The first part of the solution was hypnotherapy. This helped me with both emotional eating and food sensitivities.
The second part of the solution was counterintuitive. The only way for me to stop overeating was to eat more. Let me explain.
Many of us - especially but not exclusively women - are on a perpetual diet. Even when we tell ourselves we’re not dieting, we still are. Because we’re trying to eat less. That’s a diet, even if you tell yourself it’s not. When you’re giving your body what it needs, you don’t have to “try” to eat differently. You just eat.
But for many of us, this is impossible, not because there’s anything wrong with us, but because there’s something wrong with our society. We are a society that perpetuates a belief that all women should be a certain size (generally a 0 to 6), we should all try to eat less, and if you want to eat ice cream for dinner, there is clearly something wrong with you. Here’s what I believe:
- Women can be healthy at a variety of sizes, and the belief that you can tell the state of someone’s health by their physical appearance is a fallacy.
- In our quest to look like models and movie stars, we continually deprive our bodies of the calories it needs, thus lowering our metabolism and actually making it run on fewer calories. If we stop curtailing our hunger and allow ourselves to eat what we want, when we want it, we will increase our metabolism, thereby giving us more room to eat. The only thing dieting does for you is make you obsessive and grumpy. Oh and it usually results in eventual weight gain, making you have to go on another diet to lose the weight again. (It’s kind of a brilliant marketing scheme for weight loss companies, don’t you think? They get a client for life because you lose weight doing their diet, gain it back, then go back on their diet...over and over and over…)
- You can eat ice cream for dinner every night if you want to and if it makes you feel good. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. However, if you try it, there’s a good chance you’ll get tired of it, realize it doesn’t make you feel that great, and end up wanting to eat something else eventually.
When I first decided to stop dieting - like, really stop dieting, not just temporarily stop - I realized that I unconsciously aimed for 1200-1500 calories a day. After years of working in the weight loss industry, that had become my norm. I had also slowed my metabolism down, and so I became full very easily.
I decided to give myself a new goal of 2000 calories a day. (I'm not a registered dietitian and I'm not saying this is what you should do. Just sharing what has worked for me.) It was hard because I wasn't used to eating so much or allowing so many carbs. I also just had to accept that I would gain weight during this time and be okay with that.
I did gain some weight, but I also stopped having intense food cravings that led to binges.
I got pregnant pretty quickly after I made the decision to start eating more, so I can't say what would have happened with my weight if I had not gotten pregnant.
But what happened during and after my pregnancy surprised me. I gained weight during the pregnancy, just as I should have. But afterwards, as I continued to make sure I was eating ENOUGH and didn't try to diet or lose the baby weight, I actually lost more weight than I had gained. I was walking my son a lot in the stroller and nursing, but also eating a lot of food, and the weight just kept coming off.
I didn't have to do anything special because it seemed like my metabolism had found its equilibrium.
Since then, I have continued to eat more food (and more carbs) than I ever would have allowed myself years ago, and I've found that although my weight goes up and down a bit with the seasons (I couldn't tell you how much since I no longer have a scale), I no longer get that bloated look I used to have when I was bingeing. Even when my clothes fit a little tighter and I realize I've been sitting in front of the computer too much, I still look in the mirror and feel really good about my body.
In the past, I'm not sure I ever felt good about my body unless it was under a very specific weight goal. But these days, my body is just comfortable.
Every once in a while, I find myself overeating, and without fail, I realize that I skipped a meal that day or ate very little. But I don't judge myself for it anymore. I don't experience the emotional angst of overeating that used to lead to binges. I just realize I need to make sure I'm fitting meals into my busy day, and move on. Because diet angst and body angst...they're no longer something I make space for in my life.
I'm too busy making space for me.