Growing up, I'd hear my mom counting calories under her breath at every mean. I was too young to realize what she was actually doing, but as I got older I understood: She was counting calories to stay slim. And while that approach to food did help her keep weight off, boy did it mess me up.
As I matured, grew into my body and found myself the owner of feminine curves, I became increasing uncomfortable in my skin to the point where I too started counting calories. And from what I understood at the time, less was more. Inevitably, this led to skipping meals, becoming too hungry and eventually binging.
Soon enough my relationship with food, my body and myself become dysfunctional.
Overtime, however, as I shifted away from counting calories toward healing my relationship with food, I discovered three key things that diets just don't teach you. For me, these teachings were fundamental in finally being at peace with food, my body and myself, and I hope these teachings can offer you some peace as well in your own personal journey.
1. Honor your hunger and fullness.
Traditional diets teach us that our bodies don't know best, that we shouldn't trust our own physical beings. Instead, they instruct us to count calories, measure and weigh foods, or completely avoid certain food groups altogether. These rules and restrictions are so far off from what's natural, though. Think about how a child eats. It's pretty simple: when they're hungry, they eat and when they're full, they stop. The end.
If you take a few deep breaths, connect with the here and now, and truly tune in to your body during a meal, you'll align with your hunger and fullness cues, no doubt. Make it a mantra to honor your hunger and fullness (at every meal) and watch what happens.
2. Appreciate your body and what it does for you.
Never once in all of my dieting days did I offer a word of appreciation for my body or how my body allowed me to live my life. The thought didn't even cross my mind. But once it did, it was as if my entire world changed. It was then and only then that my relationship with food, myself and my body totally transformed. I was finally free.
The things is, when you can cultivate this sense of appreciation for what your body allows you to do, you no longer want to keep punishing it with restrictions, binges or exercise you hate. Instead, you want to nourish your body with healthy foods, enjoy the experience of eating and move your body in ways you love because it connects your soul to your physical being on an entirely new level with feelings of peace, empowerment and love.
Just for a moment, each and every day, write down one thing you appreciate about your body. Just bullet point it for 30 days straight and watch what happens. In the words of Louise Hay, "You've been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn't worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens."
3. "The outside" doesn't complete you.
Diets, or really, the entire weight loss industry, is built upon the idea that "when you lose weight, you'll be happy," or "when I'm my ideal size, my life will be better." But this kind of thinking prevents us from being happy now. And for most, it delays us from doing the things that would make us feel better (and healthier) because we think we don't deserve it. And then what do we do to feel better? Usually, we eat to numb the pain.
It's one big vicious circle.
But what if you started doing things now that would make you feel good, happy and healthy? Things that you've been waiting to do until you're that perfect size, like shop for clothes or sign up for a dating service or go to the gym or join a club?
If you started doing these things now, regardless of your weight, you would feel better. More confident. More empowered. Full of more self-worth. And when we have these feelings of more, we choose actions that are kinder and more compassionate toward ourselves, including choosing healthier foods.
It's in practicing self-kindness and acceptance that we feel complete and whole — not when we're at a certain size. You can find your happy NOW and in doing so, you'll get healthier not just in your body, but in mind, spirit and soul.