Where does weight loss fit in?

The desire for weight loss is still there.        What do I do?

This is a real question that I wrestled with for a long time. I knew a smaller body did not mean a healthier body, so I couldn’t use that as an excuse. What about body preferences? Perhaps I just prefer my body at a smaller size. That’s okay, isn’t it?

Maybe you can relate to these types questions as you explore your own Intuitive Eating journey.  

As someone well educated in the principles of Intuitive Eating, I knew that actively pursuing a smaller body would very likely trigger thoughts of INADEQUACY AND SHAME. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder, could I slowly and gently change what I was eating for lunch so that I could look slimmer in my wedding dress or fit into skinny jeans? Could I eat one less sugary food throughout the day? We’re talking one small change, folks. Plus, it’s not like I thought that I would be a better human being if I weighed a little less. I wouldn’t be more lovable in skinny jeans than I am right now in wide-leg pants. I know all of this, so what would be the harm in a little weight loss if that’s what I preferred?

On the other hand, I knew that it was probably society’s lingering imprint on my brain that was pushing me to consider weight loss as a possible goal, and that it wasn’t my own, unique desire. The pursuit of skinny would also mean that I would inevitably ignore some of my body’s food preferences and intuitive signals to eat. Plus I knew that diets don’t work in the long run, and by pursuing weight loss, I would be setting myself up for frustration and disappointment, in addition to feelings of inadequacy and shame. If I had to choose, Intuitive Eating and peace with food would win every time. But still, the nagging desire persisted.

You might assume that because this is a story from my past, I no longer experience a desire for weight loss or the ability to wear skinny jeans. You might assume that I’m going to share how I overcame these thoughts and moved to a place of total self-acceptance.

Not exactly.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I often feel a desire to be in a thinner body. I still catch myself wanting to rock skinny jeans with tall boots that fit over my calves. But here’s where the present differs from the past. Here’s what I do when I have thoughts of weight loss that conflict with my values of body-kindness and joy.

1. I bring self-compassion to the situation by changing my response.

As an intuitive eater and a coach, I felt pressure to quickly remove thoughts of dieting and weight loss. Like seriously, stop having them right now! And when I couldn’t, I thought, “Come on, you promote acceptance of all bodies, and these thoughts are conflicting. You’re a hypocrite! You’re not a real intuitive eater if you continue to think this way. What will others in this community think of you? How can you coach others?”

This is not helpful or productive thinking.

So now I allow the naturally occurring thoughts of weight loss to enter my mind. And I respond with a kind, nurturing voice. What does this voice sound like? It might say, “Oh look, there’s a thought that is suggesting that I figure out a way to lose weight before the wedding. Interesting, I wonder where that’s coming from? Hmm...I bet that bridal magazine that I just looked at with all of the model-thin brides is contributing. It could also be that the thin ideal has been idolized in our society for as long as I can remember. Staying right where I am means going against cultural norms. So it would make sense that I’m having these thoughts of weight loss.”

This kind of internal dialogue has allowed me to shrug off confusing and conflicting thoughts of losing weight. In other words, I accept that IT'S NORMAL FOR THESE KINDS OF DESIRES TO POP UP. And as an added bonus, formulating responses like the one above actually builds new neural pathways, which allows us to EVENTUALLY have different thoughts and desires.   

2. I bring self-compassion to the situation by moving the weight loss desire to my “winter box.”

I fell in love with this idea after listening to a podcast lead by fellow Intuitive Eating Coach, Christy Harrison. What is meant by this? Instead of removing or giving up on the pursuit of weight loss for good, I remind myself that I have chosen to put the thoughts in storage. When it’s summer, you fold up your sweaters and wool socks, place them in a box, and shove it to the back of your closet where you can forget about the contents for the season. You also pull your cooler, lightweight clothing to the front of the closet where they are visible and easy to access. So when I think, “Perhaps I should implement this food rule or ‘simple eating strategy’ to help me lose weight,” I can remind myself that those thoughts are in storage right now. I’m not pulling them out for this particular season of my life. And it’s totally okay that the thoughts are there because they are safely sitting in their winter box.

In summary

Intuitive Eating suggests that we stop pursuing weight loss so that we can honor all of our our body’s desires and needs. It also also helps us come to a place of ease with food so that we can comfortably move about our day. For these reasons and more, I invite you to consider Intuitive Eating, if you haven’t already. However, as with anything new that we choose to explore, we cannot expect to immediately erase or reverse old ways of thinking, especially when they seem innocuous. This can lead to internal conflict and confusion. I would urge you to address your weight loss desires from a place of self-compassion. This might mean exploring where they are coming from, or putting them in a box because you have decided to find out what benefits Intuitive Eating can bring to your life.