For the longest of times, I’ve not wanted to talk publically about what I eat.
It is hard enough being judged as an overweight woman without the stress of what you put into your mouth being scrutinised too.
But recently, in light of my upcoming Tedx talk about living a bigger life no matter your size, food and the concept of dieting are both things I have been thinking about a lot.
Most of my thinking has been around the fact that the average woman in the UK spends 31 years on a diet
31 Bloody Years!!!
That’s a long time to be caught up in the bubble of hope/despair, restriction/binge. good/bad, success/failure…believing that food is the enemy and that life will get better if only you could stick to the diet this time.
It is exhausting.
I’m currently working on a new book too called Living A Bigger Life, How to STOP dieting and Start Living which I am super excited about….so I am doing lots of reading and thinking around these issues at the moment, to clarify what it is I actually think and feel about these issues.
So yes…I am going to start talking more about my views on food.
Because in part I need to follow my own advice and start worrying less about what others think about me and my views.
In the past, I have always had this nagging fear when I talk publically about food or diets because I know many people who have never battled with their weight will be rolling their eyes and already imagining what “I don’t diet” means for an already overweight person. Because let’s face it overweight people are lazy, glutenous and stupid right?
I’ve been called out on Twitter after appearing in the media,
“Oh great, fat woman telling us what to eat”
When I actually wasn’t telling people what to eat, only sharing my own experiences.
Being told via email.
“You are encouraging obesity by stating you are healthy when you are not”
And repeatedly asked
“Do you have to eat loads/stay fat to stay on brand?”
So, yes it is time for me to start speaking out to challenge this level of ignorance.
Because in my experience of working with overweight women the amount of time, money, energy and effort that overweight women put into dieting and eating well in many cases will far exceed the effort that many naturally slim people need to when it comes to food over their lifetime.
There is an assumption that if you are slim you eat well…when many of us know people who have a healthy BMI who have a terrible diet.
Many overweight women have struggled with body image, weight gain, low self-esteem for a long long time, often starting the dieting process as teenagers, yoyo dieting, gaining weight through child-rearing, and then struggling to prioritise their own health.
Remember folks 31 years is a long bloody time to be focused on one goal…and never managing to achieve it.
I spent at least 20 years actively trying to not be fat via dieting…but these days I absolutely do not diet, because I know traditional dieting does not work….well at least for me, and hundreds of the women I work with it does not.
So just to clarify my position on this, when I say I don’t do dieting what I mean is,
- I don’t restrict whole food groups
- I don’t go to weekly weigh-ins
- I don’t weight myself weekly
- I don’t follow a plan
- I am not either on or off my plan
- I am not good or bad according to what I have eaten
- I’m not part of a club or group
- I don’t refer back to a book
- I don’t buy special products
- I don’t drink shakes or take pills
- I don’t count calories
- I don’t have a weight loss goal
- I don’t hate myself as I currently am
- I don’t believe life will be perfect when I am slimmer
However, this is not to say I don’t prioritise my health and general wellbeing, and food is a big part of that.
I know a lot of the people that believe that to lose weight you simply have to “eat less and move more” also believe that concepts like “Intuitive Eating” “Mindful Eating” or “Anti Dieting” are basically an excuse to just eat what the fuck we want, no matter the impact. leaving us to revel in our “I’m a body positive advocate” status.
This stuff is a minefield.
So no I don’t diet, but what I do do is
- Believe that food is primarily a fuel source for my body
- Think about the foods which make me feel good both physically and sometimes emotionally
- I do plan in my head what I might eat each week and sometimes each day
- I do look at labels…although I try to focus on foods which don’t come in a pack
- I do look up recipes
- I do batch cook
- I do keep an eye on how much water I am drinking
- I do keep tabs on my emotions and stress levels
- I do make sure I am eating enough to fuel my training and my lifetime
- I do focus on foods which are closest to their natural state
- I sometimes have foods that are not
- I limit my alcohol intake because of my training, but I also do not describe myself as a non-drinker
- I also limit meat and dairy, but I am not a vegan
It has taken me a long long time to find a way of eating that appears to be working for me.
And when I say working I am not talking about weight loss, I am talking about feeling good within myself.
Not feeling hungry either physically or emotionally.
Not being on or off of my regime.
Not feeling like I can’t have a life as well as look after myself.
Not feeling like I can’t eat out.
Not feeing like life can resume once I get to goal weight….because remember, I don’t have a goal weight…because I am NOT ON A DIET.
In 2015 I wrote a book called New Year, Same You which was all about ditching new years resolutions (many of which focus on weight loss when you are overweight) and replacing them with more robust actionable health and happiness approaches, in that book in one section I dished out what was at the time my beliefs about food.
In the last 3 years, however, my views have changed somewhat, as I have experimented with new ways of eating.
Because remember the word DIET, simply means “what we eat” and that may change throughout our lives according to all kinds of different factors.
I can’t see me ever dishing out nutritional advice, because I am not a nutritionist, but there are certain mindset concepts, therapeutic exercises, thought processes I have had to go through to get to this point, which I feel there is some value in sharing with the women I work with.
Because ultimately I believe…and this is the concept I will be exploring in my Tedx that
If women stopped dieting and instead focussed on being the healthiest and happiest versions of themselves, then perhaps they would find their natural weight, learn to love their bodies, become stronger physically and emotionally, and basically get on with the job of living an exciting, adventurous, purpose-filled life…and become wonderful role models for the young girls that are coming up behind us.
As part of this move towards being more open about the role of food and diet on wellbeing, and the constant feeling that overweight women often have around not feeling like they are worthy at the size they are, I am launching a new programme to explore some of this stuff in a safe space.
It is called 100 ways.
I am recruiting 100 women to work with me for 100 days to ditch the diet and to start focussing on health and happiness using 100 simple concepts which can be implemented daily, contributing to a life filled with love and acceptance, self care and understanding of our bodies…but most importantly to give women a sense of hope that they can make peace with their bodies.
We shouldn’t be at war with them.
We really shouldn’t.
If you think you might be interested in taking part in this programme drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The programme starts on the 1st June, and the deadline for signing up is Friday 25th May.
The basic criteria
- Long-term dieter
- Female Aged 25-65
- Enjoy supporting other women
- Willing to share their experiences in an honest way
- Ready to start loving their bodies
If you would like to come and see me deliver my TEDx Talk live on June 23rd book your ticket here