Additional thoughts on spring cleaning

May 8, 2017

Self-Paced Course: Non-Diet Academy


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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

I originally wrote this post a couple of years ago, and I was reflecting on it today after doing some spring cleaning of my house.  With time comes growth, which means that I now have additional thoughts on this post.  The original text is as follows:

Let's agree to take a gentle, nonjudgmental stance right now.  I'm going to ask you to look at something that may be painful.  My intent is not to shame you.  It is to help build your awareness, and to take steps toward peace.

So here's what I want you to do – write down every diet you've ever been on.  It doesn't have to be just commercial diet programs (e.g. Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig), but also attempts to cut back on portions or reduce calories. 

Now write down all of the "tools" you purchased or used along the way.  This includes things like food scales, food journals, books, menu plans, calorie calculators, phone apps, kitchen equipment, special food products, etc. 

These tools also include the scale with which you measure not only your body weight but also your self worth.

Let's keep going.  Now list all of the exercise equipment you've ever purchased.  This would consist of special clothing items, gym memberships, personal trainers, treadmills, bikes, ab rollers, and so on. 

Pause.  Take a deep breath.  Look at your list.  Observe your feelings without judgment.  There is no shame in any of this.  You are not alone. 

Contemplate the amount of time, money, and emotional energy you've spent on all of this.  Are you pleased with the outcome?  (Probably not or you wouldn't have kept buying more stuff).  Acknowledge this, accept it.  The acknowledgement allows you to make a different choice now.

My recommendation is that you get rid of (donate, throw away, whatever works for you) any of these tools that you aren't using on at least a monthly basis.  Be honest with yourself.  I don't care how much it cost or if you "might" use it in the future.  We are practicing letting go and moving forward. 

Don't panic.  By letting go of these items you aren't giving up on yourself.  In fact, you're believing in yourself.  You are symbolically letting go of the diet mentality and the false promises attached to it. 

What to do instead with food and exercise?  Eat satisfying foods when you are hungry, stop when you are comfortably full.  Get movement in throughout the day – stretch, take walk breaks, go outdoors whenever possible.  Find ways to play.  Your body will appreciate this gentle approach. 


My additional thoughts are about what to do instead.  I think that I shortchanged this post by not elaborating more on these areas.  

With food: 

  • It's important to honor both your "stomach hunger" and your "mouth hunger."  By stomach hunger I am referring to your true physical hunger, which is often felt in the stomach as either an emptiness or even a growling.    Mouth hunger refers to the desire to put food in your mouth because it tastes good, regardless of whether you're physically hungry or not.  It's about the pleasure of eating.  Both hungers are equally important to satisfy.  The ideal scenario is when you are experiencing both physical hunger and mouth hunger simultaneously so you can satisfy your stomach hunger with the same food your mouth is hungry for.  Not always feasible based on circumstances (e.g. the food you want isn't always available), but lovely when it can happen.  For instance, if I'm having mouth hunger for M&M's (my favorite candy BTW), I might have a 2-3 of them and that should satisfy the mouth hunger – you don't need a lot of quantity in this scenario if you're not physically hungry at the time, more of just a taste.  However, if I'm physically hungry I might have a package of M&M's to satisfy both hungers (p.s. I'd also be inclined to add some nuts or some other source of protein to make it more satiating and stick with me longer).  
  • Eating should be an enjoyable experience (most of the time).  When possible, try to sit down and solely focus on the experience of eating, without distractions.  Set the table, or eat outside.  Enjoy your meal alone if you need some quiet time, or with others if you need some connection.  Make an effort to sometimes make the presentation of your food look beautiful, like you'd get at a restaurant.  We eat with our eyes first.  Light some candles, listen to some music, take your time and savor the moment.  Physically, you should feel better after you eat than you did before you started – because ideally you were hungry before you ate, you ate a satisfying food, and you stopped when comfortably full.  
  • And sometimes food is just food.  There are times when what we want to eat isn't available at the moment, and rather than choosing not to eat, we still need to fuel our bodies.  I don't always feel like stopping at the gas station to fill my car up, but if I'm running on empty, then I need to do it anyway.  Same thing with food.  Sometimes you have to just eat, even if the food available isn't exactly what you want, and tell yourself that it's fuel.  You can satisfy your mouth hunger later.  For example, if you're at the airport and only have a few minutes to grab a bite before your next flight, you will have to pick from what's handy.  Find something that's "good enough" and move on.  Be compassionate with yourself, and try to get something tasty when you're physically hungry again.  

With exercise:

  • Start thinking of it as "movement" instead of "exercise."  A small but powerful shift in language.  Think about it, how do you feel when you think about exercise?  What comes to mind?  For me, images of sweaty people at the gym, torturing themselves on the treadmill or weight-lifting machines is what I envision (both things I dread, and the reason I chose to stop working out at gyms BTW).  Now think about "movement" instead.  What comes to mind?  I see myself outside, smiling, soaking in the sunshine (like one of those cliche scenes in a movie where the girl is running through a field of wildflowers, lol).  The point is, movement can take place any time, anywhere, and it isn't bound by the rules and rigidity of exercise. 
  • Separate movement from being about calories and weight.  Reality is that exercise doesn't burn that many calories, and is ineffective at producing weight loss unless done in extreme quantities (which I'm obviously not advocating).  So if those are your motives, then you'll be disappointed and discouraged quickly.  
  • Instead, make movement about enhancing the quality of your life.  Notice your energy level and mood both before and after you do some form of movement.  Chances are, you'll find that you feel more energized and less anxious and depressed.  You may even notice an increased ability to focus, and increased productivity.  Experiment with different types of movement to see how you feel after each one.  You may find that you can choose a different type of movement depending on what your needs are on any given day – perhaps a "power" walk when you need an energy boost, or a stretching/yoga session when you need to decompress.  It's sort of like figuring out what food your body is craving, except with movement.  

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