It was 2 days before my 36th birthday when I heard the voice. I was lamenting about how I hadn’t lost the 10lbs that I wanted to before my birthday. I was feeling like a total failure because I had been so determined that this would be the year I felt like a million bucks. In fact, I remember having the same mental conversation the year before and the year before that one. Every year I would aim to look and feel “amazing” for my birthday and I always ended up looking the same.
Something had to change. I would have to start a healthier eating plan and up my workouts. For a Personal Trainer, I did not look the way I wanted or the way I feel I SHOULD. I began to rack my brain about how I could get this situation under control again. What had worked in the past? What meal plan or workout plan would I try this time?. And then I heard the voice.
“What if you stopped dieting??” it said.
I heard it loud and clear.
What a novel idea? But a terrifying one too.
You see, I have been on a diet since I was 18. It’s what I do. It’s what I know. Although my relationship with food is much healthier in my 30’s than it was in my 20’s, I still can’t shake the habit of turning to a diet to fix my life.
I knew and still know everything there is to know about every nutritional label on earth. I am a human calorie calculator…seriously…try me out. This kind of knowledge was one that made me a successful Personal Trainer. But at this stage of my life as a busy working Mom of 2, I was soooooo over dieting. I didn't have the mental capacity for it anymore. It was the same thing over and over again. The same few pounds lost, the same boring food, the same few pounds creeping back on. Lather, rinse, repeat., repeat, repeat…I was DONE!!!
So I entertained this voice. What if I were to literally quit dieting? Give up the scale? Would I gain weight? Would I be unable to stop eating everything in sight now that nothing was off limits? How would I continue to teach my clients about healthy eating when I myself wasn’t following a specific plan?
I am happy to report that it has now been 1 year of my anti-diet “diet”. One year since I’ve stepped on a scale. Which also means I’m now 37 (but I still feel 18 so that’s cool)
I’m also happy to report that I did not die and YES my pants still fit exactly the same. Serioulsy…some of them are even looser! And while I know that’s not the point, the truth is I was absolutely terrified they wouldn’t. It was really scary to give up all control of the food rules and learn to trust that my body would just take care of it all. I’d like to pretend that I didn’t care about how I looked but that would be a complete and utter lie. I was really scared of gaining weight but I was more afraid of what would happen if I kept going on this way.
And while I’m very excited and feeling more at peace these days, I also
know that this isn’t for everybody. It’s a drastic change and it goes against everything we’ve been taught. And if it’s not for you that is OK. I do however want to share some of the insanely valuable lessons that I’ve learned over the last year. They’re just too good to keep to myself!
So here goes:
1) Your body can and should be trusted
Spending 18 years on a diet taught me to question my own hunger. It taught me to find ways to suppress my appetite. Quitting my diet taught me to TRUST my own body when it gave me hunger signals. Instead of restricting on a day when I taught 2 fitness classes, I would eat. My body was hungry because I used a lot of energy so I would feed it. This also meant that on days when I was just plain exhausted, I would listen and rest. If you truly tune in to your body, it will tell you everything you need to do.
2) My urge to diet was ALWAYS about something else
Dieting had become my safe place and I know for a fact that it is that for a lot of women. When I moved away from home to start school, a diet was a great thing to put all my attention into. I could distract myself from the real feelings of fear and vulnerability. Food is easy. Feelings are just plain hard. Over the last year, any time I caught myself wanting to lose just 5lbs. I would pause and realize I was usually just stressed out about something else. Now I try to ask myself “what is this actually about?” Then it’s a matter of addressing the issue (which is way harder than a diet I might add but WAAAY more rewarding when you figure it out.)
3) Eating for pleasure is OK (and actually pretty awesome!)
I have literally walked into a Dairy Queen, spotted a client and turned around and walked back out. No one could know that I, a Personal Trainer liked ice cream. “What would they think of me? It wasn’t very professional. No one would want to hire me” were all thoughts that ran through my head.
Now I’m like “Who DOESN’T like ice cream??? “ It is OK to eat foods that make you feel good and provide zero nutritional value. It doesn’t always have to be about quinoa and kale ALL THE TIME!!! A healthy diet not only includes nutrient dense foods but it includes a healthy attitude towards food that just plain makes you happy. Plus constantly denying myself of these fun foods made me more likely to binge on them later. As one of my clients says "a little of what you fancy does you good."
4) “Forbidden” Foods aren’t all that great when they aren’t forbidden anymore
When I first gave myself permission to quit dieting it was like a food frenzy free for all. I ate ALLTHETHINGS. All. Of. Them...and more. And I know you may worry that this may happen to you too. And it probably will. But here’s the thing… I got sick of eating too much junk. It lost it’s luster. It didn’t taste that good anymore. Plus I felt like crap. I was tired because, well sugar makes you tired. I couldn’t parent my two little boys or do my physically demanding job on a diet of cookies and candy. I slowly shifted to eating a diet of about 80% whole foods (that gave me energy and made me feel good) and the other 20% was reserved for these fun foods that feed my soul.
5) Self Care is the name of the game.
When I was on my 18 year diet, if I overate or had a “cheat day” I would feel utterly miserable. Not only did I physically feel terrible, but my self esteem would plummet as I realized I had just blown everything. What was the point in even eating healthy food for the rest of the day? Or the week for that matter? Pass the chips!!!
I’ve since learned to approach a situation like this with a lot more compassion and self love. I have learned to pause and get curious about why this happened? Am I stressed out and eating for comfort? Or do I really just want chips? And most importantly, whatever the reason its 100% fine. I’ve learned to look at these situations as interesting events that give me insight into how I tick. It’s just information not a national crisis. I try to forgive myself and move on.
So this is really great for YOU Kim but I don't know if this is for me....
As I sit and write this today, I think about you, the woman who may read this and think she can never do this. And to you I say “You can” but if you’re not ready “that’s cool”. You don’t have to do things my way. You can make your own rules and I want you to.
And to my clients, I’m not asking you to do things my way either. My job and mission as a Personal Trainer and coach is to educate women on the power of exercise and nutrition in their own lives. I am here to educate, inform and motivate. But YOU, get to decide what to do with this information. The choice is up to you on what works best in your own life.
And to the woman reading this who feels like her self worth is soley determined by the number on the scale and is so sick of feeling controlled by her obsession with food and weight…there is another way. It’s the road less travelled and there will be bumps. But I’m here to tell you that there is freedom and happiness and sheer belly laugh joy at the end. And if you really want it….maybe some chocolate too and that is 100% OK.
Kim Holmes is a Personal Trainer and the Owner of My Fit Coach. She helps busy Moms care for their bodies (and minds) through Online Fitness and Nutrition Programs. As a Mom of two young sons, she understands that you don’t have hours to spend at the gym. Her Online Programs are efficient, fun and most importantly, they make fitness fit into your REAL life.
You can follow her for fitness, food, motivation and the odd parenting rant at: