• Abby Williams

How I Freed Myself From The Dieting Cycle

Updated: Jul 1

(Trigger warning: binge eating disorder & disordered eating)

I sometimes look back through old journals to see how far I've come. It's a cool way to see old versions of yourself, past dreams that manifested into reality, and different patterns of thinking.

What I read in this journal today broke my heart for the girl who wrote it.

"Too many snacks" "Almost no snacks- good job!!!" "I binged..." "I was pissed off and tired and binged"

I wrote this food journal in the summer of 2018 when I was trying to do Whole 30. I was doing it under the guise of a "whole body reset," but the only reason I was doing Whole 30 was because I'd just taken a beach trip and felt insecure the whole time.

So, I wanted to lose weight.

I tracked every single thing I ate in MyFitnessPal, kept a food journal, followed strict rules on what was "compliant," forced myself to eat tons of meat because I thought I needed insane amounts of protein, and hated pretty much every meal.

Every calculated, measured out meal.

The pressure of having to eat the exact "right" way was getting to me. I was unhappy, insecure and stressed out. I was bingeing thousands of calories multiple times a week, even though I despised how it made me feel and hated every second of it.

I was so ashamed of myself and just kept thinking "why" - Why couldn't I stick to any diet I tried? Why couldn't I just have more discipline?

So, the next day, I'd start back up on the diet and go even harder.

The cycle continued.

Flash forward to now: I eat what I want and I eat when I want. I am able to go throughout my day without the constant fear and worry of what I'll eat. I happily accept when people ask me out to eat instead of panicking. I have not had a binge in at least a year.

I feel healthy. I feel happy. I feel confident in my skin. I also feel confident in knowing that my body is far from the most interesting, important or impressive thing about me.

Now, when I journal about my goals, they're about much greater things than my body.

I show these side-by-side pictures of the summer of 2018 vs summer of 2021 not to say that intuitive eating and healing your relationship with food will make you lose weight. If that's your real intention going into it, you won't.

If your goal is still to lose weight, the old patterns will creep back in. Eventually, you'll end up back in the same cycle all over again.

I show these pictures to show people who may be in the same shoes I was once in that it is possible to be comfortable in your body without tracking food and extreme dieting. In fact, it's very possible.

But in order for this possibility to ever even exist, you FIRST have to accept the risk that you may gain weight from letting go of dieting, and decide that healing your mind and body is more important.

Decide that taking back your life is more important.

Decide that finding the joy in food again is more important.

Decide that being happy is more important.

You must decide enough is enough. You must fully and whole-heartedly decide to let go of the dieting cycle. You must release yourself from the standard of perfection you created and told yourself had to be met in order to be worthy of contentment.

The body I'm content in now did not come from counting macros and calories. It came from getting to the root cause of my negative thoughts and limiting beliefs and working every damn day to fight them (even still.)

I remember the moment when I hit my breaking point. This moment didn't come until the summer of 2020. The realization that I didn't have to live the way I had been living was earth-shattering. It's like I had finally discovered I was allowed to be free, along with the heartbreaking truth I had been the one holding myself captive all along.

A heavy, lonely weight was lifted from my shoulders. The next steps I took to get myself out of the toxic dieting cycle were these:

1) Deleted MyFitnessPal

For someone with disordered eating, this essentially feels like turning over any and all power you have over your life. It's extremely scary - I did it anyways.

2) Journaled

A lot. I had to get the root cause of why I felt the need to control my body so much that I was willing to make myself miserable. What I found? I got validation from it, and that validation pretty much became my sense of self worth.

3) Ate whatever I wanted

Remember when I said you needed to be okay with the possibility of gaining weight? It's because you probably will at first. When your mind and body realize they're no longer being trapped, you'll probably go apeshit on all the foods you kept off limits. I actually encourage you to do that - you need it.

After some time, your body will likely realize you're not going to starve it again and chill out. Since you're not banning certain foods anymore, your body will realize it's allowed to have them, and they'll lose the power they once held over you.

Eventually, I didn't even really want these "off-limits" foods anymore. I was able to re-connect with my body and its cues again and learned to eat to feel good.

I'm at the point now where I can listen to my body and know it what it needs, which is normally nourishing, whole foods. If my body craves more healthy fats, I give it them. If my body isn't really wanting carbs, I lay off. If I want a treat-type food, I eat it - but since I don't treat these foods like "treats" or rewards anymore and know I can have them anytime I want, I want them less.

It's like when you want someone more because you can't fully have them, and then end up realizing they were actually pretty lame to start out with. Hershey's chocolate may be the food version of all our exes!

When I eat, I also make the conscious decision to exchange the food for joy, energy and positivity - not stress, shame and guilt. Your gut is directly connected to your brain. Don't you think the things you tell yourself while you're eating would affect your body after time?

THAT is why intuitive eating can help people who struggled with disordered eating lose weight - not because it's a trend. Weight loss/not having to try hard to maintain your body's neutral state is just a by-product of intuitive eating. It can't be the main goal.

4) More journaling + affirmations

I had to break down all my limiting beliefs and replace them with new beliefs. (ex: "I won't be loved if I don't have the perfect body" turns to "I am so much more than a body. I am worthy of love because of who I am, not because what I look like.)

To work towards actually believing those new beliefs, I wrote affirmations every day.

Furthermore, I started focusing on affirmations that had nothing to do with my body at all. I am intelligent. I care about other people. I have the potential to do great things.

Breaking limiting beliefs isn't a one-and-done type of thing. I still work on this every single day, but I've managed to re-write a lot of the negative beliefs about how my body is connected to my worth.

5) Fight the temptations to go back

When I'm having a rough body image day, when I'm going on vacation, when my clothes are fitting a little tighter, I have to fight. I don't re-download the apps, I don't cut out foods, I don't talk to my friends about "how bad I'm going to look in a bikini." I can't involve myself in those behaviors, because I won't let my life be taken over again.

6) Reframe the way I think about health

I still care about my physique and my health.

When I'm feeling off, I walk more, I eat more veggies, I go to the gym an extra day. I focus on what I can ADD, not what I can take away. I take simple steps and remind myself that my body is ever-changing and will return back to where it's comfortable. I don't go to extremes, because that is what started the dieting cycle in the first place.

I remind myself how lucky I am that I have access to nutritious foods and that I have the ability to move my body. I lift weights to empower myself with the feeling of being strong, not to flatten my stomach. I move my body as a form of self-respect, not self-hate. I eat in a way that will optimize my energy, focus, strength and overall health, not make the scale move (hot take: scales are stupid.)

Reframing my health and fitness goals to be centered around self-love, self-respect and self-improvement has completely shifted my entire life. To do this, I also had to cleanse my social media and make sure the content I was consuming supported the life I wanted to live.

If you're struggling, I hope this blog has helped give you the courage to take what has been the most rewarding, freeing and eye-opening decision I have ever made.

Follow my instagram @celiac_queeen for more talks about body image, gluten free recipes and healthy lifestyle content!

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