I have tried a lot of diets in my life. Atkins, vegan, Weight Watchers, counting calories, Weigh Down Workshops, Paleo, Zone, South Beach, food logs. I’ve worked with nutritionists and therapists. I’ve done the shakes, the herbal supplements, the cleanses. I’ve spent hours in the gym, I’ve trained for races, I’ve done CrossFit, I’ve lifted weights. I’ve tried a lot of things. I’ve spent thousands of dollars. None of these efforts (and concentrated, years-spanning efforts many of them were) have succeeded to get me thin in the long term.
I finally got fed up, and about two years ago, and decided that instead of going on another diet, I would start doing some research about why nothing was working for me. I got my thyroid tested, my bloodwork done, I talked to different doctors, I consulted with many nutrition and health experts. Nobody had any answers for me. Then I got my hands on a book called Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight. I learned that dieting almost never works. That losing and gaining weight repeatedly was unhealthy. That I didn’t have to be thin to be healthy. I started to do more research. I read more books, I visited blogs, I investigated health journals and read papers and published research. I became more and more curious.
Curiosity killed the
cat negative self-talk
One day, I started asking the question, “why”? Why did I think that being thin was necessary? Why do we all want to lose 20 pounds? Why do we want to have less cellulite, have blemish-free skin, silky hair, fashionable clothes, a bigger house, a toned yoga butt? This simple question “why” blew my whole world apart one day after a yoga teacher training session.
A comment made during class caught me off guard. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, and humiliated. My mind cranked into overdrive – a whirlwind spiral of negative thoughts about myself started spinning out of control, right there on the spot: I talk too much, I am too eager, too loud, too annoying, ever since I was a kid people have been telling me to be quiet, give others a chance, sit down, calm down. Then I caught my reflection in the mirror at the back of the room and it got worse. I’m ugly, I’m fat, my body is so huge compared to everyone in this room. I don’t belong here at all, I’m almost 30 – my pretty years are over, and I’ve wasted them being fat. I’m so ugly. It went on and on. That night was just awful. I hadn’t felt so low in a long time.
The next day I was journaling about the experience and thinking, why did I let this one statement trigger me so much? And then the “why” crept in and I had a breakthrough moment! From my journal:
Why does it even matter if I’m ugly? Let’s objectively say that I am ugly, whether it is “true” or not. Who cares? I have a supportive partner who loves me and thinks I’m beautiful. I have friends who love me. I have people who say they admire me, and men and women who have told me I am beautiful. I have a home, independence, a decent income, freedom to make whatever choices I want. What possible advantage could come from me being more attractive? I don’t need to “catch a man” or get a promotion or win friends. I am pretty much okay. It’s possible that am enough just as I am, today. What others think of me is really none of my business.
And that one little journal entry was the beginning of my steps toward accepting myself for who I am, and who I am becoming. Awareness was key to me. I got into my body and I started listening to it. This body awareness developed in tandem with the research I was doing about dieting and weight loss. Here’s some of what I found out.
The evidence says dieting doesn’t work
The evidence we have says that nearly everyone regains the weight within 5 years no matter how they lost it. Almost anyone can lose weight in the short term, whatever diet they try. However, there is absolutely no cold, hard evidence to support that the majority of fat people can get thin and maintain it for the long term. Less than 5% of people who lose weight keep it off for more than 5 years. I am part of this statistic. I lost a significant amount of weight and regained it within the 5 year term, despite during those five years exercising regularly, becoming a CrossFitter, running several races including a 10K, eating a diet primarily comprised of whole, unprocessed foods, etc.
Dieting also makes us unhealthier. Weight loss is often prescribed as a health intervention, but according to research,
Concern has arisen that this weight focus is not only ineffective at producing thinner, healthier bodies, but may also have unintended consequences, contributing to food and body preoccupation, repeated cycles of weight loss and regain, distraction from other personal health goals and wider health determinants, reduced self-esteem, eating disorders, other health decrement, and weight stigmatization and discrimination.
Dieting not only leads to all these other negative health consequences, dieting also makes us fatter. Repeated cycles of weight loss and weight gain (weight cycling) has also been shown to lead to increased cardiovascular risks. Regardless of body size, people who lost and regained weight ended up being at higher risk for heart problems.
Dieting fuels disordered eating
Not only does research support this, I know that it’s absolutely true in my case. I have had a history of disordered eating since my teen years. The first thing that happens when I begin dieting – when I stop trusting my body’s hunger signals and depend on someone else’s outside set of rules about what I should eat – is that my brain and my body start to freak out. I begin to obsess over food. It’s all I think about. I become preoccupied with food, with the shape of my body, with what I’m eating or not eating, with whatever OTHER people are eating. When I stop trusting my body to tell me what and when and how much to eat, I turn into a very unpleasant person.
Weight loss does not equal health
A great deal of evidence (Matheson et. al., Wei et. al, the Cooper Institute etc.) points to the conclusion that healthy habits make healthy bodies in a wide variety of sizes. Choosing healthy habits such as eating 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables, participating in moderate activity for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, not smoking, consuming alcohol in moderation, and other notably healthy choices can mitigate every single risk factor associated with being overweight. Watch this video for more about that study, and about how just a moderate amount of moving your body can totally transform your health.
Health At Every Size
As I learned more and more, I decided that I would choose healthy habits instead of trying to keep fighting my body. Instead of basing my truth and my reality off someone else’s standards for who they think I should be, I started checking in with myself. I started practicing something every time I would get triggered, or feel insecure or ashamed because of my appearance. Instead of trying to change my body’s appearance to others by slumping over, holding something in front of my stomach, sucking in my stomach, or adjusting my clothing, I would focus on the sensations inside my body and how I was feeling. I would actually go into my body, and start a simple breathing exercise to stay present. Yoga has taught me to inhabit my body, to get out of my head, and to be aware of what I was feeling. I knew what breath in my belly felt like, how to articulate my spine, how to ground my femur head into my hip socket, how to close my eyes and stay, instead of escaping into thoughts, fantasy, or panic. Yoga helped me learn to listen to my body.
Through the mindfulness yoga has taught me, and the techniques I’ve practiced through my work with Michelle Allison’s Learn to Eat program (which I will write more about in another post), I have tried countless experiments since then to find out what foods make me feel good, what foods make me feel bad, how much movement is right for me, things like that. Here’s what my wellness looks like these days:
- I listen to my body. I let hunger and fullness signals determine when to start and stop eating. I practice mindfulness during meals. I notice food – I savor it, notice the texture, the flavor, the temperature.
- I eat few processed foods. Instead I choose vegetables, meat, fruit, nuts, and seeds. Occasionally I have a treat, if it’s what I’m craving. My body is very good at telling me what it wants, if I listen. When I don’t listen, or I’m not mindful as I’m eating – I realize the consequences (a tummyache, a bad headache, sore and inflamed joints).
- I make time to plan meals, prepare food, and keep healthy options around. If that doesn’t happen, I don’t freak out (the occasional Taco Bell visit on a road trip isn’t going to kill me), but I make healthy eating a priority. It’s not the only priority, but it’s one important part of my life.
- I move my body. I strive for at least 150 minutes of activity per week. I only choose activity that feels fun to me – this can be anything from yoga (often), to hiking (often), walking my dog, working on our farm property (cutting brush, gardening, moving rocks around to rebuild a wall), doing pushups, situps, and squats, and more.
- I get 8-9 hours of sleep per night in a pitch black room. When this does not happen, things come unhinged quickly.
- I get some sun every day to keep my vitamin D levels up. This combined with activity makes certain that my brain chemistry is going to stay on the up and up.
I do not:
- Count calories, points, or assign numbers to foods
- Follow a list of “good” and “bad” food
- Assign moral value (good or bad) to foods
- Punish myself with restriction or exercise when I eat something “I shouldn’t”
- Skip meals
- Cut out entire macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein)
- Feel guilty when I eat something that is high in calories
- Talk about dieting
- Comment on other people’s body size
Weight loss does not equal happiness
The research says that less than 5% of people who lose weight can maintain that weight loss. If I equate being thin with being happy, that means I have a less than 5% chance of being happy. I don’t accept that statistic! I am a very determined person. Even before I stopped dieting, even while I was still making an extremely concerted effort to lose weight, I decided to just do it now. Whatever “it” was: training for and running 5 & 10Ks, deadlifting 300 pounds, kicking just about everyone’s ass at Just Dance! for the Wii, becoming a certified yoga teacher, hiking 13 miles in one day, climbing Spy Rock, Humpback Rocks, Sharp Top, and countless other difficult hikes. I decided to stop postponing my life until I lost weight. I decided to take chances, try new things, and choose healthy habits. And stop dieting.
My story isn’t the only one out there – check out these 33 real women, of all shapes, sizes, and walks of life, who also said, “I quit!” to dieting.
If you’re curious about the Health At Every Size approach, or how to start chasing healthy habits (without chasing thinness as your end goal), stop by the Fit Fatties Forum and join in the conversation. Or, check out one of these books or blogs.
- Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight
- Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body
- Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss—and the Myths and Realities of Dieting
- Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything
- Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance
- The Obesity Myth: Why America’s Obsession with Weight is Hazardous to Your Health
- The Rules of “Normal” Eating: A Commonsense Approach for Dieters, Overeaters, Undereaters, Emotional Eaters, and Everyone in Between!
- Two Whole Cakes: How to Stop Dieting and Learn To Love Your Body
So I know this post is about health and quitting dieting, but your bit about you staring into the yoga mirror and going into a spiral of negative thinking because of one little comment spoke to me on a deep level. I do that a lot and am trying to deal with it, among other mental health stuff, and I just want you to know I’m proud of you for finding a way to deal with those moments. Self-awareness is tough and means a lot of work, but I’m always inspired when I read and learn about how you are continuing to pursue it.
Also, I love you! 😉
See you in August!
Negative thinking spirals are tough, man. Keep plugging away. I can’t wait to see you!
Awesome post, as always!
I love that video, too. I’ve been recently telling people that walking is totally underrated! It feels good! You get to enjoy nature! It makes meditating easier! Quality time with your partner, family, and friends! No special equipment is needed!
I have recently realized that I am probably always going to weigh within two pounds of one particular number. Maybe if I did some kind of crazy training I could weigh less? I am quite sure I would be really unhappy about it, though! My wellness outline looks a lot like yours, and not surprisingly, it came naturally as a part of my yoga practice. I started paying more attention to everything about myself, which means that I started and have since continued to make choices that make me feel good, not just physically but mentally and spiritually, too.
One of the things about working at gym who has a large membership of endurance athletes and physique models, is that I see a lot of people who look really fit but who I know are injured, in pain, unhappy, starving… it is definitely not good! There is so much dysfunction in the health, fitness, wellness, and even in the yoga world I don’t even know where to start. So yes, I’m for any way of getting the word out about all the small things can improve your overall health and putting an end to the judging people on their size.
Flissy, thanks for the brilliant insight as always. I have a lot of clients in the health & nutrition fields – it can definitely get extreme. And yes to the walking! 🙂 Walking is awesome.
This post is FANTASTIC. Running to share. xoxo
So well said and thought out. That negative self talk is so powerful and if you can beat it back and possibly surround it with love and positivity you are all the better for it. Thank you for sharing such a positive way to move forward and find your happy.
Girl, I knew I should have made more of an effort to hang out with you when you were still local. You are one incredibly cool chick! 🙂 This post is fantastically inspiring and the message needs to be spread far and wide. I have stopped fighting my body and no longer punish myself for indulging in treats. I do, however, need to make more of an effort to stay active on a regular basis, but…..that is more a matter of managing my schedule and making sure I get enough sleep every night.
Amy – sending love! Wish we’d gotten to know each other better when I lived there, too!
you wrote my story. You rock!!
I gave up dieting, because I literally could not do it any more. The Counting. The Mind fucking it brought about. I now eat in an attuned manner. I know that our society continues to stigmatize against “fat” people, and I try to push people to think differently. Thank you for sharing your story.
Thank you for living out loud every day and smashing those stereotypes!
I ended my obsession with trying to be thin a few years ago. Coincidentally, about the same time that I started realizing that my (then-newer, now-continuing) relationship with my partner was both: 1) healthy (something many of my former relationships had not been), and; 2) possibly forever.
In addition to fueling my own disordered eating patterns (which I can now see coming and call them for what they are, which helps a ton) and setting way too much store by how other people value my body, me dieting ignored one essential of my own body composition. My body likes muscle like whoa. Basically, when I move in a way that I like and that is healthy for my, my body responds by adding muscle mass. Sometimes, yes, this means the dreaded “bulk.” For a long time, I fought that out of fear — fear I’d look “wrong,” fear the number on the clothing labels would get too high**, fear the number on the scale would scream in warning of my imminent death by heart attack.
Okay, the number on the scale has risen — partly by my own composition, I’m sure, but also likely partly by my history of dieting — but I couldn’t be further from a heart attack. Basically, things changed when I gave myself permission to consider myself an athlete. (As I was a power/vinyasa yoga student in a place where most people thought of “yoga” as stretching + meditation, this actually took some calculation and critical thinking on my part.) Effectively, I told myself that if I wanted to ask so much of my body — and I did, and I still do, and now I run too, and I love it, and it’s all good for me — then I had to both respect the shape and size that created this strength and stamina and to fuel it (i.e., feed myself) appropriately.
So, yes, like you, I do still spend a fair bit of time weighing the nutritional content of food and taking as much time as I can to cook good-for-me meals from scratch (or as close at possible). But the change has been to know what combination of nutrients works best to fuel my own body, rather than trying to get certain numbers — fat, calories, carbs, etc. — as low as possible.
** Okay, true, I do not exactly love this. But because I want ALL THE STORES to carry my size, not because I think there’s something wrong with ME if they don’t.
It’s awesome how much self-awareness you have! What a cool place to be. I know we’re never “done” with body image/acceptance stuff, but it sounds like you’re moving in a really good direction. 🙂
Love this post! Can’t wait for the next one. I’m still trying to get into one of Michelle’s groups.
She’s awesome, so I hope you do!
Amber…I LOVE what you write…always! But I must respectfully ask a question. And I come to this question not only out of curiosity but out of amazement…I have to say I just don’t understand how the following is possible…”I lost a significant amount of weight and regained it within the 5 year term, despite during those five years exercising regularly, becoming a CrossFitter, running several races including a 10K, eating a diet primarily comprised of whole, unprocessed foods, etc.”
If you were doing all of the “right” things how did you gain weight? Because to me…this would completely discourage me from trying to lose any weight EVER & unfortunately, due to medical stuff & “the numbers” & my age & my medical history I “have” to lose weight. But this makes it sound like there is absolutely no reason to even try…so I’m a little confused…
If I was doing all the right things how did I gain weight? Basically – I lost weight in the short term. This is how diets work (or rather, don’t work). Even though I was carrying on a “healthy” lifestyle, I was not restricting calories, food groups, etc as I was before when I was actively dieting. Even when I was eating about 1,000 calories a day and working out about an hour a day, I never got below 200 pounds. Honestly, I am not willing to punish my body, starve myself, become a bitch to everyone around me, and participate in the starve/binge cycle to be 200 pounds. So I decided to start listening to my body and my weight settled at about what it was before I started going to extremes.
This is the nature of diets. Nearly everyone regains the weight. I don’t know what medical issues or numbers you have going on, and I’m not your doctor so I can’t tell you what to do. But I do know that weight loss doesn’t seem like an ethical or logical approach to a health intervention to me. We (society, the medical profession, science) don’t know how to get fat people thin in the long term. The fact that certain health risks can be mitigated with weight loss – does that really matter if we don’t know how to get it done?
Ragen Chastain compared telling fat people they can be healthier by losing weight to telling someone who has chronic joint pain that their joints wouldn’t hurt if they’d fly. That doesn’t mean the person in pain should jump off a roof and flap their arms. For 95% of people, permanent weight loss isn’t possible. Them’s the stats for better or worse.
Research has shown (watch the video I embedded and link to some of the research I linked) that choosing healthy behaviors and getting 3.5 hours of moderate exercise per week can mitigate nearly every health risk associated with being overweight. It’s been proven that you can be healthy in a fat body and unhealthy in a thin body.
I personally have made the choice to stop fighting my body, stop feeling like I have failed at thinness, and start knowing that I am succeeding at health. I choose healthy foods, healthy movement, and healthy attitudes because THAT is the end goal for me. Health, not a body size. And choosing health IS possible at whatever size you are at, without attempting to change that size.
I hope that helps explain my perspective!
Given what we all hear about how weight loss works (or is supposed to work) from health professionals and the media, it is kind of amazing to when you hear that some people do All the Right Things and then don’t lose weight, or regain lost weight. And yet I can tell you that lots of these people exist, and I’m not sure anyone knows why that is.
Except that weight is incredibly individual, bodies do weird things to hang onto weight, and that the whole system is complicated enough that science doesn’t completely understand it yet. But apparently some people’s bodies prioritize maintaining fat tissue above other things, even during dieting. Those people have to do pretty extreme things over a long period of time to lose weight, and many of them understandably feel it’s not worth it to live that way for the rest of their lives to keep it off.
That’s not to say that every single person has the same experience, though. Whether or not YOU will lose weight, based on Amber’s experience, is still a big question mark. No one really knows. And whether or not to bother trying is a decision you have to make for yourself. But I do think it’s good to hear both sides of the story – that not all stories of weight loss are success stories, and that not everyone who “fails” at weight loss Did It Wrong. Sometimes it’s just not in the cards for people to lose weight, short of starving themselves for life.
There is research that indicates that the long-term success rate of dieting is pretty low for most people. So Amber is definitely not alone or exceptional.
You are a great role model! I just finished my first yoga class a few weeks ago (after avoiding it for years because I wasn’t “thin” enough). It was such a wonderful experience! Look forward to reading more!
Cara – so glad to hear you’re bringing the body you have now to the yoga mat! Keep it up and keep me posted!
Very insightful post! New here. Found you randomly through Twitter 🙂 I’ve dropped 40lbs and have kept it off 4 years this January so, if I make it to Jan. 2013, I’ll fall into the rare 5% club. Didn’t know of that stat before. After being a yo-yo dieter myself since Junior High and suffering from an eating disorder as well, I can relate to your story.
I’m also about a dozen years older than you so I’ve had a very long “messy middle” the human part between the then and now success story. Aging also affects the body in many surprising ways, so now I’ve focused more on health than vanity but to be honest, vanity, wearing my skinny jeans again has always been a powerful emotional motivator for me. Being totally honest, the shadow side as Debbie Ford calls it.
This time around, I started doing work internally first. I stopped with the dieting mentality because I wondered when “dieting” stopped and just became “eating.” I follow a philosophy of eating wellness and an 80/20 style of eating where 80% are foods that support my body and 20% is anything goes. I took the time to learn what my body wanted and needed, and it evolves over time. On the physical side, food allergies were a HUGE issue for me. All the so called healthy foods I was eating like dairy and eggs was actually harmful in my body and caused some weight gain because of constant inflammation. Gluten and soy can also cause weight issues. My body is also sensitive to anything artificial, processed or genetically modified.
On the emotional side, I did much work on healing my emotional weight (baggage) or my pounds of protection I called them. Now, this is getting metaphysical and some people don’t believe in this stuff but for me when I got into the deeper inner wounds and healed the reasons I was keeping the pounds of protection, I swear literal weight, physical pounds started coming off because I didn’t need my fat shield anymore.
My comment is very long here, but I just wanted to share a little what worked for me to maybe give some other perspective. Again, great insight and much support to you on your healthiness journey 🙂
Thanks for sharing your story, Stephanie. Best of luck to you on your continued wellness journey!
I am in the middle of my own journey. I’ve always felt totally comfortable inside my body. My struggle is with my sensitivity to the world around me. My deepest desire is to be allowed to just “be” in my body in space. My “fantasy of being thin” is that of walking down the street and not having the awareness intrude on my thoughts that I’m being judged negatively. It’s a issue of “fit”. I don’t fit, I stand out, I’m “other”. What bliss it would be for my body to just be a body! I resent that it isn’t allowed to be, I resent the objectification and the unfairness. I don’t know how to get past it. Every time I lose weight (I will never again diet or exercise unhealthily, but recent discover of food allergies has resulted in some unintentional weight loss) I’m relieved because it feels closer to being free of judgement. It’s why I welcome so much the proliferation of fat-positive images and writings, as well as the science and research in defense of fat. It’s already okay to be fat, for me, in the sense of what my body needs to be well. For it to be okay with my fellow human beings — then not just my body would be well, my spirit would be also.
(Oops, sorry, I intended that to be posted as a general comment… not sure why it went down here!)
Relate 100% to all of this — thanks for being such a rockstar!
This is an amazing post, Amber. Great work!
I have not personally dealt with being clinically overweight, but I can relate to this post wholeheartedly as someone who has struggled with an eating disorder, exercise addiction, and body image issues for most of my life. At 30, I finally feel like I’m on the right path, working my way out from under the paralyzing guilt I used to feel on a daily, even hourly basis about not being thin enough, fit enough, stylish enough, not eating the right things or running enough miles. I realized that pointless guilt was robbing me of so much happiness in my otherwise pretty darn good life. It’s an ongoing process, obviously, but reading things like this post remind me that it’s worth it. Thank you!
It is totally an ongoing process. I feel like I’ve come so far with my eating and feelings about food. Body image is still totally a journey, man!
great post. i’ve always had a horrible relationship with myself, both my physical self and me mental self. i’ve gone through years of shaming myself for being loud, since i was a very shy kid it felt wrong to not be shy anymore. i recently began embracing the extrovert tendencies i have, instead of always feeling guilty about them. this was a big step for me.
the other piece to the puzzle of being happy is what you’re speaking about. while i’ve always had a bad relationship with my body, i went through a period of time when i was very thin for my frame and still didnt feel right. now that i’m a good 70lbs heavier than that, i’m even more unhappy with my body. i eat well and i move my body. and it’s hard trusting that if i just focus on being active in the ways that i love, and eating healthy (which i also love doing and is my “norm” for eating) that i can’t fault my body for the shape that it will naturally be. the downward spiral thoughts are the pits. i turn 30 in august and my goal for this year was to really work on getting over my shit and feel good about me. for me. for nobody else but me. damn, it’s hard.
thanks for the links. i’m going to have to read this stuff for inspiration in this journey.
I just turned 30 and I totally identify with what you wrote. A year ago, my goal was to stop dieting and be okay with it by the time I was 30. I am so proud that I’ve done that, and it’s taken many years of working toward that point. Body image is my next project – still a lot of work to do there!
Amber, thanks. This is one of the most well written and comprehensive stories on this I’ve read. In my own life it is no coincidence that Weight Watchers triggered bulemia and outpatient treatment years later triggered even more bizarre food behavior. Right now I’m struggling to ignore the weight and work on the fitness without crossing into obsessive territory of measuring success in old ways.
This has been a hot topic on a friend’s FB wall lately – she taking a very body positive view – all bodies are good regardless of shape or size, but needing to really hold that line with others. It is painful to watch and be a part of but she posted this today that also feeds into your topic so I share it in case you are interested: http://doctorzetcetera.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/thesis-executive-summary.html
Rina, Thanks for sharing your story – weight watchers definitely triggered disordered eating in me each time I would return to it. I’m so glad I finally learned my lesson!
This is so timely for me. Thank you.
It might be a universe thing… just after I read your post I found this article about how the end of the weight loss industry is coming. How destructive diets are. How our weight does NOT equal our self worth and that being kind & gentle to yourself is the key to health.
Hilda, thanks so much for the link! Love that.
This was a fantastic post!!!
I gave up my obsessions a couple of years ago. I was always very “small” for many years until I was put on some heavy medications that made me gain a lot of weight, very fast. I freaked, and developed anorexia/bulemia intermittently. I never lost any weight starving myself, and got very sick, as well. I went through years of self-destruction in many ways, and hit rock bottom in the hospital after a suicide attempt. Then one day, I decided to go to a gentle Yoga class. I don’t know what led me there- instinct, I guess. All I know, is I came out feeling lighter, and it had nothing to do with weight. 🙂
I embarked on a healing journey, leading up to me doing a Yoga teacher training course and teaching what I love. Somewhere in there, I did drop the weight- I think only because it was not natural to me to have it there. But only -ONLY- because I stopped thinking about it, I stopped caring about it. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted- and all I wanted were foods that would nourish me emotionally and physically- and that includes chocolate, hahahaha! I could have kept the weight and been happy and beautiful. 🙂 The point is, weight is not the issue. It’s our relationship to ourselves that is.
So, thank you for writing this. This worldview needs to become the norm in this society, not the obsessions and guilt.
Morgan, thanks so much for sharing your story. It’s amazing what yoga can teach us about ourselves!
Thank you for sharing your story! I hear more and more stories from people who have consciously stepped off the dieting train and taken their lives back from the “fantasy of being thin”.
For me, it wasn’t yoga but realizing that I wanted to run, to be a runner, and that I had said for years “I can’t do that, I’m too fat, let me diet and lose weight and then I’ll be able to run”. I decided to stop putting off my life until I was thin, started c25k and that sparked a whole fitness movement for me– now I’m running and lifting weights and doing yoga. It’s fun, I love it, and despite strenuous exercise 5 days a week I’m still fat (and that’s just fine!)
I am jealous that you can get 8-9 hours of sleep a night though! I need to work on that one.
I’m so glad you found your happy spot, I checked out your blog and you’re doing awesome with the running, yoga, weights. Inspiring! I am emailing you about a little side project you may be interested in.
I just found your site and wanted to let you know that I am so excited!
I’ve actually never dieted before. I grew up in a very organic, healthy-eating home, and so eating very mindfully has always been a part of my life. My natural inclination is to reach for whole foods. Dieting always felt like it would force me to cut out things from my already pretty trim diet, and I’ve always had a fear of deprivation. Don’t get me wrong, of course, I enjoy the cheeseburger sometimes and definitely don’t begrudge anybody their food habits (not my business what other people eat). Enter my awful relationship with exercise. Knowing that my diet was always good led to a really complicated relationship with self-hate for me growing up. It was always, “But I eat so much kale! Why am I so fat?” like it was some kind of “the universe is working against me” kind of thing. But I always hated exercising. I felt awkward, didn’t like competing, didn’t like feeling like other people were watching me, so I didn’t do it. Like, at all. I was a sedentary, self-loathing carrot-binger.
What I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that its all about finding activity that you enjoy doing. For me, walking in the woods and yoga fit the bill, so that’s what I’m doing. I feel a lot better, and I don’t care about my size anymore because I feel good for the first time in a long time, and that’s what’s important to me. That’s why I’m so psyched about finding your page. It’s so great to see likeminded people doing the things I like to do too. 😀
Amy, thanks for sharing your story! Hiking and yoga are such awesome partners, aren’t they!
Great post! Needed to read this today. I’m finally enjoying food again after a stressful period in my life, but I’m noticing bad feelings & thoughts attached to the resulting weight gain. Thanks for the ideas and affirmations – you’re my hero! 🙂
I want to say that Amber has shared with us something much deeper and more precious than a health tip. The moment we first truly accept ourselves changes our lives forever! Now, instead of a “fat person” trying to become thin or a “bad person” trying to become good or any other kind of person at all, Amber is now a person, an “OK person”, who, now happy with who and what she is, only wishes to expand and grow.
For whatever it’s worth, I propose that we all take from Amber’s post that we should not strive to be “better.” Rather we should accept that we are who and what we are and have faith that whatever we think we lack will take care of itself.
I love myself so I naturally love you all,
I could have written the beginning of this. You’re awesome and brave and I am thrilled to have stumbled across this ^_^ Thank you and *Fist bump* <3
Great blog! I am fortunate enough to be a member of the 5% but not without lots of inner self work! I started my weight releasing journey 10 years ago with diet and excersize and released 86lbs. Now I no longer “diet”…my co-workers think I do, but I have created a healthy eating lifestyle for myself and I eliminate all negative self talk from my inner dialogue and put 100% of that energy into loving my body 100%. It truly is amazing the way ones body can transform when one begins to love it. I have the good fortune to have an amazing body coach who has helped me work through a lot of my body barriers. Her name is Amanda Moxley, amandamoxley.com. She’s got some amazing guided visualizations if you want to utilize them. She also released 10 sizes and has kept it off for 10+ years! Our bodies are so amazing and super receptive to our thoughts! What an amazing journey it is…oh and I’m a fellow Yogi 🙂
Thank you for sharing your story! The mental work is such a big part of all this, isn’t it? 🙂
Have a wonderful day!
Amber, I am brand new to your blog and I must tell you thank you! I feel like you were telling my story. It is encouraging to know that others have had the same struggles in the journey toward health and self acceptance. The opinion that healthy=thin influenced me for far too long and I’m grateful to people such as yourself that have challenged that thinking and led me towards contentment and self love. Thank you for sharing yourself with us & please keep it up!
This is awesome! I’m gearing up to write a post about fathleticism for msbehaved.com (which I prefaced with a post about HAES:http://msbehaved.com/2012/06/07/health-at-every-size-is-awesome-and-the-difference-between-being-thin-and-healthy/) and have faced a lot of bullying comments about how I must be deluded, lying to myself, that there’s no way I could possibly actually have a healthy lifestyle and still be fat…So it’s very affirming to see others walking my path. 🙂
This is a spectacular article! Thank you for posting it. This entire website is such a wonderful haven. I would, however, like to point out that veganism is not a “diet” in the same sense that atkins or weight watchers is a diet. For those of us who practice veganism (who are of all sizes), it is a moral decision, not a weight loss program of any kind. I do understand that some people misguidedly become vegan thinking they will lose weight (they have obviously never met a fat vegan, or have totally ignored them somehow and they don’t usually stay vegan for long because, of course, it doesn’t cause weight loss unless you are doing it wrong), but for the rest of us, it is a choice made for moral reasons, health reasons, and environmental reasons. In a world filled with hate (both for fat people and for vegans for strikingly similar reasons), it stings when such a positive website dismisses such an important life decisions offhandedly.
I agree, veganism is a totally legit choice!
I’m 26, and I too feel like I wasted my pretty years being fat. I stumbled upon this blog after I spent the better part of the afternoon beating myself up for eating 3 tablespoons of Milo (which amounted to more than 300 calories – isn’t that crazy?!). Thank you for sharing your experiences and feelings with us. It means more than I can say.
This is so helpful and amazing. I’ve been struggling with my body image and desire to be thin for a long time, and have recently been trying to seek out experiences and information that will help me to think differently about my body and health. I’ve thrown out my scale, and I’m trying to change my unhealthy behaviors (not eating enough, feeling guilty about eating, etc) and re-frame my healthy behaviors (I’m eating nourishing and healthful foods because diabetes runs in my family and I want to avoid that, and I run and swim because those movements feel good). It’s so helpful to hear other people’s stories and journeys as I’m (slowly) moving towards a more healthful and positive relationship with my body
I usually don’t comment on blogs, but I wanted to say a very big, “THANK YOU.” I have been trying to tell people this for a few years now. My weight has always gone up and down, but I focus more on what healthy (or unhealthy) choices I’m making with exercise and food. I can’t say I’ve found the best balance or I’m the healthiest person, but I refuse to spend half my life weighing food and counting calories. I once had a doctor who insisted I go on the SouthBeach diet. Pass.
I just discovered your blog today as I was doing research on yoga and body image. I’m currently in the midst of yoga teacher training, and I’m far curvier than anyone else in my training class. Your blog is fantastic. I gave up dieting long ago after suffering from a severe eating disorder in my twenties. At the age of 37, quite ironically, I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life…and the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life.
Luckily, I attend yoga teacher training in a studio where nobody cares about how anyone looks. That’s why I picked it. Thank you so much for this blog. I will definitely be back.
Hi. I came to your website via a pin on Pinterest. I like your blog! I gave up dieting as well. However, I read the book “Overcoming Overeating” and it inspired me. I share this with you because you seem like the type of woman that might be interested in it. Perhaps you already know of it, but I just thought that I would share it. Thanks! Keep up the great blogging! Love the video on modified yoga positions.
I’m so glad to have found this blog. My body fits a more socially-endorsed standard of beauty, and I’ve unconsciously accepted that as a measure of individual worth. I’ve been trying to educate myself about body policing and blogs like this have been great at tearing down my assumptions about weight and health, as well as helping me realize my relative privilege and the ways that I reinforce body privilege by the ways I talk about and relate to my own body. Maybe more importantly I’ve come to understand how my own self-worth is related to how closely I perceive myself as adhering to socially-defined beauty standards. Un-learning that isn’t so easy, so I appreciate work like yours that reinforces a different type of relationship to my body. Thanks Amber!
Parisa-seriously it is as if you are speaking to ME.. I am exactly the same way….my body too fits what is “socially acceptable” yet it’s not even acceptable enough for me…sad right? size 2-4 isnt small enough…I need to be a 0. I would love to chat more as you and I have a LOT in common!!! I compare myself to others, I treat myself kind when I look slimmer, I beat myself up when I’m getting to be “too much.”
Thank you so much for this. As someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder (10 years ago) I truly struggle every day. I have better days and not so great days. I find myself spending hours researching the best way to lose weight and get “back to that place” before allowing myself to be happy. Something hit me last night; I’m so tired. I’m tired of the dance. I want to love my body NOW, not 10 lbs less…not when I fit into those size 0 shorts again…right NOW. I know only with love and self acceptance will my body respond in kind. Right now I’m torturing it (and myself) with this constant back and forth. THank you for opening my eyes up again!!!!
I saw your photo and I think you are beautiful! You have great hair, nice skin and a lovely smile. All that stuff about you being ugly is crap – don’t believe the haters, some people just want knock you down to get a momentary high, f them!
I think you’re a lovely woman, with a passion to life and a real motivation to be happy. You look very good, and you’re very pretty no matter the size of your body.
I am very skinny (though IO have no problems with it either) and I’d love to have half of your life energy and such a happy smile – I agree it has nothing to do with the shapes.
I have some friends who have figure similar to your and I’d really want them to follow your example in the attitude to life. It saddens me that they lack any example of happy and joyful women with natural shapes. I believe it would help them a lot. 🙂
Shame they don’t speak English very well, but when they learn, I’ll surely show them your page! ^^ :hugs:
So far, I am doing yoga with you – as finally someone addressed some common issues – and you also have a great pedagogical talent for it. 🙂 I simply love how motivated you are. It’s a tad bit abstract as I don’t know you personally, but it gives me a feeling of a real cheerful support. 🙂
Amber this article is SO brilliant and SO perfect for my new FB page – “I Quit Dieting”…! I LOVE your message, I wholeheartedly agree, and Im sharing this 🙂
Thank you and congrats on finding your bliss within your body xox000x
This article is absolutely amazing – and I stumbled upon it at such a critical time. I’d been dealing with disordered eating and body image issues my whole life, and I’d been preoccupied with my weight ever since I was 9 (I’m now 26). However, I went paleo two years ago at 250 lbs and, for the first time ever, lost weight, wittling down to 170 lbs. The praises and admiration that I received was astonishing – and I craved that attention. I didn’t get a whole lot of it when I was obese. Despite my eating healthy and exercising, I was still big. I also carry a lot of muscle, so that adds to it, as well.
But instead of being happy, such a drastic weight loss fuelled my desire to lose even more weight and restrict my diet/intensify my workouts even further. Instead of focusing on health, I was focusing on the number on the scale, trying to figure out ways to get people to love and praise my new body even more.
But what I need(ed) to learn is how to love and appreciate myself. And that’s what I want to start doing. I’m currently 200 lbs – after starting and restarting paleo over the course of a year – and that’s okay. I’m okay. 🙂
Interestingly enough, I just got into yoga, and it’s making me want to adopt and take on healthy habits. I find it interesting just how transformative this practice can be. And I feel great after each session!
I know this is an older entry, but I just stumbled upon your blog and I love this entry. I come from the other end of the spectrum. I am so skinny, many look at me as though I MUST have an eating disorder. I have 2 children, and after each pregnancy, my body’s hormones go crazy and I get SKINNIER after each child. I am 5’10” and after my second child I was 105 lbs. needless to say I was BEYOND obsessed with gaining weight. just as obsessed as overweight people tend to obsess over losing it. I ate the absolute worst diet possible, gorged myself until I thought I was going to be sick at every meal, I didnt exercise because I was convinced that if I did I would certainly cease to exist. I was miserable, I was angry and tired all the time, my mood swings were awful, and my self esteem was non-existent. I also gained not one single pound during all this. well despite my thin stature, eating like I was led me to have the same health problems that always seem to be associated with obesity. I decided I was going to clean up my diet and start exercising regularly. my body would become the weight it was meant to be at when I started making healthy choices. wouldn’t you believe, six months later and Ive gained 20 pounds! I don’t obsess over my body anymore. I dont obsess over hitting the gym every day. I don’t care how many calories I eat, I eat when my body tells me to, and stop when it tells me to. im happy, im healthy, and Im me. for once I dont have an unhealthy relationship with myself
i’m not extremely overweight but i’ve always struggled with binge eating.lately (the last 2 years) these urges have quieted down somewhat.i’m a little dumb struck how this could suddenly be happening.of, course i realize my eating may change again but still i’m wondering: is it because i’m now half a century old or is it because i’ve stepped up my very gentle yoga practice.it does not burn a lot of calories but is definetly increase mindfulness across the board. however when i go to class i am saddened that there isn’t much variety of body types. i wish bigger women weren’t so intimidated but i totally get it . it’s one of the many segments that is left out of this positive practice.i can only hope that some how this can change in the future.
Oh my gosh I love you soo much!!! I have lost so much weight by doing extreme dieting, literally just living of fruit and veg, craving all my Pakistani heritage’s delicious food, but no in my eyes its too fattening so I would avoid it while my family would feast on it. And now I just had a little indulgence in some sweet treats and feel like crap so I was gonna force myself to do a intense painful workout, just because I’m scared I’ll’ll get fat. But after reading this, why should I? LIFE IS WAY TO SHORT! I’m going to use that quality time with my beautiful family and not waste it making myself suffer. Thank you so much I wish there was more people like you in the world, god bless you your perfection inside and out.
Good site you’ve got here.. It’s haqrd to find high-quality writing like yours these days.
I really appreciate people like you! Take care!!
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Amber, the more I follow you, the more I love you. This is so spot on, and as I’ve been letting go lately of similar things, and looking at my own body as it is, my relationship to it and food, and how we comment on others all the time, I’ve been really blown away by how much power we can have over our own self-image. And how hard it is to live in a world where people talk about food and body all the fucking time. Thank you for this. Thank you thank you thank you.
Wow. This post really resonated in me, so glad I found it. I really reached a moment of clarity while reading this about my body image, eating habits and the unrealistic goals I continuously set for myself. Thank you for sharing!