Prioritizing Kindness Over Weight Loss: Intuitive Eating

I started this year with the same goal that I’ve had for as long as I can remember: To lose weight and to finally uncover the body that will allow me to have the confidence to live life freely and fully. To type that out feels silly. I don’t think I’ve ever verbalized it in so many words. To me, weight loss has always seemed like an essential. It’s always been something that has to happen before I can feel the confidence to be my truest and most authentic and successful self. It didn’t matter if was 11 and 85 pounds. It didn’t matter if I was 16 and just 105 pounds. It didn’t matter if I was 21 and 115 pounds. No matter what, in my mind, the weight has always been in my way. I needed to shed something. Before I could fully offer myself to the world, I had to find a way to make myself seem more palatable, and that, to me, translated to being skinnier.

I’ve never had a dangerous eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia. But ever since I can remember, I’ve always eaten my food with a feeling of guilt. Like it was something that had to immediately be burned off or feeling guilty and disgusted with myself for being hungrier for more than the suggested serving size. I’ve never been free of this lingering guilt alongside my food. In fact, I think that the only thing I’ve eaten without the feeling of guilt or shame is the idea that I have to be thinner to be more acceptable to the world no matter what size I am. I’ve accepted that idea over and over again. The world has fed me that, and I’ve gobbled it up. And it’s the only thing I’ve gobbled up without question or a second thought for the last 20 years.

Until very recently.

I started 2019 the same way that I have started every single year since I was a preteen. I took my weight and measurements and some pictures to compare myself to, and then I set out with a group of friends on what I now believe to be one of the most mentally destructive diets out there: Whole30.

I totally give up 10 days in when the plague hits our house. Giving up tastes amazing, but feels horrible because of all the guilt and shame. Another day, another diet.

By spring, I’m working out and fasting every Tuesday and Thursday and only eating in little 10 hour windows for the other days. I still feel guilty about the food I eat, and on the days when I don’t eat, I feel fatigued and cranky, but proud of myself because I’m not eating, but all I think about is the food I want to eat. Sometimes my friends go out and I want to join, and so I do and I eat and I feel miserable about it. I’m not really losing weight, and I’m dieting during the day and binge eating at night.

I’m working out pretty hard by June, and I’m feeling really awesome about it. I’m enjoying myself and my new-found strength. I’m excited to make this a routine. I’m not really losing weight, and that’s very taxing on my mind. I’m taking daily pictures in the mirror to see if I can catch the change, but I don’t and I eventually stop because it’s starting to make me cry. I don’t want to quit working out the way I am, so I know I have to stop feeding myself my own negativity.

It’s around this time that I start to consider a new kind of cleanse: a social media one.

I get on Instagram and I unfollow all of the fashion and fitness bloggers I had been following. I once regarded them as inspiration of who I could be, but slowly began to recognize them as representations of a standard I could, would, and should never be. These women are are sizes 00 and XXS. At my smallest as a CHILD just entering puberty, I was never an XS, much less and XXS. Some of these women were 5’5” and I’m barely 5’1”. I was comparing myself to bodies that my body can never be no matter how little I ate or how many hours I slaved away on a treadmill. I’m. Not. A. Model.

I eventually found that it was time to start adding variety to my mental diet. I started following body positive accounts. Some weren’t for me. But I found a couple that were. I also replaced Instagram fitness models with actual dieticians sharing real, evidence-based information. There wasn’t a skinny tea in sight on my feed. I even started adding in Enneagram accounts to give me some variety and fun. But the real game changer happened when I stumbled onto some intuitive eating accounts a few months ago.

It felt radical to me. No diet. I was already kind of adhering to the Delay, Don’t Deny principle of intermittent fasting, but, that’s still a diet. Intuitive eating is basically eating what you feel hungry for when you feel hungry for it.

W. T. F. No rules??

I was like, there’s no way to lose weight on that. And the more I read about it, the more I realized, yeah, that’s the point. The point isn’t to lose weight.

Let me say it again: The point isn’t to lose weight.

The point of life isn’t to lose weight.

You’re allowed to not lose weight.

I’m allowed to not lose weight.

I’m allowed to eat what I want, when I want, and to look how I look.

It was a radical idea for me. There were basically no rules. Just live. Live and try to let go of what the world has fed you about your body.

So, I decided to quit the diets. Right out of the gate, my body demanded a lot of food. Lots of major guilt-inducing foods. Sadly, I don’t need to list them for you to know which ones I’m talking about (you’ve probably felt guilty for eating them too. You shouldn’t.). But I just went ahead and said yes. I said yes every single time to every single craving.

And I stuck to this. I didn’t stop weighing myself because that’s a hard habit to break, and I noticed that my weight would go up after a very carb-y day, but it’d typically settle back down around the same weight. I also didn’t stop my early morning workouts because I really like those. They bring me joy. I did and still do give myself very gracious permission to skip them when I’m sick or tired. I didn’t used to do that and very much paid the consequences.

Over time, I’ve noticed that things are bringing me more joy and less anxiety. I’ve also noticed that I don’t think about food half as much as I used to, and my cravings aren’t in the driver’s seat anymore. I’m not going on these shameful “I start/re-start my diet tomorrow” binges like I used to. I actually existed for a few weeks with a package of Oreos in the house without touching them!!! I knew that if I wanted them, I could have them, and I just didn’t want them. I managed to do the same thing with ice cream in my freezer! Previously, a gallon of ice cream hasn’t been able to last in my house more than a couple of days! I also realized that I craved things like salad, eggs, steak, yogurt, potatoes, and fruits. My body was asking me for what it wanted and was readily telling me when it had had enough. I’m so much more in tune with myself and my needs. It turns out I’m not this crazy sugar monster that the Whole30 ladies were telling me I was. I’m just a regular human who has physical and emotional needs and I’m allowed to meet those needs. I just needed to really let myself know that I would meet them.

And because I’m not following all of these teeny tiny little women, I don’t feel absolutely distraught pulling on jeans that fit me. Sometimes I still feel a little disappointed when my “skinny” jeans don’t fit or when my waistband pinches, but I try to gently remind myself that I can just change. It’s okay to be comfortable. I still backslide into old thought and behavior patterns, but I know how to correct.

For the first time in my life, I feel very in control. And that really started with just letting go of control.

I noticed something huge this morning: I was nice to myself.

I’ve noticed that I’m starting to fit back into some old clothes that I kept. That hasn’t been my primary goal, but today all of my regular leggings were dirty, so I pulled out an old pair. I felt a little apprehensive at first. I vividly remembered how they started to feel when I abruptly gained weight and I remembered how much that made me cry. I pulled them on just to see if I could comfortably wear them for my errands, and they fit!!! I did have a sweet little muffin top that certainly hadn’t existed before, but they were downright comfortable. So, I tossed on a t-shirt and sweater. And as I made my bed I said this to myself: “I’m really proud of where you are. I’m really proud of how you’ve continued working out even when you didn’t see the results you wanted to see. I’m proud of how you learned to appreciate the good that was happening even if it wasn’t visible. You’re a good person.”

And sadly, I was a little taken aback by how nice and genuine that was. I typically don’t speak kindness to myself without some mental coaching, but this was totally unprompted and not even about the leggings or appearance. Normally, I would have harped on the muffin top and beat myself up for skipping the gym for sleep this morning. But I didn’t even think about that stuff. I just thought nice things about myself.

It was a welcome change that I hope to continue into 2020 and that I hope to encourage in others. ❤