Hi there! Sarah Herstich here, body image and eating disorder therapist here in Horsham, PA.
I specialize in working with women who struggle with binge and emotional eating and find themselves caught in exhausting and painful diet cycles.
One of the most common questions I get from the women I work with and talk to is “how in the world do I eat ‘normally?’”
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.
That’s normal eating.
So, today I’m going to give you 3 tips on how to prepare for the journey of relearning how you relate to food AND your body.
Because food and body image healing don’t happen in isolation. They’re like 2 peas in a pod. The peanut butter to the other’s jelly.
And both issues are typically triggered by a dirty 4 letter word: diet.
Ok, so let’s get started. Here are your 3 steps to take while preparing to learn how to eat normally.
1. Educate yourself.
No, not on the latest diet that your best friend, mom or aunt swears by. Educate yourself on how dieting undermines your ability to eat normally, how it actually increases your hormones to turn to food in stressful situations and drives your hunger and cravings (insert diagram of dieting/binge cycles). See in black and white how most dieters are duped into believing that they’ll lose weight and gain their life back, but what they actually gain is self-punishment and more weight.
2. Now that all that’s is in your awareness, allow yourself to embrace the truth of the matter. That dieting doesn’t work. And allow yourself grieve your relationship with dieting and the dream body that comes along with it.
Yes, loosening your grip on dieting is a loss! If you’re anything like the women I work with, dieting has been like that bestie that regardless of how she treats you, you always come back because of those feel good moments- whether or not they’re far and in between. You think of breaking up with her, but the loss of the friendship is real and it’s felt.
So, let’s run through the stages of grief
Depression- Shit. This sucks.
Bargaining- what about just one more diet… keto, another round of whole30, have you heard about weight watcher’s new program? Maybe points can just be my lifestyle. One more diet then I’ll l
Denial- No, it can’t be true that dieting is actually harming me! It’s the ticket to happiness .
Acceptance- Ok, I might not like it, but it is what it is. What can I do to take care of myself from here?
Allow yourself to move back and forth through the stages of grief. Grief is never linear, so allow yourself to be in whatever stage you need to be in to fully heal the loss you’re experiencing.
3. Consider the conditions and expectations you’ve set for your body while relearning how to eat.
Like as long as I don’t gain “x” pounds, I’ll commit to learning how to eat normally.
Or, if I eat normally, I bet I’ll finally be a size “x”
Once I’m successful with this diet, I’ll be ready to learn how to eat normally.
If you’re hanging onto the dream that you’ll reach your dream-bod by putting an end to the diet-binge cycle, your attaching yourself to an outcome that just might not be true. And you’re setting yourself up for remaining disconnected from your body- if you have expectations to lose weight, you’ll disconnect from the messages your body is sending you to eat, stop eating and to honor your cravings.
In order to break free from binge and emotional eating you have lean in and and connect to your body- from a place of acceptance or neutrality, not a place of expectation and pressure.
Consider the beliefs about your body that have driven your desire to diet and even the shame you’ve felt about your body after painful periods of emotional overeating or binge eating. Those are the feelings we want to focus on healing. Food is simply our measure of control that keeps those feelings muffled- ask yourself if you prepared to learn how to sit with and work through tough emotions.
Healing from binge and emotional eating is tough work- especially when it's the thing you’ve been relying on for so long. But if you’ve hit diet-rock-bottom, and are dying to figure out how to stop feeling so damn crazy around and about food, these are crucial steps to consider as you start and work through this journey.
I hope these tips helped bring some things into your awareness. Be sure to subscribe or “like” my page to get weekly tips and tools on healing your relationship with food and your body.
Talk to you soon!
I'm a self-love, body image and eating disorder therapist in Horsham, PA.
I help people make peace with their minds, bodies and food and learn how to see, appreciate and love all that they are.
I specialize in treating anxiety, binge eating and helping women learn how to stop dieting and really start living.
Questions? Get in touch here!