5 Things As A Dietitian That I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self
July 7th, 2017 by Sara Upson
1. Losing weight & changing your body won’t make you happy.
I hate this message from diet culture, It’s so pervasive and accepted as reality, when it simply isn’t true. Losing weight doesn’t make you happier. Changing your body won’t make you more confident. I certainly believed this as a teenager and wish I could say no, don’t buy that crap!
Here’s the reality. Because your body image and your emotions are housed in your brain, it doesn’t matter how much you change your body, your brain still feels the same (or worse). You have the same thoughts. You still don’t feel good, or good enough. It doesn’t matter how much weight you lose, you still feel bad. When you feel that way (bad), it’s not a problem that can be corrected by weight loss.
Furthermore, weight loss increases your food and body thoughts just making you more anxious and body aware. It can perpetuate a cycle of focusing on your body, feeling bad, believing you need to lose more weight or that you just haven’t lost enough weight, even when this isn’t reality.
2. The desire to lose weight really means something else is going on.
True story. It’s hard to believe this, especially with all the messages from diet culture, but if you suddenly feel fat or like you need to lose weight, why? What else is going on? If you’re feeling fat and believe that the solution to feeling fat is to lose weight and that you will feel better- this isn’t true (see number one).
If you’re feeling fat, what you really need to figure out is why. What’s making you feel that way? Have you always felt that way? Is this feeling new? When do you feel that way? In diet culture the solution to feeling fat is to lose weight. Therefore, when you feel fat, you believe you have a weight problem. The reality is, it’s not a weight problem- it’s a feelings problem. Something else is going on that needs your attention. By focusing on losing weight is distracts you from what is really going on.
I believe this is true for everyone. It doesn’t matter what size you are or how much you weigh. As humans we have moments when we are more aware of our body and moments when we are less aware of our body. For example, when you’re busy doing something- working, having fun, driving, watching a movie etc- you’re just in your body living but not aware of it. When you have a body awareness moment your focus shifts from whatever else is going on to your body and how it feels “big” or “fat” or “wrong” or whatever word you use. When you have one of those moments, it truly feels like it’s only about your body and it may be all you can focus on. But, since we are not constantly body aware- not constantly feeling fat, when you have one of those moments it’s about something else- a feeling of discomfort, an emotion, lack of distraction (boredom), etc. The goal then is to not follow diet culture and focus on losing weight, but to connect with what you’re really feeling or thinking so that you can stop distracting and actually do something to start feeling better. That’s where your focus really needs to be.
If you say, but Sara, I feel fat all. the. time. It never stops- then let’s look at that. Is it really all the time? Are there never moments that you are just existing without feeling fat? When you do feel fat, when is it, what’s going on- let’s see if it really is all the time.
3. Food thoughts and behaviors are not random
Just like body focus and the desire to lose weight aren’t random, neither are food thoughts and behaviors. If you find yourself focusing on food, feeling guilty, dieting, or having urges to restrict, binge or purge- these thoughts and behaviors are not random, although they certainly feel that way.
You want to believe that you use these behaviors, or have urges to use these behaviors because of your body or because of a food that you ate, but the reality is- it’s about how you’re feeling and the thoughts that you’re having. It feels like doing the “right” thing will fix it, but again- it’s about what you’re feeling.
Once you recognize that these thoughts and behaviors are not random, they can then become a valuable teaching guide to help you learn what is really going on for you. That you’re having a hard time, that you’re not feeling well, that you’re stressed, that something is bothering you, that you have an emotion. Whatever it is for you.
4. You can have so much more freedom with eating
Your body requires energy to function. Your body gets that energy from food. You have to eat to fuel your body and it feels like you have to do all these things to eat “right” to feel “good” to be a certain shape, but the reality is there is so much more flexibility and freedom than you think! You can have so much more, You don’t have to restrict yourself!
This is one of the biggest challenges of diet culture, but you can trust your body. You can eat more than the plan that you’re following. It is scary. It will take time to build trust, but you can do it and you can enjoy food, feel satisfied, live and nourish your life. You don’t need to follow all those messages from diet culture. They’re a distraction- those messages keep you stuck and make you focus on things that don’t really matter. Things that never fix the problem. Things that hold you back and prevent you from truly living.
5. All foods really can fit- It’s okay to enjoy food.
Diet culture says that you need to be careful. That you need to eat right, or clean, or low carb, or less, or whatever it is. Reality. All foods can fit. It’s okay to enjoy food. When you do this, magical things happen- you’re able to listen to your body, you build a mindful, attuned awareness. You recognize foods that you want to eat and foods you don’t. You identify what you like and dislike. You no longer feel like food controls you- you find freedom. And it’s amazing. So go ahead. Enjoy food. Have what you want. You’ll be amazed at what happens.
Feeling like you will balloon up and gain weight? Go back to number one. What are you feeling? Most people feel so afraid at the very thought of trusting their body and eating intuitively. When you feel afraid, how does that manifest in diet culture? As I’ll gain weight. So then I ask again, what are you feeling?
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