I went back and forth on whether or not I should post this. It’s important to me that I talk honestly about how I’m choosing to care for my body, but my concern is that A – I’m opening myself up for judgement and B – this might be taken for generic weight loss advice. So here is my disclaimer: I appreciate any and all support, comments, opinions, etc., but I am not looking for advice or judgement on my decisions. I’m trained in holistic nutritional therapy, and made my choices based on my education and personal experience. This is also not a one size fits all diet plan. This is the plan that I’ve come up with for me, based on my needs, history, and goals. If you’re looking for help with improving your health or losing weight in a healthy way, join my email list to learn more about the services that I’ll be launching on January 27.
How to safely lose weight when you have an eating disorder
I have a history of disordered eating, so dieting and restriction is super triggering. The short answer here is that it is impossible to safely lose weight if you have a history of disordered eating, when losing weight is your only goal. It’s important to me right now to improve my health, and that is my primary goal. The fact is, I’m very overweight right now, so it’s a given that the natural side effect of supporting my body in a healthful way will be weight loss. By keeping my health as the focal point and weight loss as a likely side effect, I’m able to look at myself objectively and make decisions based on my health and how I feel, not how much I weigh that day or what I see in a mirror.
Every choice I’ve made for my current diet (literally meaning how I’m eating, not that I’m “dieting”) is because I feel better with or without certain foods in my life; NOT because I think I will lose weight if I restrict something. This distinction is important because if there’s no actual reason to remove something other than “I think I’ll lose weight” then it’s restriction just for the sake of restricting, and that is a quick way back into eating disorder territory. So, if you have a hitsory of disordered eating, please make sure you’re working with a professional (like me) to guide you through this process in a healthy, productive way.
My plan for improving my health (and losing weight)
My main decision point for these changes is to improve my back pain and arthritis, so I’ve decided to loosely follow an anti-inflammatory approach. This means that I’m avoiding gluten and alcohol, as well as most added sugars and vegetable oils (you can read more about inflammation here). There’s also the “nutrition basics” – prioritizing nutrient dense foods (protein, veggies, and healthy fats), drinking enough water, moving my body (this one’s tough for me and there will be posts about it in the future), getting adequate sleep, and reducing stress.
I cut out gluten earlier in December, and last week I decided to experiment by incorporating it back in and seeing how I felt (homemade pierogis were 10000% worth the risk). Within a day or so, I noticed that I had an increase in joint pain, as well as a negative effect on my mental health. This little experiment reaffirmed that removing gluten is the right choice overall, but that there may also be a few times throughout the year where dealing with a few days of joint pain may be worth it.
Alcohol is easy for me to cut out because I just don’t care for it. I have a drink maybe 4 times a year, so this doesn’t really have an effect on my life one way or another. Vegetable oils is another easy one – I cut those out of my diet years ago. The short story is that the way vegetable oils are made requires so much heat and processing, that the oil is rancid but the time it hits store shelves, and that rancid oil has a variety of negative affects on our bodies.
Sugar is a bit trickier for me. Cutting out all sugars forever sounds very restrictive. I’ve gone through phases where I’ve cut it out completely for a time, but I know myself well enough to know that doing that for too long would not end well. Instead of restricting it completely, I’m limiting the type and amount of added sugars. By sticking to less processed sources (i.e. a bit of maple syrup in my coffee) and limiting treats to only the “worth it” ones, I’ll feel in control and happy with my choices.
The other conscious change I’m making is to focus on listening to my body (i.e. eating when I’m hungry and stopping when I’m full). This intuitive approach allows me to tune into what my body really needs, and ensure that I’m adequately nourishing myself without having to count or track my food (which is a trigger for me). It takes a lot of practice to really listen to your body and learn to tell the difference between true hunger and cravings, but in the end it’s so empowering to know your body that well.
Making peace with the scale
I’m sure your next question is about the scale, right? Do I have a goal weight? Will I share weekly weigh ins? I’ve decided to not make a routine around weigh-ins. After years of back and forth around whether or not I should even own a scale, I’ve landed in a place that works for me – I only weigh myself on mornings where I feel very neutral. I never weigh myself on mornings where I feel either really good or really bad about myself because I don’t want the number staring back at me to either ruin a good day, or make a bad day worse. So I’ll share updates here and there, but the number on the scale is not my focus.
So, that’s my plan. I’ll post updates on how things are going and what I learn along the way. If there’s anything specific you’re interested in getting updates about, be sure to leave it in the comments!