These two pictures were taken minutes apart from one another, and there’s the appearance of a solid 20 lbs differential between them. Feel free to compare for yourself, and keep in mind that I went for the Little Mermaid this Halloween weekend (in case any of you are wondering why I’m wearing a metallic turquoise dress and/or are carrying a giant conch shell).
Now it does admittedly make me cringe a little to put this “fat picture” on the internet, but I’m trying to prove a point about how deceptive photos can be. Next time someone takes a “fat picture” of you, just remember, you could look like an Olsen twin in the next one. It ain’t no thang.
On a second note, I felt super sexy in my dress that entire night – so sexy, in fact, that I had a gentleman visitor for the first time in three months. Go, Isabel, it’s your birthday, Go Isabel.
No, seriously. Try it. We all know that slowing down, chewing our food and breathing in between bites helps us eat less food and be more present during meals, but even focusing on being present can sometimes feel like a chore. “I don’t WANT to slow down,” I hear all the time. Well, guess what — if you don’t want to do something, you’re not gonna do it very long. Sorry, your food habits are way too deeply ingrained. If you want to make a change to your “diet,” it better be FUN. That’s right, the F-word, FUN.
Ooh-ing and ah-ing over mouthfuls serves two primary functions. First of all, it’s ridiculous — those of us that struggle with food and weight worries tend to take eating waaaay too seriously. RELAX already!
Secondly, eating mindfully doesn’t need to turn into another “should.” ENJOY that cheesecake sliding down your throat. Let it be sexy! I dare you to sit down in the privacy of your own home, and taste your food like it’s the first time…
Bottom Line: If you can’t enjoy your food, it will never lose its grip on you.
I’ve binged, I’ve puked, and I’ve been on every diet that drives women clinically insane, mostly because I truly believed that the answer to one failed diet, was an even more restrictive, life-controlling, all-I-can-think-about-is-my-food-and-my-fat kind of diet.
What the hell, I’m gonna take this opportunity to name a few of my most out-of-control diets, just to commiserate if any of you out there are really feeling the *shittiest* right now.
__Baby Atkins (My pediatrician actually put me on this when I was 3)
__The Grapefruit Diet
__The Tasti D-Lite Diet
__The three-straight-hours-of-cardio-a-day Diet (a.k.a. the “Los Angeles Diet”)
__The “Only Eat Naked in front of a Mirror” Diet (a.k.a. the “New Yorker Diet”)
__Only Juice (or booze)
__The Cigarettes and Chewing Gum Diet
__The Cocaine Diet (my favorite, if you’re trying to go to rehab, like, ASAP)
__The Fat-Free Pringles Diet (Seriously, Don’t. You will shit for weeks.)
AND wouldn’t you know it? Through all of these, I STILL managed to stay about 30-40lbs overweight throughout most of my teen years and some of college (that is, until I was kicked out and sent to REHAB where I belonged).
Eight years later, I can pretty much guarantee that, “Upping the Diet” isn’t the answer. On the contrary, every time I relax my tightly clenched fist around food rules, and let go of my latest attempt to lose weight, I end up eating less food, and more importantly, thinking less food.
Losing weight is not motivating enough to not eat when you really want to change how you’re feeling right now.
Here’s another mental model: eat like you’re gonna get laid tonight. Do you really want to feel like a clogged up toilet when you meet that super hot fox at the deli by chance tonight? No. You don’t.
The point is, your choice doesn’t have to be banana pudding now, or feeling thin in three months. I know I’d choose banana pudding every time. I could be dead in 3 months, and I want my banana pudding.
The way sexier choice is between banana pudding now (and the likely bedtime and romcom I’m usually relegated to after consuming mass quantities of sugar and dairy) or maintenance of my physical energy through a slightly less aggressive food choice and the possibility of dancing, flirting or wild, uninhibited sex later tonight.
If mass quantities of dairy and sugar make you feel kind of sick and un-sexy, is it really worth missing out on what could be the night of your life? I know I’m not trying to be bloated and phlegmy when it’s very possible that I meet my husband tonight (or at least an “activity partner”).
How do you want to feel, not in six weeks, but in 45 minutes? That’s how we should be eating if we want to live fun, adventurous lives. Always work under the assumption that today is the most important, most fun, most potentially magical day of your life. Do you really want to be in bed with a food hangover? I didn’t think so.
When we’re really deep in the food and weight haze, it can be hard to remember that we actually have other legitimate interests outside of trying to lose weight or trying to (not) eat whatever the fuck we’re obsessed with at that very moment. When I feel the food and weight thoughts starting to choke me, like I can’t even think about anything else for more than 10 seconds, I do a quick stream-of-consciousness style mind game where I think of 5 non-food-related activities I legitimately enjoy, just to remind myself that I do in fact have interests (and a life) outside of all the silly food noise.
Quick! Think of five non-food related things you like to do right now! GO
Here are mine:
reading magazines (the top shelf kind)
HBO On Demand
stalking myself on facebook (I am soo pretty)
When you’re learning a new skill, it’s pretty normal to want reassurance that you’re “doing it right,” even around something as definitively imperfect as intuitive eating. I’m sure many of you are out there REALLY struggling not to weigh yourself, desperately wanting to judge your progress, and see if this intuitive eating thing is really worth your time.
I get it – this is a totally normal “old” thought pattern. We are all looking for excuses to judge ourselves and the world around us all the time, and it’s a slow process to break that mental model.
In the meantime, here are some questions to pull out when you think to yourself “is this working?” or “is all this loving myself just making me fatter?”
Here’s how you know you’re on the right track:
- You love yourself more, so you’re just plain old happier most of the time.
- You accept dinner invitations, unless you have another legitimate conflict.
- You have awesome clothes that you love wearing in public (and you regularly take more pride in your appearance).
- Being naked is more fun, with a partner or alone.
- You generally experience more pleasure and joy (i.e. you pay attention to what’s actually happening in your life). Yay.
Here’s how you DON’T know you’re on the right track (i.e. benchmarks that are irrelevant):
- You weigh more or less than you used to (or stayed the same)
- You have more control over your own behavior (i.e. improved “willpower”)
- You have things you think you should (boyfriend, job, apartment in tribeca).
- Your mother thinks “you’re doing so well!”
- You weigh more or less than you used to (this one merits repetition).
These benchmarks (although some may be nice) are NOT actually a marker that you are happy, joyous, or free from obsessive food and weight thoughts. From today forward, your “progress” is a function of how you feel about yourself, not by external measurement.
Remember, self-judgment is product of your imagination. If you’re going to play make believe, wouldn’t it be more fun to play “I love myself and my life is awesome” than to play “My life sucks and I’m too fat to be loved?”
You literally get to choose between these two games everyday. Your choice.
If you buy my theory that self-love quells compulsive overeating (or at the very least, that self-loathing triggers it), you will agree that words and acts of self-love are some of the most powerful tools we have in combating this “condition.” Simple “I love you body” mantras are powerful in and of themselves, especially when in the grips of a craving or self-criticism (and no one to save us but our own inner monologue). There are many ways to whip out the power of an “I love you body” mantra, and one in particularly, I swear saved my life this week.
One of the most compelling ways to say “I love you, body” is to say “I trust you.” This becomes critical when the seductive security of scales and numbers starts to call. That’s what giving up numbers is – honoring our bodies with our deepest trust, above our trust of scales, plans and calorie counts. Whenever we count or measure our food or our bodies, we are essentially giving our bodies the message that we don’t trust “her.” When our bodies get that message, they retaliate, as all they really want is our undying love and acceptance (and, trust me, they will call us out through bingeing, craving, etc. whenever they don’t have it).
Lately I’ve been having hectic days where the lure of calorie counting just enters my mind, seemingly without my permission. A couple times I’ve even day dreamed, imagining how much I “should” weigh and if I’m there yet. These are dangerous thoughts. They are seedlings of self-judgment, expectation, and will inevitably lead to body dissatisfaction – the ultimate, numero uno, super trigger.
In these moments, my most powerful weapon is nothing but a deep breath, and the simple reminder, “I trust you.”
I trust you more than scales
I trust you more than counting calories
I trust you more than my jeans that shrunk in the dryer
I trust you more than the boy who doesn’t love me back
I trust you more than my elliptical
I trust you more than the candy jar at work
I trust you more than (fill in the blank reason your body is “wrong”)
I trust you.
…And I’m using the term “slip” loosely, having nothing (necessarily) to do with actual food. There are no mistakes with food itself, only misguidance in our attitude. I have made a promise to myself never to make “wrong” anything I eat or anything I do with food. It is my state of mind around food (and more importantly my body) that will set me free and release me from all this cockeyed, eating-disordered, binge-eating, nonsense.
It is then, just that, which I must keep an eye on. I must never “watch what I’m eating,” but watch what I’m thinking. What messages is my brain sending my body today? Is my brain wondering how much I might weigh if I took a quick peak in my roommate’s bathroom? Is it telling my body “you still don’t fit into your skinny jeans, I guess you’re too fat to go out tonight?” Or worse, “you still don’t fit into your skinny jeans, so this intuitive eating thing must not be working – I guess it’s time to start dieting again!”
I don’t need to explain all the variations of “negative self-talk” that exist, especially as they relate to our bodies. We know them when we are open to catching them, and stopping them in their tracks. This is where change happens. Can you catch yourself wanting to get on the scale, and pause to say “I won’t because I love you just the way you are, and never want to hurt you with my critical self-talk?” Can you eat dessert and think to yourself “that was delicious” and move on with your day in gratitude? These are true tests of recovery (and P.S. perfect eating is not one).
1) Weigh yourself
2) Stay home alone on a Friday night, because you’re not thin enough
3) “Avoid carbs”
4) Don’t put your food on a plate…someone might see you
5) Don’t chew
6) Count ANYTHING (calories, points, grams, lbs – they’ll all work)
7) Make rules and/or “no” lists (e.g. “no food after 5pm”)
8) Stalk married ex-boyfriends on Facebook (and for faster results, compare yourself to pictures of his wife)
9) Eat foods that taste bad, preferably in a rapid, whirlwind fashion (almost like it never happened…)
10) Call or text a boy who treats you badly
11) Force yourself to wear clothes that are too small for you
12) Take shallow breaths until you get really anxious
13) Indulge in feeling really guilty about what you’ve already eaten
14) Make detailed meal plans for yourself
15) Stay in the closet
16) Don’t sleep
17) Don’t talk about your feelings (or let yourself have them)
18) Don’t have sex or touch anyone
19) Don’t work out
20) Don’t have fun