Most of the women I speak with are tired. They are so, so tired.
Tired of making grand plans about food.
Tired of ruining those grand plans by eating four brownies.
Tired of beating themselves up for eating four brownies.
Tired of starting the cycle again with more grand plans...
But how do you stop the cycle? Today I wanted to share with you four qualities that I've noticed in most people who make lasting change around how they approach food by learning how to trust their bodies and hungers, rather than dieting:
1. You are willing to examine your entire life.
Food problems are rarely just about food. Once you start examining your eating from a truly holistic perspective...things are going to come up. Things like, "oh, I guess I'm eating at work because my job stresses me out and a cookie is the only way I get through the day," or "oh, weird, I guess this person who I thought I liked makes me feel insecure and so I downed my spaghetti carbonara like it was the last supper."
I'll be honest, I've had people drop out of the Dessert Club because they realized that this food work was actually about their entire life, and it just wasn't the right time for them to deal with that.
Are you ready for these realizations to come up?
2. Your weight isn't your top priority.
As long as maintaining a specific number on the scale is your top priority, it's going to be hard for you to stop obsessing about what you eat.
Why? Because worrying about your weight is likely what messed up your eating in the first place.
Just because weight isn't a top priority, that doesn't mean that you'll gain 5 pounds next week. It just means that you are choosing sanity, joy and comfort around food, joy and comfort in life, and maybe even your health, above being a specific weight.
Even if, truthfully, weight is still a top priority, but you wish it wasn't, that's a good enough start. We can work with that.
3. You are willing to spend some time and energy.
There are no two ways about it: change takes time and attention. If you can't spend, say, 20 minutes a day or a couple of hours a week--to read some motivating books, keep a non-judgemental food journal, talk to a coach or any other practice--it is going to be really tough to deeply shift how you approach food.
In my work with people individually and in groups, I see it time and again: no matter how lost or "messed up" or completely hopeless people start out feeling about this "food stuff," it doesn't matter. If you put in the time, you will change.
Of course, everyone has her own process of change and takes a different amount of time. But putting in at least some time on a regular basis to truly examine yourself and try out some new practices is non-negotiable.
4. You are willing to try something different.
Change requires admitting to yourself that what you have been doing isn't working. And then looking for something or someone that can help.
Personally, I spent a long time thinking that I could make this whole pseudo-dieting, worrying-about-my-eating-all-the-time thing work. I mean, I know that I ate too much dessert at dinner and felt like I was in a haze when I ate that muffin and cookie and egg sandwich at breakfast, but I can get a handle on this food thing. I'll just eat only fruit for breakfast tomorrow.
It took me a long time to finally admit to myself: No, this isn't working. No, I don't want to do this any more. And then it was a circuitous journey to finding what actually would work.
A big part of why I write essays like this is because I don't want other people to feel as completely lost as I did.
No matter what your answer to the questions above, it's okay. Everyone has different priorities and is at a different phase in their journey. Above all, you do you.
But if you want to not have to obsess about your eating or worry about going on diets or "falling off the wagon" all the time, but you don't quite seem to be able to do it, it's useful to re-visit these four prerequisites.
Are you willing to put in the time? Let go of weight as a top priority? Try something different? Look at your entire life?
I'd love to hear in the comments: Which of these come easily to you? Which have been more of a struggle?
Are you used to "having it together" in your life, but your eating + weight is the little piece that's not going right? Check out Katie's free "What's Your Eating Style" ebook -- a beautiful, 22-page ebook that lets you identify your eating archetype, and offers detailed, personalized practices to try TODAY.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.