When you finally decide to reject diet culture and begin nourishing your body, weight gain becomes a very real possibility, especially if you’ve been maintaining an artificially lower weight.
And, if you are living in a culture that highly values a photo-shopped, excessively thin aesthetic, it is likely that weight gain doesn’t sound like cause for celebration. I get it.
Just know that any weight gain associated with nourishing your body is totally okay and not cause for concern. But what about health, you ask? The truth is that many health concerns that are often attributed to weight, are in fact, not weight related. True story.
You are not doing anything wrong when you honor your body’s cues for food and rest.
Regardless of these truths, you may need some support and strategies to get you through the process. Afterall, when you’ve spent (maybe) years chasing an ideal that seemed to make sense, you’ve invested A LOT if yourself in the process and the dream of an artificially thin body and all of the acceptance and privilege we are promised if we just get thin enough.Most people need support if they experience body changes due to no longer dieting.
Here are some tips to make the journey a little easier.
Don’t weigh yourself, obviously. And not only that, but just get rid of the scale for good. And when you go to the doc, you have the right to refuse the scale. Weigh-ins are not mandatory; your body, your choice. Check out fat activist Ragan Chastain’s blog post on tips for surviving this encounter at your next doctor’s visit.
Fat positive your feeds. Clean it up, people. There is way too much thin ideal imagery out there. Follow body positive accounts such as Ragan Chastain, BeNourished,Taylor’s The Body Is Not An Apology, Tess Holliday, Virgie Tovar, and others for some real body examples. We can change our ideals and vision of beauty when we give ourselves a variety of different images of beautiful bodies.
Buy new clothes (if you have the resources) that fit or that are at least stretchy. Wearing clothes that you are growing out of is just plain uncomfortable, and a constant reminder that your body is changing. Also important: get rid of those items that are too small so there are no reminders of your unhealthier restrictive self. Try Poshmark or other second hand shops for deals on styles you love. You are not alone. As mentioned above, increasing body size as a result of intuitive eating is to be expected. There is no right or wrong way for your weight to go. Your body is going to do what it does, which for many means weight gain. Be kind to yourself; cut yourself some slack. Now is the time for deep self-compassion. Get a therapist; seek a weight-inclusive dietitian, and join a body positive facebook group to connect with others going through similar experiences.
Lastly, think of what else you have gained. Freedom with food? Brain power for more important thoughts? More time to do fun things? Christy Harrison, anti-diet dietitian and author, proclaims that dieting and diet culture is The Life Thief that steals our joy and purpose in the world and how we must take back our right to do what we were meant to do in this world and live or lives full of pleasure, vitality, and peace.
Remember, being happy and fabulous on your terms is it’s own kind of powerful.
Who wants to put less effort in when it comes to meal times?
Who wants to just sit and enjoy their meal and talk about their day or plans for the weekend?
Who wants to focus on connecting with their families at the table instead of fighting over food?
Well, I’m here to tell you that you can do all of these things! As long as you do your job of getting the food on the table, you can clock out and turn the shift over to the kids. Pat yourself on the back as a job well done.
Now, it’s up to them to decide how much to eat (even if that’s nothing at all) of what is on the table, no if’s, ands, or buts! This is known as the Division of Responsibility (DOR) in feeding and there is a large body of research showing that this feeding style helps kids listen to their bodies for what they are hungry for and how much they need. And as an added bonus, you get to dig in to enjoy your own meal.
Set it and forget it. When it comes to feeding kids, parents decide when and what (when mealtime is and what’s being served). Kids decide how. This means that once children can feed themselves, they are supported in choosing what they will eat from what is offered, how much, and in what combination. No more fighting over vegetables, or whether or not they will eat only bread. We really can support children in listening to their own bodies and trusting that what they want is the right thing. This takes all of the power struggle out of mealtime and puts parents and kids in control of the right things. It may feel hard at first to let them forego vegetables, but still have dessert, but, in the long run, this will help them stay in tough with their innate hunger/fullness cues.
Try saying these 6 little words: “you don’t have to eat it.” Take the pressure off of your kids to eat a certain food or number of bites to help everyone feel more relaxed and happy at the table. This also allows kids the freedom to organically try foods when they are ready. Forcing foods or bites can create a stressful environment which can easily backfire and cause some kids to resist eating anything at all, let alone to try a new food. When you model eating a variety of foods, your kids will naturally want to do the same, when they are ready.
Serve dessert with the meal. (What??!!!) yes, Serve. Dessert. With. The. Meal. Why? There are a few compelling reasons. First, When we decide we are full from dinner but then are presented with a yummy dessert, it can be tough to turn down. We are tempted to eat beyond our body’s fullness cues. Or, we might eat less dinner in an attempt to save room for dessert, only to be hungry an hour later. And lastly,, if we are rewarded with dessert when we finish our veggies, it can set up a negative association with eating vegetables and can heighten the appeal of dessert. Instead, let’s give all foods a level playing field. After all, food is food. When we are presented with a variety of foods at the same time, possibly including a moderate serving of dessert, it gives us the opportunity to decide what our body needs and wants, without the confusion. At first, children might be super excited and eat their dessert first, but give it some time and the novelty will wear off. They may even (gasp!) leave some on their plate.
Diets don’t work; if they did, we would all be our perfect ideal weight/size/shape. We wouldn’t be jumping on the next fad diet come January 1, and we wouldn’t be spending $60 billion per year on trying to shrink our bodies.
We believe that our diets don’t work, or don’t work forever, because we don’t have enough will-power, or character, or we’re too addicted, have too many emotions, or our bodies just won’t stop being hungry.
But, what if it’s not us?
What if, it’s that dieting doesn’t work?
What if our bodies don’t understand dieting as “dieting” and instead respond to “famine” and “food scarcity?”
What if our bodies actually work by trying to keep weight on us if they get the message (through dieting) that there isn’t enought food, so they send us MORE hunger signals, slow our metabolism, and otherwise do whatever they can to ensure that we EAT?
The weight loss industry has a vested interest in keeping us believing that weight loss is the holy grail of all things worth living for. What if there is a name for this and it’s “diet culture?”
But what if so much of what we are taught is just…wrong?
What if diets are actually the problem and not the solution?
But how do we actually stop dieting? What does eating and living even look like when we decide to toss aside food rules and leave diet culture behind? Is that even possible?
Yes, it’s possible. And some may say it even sounds simple. But, it’s likely not an easy or quick process, especially if you have been dieting or trying to control your eating for many years. In fact, it’s possible that the longer you have been dieting, and the younger you were when you started your first diet (yes, WW is and always has been a diet), the longer, slower, and messier the the process may be. But, the good news is, you will probably start to feel better as soon as you take even one small step. Here are 10 ways that you can start to ditch your diet and experience food freedom and better health for the long term.
Smash that scale! Or, just put it in the back of your closet and see how your day or week is not dictated by such meaningless numbers.
Delete the fitness and food tracker apps! Think about how these apps actually help you. How do you feel and what do you do when you go over your crudely calculated “calorie budget?” And how does this app know what you should Unsurprisingly, Research shows that the use of these tools can lead to restrictive, unbalanced eating and also increase risk of developing an eating disorder. Just get rid of them!
Unfollow those accounts that make you feel like your body is wrong. Take control of your own feed and selectively choose which accounts make you feel good and get rid of those that don’t. Ain’t got no time for that!
Wear clothes you like, that fit, and that make you feel good. How do you feel when you try to squeeze into too tight jeans? Be kind to yourself and get rid of any items that don’t fit or that you are saving for “when you lose weight.”
Move your body in ways that are pleasurable, whatever that is for you. Gone are the days of “no pain, no gain.” If it hurts and you don’t like it, do something else that doesn’t. This includes sex, too!
Listen to your body. Like, really listen. What is it saying? Is it hungry? Is it full? Is it tired? Then, act on what you need whether it’s a sandwich, a cookie, a nap, or maybe all three.
Break all the food rules. Or just one to start. For example, did someone once tell you that eating late at night causes weight gain? Or to eat your carbs in the morning but not at night? Sadly, many of the food rules we follow are simply unfounded. I challenge you to see what it’s like when you go against these bogus beliefs about food and body.
Give yourself unconditional permission to eat, enjoy, and get your fill of your favorite foods whenever you want them. When we lift the restrictions and relinquish our control over food, we are then able to begin the process of making peace with food.
Give up fighting against your body. Trust it! Use all of that energy and space for something truly special.
Get support-for many, ending dieting means ending a whole way of life and way of being in relationship with food, body, self, and life. Professional support is critical. An Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size focused nutritionist and therapist can help you work through the complex emotions and challenges that arise from letting go of dieting.
We need a different conversation about food and weight. We need a conversation about food and weight that is not focused on the outcome being about food and weight.
We need a conversation that recognizes and centers two critical aspects of our difficulties:
Our relationship with food is happening within the context of a larger food creation and distribution system that maximizes profits at the expense of public health, and;
Our relationship with food is not about food and weight, but about deep relational wounds that often begin in childhood and for which food, eating, and weight control or chaos are symptoms.
There is an intersection where we find ourselves starved for the core sense of love, acceptance, belonging, and security, all of which evoke embodied feelings of satiety, warmth, fullness, and calm; and the prevalence of cheap, readily accessible foods that have little nutritional value, but also evoke a temporary sense of satiety, warmth, fullness, and calm.
Yet, because these very real sensations are not love, acceptance, belonging, and security, so many people find themselves driven to return to food as the source of the sensations over and over as we attempt to regulate our nervous systems in the face of very real unmet human need for deep connection.
This is the why when diets “don’t work.” Food restriction is incompatible with our physiology AND our neurobiology. When food is the solution to the problem, removing that solution still leaves the underlying problem.
This is true for all addictive patterns.
The solution must acknowledge the deep truth that we eat within a complex, economically driven, and politically protected food system that needs the population to eat and eat and eat.
We are provided a rich abundance of highly rewarding food products that keep us coming back for more.
All the while we are starved for the love and human connection we so desperately need for physical and psychological survival.
Nourishment, which is our very first experience of warmth, love, and safety moments after we are born is deeply wired into our beings to be associated with the core experience of love.
We have to stop demanding that people somehow eat normally in a very abnormal environment.
We have to end the suffering of shame and blame and daily private wars being waged with food in the battlefield of our bodies.
We have to reframe the discussion and help individuals and communities understand the problem is not will-power. It is not self-discipline. Is not that people are lazy or gluttonous.
It is that, as human beings, we are desperate for deep connection, yet we find ourselves deeply disconnected, not only from each other, but from ourselves.
We are not bad for seeking satiety, warmth, fullness, and calm in the face of constant discomfort, fear, distress, worry, and the terrible lie that we come to believe in childhood that we are fearfully and irreparably not enough. We are not bad for reaching for the thing that evokes the same embodied sense as that for which we so deeply long that is provided in such pervasive supply.
We must frame this conversation around removing the suffering of misunderstanding and blame for the individual and shifting the focus to empowering the individual and demanding that, as a society, we recognize the incredible harm our systems are doing to us as individuals and as a collective, as well as the planet we inhabit.
We must demand that health and mental health professionals divorce themselves from the “blame the individual” narrative around eating and weight. We must demand that professionals learn the available science of interpersonal neurobiology and addiction. We must demand that helping professionals honor the dignity of every human, trusting that each is doing the best they can within the context of their experience.
We must step beyond the false duality of fat/thin, healthy/unhealthy, good/bad, all/nothing narrative about food, weight, and eating disorders and compassionately recognize the profound need for human attachment – to ourselves and each other.
We must recognize that we are not eating in a normal environment for humans. We need complex solutions that compassionately recognize the complexity of our relationship with food as a species and its inherent link to our very nature as social beings.
Ok, moms, whether we
work as a stay-at-home-mom or a go-to-work-mom, we all have more on our to-do
list than can ever be done. I feel it. The women I support in my office feel
it. The women of the internet who comment, blog, and video feel it.
feeling angry, not good-enough, and that what we are able to get done, we’re
doing none of it well. The constant
stress of always overwhelmed and never caught up can be crushing and we lose
There are many
reasons for this stress.
Is it because of an
economic system that doesn’t value families and children?
Is it because of
that, and a system of patriarchy that teaches women from birth to strongly
associate skilled motherhood and homemaking with our worth as women while men
have no such association and therefore are often oblivious to the work and
attention to detail required to run a family smoothly?
Of course the answer
is yes, but on any given day, it’s the reality we have to navigate, and for
many women, the added burden of trying to change these systems is just beyond.
Usually, we just
look at our list and try to pack in as much as we can and feel just as stressed
and overwhelmed as when we started. Angry and frustrated we feel ineffective
and deficient, certain that “everyone else” has it all together.
(They don’t. I know. I hear the truth in my office.)
So what’s a girl to
Just turn it around.
Look at the reality of the time you have
and then look
at what needs to be done. It’s simple, seemingly too simple, but trust me, it
Now, there’s one
more thing that’s also simple, but super important: Look for the item or items
on your list that are stressing you out the most.
Take the time to
check in with yourself and get curious about what it is about this task that is
so stressful. Try to dig underneath the stress and worry to the underlying
fear, like the deeper underlying fear.
The TL;DR version
is: people will think ____________ about me if I don’t _____________.
Now that we
recognize this underlying fear, we can ask a couple questions:
Do I really need to care about what other people think about this?
If I do, then I need to do this first.
Always do the thing
that is stressing you out the most first. The rest of the list will feel
lighter, easier, less urgent.
You will have
triggered your nervous system to relax because you’ve removed the threat. The better you get at this, the easier it
will be to prioritize your list for less stress and even start to recognize
things you really can let go of.
Maybe there will
even be a little energy left for smashing the patriarchy.