September 9, 2016

Intuitive Eating, Before & After

Today’s post is a really special one and I feel so honored that I’m able to share it. I’m passionate about a few things: food, travel, my family and my strong desire to help others improve their relationship with food. As I’ve shared in previous posts, I know all too well the powerful hold that food can have. I spent most of my early twenties in this unhealthy pattern; obsessively counting calories, allowing a treat only if spent an hour at the gym and never being satisfied with my body. I feel so much compassion for my former self; never realizing how damaging my habits were.

It took me a long time to find a better path. Ironically, I was in school to become a dietitian- I thought what I was doing was normal, healthy even. I lived off praise from others commenting on how good I was, how skinny I looked and how much willpower I had. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment where I snapped back to life, but I’m forever grateful for that moment. Maybe I got tired of living that way, maybe I was seeing myself in my weight loss clients and was terrified that I was counseling them on my bad habits; whatever the reason- thank you.

I believe that every experience is a teacher- for either what to do or what not to do. I’m grateful for living in that space if only so that I am a more empathetic dietitian today. Now, my crusade is to help others get out of the holding pattern, to reawaken a healthy, happy relationship with food and their bodies. This past summer, I teamed up with my friends and RD colleagues, Anne and Rachael, to launch our six-week program, Joyful Eating, Nourished Life. Of all the projects I’ve been part of, this is what I’m most proud of. I strongly believe that my life’s work is to share my story, to help others get out of those moments to love food again, find their happy weight and become intuitive eaters.

We had 1oo+ attendees for our first program and the feedback has been overwhelming. I know how scary the idea of intuitive eating can be, especially for those who have dieted or followed programs their whole lives. Taking back the control can feel very scary and out of place, which is why we’ve designed a comprehensive program based off of our private practice models.

At the end of the June’s class, we asked participants to share their before and after stories. Of course, these aren’t traditional before and after stories- no side by side photos or numbers here. Just a real, candid response to how their relationship with food has changed. Below is an inspiring before and after story from one of our participants, Cindy.

Tell me more about your history with food and dieting.    

I have battled weight and food issues as far back as I can remember.  I was raised by my Grandmother and food was a part of every event and was used to help with every emotion. We even baked when we were bored! Almost all of our family had weight issues but my mother was extremely fashion conscious so there was always that shame of being heavy.  The biggest thing I remember is that I used food when I was angry or disappointed, I basically used food to shut myself up. In my mid-20’s, after having children and wanting them to be healthy, I lost 100+ pounds with Weight Watchers; through that experience I started expressing my emotional needs more and my marriage ended.  Although everyday was judged either good or bad based on food choices, I discovered running and for 9 years my weight stayed stable.  

How did you try to control your eating in the past, before joining Joyful Eating? What was the outcome?

I re-married and started a business with my husband and put much of the weight back on during our early years together. I went back to Weight Watchers several times and everytime I became militant about food. I hated it and so did he. At this point in my life I was running a successful business, married to a wonderful man and we had just purchased our first horses (a lifetime dream) yet every day for me was literally judged as either good or bad based on what I ate.  I returned to running, at first to help with weight loss but found that it helped me mentally with stress and my weight stabilized at a healthy weight but certainly not where I thought it should be.

What motivated you to join Joyful Eating, Nourished Life?

Even with all of the positive life style changes I have accomplished, I have completed six half marathons and will will run another next February, I still find that my food choices can make or break the kind of day I am having.  Whenever I need to confront an issue, I turn to food first.  I followed Anne’s blog for several years because of running and I love her balanced attitude towards food.  I thought JENL could help me learn to nourish myself without turning to food and it has.

What’s the greatest lesson you learned from the program?

Asking myself ‘what do I want?’ has made a huge difference in so many areas of my life. That simple question has been a game changer.  Now, I just need to get in the habit of remembering to ask it! I have also found meditation to be incredibly helpful.

What was your first “aha moment” in Joyful Eating?

The first time I asked myself ‘What do I Want’ when turning to food when I wasn’t hungry

Looking back, how have you changed since completing Joyful Eating?

The habits I have formed over the years have been really hard to change. Being mindful takes a lot of effort for me, it seems ‘going with the flow’ causes a lot less conflict.  Maybe it’s the lifestyle I live but I would imagine that is true for most people.  Giving up the good vs bad judgement of food has been especially challenging – even allowing myself to feel satisfied feels like ‘bad’ some days. Since starting JENL I am slowly letting go of these habits. Most days I have to talk myself there and that in itself is steps towards being more mindful.

 

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to future Joyful Eaters?

Be careful of turning JENL into another program with weight loss goals. I knew going into the program that I wasn’t doing it for weight loss, I want food to quit ruling my day, but I sure fell right back into playing those mind games. I caught myself starting to use the daily log for critique, not for insight and I would beat myself up for the food choices I was making or even eating to a satisfied 7.   There were a even few times when I would hit 7, feel like I ‘blew’ it, and just keep eating.  The Facebook Forum really helped me get thru this. That is a great resource for knowing others are facing some of the same things so don’t be afraid to join in – there is a lot of support there.
Cindy, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I am so honored that you joined us for the June program and have found success. Anne, Rachael and I are really excited to be offering this program again in October and we hope that some of you will join us. I love Cindy’s story because I think so many of us can resonate with her struggle- I know I can. There’s also an other side, as demonstrated by Cindy’s after. We know these changes can be hard and difficult to go at alone, which is why we offer the structure and community of our Joyful Eating, Nourished Life program.
Curious in what JENL could do for you? Check out our page for more info on what to expect, FAQ’s, testimonials and to sign up.
Have a beautiful weekend! xo Alex

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Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, Plant-Based Chef and Yoga Instructor. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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  1. ‘What do I want?’ is such a great touchstone for intuitive eating and for life in general! What a great message Cindy. I’m glad she took that away from JENL. It is certainly a reminder for me to really check in before I check out what’s in the fridge.

  2. ‘What do I want?’ is such a great touchstone for intuitive eating and for life in general! What a great message Cindy. I’m glad she took that away from JENL. It is certainly a reminder for me to really check in before I check out what’s in the fridge.

  3. Such an inspiring story!! I love that her big moment was asking herself “why do I want?” It’s so simple, and I even find myself looking in the fridge when I really need to go for a walk, play with my dog, or meditate to clear my head. Such a great message from your program 🙂

  4. I love this story! I can totally relate, I used to count calories and feel generally crappy about my body too. Intuitive eating has been the most liberating and positive experience for me, thank you for all of your work! 🙂

    • It’s amazing isn’t it! As RDs, I think we need to tell our stories over and over again so people know there is a better way. It’s so much more freeing to be an intuitive eater! Thanks for all you do Steph!

  5. This is such a wonderful example of how important a healthy relationship with food is. I can relate to your intro too — just recently discovering a MUCH healthier relationship with food as I’ve studied to become a dietitian. Bravo to you, Anne, and Rachael for creating such a great program…I hope to be a participant one day to learn more!

  6. What a powerful story and brave woman for sharing! I see the knowledge you three ladies have and passion to help others learn intuitive eating and it’s so refreshing! Keep up the fabulous work, you are bound to change many more lives!