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After Years of Dieting, Intuitive Eating Helped Me Love Myself the Way I Am

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A year ago I completely overhauled my life in the best way possible. I was burnt out from my efforts in trying to change my body and life through diet. I wanted my life to be perfect, and every magazine or trashy tabloid I read informed me that all that perfect would magically fall into place, if only I could achieve a thin body.

I found myself driving down the street and studying every storefront for weight loss solutions or diet centers. My ears would perk up at radio commercials advertising, “HAVE YOU TRIED EVERYTHING BUT YOU JUST CAN’T SEEM TO FIND LASTING WEIGHT LOSS? TRY QUICK WEIGHT LOSS SOLUTIONS!” Oooh, maybe this is the trick?

As tempting as that tag line was, my gut was telling me I needed to take a step back. This just wasn’t working for me anymore. I wasn’t happy, and I was tired. And as God does in times of desperation, He often puts just what you need right in front of you.

READ: How My Addiction to Dieting Affected My Husband

Months before I had watched a few videos on intuitive eating that were posted to an online forum I frequented. The concept of using a hunger and fullness scale to help you tune into your body’s physical hunger really stuck with me. Six months later while browsing Pinterest, the hunger/fullness scale popped up again, which sent me back to those videos.

I’ll be honest, I had no idea what intuitive eating actually was. All I knew was that the words spoken by the woman on the video, Soshy Adelstein, resonated with me. On a whim I sent her an email, not knowing a thing about her, her credentials, her track record, or history. All I knew was that she seemed somewhat normal and managed to capture my ADD attention span for 22 minutes. And quite honestly, what did I have to lose? We were setting up our chat over Skype so she couldn’t exactly murder me.

On the days leading up to my first session with her I did what any sane person does—I ate my way through house and home. Chocolate, mac n’ cheese, cookies, whatever I could get my hands on. I had to get every last morsel of good stuff in before I was a perfect solider following my orders. Famous last words—the diet starts tomorrow!

The day came, and Soshy asked me all the usual consultation questions that my past nutritionists would ask:

1. What’s your food history? Do you have all day? I thought this was supposed to be a 30-minute consultation.

2. Have you been on a diet before? It’s 2015 and I’m in my roaring 20s, why is this even a question?

3. What do you normally eat? Um, there is no normal—check whatever current diet I’m on.

READ: A Confession About My Weight Loss

But then came some not-so-usual questions:

1. What’s your relationship with your mom? Please check with my therapist; I mean, can anyone answer that in three minutes?

2. What’s your mom’s relationship with food? She treats carbohydrates like they are the devil’s weapon of choice. She actually shrills at them like one would when they see a roach. In bed. Crawling on their face.

3. What’s your relationship with your daughter? We have a shared intense passion for Heinz ketchup and Disney.

4. How do enjoy your job? I thoroughly enjoy lunch time. Maybe a little too much. That’s why I’m here.

The 30 minutes were up and before I knew it we were scheduling our next session. And that’s when I did a double take with her. She didn’t tell me what to eat! Soshy just smiled and told me I’m not going to tell you what to do. This got me panicked; I mean, I need parameters, rules, or some sort of guidance. She doesn’t understand what will happen. Many, many pizzas will happen. I was frozen in fear; it was a terrifying yet slightly thrilling moment.

My homework was to go to the grocery store and just roam. Explore the aisles and buy whatever my heart desired. The only rule, she told me, is no more diet food—if it says “low fat” or “diet,” go for the full fat, real version.

That night I OD’d on a butter laden eggs benedict confection. And boy did I feel sick. And that was lesson #1: When my body eats too much butter, I feel sick. OK, so next time I needed to try eating slightly less butter and see how I feel. Oh nice, I felt good! And more than that, I was satisfied with way fewer bites.

READ: After a Lifetime of Dieting, I Want My Daughters to Love Their Bodies

And that is how things continued. Soshy was not there to tell me what to do; she was there to guide me to learn how to use my body again. She explained that our bodies need to go back to that baby phase where we cry when we are hungry and we push the bottle away when we have had enough. All the years of dieting put that setting of my body on automatic bypass. I was always governed by a set of rules, when the whole time my body knew exactly how to eat.

I continue to Skype fairly regularly with Soshy, but we barely talk food. In fact, we never focused solely on food because getting back in touch with my body also meant getting back in touch with my feelings. Food was not going to be there as my emotional crutch anymore. I was going to need to deal with feelings rather than eat my way through them.

I found I was able to explore the deeper parts of myself. I was slowly growing my confidence without needing things like mirrors or Facebook. I was learning to feel satisfied and just be happy with myself. I realized that I am so full of joy; I am literally high on life! The shitty stuff is still there and painful, but they no longer define my happiness.

This path is not easy, but it is so rewarding. Now when I overeat, I know not to beat myself up about it; rather, I think about the root issue causing me to use food this way. On the days I don’t love my body, I remember I am doing everything I can for it. When I find myself craving weight loss, I remind myself that although losing 20 pounds made me feel good in the past, it didn’t work for me in the long run. And best of all, for the rest of my life I know that Soshy is just a text away to help me figure it out.

The most valuable lesson I learned through all this is that true lasting happiness is a joy that can’t come from anything external. It’s about being comfortable to just sit with yourself, being you, and being happy with that. Trying to improve your self is commendable, but it’s equally laudable to be OK with yourself without changing. Sit there and realize that you, on your own, the way you are now, is enough.

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