In my last post I promised to share how I went from feeling like I was living in a secret hell, ashamed of my body and eating habits, unhappy and not truly living my life, to living in and loving my body and falling deeply, madly, truly in love with my life.
What follows aren’t weight loss tips. They’re simple actions I took that had a far more positive impact than any diet ever did. I don’t have the answer on what it takes to “solve” body image and disordered eating issues. I can only share what’s worked for me.
I’ve already shared the “highlights” of my history with food and my decision to quit dieting for good. You can read my opinion on diets and the diet industry here and my “5 Tips To Help You Quit Dieting” here.
More than anything, it’s taken time, consistent effort, numerous mistakes and changing one thing at a time to get to where I am today. I still consider myself to be a work-in-progress. I still slip up, but I no longer beat myself up for being human.
Took ownership and responsibility for my own healing and recovery: For far too long I’d sought quick fixes and tried to solve my issues with various iterations of the same solution – usually another diet. I wanted someone else to offer me one simple solution, and if I’m honest, at the time I thought that was weight loss. Eventually I woke up to the fact there is no quick fix and no one simple solution. I could either keep taking the same approach and getting the same results, or look at my issues and take ownership and responsibility for creating my own path to healing and recovery, which was going to require some work on my behalf.
Nobody can do this work, only you can. Accepting this may feel painful, but taking ownership and responsibility for yourself could be one of the most empowering decisions you make.
Did my research: I decided if I was going to create my own path then I needed to be able to make educated decisions. I started reading books with some science behind them to help me understand how the brain and body actually work. Here’s an example of the kind of books I’m referring to: The Diet Cure, The Body Keeps The Score, The Power Of Habit and A Mind Of Your Own.
My own doctor refused to refer me so I found a therapist on my own. Help is available if you look for it: doctors, therapists, nutritionists, even Overeaters Anonymous can be support that feels right for your needs. Create your own path but please don’t try to do this all on your own. Only work with people who you feel you can trust; people who truly listen and are willing to support you, and do not give up until you find these people.
This may take time and money, but this is an investment in your life.
I believe the subject of body image, disordered eating and weight are grey and immense and the solutions are complex. I don’t believe any one person has the ability to be fully informed on the psychological and physiological aspects of why you feel and think the way you do. Instead, we’ve got lots of people providing partial solutions. Therefore it’s critical to explore opinions and options but ultimately… You need to trust yourself enough to take what resonates with you and leave the rest.
Pursued pleasure: For years my life revolved around food restriction and exercise I didn’t particularly enjoy, because “calories in, calories out” right? This didn’t work for me.
I tried abiding by rigid rules, wound up miserable every single time and sought solace in food. Then I’d repeat this vicious cycle.
I’m not sure when I decided I’d had enough. There was no “aha” moment. I simply couldn’t bear the reality I’d created for myself. I had quit dieting at this point, but I still felt trapped in my body.
I decided to take my power back. One night I wrote down all the things I wasn’t doing because of my relationship with my body and food.
Then I started doing those things, and I made a promise to myself I wouldn’t stop, no matter how uncomfortable I felt. I’d had periods of feeling really good about myself in the past, yet the moment I felt anything bad, I’d revert to negative thinking and behaviors.
At first I pursued simple pleasures like wearing clothes I loved, getting back on the dance floor. I started doing hot yoga again – which I’d put off for years. I did some 30 day creativity projects just for fun. I worked my way up to the bigger things.
This is crucial: I incorporated joy into my everyday life; I bought myself flowers, lit candles for dinner even when I was eating alone, read books in the bath, sang and danced in my kitchen and actually stopped to smell roses.
Life didn’t change overnight, but eventually it occurred to me I was thinking about my body far less, and food didn’t have the same grasp on me.
I had also created a life I love.
I’m not promising you’ll forget about the flesh on your belly or the size of your thighs, but what I can say is this:
None of those things will matter so much anymore because you’ll realize you’re already the woman you think you’ll be when you reach your goal weight.
I’m not suggesting these ideas are “the solution” for you. They’re just three of many things I’ve tried, but I believe there’s value in sharing ideas that go beyond the usual diet and exercise advice.
The Pro-Body Project is published fortnightly. You can read the first entry here.