My dream for the past 20 years has been to eat like a normal person. I’ve tried every diet available to me. I counted calories, weighed food, counted points, gone carb free, been a vegan, been a vegetarian, only ate food that fit into specific containers, only ate fruit for 5 days straight, had sessions with a nutritionist, I did Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Herbal Magic, Paleo, Isagenix, Atkins and Juiced for 2 weeks (yes! ONLY drank fresh green juices, nothing else), plus all kinds of other crazy crap.
These diets only ended in me binging on pizza and quickly gaining back all that hard earned weight loss. I would look at friends who were either average weight or super skinny and wonder how they could just eat like a normal person. These friends could enjoy themselves at social outings without obsessive fear and worry over the foods that will be at parties or dinners out. They can keep bread in their house without having major anxiety and can indulge in pizza without needing to throw out the leftovers.
From the past 20 years of trying everything under the sun, I’ve come to realize there are a few key factors in learning to eat like a normal person and bring my body to a normal, healthy weight. This article will discuss the food/mental factors that contribute to finding peace with what you eat. Also, anywhere on this website you can sign up to get the free started guide to eating like a normal person. It’s a PDF so you can share it with whoever you think might benefit from it as well!
Eating Disorders and Eating Whatever You Want
I saw a councillor for a while who specialized in eating disorders. She would tell me not to make foods good or bad. The idea behind a lot of eating disorder therapy is that you don’t want to deprive yourself of anything and not to discriminate against certain foods. Deprivation of certain foods is often what leads to binge eating through the dieting cycle. At first it was freeing, I thought I had found peace, but then I found myself slowly gaining weight (and I was already overweight). The food freedom felt great, but I still wanted to lose weight and have a healthy body. It felt like there was little room to meet in the middle with this therapy of eating whatever I wanted. I needed more structure.
So I stopped ‘eating whatever I wanted’ and started a few more years of struggling back and forth between diets, cleanses and trying to eat like a normal person. I lost weight and gained back more, until I hit just below 300 pounds.
I was devastated and very angry with myself. I felt hopeless and didn’t know what to do. I decided I was NOT going to diet again, EVER. I was not going to stop until I found a way to eat like a normal person while bringing my body back to a healthy weight.
Although scary and frustrating, I am at finding ease and learning to love food again rather than fear it. It took me so long to get to this point and I don’t want you or our youth to day to spend 20 years of disordered eating and low self esteem like I have. I went on my first diet when I was 11 years old and it took me 20 years of dieting to realize they don’t work and were actually part of the cause of my eating disorder.
I laugh looking back at this now. How could I not realize that diets don’t work? Because…
I was addicted to dieting.
I would get a high from new diets, when I thought about being a size one and losing all that weight I longed to lose since I was 11 years old. I would truly believe I could do it this time. When I first started a diet I believed I could stick to it forever; eat a specific way everyday without fail and that it would finally be the one that would fix my life and weight for good.
Soon enough I would have a small cheat, like an extra slice of cheese or chip that would turn into the whole block or whole bag. This would set off the dieting lows and binges. Sometimes it would only last for a day, other times it would last for weeks. The only thing that made me feel better was obsessing over a new diet. I felt so out of control around food, that the prospect of a new diet was the only thing that made me feel better.
When I realized that I can’t stay in the diet cycle any longer I started to research ways to eat like a normal person. I did all kinds of meditation, journaling, read books on intuitive eating, food addiction and googled desperate terms like ‘why can’t I stop eating’.
I do believe meditation and journaling helps everyone in all walks of life, but to practice them every time I was hungry or before/after each meal was time consuming and put more emphasis on food that I cared to have. If anything, these tools were having the opposite effect I hoped they would.
Intuitive Eating did help me tap into my body for cues when I was hungry or full, but it took me a really long time to get there since my body was all messed up from years of dieting. I felt lost and didn’t know what or how to eat normally. I couldn’t understand why none of these programs were working for me. I thought that maybe I would have to cut out certain foods forever since I still felt out of control around them.
Finally, I started to learn about nutrient density and the primal brain. In my opinion, this is one of the most important factors in understanding why our bodies crave certain foods and why we feel addicted to junk foods. It’s pretty simple that when we deprive our body, it’s going to go into a primal state and release crazy cravings for food (simple carbohydrates like bread we crave when we are tired/super hungry because they give the body fast energy). Thus, keeping my body satisfied with enough food that contains both nutrients and satisfies me, has helped quiet my eating disorder drastically.
This isn’t some sort of crazy clean eating plan that deprives you of your delicious favourites or that insists you drink green smoothies all day long (although I really do like green smoothies personally). By getting enough nutrients in what you’re eating, you can begin to physically fight cravings, which leads to less binges, more peace and getting to a healthy weight.