In this post, I want to share with you 5 things I’ve learned by not dieting. Making the decision to avoid diet culture and listen to your own body is not an easy one, yet it leads you on a journey of self-discovery that is worthwhile. So far, I have been on eating intuitively for nearly four years, and I often find that I still have a lot to learn about myself.
1. Health Is More Important Than Size Or Weight
Would you rather be healthy or have your idea of the perfect body?
At various points in my life, I would have chosen the perfect body over health. The thought process there is that a trim and tone body naturally would equal being healthier. Yet, when I achieved my fitness and weight loss goals, I was far from healthy.
With regular exercise and a “healthy diet”, I did achieve the body shape and size I wanted at one point over ten years ago. Everyone complimented me on my weight loss and told me how great I looked. Yet, most days I didn’t have much energy and had so much mental fog that I tried to dismiss. Also, I had numerous digestive issues that started cropping up, including my gallbladder just giving up on me.
I struggled to maintain my new-found perfect body, and each new diet only left me feeling worse in the end. until I read about intuitive eating. Then, I learned that there is a way out of that vicious cycle. My metabolism and energy levels were a mess by that point, and I had already gained about half the weight I had previously lost.
My Intuitive Eating Journey: Weight Fluxuations And Better Health
Initially, I gained weight when I started my intuitive eating journey. It wasn’t a lot, but 10-15 pounds over 8 months feels like a ton when you were already labeled as overweight/borderline obese.
It took a couple of years to get past the pervasive food police thoughts in my head and understand my body’s ways of communicating with me. After that, I have gradually noticed that my clothes getting looser as I approach whatever my body’s set point might be.
I refuse to step on the scale and be defined by that number now, so I can’t tell you exactly what I weigh now in relation to when my journey began. What I can tell you is that I have more energy, less stress, and better overall health now than when I was obsessing over weight loss and healthy eating.
2. Dieting Is Stressful And Time Consuming
Whether it’s healthy eating, tracking macronutrients, or counting calories and points, dieting is an all-consuming activity. I didn’t notice how much food rules and diet mentality affected my life until I started trying to reject it and eat intuitively. Now I’m not sure how I managed to put up with all of the planning and judgmental thought processes.
I will say it is weird at first when you actually begin the process of rejecting the dieting trends. Not only did I have trouble fitting into the usual food and workout conversations people have, but I found a ton of free time that I had to learn to fill with new hobbies. Cooking food doesn’t have to be a big production unless I feel like cooking an elaborate meal. I no longer have to meal plan and keep track of every morsel of food, nor do I care to read about the latest fad diet or celebrity workout that’s guaranteed to work.
You don’t even know how obsessed society is with food and dieting until you decide not to be a party to that anymore. I found time to explore all sorts of interesting hobbies and deal with inner thoughts and emotional issues that only became apparent once I took the time to listen to myself over the external noise.
3. You Can Be An Emotional Eater And Not Even Know It
I always thought of emotional eating as the person sitting on the couch with a half-gallon of ice cream or a large bag of potato chips after a breakup or a tough day at work. However, that’s just an extreme form of emotional eating or one piece of a much larger picture.
It took months for me to realize that I have a whole set of foods I use when I’m nostalgic for simpler times, like my own childhood. Boredom is yet another subtle emotional trigger for me to eat more. When I am bored, I crave things like chips and snack cakes, pretty much anything tasty that’s easy to grab and eat. Now that I know this, I can choose to redirect myself and find something fun to do and save my snacks for when I am hungry for them.
4. Exercise Can Actually Be Fun
When I was exercising to lose weight, movement felt like a chore. Even swimming, which I used to love as a kid, became a stressful drag at times. Swimming laps or incorporating various strokes purely to reach some crazy fitness goal just takes the fun right out of it!
So, how do you make exercise enjoyable again? One word, play!
Forget spending hours on the treadmill or elliptical. If you enjoy walking and exploring the outdoors, have fun doing it. If not, find what you enjoy doing.
Now that I am feeding my body what it wants, I have the time and energy to dance like no one is watching, play games with children, and/or chill with some stretching and modified yoga whenever I feel like it. Movement is not something I schedule and force myself to do anymore. Instead, I find that I move more naturally doing daily tasks and enjoying life.
There are days I feel tired and don’t want to move around much, but those don’t happen as often as they did before, When they do I just rest and take things a bit slower. It’s no big deal!
5. Nothing Is Perfect
There’s no such thing as a perfect body or perfect eating habits. While exploring intuitive eating, I have discovered that quite a few so-called healthy foods do not work well with my body due to various conditions, like histamine intolerance. Other foods that nutritionists and the media would have you believe are bad when eaten regularly actually help calm my digestive issues and provide me with important nutrients and energy. So, I feel my best when I listen to my body.
Also, I am trying to practice body neutrality, My inner thoughts about my own body can be very judgmental and cruel, so it’s important to change them. However, I will probably never like certain things about my physical appearance, and that’s okay. I don’t have to like everything about myself.
What’s important is to learn how to respect my self, despite my imperfections. My body, talents, and feelings are unique to me and I deserve to be healthy. I am grateful that my body functions well enough to do what I need. It does not have to be perfect.