When I gave up starving/bingeing and excessive exercise in 2009 and embarked on learning Intuitive Eating, I only wanted one thing. I wanted to be lean and healthy without having to restrict what I ate, exercise to exhaustion and obsess about my food and body constantly.
My faith in Intuitive Eating was fledgling, because even though the great gurus told how the ‘weight just melted away’, all of the signs pointed to those who embraced an intuitive approach to weight loss or weight control remaining, in my mind, overweight.
Over the last year, it has perplexed me as to know how to become ‘naturally slender’ or lose weight ‘easily and effortlessly’ if I simply followed the IE rules —
- Eat when you’re hungry
- Eat what you want
- Eat mindfully
- Stop when you’re full
At the risk of sounding like I have it all figured out (which has in the past always heralded a huge step backwards) I would like to share with you how I think it works. You won’t find this in any book (I know because I’ve read nearly all of them) so I hope this will enlighten you.
I have applied my belief that truth, love and power are the three pillars of an enlightened life, to the journey through intuitive eating to weight release. The truth, love and power idea is not my original philosophy, I learned it from Steve Pavlina. In this context, you could also think of it as head, heart and health.
Stage One ~ Truth
→ Admit that you have a problem
For some people, dieting and exercising isn’t a problem. They are quite happy to get it done and it becomes just another part of daily living. For others, it is a constant struggle that leaves us in tears on the scales and broken inside. You can’t start the journey until you decide that you need to make a change.
→ Let go of control
Say goodbye to calorie counting, weighing your food, cutting out food groups, standing on the scales, exercising at your current level and logging your daily input and output. It won’t be easy to do this all at once but eventually you will have to let it all go.
→ Know that you are going to gain weight
If you have been dieting for a long time, if your period has stopped, if you are constantly cold, if you are still lean (but too fat by your own standards of perfectionism) then you certainly will gain weight. It will fuck with your head, it will make you cry, it send you running back to restricting again if you don’t watch out, but I don’t think it is possible to go through the healing process without gaining some fat. You might be lucky, but anticipate the worst. But you know how to lose weight right? So don’t worry about it for now.
→ Stay mindful and aware
Watch carefully what is happening to you and how you feel without passing judgement. Observe when you eat more than you need. Acknowledge that you are eating previously forbidden food. Note carefully how cake for breakfast makes you feel. Listen to your words — do you speak of treats, bad food, cheating and being fat? What is the voice in your head saying? (Just because you think a thought doesn’t make it truth).
→ Acknowledge the underlying non-weight related issues
Whether it’s your job, your relationship, your financial situation or your spirituality you will find that there is something missing or painful in one of these areas. Your obsession with your weight is a distraction to take you away from a deeper pain. Search diligently for what is really bothering you and face up to the truth of the situation. Pretending everything is fine is no longer an option.
Stage Two ~ Love
→ Get some help
You need to talk to someone about all this stuff at some point. It doesn’t need to be therapist if that’s not your thing but you need a friend, lover, spiritual teacher or coach who you can be completely honest with. If you are lucky enough to know someone who is going through the same journey as you, hold on to them tightly. Just talk and cry until you can’t talk and cry any more. Unlock your anger, sadness, fear, guilt, and hurt without holding back.
→ Live with an open heart
You may not be quite ready to love yourself completely but the first step is to give as much love as you can to others. Imagine light pouring out of your breastbone and reach out to those you know and strangers alike. Concentrate on giving love rather than receiving it. It will change your world and empower you to make the changes in your life you have been long avoiding.
Be thankful for everything. Stop wanting, needing and feeling the lack in your life, instead focus on what you’ve got and the beauty of the world around you. Look at your past with the eyes of gratitude, thankful for the lessons you have learnt. Find something you love about your body — your smile, your eyes, your hair, your boobs — be thankful for something about the way you look.
→ Surround yourself with positive people and ideas
Spend time with people who display qualities of love, peace, contentment and truthfulness. Seek out wonderful, brave, awesome folk who you love no matter what their gender, age or size. Explore different ideas — yoga, meditation, the law of attraction, church, sacred sexuality — anything that is positive and energizing. Don’t worry if you are not a convert for life, just drown in ideas that bathe you in light and love.
→ Be happy, right here, right now
Don’t be happy in spite of your weight, get to a place where you are happy at your current weight. If you are still in a holding pattern, putting up with the weight as a compulsory step in getting skinny again, then there is more work to do. By now, you should be so consumed by love, ideas, and adventure that your weight fixation almost disappears. You won’t be happy all the time (no one is) but you will feel exhilarating moments, hours and even days of freedom and joy that you’ve never felt before.
Stage Three ~ Power
This is the step that I feel some on the Intuitive Eating pathway fail to take. You know you are ready to move to this stage when
- you’ve totally stopped the self-abuse — bingeing, laxatives, extreme exercise, negative self talk, crying in changing rooms
- you let your boyfriend finish your Indian takeaway because you’ve had enough
- you can eat just one square of chocolate and the block lasts for weeks in the fridge
- you forget to eat because you are too engrossed in something
- you dress beautifully in clothes that fit and feel sexy at your current size
- if you had to stay this size forever it wouldn’t really bother you that much
- you can think about taking control of your food again without feeling dread or terror
- you can say that you truly love yourself
- you feel brave, strong and ready
→ Face your demons
Now is the time to get back on the scales and take back your power. No longer does the number influence your day, your worth, or your emotional state. Why be frightened or ashamed of a number? It is just data and one measure of progress.
→ Take back balanced control
Without obsessing over small details, and knowing that some things are out of your control, tip the balance towards healthy living again. Have a plan that you follow, but make it a choice not a set of rules. Freedom comes from structure and boundaries. Take baby steps, tread carefully and see how it feels. It is amazing to approach weight release as a fun project and not to feel completely consumed by the process. It becomes just another thing that you do, dare I say … easily and effortlessly.
→ Monitor your progress
Stay mindful and aware of how your thoughts and behaviours change now you are releasing your healing weight. Get yourself a “sanity” buddy who will watch for signs of relapse and unhealthy obsession. It is a proud moment when your pants get looser with not much effort and your disordered eating ghost is finally sleeping the sleep of the dead.
→ Stay vigilant
Always remember to be careful. A journey is never a straight line and there will be potholes in the road and wrong turns. Recovery takes time and jumping in to the Power Stage before you are ready may awaken the disordered eating ghost.
Watch for those things that got you into trouble in the first place — the compliments, the smaller numbers, unrealistic expectations — all may tempt you to lose more, eat less, exercise more. It is best not to set your sights on returning to your previous lowest weight that took up all your time and energy to stay at. Be gentle with yourself and look after yourself. Your body has been through so much and you have spent a long time helping it to heal. Love your body like your closest friend and always treat it with love, reverence and respect.
When you get to Stage Three, the promise of Intuitive Eating has come true — you are getting leaner and healthier without having to restrict what you eat, exercise to exhaustion or obsess about your food and body constantly.
I am the type of person who lives a fit and healthy life in body, mind and spirit.
I am inspired.
I value feeling energised and alive over looking skinny.
I am so in tune with my body that I know what and how to eat and move.
I am the type of person who models a life that is free from anxiety, with limitless opportunities and extraordinary bliss.
My flaws make me beautiful.
I deeply and completely love and accept myself.