In today’s culture, and especially in the age of social media, there is so much pressure for both women and men to have “perfect” thin physiques. This expectation leads to chronic yo-yo dieting for a lot of people. For many, it can start at a very young age.

For me, it started in high school. I was put on antidepressants for the first time, and the medication caused my weight to spike up higher than it had ever been. My mom, who has also dieted off and on for most of her adult life, said we could join Weight Watchers together. From there, I went on to try several other subscription based diet programs over the next ~12 years. At one point in college I finally lost my extra baggage, and was at a healthy weight for the first time since I was a kid.

The problem is, I then became obsessed with keeping it off. I’d lose the weight, then gain some back, then lose some more, and gain more back. This sank me to a really low place. I ended up with body image problems and a binge eating disorder. I would get mad at myself for “cheating” on my diet, and then binge in my self loathing, which then caused me to hate myself more.

Then, a few months ago, my therapist introduced me to a book called Intuitive Eating. I gotta tell you, this book changed everything. This is not a diet. This is a lifestyle.

Essentially, we are born with an innate ability to recognize when we’re hungry, when we’re full, and what foods and nutrients our bodies truly crave and need. At some point, through external influences, we start to ignore this instinct. Our parents, only meaning well, restrict our snacks and try to keep us on a strictly “healthy” diet. This leads us to overeat the “bad” foods when they’re accessible because of a subconscious fear we won’t get them again. Or we use food to compensate for other feelings like stress, sadness, and boredom. Next thing you know, you don’t even realize when you’re actually hungry, and you don’t know when to stop until you’re past full. For me, depriving myself of the “bad” or “unhealthy” foods all day led me to lose control and overeat in the evening.

This was not an easy change for me. I started on this path about three months ago, so it’s still something I’m working on. I am trying to fix years of unhealthy habits. Sometimes I slip. Instead of beating myself up over these slips, I forgive myself, and I try to be better tomorrow. This journey has forced me to be a lot more mindful, not just while I’m eating, but in everything I do. I used to not be able to recognize when I was hungry. I had scheduled myself “healthy” snack breaks during the day, but the snacks were not fulfilling, and I was never satisfied. Now, I eat when I’m hungry, and I allow myself higher calorie and higher fat snacks. I eat slower so I can notice when I start to feel full. And I stop when I’m full, because I know this isn’t the last time I’ll allow myself to have these snacks.

I’ve felt so much happier these last few months. I’m trying to focus on fitness and health rather than weight and calories. I used to weigh myself every day, sometimes multiple times a day. I think I’ve weighed myself maybe two or three times in the last three months and eating intuitively has not caused my weight to increase.

I definitely would suggest seeking out a nutritionist to help you with this if you are trying and struggling to get back in touch with your intuitive eating instincts. This website has great resources to help you along the way.