2019 has been a difficult year for me personally, as it is the year I gave up on dieting and started to move towards intuitive eating.
This was a big milestone because I had been on a diet for over 40 years. I went on my first diet (Weight Watchers) at age 10 and it has been a constant battle ever since. People would often say to me, “You’re so lucky – you are naturally slim”. Well I wasn’t and every day was a battle with food and exercise. I’ve counted calories, carbs, juiced, intermittent fasted, weight watched, slim fasted, and every other diet you can name. I’ve never exercised for the joy of movement, it has always been about burning calories. For the last 2 years I wore a Fitbit, other brands are available :-), and religiously tracked every movement. I would run up and down stairs at the end of the day if I believed I hadn’t moved enough.
From a professional point of view this was a big step too as I also offered weight loss in my hypnotherapy practice. How could I continue doing this if I was giving up on dieting myself? I felt that I had to if I was going to get through this and offer a professional service, so I removed weight loss hypnotherapy from my website and business marketing.
After 40 years, stopping dieting was a scary move for me. If I stopped dieting would I gain massive amounts of weight? What would I do if I did? All of the negative thoughts around self-love and self-worth that I thought I had dealt with resurfaced.
But I had to do this because I was absolutely fed up. I spent Xmas Day last year counting calories and feeling depressed because we were with family and I couldn’t fit any exercise in. My Fitbit was screaming at me. My hair was falling out again, I couldn’t sleep and my nails were peeling off. I couldn’t blame all of this on menopause – although I tried.
As is my way I began to research the internet and to read books. I found a growing movement of other people who had made this decision – particularly in the US but also here in the UK.
Isn’t Intuitive Eating Just Another Diet?
One of the books I discovered was “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. At first I thought, “I’ve been here before. I’ve used hypnotherapy to get in tune with my body, notice when I was hungry and full etc. I’ve taught all of this to weight loss clients. It’s just another diet”.
But as I read other books and listened to podcasts I realised intuitive eating is different. It’s not about being on a diet – it’s about honouring your body. Yes, it is about eating when hungry and stopping when full. It is about gentle nutrition and exercise. But it is also about accepting that when you eat intuitively you may lose weight, you may stay the same weight, but you may absolutely put on weight. Especially if, like me, you have been restricting for many years.
When I stopped dieting the urge to eat was overwhelming. The books said when this happens you have to go with it and eat what your body needs to get out of starvation mode. This was so difficult because the dieting part of my brain was telling me to stop every minute of every day. But my body was rejoicing – here was food in all its wonderful tastes and flavours. The famine was over and I was going to survive.
Perhaps this makes it sounds too easy, and I don’t want to pretend that. It has been one of the toughest years of my life. In many ways it has been harder than fighting anxiety and depression, not least because controlling my diet and size was a big part of getting over my anxiety as a teenager. If I could control that then I could control anything!
There have been ups and downs and many tears. Some days I can look in the mirror now and accept that I am bigger – and may get bigger still before my body settles down. Some days I look in the mirror and I cry.
I have banished the naughty step (the scales) so I don’t actually know how many pounds I have put on, but I do know many of my clothes are just too snug to wear now and I am having to buy a new wardrobe.
But (and this is a big BUT) I am happier, my hair is thicker, my nails are stronger, my sleep is better and I have so much more time to do the things I want to. I no longer spend ages every day exercising and keeping a food log and I no longer sit feeling hungry with no energy to do anything. The paradox is that in spite of how difficult this year has been I have managed to write a book (No Tigers No Lions – A Practical Guide to Managing Your Anxiety).
Intuitive Eating With Hypnotherapy Programme
So next year (2020) I am going to replace weight loss in my hypnotherapy practice with Intuitive Eating. I will be launching an Intuitive Eating Hypnotherapy programme. This will incorporate everything I already knew about mindful and intuitive eating but without the dieting and restriction. It will be a programme about freedom which allows you to claim back your life. You may lose weight, you may stay the same weight or you may get a bit bigger. I don’t know because we are all different. But I can guarantee you will feel happier and will have more time to enjoy life.
Happy Christmas and a Very Happy and Healthy 2020.