One of the unexpected blessings of this new journey of intuitive eating, or whatever you want to call it, is the emails I receive daily from wonderful women who recognise themselves in my struggle. They are battling with the starve/binge cycle and don’t know how to break free. They may have tried in the past but end up going right back on a diet because the first thing that happens when they stop dieting is that they put on weight.
I would like to offer some more suggestions on how to jump off the diet cycle and not freak out when you think you’re getting fat.
Feeling Bad About Yourself
One of the reasons the diet/binge cycle is difficult to escape is because we constantly feel like shit. We binge until we are sick and then feel physically crap and emotionally crap when we beat ourselves us. The only solution we know is to diet again and resolve to do better.
When we are restricting we also feel like shit because we are physically exhausted and constantly hungry or craving food that is not ‘allowed’. We are in emotional pain because we can’t socialise, we feel depressed, and we are worried that we are going to lose our self control at any moment. The only solution we know is to have ‘one last binge’ to find temporary relief from the pain but then the self loathing starts all over again.
We need to make the pain that comes from leaving the diet cycle as minimal as possible. If it is more painful than we will scurry back to what we know. Here are some ways to make the transition as painless as possible.
Get Your Timing Right
Probably the best time to decide to eat intuitively is the morning after a binge. You aren’t that hungry because the biological cravings are satisfied for a while. All that is required on that ‘morning after’ is that you make the decision to NOT restrict for a set period of time. Three months seems to be the time it takes for most things to resolve themselves so think of it as a 12 week challenge.
The other great time to start is Day 1 of your period [especially if you’ve had a PMT binge]. You are hormonally balanced and a bit more even. It will give you at least 3 weeks before you are faced with PMT cravings and possibly the heaviest period you’ve had in a long time.
But I’ll Get Fat
If you have been dieting for a long time and you stop, you will put on weight. For whatever reason, if you start eating to your hunger levels your body will hold on to the fat at first. Your body (and your mind) is convinced that there is a famine coming again soon because that is all it knows. If you expect this you won’t go running back to dieting world the minute your pants get tight.
The best way to survive this difficult time is to tell yourself that if after 12 weeks you are still unhappy, you can lose it again (because you know how to do that) and it will be really easy because your body will then be used to a higher level of calories.
Remember that if you put on weight it is healing weight. Once you are back into balance and healthy again, you can create any body that you want. This is a temporary phase on the way to being naturally slender.
Feel Good About Yourself
Don’t do what I did and stand on the scales. It will make you feel like shit all over again and this is what we need to avoid at all costs. Put the scales away temporarily if not permanently.
Get your ‘off season’ clothes out of storage and make sure they are clean and ready to go. You will probably gain 1 size, or maybe 2. If you are like me you will already have 3 different sizes in your wardrobe. As soon as your clothes start getting tight, get into a bigger size that doesn’t accentuate the bits you don’t like. Try wearing less fitting clothes (cargo pants, swing tops, full skirts) and add accessories likes scarves and vests. Layering is also a good trick.
Approach shopping with caution. Go with a friend who doesn’t have weight issues and has a good eye for what will suit you. Listen to her opinion of what you should wear and don’t trust what you see in the mirror. Find clothes that make you feel pretty without showing off the bits you aren’t so fond of for now.
Diet or Exercise?
You might not realise this but it is OK to work on these separately. I ditched the hard-core exercise first and kept eating unrestricted amounts of ‘clean’ food. I still binged because I made ‘bad’ food off limits. I realised that I needed to eat cake, chocolate and Magnums to discover that I didn’t even really like them.
Shelley did it the other way. She ate what she wanted from the beginning and kept her exercise at roughly the same intensity. It took her a while to realise that she needed some rest and recovery. In her words:
What I realised is that exercise does not equal weight loss and therefore I didn’t NEED to do as much as I was and would benefit more by doing only what I loved which made me feel good.
It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better
I liken the whole process to that of having a festering wound. Once you begin to heal, there is a very ugly scab covering the sore. It is not pretty and difficult to hide. If you pick off the scab, you have to start all over again. If you leave the scab alone and focus on something else, the body will work its magic and heal itself. One day, the scab will fall off and the skin will be perfectly healed with soft new tissue.
Every day that you can resist going back on a diet and work on being OK with who you are is a day of the scab getting smaller. The minute you start picking at the scab, you have to start all over again.
Making mistakes is perfectly OK ~ eating too much or not eating enough, working out when you’re exhausted, or crying because you’re feeling fat and confused is all a necessary part of the recovery journey. The only way to pick off the scab is to stop trying and go back to your old way of living (dieting).
The Weight Gain Isn’t Always So Bad
The first bit of weight you gain will be in the areas that are the hardest to shift ~ for me my thighs and stomach. This will make you feel out of proportion and out of shape.
Curiously, it appears that you stop gaining altogether fairly quickly and then the fat redistributes itself to a more all over pattern. You are the same shape as when you were lean, just a bit bigger and softer. It all seems to even out. I swear that I am carrying most of my healing weight in my boobs ~ and they look amazing and seem to balance out the early ‘bottom heavy’ weight gain.
Mind and Spirit
While you are working through the physical issues, take time to heal your mind and spirit as well. Find out what makes your mind and emotions feel good ~ affirmations, hypnosis, EFT, NLP, cognitive therapy, observing your thoughts. Discover what makes your spirit come alive ~ meditation, prayer, yoga, sacred readings.
Some things will work for you and some won’t. Start a daily practice that tends to your head and heart as well as your health. It is so important to do things that make you feel happier, calmer and more loving.
Find Some Support
I could have never done this without Shelley. If she hadn’t been going through the same things as I was as the same time, I never would have made it. Even now we give each other advice that helps crystalize our new belief system.
I also have Renee Stephens, a professional life coach, helping me. She has helped me work through the “I’m fat”, “I’m broken” and “I’m useless” phases. I am not a professional by any means but if you can’t find anyone who understands, feel free to send me an email and I’ll give you my number so we can chat. I will help you as much as I can because I know how tough it can be. We could even arrange a weekly group conference call via Skype if a few people were interested.
You Are Good Enough
Without sounding like a ‘rah-rah’ motivational speaker, I know you can do this because you’re simply good enough already. My deepest wish is that you can believe that there is a wonderful alternative just waiting for you to reach out for it. You are more than enough and I will do anything I can to help you find the real beauty inside you.
Did you know
- My heart feels so connected to you, you who dreams of a better life than one that revolves around food and exercise. I love you.
→ photo : John Leach