearly 17,000 kids ages 9-14 years old found that dieting was a significant predictor of weight gain (Field et al 2003). Moreover, the risk of binge eating increased with the frequency of dieting. Boys and girls who dieted frequently, were 5 to 12 times, respectively more likely to report binge eating compared to their nondieting counterparts. The researchers concluded, “…in the long term, dieting to control weight is not only ineffective, it may actually promote weight gain”.
Teenage dieters had twice the risk of becoming overweight, compared to non-dieting teens, according to a five-year study (Neumark-Sztainer et al 2006). Notably, at baseline, the dieters did not weigh more than their non-dieting peers. This is an important detail, because if the dieters weighed more—it would be a confounding factor, (which would implicate other factors, rather than dieting, such as genetics).
A team of UCLA researchers reviewed 31 long term studies on the effectiveness of dieting and concluded that dieting is a consistent predictor of weight gain—up to two-thirds of the people regained more weight than they lost (Mann 2007).
If you think that exercise will protect your body from the weight-promoting effects of dieting, research tells another story. A study on over 1,800 people, evaluated the impact of repeated losing and gaining weight, (known as weight cycling), on world-class male athletes involved in weight-based sports, such as boxing, weight lifting and wrestling. Weight cycling predicted subsequent weight gain and the risk of obesity in the athletes with a weight cycling history (Saarni et al 2006.)
Dieting also is associated with increased food preoccupation, binge eating, and eating in the absence of hunger. Furthermore, dieting appears to be causally linked to both obesity and eating disorders (Haines & Neumark-Sztainer 2006). A large 3-year study on nearly 2,000 adolescents found that dieting is the most important predictor of new eating disorders (Patton et al 1999).
Studies aside–what has your own dieting experiences shown you? Many people say their first diet was easy- -the pounds just melted off. But that first dieting experience is the seduction trap, which launches the futile pursuit of weight loss via dieting. But your body is very smart and wired for survival.
Biologically, your body experiences the dieting process as a form of starvation. Your cells don’t know you are voluntarily restricting your food intake. Your body shifts into primal survival mode—metabolism slows down and food cravings escalate. And with each diet, the body learns and adapts, resulting in rebound weight gain. Consequently, many people feel like they are a failure—but it is dieting that has failed them, and contributed to the weight gain process. Dieting disconnects you from your innate hunger and satiety cues, and it becomes easier to eat in the absence of hunger and develop a mistrust of your biological eating cues.
So what’s a chronic dieter to do? The answer lies in attunement with your mind and body, an inner-oriented process, rather than an external approach (such as counting calories or points). This process is called Intuitive Eating, which consists of 10 principles, but can be summarized into these three characteristics by the research of Trach Tylka (2006):
Unconditional permission to eat when hungry and what food is desired
Eating for physical rather than emotional reasons
Reliance on internal hunger and satiety cues to determine when and how much to eat .
To date there are over 25 studies on Intuitive Eating, which combined, show that Intuitive Eaters have lower body mass index levels, (without internalizing the unrealistically thin ideal), lower disordered eating and eating disorders, eat a variety of foods, enjoy eating, better cholesterol levels, and a psychological hardiness, which includes welling-being and resilience (Tribole & Resch, 2012).
No diet or meal plan could possibly “know” your hunger and fullness levels, or what satisfies you. Only you know your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Only you, can be the expert of you. But dieting interferes with attunement and Intuitive Eating, which is one of the reasons why the first principle is “Reject the Diet Mentality”.
Dieting has harmful consequences, beyond lacking long-term effectiveness. Dieting is not an innocuous right of passage, whether it’s for teenager angst, a wedding dress, a New Year’s resolution, or athletic performance.
Consider this article a public health service announcement and tell everyone you know: Dieting increases your chances of gaining even more weight in the future, not to mention increase your risk of eating disorders, and body dissatisfaction. The dieting industry won’t like this message. A recent Wall Street Journal article described how a major weight loss company is targeting men to increase their market share, which comprises about 90% women. (This company had $1.45 billion in revenue in 2011.) We don’t need another dieting casualty, male or female.
Mann, T. et al. (2007).Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. American Psychologist, 62(3): 220-233.
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For most of my life, whenever I body bash, there are others around me who tell me that I am beautiful. I cannot recall times when anyone has ever agreed with my criticisms of body disgust and ugliness. However, recently, someone close to me called me the ugly duckling. At first, I felt shocked and thought that there was no way that person could have really meant it.
But then as it started to sink in, many other feelings took over—hate, anger, shame, and a profound fear that it is the truth—that it is some cavernous secret that I have tried to cover with makeup, fashion, and false smiles exuding confidence that I did not really feel. I felt an immense shame and disgust, first that the comment bothered me as much as it did, and second, that some days I think it is true. These feelings made me question who I am, and reevaluate whether Intuitive Eating is even working. I immediately wanted to diet, get skinnier, waste away into a paper-thin empty shell—something I have not wanted to do almost since starting Intuitive Eating.
Now, the person who made the comment of ugliness did not cause all this. It was merely a trigger that dug into my deepest fear and needled past every defense that I had. I have faced strong triggers like this before and been able to conquer them, yet this time was different. After pondering what made it different, I realized that this trigger came from a different source, someone I trusted and respected, and never anticipated a comment like that. I expect comments, innuendos, and guilt-trips from society, diet-ads, and exercise enthusiasts, but when it comes from a person close to me, it feels like a betrayal.
WHAT TO DO WITH PAIN
The pain I am feeling is so great that I am unsure what to do with it at first. I decide that there is nothing for it—but to feel it, let it take its course. I cry. I rage. I pray. I think.
Here’s a glimpse into what I think about—my mindfulness monologue goes something like this: I am fat, ugly, and disgusting. Wow, I just body-bashed because of that comment. It really triggered me and now I feel confused and very angry… I want to retreat into the fetal position under a very heavy comforter and cry and scream and rip my pillow to shreds… Whoa, I am having some really strong reactions. I think I’ll need to examine this more closely when I’ve given myself some time to feel and work through it. Wait a minute, that’s what I’m doing right now—working through it. And I am still so confused about why I reacted this way…maybe I need a thinking cap?
And slowly, ever so slowly, I forgive, and I begin to reevaluate where to go from here. And I find that I actually begin a paradigm shift from where I have been. Originally, my goal with Intuitive Eating was to embrace my body—flaws and all—but my new reevaluated goal is to actually see my body and all other bodies differently. Here me out on this one.
I know that a person is not simply a product of their body shape, size, appearance, etc., but the combination of their body and spirit or personality. At first, I thought that I wanted to learn to look past the body and see individuals for who they really are based on their personality. But, that’s not true anymore. I want to be able to look at the average individuals that I come into contact on a daily basis, and see them as both the product of their body and their personality. Okay, stick with me on this one–I know I’m going all philosophical. The personality part has never been a problem for me–I am usually able to give others the benefit of the doubt, see their good intentions, and understand why they do the things they do. However, seeing their bodies as anything but sizes, shapes, or objects of envy is something I have never been able to do.
My new goal is to see bodies differently. I want to be able to see them as beautiful creations of God over which we have been given stewardship and what I typically view as flaws, are not at all. In fact, those “flaws” are stamps of God’s artistic fingerprints on my body and my life. He gave me the body that he meant to—it was no accident; there were no mistakes when he made me. Even bodies that have been misused, abused, broken, neglected, or harmed—even those bodies started the way God made them and nothing on this Earth can undo the beauty they inherently have. They simply need some extra TLC (tender love and care), but merely the fact that they need some TLC will not preclude me from trying to see them as they once were and what they can be. So, what started out as a fear-triggering, soul-wrenching event turned into an inspiring reevaluation of goals and a profound and necessary paradigm shift.
What do you guys think? Share me your stories. Have you ever been called the ugly duckling or thought of yourself as one?
Last night I emotionally ate—I binged on Golden Grams, Reese’s Cups (which I don’t even like), and chocolate milk. It had been a long weekend out-of-town, my husband was leaving for a business trip to Russia for 12 days the next morning (it will be just me and my three girls), and I received word that a partner on a church venture could no longer be my partner (and we were finally working out not only a rhythm, but a friendship). Of themselves, I could have handled each of these things, maybe even a few together without emotionally eating, but it was late in the evening and I had spent hours in the car unsuccessfully entertaining my girls (finally just letting my youngest cry and trying my best to ignore it, which was hard to do because I was sitting right next to her and she kept pulling on my scarf, my sweater, or my hair to get me to pay attention to her).
Anyway, I didn’t even realize I was emotionally eating until I was halfway through my second bowl of Golden Grams. And, I said to myself I think I’m emotionally eating because I am not hungry right now. But I ignored this observation, finished the bowl, and then promptly started on the Reese’s Cups. I felt like I had no defenses or even desire to combat the binging episode. I felt helpless—a feeling that just propelled me to emotionally eat even more. When I finally stopped, I felt so sick that I could only roll into bed and sleep it off.
The next morning, my body was not happy with me and I paid dearly for eating so much sugar in so short a time. In addition to this physical discomfort, I felt ashamed, defeated, and weak. No matter how many times I told myself that it has nothing to do with will power or weakness, it wasn’t ringing true. I was disgusted with my body and proceeded to over-exercise to somehow “redeem” myself from the sin of overeating the night before. All in all I went on a spiral that was only stopped when I started writing this blog post.
WHAT TO DO NOW
So, now I can go back and see what happened—what thoughts, feelings, and choices led me to where I am, and how next time I might be able to interrupt the cycle. Some key points to stop the cycle were (1) when I realized I was emotionally eating, and (2) when I woke up the next morning feeling both physically and emotionally rotten. I think that the junction when I realized I was emotionally eating and still made the choice to keep eating last night, will happen plenty more times in my life, especially at times when my physical and emotional reserves are so depleted.
So, the best place to start—for now— is when I woke up the next morning. I chose to body- bash myself for the previous night and over-exercise rather than mindfully acknowledging what happened and how it made me feel. Next time, the conversation can go something like this: Whoa, I do not feel good. Last night’s binge made me feel sick all the way to this morning. I know I felt so weary, sad, and helpless last night and it caused me to binge. I know that I tend to body bash and over-exercise after such a binge, but I choose not to do those things this time. I choose to take a different path. I choose freedom and empowerment.
If my conversation had gone something like that, using such strong and inspiring words as freedom and empowerment, then I am sure that I would have gone on to have a normal day, maybe even a better day because I had overcome something difficult. I guess we will see what happens next time I emotionally eat, but at least I feel like I have a strong, solid image of what I could say to myself next time (images are a huge key for me and my recovery).