This is a question that came up in a recent conversation with a colleague. And if you are someone who have been diagnosed with an eating disorder or feel like your relationship with food and your body is not in a great place, you might be thinking the same.
How do you know that you are in eating disorder recovery or how do you know that your relationship with food has improved?
This is one of those questions that don’t really have a definitive answer. Because unlike dieting and intentional weight loss pursuits where the scales clearly defines success or failure, our relationship with food, eating and our bodies are not as clear cut as that.
Alongside this, when we’re in the throes of feeling obsessed and out of control around food, reimagining something else, is unthinkable.
This journey and the outcomes in not about a specific number at all. It is about a reduction in certain behaviours, yes, and it is about the spaciousness that comes with you and your body being on the same team. Respectfully caring for one another.
When I think about my own journey, I notice how many shifts have occurred over time, sometimes a very long time. Often it wasn’t until a big new life stressor hit that I realised that stuffing my feelings down with food was no longer my main coping tool.
Or like when I discovered that I still body check from time to time (because it is such an unconscious ingrained habit) but that the harsh inner critical voice has soften significantly. The old familiar feeling of dread, panic and self-loathing towards my body when noticing some recent weight gain, was not there. Instead, an open and kind newfound acceptance is there, in its place.
Our journey towards peace and freedom around food and eating looks different for everyone one. Your journey might not look like mine, and that is ok. I see this with my clients all the time, each person’s journey is unique to them, and there are many elements and steps on the way that overlap and are same or similar.
The Journey towards healing our relationship with food might include any and all of these:
Giving oneself unconditional permission to eat all foods
Wearing clothes that fit and are comfortable for the hear and now body
Learning about Diet Culture / weight stigma / anti-fat bias both culturally and internalised ones
Practicing body acceptance
Practicing self-compassion (over and over and over)
are just some of the parts that make up disordered eating recovery.
These are not just ideas but practices and explorations that often requires time, curiosity, patience and self-kindness.
Getting curious about what got us into a disordered relationship with food, eating and our body and connecting some of the dots often provides not just a deeper understanding of it all, but often we can hold our past self with greater kindness and compassion, knowing that we did the best we could with what we had. From here it becomes easier to explore what a different less chaotic or rigid (or both) relationship with food can be like.
What do you expect a more peaceful relationship with food will look and feel like?
Often the goal or intention is something like, stop bingeing / purging or restricting. But the benefits of recovery extend far beyond that.
It is important to mention here too, that perfectionism is NOT a goal of disordered eating recovery. It is unlikely that you will never ever binge or purge or restrict ever again. But instead of this being one of your major coping skills you will have built a full toolbox of skills to choose from, many that offer relief in the moment but also beyond.
One of the things you will find is that you have more tools, practice and skills for dealing with life.
Another one is that you have more capacity and resourcing to deal with life in general. I hear this again and again from my clients when their bodies and brains are better nourished. A fully nourished body and brain simply have more capacity to deal with everyday living, than one that is continuously underfed or starved. (Looking at you 800-1200kcal diets!)
You will find that you are not thinking about foodall the time. This is also a physiological consequence from eating regularly and adequate meals. When your body is getting enough, typically the only times we think about food is when we are getting hungry and when we need to shop / plan / prepare meals.
Typically, improved sleep, more energy and a reduction of headaches (if that is something that you suffer with) is other things I hear my clients often talk about when their bodies are feeling fully nourished again.
Having more energy and more executive functioning means that the gap that the preoccupation with food and weight has left can be filled with things you really enjoy that feels nourishing beyond the physical. Like friendships, hobbies, creativity, fun!
I have often witnessed that the further people get in their recovery journey, the less food and weight takes up space in their lives. Even when the desire to lose weight was there (and sometimes dominant) in beginning of the journey, the further you get in recovery the less this feels like a meaningful goal to pursue, because the cost of it has become too high.
That’s not to say that we will never desire a smaller body again (and this might even be truer if you are at the receiving end of weight stigma and anti-fat bias), and that’s ok. As long as the world around us is fixated on thinness as the most important thing to be, do, have, it is likely that this thought and desire will pop up at times. Thinking something is not the same as acting on that thought. And remember recovery is not about perfection!
All of these things are great and important but I think the most powerful shifts that come from working through any disordered eating behaviours and healing your relationship with food, eating and your body is the peace that comes with acceptance and the nourishment that comes from the practice of self compassion.
Being able to hold space for the challenges that comes with being human in a body, with acceptance and kindness changes things at the root. Any sharp self-critical edges can soften and we can meet ourselves where we are at, at any time, with gentleness and care.
This is what having a peaceful, supportive and caring relationship with food and with yourself.
It is possible for you too and you are so worthy of having it.
I have always been a voracious reader. When I was about ten or eleven, I won a class competition in reading the most pages in a set amount of time, beating my best friend whom I was always in some kind of competition with.
A library bus used to stop in our tiny rural village every two weeks and I would borrow stacks and sit in the cosy nest I had made underneath the stairs and just read and read and read.
I have other memories of laying in bed on a Sunday morning, ignoring my body’s need for food, whilst I kept turning page after page.
My child self was a horse girl through and through and almost all of the books I read from age eight until I was in my late teens were in this genre but over the years my tastes and interests have evolved. However, I have kept reading.
I also got into the habit of buying the books I wanted to read. Which is fine. I don’t mind spending money on books, especially if it will support the author. There is just one small challenge with this though… and that is that the books accumulate over time. And even though I have kept buying more bookshelves over the years I still seem to end up with stacks of books on the floor.
When I moved about three years ago, I notices yet again that I owned mostly books. Followed by a large amount of house plants…! Moving in with another book-lover has meant that we’ve had to compromise or allowing our small living room to turn into a mini library. Not a shabby idea perhaps.
The space constraint has also meant that I have gotten into the habit of using the library again, which is such an amazing service. Libraries makes books widely available and affordable and I count myself very lucky that we have a great one in the small rural town that I currently live in.
Because I love to read, and I love to learn, reading books about weight inclusive approaches, intuitive eating, moving away from dieting, how to heal your relationship with food, body image and any and all other related things, have been a big part of both my personal and professional journey.
So today I want to share with you five of my (many favourites) in this space. I could see this turning into a series because there are several topics within this genre.
Let’s talk about five of my favourite non-diet books that focuses on healing your relationship with food.
(And apologies in advance to anyone who finds these kinds of lists inspiring to*more* book purchases#sorrynotsorry.)
I also want to say that this list is by no means exhaustive and that there are so many new amazing non-diet books coming out all of the time. I will most likely do another round up of these in the future. Another caveat worth mentioning, because this is internet after all is that Mindful Eating have some bits that are not 100% weight inclusive or that tangents on some healthism. So why have I included this one in my list anyway?
Well because I believe in reader discernment and that it is important to not fall into the same black-and-white thinking that keeps us stuck with food. It is also interesting to read work that are written years ago to see how much, or not much at all, thinking and knowledge can evolve over time.
I mention this book here too, because I still believe that there are more good and helpful content it than what is problematic. You may not agree with me on this, and I am ok with that too.
I have listed them in no particular order. If one suggestion calls more to you than another, trust that. Happy reading x
– Intuitive Eating – A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach by Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch. 4th Ed. Published in 2020
This seminal work is, I would think one of the most popular books of entry point when someone is contemplating moving from diets but unsure of where to go next.
The first principle of Intuitive Eating is reject Diet Culture, so there is no qualms about what needs to happen first before anything else can happen.
I first read Intuitive Eating in 2014, then the 3rd Ed, and what I can remember was a feeling of relief as well as a recognition that here was something that I had been feeling for a long time but had not been able to name, until then.
Evelyn and Elyse wrote their initial version back in 1995, when many of the current day advocates were barely born(!). They have done some heavy editing since that early version to remove any and all content that was not entirely weight inclusive and I think this clearly demonstrates how things evolve and the work necessary to keep editing and updating work, as one’s own personal learning and feedback grows.
When I read this book back in 2014 it opened up to a new direction for me professionally and it confirmed a large part of the personal recovery path that I was already on, however I didn’t know any other nutrition professionals that were familiar with this kind of approach. It felt lonely. Thankfully things have changes and the number of weight inclusive, non-diet professionals are growing, even here in Ireland.
What I like about the Intuitive Eating book and this approach is that it is organised in 10 principles. That gives a good framework, as well as some helpful structure to the process of working through it.
That said, you can read through this book from cover to cover but doing the actual work takes time. Weeks, months and even years. And it is not necessarily a linear process either. But, starting by reading the book is indeed a good place to start. There are over 400 published studies to date that shows up on PubMed if you put intuitive eating into the search bar so it is safe to say that it is becoming increasingly more validates by the research field in the almost 30 years since the original book’s inception.
– Body of Truth by Harriet Brown. Published 2015
As far as I can remember this book was recommended to me from the professional non-diet community. The tagline to this book is “How Science, History and Culture drive our Obsession with Weight and What We Can Do About It.”
Harriet shares her own journey of yo-yo dieting and healing from weight obsession to a place of body acceptance. Her background is in journalism and her writing is really accessible. The book weaves personal stories, both her own and others’, with exploration of the science around weight and health.
If you are someone who really enjoys this type of writing and story telling, rather than having it all lined the facts lined up with bullet points and advice, then this book is for you.
It is not so much about sharing ideas of what you can do instead of dieting but rather taking you on a journey of exploration of why you feel compelled or pulled to do it, and reflections about how things might be different if you don’t.
Harriet Brown invites us to “ Think beyond the messages we are getting a thousand times a day. To question the conventional wisdom. You may wind up making the same exact choices in your life as you do now, but at the very least you’ll be making those choices more consciously. Or you may wind up with an entirely different point of view, one that could help set you free from the painful and punishing rules we’ve been living by for so long.”
– A Shadow of A Diet by Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel. Published 2014, 2nd Ed.
This book is written for professionals who work with clients who are struggling with binge eating and emotional eating. If you are someone who fits this description, I cannot recommend this book enough! It is detailed, written from a weight inclusive, non-diet lens and contains both different concepts such as attuned eating as well as a host of case studies to illustrate the dynamics which are present when it comes to binge eating and emotional eating.
Again, this was a book that was recommended to me through my professional network and it has been an incredibly valuable learning resource since I read it initially in 2017.
Judith Matz is a wealth of knowledge and has been working in the field of eating disorders since the mid 1980s. What makes this book so incredible, in my eyes, is that it does a beautiful job of explaining all the challenges, as well as all the nuances when working with healing binge eating and emotional eating from a truly weight inclusive, non-diet approach. Something that still feels rare when a lot of people who are struggling with this both actively seek out diets and therapists / nutrition professionals / health care professionals either suggests that they should lose weight or believe that losing weight will result in better body image and greater self-esteem, not recognising that dieting doesn’t work for the majority of people long-term or that dieting and restriction is a big part of what is driving the binge eating behaviour…!
If you are not someone who works with clients on their relationship with food, but rather looking at a resource so support your own relationship with food, then Judith’s other book The Diet Survivor’s Handbook might be a better fit.
– Reclaiming Body Trust – A Path To Healing and Liberation by Hilary Kinavey & Dana Sturtevant. Published 2022.
This is one of the more recent books that I have added to my collection. Having been a big fan of Hilary and Dana’s work for years, buying this book was a must when it came out last year was a must.
Their work was some of the first place where I came across the intersection of the intersection of eating issues with wider systems of oppression such as racism, poverty, gender non conformity and weigh discrimination. The have been talking about these topics and intersections for a long time and I for one, am immensely grateful that they have put their knowledge and learning in a book.
This book is about both our personal experience and healing of disordered eating, as well as exploring and educating on the wider systems and influences at play. Hilary and Dana shows us all the external influences and injustices that impacts our relationship with food, eating and our bodies. Many factors that are outside our individual control. However they are also giving us tools, practices and questions to reflect on moving forward so that we can reclaim our sovereignty but more than that, hope and insights to how we can collectively work towards dismantling the oppressive social structures and work towards body liberation for ALL bodies.
It is a powerful read, though it can be challenging too, if you are new to non-diet approaches. There are as much to learn as there is to unlearn here.
– Mindful Eating – A Guide to Rediscover A Healthy and Joyful Relationship With Food by Jan Chozen Bays, Published 2017. Revised edition.
There is so much I love about this book. Jan Chozen Bays is an MD who is also a Buddhist practitioner and this book is rooted in mindfulness meditation and the spirit of mindfulness. The part I particularly love is her deep dive into what she calls the Nine Hungers. In this part of the book she explores the many facets of hunger, both physical and the more emotional types of hunger like heart hunger. Recognising hungers that can be satisfied with foods, as well as hungers that we may try and rectify with food but that are also about yearnings for deeper emotional and spiritual needs, is powerful work.
For me this is the more profound part of Mindful Eating, which is more that just eating slowly and chewing diligently. She does talk about these elements too, towards the end of the book and it is here, where some of the practices feels a little more “diet-y” to me, and where you might have proceed with caution depending where you currently find yourself on your journey with a more peaceful relationship with food, eating and your body.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
I hope that this list will prove helpful on your journey of learning, unlearning, repairing and healing. This is only a small selection of some of my favourite non-diet books. There are new ones being published all the time, which is truly amazing. Though I am guessing for every non-diet, weight inclusive book on creating a better relationship with food there are probably ten others who will promise the world and his mother through the “weight loss diet that *will* work”. Only none of them really do, long-term.
When someone comes to me to work on their relationship with food, and in this case binge eating and emotional eating I often find myself starting by showing them a visual of the Diet – Restrict – Binge Cycle.
I do this for two reasons.
To show my client that they, nor their body is broken
To show my client that the binge or emotional eating is s symptom, and not the root cause of what’s typically going on.
When you find yourself in a binge episode, it feels so out of control. It is so uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally. It really *feels* like the food and the lack of control is the problem that we have to fix.
And if you’re gaining weight as a result of the binge or emotional eating then you might panic even more and this thing with food and eating *really* have to get under control. I know for sure that this is how I felt, when I was smack bang in the middle of it.
Years later, I learned about the Diet – Restrict- Binge Cycle and I felt such a relief. No wonder I had spent years going around this cycle. Any and all of the diets that I tried was never going to work to get my binge eating under control.
Why? Because they all implied some kind of restrictive eating. It was either restricting calories or sugar or gluten or fat or some other kind of food group. The restriction kept fuelling my binge eating.
And I had no idea (at the time) that these two were connected and that it in order to stop bingeing I would have to stop restricting.
How does restriction drive binge eating?
The cycle will always start from some kind of restriction. It might be a diet, a need to cut out some specific foods for medical reasons or it might be as a result of not having enough food available for awhile due to lack of financial means. It doesn’t really matter why you are restricting as the body will experience the lack of food the same, as a state of famine.
(Step 1 – Restriction) For this example let us imagine that you are starting a new diet. One that is going to support your “health”. (I have health in quotation marks here because diets are rarely about actual health but about thinness.)
(Step 2 – Feeling hungry / starvation)The diet is going well… until you find yourself hungry, and perhaps also tired and stressed out. It is hard to have the bandwidth to deal with life on an empty stomach and undernourished brain.
(Step 3 – Breaking the Diet ) Maybe someone has brought in a cake or donuts to work and even though you say no to when offered, you still find yourself eating a large slice in secret afterwards.
Once you’ve stepped outside the confines of the diet a few things tend to happen:
You find yourself thinking “Well I have already blown my diet so I might as well keep going now”. And then proceed to binge on all or the foods you don’t normally give yourself permission to eat. Or you might polish off the rest of the cake / packet of biscuits, even though you don’t really feel like eating them but you want them gone now, so that they won’t be there tempting you in the future.
(Step 4 – Shame / Guilt / Frustration / Anger) Another thing that can happen is that the shame and guilt over eating in secret and eating more than / something that wasn’t on your diet plan sends you into a spiral and because food is the main coping tool you have, you find yourself planning a binge later. Or maybe you just keep eating because why the H*ll not?!
This backlash binge eating often comes from hurt, pain and wanting to punishing ourselves for the initial “transgression”. And the initial “transgression” happens as a result of undereating, leading to feeling overly hungry and food being present.
It is natural to eat when we are physically hungry! And when we are overly hungry, it is even harder to make executive function decisions, so grabbing what is available makes total sense.
(Step 5 – Fear of weight gain / desire to get back in control) This is where you’ll find yourself in the aftermath of the binge episode. Often sitting a pool of shame, self-blame and self-loathing, it makes sense to reach back out for another diet or to “get back on the diet-wagon” again. Something that will simply put you back in the place of restriction, and so the cycle continues.
This is why we have to address the restriction in order to heal the binge eating.
This cycle can happen is a day or it can happen after days or weeks or even months of restricting. If the restriction has been going on for weeks or months, then it is not unlikely that the binge eating will happen over several days or weeks too.
With the Diet – Deprivation – Binge Cycle we are trying to fight physiology, and that is not supposed to work. If you are finding yourself binge eating after restricting food (or food groups) for a while, there is nothing wrong with you. In fact I would argue that your body is working quiet well.
Our bodies don’t want to be in a state of famine, that is not helpful to survival so when food becomes available we will naturally eat more than we need, because we are trying to make up for the restriction and as well as that we might also eat more because who knows when food will become available again??
It is important that this is often happen subconsciously. This is your body doing its best to keep you alive.
How do you step out of the Diet – Deprivation – Binge Cycle?
In my 3 part mini course I will take you through three practices that can help you get out of this diet – restrict binge cycle. You will get access to the course when you join my weekly newsletter (which is full of supportive things, I promise!)
If you are new to the concept of Intuitive Eating, and haven’t read the actual book but just been picking up bite size pieces from Social Media, your idea of intuitive eating might be something like “Eat all you want, whenever you want”. Or “Eat only when hungry and stop when you are satisfied / comfortably full.”
There are truths to these ideas but it isn’t the whole truth and there are much more nuance to this way of coming back to attunment with our bodies when it comes to food and eating.
Yes we want to get to a place where we can honour our physical hunger, instead of denying it. And it is lovely to be able to stop eating when you feel comfortably full and deliciously satisfied. But in order to get there, you most likely need to do a few things first.
There are also times when waiting to eat until you are physically hungry is impractical and for some people the hunger cues are less accessible than for others. However this doesn’t mean that your body doesn’t need food. It means that you need some reliable structure to make sure that you feed yourself despite the absence of cues and signals.
Often when trying to recover from an eating disorder eating tends to be either chaotic or restrictive (and often both!) and in order to get to a place of “intuitive eating”, where we are attuned to our bodies’ signals of hunger and fullness we tend to need some structure so that we can make sure that the needs of eating regularly and eating adequately are met.
What does structured eating look like?
Having some structure to your eating includes planning and shopping for food. Because it so much easier to honour our hunger when we have food available and can make an easy meal or snack.
Planning can include making a weekly menu and buying the ingredients required for those meals.
It can also include batch cooking and having easy accessible freezer meals, frozen vegetables and pantry staples at your disposal so that it is easy to make food that are filling and satisfying even when time and energy is scarce.
Don’t forget how convenient leftovers can be for this also. Make some extra when you are cooking an prepping anyway so that you have food for next day lunch boxes or a meal that just requires reheating!
Structured eating can also include reminders which helps us make sure that our bodies get fed in a timely manner. This is particularly useful if your hunger cues are faint, somewhat unreliable or if you simply struggle to forget how to eat when engrossed in something really interesting, and your attention is elsewhere.
Of course, having food to hand and easy accessible snacks will help when your alarm goes off to tell you that it is time to eat.
Structured eating can help you build body trust and help foster intuitive eating by ensuring regularity and adequacy with food.
What makes structured eating different from following a diet plan?
Well for starters: The fact that YOU decided on the structure and the type of foods that is included.
When you are doing your planning and shopping you chose foods that you like, can prepare and are within your budget.
Instead of following a plan with foods, that you might not even like or don’t have a clue how to cook and prepare.
Sometimes, I help my clients with this in session, where we brainstorm together what the weekly menu plan can look like. This is a collaborative effort. Not me making a plan telling you what you should and shouldn’t eat but instead together figuring out what it is you like eating what is satisfying, within the context of your daily life.
Years of dieting can make this challenging so sometimes having someone else to explore with can help.
With structured eating the difference is that the structure is there to be supportive and flexible. Not rigid like a diet plan. You can’t fail with your own menu plan. If you decide in the moment to go with something different to what you had planned, that is fine. Attuned eating and intuitive eating are all about flexibility.
The final thing that I also want to mention is that part of a more structured eating, which promotes flexibility is that there are times when you need to eat in preparation. Before you are really hungry. What I am talking about here is when you might be leaving the house and know that are most likely to be hungry later but at time when eating or access to food might be inconvenient or not possible.
So you choose to eat earlier because otherwise the risk of becoming hangry is impending.
Have you ever heard the term “Last Supper Mentality”? I bet that even if you haven’t heard the term before, you have probably engaged in it, at least if you have ever prepared for any kind of diet.
“Last Supper Eating” is the eating that happens *before* intentional attempts of restriction. It can also be seasonal like Easter, when the chocolate bunnies are out in full force and you are gearing up for another diet to start a “get beach ready” diet as soon as Easter is done, which might mean that you end up eating more chocolate than what you had planned or what even feels good, just because in the back of your mind you know that chocolate will be off the menu for the coming weeks. So that means best to get in some extra now!
Like one of my recent Reclaiming Body Trust participants said “you do more damage in that anticipatory eating leading up to the next diet than when you are not restricting”. Revelatory!
Last Supper eating is part of the same Diet-Restrict-Binge cycle where backlash binges usually happens as soon as we finish the diet or when we can no longer keep up the restrictions. The same mechanisms are at play here – restriction. But in this case it is the anticipation of restriction that is driving it.
So how do you move away from “Last Supper Mentality” and this kind of binge eating?
My invitation to you is to explore this: What if restriction is not the answer?
What happens when you sit with this question? What comes up for you? What are you feeling in your body?
Restricting food, food rules, diet plans and any other variation of these often feel like safety. And it is really hard to let go of something that feels, on some level, that it would threaten our survival.
And… at the same time, at some point, we may arrive at a place where the cost of continuing dieting over and over, is simply too high and that it is time to do something different.
But if not Dieting then what?
For me I did arrive at a point where I could not put myself through that restrictive misery One.More.Time. As I stood on the scales for the umpteenth time and expected it to tell me that I deserved to be happy I had a lightbulb moment!
Why did I give so much power to this inanimate object? I didn’t have to wait to be happy until I weighted x kg /lb. It was something that I could give to myself now. Perhaps there where other ways to find happiness that had nothing to do with the scales?
Ever since that day I have been on a quest to find happiness that is not tied to what my body looks like.
Diet Culture keeps telling us that if our bodies just look a certain way, life will be good. And that’s not to say that living in a smaller body might not make life easier due to the privileges that can bring.
However, things that losing weight does guarantee us is this: health, friendships, intimate relationships, happiness, joy, contentment, creativity, freedom.
I get that the idea of giving up dieting can feel scary, especially if your eating feels chaotic right now.
Here’s a suggestion to start with: Take a sheet of paper, fold it down the middle and then write down all the benefits of being on a diet on one side and on the other side write down all of the costs of dieting.
Which list is longer? Are there any benefits that would be still beneficial even if weight loss was not the outcome main outcome? If so, are there ways to reach these that does not hyper focus on altering your body size / weight?
I hope this was helpful to explore letting go of those things that no longer serves you.
Disordered eating, dieting, restriction, and emotional eating is rooted in wisdom and the coping skills that came from it were helpful at one time, but they may no longer serve you now.
Separating the idea that your body must look a certain way to be worthy of care, food, love, belonging might feel new AND radical. That is because it is.
Living in a culture that places certain bodies in a hierarchy over others makes it radical to take up space and letting yourself live fully and unapologetically as you.
It doesn’t mean that a) You are not worthy to do so. You are worthy simply because you exists. And b) this is something that is only possible for others. It is possible for you too.
I have been thinking about this question for a while. In one way it seems like a really straightforward question. If you have gotten a diagnosis of an eating disorder, seems the most obvious time.
But it is not always easy to get a diagnosis. If you don’t meet the criteria, you may think that things are “fine”, or that you’re not “sick enough” and deserve support.
When we are feeling like our whole lives are consumed by thinking about food and obsessing about our appearance, and when this is holding us back from living our lives in ways we otherwise would, is the time to get some support with our relationship with food eating and your body.
Given that so much of our culture has normalised what is actually pretty disordered (due to fatphobia and weight stigma), this seemingly easy question is a bit more complex than expected.
One thing which is common is the idea that people who struggle with food and body image looks a certain way (young, thin, white and emaciated). This is not true at all.
People of all shapes and sizes and ages can struggle with many of (often normalised) disordered eating behaviours.
When I was in the midst of my own struggles, I kept searching for the “right diet” that would help me gain control over my eating. I tried all sorts. From hypnotherapy CD for weight loss, to Slim-fast shakes, Unislim (like WeightWatchers) and some other dubious things.
I eventually felt so out of control that I did reach out to a local dietitian but never got started with sessions. I also considered therapy around this time but again it never happened.
Life seemed to just evolve around food, dieting and binge eating. Feeling bloated, uncomfortable and down right miserable.
Around this time I also read lots of books, and eventually I must somehow made my way from the diet books to some type of non-diet approach, but I can’t remember any one specific title. However I did have an awakening and realised HOW MUCH of my self-worth I had tied up with the scales. It is incredible just how much power we can hand over to this metal subject…!
Eventually I got off the scales, which was the starting point for me (it might be something else for you) and began the journey of making peace with food, eating and my body.
A journey that will always be ongoing, however I am happy to say that I am now in a place where it sometimes feels alien to think back to how bad and painful things actually were.
I was never officially diagnosed with an eating disorder, but I may have met the criteria for binge eating disorder (BED) at some point when things were at its worst. But this was before 2013 and BED was not an official diagnose in the DSM-V at that time anyway.
Because what actually is dis-ordered eating behaviours but that our society has “normalised” when in comes to food and eating, I think it might be worth pointing them out.
It is also worth nothing that disordered eating exists on a spectrum and you may experience some of these and not all of them. And things might not be so severe that it ticks all the boxes for an official diagnosis, it doesn’t matter, you still deserve to be living your life free of food and body obsession.
Things that we DO NOT have to live with are:
Constantly thinking about food 24/7
Being on and off diets
Weighing yourself daily and the scale dictating your mood and how the day goes
Weighing foods to portion control
Bingeing when you come off your diet / food restriction
Feeling out of control around food and not trusting yourself and your body
Not keeping certain foods in the house but still bingeing on them
Feeling overly anxious if your food is not “clean” or whole foods only
Exercising for the sole reason to burn calories and to compensate for food intake
Not going out with friend and family because of food anxiety
Avoiding events because of how you feel about your body
Not doing things because you worry about what others think about your body
It really doesn’t have to be this way! Things CAN and WILL get better, and often we need a little support from someone else to get us there.
If this is where you are currently at it might be difficult to imagine that things CAN be different and get better. What waits on the other side of food and body concerns? Food Freedom, Body Trust 😊
This can look and feel like:
Saying yes to lunches and meals out with friends
Not being worried about travelling because you are comfortable eating whatever is on offer
Wearing clothes that makes you feel good in the body you have now
Being fully present with the people you love
Having more brain space to engage in hobbies and relationships that has meaning and value to you
Having more energy and feeling less anxious
Food freedom means having greater flexibility with food and eating and body trust means that we can trust ourselves and our bodies and to care for ourselves in a nourishing and supportive ways.
This is what I wish for you too.
Ready to explore what doing the work to take you there can look like? Between where you are now and where you can potentially get to there are steps and sometimes having some guidance and support alongside you on this journey can be helpful.