Healing from dieting cycles, binge eating, disordered eating and body shame is hard work.
It’d be hard work if we lived in a vacuum! But what makes it even harder is living in a culture that glorifies and praises dieting tendencies and intertwines our worth with our bodies, our nutritional intake and our even health status.
In my work with women and in my writing, I bring up the concept of diet culture often. I wanted to dive into the concept a bit to provide you with context and some food for thought that I’m guessing could be needed, especially around this time of year (hello resolutions!).
Have you ever noticed how you can start your day feeling neutral, content, happy even, with how your body is showing up to the world, only to have that come crashing down by mid-day as your body image has plummeted until despair and loathing?
It's interesting how this happens because your body certainly hasn't changed drastically in a matter of hours.
But the way you relate to your body, or feel about, or in, your body has absolutely shifted.
This time of year can bring on all the feels. Which, in my experience, can significantly amplify how we feel in, and about, our bodies.
So, as we move through this stressful season of the year, it's important to be reminded of and armed with ways to cope with those tough moments, or days.
Between complex family relationships, a layered and vulnerable relationship with your body and food and a seemingly boundless feast filling your field of vision, it’s no wonder why the thought of the day can insight anxiety (dare I say dread?!).
And to top it off, for many women struggling with binge eating, this is just the beginning of a long, quite possibly painful holiday season.
If you’re tempted, or are planning to rid your house of the goods while your kiddos are sleeping, I want to encourage you to take a deeeeeep breath and consider an alternative.
Sugar doesn’t have to be that scary
You might be thinking, “NO, Sarah, you don’t understand! I’m ADDICTED to sugar! I’ll house everything from the trick or treating bags if I don’t get it out of here!”
I want you to know I hear you. I totally appreciate why you feel like you’re addicted to the chocolatey goodness. In your lived experience, it’s probably brought about certain can’t stop won’t stop thoughts and behaviors.
Something that one of my clients recently shared with me was that body image work is like an endless marathon. As you move into healing, the end point seems to get further away. But, over time you build up endurance to keep going, to keep moving, to keep believing in yourself. So much so that your initial anticipated destination doesn’t seem all that important. It’s process and the journey that really heals and truly sets you free.
This is a question that I’ve personally been leaning into quite a bit lately.
Are the decisions I’m making, the things I’m taking action on, the ways I’m flowing in my personal and professional development, are they based from a place of authenticity and care, or are they driven by seeds of doubt and scarcity?
Because body image work relational- it’s an ongoing journey, an ongoing process-, of undoing and unraveling, of curiosity, reconnection, reassessing and reaffirming compassion for your inner self and the physicality that carries you through your life.
My friends know that when I get excited I really love to give high-fives!
And my clients know the same... especially when they're working their assess off to understand, make sense of and move through years of struggles with food and their bodies (my clients are badasses when it comes to feeling all the feels and hanging on tight for the ride of recovery... seriously!)
And I tend to get super excited when they start experiencing the power of recognizing when an urge to engage in disordered behaviors around food and body is coming on, feeling it, and responding to it with respect and curiosity... in a way that will support their goal to kick disordered eating's ass.
At the time my weeks were spent tightly "on-plan" and my weekends were spent binging. The binges were emotionally and physically painful and made me feel absolutely out of control and completely and utterly flawed.
I didn't know what else to do, so each week when Sunday rolled around I'd throw out all my "bad" foods and hop back on my plan.
If you’re reading this you’re probably struggling with food and your body in some way. And if you’re considering buying into one of these programs, you’re probably praying that one of these challenges is your solution.
Today I want to give you a few tools to help you cope with stress and anxiety in your day-to-day. Because if you can start dealing with this stuff early on in the day, you’ll be likely to have the weight of the world on your shoulders later at night. And if you don’t have the weight on the world on your shoulders at night, you’ll be less likely to need to numb out with food.
Because if 70% of women are already engaging in eating patterns and behaviors that are negatively impacting their emotional well being, masquerading weight loss as self-love is actually manipulating them into believing that it’ll work this time around.
That if they self-love themselves hard enough by skipping meals on the regular, living by a number that My Fitness Pal prescribes, only getting off the treadmill when they hit x number of calories, eating within a 5 hour window that they’ll come into their own and finally feel worthy.
You want to retrain your brain and acknowledge that society has influenced you to view cellulite as “ugly” or your round stomach as “terrible” or your jiggly arms as “disgusting”.
Do you see the power that these types of words carry?
Get really clear on the fact that you weren’t born with these judgements. You were conditioned into believing them. And, if you can back off on that just a little bit and get really clear, really basic, really descriptive and specific things can just be what they are. Without the weight of judgment.
To start let’s loosely define “normal” eating. I want you to think of a person (if you can!) in your life that eats what they want. Without guilt. Without shame. Without hiding in the pantry or burning the evidence. Without beating themselves up or compensating with cutting calories or with exercise the next day. The person who eats when they’re hungry, stops when they’re full and fully allows themselves to indulge their cravings when it will serve their mind, mouth and body.
Around this time of year food and body comments run rampant.
“It can't believe I’m eating these ____. It’s like I can’t stop!” “You have so much self control! I can’t be around _____ without losing my sh*t.” “Don’t judge me, but I’m going to eat ____.” “If I can just make through these 30 days without ______ I’ll be golden.”
We rely on the idea of willpower, hoping it’ll help us follow restrictive diets. That it’ll help up control ourselves around food and lose those last ____ pounds this new year.
Although Thanksgiving has become a day for overindulgence and many times a built in day to get your eat on, I want to encourage you to take a macro view. Zoom way out to see your entire day. Yes, the appetizers and food will be aplenty, but what else will be going on? What is really important to you on this particular Holiday? How do you want to feel before, during and after your day?