The food and weight battle is real. I know, I spent 12 years struggling with dieting, binging, and losing and gaining the same 60 pounds over and over.
As I reflect back on my own journey, here are the five things I wish I'd known five years ago:
1. "Backsliding" is natural.
In fact, it's part of the whole healing process. Think about a hobby that you learned at some point in your life. It was a process of learning how to do it. You didn't learn it overnight and wake up one day knowing how to knit the best scarves on earth. You learned over time.
It's the same with your food journey. You learn, you become aware, you make some progress... and then you have a setback. It's natural, and it's actually how you learn and grow.
It takes time to learn a new "normal" around food. Of course triggers and stressors will throw you off course. It's all part of the learning process.
2. Your weight may fluctuate throughout your life.
This one has been hard for me to accept. For so many years, I thought, "If I could just get to 110 pounds and stay there, then I'd be happy and my problem would be fixed." Well, I did get to 110 pounds (with a lot of restricting, dieting, and crazy exercising).
And what happened when I got there?
I never stayed there. I gained more weight and lost some weight. I binged more and then dieted more. I could never seem to get to a weight and maintain it.
Fixating on a specific number and swearing that you're only acceptable if you're at that weight sets you up for a really tough journey. Your weight will always be changing; it's the nature of life. It might stay in one place for a few years, sure.
But then, life inevitably happens. A time of intense grief causes you to eat more. A huge work stressor causes less time to work out and meal plan. You have a baby and you are lucky to squeeze in one gym class a week.
Of course, when you're balanced and free around food, your weight WILL most likely stabilize. But our life circumstances are always changing. Hormones change, stressful periods arise, and seasons come and go. When you can let go of attaching to a specific number, freedom arises much more quickly.
3. There's no "done."
This is a tough one to wrap your mind around. Because we want to get to a place where we're done and we don't have to think about food anymore.
But the truth it that this journey lasts a lifetime. Sure, I don't struggle with restricting and binging like I used to. And food doesn't consume my days like it did 10 years ago.
But I still think about eating and am learning more and more what foods work for me at different times of the year and seasons of my life. I still continue to learn to listen more intuitively to my body.
It's like a relationship.
Think about an intimate relationship you have in your life. When you met that person, everything you learned about them was new. A year later, you thought you knew them so well, but then you moved in together and realized you still had much to learn. Five, 10, 15 years later, your relationship still expands, grows, and deepens.
And so it is with your food journey. You're never done. You'll always have deeper to go.
And that's a good thing because like any worthwhile intimate relationship, as you continue to get through the bumps and difficulties, you realize the deeper you go, the more meaningful it becomes.
4. Kindness is crucial.
More than anything, this journey requires self-compassion and kindness. Typically, if you struggle with eating and weight, you're also the type of person who is SO hard on yourself.
To be able to find lasting weight loss and some sanity around eating, you must continue to practice kindness to yourself.
Not beating yourself because you had four "good" days in a row and then "blew it" on Friday. Not berating yourself that you're a failure because it's been years of working on this and you can't seem to get it. Not hating your body for what it can't do and how fat it is.
Over and over you always come back to kindness and compassion. It gets easier as you practice this and deepens as you continue to cultivate more love towards yourself.
5. It requires "starting over," multiple times.
The whole food mess is one of persistence.
If you're dedicated, committed, and never give up, then you've already got a leg up on everyone else on this journey!
I learned the hard way. Instead of understanding that falling, getting back up, dusting yourself off and moving forward is a part of the process (maybe even multiple times per week at first), I thought I was a failure.
But you aren't a failure. Whatever it is you're learning, you're on the right path for you. You
understand that lasting change comes from a deeper part of you and that another diet won't fix the problem.
And a part of that understanding is when you "fail," when you make a mistake, and when your answer is two bowls of ice cream instead of addressing the issue head on... you realize it's okay. You pick yourself back up, learn from it, and move on.