body positivity · Health at Every Size · mental health · personal life

Why I Want to Change My Relationship with My Body & Food

Katie, a fat white woman, is laughing with her hand on her hip. She is standing outside and wearing denim shorts and a light purple top.

Trigger Warnings: Disordered eating, intentional weight loss, emotional abuse, self harm, suicidality, suicidal thoughts, mental illness.

When I was a kid, diet culture was a family tradition. Almost every adult around me had a toxic relationship with their body and food. I was surrounded by sugar-free candies, Sweet-N-Low, I can’t Believe it’s Not Butter, Skinny Cow, Crystal Light, and diet sodas. In fact, I really thought that Sweet-N-Low and Diet Sodas were “adult foods”. Like when you become an adult, you learn to drive… and bein putting Sweet-N-Low in your coffee and drinking Coke Zero instead of regular Coke.

Hating your body and having a toxic relationship with food was a normal part of adulthood in my eyes. I watched my grandmas and parents and aunts try Atkins and Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig and go from Pilates Classes to Zumba classes. As a kid, I was always told that (despite being “chubby”) my body was perfect, but when you see the adults with body similar to yours doing everything they can to change them… even kids are smart enough to read between the lines.

When I finished meals, I would sneak food at night. I would quietly slip downstairs and binge eat whatever food we had. I had come to learn that the less food you could survive on, the better. So anything more was shameful and done in secret. This binge eating behavior was one that has followed me throughout my life.

It also didn’t help that as a preteen, my gramma brought me to Barnes and Noble, told me to pick whatever book I wanted, but then presented me with “The Diet for Teens Only”. True story. She also would insist on healthy snacks when my sister and I visited while my grandfather snuck us candies and ice cream. This was just more proof to me that eating foods like this was something that should be done in secret.

I’m not blaming my relationship with my body on my family. I truly believe that they were doing the best that they could, and diet culture is a cruel mistress. I just think that it set the foundation and core belief in my life that fatness is to be avoided at all costs. Of course, being bullied in high school and being very aware that I was the biggest of my friends throughout my life.

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In 2016, I lost a substantial amount of weight. And honestly, losing that weight felt like it was proving my beliefs true. Around the same time I lost weight, I was in my very first relationship, I had moved to a new state, I got to travel to Europe, I graduated from college, I was making new friends, I received more compliments about my appearance than I ever had before…

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And I began telling myself the story that I had bettered myself. I was better because I was thinner.

But life wasn’t as perfect as it seemed, even to me. My relationship was far from perfect, and to keep and maintain the weight loss, I was barely eating and exercising for hours a day, while still binge eating in secret. I asked my ex if he would still love me if I gained the weight back, and his response was “You won’t gain the weight back.”

Because of this, I was terrified to gain the weight back, and was doing everything in my power to continue losing the weight and keep it off.

But surprise surprise… the weight loss was not sustainable. Especially after experiencing trauma. I gained the weight back.

And in the years that have followed, I’ve gained more and more weight.

When I underwent more trauma in 2019, I gained weight. When COVID hit and I was isolated for almost six months, I gained more weight.

But despite this all, I don’t want to try to lose weight. What I’ve learned is that my story is not unique. Oftentimes, weight loss is not sustainable and the majority of diets are unsuccessful or unsustainable.

Something else I’ve learned is that when we talk about the importance of health, we need to include mental health in that conversation. Mental health IS health. If I push myself to try to lose weight, is there actually a war for me to do so without sacrificing my mental health? No. There’s not.

My relationship with food is still difficult. I still struggle with binge eating, specifically using it as an unhealthy coping mechanism. I’ve realized that emotional eating isn’t bad in itself, but when bingeing is used to excessively numb emotions… that’s the problem (at least personally.).

This leads to guilt and shame, and oftentimes, guilt and shame lead to more binge eating. It is such a vicious cycle.

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But this is why I am actively trying to improve my relationship with food and my body. My body has been through so much, and she does so much for me. She also happens to be fat. Why is it that society is so hyper-focused on the fat part instead of all that our bodies are capable of?

Why is fat considered one of the worst things a person can be?

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body positivity · Health at Every Size · Intuitive Eating · Self Care

Intuitive Eating: What It Is and Why I Follow It.

Note: There are some affiliate links, as well as talk of disordered eating and exercise, and specific weights. If these topics are upsetting to you, I recommend skipping this post.

Intuitive Eating. This time last year, I had only just discovered it and had become interested in it. Now, I’m still a baby Intuitive Eater who struggles with it almost every day, but I like to think that I understand and appreciate it more than I did.

I first stumbled upon the philosophy of Intuitive Eating while listening to Christy Harrison’s amazing podcast, “Food Psych“. Christy is an anti-diet dietician who uses her podcast to talk about all things related to diet culture and food freedom (two phrases that seemed foreign to me last year) and to discuss life and the idea of Health at Every Size with different guests. Someone asked me recently how I found Christy’s podcast, and while I’m not certain… I think it may have been while searching for diet and weight loss podcasts on Spotify. While it is most definitely not the kind of podcast I was looking for at the time, it was the podcast I needed. I’m so grateful to Christy and her guests to introducing me to the radical idea of loving my body exactly as it is.

You might be wondering, “Okay Katie… I’m glad this random lady changed your life with her podcast… but what exactly is Intuitive Eating?” I’m not an expert by any means. I’m still learning more every day, but I still would like to share with you what I know, and how it’s helped me.

Intuitive Eating, at its core, is trusting that your body knows what it needs in regards to nourishment, nutrition, and movement. In their book, Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Trible and Elyse Resch write: “

Intuitive Eating provides a new way of eating that is ultimately struggle-free and healthy for your mind and body. It is a process that unleashes the shackles of dieting (which can only lead to deprivation, rebellion, and rebound weight gain). It means getting back to your roots – trusting your body and its signals.

Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Trible and Elyse Resch

In short, instead of listening to exterior cues (how much you worked out, time of day, diet rules, beliefs about what you should eat), Intuitive Eating teaches you to listen to interior cues from your body.

More recently, there was some backlash about Intuitive Eating from Jillian Michaels, who is best known for her “tough love” (though I would rather call it bullying) on the TV Show “The Biggest Loser”. In short, she pretty much said that Intuitive Eating is only eating unhealthy foods. While I understand why people (including members of my family) might think that, this idea is forgetting the root of Intuitive Eating: listening to your body.

Yes, Intuitive Eating does require you to give yourself unconditional permission to eat any and all foods (no food rules), as you become more in-tune to your body, you will begin to realize that sometimes, your body wants things like vegetables, and lean meats. Sure, other days it wants pizza and McDonalds. But not all the time. As you learn your body’s cues and feelings, you will begin to realize that sometimes, the “unhealthy” foods don’t always feel so great.

For example, since I’ve begun Intuitive Eating, I’ve learned that some milk products make me feel really yucky. Not all milk products, but some. Cheese? Fine. Plain milk? Not so great. Butter? Fine. Yogurt? Fine. Ice Cream? Sadly, not so great sometimes. Intuitive Eating has taught me that drinking plain milk with my cereal and eating copious amounts of ice cream can leave me feeling gross. My body simply doesn’t like it. So, I switched to oat milk with my cereal, and get frozen yogurt or dairy free frozen desserts in lieu of ice cream when I can. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I still eat ice cream. But I know there’s a chance I won’t feel good after, and that I may regret it after.

For years, I tried different diets and “lifestyle changes” to lose weight. The one time I lost a substantial amount of weight, I would tell people that I wasn’t doing anything differently, but would spend hours a day at the gym, walk 15,000 steps at work, and binge eat a pint of Halo Top Ice Cream (around 400 calories) for each meal of the day. I lost around 80 pounds and weighed the least I ever did. But… looking back, that wasn’t an attainable lifestyle. In fact, it was a very disordered lifestyle. Since then, I’ve gained back the weight I lost, and then some. For a long time, that really devastated me. I saw it as a character flaw, or a lack of discipline. Now, I know that my body has carried me through trauma and life changes. She is strong, and beautiful, and I am no longer starving her, but instead working in harmony with her.

Food and exercise have become gifts that I give to my body. Sometimes that gift is my favorite salad and a 30 minute Peloton class, other times it’s my favorite dessert and taking a rest day to recover.

With Intuitive Eating, I have learned to really, truly love myself. Not the me who “could be” if I just lost weight or the me who was when I was at my lowest weight, but the me right now. The me who wears a size 24 jeans and loves riding the Peloton at the gym and whose favorite food is ice cream and who sometimes has the motivation and energy to meal prep. And that self love that I have discovered is a better gift than any diet could ever give me.