As some of you who know me or read my blog may have noticed, I've undergone a bit of a mentality shift over the last six months. You'll notice my posts have shifted from messages of calories over to messages of mindful eating and listening to your body. More recently, you may have noticed that I have taken the word "weight" off my website all together. Today, I want to talk about why.
I want you to think for a second about your relationship with food and dieting in an effort to be 'good enough.' The first time you started restricting, you probably lost weight. Most people end up having their weight yo-yo, usually gaining more weight than you lost initially. I want you to think about how your relationship with food has changed. When is the last time you ate a food like pizza or chocolate and enjoyed it without a thought of guilt or that you would go to the gym to burn it off? When was the last time you didn't feel out of control around food?
For a long time I've talked with clients who feel like they aren't happy with themselves because they deem their bodies not to be 'good enough' and it is something I struggled with myself. The truth is that when we don't accept ourselves and our bodies, we end up in a battle with ourselves. Often, people think that if they accept their bodies as they are right now, they're 'giving up.' I would argue instead that accepting your body means giving up on being at war with your body.
Let's think about dieting for a moment, shall we?
I want you to think about going to your doctor for treatment of a condition. If they gave you a treatment but told you there was a 95% chance it wouldn't work and in fact would make the condition worse, would you take it? My guess is probably not. You certainly wouldn't beat yourself up if the treatment didn't work and try it again and again right? You would blame the 'treatment' because that is the problem, not you! So why do we do this to ourselves with dieting, especially when it also ruins our relationship with food?
I have always been taught as a dietitian to practice based on the evidence. The evidence says that dieting doesn't work, yo-yoing (also known as weight cycling) is associated with an increased risk for mortality (death), risk of bone fractures, loss of muscle mass, high blood pressure, and certain forms of cancer! In the Nurses’ Health Study II, it was found that women with a history of weight cycling, which was almost 40% of the sample by the way, gained more weight over time, did less physical activity, and more binge eating than those who didn't weight cycle! If you want to read an excellent review on the evidence for taking a weight neutral approach where well-being is prioritized over weight, you can check it out here.
I know that this mentality shift is hard.
We have messages every day from the media telling us we're not good enough: not thin enough, not fit enough, and not eating 'perfectly enough.' This is bullshit that keeps you from being healthy and happy. This message tells you that if you aren't eating kale salads and killing yourself at the gym that something is wrong with you and that is so not true!
The truth is, if you stop making food and movement about punishment and calories and more about self-care, you're probably not going to go to extremes that make you miserable and you can't sustain. Lots of people think that when they stop restricting, they'll only eat burgers and ice cream but a lot of that has to do with deprivation. When it's not considered a 'bad' food that you aren't allowed to have and you aren't deprived, you won't be drawn to it as much (if you want the science behind this, check out this study.) Instead, you'll probably find you will eat and move in a way that makes you feel good. What happens to the number on the scale? That will be different for everyone and frankly from a health perspective, it doesn't matter! The message we've all been sold that health = weight is not true. We need to get over that if we want to stop spending all of our time being smaller.
I took the word 'weight' off my website because I've learned that focusing on weight is counter-intuitive to developing a healthy relationship with food. Wouldn't you rather be healthier and feel at peace with food and your body instead of spending your life in pursuit of a smaller body, which wouldn't make you happy even if you got there? Think of all the things you could do if that space in your mind focused on food and your body was freed up! For that reason, I am now officially practicing from a Health at Every Size (HAES), body positive approach as an anti-diet dietitian!!!
So take a first step to being kinder to your body- stop trying to compare yourself to photos in magazines because they're photoshopped and the people in those pictures don't even look like that! Get rid of the clothes that don't fit you anymore and make you feel bad about yourself. Have a clothing swap with friends, send them to a consignment store, or give them away. Get clothes that make you feel good about yourself- it's amazing what a difference wearing proper fitting clothes can do! While you're at it, do a social media purge and get rid of all the messages that make you feel bad about yourself! Take the first steps to feeling better about yourself because YOU ARE WORTH IT REGARDLESS OF THE SIZE OF YOUR BODY <3
If you're ready to stop spending so much time focusing on weight and want to develop a healthier relationship with food, you can check out my services here.