Updated: Mar 30
These may not work for everyone, but I found significant improvement in my mental and physical health once I consistently incorporated these 3 things.
A quick note: I will be discussing my struggles with restricting and binging. Please keep in mind that no article/blog is a substitute for professional help should you need it. There is no shame in reaching out to a mental health professional if you are struggling. If you would like help in understanding how food affects your body on an individual basis, click here to set up a free discovery call with Danielle.
Now, upwards and onwards!
The beauty standard in America changes constantly, causing us to forever chase a moving target. I've been discouraged many times when looking in the mirror only to realize that when I lose the weight and reach my goals I may still not be good enough for my arbitrary standards. I still struggle with those thoughts of not being enough. Not pretty enough, not smart enough, not kind enough, and not funny enough. As I've gotten older (and my brain has fully developed) I've been able to more accurately assess those thoughts as lies. They are simply a passing thought, only worthy of being discarded.
I am not perfect. I will never be perfect. Coming to terms with that has been a verrry long journey. Perfection is not only impossible, but I have come to find that it is boring.
As someone who has struggled with the tendency to restrict my diet and then binge, I've discovered a few things that, in the past, only set me up to continue this vicious cycle.
So, dear reader, whether or not you have the same struggles or are just in the mood to read this post, here are 3 mindsets/practices I (try to) keep to avoid falling back into that whirling cesspool of negativity (I've been watching a lot of Jane Austen movies, forgive the dramatics).
Tip #1 - Stop Prioritizing Aesthetic Over Health
Of course, I want to look good! We all want to feel spicy hot and attractive. I want to walk down the street and feel the wind in my hair, a halo of confidence and beauty radiating out. I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to look good. However, when your only goal is vanity - it's very easy to lose sight of what's important.
Over the years I've slowly (and somewhat painfully) transitioned into setting non-scale and non-measurement victories. I still track those to measure progress, but simply as data points. The emphasis on what I find important has shifted. Instead of only focusing on what number the scale is I am now also working towards fitness goals. I am currently training for a 5k (shoutout to Danielle for working out with me. She's a real one), finally getting my splits (apologies to my old dance teachers - I'm sure you wish I would've achieved that long ago. My bad), and being able to do multiple pushups like it's nothing (no one to shout out here except for pride).
One of my top goals now is a health one. I would LOVE to reverse my GERD (VERY intense almost daily acid reflux. It is not fun, friends). I developed mine after gaining weight and adopting less than helpful eating habits (including my lovely restrict-binge cycle), so I have a lot of hope that in changing my habits I can improve, if not completely reverse my condition.
Moving towards achieving these things has made me excited to see what my body is capable of. It has helped me appreciate my body more than I ever have before. God gave me this body for a reason and treating it kindly by increasing the activities that will help it function better and the food that gives it energy has been mood-altering in ways you won't believe until you try it too.
Tip #2 - Don't Moralize Your Journey
It is a journey. There are going to be hiccups. You will not be perfect. You will eat something that upsets your stomach and your weight is going to fluctuate. That is not a sin. Just because your daily food doesn't look like the "what I eat in a day" vlogs, does not make you less of a person. Sure, they look like super yummy meals. But you are not a bad person if your meal is a little less photogenic or has a little more sugar.
If you have a bad physical reaction? Make a note and move on.
I used to say all the time "I'm being bad today," "I need to be good starting Monday," "I ran a mile today I can be a little bad," "Oh I was bad for lunch I need to skip dinner cause I don't deserve it - I've gone too far and I need to punish myself for this. If I just skip dinner it'll offset it and I'll be good tomorrow" which then resulted in another binge episode the next day because I was starving as well as emotional eating due to stress. It was a daily vicious cycle.
This habit of moralizing my choices was one of the main catalysts. I would be so emotionally distraught and I felt like I would never see the light at the end of the tunnel. Rejecting that kind of negative self-talk took daily practice. I had to remind myself that I am here for a reason. That I am worthy of love from family and friends. My weight gain does not change that.
Sure, I need to stick to certain behaviors and make lifestyle changes in order to achieve my various goals. But it is ok if it doesn't change overnight.
This actually brings me to my next point.
Tip #3 - Boooo Fad Diets
Most of us have done some form of a fad/crash diet in the pursuit of quick and easy weight loss.
I lost 15 pounds in a month once. Gained it all back plus some when I started eating normally again. Shocking I know.
One of the things that led me to binge was the whole "Monday I am starting a new diet so I need to eat all the food I can't have as a last meal on Sunday cause I'm never eating it again!"
I would make it what? 2 Weeks at the most? Then helloooo an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's Phish Food for dinner and nothing else in the darkness of my dorm room avoiding my roommates in shame. I like to envision myself as Gollum and my ice cream as the one true ring (I can laugh about it now, it was all very sad at the time).
When has this ever worked for any of us? Monday would come around and I would be miserable. This all-or-nothing attitude is the main contributor to my failure in the past.
"Oh no! I saw a cookie. I guess my day is over. Now, let's eat whatever and I'll start the diet over tomorrow! Oh but wait. It's Thursday. And we all know diets can only be started on a Monday."
Unless you are being guided by a registered dietitian nutritionist (hello again Danielle) on some kind of elimination diet to test your food sensitivities, the harsh restriction that comes with most diets is very rarely sustainable.
Changing from a hard and fast weight loss method to gradual changes that actually made me feel satisfied and better internally, rather than deprived, made ALL the difference. If I have a cookie for lunch, it no longer throws off my entire day. Because the cookie is just a cookie. It is no longer taboo. I know I'll probably have one again someday so it doesn't become this panicked "I have to eat all the cookies immediately because I will never get this chance again!!!!"
Nowadays, I realize I may not even want the cookie, and since I know it'll be available at a later date and that I am not a horrible person for eating it, I pass on it. I genuinely don't feel like eating it and would rather have something else. Which is a wild concept to a younger me, but a beautiful sign of progress.
These seem relatively simple, but believe me, it takes work
You are shifting your entire mindset and fighting an entire culture that loves to boast the next big diet trend or pill or whatever else load of poop makes them money.
Although it is slow, being forgiving towards myself and switching my mindset has seriously improved my quality of life. Instead of hiding away and refusing to see friends because I was so ashamed, I go out and do it anyway even if my first instinct is anxiety and fear. They are just reflexes born from a self-deprecating past, and one day I hope that they will be gone too.
I sincerely hope these tips have helped you, or at least planted a little nugget of encouragement. We are all capable of making healthy choices and getting to know our bodies better, and we are all worthy of making connections with others. Despite how we may feel about ourselves, we are enough.
Good luck out there friend.
Schedule a free 30-minute discovery call with Danielle Starmer, RD LDN here