It’s Not What You’re Eating, It’s Who You're Being
I spent a lot of years worrying about every bite I put in my mouth. I carefully counted my calories and sometimes, even measured my food. It was a science and the experts told me it would work, that if I was diligent, I would lose weight. Calories in, calories out. Simple. Easy. It took me a long time to admit that, in fact, it wasn't working. And it definitely wasn't easy.
I finally reached my breaking point and I couldn't go on obsessing about food. It was all I ever thought about. I felt like I wasn't reaching my full potential because I didn't have any energy at the end of the day to chase my dreams. I threw in the towel and vowed never to diet again. That is the day my Intuitive Eating journey began.
I went all in. I hired a coach. I read all the books I could get my hands on and filled my social media feed with inspiring accounts. Compared to what I had been doing, Intuitive Eating was relatively easy. Identifying my hunger and fullness took some work, but in the grand scheme of things life was way more peaceful than it had been in a long time.
The interesting thing about honoring your hunger and fullness is that you have to be very aware of what’s going on in your body. This was challenging because I had spent years ignoring her, punishing her and making her the enemy. She was something to be controlled, not my partner in health. I was so busy listening to the experts who had all the answers, that it never occurred to me to listen to what my body wanted.
The shift didn’t happen overnight. And rightfully so. I had used and abused my body for so long, it took some time for us to rebuild the trust. Because the truth is, my relationship with my body is like any other and I needed to prove that I could honor and cherish her again. Throughout this process I learned that only I have the answers. What works for others doesn’t work for me and that’s why I struggled for as long as I did. I was looking for answers in the wrong place.
Now that I was paying attention, I could focus on what I was eating. I had to make peace with food. I spent decades making every food decision a moral judgement. This food is “good” and therefore, I am good. But every time I ate something I believed was “bad”, I was a horrible person with no willpower. Every bite was loaded with guilt and shame. I desperately wanted to only desire “healthy” foods. So instead of enjoying whatever it was I was eating, I was focused on feeling like a failure and barely tasting what was on my plate.
Upon reflection, these thoughts and beliefs were a product of years living in diet culture. I know now that there are no good or bad foods, but I also recognized that the more I restrict or make off limits, the more I want it. This is human nature. I am not broken, the system that supports these ideas is broken. Enjoying food is our birthright! And I now approach meal time from a peaceful place, with enjoyment as the main ingredient.
When I reflect on my relationship with food now, it is kind of an afterthought. In fact, I get annoyed with how neutral food is. Some days I struggle trying to decide what to eat, like it’s a chore. That right there blows my mind. At the height of my food obsession, I could never have imagined being here. And it makes me realize, it wasn’t about the food at all. It was about who I was being.
I was looking outside of myself for the answers. I wasn’t connected to my body, to my inner knowing that now supports me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. I was eating under duress, making myself wrong for every “bad” choice and feeling like a failure when it was the diets that failed me.
I’m grateful for the peace and freedom I now experience, not to mention the energy and brain space to live a life I love. What I’ve learned is food can be fuel, it can be pleasurable and should be enjoyed, but it’s also just food. The real power comes from my mindset and what I know to be true for me.
This piece was written and contributed by:
Intuitive Eating Counselor and Mindset Coach
Jackie is an intuitive eating counselor and mindset coach that helps women create a more peaceful relationship with food and their bodies through her 1:1 and group coaching programs and her signature DARE framework. Her compassionate, no-nonsense approach empowers clients to trust their innate wisdom and make decisions that support their growth and healing. Jackie is a #1 Amazon International Bestselling contributing author to the anthology, The Art & Truth of Transformation for Women. She lives in Milwaukee with her husband and stepdaughter.