A lot of my clients are in the midst of developmental milestones with their physiology. They are Mum’s navigating changes to their post-baby bodies or women going through perimenopause or menopause and they are struggling to make peace with weight gain.
This creates new vulnerabilities for body image distress and eating issues for women.
Young or middle aged, for many, the focus on appearance and youth intensifies as their bodies age and progress through the natural stages that include weight gain, greying hair, and wrinkled skin.
The good news is, there is another way to live. And that way is found when you stop fighting the size your body wants to be and you start working with your body.
If you’re new to the non-diet approach, intuitive eating and body image healing here’s 5 tips to help you make peace with your weight that little bit easier.
This is how you can make peace with your weight?
1. Understand that weight gain for women in their 40’s and 50’s is normal and healthy.
As much as we hate the “middle age spread”, it is thanks to hormonal changes that we go through during peri/menopause.
Essentially we have a drop in oestrogen which causes an increase in central adiposity (stomach fat), insulin sensitivity and a slower metabolism.
“When your ovaries no longer produce oestrogen, the body’s adipose tissue (fat tissue) takes over to produce and regulate oestrogen in the body. An increase in body fat is our bodies’ way of adapting in order to regulate oestrogen production as we age. Since oestrogen depletion is the main cause of many of the negative side effects associated with menopause, increased regulation of this hormone can help mitigate many of these undesirable symptoms”.
Research shows it is natural for women to gain anywhere from three to six (plus) kilograms during menopause no matter how good our diets are.
Instead of obsessing about losing the weight, we can think about it like this – as a moderate weight gain that is associated with longer life. check out the research below:
People who live in a larger body as defined by their Body Max Index (BMI) — tend to live longer than their normal-weight counterparts, according toa new Danish study.
2. Accept that your body will never be perfect (and that perfect doesn’t exist).
The first thing I want to say about this is – Victoria’s Secret models get photoshopped…full stop.
Honestly, how many YEARS have you wasted trying to lose weight and wishing your body looked differently? Where did all that body hate get you?
At some point, you need to decide that your body is okay. You may not like it or love it right now, but it is what it is – your home. Your one and ONLY body.
However, this does not mean you stop working towards being healthy. This is not about giving up!
What it does mean is you will stop punishing and hating body and yourself for not conforming to your (and societies) unrealistic views of what your body “should” look like. And instead, you begin learning to accept and surrender to the body you inherited.
When you start being kind and respectful towards yourself, eating healthier and moving more does become easier.
I inherited big saggy boobs and a double chin. My sister and I always joke around about having “the family chins”. No matter how thin I get, I always have two or three chins! I’ll never have a nice jawline.
I have more than one stomach roll when I sit down (which is normal) and cellulite all over on my thighs. I spent two decades hating my body, when that time, energy and money could have been put to much better use.
At some point, I realised that hating my body was ruining my life and getting me nowhere. When I finally accepted my natural shape, looking after my body with intuitive eating and regular enjoyable movement became so much easier.
It also gave me back my sanity, mental health, social life, and better relationships.
My body isn’t perfect but it’s healthy and strong.
There are genetic, biological, environmental, social and other non-diet related factors that determine a person’s unique ‘set point range’. The weight a person naturally tends to be without restricting food and over exercising.
And that weight will, of course, be different for everyone.
For example, height is mostly determined by genetic factors – some environmental factors may influence it a little, but for the most part, it is what it is.
Some people are shorter than average while others are taller than average. People generally accept that we can’t change our height, it’s just the way we were born.
Think of all of the thousands of different dog breeds that have different body shapes, lifespans and health risks.
Each one has evolved to use food differently for different specialities at surviving; some for staying warm, some for running fast, and some for being strong.
Dogs are meant to be different shapes, sizes and consequently, their weight will be different.
We don’t expect all dogs to weigh the same, but our modern society has brainwashed us into believing all bodies should be the same size – one size fits – thin. Stop and think critically, how realistic is that?
When you look at your great grandmother, grandmother, mother and siblings, what kind of body did or do they have?
For the most part, most people will have similar body shapes and sizes, or similar features such as bigger breasts and rounder tummies.
Also know that the research tells us weight is also influenced by socio-economic factors, trauma, social support or the lack thereof, and freedom from racism, violence, sexism, poverty, weight stigma, and so on.
Perhaps your set point weight range is higher than average, higher than you’d like it to be, or higher than others (your doctor, family, the media, etc.) have said it ‘should’ be…then what?
This is where we can return to the example of height, and remind ourselves of the idea that ‘it is what it is’.
You cannot change your genetic makeup or your natural set point weight range. Therefore, being at peace with your weight involves full acceptance of your body as it is—height, weight, shape, and all!
4. Stay off the scale and focus on healthy behaviours, not weight.
If there was someone in your life that made you feel terrible about yourself 90% of the time, a typical response would be to set your boundaries with that person and stop seeing them.
Therefore, one of your first steps to making peace with your weight, is to recognise if you have a toxic relationship with your scale?
Your weight will continue to matter more than it needs to until you stop getting on the scale. It will also keep you stuck in a cycle of dieting, obsessing about food (which often means you eat more, not less) and hating your body.
Instead, focus on how your clothes fit and feel, and if they are starting to feel a bit tight, the best thing you can do is buy yourself a couple of new pieces of clothing that fit your now body. Check out the op shops for second-hand pieces.
When you feel pretty. You feel confident.
It’s also remarkable how well-fitting clothes can actually make you appear thinner without losing a pound.
When I stopped intentioanlly trying to lose weight and started focusing on being healthy instead, I ended up stabilising my weight, naturally, and easily.
5. Know that everyone (who matters) loves you as you are.
Hey, I get it. This can sound just as cliched as someone saying to a single person, there’s plenty of fish in the sea…
However, when you get to a point in your relationship with your body and you’re at peace with your weight, you really do not care what other people think. You’re doing this for yourself.
In saying that, one of the many things I learnt in my eating and body image recovery, is that people don’t demand a perfect body from you. They love you for you.
Fat, thin, curvy or athletic. Your smile, your warmth, your dedication, your creativity, your humour, your love…you.
In all honesty, it’s what’s on the inside that matters the most. You don’t love your best friend because she’s a “good” weight, you love her for who she is.
Now, none of this will come easy. We live in a thin is best world (apparently). We can’t escape that, but we can become resilient to it.
At the end, when our bodies are changing, it’s time to hold on and not put yourself under additional stress.
Just as in previous changes: puberty, pregnancy, etc., things will settle down.
Any time you’re tempted to start another diet, I suggest to my clients to write a list of the pros and cons to starting another diet.
Think honestly about the way you would need to eat, move and live in order to achieve and maintain your ideal weight?
What would the likely outcome be?
How long would that outcome last for?
Would you be happy and healthy physically, mentally and emotionally?
I’m not against weight loss.
However, if you want to make peace with your weight, your body and food, any weight loss should be an added bonus through changing health behaviours you can sustain. Not by being stuck in a rinse and repeat cycle of dieting, eventual bingeing and body dissatisfaction.
If you feel chronically unhappy with your body and weight, this is very similar to spending your life driving around in your car with the hand brake on. It is physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually draining and damaging.
Have faith that there is another world out there waiting for you on the other side of diets and weight loss obsession.
The more you can be patient, and take the long view, the more you’ll be rewarded in the end. This all takes time. Time for you to learn how to be at ease in your body and to get to know what she can and can’t do (yet).
Nothing stays the same, ever, whether we want it to or not. Especially our bodies.
If you want more help to make peace with food and your weight, and do it right, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.
Diets should come with a warning label. Warning: Dieting increases your risk of gaining MORE weight. That’s right, diets cause weight gain. Reliable, evidence-based research is proving over and over that no weight loss initiatives to date have generated long term results for the majority of participants.
I’m delving into why below.
Many people know that dieting doesn’t work long term and most are shocked to hear that the process of dieting itself, can in fact increase your body’s propensity to gain weight over time. Scientists call this “dieting-induced weight-gain”.
A 2011 study of more than 2,000 sets of twins aged 16 to 25 years old examined the weight-increasing effect of dieting. The twin who participated in intentional weight loss was nearly two to three times more likely to become overweight than their non-dieting twin.
With each additional dieting effort, their risk of becoming overweight increased even more. The researchers concluded, “It is now well established that the more people engage in dieting, the more they gain weight in the long-term.”
The Journal of Obesity review estimated that, at best, only 20% of participants maintain weight loss at one year, and the percentage of those maintaining weight loss decreases further by the second year.
The researchers suggest that these statistics would be worse if participants who dropped out of the programs and those who had diagnosed comorbidities such as mood disorders or binge eating disorder had been included.
Furthermore, research has also shown this to be true in children; and that the risk of binge eating and food preoccupation increases with the frequency of dieting.
Researchers at UCLA reviewed 31 long-term studies and concluded that dieting is a consistent predictor of weight gain, with up to two-thirds of the participants regaining more weight than they lost.
The conventional approach is ineffective.
But letting go of weight loss and dream of a thinner body is hard. I get it. I’ve been there many, many times.
We live in a world that prizes thinnes. The “thin ideal” is the concept of the ideally slim female body. The common perception of this ideal is a woman who possesses a slender, feminine physique, with a small waist and little body fat.
Oddly enough, the size that the thin ideal woman should be is decreasing while the rate of female obesity is increasing. Making this iconic body difficult for women to healthily attain, let alone maintain.
This creates a gap between the actual appearance of the average woman’s body and its expected appearance which, depending on the extent to which a woman internalises the necessity of living up to this ideal, can have serious psychological effects
The degree to which women are psychologically affected by the thin ideal depends to what extent the ideal is internalised. Research shows us that women generally relate the ideally thin body to positive life outcomes such as happiness, confidence, career and romantic success; and consequently, a majority of women value the thin ideal to some extent.
If not dieting then what?
There is the belief and fear, that quitting dieting – in whatever form that may look like – will cause you to let yourself go.
You’ll never stop eating and your weight will balloon out.
Maybe you will gain weight after quitting dieting. But, maybe you won’t.
The point is, no-one (not even those people who guarantee you will lose weight following their program) has a crystal ball and can see into the future and predict how your weight and shape will change.
I don’t know what your weight will do. I can’t and don’t promise you anything when it comes to your weight.
What IS a fact backed by science is that the pursuit of weight loss through dieting behaviours, in the majority of cases, causes people to re-gain weight and often gain more weight on top of that.
Science has shown us, that there is not one diet or ‘lifestyle change’ out there that can generate sustainable weight loss. If you look at the research, most people are followed up beyond one to two years post the diet. Diets cause weight gain.
What’s the point of putting in all the hard yards, spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, starving, busting your guts doing exercise you hate. To lose the weight and then put it all back on again a few years later…?
Big Investment. Little return.
That’s physically, mentally and emotionally damaging (there’s science to prove that too).
Research aside–what has your own dieting experiences shown you?
Diets cause weight gain. Eventually.
That is why there is a saying that goes along the lines of:
“The quickest way to gain weight is to try and lose weight”.
Health At Every Size (HAES) is a growing movement that “supports people in adopting healthy habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control)”.
The HAES movement focuses on research and epidemiological studies that support the idea that health is achievable at any weight, not EVERY weight. Some core findings include:
-Underweight people get the same diseases as their overweight counterparts -Overweight people live just as long, if not longer, than normal weight people -Underweight and obese people have an equally higher mortality rate -Focusing on weight loss as a tool for health has a very low success rate
It’s a trans-disciplinary movement away from restrictive, weight-focused programs toward a non-diet, weight-neutral approach to healthy lifestyles.
Simultaneously, mindfulness, which has been shown to be a viable approach to improving health in the workplace, is a promising addition to the field.
A variety of organisations, programs, and authors are advocating for a non-diet, weight-neutral, mindfulness-based approach. Evidence for this paradigm shift is accumulating with great results.
The hard truth is, a focus on weight loss as a goal is ineffective. It gets it all backwards.
You need to focus on your health and changing your relationship with food and your body first. Then let weight loss be a byproduct of that. IF there’s weight to lose.
It not sexy. But, IT WORKS!
Stepping off the diet roller coaster is hard. But I’m here to support you every step of the eay and guide you through an approach that is a lot more kinder, enjoyable, long-term, and that gets results.
Is dieting and the pursuit of weight loss holding you back from finding an easy and enjoyable relationship with food and your body? I bet it is.
That’s OK. We all have to start somewhere.
I can’t promise you weight loss, but what I can promise you – I can help you stop emotional eating and/or binge eating and feeling at ease in your body. I have a 100% success rate with my clients.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch if this is something that you need help with.
Many women are wasting their precious life being absorbed by the pursuit of weight loss and thinness.
Pursuing “physical attractiveness,” attained by eating 1200 calories a day, denying themselves food when they are hungry, hours spent doing exercise they hate, and weighing, measuring, tracking and recording food and/or their body.
Yes, the pursuit of thinness is very alluring. The media and society glamorise thin bodies.
There are very few mainstream celebrities who aren’t thin and you would be hard-pressed to find advertising that incorporates body diversity, unless it’s peddling a weight loss solution.
There are whole industries built on feeding women’s insecurities.
They want you to believe that thin and beautiful equals happy. They want you to believe that you’re only worthy, lovable, likeable and enough, if you are thin.
However, the research findings show us that the pursuit of weight loss to be thinner, does not necessarily improve psychological well-being, and that weight loss in and of itself doesn’t always come with the fanfare often expected of it.
Emily Schievert asked, “Why is it,” so many of my female friends who are already skinny are still obsessed with being thin or losing more weight?” It’s a great question, I think, because it points to a fundamental insight, namely, that the pursuit of thinness isn’t simply about a slender body.
The reason many already-slender women want to be even leaner is because a size 6 figure (or whatever the low number) isn’t really what they are looking for.
Essentially, what they want is not to be thinner, but to be happier.
This isn’t to say that thin people aren’t happy. This is to say that being thin is not: A) a cure for feeling unhappy or B a guarantee of happiness.
It is to say: Happiness does not require thinness. Fatness does not presume a person is unhappy.
Don’t buy into the weight loss = happiness BS and you will reclaim your life (and happiness) back.
If beneath the pursuit of this physical ideal, there is an even deeper quest to be happy, no wonder many women feel they can never be thin enough.
What if you could be happy without having to change or “fix” your body?
If this is something you need help with, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
Did you know? A Finnish study has revealed that women who are fed up with their jobs may be more likely to turn to food for comfort in times of stress. Read on while I discuss how you can lower your stress and stop stress eating.
The study, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that those who reported work burnout were more likely to have a habit of “emotional eating”, or eating when stressed, anxious or down, rather than physically hungry.
What’s more, they were more prone to “uncontrolled eating” – the feeling that you’re always hungry or can’t stop eating until all the food’s gone. Additionally, they have a hindered ability to make changes in their eating behaviour.
Emotional overeating almost always ends with bloating, guilt, regret and potential weight gain. All of which are potentially more negatively impacting than the food itself.
You can’t live like that forever. It’s just not sustainable.
We know that workers who take regular breaks are more productive and enjoy their work more.
How to stop stress eating
So what can we do as women to prevent or stop stress eating and emotional eating? (besides quit your job…unless you really want/need to)
We prioritise Self-Care.
The term self-care describes the actions that an individual might take in order to reach optimal physical, emotional and mental health.
What has self-care got to do with this?
Self-Care means – LESS stress and MORE resilience! and ultimately a happier and healthier relationship with food and body.
How do we prioritise self-care?
Put it on your calendar and/or in your diary. Like you would any other appointment.
If you are struggling to find time to prioritise self-care, this may be a difficult step for you, but by all means don’t skip it. You are a smart woman, you know for something to happen there has to be time and space for it to occur.
You must leverage the same skills and talents you use in your job and every other part of your life to make self-care a priority. Make space in your life for your own health and wellbeing. You deserve it too and you’ll be no good to anyone a run down mess.
We don’t have to choose one or the other; family or work or ourselves. We can have them all side-by-side. So, please drop the guilt. You will be a better mother, partner, employee, entrepreneur and person for it.
Schedule your “me-time” and honour that appointment the way you would if it was with anybody else. When you value yourself and your time (instead of trying to wedge yourself in to an empty space that never occurs) it can create an important mind shift. Others (namely your boss or even your children) pick up on the value you place on yourself. As you show more respect for your time and energy, you may find that they do too.
Of course addressing all sources of stress in general is important.
Big stress triggers in life such as work (where we spend on average 40 hours a week. 60+ if you’re an entrepreneur), may make it difficult to stop stress eating, lose weight and keep it off.
We cannot add, gain or become more when our time, mind and energy is full and cluttered.
As an Eating Psychology Coach, a question I get asked a lot is this: ‘What’s the best diet for health?’ Is it vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, Paleo, or raw-food? My answer is always the same: Only YOU know which foods are right for your body.
The best diet for health
You can absolutely work with a Nutritionist to help you get clear on a nutrition strategy, but you are the real expert of your body. Two ways of eating that I often recommend is intuitive eating and The Mediterranean Diet.
1. Intuitive eating
A part of nourishing yourself from a place of health is eating mindfully and intuitively to gauge your hunger and fullness cues, so you eat just the right amount to keep you comfortably full and satisfied. You can start by making tuning in to how different foods affect your mood, energy levels, and cravings. Paying particular attention to how your body feels when you eat (or don’t eat) certain foods.
To eat intuitively, you will need to relearn how to trust your body’s appetite signals. To do that, you’ll need to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger:
Physical hunger. This biological urge tells you to replenish fuel. It builds gradually and can be felt as a growling stomach, fatigue, or irritability. It can be satisfied by eating any food.
Emotional hunger. This is driven by emotional needs. It comes on suddenly and can only be satisfied by eating particular foods that are often high in sugar, fat and salt. Common emotions such as loneliness, boredom and sadness are some of the feelings that can heighten food cravings. Eating often causes feelings of guilt, shame and regret, which perpetuates emotional eating.
The good news is, your body is communicating with you all the time. It’s up to you to slow down and pay attention to its messages.
2. The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet inspired by the traditional eating patterns of people from Greece, Italy, and Spain, is also an excellent way of eating, that has been rigorously researched. It has been proven particularly effective for the prevention of heart disease.
It includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, and olive oil. The main components of The Mediterranean Diet include:
Core foods to enjoy every day: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, nuts and healthy fats such as olive oil and avocados.
Twice weekly servings of ﬁsh and seafood.
Moderate portions of dairy, eggs, and poultry.
Infrequent servings of red meats and sweets.
Other essential elements of The Mediterranean Diet are sharing meals with family and friends, enjoying a glass of red wine and being physically active. Healthy fats are a mainstay of The Mediterranean Diet.
The key to the best diet for health
While many diets may work for you short term, the key is finding one you can sustain long term, that causes no harm to your physical and mental health. Restrictive diets that unnecessarily cut out whole food groups and promise quick weight loss should be avoided at all costs to prevent an unhealthy relationship with food from forming.