This article is written by an old friend of mine who has struggled with her weight, nutrition and health for many years. The article is not signed as she prefers to remain anonymous. The story is an inspirational one which many women can and will relate to. This story shows how intuitive eating has helped save her life and make it better so please take time to read through it.
Before you start reading all about my journey, I would like to make it clear that this is my journey with intuitive eating. It should not replace any medical or dietary advice by trained health care professionals, especially if you have a medical condition or certain dietary requirements. However,
I still hope that this will be food for thought.
I can always remember myself dancing. I still have my first pair of ballet shoes. Being in the dancing world means that your body is constantly scrutinised. I was skinny when I was really young but when puberty hit, my waistline was no longer up to standard. We had to wear an elastic band around our waists over our leotard which helped tell when our tummies were anything more than perfectly flat. I was far from being overweight in any way. My waist has always been “large” compared to the rest of my body because, well, everybody is different! But it didn’t stop my ballet teacher from making comments. Injuring myself was a blessing. I had a valid excuse to stop ballet and the toxic environment it had become. My passion for dancing didn’t die and I picked it up again a few years later. I found a group of dancers who were all different shapes and sizes and we celebrated dance not waistlines.
I did, however, fluctuate slightly throughout my life and my mum is always the first to comment as soon as I put on any weight. At five foot even 2 kg can make a difference in how clothes fit and it was always noticeable when she thought that I needed “more exercise”. Because I was always slim growing up she was not used to me fluctuating in weight. I also got a few comments from a couple of ex-boyfriends as soon as they thought I was putting weight on and one even told me I was “fat” at 48 kg.
I was never more than 52 kg in my life but that doesn’t mean that I had a healthy relationship with food. I thankfully never developed an eating disorder but a part of me was always wondering what every spoonful of food would do to my weight. The first time I tried a diet, I was 19. I lost the weight in 2 weeks but as soon as I stopped the diet, the results didn’t last very long. A few years back I tried the 5:2 diet twice. I did manage to lose weight while I was on it but the reduction in calories weakened my body so much I caught every bug going and I was never so sick in all my life. Not to mention that the hunger pangs throughout the day were crippling. I had to stop the diet and the weight returned.
Up to a couple of months ago, I was even toying with the idea of going Paleo and I even bought a cookbook. But deep down I knew that restricting foods I loved would be unrealistic and unsustainable, not to mention stressful.
Emotions play no small part in eating patterns.
We are constantly bombarded with messages about indulging in food when we have any kind of negative emotion. Having gone through two bouts of psychotherapy and the fact that I have been working on myself for years through professional strategies and self-help books of all kinds, I didn’t think I had a problem. Boy was I wrong! I realised that I ate food when I was tired, lonely, angry and bored and I only realised this through learning about intuitive eating. Through much work, I can now recognise these emotions and I do not use food to drown them out.
Next up is exercise. I was lured by high-intensity exercise programmes that promised to deliver results in a short period of time. I soon discovered that this type of exercise is too much for my body, it weakens my immune system and I get sick. I also HATE it with a passion. I can think of nothing worse. These type of workouts also make me extremely hungry and, of course, I end up eating more than usual (as you’ve probably realised by now, I don’t do very well when I’m hungry). I tried many such workouts over the years, including January 2019, all with the same consequences.
The advice I got from a fitness coach after my last attempt was that it was mind over matter and that I was giving in. It made me feel horrible and mentally weak. After that, I realised what I had to do. I would only do exercise that I enjoy doing and that makes my body feel great and not
exhausted and run down.
I first contacted a health and wellness coach here in the UK about 2 years ago because I was worried about my health. I have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, I had gestational diabetes during my pregnancy which leaves me with 50% chance of developing it later on in life and I also have a strong family history of cardiovascular disease. Being a new mum, I was terrified about my future health. I want to be around for my child, support him growing up and if I am lucky enough, run around with my grandchildren. My gestational diabetes was a blessing in disguise. Through it, I learned what foods my body can process well without spiking my blood glucose and which ones are an absolute no-no. This health and wellness coach has now trained to become an intuitive eating coach and it has helped me more than I can say.
This year was a complete rollercoaster. In February I decided to cut out ALL sugar from my foods which I tried for a few days but proved to be impossible. I did notice however that the brain fog I had been blaming on “mummy brain” had almost completely gone. Through listening to my body a little bit more I realised that I could have small amounts of sugar throughout the day but not in an evening. My body just did not process it well at that time of day. I still do have foods with sugar in them but I must admit, most of them don’t taste as good as I remember or do not live up to taste expectations. Last month I had severe problems with hormonal imbalance. I was constantly bloated and fatigued, my moods were terrible, my brain was a complete fog again and I also started suspecting that I had food intolerances. I have now sorted out my hormones through supplements and I’ve cut out lactose. The combination of these two things made a whole lot of difference. If you have any digestive problems, I strongly suggest a visit to your GP.
My intuitive eating journey has been a very slow one. I have read the book by Evelyn Tribole and
Elyse Resch called “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works” and it has been a huge eye-opener. There is also a workbook that goes with it and together they guide you through 10
- Reject diet mentality
- Honour your hunger
- Make peace with food
- Challenge the food police
- Feel your fullness
- Discover the satisfaction factor
- Cope with your emotions without using food
- Respect your body
- Exercise – Feel the difference
- Honour your health with gentle nutrition
I am striving to implement the 10 principles as best I can. I have to admit I still haven’t fully made peace with food. The mentality of “good” and “bad” foods is really hard to get rid of and I do sometimes still look judgingly in the mirror. However, my mentality has shifted significantly. My main priority is now long term health and wellbeing and not short term weight loss.
My main focus is on eating foods that nourish my body and make it feel good not restricting food groups for weight loss purposes. And although I am restricting lactose almost completely (because it makes my intestines blow up like a balloon animal) and sugar quite a lot (brain fog and diabetes risk) I am still eating everything I want and I do not miss the things that make me unwell. I am paying attention to how my body feels when I eat different meals and with that knowledge, I tend to gravitate towards foods that make my body feel good, not sluggish.
I am choosing or baking treats that help my body regulate my sugar levels well and that are more nourishing than conventional sweet treats. I now do regular exercise that I enjoy and that makes me feel awesome. I do not obsess whether I’ve done enough exercise to lose a certain amount of weight any more, I exercise because of my body craves it and needs it and because I enjoy it. Through eating intuitively I am also finding my natural weight and I am slowly learning to love my body exactly as it is and be grateful for it. There is a theory called the set point bodyweight, which explains that everyone has a natural set point weight. This isn’t a rigid number but a range. Nobody is the same weight consistently. Not including medical conditions, there are various reasons for your weight to fluctuate.
The first one that comes to mind is fluctuating levels of hormones throughout the month. I still have a long way to go but I definitely could not have done it without my health coach’s help and guidance.
The conversations we’ve had and the resources she led me to have literally been life-changing. I would highly recommend this as a lifestyle change. I can’t lie like anything worth doing it takes a lot of hard work. This is not a short cut to losing weight. If that’s what you’re after, I recommend you look elsewhere If you decided to buy the book and feel you need additional help dealing with your emotions, or problems with body image, I would highly recommend seeking the services of a trained professional like a psychotherapist or counsellor.
I have had a lot of help and support and they are paramount in our journey towards optimal health and wellbeing. We only have one life and one body. In my opinion, the best way to honour it is to become the best version of ourselves. This could be a huge step towards that I wish you all the best in your journey to your optimal health and wellness.
Lots of love