I started my first diet when I was 14. Puberty had arrived with a vengeance, along with breasts, hips and thighs. My life felt out of control, and so I turned to the one thing I could control: food.
That was the start of a lifelong relationship with disordered eating. Whenever my life felt scary or out of control, which was pretty much all the time, I would turn to dieting. I’d lose a bit of weight, I’d feel better. Then the weight would come back, often more than before, and I’d feel worse than when I’d started.
Then I discovered Weight Watchers. I lost a LOT of weight and suddenly found myself in a much thinner body than I’d ever had before. “This isn’t a diet,” I told myself. “I’m just eating smaller portions and healthier food!” I got compliments from everyone and really believed I was a “success story.” I also believed I could maintain this way of eating. I even became a Weight Watchers leader, not only to help others achieve weight loss success, but to make sure my own weight never came back.
I was on top of the world … for about 3 months. That’s when my body said “Enough!” and I started to sneak food. I’d eat uncontrollably at night when nobody was looking, giving myself a break from the rigidity and rules of restrictive eating. Once a week turned to 3 times a week, which turned to every night.
And the weight started to come back. With each pound re-gained, I would stress out about how I looked to the world, which would result in more restrictive eating and, inevitably, binge eating. And with the binge eating, came the nights of frustration and defeat and self-loathing. And each morning came the vow to get my act together and get this weight off once and for all!
I lived with this diet/binge cycle for several years — eating healthy, small portions during the day, then binge eating thousands of calories at night. I finally decided I needed to cure my binge eating (because I’d be skinny if I would just stop binge eating all the time!).
I started on a journey of self-discovery that would lead me to realize dieting (and more to the point, restriction) was the cause of my binge eating, and the only way to cure myself of binge eating was to stop dieting and restricting food.
But even though this made perfect sense to me, I was still so afraid that if I ate anything I wanted, I would gain weight. So instead I started eating only healthy food. I thought I could feed myself AND lose weight if I only ate non-processed, grass fed, organic, pasture raised, sanctimonious, morally superior food.
But it turns out I still binged. Why? Because I was still restricting my food — only this time I was restricting the type of food I could eat, not just the quantity.
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I gave up. I left Weight Watchers and I left all food restriction behind. Instead, I started to really eat. Like, everything. I let go of my fear of weight gain. I gave myself permission to just enjoy myself and food and life again.
At first, I ate everything in sight. I fed every craving. I ate lots of ice cream and chocolate. I ate burgers and fries. After 27 years of restricting my eating, my body was hungry and I had a serious feast. And yes, I gained some weight. Not nearly as much as I feared, but it did happen. It was uncomfortable, my clothes felt tight, and I cried a lot, but I made it through.
And then something magical started to happen. By successfully tuning into my body’s hunger cues for the first time ever, I stopped eating everything in sight. The ice cream became tedious. The chocolate lost its appeal. The pendulum, which had swung furiously in both directions for so many years, settled into a peaceful stillness. I had achieved food freedom. And no more restriction meant no more binges!
I received my health coaching certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and I run the diet recovery program, Worth It with Katy. I coach other women who are tired of the merry go round of yo-yo dieting and binge eating, and are ready to normalize their relationship with food and their bodies. Because we’re worth it!