I am now a card-carrying member of the Happy Eaters Club. I've found a way of eating that works for me and is totally sustainable over the long-term. I'm consistently well-nourished and never feel deprived or like I can't eat enough to satisfy my hunger.
Of course, this wasn't always the case.
I used to be a very unhappy eater. Not because I didn't enjoy food, but because I felt so out of control around food.
I'm pretty open about the fact that I struggled with an eating disorder in my teens and twenties. Many people assume this means I was anorexic or that I was very restrictive in my eating or obsessed with being thin. Nope.
My issues with food involved emotional eating, bingeing, and eventually bingeing and purging (bulimia). Do you know what the word bulimia means? It's derived from the Greek words for "ox" and "hunger". My hunger was so large (at least psychologically) that it felt ox-like.
The first time I ever experienced any sense of gaining control over my hunger happened in my late twenties when I tried the Atkins Diet for 17 days. I didn't feel great—it made me super tired and I could not work out with any sort of intensity—but a mini-miracle occurred in that I did not experience any hunger or food cravings. What?!
What sort of magic was this?
The revelation that there was, potentially, a way of eating that would allow me to be *normal* around food caused me to put on my scientist hat. I was going to experiment until I found the formula that would work for me long-term.
Here's what I discovered in regards to food:
I recognized foods that were triggers for me—foods that made me want to overeat or binge—and kept them out of the house and, for the most part, out of my body. This was a temporary measure that I only needed to use for about a year.
I slowly worked up to eating 5+ servings of vegetables per day, and filled the rest of my plate with a fair amount of protein and some healthy fats.
I found a basic structure around eating that worked for me (a nutritional blueprint) and made this my *new normal*. It was super important that I did not feel deprived, so my structure definitely has built in daily treats.
You can see...these were not big, dramatic changes, just relatively minor tweaks that I slowly added into my daily routine.
I also made some lifestyle changes that did not involve food:
I made a commitment to move my body every single day in a way that raised my heart rate, strengthened me, and helped me manage stress. This is maybe the single most important decision I ever made (and I actually made this decision before I had my big revelation around food). I slowly began to see myself as a healthy, active person.
I cut a lot of stress and drama out of my life in terms of both people and situations.
I started practicing some really good (non-negotiable!) self-care habits including daily journaling and meditation.
I began to focus my attention on my thoughts and gradually became aware of how my thinking was affecting my experience of life.
I learned to soften the critical, judgmental voice that ruled my mind. Over time I was able to be gentler and kinder with myself.
That's it guys! That basically sums up my whole approach to finding a place of peace regarding food, body image, and self-acceptance.