So often when people come to work with me, I ask this question and they say that they want to lose weight. We see and hear the message that thin is better everywhere. That losing weight will solve all your problems. We've all seen those before and after pictures on social media. The people are always sad and bigger on the left, and thinner and happier on the right. But it is only a temporary fix.
The research shows that diets don't work, diets fail at any significant weight loss over any longer period 85% to 95% of the time. Research also shows that over time, you are more likely to gain weight if you're a dieter. It also increases the likelihood of weight cycling, bingeing, and shame around food in your body.
But if diets don’t work then what really does work? What is success?
First off, we have to disconnect the idea of weight loss from success. When I go deeper and ask individuals what they really want in their RELATIONSHIP with food and their bodies, it turns out that there's actually a bunch of things that they're wanting. They think that weight loss will bring them all the things (even if dieting did lead to weight loss, weight loss will not give you all the things you really want, or even most of the things). Typically, they're most wanting to feel good about themselves. To feel good enough.
When it comes to appearance there is a need to disconnect the idea that our value and our worth is tied to our size or appearance. Even if you get to that magical number, you still may not look the way that you want to look, and you still may not feel like you're good enough. This is because you're always chasing this kind of arbitrary external ideal and appearance. This will not lead to true self acceptance or feeling enough.
Some other things that people are really looking for are energy and vitality. Maybe they're concerned about a health issue like diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. What they're really wanting is to feel well, to feel vital, know that they're taking care of their health and addressing any issues. Unfortunately, our healthcare system has equated thinness with being healthy. My opinion? That's just false; that is diet culture, anti-fat bias, and weight stigma showing up at the doctors office.
If you want true success, what we really need to do is focus on helping you heal your relationship with food and your body. We do that by looking at what kind of attachment relationship you have with food and your body.
Are you more anxious and preoccupied? Are you more fearful and avoidant of food? Are you more dismissive and avoidant of food? Knowing your food attachment is the first step toward a secure attachment with food and your body.
So, what does that look like? It means building a strong relationship with food and your body. It is building that body attunement so that you can really nurture your body in the way that it needs.
Building that body attunement so that you can really get connected with your body. What signs and signals is your body giving you? From there you can use that information to make choices and use discernment in your relationship with food. This helps with making choices about what, how, when and why you are eating.
Even if there was a “perfect” food plan, life happens and it wouldn’t be perfect for what your body needs everyday. For example, if you get a cold, or get pregnant, these things contribute to what our body really wants or needs in those specific moments. Different things are going on in terms of our metabolic processes, and we're going to need different things on different days, it's just how it is.
Resonant eating is important to keep in mind when looking for that success. Resonant eating is eating in a way that really resonates with your body, mind, spirit, and soul. It means you are in tune with what makes you feel well and how to achieve that vitality and energy you want. But it also includes eating things simply because you want and enjoy it.
Food is meant to be something that we're in a relationship with, that we're able to take in, and that we gleam satisfaction and joy from. It's meant to be a cultural tradition; a social connection with other people, but for each person it is going to be a little different.
When you come to a secure attachment relationship with food you're able to have that autonomy to eat what you want and eat in a way that resonates with you.
Another common concern is emotional eating, soothing using food or what is often called binge episodes. For that, success would look like peace, ease, and freedom from those cycles. The answer to that isn’t restriction or weight loss…it’s addressing the things that cause you to binge.
So what is success? That's really up to you, your desires, what would feel good to you. I want you to imagine an ideal relationship with food. Most of us have that one friend who just eats what they want and food isn't really that big of a deal to them. We feel some slight envy of that friend, right? But why? They have a secure attachment with food and their body. They are eating to nurture their body and not to punish it.
A client recently said to me that she wanted to be friends with her body and friends with food. We started focusing on just that. She started asking herself questions like “was I a friend to my body today?”, “Is this nurturing to me?” Sometimes the most nurturing thing is sitting on the couch with Netflix and ice cream, and that is okay! That is knowing what your body wants. That is getting more attuned with your body at a deeper level.
So going back to this idea of, what is success?
It comes from knowing what you really want and addressing that underlying need to desire. We have to start by dismantling diet culture BS ideas- recognizing that appearance isn’t the end all be all. Weight loss isn’t a silver bullet for being ‘cured’.
I want to leave you with a few questions:
What do you really want for yourself in your relationship with food and your relationship with your body?
What are your priorities and how can you reframe the idea of success to really match what you actually want for yourself?
Download your free hunger scale now!
The first step to healing our relationship with food is reconnecting with the signals our body gives us. One of the ways to do that is by checking in with your hunger before you eat. Here's my spin on the traditional hunger scale.