Happy New Year! After such a rough 2020 for all of us, I am ready to soak in the New Year energy and move forward. I feel hopeful about 2021.
Diets and exercise and makeovers and new-and-improving ourselves are so much apart of New Year’s resolutions in our culture. For some of us, these plans are entwined with painful relationships with food and our bodies that cause a lot of shame and suffering. All this may go hand-in-hand with feeling crazy around food, hating your body, disordered eating patterns, or a full-blown eating disorder.
I’ve written about this before, the fact that I have an eating disorder that began when I was 11 years old (you can read about it here and here). What I haven’t written about is my recovery from the eating disorder.
You may not think to look at me and my very fat body that I’m actually far along in my recovery, and that would be an incorrect assumption. There are many reasons that bodies stay fat even with more “normalized” eating. That is a blog post for another day. Today I’d like to write about what has helped me most.
Fat Is a Feminist Issue
When I was a teenager, I felt absolutely crazy around food. I was either literally starving myself for long periods of time to lose weight, or I was intermittently bingeing on large amounts of food. I felt out of control. This was the late 70s and eating disorders were really not mentioned in the popular culture much. I didn’t know anyone else who had these behaviors or impulses, anyone who felt like I did. I believed there was something seriously wrong with me.
Sometime later in my teens I read the book “Fat Is a Feminist Issue” by Susie Orbach. That book was my first indication that I was not alone in my compulsiveness around food or my feelings about my body. it was such a relief! I still didn’t know why I felt this way about food and my body, or how to fix it, but at least I knew that it wasn’t just me in this hellish way of being.
Orbach’s book set me on a journey to recover from what I now call an eating disorder. There has not been a clear path. Over the last 40+ years, I’ve read everything I could find on the subject of compulsive overeating, bingeing, eating disorders, emotional eating, nutrition, fitness and exercise. I’ve been in numerous programs that were all supposed to help. I’ve gone back to diets and weight loss at times and lost weight over and over again only to gain it back plus more. (There are real biological reasons for why 95% of diets reportedly fail and result in weight gain.) Mostly it was all so frustrating because I felt stuck in these patterns that had nothing to do with “will power” or determination– I had tons of both. Why couldn’t I break out of these loops?
I don’t want to downplay the real psychological pain and suffering and shame that are a part of such patterns. Food and body issues such as these affect your every day, limit your life, and steal your contentment and happiness. Simple social occasions can be fraught with compulsive thoughts or behaviors. A lot of self-flagellation is involved. And none of this has anything to do with your actual body or size. You can’t tell from looking at someone if they are going through disordered thoughts or behaviors around food and eating.
I want to share with you what has helped me the most of all in the last few years. As i mentioned, even though I learned a lot from all my research over the decades on this topic, even though I found some helpful concepts and grew to have more empathy for myself, I still felt stuck. Then, in 2016, I found two online coaches who were talking about these issues, and had different (and what I saw as revolutionary) ways to recover from the insanity I’d been living with.
The Fuck It Diet
The first was Caroline Dooner, who created programs under the name “The Fuck It Diet.” Of course, it’s not a diet at all; it’s an anti-diet bible on how to heal your relationship with food, eating and your body. She breaks down the myths we’ve come to believe from the thinness-obsessed diet culture and learn to listen to our bodies again. When I first started following her, Caroline was offering memberships and coaching and I signed up. She has since written her book, “The F*ck It Diet: Eating Should Be Easy,” and she periodically runs a live group coaching book club to help people implement the methods in the book. She also has a blog and podcast. Click here to learn more.
Stop Fighting Food
The second big influence for me in 2016 was discovering Isabel Foxen Duke, who developed a program called Stop Fighting Food. Back then, I watched her in a lot of Youtube videos and listened to her being interviewed in podcasts. What she was saying about food and diet culture and bodies immediately lit up the TRUTH sensors in my brain. In those days, Isabel was offering live intensive 4-month group coaching programs once or twice a year. This Master Class program was pretty pricey, but I had such a strong “must do this!” urge, so I signed up. I’m so glad I did. It was well-worth the money.
The program had online video lectures teaching the concepts she covers, on such topics as intuitive eating, emotional eating, binge eating, body image, and weight discrimination. She also did twice a week group coaching calls where she would let us students call in with our individual struggles and questions. It was really helpful to be coached by her and listen to her coaching with other students. A lot of her coaching was essentially de-programming us from the many toxic messaged our culture gives us about bodies, food, weight and health.
Honestly, what I’ve learned and practiced with both Caroline and Isabel has finally helped me to unravel the huge knot of craziness I’ve had about these topics for most of my life. I do not feel crazy around food anymore! I don’t obsess about food, I don’t feel the urge to eat all the chocolate or all the cookies in the house. I have a lot less body shame now, in my bigger body, than I have every had before. Not to say that everything is perfect now, that I don’t ever slip back into old ways of thinking or acting, but these are becoming rarer and I bounce back from them much more quickly.
If you are caught in the crazy-making cycle of food and body obsession, I urge you to check out these resources. Check out Caroline’s book and see how it fits for you. And look into Isabel’s Stop Fighting Food website, which offers a free 3 video training series. And if you’re really ready to dive in, she now offers her group coaching Master Class for self-study at a reduced rate. She is having a sale on the Master Class for the next two days, through Tuesday, January 5. But even without the sale price, this is an invaluable program that is worth every penny. Click here for more information about the Master Class.
Wherever you are on your own particular journey, may it be a happy, healing and healthy year for you!
[Photos by me; and I. Yunmai and Tijana Drndarski courtesy of Unsplash.com}