Category Archives: body image

What Does it Mean to Have Food Freedom?

I want it all and on my terms.

There have been many years where the way I ate was most definitely a “diet”. My goal being to make my body smaller and lighter through food restriction.

Then there were several years where the way I was eating was still restrictive in a lot of ways even if weight loss was just a backup singer to the lead vocalist in the band of “health”. Sometimes I restricted that quantity of food I ate, sometimes it was the calories. Sometimes entire food groups, no dairy, no wheat, lower carb, no animal products, no processed food etc.

During these times, I referred to my way of eating not as a diet, but as a “lifestyle”. The goal of the “lifestyle” was to feel good, and to maintain and “insure” my health, but if my “lifestyle” way of eating was a TV show, there would definitely be some closed captions in parenthesis behind me, whispering shadily that my goal was still to become a smaller person. Make no mistake, the word lifestyle is a both a great way and a terrible way to describe eating like this. On one hand  it has to be a lifestyle in order for anyone to be able to eat that way. You have to have a certain amount of money, time and willingness to prepare food with both strange and time consuming ingredients. Your life has to take on a “lifestyle” where food becomes the most important thing . . . because if you live this way you won’t have time or room for anything else. But on the other hand, a food “lifestyle” is just another word for a diet. It is still restriction with a more appealing name.

Somewhere beyond that is where I am right now.

I’ve been playing with a lot of ideas, a lot of foods and really analyzing what I want my relationship with food to look like.

3 and a half years of coaching women on their relationship with food and I decided that I don’t want dieting, “lifestyle” diets and moral judgements around food to be included in my own.

I want freedom with food. I want ease and I want time and energy available to do other things.

Having food freedom means having more freedom in my life in general.

You may have heard me toss around the term “food freedom” or having “freedom with food” a few times over the last year or so.

But what am I really talking about? I know it’s confusing, especially if you’ve followed me from the beginning. My stance has evolved quite a bit since I started coaching. It is still and always will be evolving. What works for me one month may not be true three month from now. And because of that recognition I have really moved away from giving specific food related advice here anymore. I really believe you have to make these decisions for yourself and that no one can know what makes the most sense for you, but you. It should go without saying that f you have certain health conditions that require abstaining from certain foods, like celiac disease or monitoring your intake of certain macronutrients, like diabetes, that may be a different story.

So in case your food story is also evolving and you too want to leave dieting, lifestyle diets and food morality behind, let’s talk about what I mean by food freedom.

Food freedom is:

  • eating what I want, when I want. Sometimes it’s a burger and fries, and sometimes it’s fresh vegetables.
  • making my own decisions about what foods are good for my body instead of changing my mind every time a new half-assed food study comes out
  • being able to walk into any restaurant and find something to eat
  • being able to eat food that isn’t “healthy” and be completely fine with that
  • not feeling virtuous for ordering the fish or for eating light if I don’t have a big appetite.
  • not letting other people’s decisions about food affect my own needs and choices (this one takes some time/work)
  • not feeling like I have to explain or defend my food choices to anyone
  • not being worried about what other people think about what I’m eating or not eating.
  • trusting my body to tell me when I’ve had enough
  • deciding that it’s ok to have ice cream for dinner because that’s what I want
  • realizing that there are some foods that I don’t want to start eating again, because on revisiting them, they still make me feel like poop
  • being able to skip a meal because I’m just not hungry
  • eating after 8pm because I am hungry
  • trying new foods, prepared in a variety of ways, without needing to know the nutrition facts for the item first
  • not hesitating to order the thing I never “let” myself order when I was dieting (if it’s what I want)
  • choosing for myself whether to eat the same amount of meals each day or to eat whenever I want to
  • making only one rule around food and that is: I get to eat and not eat whatever the fuck I want
  • accepting that my body shape or size may fluctuate throughout the year (and keeping some flexible clothing sizes on hand so that I can feel my best whether my body size goes up or down
  • not making myself sick by worrying about what to make for dinner. One meal or 5 meals doesn’t make a big deal in the scheme of things.
  • buying a box of cap’n crunch because I haven’t had it since I was little and I want to feel that delicious crunch on the roof of my mouth. And then eating it whenever I feel like eating it
  • deciding that there is more to a healthy person than rigorously controlling one’s food intake within an inch of their life
  • is being able to say yes to something as simple as ordering pizza or having a beer without having to weigh the pros and cons of it
  • is revelling in and also not caring at all about food at different times

This is what I want from my relationship with food, and this is how I’m trying to live my life right now.

It feels less tiring.

It’s certainly a lot less work to go out to eat or to plan meals or to make food each week.

I still eat a wide variety of foods and I do have a preference for the types of foods that make me feel energized and comfortable most of the time (which often are traditionally “healthy” things) but nothing is off the table anymore at anytime.

“Food freedom” for me also feels more like “normal” eating for my husband. I don’t think I ever realized how my stuff around food affected him as much as it does. Even though I was always willing to buy or make whatever he asked for regardless of what food restrictions I was currently consumed by, he usually went along with it (because this girl is a decent cook and he’s easy going) but he told me a few months ago how awesome it is that he can say “hey can we have nachos for dinner?” and have me just say yes without even thinking about it or he can suggest some hole in the wall restaurant without me having a melt down about it not having the right kind of food on the menu. It makes me sad that I didn’t even realize that my issues with food made things not “normal” for him too.

I’ve put on a little weight during all this food freedom (to be expected when you stop restricting whole food groups) but I don’t really care. In a lot of ways, I feel lighter. I feel emotionally lighter for sure but even my body feels less burdened by the weight of carrying so many rules about food in it. And honestly, that is probably the best part of finding food freedom.

What does food freedom mean to you? Do you already feel that you have freedom with food or is this an area that you would like to work on yourself? I’d love to help you take steps towards finding your own version of food freedom when you are ready.

 

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The Myth of The Girl in The Body from Your Past

I want to ask you to question the validity of the stories and myths you tell yourself about your past.

When we’re going through a tough time, we have a tendency to look at our past and see just the pretty parts. We also tend to alter or mythicize the truth in order to make sense of where we are now.

It’s a common theme in our lives.

This happens when we are in a job that isn’t a good fit for us. A previous job that was stressful and draining and all consuming starts to be remembered in a much fonder way.

We’ll find ourselves doing this when we’re single and missing some of the benefits that come with a romantic relationship. We suddenly remember an old boyfriend as being more handsome, more interesting and kind than he was in reality. (He was a dirtbag and you still don’t need him, I promise.)

It’s not hard to find more examples of this in every area of our life. When we’re bored or stressed about the responsibilities of raising families, keeping a home and paying ever mounting bills, we think about how carefree we were in our early 20’s. We conveniently forget that we didn’t have health insurance, our car starting was a daily gamble, and our diet consisted of ramen noodles and frozen burritos (that might be a year old) because we often didn’t have any money for food after paying our bills. It was stressful and awful in a different way but we forget that.

We remember eating better (we ate terribly). We slept better (we hardly slept). We had more energy (we napped all the time). We were more fun (we were just as anxious as we are now). We were more outgoing (No, there were just more opportunities to socialize). More interesting (we just liked to hear ourselves talk about everything we were learning).

The list goes on and on.

The way we remember things and the way we view ourselves isn’t always accurate. We glamorize and mythicize to suit a “need”. The thought is that if we can make ourselves feel that the past was better, maybe we’ll be motivated to make changes or take action to change now.

The most common example I see is in glorifying the myth of the girl in the body from our past. Most commonly the smaller body from our past.

You may believe this myth yourself when thinking of your younger days. Or you may have even seen it shared publicly from someone else, as we tend to do things since the advent of social media! Usually it comes in a “I miss this girl” kind of post on social media. Sometimes it comes in the form of a before / current photo and talk of starting their journey back to their pre-x, y or z weight. (complete with a photo of them drinking an expensive powdered shake in a plastic container of course).

You know exactly what I’m talking about.

Someone posts a photo of themselves in their younger thinner years, usually in a bikini, short shorts, or other various states of light clothing wearing.

It’s always the same.

They’re young. They’re pretty. And they are in a smaller, seemingly imperfection-free body.

They express a desire to get back “there”. (We do this in our heads too – social media isn’t necessary for this kind of myth perpetuation)

The woman they are today (and that most of us are today) has probably been through a lot and on the way, her body has changed. She’s gained some weight, maybe she has stretch marks and cellulite. Maybe she has wrinkles or gray hairs. She may have dealt with some health issues. Her physical body is overflowing with the marks of time and life.

When I see these photos like this or hear statements of “I miss this girl” and “I was so much better then” it makes me so very sad.

First, because in hindsight, we see the younger, thinner version of ourselves as being free from worry, free from problems, and having the body that we would desire to have now. It must have been so fun to have that body then, right? We must have appreciated it and loved it and treated it with respect and great care.

HAHA!

The sad thing is that we didn’t appreciate it. We didn’t love it. We didn’t respect it.

Those of us who are reeling from our current bodies are partly in the place we are in because we treated our younger bodies abysmally.

Raise your hand if you started dieting as a pre-teen and your entire teenage years were consumed with thoughts of needing to stay small or lose a few pounds so you’d be as small or smaller than your friends.

Raise your hand if your norm in those smaller bodied days was to go as many hours as your could between meals and to eat as little as possible at each meal, filling up on rice cakes, fat free cottage cheese and cucumber slices or anything else that your teen magazines told you were low-cal.

Raise your hand if you remember the hours you spent in tears because the boy you liked didn’t like you back and you attributed it to your thighs (and how large you thought they were).

Raise your hand if you started smoking to reduce your appetite, started drinking coffee to lose weight (you didn’t need to lose in the first place) and bought jeans a size smaller than you wear so that you would be too uncomfortable to eat.

Raise your hand if most of your actual memories of those years are not of all the fun ways you lived in and enjoyed your body but instead are flashes and pieces of hunger, thoughts about food or feeling badly about your body for various reasons.

We don’t usually land in our today bodies accidentally.

When we spend time fantasizing about the girl in the body from our past, we are indulging in a myth. When we say “I miss that girl” in our thinner and younger photos, what we are really saying is:

I miss feeling in control of my life and my body.

I feel invisible and too visible at the same time.

I want to feel beautiful, powerful and carefree.

I want to feel confident and happy.

That girl you were wasn’t necessarily any of those things just because the you of today thinks her old body was better. If we’re unhappy now, we tend to look at our past selves with rose colored lenses.

Please, don’t make the mistake of glamorizing the past in favor of crapping on your now.

The body you had when you were 16 or 20 was probably treated often with the same disgust and disdain that at times, you have treated your body of today with. That body didn’t bring you joy and you didn’t feel half as confident as the you of today thinks you were.

The problems you see with your body today were likely the same things that bothered you then (even if there is or isn’t a discernible size difference between the two). And these things will always be a problem as long as you believe they are a problem, no matter what diet or workout routine you take on.

The best thing you can do for the you of yesterday and the you of today is to not wish to be someone from another place in time. Instead start practicing love, respect and appreciation (or at least just acceptance) of the body you have right now.

Don’t sugar coat or gloss over your past. Don’t pretend things were perfect. All that does is set you up for failure. If things weren’t perfect then and you weren’t happy and confident then (before bills, before kids, before work, before LIFE), then how in the world do you have a chance of achieving happiness, confidence and perfection now??? The answer is you don’t. So don’t hold yourself to an impossible and imaginary standard.

If you want to radiate the confidence and beauty you think your younger self is the epitome of in old photos, you don’t get there by making yourself feel bad for where you are today.

You get there by practicing kindness to yourself, always, by caring for your body physically in ways that make you feel good (move your body joyfully, feed both it’s needs and wants) and by removing the pressure on yourself to look a specific way.

You live your life in the present moment.

If the girl you were in your high school days could speak to you today, do you know what she would say?

She’d tell you that she’s always loved you, she just didn’t know how to show you that. She wishes she had spent less time focused on staying thin and being pretty and more time enjoying the freedom those younger years usually bring.

She wishes she had eaten to fullness, laughed with her friends, gone out for ice cream regularly and never started to smoke in the first place.

She wishes that you appreciated all that your body still has to offer you now, exactly as it is and before it’s too late.

She hopes you will stop wishing and missing the girl you were and start paying attention to the woman you are and can still be.

She hopes you raise your own daughters to love, respect, appreciate and accept their bodies for enabling them to breathe, love, create, dance, run, climb, laugh and live. She doesn’t want you to miss the girl right in front of you, right now.

Go out and love and appreciate her.

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!

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?

3 Things to Stop Doing Right Now if You Want Body Acceptance

3 Things You Have to Stop doing if you want Body Acceptance (body checking in the mirror is one of them).

If you’re like most women, you want to feel good in your body more than anything else.

In fact, your desire to feel comfortable in your skin is so strong that you have spent hours upon hours (in all honesty, years!) trying to get your body to cooperate. Countless hours at the gym, endless meal planning and too many grumbles of hunger in your belly to count. The amount of effort you’ve put in to get your dream body should have been enough to get you what you wanted, but it’s not.

Even if you’ve met and hit your body “goals”, you still seem to find it all too easy to find something else that is wrong with your body. Nothing is good enough. You are not alone in this.

Ultimately we all want body acceptance. We want to wake up in the morning and not have a total meltdown over what we see in the mirror. We don’t want one decadent meal to turn into a shame spiral where we overeat and beat yourself up over it for weeks at a time. But that’s what happens when we spend hours working towards a goal and still not loving what we see in the mirror.

We feel deprived, exhausted and defeated. And then the cycle starts again.

The only way to get out of this crap is to stop working towards an impossible to reach body state. The way to body acceptance (and self acceptance) isn’t through manipulating your body to impossible standards. Body acceptance comes through working on your thoughts and feelings about your body. 

There are few things you have to stop doing if you want to have a chance at getting there, and as long as we go about our day doing these things, we are actively increasing the dissatisfaction we feel about our bodies.

If you really do want body acceptance STOP doing these 3 things:

Comparing yourself to other people

Every body is different. We have different genes, body compositions, health conditions, hormone levels and personal history that contribute to what our body looks like. Even something like the position and length of our bones contributes to our bodies visual features (hence why it’s impossible for many people to ever achieve a thigh gap) or have long legs. Spending even a minute of your day comparing how your body measures up to the bodies of other women will not help you either a) get closer to looking like them or b) make you feel like your body is worthy.

If you want to accept your body, you can’t compare it to anything other than where it is today.

 

Checking out how you look in mirrors and windows at every chance you get.

If you’re looking at yourself in mirrors, windows and other reflections only to see what’s wrong, stop doing it. You will always see something you don’t like if you are looking for it. If you look in the mirror and like what you see, by all means, keep at it (I’m no stranger to the mirror myself!) – but if it’s making you feel shitty . . .then stop doing it. It’s certainly not going to ever help you like what you see. If you have to, cover the mirrors in your house for a period of time.

No amount of shaming or telling yourself something is ugly or needs to be fixed is going to bring you to happiness and acceptance.

If you can’t resist look in the mirror or window, challenge yourself to find something you like or love instead of doing the same old tear down. This is hard at first, but will get easier with practice (just like anything else).

 

Following people on social media who want to sell you a “better” body

If you follow people on social media who are selling weight loss “teas”, waist trainers, plastic wrap you slap on your abdomen or vitamin patches to make you thin . . .unfollow, unlike, click them goodbye as fast as you can. Gross. None of it works and these people know that but they’re making money off of it. They’re getting paid to promote this junk. Don’t be fooled by the way they look. It’s not the product they’re selling that got them that body – They look the way they do due to genetics, intense exercise, plastic surgery, implants, fillers and by taking dozens of photos while contouring their body into strange angles. Oh and let’s not forget the use of PHOTOSHOP and FILTERS. IT’s not real life. And even they don’t actually look the way they do in those photos in person. By following people like this you’re just going to have feelings of not being enough, not looking good enough and wanting what they have (instead of appreciating and accepting what you’ve already got!). For your sanity and happiness, stop following these folks and add people instead who don’t make you feel like something is wrong with you.

There is a huge world of great people out there who are sharing cool things, beautiful words and images of variable bodies, diverse ages, backgrounds, ethnicities etc. When you SEE more images of people who don’t fit in to the cultural standards of beauty (think white, young, thin) a really neat thing happens where you not only start to see beauty in places you hadn’t noticed it before (You had the power all along Dorothy!) but you also start to feel more comfortable and appreciative in your own skin.  And when that happens, lady –  you will be unstoppable!

One great way to find people to follow is to find one body positive person on social media who you respect and like (someone who shares images and articles that make you feel good!) and then check out who they follow – you’ll be bound to find some gems in there! I personally like folks like Jessamyn Stanley , Christy Harrison, Kelsey Miller, Alysse Dalessandro, Melissa Toler, and Summer Innanen for starters (I’m linking to facebook or twitter because that’s where I still spend a lot of my SM time – but you can find most of these folks and more on Instagram too.). Fill your feeds with good quality folks and watch how you feel changes!


Even if right now, accepting your body seems totally impossible, please know that you can get there! I know body acceptance is possible because it’s something you were born with. We are all born accepting our bodies the way the are. We don’t question if we measure up – we don’t have any concept of not feeling enough. That junk is taught to us. Just like you can relearn how to eat according to your hunger and fullness signals, you can also relearn how to accept your incredible body but to make that possible you’re going to have to take an active role in changing how you decide to interact with the world and with yourself.

When you’re ready to start working on this stuff in more depth, let’s talk. I’d love to be of support to you as you move away from diets and shame and instead towards listening to your true hungers and desires.

A Few Things That Are Better than Dieting

Consciously restricting what we eat, for weeks and months (and in some of our cases, years) at a time, sucks.

It sucks so hard but so many of us do it anyways because of the immense pressure in our society to be thin.

If you’ve never dieted, you might wonder what the big deal is, so for those of you in that camp, let me illustrate to you what being on a diet is like.

We go hungry. All the time. Constantly having to remind ourselves of our “goal” so that we don’t eat. We spend hours looking for ways to suppress normal biological hunger with “skinny” versions of our favorite foods, lots of lettuce, water and food that is reminiscent of cardboard filled air. We dream about getting to eat real food and actually satisfy our appetites. Even when we’re eating, we’re counting down the minutes until we can eat again because we know that whatever we are eating isn’t going to cut it.

We beat ourselves up when we eat more calories than we “should” even if we’re eating because we’re are so hungry we can’t think. We have a massive list of shoulds that we expect ourselves to conform to and we can never meet all of them on the same day. So we shame, berate and use sheer will to get ourselves in line.

We put what little energy we have left into punishing exercise (have to burn off what we eat!) and anything that’s left gets put into wishing we had more willpower and creating pinterest pins of impossible to achieve body standards in the hope that they will help motivate us to ignore our growling stomach for just a few more hours, every day, every week. All of this helps us end the day feeling completely spent with not much to show for it, only to have to get up the next day and go through these same motions again. And again and again until we meet our goal (which is often a moving target).

You don’t have to diet. You might think you have to do it and that it will make you happy but the truth is that you don’t and it won’t. You don’t have to purposely prevent yourself from responding to hunger. If someone prevented a child from eating what their body needed, we would call it abuse, neglect, and go on and on about having basic needs met (because that would be totally messed up). But we don’t think twice about not meeting our own basic needs. We’re different, right? Our needs aren’t as important because we’re bad, we’re out of control and we need to be smaller.

There is so much more to life than size.

I’ve never heard anyone say that they love to diet. I’ve never heard anyone say that they feel amazing being hungry all the time. I’ve never heard someone say that they get more accomplished as a dieter. But I have heard plenty of women talk about the things they were missing out on in their lives because they were too caught up in the details of a food issue. I’ve had plenty of women tell me about all the things they couldn’t be present enough to enjoy because of their obsession with their weight.

It sucks so much.

If you decide that you are done dieting and want to feed your body the way it needs to be fed, once and for all. If you decide that you are worth more than an arbitrary number then you will find that a huge world of amazingness starts to open up for you.

Here are just a few things that are way better than dieting:

  • warm summer sun on your skin
  • a cat purring on your lap
  • a cup of coffee brewed to the exact strength and temperature you like
  • an afternoon (and evening!) spent reading your favorite kind of book
  • a leisurely bike ride through gorgeous countryside
  • clothes you like that fit your actual body
  • having a good hair day
  • hearing someone you love laugh
  • falling asleep in someone’s arms
  • being snowed in with nowhere to go, nothing you have to do and good food and company
  • a big bowl of real ice cream from a farm stand
  • helping someone else (feels even better if they appreciate the help!)
  • getting complimented on something other than for what you look like
  • swimming in warm and clear water somewhere beautiful
  • not having to set an alarm for the next morning
  • watching someone you love graduate, become a parent, get married or start their first job
  • doing those things yourself
  • finally doing something you’ve always wanted to do
  • sharing a meal with people whose company you enjoy
  • looking at old family photos and remembering those days just as vividly
  • eating your fill of your favorite food
  • getting a 90 minute massage (that someone else paid for!)
  • having more than one day off in a row
  • having a little kid reach up to hold your hand
  • hearing a song you love that you haven’t heard in years
  • surprising yourself by being good at something you never thought you would be
  • getting a job or promotion that you really wanted
  • getting asked out by someone who you really dig (or asking them out and having them say yes!)
  • having a belly that is comfortably full of food on the regular
  • having sex with someone you like and respect (and vice versa)
  • having a warm, safe and comfortable place to live
  • feeling like you have everything you need
  • planting something yourself and watching it grow
  • climbing into bed with fresh sheets
  • teaching someone else something that you know
  • falling asleep because someone is playing with your hair
  • watching butterflies dance near you
  • falling in love for the first time
  • falling in love with yourself for the first time
  • mastering a skill or learning something totally new
  • opening a bottle of good wine that you saved for a “special occasion”, just because
  • discovering that there are sports and activities that you actually enjoy
  • being able to pay all your bills paid and still have a little wiggle room for fun
  • visiting a new city and envisioning what it might be like to live there
  • the smell of fresh lemons and limes when you first slice into them
  • witnessing good deeds that have nothing to do with you
  • the feel of freshly washed skin and the smell of freshly washed hair
  • having a well stocked pantry and fridge
  • waking up to a sunny day despite a forecast that called for all day rain
  • having your health
  • a good night’s sleep (no insomnia, no bad dreams, no restlessness!)
  • that first bite of homemade cheesecake. The last bite is pretty good too
  • challenging the beliefs you have about yourself
  • letting some things go
  • loving the body that you have as it is right now

There are a zillion more things that are better than dieting but that’s just a small list to get us started. What are some things that you think are way better than dieting?


Have you gotten my newest free guide You Have What it Takes? If you’re an emotional eater, overeater or longtime dieter who wonders if she has what it takes to change her relationship with food, then this for you. And it’s free. Click on the image below, then enter your name and email and it’s yours!

How to Have a Good Body Day, Every Day

To wear makeup or not wear makeup? Unrealistic and confusing beauty and body messages can make us feel like crap about our bodies. Here are some great ways to have a good body day every day!

One of the things people get completely obsessed with in our culture is the idea of having a “good” body, a “perfect” body or just meeting generic body “goals” criteria. A “good” body for women seems to be defined as one with lower body fat, at least lower body fat everywhere except for our breasts and butt (those need to be plump and round), moderate muscle (but not too much, if you have too much, you’re too “manly”), no stretch marks, stray hairs, dimples or any other imperfections. You can’t have any belly fat and certainly no skin rolls when you sit down.

A “good” body should possess tank top arms, daisy duke worthy thighs, and is synonymous with a “bikini body”. Other physical traits of a person with a “good” body should include a pretty face (but not so pretty that you look like you had work done – that’s too much!), no wrinkles, perfect skin (ew, who do you think you are with those visible pores?!) and they have to be a natural beauty (if it’s obvious that you’re wearing makeup you’re trying too hard and you’re deceiving people). Being ghostly pale is no good but you better not be too tan either. You should look like the girl next door, but also be mysterious and exotic. You need to be all of these things at the same time and you should look as good when you get up in the morning as you do when you go out to the clubs . . .but you better not have to put any effort in to look that way or you are fake AF!

I’m kidding if you can’t tell.

This is the kind of ridiculous stuff that is flung at us day by day.

The way we talk about women’s bodies and beauty ideals is completely unobtainable and trying to achieve it would drive even the most sane person to total insanity. There’s no fucking way any real human can meet all of these criteria (and anyone who can, can’t do so for more than a moment in their whole life). There’s no way you can be subjected to this stuff and not feel completely horrible about your body.

The result of living in a culture that sends out these kind of messages and values this kind of impossible beauty more than almost anything else is that women all over and of all ages wake up every morning and go to bed each night worrying about if they ate too much, if they ate the right things, if they’re working their bodies hard enough, if they should think about starting botox and fillers, if they are using the right skin care products, if they need to think about getting a breast lift or butt implants, if they really do need a nose job and when they’re going to finally achieve that thigh gap. They fear aging more than anything else, because aging takes away what little physical beauty nature gave them in the first place. That shit is cruel.

You need to know that you already have a GOOD body. In fact you have a GREAT body, an incredible, amazing body. We don’t have to go around feeling like our bodies are less than but we need to take a more active role and a different approach to feel this way.

How to Have a Good Body Day, Every Day

If you’re tired of feeling like crap about your body, read on. Here are a few ways that you can actively work to have a good body day every day

 

Clean Up Media Sources that Suck (both social and otherwise)

Check your media sources and scrub them of people and ideologies that aren’t helping. Unfollow people on social media that make you feel like terrible about yourself. This can be people you know who are negative or over sharing details about their diets that you don’t need forced in your face all the time or nonstop unattainable #bodygoals #bodyinspo type of posts – bloggers, recipe mavens, people doing fitness competitions or those promoting detox teas and stuff – if it’s making you feel terrible about your body, you don’t need it in your life.

On the reverse, start adding people who make you feel amazing and who share a message that aligns with the things you believe and the things you WANT to believe about yourself. Add people on social media of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds who live lives you want to emulate and who you also respect.

Toss out and cancel magazine subscriptions to women’s and health magazines that write nonstop articles about how you can drop two dress sizes in 14 days or who only share “skinny recipes”. If you finish reading a magazine and feel like there is something wrong with your body because of the content inside, it’s not helping. Same with TV shows, news stations, podcasts, radio, the websites you’ve been visiting for a decade – try looking at them with new eyes and ask yourself if they are filling your brain with messages that hurt or help you?

The media we consume daily has a huge effect on us and most of us don’t realize it until we start changing the way we interact with it. This will change how you feel about your body in a big way!

 

Dress Your Current Body to Feel Fabulous

The delicious meat of life doesn’t come from how we look or how the people we spend time with look. Even though that’s true, there is no denying that when you feel like you look fabulous, you act and think differently. And when we act and think well of ourselves we take more actions that affect a positive outcome on our lives. That’s why I advocate for dressing yourself and styling yourself in a way that makes you feel amazing, in your current body. Not your future body, not a past body. The body your spirit is inside of right now, at this very moment.

Have at least a few outfits in your closet that you feel fantastic in – and don’t necessarily stick to one size. A lot of women’s bodies fluctuate between a size or two or three and what happens when we get dressed and our clothes don’t fit? We feel like crap and you don’t have to feel that way. I know I tend to be a good 5-10 pounds heavier at the end of winter than I am at the end of summer so my closet (finally!!) reflects that reality and I’m a lot happier now.

High quality clothing can be expensive and we’re all tight on money, that’s for sure, but that’s no excuse to not making this happen. Chic pieces can be found at consignment stores everywhere on the cheap and if you have zero funds to spend, there is always the option of throwing a closet cleaning party with friends (like this Naked Lady Party). The real struggle with dressing the way you want to in the body you are currently in is less about money and more about the time and effort it takes to find stuff that flatters your particular shape and style. That’s where the media cleanse above can come in helpful (add fashion bloggers who have your body shape and style for inspiration) and online shopping can be a godsend of a time saver (compare your current body measurements to each retailer’s size charts ahead of time and order the size that you know will fit your now body, not just because it’s a size you usually wear. And return it if it doesn’t fit or you don’t love it.

And don’t you dare buy clothes for your future body. That body may never be a reality and those clothes will just make you feel terrible each time you check to see if they fit. Buy clothes for your now body and make them good ones!

 

Choose to Talk About Something Else

When we get together with our girlfriends, we talk about everything under the sun, but one subject that always seems to come up is what’s wrong with our bodies or what new thing we’re going to try to change our body this time. Diet talk is huge and even if you’re not on a diet, women want to talk to you about why you’re not on one or how you’re so “lucky” to be able to eat “that way”. It’s so normal we don’t even notice how much of our conversations are around this stuff! I can’t tell you how many women I “bonded” with over the years (before I was in coaching) based on weight loss tips, lighter recipes and fitness challenges and it feels kind of scary to stop talking about that stuff, because suddenly you feel like you don’t fit in. As scary and uncomfortable as it can be to not participate in this kind of talk, it’s absolutely worth doing.

You don’t have to be aggressive and confrontational. You don’t have to make a big deal about it or even say anything if you don’t want to. But if you make the effort to change the conversation or at least not participate, you will have an impact, not just on yourself, but on others too. Eventually people notice that you aren’t talking about your own diet or body unhappiness and they’ll specifically ask your thoughts and you can share your feelings then. If you feel more comfortable talking about this stuff, it’s helpful and usually goes over ok to just say “Hey, do you guys mind if we talk about something else? Diet talk is so boring, isn’t it?” or “Negative body talk just makes me feel worse, how about you? Let’s talk about what we do like about our bodies.”

It is hard to change the conversation but so worth doing.

Remind Yourself of All the Reasons You Have a Good Body Every day

I can list at least a dozen reasons why I have a good body. My body isn’t better than yours or more special than yours, but I take the time to recognize and acknowledge all the ways it does me right on a regular basis. Doing this makes me feel appreciation, love and generosity towards it. It makes me see less of what I don’t like and more of what I do. I have a good body because: I have legs that carry me everywhere I want to go. I have eyes that allow me to read juicy fiction and study old genealogical records. I have lungs that take in breaths while I sleep peacefully and also when I’m running outside. I have a good body that recovers from colds pretty quickly (also one that rarely gets sick). My good body takes the food I eat and digests it so that I have energy to do lots of fun things. My good body is equipped with strong muscles that make me feel like wonder woman every time I bring home groceries and have to lug them up the basement stairs. My body is a good body because it’s mine and it does so much for me.

Can you come up a with a few reasons why your body is a good body right now? It might be hard at first (especially if you’re not used to thinking nice stuff about your body) but with practice it gets much easier.

 

Move Your Body only in Ways That Feel Good

Physical fitness is really important to me. I LOVE feeling strong and capable and regular physical activity helps me do that. I like not getting too tuckered out from regular daily stuff that I have to do. I don’t want to feel winded doing basic tasks. That motivates me to do things that challenge me physically, but it doesn’t mean that I ignore what my body needs and wants. If I hate an activity, I’m not going to be able to do it for long. If an activity causes me regular pain or is total torture to get through, it’s not sustainable. If I dread an exercise, I’m not going to keep doing it. Dread, hate, pain and torture are fast tracks to both permanently avoiding exercise but also feeling bad about your body.

There is an infinite amount of ways we can move our bodies and get the activity we need. Bodies crave movement (even the most sedentary person sometimes gets a feeling of restlessness in their body) and there’s no reason why we have to put our attention on activity that isn’t enjoyable. If you don’t like going to the gym, don’t go to the gym! If you don’t like running, don’t run. If you don’t like zumba, don’t zumba! Try something else! What did you like doing as a child? I spend hours biking around town, rollerskating in my driveway and exploring the swamp in my back yard. As an adult, some of the activities I do include wheels (biking) and being out in nature (hiking, running). I can find some of the “fun” I used to find in movement as a child in the activities I choose as an adult. Don’t settle for what you are doing if you don’t dig it.

A body that enjoys moving is a body that you will appreciate and enjoy more. A body that gets it’s fill of fun activity feels good. Find activities that make you feel good about your body that you will want to continue to do and you’ll find more “good” in your body daily.

So there you go – 5 easy ways to have a good body day every day! This isn’t to make light of the challenges of feeling good in your skin. I know that stuff can be all consuming, but if we don’t feel like we have any power in changing it, where does that leave us? Miserable in the only body we have. My goal is to give you tools and ideas you can use in your own life to feel good about your body and the way you engage with food. Does this help do that? Let me know!


Have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to repair your relationship with food? Download “You Have What it Takes“, my coaching and journaling guide for beginners who want to change their relationship with food. Just click below and enter you email!