Monthly Archives: July 2017

What to Expect When You Stop Dieting

When nothing is off limits to your diet anymore, sometimes you don’t have a clue what you want to eat anymore!

What can I expect when I stop dieting once and for all? How is life different when you don’t diet?

Humans love to collect evidence and data to help influence their decisions, it helps us to feel confident that we’re making the right decision. We read reviews before making a big purchase, we research a company before accepting a new job offer from them, we ask friends for recommendations when planning a vacation somewhere we’ve never been. Sure, some of us like to jump off willy nilly and be spontaneous when trying new things, but for sure, more of us, like to have as much info a possible! So, for you, my friend, who is currently googling how to stop dieting or what to expect when you go off a diet, this post is for you.

There are a lot of things that happen when you stop dieting and these are just a few of the things you can expect:

  • Expect people to ask you lots of questions about what you are eating or not eating.

    When you’ve been dieting for years or eating a certain “way” (i.e. dairy free, vegan, paleo, “clean” etc) people come to expect certain behaviors of you. Especially if you were someone who was very vocal about what you were or weren’t eating, or even if you weren’t vocal,  if you were someone who ate very differently from everyone around you, people noticed. People are going to notice changes from what you do normally, even if you don’t want them to. A lot of folks think when they make an eating change it’s something that they will do forever and is permanent, but people change their minds and what foods work best for our bodies change over time too. It’s okay to do things differently. Be prepared for lots of questions and decide ahead of time if you are interested in sharing about your journey.  If you aren’t comfortable discussing the reasons you are eating the way that you are (there are many reasons people don’t want to discuss their eating habits), all you have to do is say “I don’t feel like discussing my eating choices. Thanks for respecting that.” or something like it!  You are not obligated to talk about this stuff to anyone you don’t want to, but just know that if you were chatty about it before, people may not “get” that it’s not something you want to discuss now and you may have to repeat yourself a couple of times before people “hear” you.

  • Know that these questions aren’t usually a judgement about you or your choices,

    people are just very curious about how others eat. They’re often looking to understand the reasons behind a change. Frequently we think that other people must have more information or knowledge about something than we do, especially in this day and age of health information overload so to see someone who others assume is very knowledgeable about food and health eat foods that may have been off limits for years is a big surprise and they’re just trying to make sense of it.

  • Know that you might gain weight. Or you might lose weight. Or your weight may stay the exact same.

    I think this is the thing that freaks people out the most when they stop counting calories or start eating foods that they haven’t allowed themselves to have for a decade. If they had to do x, y and z to maintain or lose weight before, won’t not doing those things automatically lead to weight gain? That’s not something anyone can have the answer for ahead of time. Everyone is different. Most often I see people gain weight initially as they start allowing themselves to explore foods they haven’t had in years and as they try to understand their own hunger and fullness signals. Some of those folks do lose that weight naturally over time, but there is no guarantee and it’s not helpful for us to hold onto that goal as we try to get back to eating the way our bodies would prefer us to eat. The best thing you can do when you decide to stop dieting is to allow your body to do what it needs to do as you start to experience food in a more intuitive way (letting go of the desire to lose weight or control your weight is too big a topic for me to cover in this post). Listen to your body and see what you can learn from it (and try not to judge the changes that may happen during this time period).

  • You may realize you don’t even like some of the foods you thought you liked.

    How many of us convince ourselves that we like rice cakes instead of bread or crackers? How many of us still buy rice cakes after we stop dieting? A lot! Rice cakes are such a common “diet” food that entire generations of women buy them even when they’re not dieting just because we’re so used to that kind of food. But when no food is off limits and there aren’t strict rules to follow around food, you start to notice some of the weird diet habits you have and will have to decide if that’s something you want to keep. Rice cakes are just one example but there are tons of other foods that we start eating because of a belief that they are “healthier” or because they are low calorie, but when it comes down to it, we really don’t enjoy eating them and they’re not adding anything nutritionally to our diet. On the other end of the spectrum, last weekend, I ordered a jelly donut for the first time in years while grabbing a coffee at a drive thru. I was really excited to eat that donut as I thought about what it was going to taste like but in reality, the texture was denser than I was expecting and the filling and dough itself tasted almost salty to me. It was not good and I didn’t even finish it. I make a lot of food from scratch and have for many years (including my desserts) so when I eat something heavily and cheaply processed (like from a donut chain) my taste buds say “NO F-ing WAY”. Not dieting means every food will feel and taste differently than you remember it!

  • You’re going to unfollow and unfriend lots of people on social media.

    The “hide” button on facebook has become my favorite thing these days. The amount of people trying to sell weight loss as the cure for all your problems seems enormous when you stop dieting. And suddenly your whole social media newsfeed is full of smoothie bowls, juice cleanses and powdered shake before and after photos and ug, I just don’t care anymore – it’s all so stupid.  You start to notice how often people say terrible things about their bodies (I’ve been no stranger to this myself – always working on it), how often they say terrible things about other people’s bodies and how much energy, effort and money goes into attempting to achieve a particular body type. It’s all you can see sometimes. Use that unfollow or hide button and start clicking away more on the profiles and people who post the things that matter to you more. Cultivate a social media feed that is more of what you want to see.

  • You may feel like you have a never ending hunger and want to eat all the things.

    Relax! This usually goes away as your brain starts to get the message that there isn’t a famine going on anymore. Allow yourself to eat as much as you need and want. I know that feels terrifying after coming off of a diet but it’s also what your body has been programmed to do. It wants to make sure you get what you need so it will increase the hormone ghrelin so that you feel hungry. Eat. Let your body know that you will satisfy your hunger. Don’t restrict. Don’t try to go hungry (you’ll just keep your body in a bit of panic about getting enough food). Trust your body, fuel it, feed it and listen to what it tells you.

  • You may experience some digestive discomfort (like bloating and gas)

    as you introduce foods you haven’t had in years or eat a larger quantity than you are used to. Drink extra water, make sure you get some physical activity (walking is great for digestion) and chew well. Some of this is just your body trying to break down different or a higher quantity of food which can be a little taxing on your system (taking a digestive enzyme at mealtimes can help temporarily). It’s no big deal. If it keeps up over time, pay it a little more attention. Is it a particular food or food group that is causing you trouble? Is it when you eat it a certain way (for example, raw vs cooked vegetables or fried vs. baked chicken)? Note what might be causing it and decide if the discomfort you feel is worth the enjoyment and experience of eating the food. For some of us, if we feel terrible after eating something it’s enough to say, ug, I don’t want that anymore. For others it’s not enough, and it’s up to you to decide what you are willing to deal with. Here’s an example from my own life:  Eating dairy daily triggers my asthma really badly. I no longer eat it daily . . .but eating ice cream once in awhile is totally ok . . .I have weighed the repercussions of eating it and I’m willing to live with the discomfort that comes with occasional enjoyment because butter crunch and black raspberry are worth it.

  • You’ll start to feel like you don’t know what you want to eat.

    Previously, in a lifetime of dieting, there were always foods that you wished you could have or were waiting for a “cheat meal” to enjoy your favorite foods. But now that you will allow yourself whatever you truly want, when you want, after you’ve satisfied that for a while, you’ll find that meal time comes and you often have no clue what you feel like eating. Haha! Nothing will really appeal and ordering off a menu or making a meal plan for home will feel extra arduous. Just go with it, it will pass, like everything else!

  • You may feel a little bit alone.

    When you aren’t dieting, you start to notice that every woman around you at any given time is doing at least one of the following:  A) Dieting, B) Doing a LIfestyle Change (like Whole30), C) On a Cleanse/Detox, D) is eating “Clean” or E) Doing some sort of 30 day fitness challenge. No judgements from me on what other people decide to do (I’ve been everywhere in my eating journey over the years), but when you’ve decide to try to find freedom with food and for you that means no more diets or rules, then all of a sudden having lunch with your coworkers who want to spend the whole time discussing what they AREN’T eating anymore can feel a bit distressing. When you get together with your girlfriends, it can feel like they’re bonding over something they all have in common while you sit there in silence, no longer willing to participate in that kind of conversation. It’s challenging. You’ll feel like you’re sticking out like a sore thumb, because everyone else is doing it but you. But that’s ok! Find a way to change the conversation to something more helpful, interesting and positive if you can. Ask people about their families, about the music they like to listen to, if they’ve got any fun upcoming travel plans, or if they believe in past lives. Ask questions that have nothing to do with health, food or fitness (even though we all currently LOVE to talk about that stuff). A year from now no one will remember what diet details someone shared at lunch but they will remember the engaging and interesting person who asked them lots of questions about their life. You’ll make new relationships and find people who also are on the same path with you this way.

Okay, there are certainly way more things that will happen when you stop dieting than just these but for the sake of brevity I’m going to stop it there today! Some of these things may sound like negatives at first, but I think if you stay firm in your desire not to diet anymore and really tune in to trusting yourself and your body to lead you, you will find that it’s actually a much better place to be. You’ll start to see that not focusing on how food affects your weight so much actually allows you to experience and enjoy life more fully, and isn’t that what it’s really about anyhow?? I think so!

I’d love to hear from you. Is there anything on this list that you’ve experienced since you stopped dieting? And is there anything about quitting dieting that I haven’t mentioned here that was surprising for you? Share below or contact me directly!

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If I Don’t Congratulate You When You Tell Me You’ve Lost Weight Here’s Why

This cat doesn’t have anything to do with this post but it’s cute face got me thinking: do you think cats congratulate each other about their changing body sizes? Do they notice when one of their litter mates has put on a few ounces? I doubt it.

A Reputation for Knowing all things Weight Loss

 

Long before I became a health coach I had a reputation for being knowledgeable about weight loss, for being well versed in healthy or lower calorie eating, and for knowing all the ins and outs of dieting and lifestyle change.

I had lost large amounts of weight several times in my life and people who knew me “before” and saw me now, began to seek me out for help with their challenges in losing weight. I had a food blog that was dedicated to turning my favorite comfort foods into lighter and “healthier” versions as I learned how to cook for the first time. I made internet friends on diet tracking sites who turned into real life friends. I lived, breathed, read and consumed all things health and fitness.

And even when I gained a lot of weight back (again, several times), people still asked how I had done it, the weight loss that is. What did I eat? How much did I exercise? How did I stay on track? I had all the answers, or at least I thought my answers were helpful, and I was more than willing to share them. I became obsessed with the subject.

I was always interested in talking about bodies. What I didn’t like about mine, what was ok about mine, what I wish was different, how bummed I was that I had gained weight back, or how I still felt fat despite being the smallest I had ever been in my adult life. I felt closer to friends and family when we commiserated about our shared body, weight or food struggles. My interest and the ability to bond with others on the same journey is certainly a big reason why I ended up taking steps to become a health coach.

The majority of conversations I’ve had during my life have had at least one or two references to diets, unhappiness with our bodies, gaining weight, weight loss etc. sprinkled in, regardless of the subject. I was a super willing participant and often I was the one leading these kind of conversations! And it wasn’t all that long ago that there was still a part of me who thought that reaching and maintaining a certain number on the scale was going to bring me the happiness, acceptance and health security that I was after.

 

How Confusing it is to Navigate an Appropriate Response When You are OVER Weight Loss

 

I am so over it. Weight loss isn’t necessary for a happy life or a healthy one for that matter.

I’ve been “over it” for a while but have been trying to gracefully navigate my current feelings about it and my super ingrained normal response to this stuff.

It’s not going as gracefully as I’d like.

So if you tell me about you weight loss and you don’t get a “Wow! Congrats!” from me, I want to share where that’s coming from.

My current feelings are that I’m no longer interested in discussing or living a weight loss motivated lifestyle. I’m no longer taking on clients who are specifically looking for weight loss (which reminds me, I have a lot of old blog posts that I need to edit that say otherwise!). And I believe that keeping so much of our conversations on weight loss and dieting is harmful, especially the way we treat it like the cure for all health concerns.

If health is important to us, we should focus on eating a well varied diet, getting regular activity, managing stress in effective ways, strengthening social relationships that are important to us, developing a spiritual or creative practices that renews us and finding meaningful work or hobbies that bring us life satisfaction. In this way, you can be any size and be healthy (if that is your goal).

My normal (“super ingrained” as I said earlier) response when people talk about weight and dieting has been one that feels almost automatic because of my long history of being immersed in this stuff.  In social situations I might join in or laugh at jokes about weight that I don’t actually think are funny anymore, nodding my head in agreement when someone makes a comment about wanting pizza but they can’t because they’re on a diet, or congratulating people when they share their weight loss success. It’s easier to participate in the way I’ve always known how and go through the motions, even when I am cringing inside at my own response.

I know better! Why can’t I just not laugh when someone makes a self-deprecating joke about their body? Why can’t I walk away from the conversation when it turns to weight loss? Why can’t I just tell people how I feel and why talking about this stuff all the time is a problem?

It’s not that easy. For starters, in our culture, it’s the NORM to be participating and living a lifestyle of always wanting to be in a smaller body. I’ve been living in that culture (and full on participating) for over 35 years. Some responses are learned over time. Another reason is that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that disrupting people’s beliefs in most social situations does not go over well. It either causes an argument, makes someone feel badly, or will make you seem totally out of touch with the group. And since connection is an important part of human needs, I’m interested in fostering connection, not preventing it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been one to speak up when it comes to doing the right thing or when something is important (and I don’t intend to stop that) but when it comes to something as personal as body image, weight and food beliefs, I prefer to handle that on a one by one, case by case basis. I’m not going to launch into a diatribe in a group about how diet culture has brainwashed you into thinking your body isn’t already bikini-worthy. You have to know your audience. Everyone is on a different journey and people know what I do for work now – when they’re ready to walk away from that stuff, they know where to find me. I don’t need to preach about it in socially.

One area I have gotten much better in is in not making jokes about my own body. If you’ve read my stuff over the years, you may remember this post. It’s taken a lot of self awareness (some might say I’m overly self-aware, but it comes with this territory) but I feel I’ve reduced the jokes at my own body’s expense by at least 75% of where they used to be. That is no small feat and feels really good. But changes to conversation like that, and in working to be more true to my current feelings about weight and body image mean that I find myself more silent in social situations than I used to.

For awhile I was chalking it up to working from home (a major blessing that I’m thankful for but also one that has taken any social awkwardness I had and multiplied it by 5) but I think a lot of it is just that so much of conversations with women seem to be about hating our bodies or wanting to reduce our size and I just don’t want to take part in it.

I think there’s so much more to us than our size or shape and I’m working to break down my own biases about weight and fat bodies (that I have carried my whole life). I personally care about living an active lifestyle and eat a variety of types of food but I don’t think I’m a better person for doing that. And I don’t value you less or more based on your interest, willingness or success in doing that too. I want other women (and men and children too) to feel that they matter for who they are, not for what they look like. I want the conversation to be about all the other interesting things we have going on in our lives, all the things we are challenged by, looking forward to or geeking out on. I want body fat to go back to being a part of our bodies that protect and insulates us, not something that we need to feel ashamed about.

So it’s for all these reasons that I’ve gotten a little more quiet when it comes to congratulations and participation in normal diet and weight related stuff and I guess I’ve been feeling the need to explain myself (blogs are great for working through that!).

 

I Swear I’m not Trying to Be a Rude, Disinterested B*tch (and what I’m working on right now)

 

If you tell me about your weight loss success, your newest diet and the new size you are fitting into and I don’t say anything about it, please know I’m not trying to be rude, it’s just that I want you to know that your weight doesn’t matter to me. You matter to me. By saying “Congrats” I would be reinforcing the idea that weight loss is something worth congratulating and I no longer believe it is. It might be the right thing for you and I know there were too many times in my life when I felt it was the right thing for me. I don’t want to praise weight loss anymore. It is not the life-fixer we think it is and it’s not indicative of our health or value.

That’s all. That’s where I’m at. My response has nothing to do with my feeling about you or my desire to see you happy.

So just to share, here are a few things I’m personally working on as I continue to navigate this new (and somewhat lonely) place:

  • When giving compliments, I’m trying to come up with something that doesn’t have anything to do with weight loss or physical looks. This is harder than you think when all the compliments you’ve received or given your whole life have been in those categories!
  • Remembering to just say “Oh” or “How do you feel?” when people look for praise or feedback about their weight loss or diets. It’s not the response they are looking for but it’s one I can give without feeling like I’m encouraging a focus on weight.
  • Being forgiving to myself when I do fall back into old ways of responding and interacting because of a situation that is familiar (i.e. conversations about diets or weight loss). I’m human and it’s taken me this long to get here, it’s going to take a bit longer before I iron out these conditioned bumps!

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading and trying to understand my perspective as it continues to change! I’m still coaching women whose goals are not weight loss. Instead it’s better health through lifestyle changes (that may or may not affect their weight ever) and focusing on taking radically good self care of ourselves. My coaching programs teach women how to step away from dieting, understand and manage emotional eating and treat their bodies with the respect it deserves (and weight loss doesn’t need to be a part of that).

How do you feel about this subject? Do you feel weight loss is something we should applaud in our society? Do you think a lower weight automatically means a healthier person? Are you fed up with diet and body talk and food fears in your own social circles? What do you think makes a person healthy? And do you believe that we can see if someone is healthy by what they look like?