11 THINGS THAT ARE HELPING ME HEAL MY RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD & MY BODY
I've spent more years of my life at war with my body and food than I've spent at peace with them. I've experienced both the mental and physical fallout of a war waged on oneself AND the liberating contentment of moments of peace. After over two decades of stumbling through half-assed solutions and quick fixes in a desperate attempt to break the cycle, I'm excited to finally be able to share a list of things that have truly been transformative on this path to healing.
To anyone out there who has struggled with body image or disordered eating, I know what it is to feel lost. The below helped me find my way back to myself - and still do when I momentarily lose my way. I hope this community or the resources I share as a health coach somehow help you to do the same.
- BEING HONEST WITH MYSELF AND MY LOVED ONES about how much disordered eating and or body image issues effected me was a big turning point in my healing journey. For years, I minimized, ignored, or hid my distorted body image and food issues. Only when I opened up and acknowledged these were issues that required attention did I start to see any real progress.
- SETTING ASIDE TIME/HEADSPACE TO PRIORITIZE HEALING was the next biggest needle mover. Once I realized I was dedicating too much valuable headspace to thoughts/habits that were taking away from my life experience, I knew finding my way with it needed to be a priority. I created a more mindful morning routine that allows me to check in with myself and stay in a healthy mindset and I finally committed, truly committed, to therapy for the first time in my life.
- CULTIVATING GREATER SELF AWARENESS through mindfulness and meditation has changed my life. Sounds dramatic, I know, but it is true. It took me a long time to jump on the meditation bandwagon but once I did, I became so much more aware of how present and pervasive the anxiety around food and weight really was. I also became aware of when and why I was using food to numb, sooth and disassociate. That awareness was the first step towards creating new habits, thought patterns and tools that still guide healthier decision making around food and weight today. It has also helped me create stronger coping mechanisms around stress, anxiety, fear of failure and many of the feelings I never let myself feel in the past.
- RETHINKING EXERCISE and choosing activities that remind me of what I'm capable of has helped a lot with body image. I started paying attention to how I felt about different workout environments and cultures, which enabled me pick places and groups of people that support instead of challenge my efforts to nourish and accept my body. I started asking myself questions like "do you feel strong, happy and powerful in this studio? Or are you spending the whole time standing there and picking your body apart in front of endless walls of mirrors reflecting figures you can't help but compare yourself to?"
- EMPOWERING MYSELF WITH KNOWLEDGE AND COMMUNITY: Surrounding myself with resources and people that prove it is possible to create a new narrative around your body and food has helped more than I know how to put into words. I continue to read books about body love, intuitive eating, healing from disordered eating and the female body in general to empower myself with knowledge and to remind myself of all the choices I have the power to make to support my health. A few of my favorites: The Brain Over Binge Podcast, Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, The Hormone Cure by Sara Gottfried, MD and WomanCode by Alyssa Vitti. I've been exploring some Geneen Roth and Brene Brown too and will update this post as soon as I'm done! Oh and I also follow and LOVE Bodyposipanda (Megan Jayne Crabbe) on Instagram. She puts out wonderful body positive content through multiple social channels.
- EATING MORE MINDFULLY has helped me return to a place with food where I see it as a beautiful, supportive form nourishment and can appreciate the colors, textures, smells and of course flavors - without guilt or fearing loss of control. I continue to re-build trust with my brain and body thanks to decades of deprivation combined with bouts of binge eating, and the below practices have been integral in doing so.
Recognize when you're physically hungry and respond to your body's needs!
Recognize when you're actually just bored or trying to soothe stress, numb sadness or dull your hormonal insanity (the latter is common for me) and create new habits to healthfully respond to those emotions/triggers.
Be present with your food during meals. Eat sitting down, slowly and without distraction. Chew each bite at least 30-35 times. Appreciate the taste, smell, colors of your food. Not only do these practices improve digestion, they increase satisfaction!
Stop eating when you're full. Know that you can always come back for more or have a snack later if your needs aren't met. Still working on this one :)
Stop counting calories. Focusing on numbers leaves little room to recognize what nourishing your brain and body to the point of mental and physical health actually looks like.
Start challenging rules or restrictions around food to give yourself the room to experiment with what works for your ever-changing body and needs.
DITCHING DEPRIVATION & COMPENSATORY BEHAVIOR: Deprivation and compensatory behaviors kept my pendulum swinging from one extreme to the next for decades , never allowing me to find balance or peace with food. For years I would deprive and cut calories only to overeat or binge a few days later, then I would over-exercise or under-eat to make up for the binge. It was a never-ending cycle I was only able to step out of when I stopped depriving and cutting calories. I can't lie, this has NOT been easy for me, because it has meant accepting both momentary losses of control WITHOUT "fixing" them AND accepting a changing body. But each day I wake up and remind myself to choose health over weight, to practice what I preach as a health coach, and I meditate on how damn good it feels to do both.
- PRACTICE SELF LOVE AND COMPASSION: From a young age, we tend to be critical of our bodies & pick them apart every chance we get. I became a pro at this the day after a boy moo'd at me in math class in elementary school. I suppose I found it better to own the critical narrative rather than let others surprise me with their cruelty. It took me about 25 years to realize this, but now I know the opposite to be true. We can't always control how others treat us, what names we're called, what labels we're given, but we CAN control how we treat ourselves. We CAN choose to use loving, kind, compassionate and affirming words and thoughts when we see our bodies in the mirror and talk to ourselves in the shower. Once I started considering the choice between being unkind and hypercritical or treating myself as I would a beloved friend, I started to wonder, why would I ever want anything less than the kindness I extend to others?
- EXPERIMENTING WITH SELF CARE is my way of showing instead of just telling myself that this body deserves love and compassion. Yes, the inner monologue of kindness is very important, but if we turn around and treat our bodies like crap, are we really getting the message? I set aside a few minutes each day to dry brush, jade roll or stretch and I've come to love these little practices more for what they mean than any actual results I see (although I do see/feel benefits of all 3). I also try to use this time to notice and reinforce things I love about my body, like my round bum, nice skin, long eyelashes, and lovely wrists.
- WRITING DOWN MY GOALS/INTENTIONS AND PLASTERING THEM EVERYWHERE. Creating lasting and meaningful change - especially with habits and narratives reinforced over decades- takes a lot of time, energy and reinforcement. My journaling practice and my love of lists help me remember everything I want for myself (joy, laughter, happiness, connection, fulfillment, purpose, service, financial security, many more fur babies, the home I can see so clearly in my dreams, eternal life for my husband, travel, presence of mind to appreciate and enjoy all of the aforementioned), and they help reinforce the things I know I need to do to receive those gifts (consistently make choices that support mental and physical health, create space for the future by letting go of the past, I could go on but it would take too many paragraphs).
- BREAKING THE SILENCE OUTSIDE OF MY TREE OF TRUST has been incredibly liberating and empowering. I feel like I've stepped into the light by sharing my truth and obliterating the shame around what was previously my "dirty little secret". I also know that doing so helps break stigmas and helps others see that they are NOT alone. It feels damn good to do a little something each day that might help even one woman make progress in her journey, or one girl break the cycle of deprivation even if for one day. But most of all, it feels damn good to remind myself and others that there is ALWAYS hope.