On Eating

In search of a photo for this post, I googled “woman eating food” on Google Images.  I was assaulted with images either of women eating dainty bites fruits/vegetables looking happy and virtuous or women stuffing cake/ice cream into their mouths, looking guilty. I scrolled and scrolled… but that was all there was. Those were my two picture options:  good eating and bad eating.

But that’s the way we ladies navigate the world of food, right? We have our good days, we have our bad days. We use the scales to celebrate our triumphs and chastise us for our moments of weakness.

Is anyone else exhausted by this constant measuring and weighing and moralizing?!

About a year ago, I gave up dieting — in large part to a post I read on the fabulous Cake & Carrots blog. When I mention this to other women, half look at me aghast that I would dare to not count calories or carbs or fat along with them. The other half look at me wondrously, imagining all of the cakes and donuts and sticky toffee pudding that surely I eat all day long.

It’s been an interesting journey. It’s completely changed my relationship with food and eating. It’s made me realize how much of our time and energy we devote to dieting and talking about dieting. And it’s made me understand how deeply ingrained the urge to diet is ingrained in women.We’ve done it for so long, we don’t know how NOT to count and judge and measure our self-worth against what we consume.

These days, I just eat and do my very best not to judge. No, I’m not scarfing down Hostess Cupcakes at every given moment — I still eat a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains — but I’m also enjoying foods that I haven’t enjoyed… ever.   Without guilt. Without shame and regret and remorse. Knowing that they’ll be there tomorrow so I don’t have to eat the whole pint of ice cream or the whole bag of chips tonight.

It’s been a challenge. It was hard to realize that I could be trusted around food, especially when so many Special K and Slim Fast commercials were telling me I should just eat their products and I’d be okay.  It was difficult to resist the urge to diet and just trust that my body would compensate naturally.

But it worked. I could be trusted around food. My body did compensate. I secretly feared that I would walk away from this experiment 50 lbs heavier than I was — but I didn’t. In fact, I lost weight. (Well, I think I did. I stopped weighing myself so I’m not sure).  And I gained a lot of time and energy no longer devoted to obsessing over food.

During this journey, I realized that the focus of my counseling practice needed to change along with my eating habits. I was working with women who were binge eating brown rice cakes and emotionally drinking spirulina shakes:  the foods may have changed, but the impulses were the same. We all had disordered eating, but didn’t even realize it because it had become so common.

So over the past year, I’ve begun working with women who are ready to get off the diet roller coaster and join me in the land of eating. It’s been a challenging transition but an immensely rewarding one — there’s nothing like the satisfaction that comes with a client telling me that she feels free around food, that she’s made up with eating.

Is dieting a part of your life? Does it continue to support you?

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