I was scrolling through Facebook when I stumbled upon a friend’s post.
It was about a strict diet she was starting.
She apologized in advance for the “horrible person” she was about to be for the next five days.
Then I saw the comments.
One said, “Just focus on the end result! I had to lock myself up in my bedroom when my husband and children ate dinner, but I made it through!”
Another said, “Proof that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
My heart dropped.
I’m a health coach. But I’m not a traditional, “help you lose weight” kind of health coach.
I’m a health coach who before learning to love her body, spent years hating her body and desperately trying to manipulate it. I thought I needed to be skinny to be loved. I had a disordered relationship with food, exercise and myself.
I too used to think, “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” And when I finally “stuck” to a TERRIBLE diet and did lose weight (only to gain it back), I was devastated because I was more miserable than I had ever been before. I was physically, mentally and emotionally drained. I hid on the weekends so I wouldn’t be tempted by nights out.
And, if I ever did “mess up,” I found a way to “fix it” by throwing up.
Today, I am proud to be an intuitive eating and health at every size based health coach with a mission of helping women who struggled like I did.
I empower my clients to respect their bodies and help them dissociate their worth from their weight, size or shape.
What I know to be true (based in research) is that we all have our own genetic predisposition to hold body fat differently. Some will naturally hold more, some less.
We’re told that we should look a certain way. We’re told that our weight equates to our health.
So of course we diet. We’re told that’s what we should do to be healthy, beautiful, worthy…
Unfortunately, what isn’t largely known is that our weight isn’t the problem. Weight loss isn’t the solution.
According to Linda Bacon, PhD in her book Health at Every Size (HAES), “the benefits of weight loss have been misinterpreted and exaggerated… The vast majority of Americans fall closer to the middle of the body fat bell curve, where weight is little more than a benign marker of an individual’s genetic predisposition to carry it.”
Bacon also reports that being fat is not a death sentence. She states, “An analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys I, II, and III, which followed the largest nationally representative cohort of U.S. adults, also determined that the ‘ideal’ weight for longevity was in the ‘overweight’ category.”
HAES simply says that some of us are more genetically inclined to have more body fat than others. And that’s okay.
In most cases, our weight doesn’t matter. What DOES matter is that we take care of ourselves. “It is well established that the relationship between activity and longevity is stronger than the relationship between weight and longevity,” says Bacon.
Most diseases blamed on fat actually aren’t typically a result of fat, they’re a result of living a sedentary lifestyle, not paying any attention to nutrition, being sleep deprived, chronically stressed, etc. So fat itself isn’t the problem. Weight loss isn’t the solution.
Bacon reports that, “weight fluctuation (from dieting) is strongly associated with increased risk for diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases, independent of body weight. In other words, the recommendation to diet may be causing the very diseases it is purported to prevent!”
It makes sense when you think about it. We go on a diet, do all these things to “be healthy” and then when the scale doesn’t move, we get frustrated and think it’s all for nothing and give up.
It’s not our fault. Our bodies don’t like to lose weight. There’s not a single medical study that shows weight loss to be sustainable.
The HAES/Intuitive Eating approach shows that our health improves drastically when we develop healthy habits, regardless of any weight loss. Blood pressure and bad (LDL) cholesterol decrease. Energy level, self-esteem and activity increase. And yet just because we can’t see these on the scale, we think we failed. Just because our weight didn’t drop, we say screw it.
Dieting keeps us stuck.
Intuitive Eating dieticians say, “if you have to starve yourself and over exercise to be that size, it’s not your healthy weight.”
We shouldn’t have to starve ourselves and exercise twice a day in order to maintain our weight or get to a desired weight.
What we need is to do is accept our genetic blue prints and say good-bye to the cultural “thin ideal.” Otherwise it’s like trying to fit a size eight foot into a size six.
I feel for the women I saw on my Facebook timeline, because I was once there too. It’s not their fault. It’s the “thin-ideal” culture we live in.
I just wish that women everywhere knew that we don’t have to manipulate our bodies to be beautiful, healthy or worthy.
Restrictive diets take us away from showing up to fully live our lives.
I know it sounds cliché, but I was unfortunately reminded that we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, as young as we may be. What if on my last day on Earth I hid in my bedroom to stick to my diet instead of enjoying dinner with my loved ones?
I dream of a world where we measure our health in how fully we are able to show up and participate in our own lives.
… where we all learn to trust our bodies to decide when to eat, what to eat and how much to eat.
… where men and women everywhere can enjoy food freely, without guilt.
… where we exercise to CELEBRATE that our bodies can move!
… where we all accept and respect all body shapes and sizes.
… where everyone is able to admire everyone else’s unique brand of beauty, without questioning their own.
… where we know we are worthy simply because we are here on this planet.
… where we cherish the truly amazing things that make each of us unique: our intellect, humor, empathy, skills, love, generosity, creativity…
… where we laugh at the very idea of depriving ourselves from eating food for five days.
And the thing is?
It’s possible. It starts with each one of us deciding to make the mental change within ourselves. To start to acknowledge, challenge and upgrade the beliefs in our heads from disempowering to empowering. To start to notice that healthy living means living in the middle, rather than in that all or nothing (diet or NOT) space. To practice compassion and curiosity instead of judgment. To start defining our health as how fully we are able to participate in our own lives.
So what do you say, are ya with me?
Author Bio: Julie Wojno is a holistic health coach, yoga teacher and indoor cycling instructor based in Columbus, OH. Her mission is to empower women who have struggled with eating, exercise and body image to love their bodies and live their best lives, without another restrictive diet. When she’s not coaching, down-dogging or cycling, you can catch her snuggling her massive Bernese Mountain Dog, hanging at local breweries, and spiralizing her favorite fruits and veggies (sweet potato pasta, anyone?!) Follow along on her adventures below.
Link t social media or website: Instagram @julie.wojno | http://www.juliewojno.com