I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing this episode for you my loves! I share my personal experience of my journey to body love. My clients often go through these stages in this order too and it brings them comfort knowing they’re not alone and it helps them to trust the process. Always trust the process… 😉
It’s worth noting throughout this episode that when I say the word diet, I mean any way of manipulating your food with the goal of weight loss.
Ok, let’s dive in!
1. Sadness that you’re in the body you have
You’ve committed to this process of food freedom and body love because you’re sick and tired of starting again every Monday. You’ve realised that you want your life to be about more than what you’ve eaten or how flat your stomach is. You want all of that but at the same time, you’re deeply saddened and disappointed by the body you currently have. You feel hopeless.
2. Long for your previous body or fantasize about your goal body
You are constantly thinking about your previous smaller body. You see old photos pop up and you think something like;
“Oh, how I wish I was as fat now as I thought I was in that photo!”
“I’ve done it before so I can do it again, I just need to muster up the same amount of willpower that I had back then!”
“If I could just look like that again, I’d be happy and then I would maintain it this time.”
Or… you constantly fantasize about your goal body, maybe it’s on your vision board. Maybe you’ve gone the extra mile and photoshopped your face onto some fitness models body…ya know so you can really trick your unconscious mind into believing that it’s possible for you.
Maybe you’re telling yourself that you’ll be soooo much happier in every area of your life when you lose weight. You fully believe that your relationships will improve, people in your workplace will respect you more, you’ll have the confidence to be intimate again without hiding away, you’ll book that holiday, you’ll start that new hobby…
But here’s the thing… it is a fantasy… you’re literally putting your life and happiness on hold for a fantasy… because the feeling you get when you cling to that fantasy coming true brings you so much comfort and excitement that you just can’t stop yourself. At least if you’re trying to reach your previous weight or your future fantasy weight, you’ll feel better about yourself… or so you tell yourself.
Why is that?
Because what you’re doing is refusing to be here now in the body you have today. You’re resisting reality because you think you can’t experience all of those things (feelings) unless your body changes first. But I’m here to prove you wrong about that!
3. Anger because you don’t like your body but you know you can’t change it (diets don’t work long term)
It’s common to feel angry towards diet culture when you first start this journey. You’ve believed for so long that all you need to do to feel good in your body is to diet! “If you can’t stick to the diet then it’s your problem and you just need to try harder.
Your home base is dieting and controlling your food. It’s your comfort zone. It’s how you deal with life. It’s just what you do. Being born = spending a lifetime of dieting…
You’ve also been a “successful” dieter. It’s what got you hooked all those years ago when you lost that weight and people were complimenting you asking “Wow, what’s your secret?!”
If only I could have a little automatic voice record that’s tapped into people’s phones that responds to such questions with;
“There really is no secret, it takes constantly ignoring your bodies hunger signals and depriving yourself until your body has no choice but to burn fat and muscle for its fuel to survive. But don’t get too excited because it fucking sucks AND your body will continuously drive you to eat and when you eventually succumb to your own biology, you’ll store extra fat as a safety measure in case it happens again. The more you force your body to lose weight under its natural set point, the more it will overcompensate. Dieting is the best way to GAIN weight over time.”
(Countless research has been done on this, here are just a few articles to explore for yourself)
When you’ve given up fighting that fact – trust me, I refused to believe it for years… I would commit to recovery (food and body freedom) but then when my body started to change, I wouldn’t know how to cope and so I’d run back to dieting again… convincing myself that diets DO work, all I needed was more discipline…
And then after several more attempts of failed dieting, binging and more weight rebounding, I’d go back to recovery with my tail in between my legs ready to do the work!
You don’t need to do that, I’ve done that enough times for the both of us “just to make sure” that diets really don’t work… and they don’t, no matter how much I desperately wanted to be wrong.
Then comes the anger! I’d say things such as;
“I’d be naturally slimmer than I am now if I’d never dieted before! (fact) How dare diet culture brainwash me into thinking that dieting worked?! I’m so angry because I’ve spent most of my entire life trying to get smaller and stay small, only in reality to be doing the complete opposite!”
4. Long for your previous body or fantasize about your goal body
Yup, this still happens even after finally realising the truth… and there’s a reason we’re still doing this. Society DOES celebrate thinness, leanness, whatever body shape is in fashion this century-ness! And it’s fucked up! It’s like me asking you if you’d like a million pounds for free, would you say yes? Of course, you would! That’s the same as me asking if you’d like to have the perfect body… of course, you’d say YES! Sadly, the old me would have chosen the perfect body over the million pounds… any maybe you would too.
We don’t all want to be thin in a vacuum, we want to be thin because of what we make thinness “mean“.
So when you notice that you’re longing for your precious body or secretly hoping you’ll still somehow lose weight, don’t be hard on yourself… you’re only human. Hold space for yourself, meet yourself with compassion and remind yourself that dieting doesn’t work and that you’re perfectly imperfect exactly as you are. You’re learning how to love yourself and for that, you acknowledge yourself for that.
5. Frustration because you just wish you could diet successfully
Even though you intellectually know that diets don’t work unless you are willing and actually able to restrict for the rest of your life, you’re still frustrated because you just wish that you could happily restrict for the rest of your life! You want to so desperately believe the lie (diets do work) that you’ve believed your whole life until now.
Dieting was your coping mechanism, it made you feel that you were working toward something and that you would eventually find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if only you kept trying hard enough and not giving up.
Then you realise (again) that you’ve been doing that for X amount of years, you’re still not at your goal weight (at least you can’t maintain it for any longer than a few months, maybeeee a few years) and if you’re not careful before you know it you’ll be 80 years old and still counting your fucking almonds and worrying about what size jeans you wear…
Allow the frustration to be there. It’s bound to be there. Meet it with love and express it. Journal about it. Dance it out. Go to a boxing class. Go on a run. Know that this is all part of the process. Trust the process.
6. Long for your previous body or fantasize about your goal body
Are you even surprised that this is number 6…? 😉
What helped me was to write a letter grieving my previous lean body. I wrote all the things that it gave me, the external validation, the confidence, the superiority, the proudness that I had the discipline to get there… and then I wrote down all the things I had to do to get it and to maintain it… the restriction, the crazy binges and then the purging, the over-exercising, the abandonment of self, the obsession, the self-centredness, the anxiety, the pressure, the tiredness, the fear of losing it etc.
And then I read it out loud to myself and burnt it as I was listening to some self-love music.
The next thing I did was to write down everything I was gaining from being on this food freedom and body love journey. Such as no longer dieting, no longer shaming myself for what I ate, no longer over-exercising, no more binging and purging, no more food obsession, body acceptance, relief, feeling energised, sleeping well, having got my menstrual cycle back etc.
I encourage you to do the same, my love.
7. Acceptance – my body is what it is even though I don’t like it
Acceptance is no longer fighting reality. It’s dropping the rope from the tug of war that you’re in with yourself and noticing the stillness and surrender. It’s metaphorically shrugging your shoulders and being like “It is what it is!”
It’s acceptance of the whole god damn shit show… that diets don’t work, that you’ve been sold a lie your whole life and you have X many years of personal evidence to back it all up. Your body is like this right now. There’s no changing it. There’s no way to avoid the uncomfortable emotions that you’re feeling about that fact, there’s nowhere to run to. This is how it is. Life on life’s terms. Your body on its terms.
*CUE DEEP SIGH…*
You know that not accepting how your body looks is like frowning at the weather and cursing at it with all your might in an attempt to change the rainy day into a summer sun-filled one…
You don’t LIKE it, god no, but you accept. Because what other choice do you have..?
8. Long for your previous body or fantasize about your goal body
You’re only human my love, living in the world we live in…
Remind yourself that dieting is a false sense of control – it’s like building, dismantling and then rebuilding a piece of Ikea furniture over and over again but each time you dismantle it, you lose a screw!
9. Appreciation – my body is pretty awesome
At this stage, as you’ve stopped fighting yourself and your body, you’re open to being in a place where you can appreciate your body.
You start to appreciate and feel grateful for what your body does for you and what it allows you to experience. Such as hugging loved ones, tasting food, digesting the food you choose to eat, having orgasms, experiencing the feeling of the sun on your skin, your eyes so you can see, your ears so you can hear etc.
It’s more about being IN your body, not looking AT your body. It’s living in and through your miraculous body and seeing your body as a vessel to experience life in… instead of through the lens of what your body might look like during life experiences or what you or others might think about your body’s appearance.
It starts feeling more easeful after this stage because this is your natural state of being… gratitude for life. (It’s a pretty big miracle that you’re alive tbh)
10. Long for your previous body or fantasize about your goal body
These moments do come less frequently now but I still like to keep it real… 😉 I’ve been on this journey and I’m still on it with you.
11. Contentment – My body makes me, me
You start to be able to view the parts of your body that you used to hate with a vengeance from a different perspective…
Actually, my big legs make me, me. It’s part of who I am. It’s what makes me unique. It doesn’t mean I love them but I’m kinda (weirdly) happy to accept them!
My tummy roll is kinda cute…
I see the size of my arms in a photo and instead of wishing I’d covered them up, I shrug and smile and accept them as part of me… They’re my arms… how comforting.
I love having a body. Thank you body, I’m starting to feel content in you…
12. Long for your previous body or fantasize about your goal body
Triggers happen my love… at this stage, it’s more of a passing thought. Kind of like a “wouldn’t it be nice if…” or “I remember feeling so validated back then…” and then you get on with your day without it having any kind of negative effect on you.
13. Love – deep level of acceptance and uncondondional love for your body
This is my goal for each and every one of you and I believe you can and will get here without a doubt.
You love your body the way you’d love a child or a pet. You wouldn’t say to a child or to your pet;
“You must lose weight or change this about your body before I can love you”
And you wouldn’t say that to yourself now either. You can love your body (and yourself) regardless of it meeting any “conditions” such as the way it looks or behaves. The foundational feeling you have for your body is love, acceptance and gratitude.
When you see photos of yourself you might have a judgment about your appearance but there’s an underlying feeling of ‘ah but that’s me and my body, that makes me, me. I love me.’
You find it uncomfortable to be mean to yourself and your body (notice how self-love and body love are intertwined) You might notice a fatphobic self-judgment but then you quickly choose to send love to yourself and your body anyway because you know love isn’t conditional.
You know to believe that you are more than the appearance of your body. You’ve separated your self-worth from your body’s appearance or weight. You know that although miraculous, your body is the least interesting thing about you.
You’re besties with your body. You’re a team. You want to take care of her and nourish her in all ways.
You have the capacity to love yourself and your body through life as you and it changes.
14. Long for your previous body or fantasize about your goal body
It’s like a distant memory to you now and you can meet these thoughts with love and compassion. You’re able to give your inner child who still has some healing to do, a big energetic hug. You love her. You love you. You’re SO grateful that you had the courage to go on this journey to food freedom and body love.
15. Body positivity – I like the way my body looks
Body positivity is not necessary to experience body love but it is absolutely possible to experience it.
Body positivity is celebrating the way your body and other bodies look, including their uniqueness. It’s choosing to see every body – especially your own- as beautifully imperfect. Lumps, bumps, rolls, blemishes, stretch marks, cellulite and all. Embracing and admiring them.
This is of course objectifying your body but as long as you know that your body and the way you perceive your body can and will change at any moment, any day, any month and you’re not relying on liking the way your body looks to make you feel ok, then it can be a very liberating place to be.
Body positivity can cultivate a deeper sense of body confidence, and who doesn’t want that..?! It’s worth noting that feeling confident in your body does not need to come from body positivity, it comes from simply choosing to fully accept and love who you are… including your body.
You are you – warts n all – and that’s your superpower!