All my life I've been on a weight roller coaster. From the time I was 8 years old I was very aware of my body and that its shape and size was bigger than most of my girlfriends' bodies. Combine that heightened body awareness with some questionable "health" advice from adult influencers in my life and you've pretty much got the recipe for a lifelong battle with body image.
Overeating is something I've always struggled with. I can feel when I'm getting full, but the ability to stop then has seemed out of reach for me. I once saw a special on the news about a woman who lost weight by "just stopping when she was full." Seems simple, right? Seems like the most intuitive ability we should all possess, right? Well then what was so wrong with me that I couldn't stop at that point?
Fast-forward to high school and college, where I had some pretty rough patches of disordered eating. I was restricting what I ate to far less than what the World Health Organization recommends for the average adult on a daily basis and thought I was doing it all in the name of "health," or at least that's what I told myself and everyone around me. If you've ever struggled with any type of disordered eating (which almost every woman I've ever met has) then you know what it can do to your relationships, your work life, your creativity, your desire to really live; all of a sudden your No. 1 priority is your weight. And it's often under the guise of trying to "get healthy" or "get in shape," which is what makes it even more difficult to realize there's a deeper issue going on.
Once I finished college I was very aware that my relationship with food and my body was not healthy and was trying very hard to remedy that. Instead of counting calories to stay under a maximum number, I was now counting calories to make sure I was eating enough so that people would stop asking me if I was OK. But that, too, became another strange, obsessive version of a diet.
What I'm getting at here is that dieting (counting, weighing, portion controlling, restricting, etc.) does no good for anyone. This might sound like a stretch, but there is no solid evidence at this point in time that proves dieting creates long-term health or weight loss. In fact, most of the research out there actually suggests that dieting just creates weight cycling, which in a nutshell is the yo-yo effect so many people are familiar with; you diet, your cravings feel out of control, you end up overeating and feel the heavy waves of guilt, and then find yourself on another diet soon thereafter. It's a nasty cycle, one that I am so grateful for having been able to break.
So how do you get out of the dieting mindset? I'm not going to pretend like it's a snap decision you can make today to feel free from body image struggles tomorrow. It's always going to be a work in progress. But there are three things that I keep at top of mind—literally on a note on my desk—that help me continue plugging along toward food and body freedom: