And Then There’s Food…

Over the last 60 years I’ve had some time to think. I’ve also had lots of time to try different approaches to life. As an older fat woman with a cringe-worthy history of dieting – from the family doctor handing me amphetamine-based diet pills while I was in high school to starving myself until I passed out when jogging one day (there’s nothing like waking up with your face planted against a sea-wall) – my only explanation for jumping on way-too-many faddish programs is… uh… I dunno…

As an intelligent woman, I might have decoded the honest-truth about the dismal prospects that accompany the diet-mentality, but it’s difficult to tune in through the static and disapproval littering the atmosphere.

Without mentioning program or product names (remember, I’ve tried just about everything), I had surprisingly few successes. Worse, those successes were fleeting. I’d hover weight-wise around the higher limits of “normal” until a personal calamity sucked all the optimism out of the air, leaving me bracing for another catastrophe. In those days, when a close friend repeatedly reminded me I was “born under an unlucky star,” avoiding self-reflection seemed a good idea.

Surgery eventually popped up as an option as I moved up the scale and watched my best friend intentionally gain weight to make herself eligible for what she saw as “an easy” solution.  Then I watched her post-surgical turn to alcohol. “You’re killing yourself,” I pointed out during a drunk-and-dial episode. “Yes,” she responded, “but at least I’ll die thin.” And she did die thin. And young. That loss convinced me surgery definitely didn’t fit for me.

After paying attention for a while, I grew weary of the obvious gap between the marketing push toward eat-drink-and-be-happy (consider photos of bikini-clad slender women gobbling fast food) telling us we deserve to eat while the culture upheld the no-such-thing-as-too-rich-or-too-thin value. Really?!

During the 80s and 90s, a lot of good information started invading bookstores and, later, the internet. I still had my heart set on a magical, brilliant, flashy, easy-peasy resolution to my relationships with food and my body. I knew it rested between being furious at the way fat folks are discriminated against to looking suspiciously at an uninformed medical community.

Years ago I examined some data, then picked up Health at Every Size and several other outside-the-norm books (The Diet Myth, The Obesity Myth are others that come to mind, though I know there are a lot more!) ; a couple of years ago, I reached for Intuitive Eating and I thought what the heck – I’ll give this an honest try.

It’s surprisingly basic and easy…almost magical. I committed to eating when and what I believed my body wanted, to noticing when I felt hungry and when I craved something (and wondering, without judgement, what the craving was about). I committed to paying attention to how I felt after eating different types of foods, to paying attention when eating, to enjoy eating, and to not feeling guilty about eating with gusto.

It sounds a little crazy, but I also rediscovered my love of real food and cooking. I quit allowing others to determine what’s “healthy/delicious” and started letting my body tell me what’s good for me. No weighing, no self-shaming, no long lists of forbidden foods. And I’m healthier and happier. The practices described eloquently and in detail in the book earn my two-thumbs-up as an important component of self-care for me. Both books deserve to be on every medical practitioner’s bookshelf.

For now, suggest anyone who feels beaten-down related to food- or weight-issues read Intuitive Eating. There’s data (I am, after all, a geek) to support the effectiveness, but I’ve known since I was 10 years old that one size doesn’t fit all.

May we all find our own best path and may we all enjoy the journey!

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