Before adding to the not dieting any more conversation, I ought to say a couple of things... One, I am not a doctor, a nutritionist, or a therapist. I am not trying to give anyone medical or therapeutic advice. Honestly, I’m just here to share what I’m going through and hoping that it will touch other people in a way that is helpful. If my journey is at all familiar to you, I wholeheartedly encourage you to get professional assistance - your primary doctor, a therapist, or a nutrition counselor. I have all three, along with a select few other incredibly supportive people who form the core of my support team. Though I am the one who has to take the lead, this is not a journey I could take alone. I cannot beg you enough, whoever is out there, to get the support you need.
Two, this “no more diets” approach that I have taken did not come out of a vacuum. I did a lot of reading on my own before I got the courage to talk to my doctor and find a therapist, and a lot of reading since then. Do the research! No more diets is more than just a license to go binge myself into a coma. It isn’t a giving up of responsibility, it’s just a different kind of responsibility. There are still rules, but the rules are about paying attention to my body, to my needs, about being kind and respectful of my body, about treating it with love and health. It’s about abandoning fear and deprivation and torture.
There are many wonderful resources out there. Here are some of mine...
I read at least a few of Geneen Roth’s work just this past year: Breaking Free From Emotional Eating, Why Weight?, and When You Eat At the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair.
Also, many, many years ago I read Intuitive Eating by Tribole and Resch, then read it again several months ago on the recommendation of my therapist. (I am about to read it again, now that I am moving on to the next level of my relationship with food.) Last week I read another Roth: Women Food and God (excellent). These are good ones to start with to introduce yourself to the idea of intuitive eating/no more diets. And there are many MORE Geneen Roth books out there, though several are pretty similar in content so check them out to see which ones move you.
Beginning intuitive eating is scary. Even though I had been working for a number of years on the general principle that anything was okay in moderation, I still had an internal list of “bad foods.” Foods that I would have to pay for with deprivation. Foods that would make me feel guilty for even thinking about. And beyond that, I had no concept of the idea that I really could eat as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted, and whatever I wanted. And initially - yeah, I gained weight. I was terrified and revolted and I thought my therapist and nutritionist and Geneen Roth and all of them were just... nuts.
And it takes so long! I’ve been doing this for about a year (minus a four month vacation from sanity for a family emergency this past winter), and I’m the fattest I have ever been in my life. I became the Queen of the Cheeseburger, and consort of the Ice Cream King. I haven’t been able to imagine that this process is helpful for my health...until recently.
See, there’s a bit of a progression with the intuitive eating thing. The books mentioned above helped me get used to the concept. My nutritionist gave me some assignments to do and the hunger scale (some of which can be found in Geneen Roth’s books and Intuitive Eating). I figured out what I really love about food and eating (I like crunchy texture, savory flavors, the smells of the aromatics, the tang of sauces) and found ways to make sure I ate stuff that I really loved instead of just stuffing myself with anything. For instance, I always choose a good cheeseburger place over fast food burgers. They are more satisfying and I don’t feel sick afterward. Same thing with taco joints.
I have to think about why I’m eating, about what hunger feels like, where hunger lives in my body (sometimes it’s just behind my eyeballs, kind of an itchy feeling in the sockets), what I’m doing while I’m eating. How did I feel before the meal? How did I feel while I was eating? How did I feel when I was done? And not just physically, but emotionally. What emotion makes me want to gorge on potato chips and what emotion calls for Ben & Jerry? And then I get to write it all down because this is a learning process. If I had a binge or just overate, I wrote it all up and I pulled it all out in front of my support team so they could help figure out not only why but maybe how I could deal with it in a different way next time. And, over time, it has begun to work.
In the past few weeks, things have changed. I know when I’m full. Sometimes I still eat past that point, but not very often. Less and less all the time. For the first time, just a couple of weeks ago... I can’t believe I can say this, but I FORGOT TO EAT. (I used to want to smack people who said that.) I don’t obsess about forbidden foods all the time anymore. My upswing in weight has stopped, stabilized. I am willingly adding salads or fruits or veggies to my meals, when I can. I try to avoid restaurants that only serve french fries as a side, because I don’t like the way they make me feel. Hello - I would rather eat a salad or fruit bowl than a plate of fries! (I still eat cheeseburgers, but less frequently, and only really, really good ones if it can be helped.) I did have a binge recently, but it was the first time in weeks, and it helped me discover a trigger that I haven’t dealt with yet.
Once I was on my way a bit with intuitive eating, my therapist recommended Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon. I’ve mentioned this briefly before. I still don’t know how I feel about it. I appreciate the idea that I don’t have to hate myself for being fat. I appreciate the idea that I don’t have to be thin to be worthy of life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. As for being able to be healthy at my current size... well, we’ll see what happens. I know that I am not healthy right now. I’m not entirely convinced that I will be if I don’t eventually lose some weight. I don’t feel well, often. I can’t breathe well. I don’t move well. Things are starting to ache - back, knees, feet. I don’t need to be thin, heck, at my age I don’t even want to be thin; I can accept that I will always be some kind of fat. I just want to feel better.
In truth, I know that I will always have food issues, to some degree. Maybe I’ll forget to eat mindfully for a few days, maybe something big and upsetting will send me screaming for the ice cream aisle, maybe I’ll gain weight on a vacation and try to do “just a little dieting” to get it back off. Who knows? All I can do is keep moving forward and learning as much as I can.
P.S.: If you are interested, Health at Every Size is only $1.99 at the Amazon Kindle store right now...