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My Story with Dieting & Building a Healthier Relationship to Food | Part II

This is Part II in a series about building a healthier relationship to food and breaking free from an on/off mentality. If you missed the first post, here’s Part I about my experience with binge eating.

Although my experience binge eating didn’t last forever (🙏) it still took me years to find my balance with food. The pendulum still often swung from one side to the other. Sometimes, not thinking much of food… I remember one particular phase, for example, where I happily ate brie cheese and Wheat Thins for lunch every day for months, without a single worry in the world. Yet other times, for one reason or another, being more precise about it. I still had thoughts like…

  • Low-fat or reduced-fat is best…
  • Pick the diet or sugar-free option since it has no calories…
  • I just can’t keep certain foods in the house…
  • If I eat this, the rest of the day is shot…
  • I can never have just one…
  • Diet starts Monday…
  • I can’t be trusted with cookies, crackers, or ice cream…
  • It’s usually just a few days before I fall off the wagon…
  • I’ll do an extra workout tomorrow so I can eat this today…
  • Fruit has a lot of sugar, so I should probably stick to one serving…
  • I should eat two hours before bed, even if I get hungry…
  • Feeling hungry is at least a good sign I’m losing weight…
  • I’m over my calorie limit so I better wait until tomorrow…

 

If you would’ve asked me then, I would’ve said (and truly believed) that I wasn’t into dieting persay. But the books I read (and advice I followed) included things like…

  • Fast Metabolism Diet
  • The Bulletproof Diet
  • The China Study
  • Eat to Live
  • Tracy Anderson 30-Day Method

 

So clearly, there was still some seeking. Some trying to find the answer or missing puzzle piece. Some trying to manipulate carbs, calories, or plant-based eating to lose weight, reach a health goal, or even just feel peace about what I was eating from some external measure.

Now, I want to point out that I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with trying to reach a health goal. With eating healthfully. With experimenting with vegetarianism or intermittent fasting or macronutrient ratios or whatever it may be, to find what truly makes you feel your best, and serves your values.

I think the issue comes in when it starts to feel less life-giving, less healthy mentally and emotionally, and instead starts to creep into your social life, mental freedom, or peace around food. And only you can know when you feel those bristles in your gut that it could be crossing into that territory. For me, for example, even when I wouldn’t have considered myself officially on a diet, I still was often…

  • Meticulously calorie counting or accounting down to every last chip or tablespoon of food
  • Fighting hunger before bed if I’d already hit my calorie limit for the day
  • Feeling like I couldn’t keep anything tempting in the house
  • Feeling like having a single bite of dessert pushed me off my plan
  • Eating whatever I wanted in preparation for the next new plan
  • Inevitably falling off said plan after days or weeks
  • Starting fresh every week, month, or year
  • Alternating or limiting macronutrients to boost my metabolism or lose weight
  • Trying to eat under 20g of carbs per day (even though that’s… ya know, an apple)
  • Limiting fruit, beans, or otherwise nourishing foods because of carb count
  • Portioning out five small meals per day
  • Feeling hunger an hour or two after eating
  • Looking for diet or sugar-free alternatives to anything I craved
  • Drinking Diet Coke because it was zero-calorie
  • Fighting daily cravings
  • Passing on invites with friends since it was easier than explaining I didn’t want to eat certain foods
  • Ordering vodka sodas since they were less cals than wine or (heaven-forbid) sugary cocktails

 

And, looking back, the crazy part is, none of that FELT crazy. It just felt like a natural, necessary way to reach my goals. The price I had to pay for results.

binge-eating

When I worked in an office, I noticed how often women talked about their latest diet the way they talked about their plans for the weekend. Exchanged theories. Looked at each other with rapt attention, as if they were discussing the latest blockbuster plot line, when someone gushed about the new thing they were trying, and how many pounds they’d already lost.

It wasn’t until I got far enough away from it that I realized how much mental space, energy, and life that always thinking about food was taking from me.

How many years of my life I had spent chasing that elusive 5 to 10 pounds.

How many dinner dates I had missed, just to sit at home alone and have control over my meal.

How many vacations I tried to eat healthy on, only to get home and overeat take-out from an unmemorable place down the street a few days later.

How many years I spent GETTING READY. For holiday parties or beach days or reunions… or worse, sometimes not going at all.

How forced I felt in photos, trying to get that elusive skinny arm or flattering angle, instead of just feeling present, light-hearted, and free.

How many chance encounters and opportunities I was missing, waiting to feel ready.

How low or unpredictable my energy felt craving sugar so often.

The way I got hungry often just an hour or two after eating.

How long I put up with feeling shaky, foggy, or irritable between meals.

How often I relied on sugar and caffeine in the afternoon, and thought it was just the norm.

The impact it had on PCOS and my hormones, so intricately affected by blood sugar swings.

How much I spent financially over the years on take-out, delivery, and comfort food.

On diet books, juices, and veggies that often ended up rotting in my fridge. I mean, money is freedom, too.

The thing about food is that it’s so connected to every other part of our lives.

Birthdays and holidays and family dinners and three meals a day, or more.

The simple pleasure of cold ice cream on a summer day or a lazy Sunday brunch on the weekends.

I hadn’t even realized how all that time I had been trying to control my hunger, if I had just honored it, it would’ve gotten me where I was trying to go.

How the food challenges I resented were really just trying to get my attention.

To invite me into a kinder way of being.

To be more trusting of my body’s wisdom.

To learn how to fuel my body instead of manipulate it.

To see what was going on under the surface that was causing those wild cravings.

To respect my body’s pace, instead of pushing my own.

To love it as a living, breathing being. For making me strong and full of dreams and worthy just for being here.

To learn what I was *really* hungry for… that sometimes meant food, and sometimes something else.

To tune back in, instead of relying on some outside formula to check the box.

These days, my internal dialogue with food goes something like this:

  • OMG, this is so delicious.
  • There is no such thing as starting over.
  • There is no such thing as a good food versus a bad food.
  • Food is nourishing in more ways than just physically.
  • Pizza can be just as nourishing as a salad if you’re with the right person.
  • What does my body FEEL like eating?
  • If I’m still hungry, I keep eating. I trust my hunger.
  • It’s not worth ordering it if I don’t LOVE it.
  • What will give me the most energy? How will this food make by body feel?
  • What am I really hungry for? Food, or otherwise?
  • Food is one of my favorite parts of traveling to new places.
  • I can easily find a healthy option, whether I’m eating out or at home.
  • I can enjoy a treat and move on.
  • Treats are just part of a healthy, balanced life.
  • I can have this and then eat healthy the very next meal. Why would I wait a week to feel good?
  • If I overdo it once in a while, it’s not a big deal. There is no on/off switch.
  • Cooking and eating healthy brings me pleasure. The colors. The smells. The flavors.
  • Food brings me joy. Dinner parties. Nights out. Cooking for loved ones.
  • I enjoy the moment and savor the flavors and the people and settings around me.
  • How beautiful is this dish?
  • I am tuned IN to my body and the taste, instead of blacked OUT from it.
  • I love to eat.
  • I trust my body.

 

And I don’t say that to give myself a pat on the back, like woo me, five gold stars. ⭐️ But just because, you know where I started from. You know that a decade prior, I was elbow-deep in Ben and Jerry’s in my dorm room, feeling like I would never break this cycle. Feeling almost compelled by those cravings, and less capable with each and every thing I tried.

So if even the thought that you could break free from this cycle this triggers something in you that feels so tired and so defeated and angry after all you have tried, just know that you are not alone.

I, too, felt that way.

I felt so defeated, giving up HOURS after committing to starting fresh.

I felt like nothing would really help me.

I felt less trust in myself with each failed diet attempt.

binge-eating

What I wish I would’ve realized sooner is that…

The same things keeping me stuck in this cycle with food were not going to get me out of it.

The dieting wasn’t fixing the issue. It was perpetuating it.

I didn’t need one more diet book. Nutrition article. Meal plan or weightloss program.

I needed a different MINDSET around food.

So I wasn’t bringing the same habits, patterns, and hang-ups to each new plan.

A diet wasn’t going to fix it… but neither was just TRYING harder. Exerting more will power.

If what you’ve tried hasn’t worked, it just means you haven’t tried WHAT works.

All that to say…

I hope my journey and time spent can help you break the cycle, faster.

That you don’t have to spend as much time as I did feeling lost. Feeling stuck.

Not even knowing someone who had found a better way.

Or even what that looked like.

That it’s possible to:

  • Actually love the taste of healthy food. (And not have to force the things you don’t.)
  • Find EASE with healthy living.
  • Reconnect to your own hunger and fullness signals.
  • Satisfy your cravings while still reaching your health goals. They aren’t mutually exclusive.
  • Not crave sugar or bread or chocolate or caffeine every single day.
  • Have a treat and simply move on.
  • Actually LOVE food. And not be afraid of that.
  • Know how to find healthy options you love when traveling, being social, or eating out.
  • Naturally get to your healthiest weight without having to force a restrictive diet.
  • Not have to count calories or macros to sustain a healthy weight.
  • Feel full of energy when you wake up… and all day long.
  • Be able to have chocolate in your cupboards and actually forget about it. (Just did that.)
  • Simplify healthy eating so it works naturally with your life.
  • Feel free from constant debates around food shoulds or shouldn’ts.
  • Feel confident, ready and excited for a surprise party, beach day, hike or vacation.
  • Feel so full of life and energy to chase your dreams, build a business and/or love on your family.

 

In Part III of this series, I’m putting together a few shifts that made the biggest difference for me in finding my way to that healthy, balanced, freeing, more consistent relationship to food. They’re what I would say to myself if I could’ve given her a big hug. If I could’ve saved her the time and trial and error and all the failed approaches that just made me feel like it was something even more wrong with ME. They’re what I’ve learned through two certifications now — in eating psychology and nutrition — and a heck of a lot of testing in real life, and practicing daily.

My only question for you is… What do you want to know? What would help YOU the most? Drop your questions or comments below so nothing gets missed for ya, mama. I really want this to help you. XO.

leave a comment

  1. Kristel Hale

    September 13th, 2019 at 10:37 am

    Thank you again Jessica for these words. Truly inspirational and I am excited to read part III. My biggest struggle is that food is always on my mind…I can distract and detour myself but always find myself right back to that craving. Is there really a true way to free my mind from the obsession with food? It is easy for people to tell you to just think of something else, or do something to distract you, but is there a true underlying process or emotion that can help me overcome? Thank you again!

  2. Taste of Health

    September 13th, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    I 100% agree and totally know the frustration of someone telling you to distract yourself with water (or something like that) when a craving comes on… when that only works if you’re truly thirsty! I would love to share more on this!

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