In April I posted about people generally gaining weight during lockdown, this time I am posting about me.
This is very, very rare for me. One of the hardest things about being in this profession is the expectation that many health professionals want to tell you about us. I don’t. I am sharing this ONLY because I hope to make someone who reads this feel better about where they are. And how this change is filtering through to my business.
I had planned to post this now in late July not realising it was going to be a huge week in the news for weight / obesity / healthy eating, due to the Government’s plans for us all, how ironic. That makes it even more significant somehow.
So, for the 1st time in many years, I have put on some weight. Not masses, but enough to feel the difference. (I am not weighing myself). I know how and why the weight gain has happened, you don’t need to know that. What is important is my changed attitude and relationship with weight, and that is what I want to share.
I realise there are many who might be thinking ‘so what, weight gain never bothers me’. And that is fine, no problem. But I know there are SO many women out there to whom this would be a disaster, a huge big deal, never far from their thoughts. I used to be one of these women, unless you have been here it is difficult to describe to anyone else the pressure you put on yourself to get or remain slim, how obsessive it can become. (Why we do this is a different story, not for this blog).
I have always been ‘anti-diet’, yet for the past decade or so until this year was nutritionally ‘ultra-healthy’, not realising that this was another form of restriction similar to dieting. Deliberately restricting food intake in any way (other than for medical or allergy reasons) is a form of disordered eating, and it has taken me a while to learn this lesson.
Back to the weight gain – I have a choice. I could either
- Use all my tricks of the trade to fight my new size, or
- Sit with the weight gain, let go of my old thoughts, hang-ups and fears, and trust where it will lead me.
I am opting for ‘b’. Scary, exciting, huge. I am trying to have no more unhappy plates for me (picture above) in any shape or form. Why? Because: –
- I don’t want to be that person anymore who lives in fear of putting on weight, I have had enough. My 1st attempt at losing weight, and started weighing, at age 12. Enough now, no more struggling.
- This is in part due to my discovery of, and training in, Intuitive Eating. Its not easy to put all this into practise, to change the habits of a lifetime, but I am trying hard to, without putting pressure on myself.
- One important element of Intuitive Eating is that everyone has a natural set point weight. I suspect I have been under my set point weight for years, and I feel my body is wanting to get back to its natural place.
- I have reached that point in mid-life when my body is changing, and I feel my metabolism is slowing down (in conjunction with the physical effects of lockdown). This is not good, but I am going to approach it from a place of neutrality, acceptance and calm, rather than struggle and self-criticism.
- I feel good. I feel healthy, perhaps in a more well-rounded sense (no pun intended!) that I used to when I was slimmer. I move every day doing what I enjoy, I am reasonably fit, and I sleep well. In terms of my health and mobility, my size is absolutely not an issue.
- There is a global pandemic happening, let’s try to keep things in perspective. (I don’t write this lightly ; it is easy to write and for many women the logical part of their brain might be agreeing whilst the emotional part can’t rationalise it)
- I believe in, and practise, eating good quality, simple, real food, and eating sustainably for the planet from its natural resources. This does not need to be complicated or difficult. I trust that as long as I do this most of the time, I will find natural balance. I love the term ‘gentle nutrition’ from the Intuitive eating world. It reminds me of a line from Desiderata written almost 100 years ago and still so relevant still –
‘Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself’.
This new territory is hard, not going to deny that. Some days are better than others. But it is progress and I am glad to be on this journey.
Will all this affect my health coaching? Personally no. But yes, in the sense that I hope to help women even more than I have been doing so. And I am my business. Because in parallel to my personal journey, lockdown gave me an opportunity to return to training and studying, which I love. Some of this learning has been at times diametrically opposed, deliberately. I have completed 2 courses on Psychological approaches to weight loss / obesity management, at the same time an opposing course in Applying NonDiet approaches and Weight Inclusivity . And exploring the Body Image Movement, HAES , Nutriri.org and Fat Positivity.
Am I a little crazy to do this? yes possibly. I did it to help make up my mind about what I believe, and how I want to take my business forward now. How can I best serve clients? Where do I sit on the whole weight loss = health v fat stigma & shaming issue? What do I understand about body & weight, and does that serve me well now?
And the outcome of all of this for my business and my clients? – well some of it confirmed what I had believed and been integrating for years, some is new – here is what I belive and value –
- Dieting is a form of disordered eating, which does not work and actually often causes long term physical and mental damage.
- Sustainable weight loss is discouragingly hard to achieve (mainly due to our set body weight), the statistics are appalling through traditional routes. Though it can be done with the right approach, as my recent training has endorsed.
- Slim does not equal happiness or successfulness. A woman’s self-worth does not depend on her clothes size.
- A woman can be slim and have poor body image, or bigger and have positive body image. And disordered eating comes in all shapes and sizes and should not be stereotyped.
- Whilst there is a growing movement of body positivity, of women who are learning to love their bodies no matter what the size, the vast majority of women do not like their bodies, and this has been deeply ingrained in our culture for decades. The pressure for women to be thin, and now fit and healthy as well, is unrelentless and enormous, partly I believe due to social media now.
- Similarly, fat discrimination and stigma are a big part of our culture, and it can be a vicious circle for those living with it.
- Between the giants of the big food companies selling us junk food, and the diet industry blaming all weight gain and diet failure on us as individuals, we are simply tiny little pawns in a huge game. Trying to walk a middle path and do what is right for your body without being hijacked by either side, is very, very hard.
- I am weight neutral. I walk the middle ground. What I want for my clients is to help them blossom, to make peace with food and eating and their bodies. This may mean weight loss or not, depending on where they are. And I endorse the principles of Intuitive Eating,
- If a client comes to me for weight loss, I will explore what is driving this with them. Then we will start from a place of positivity and calmness, rather than negativity and self-blame. No diets, no deprivation or restriction, instead re-education and self-care.
- The reasons for weight gain are incredibly complex and vary from individual to individual – genetics, environment, lifestyle, eating, mindset. So, the answer to weight loss needs to be complex and multi-approached too – proper real food and a focus on positive healthful behaviour change from which weight loss is a beneficial side effect rather than the main focus.
- Movement is key to overall health, whether for weight loss or not. Humans were designed to move, and the benefits of movement are crucial to our wellness in both mind and body.
- Nutrition is definitely important,, no doubt about that. But there are issues when it becomes TOO important. We are what we eat to a certain extent, but we are also what we sleep, breathe, think and do.
- I have wasted enough of my life worrying a kilo here of there, whether a pair of trousers look tight or not. I hope to help other women to do the same. Lets focus on the bigger picture here.
- My journey continues. By the end of this year I hope to have completed further qualificiations in disordered eating and eating disorders, and next year to become an Intuitive Eating Certified Counsellor. Exciting, challenging, growing.
If you are still with me, thank you for reading. How has reading this made you feel? Have I helped you, or can I help you further? Can I coach on this?