All my life I had been really fortunate to have what I have considered to be a fast metabolism, since the age of 16 I fluctuated between a size 8 and 10 with really very little effort. I had always eaten pretty much what I wanted, loved chocolate, drank alcohol and would never really vary in size too much, if I felt I had put on a few pounds, I limited snacks for a week or so and I would get right back down to where I had been.
Six years ago, when I was going through the worst time of my life, I noticed that despite often missing meals due to stress and anxiety, I was putting on weight. Friends and family were very polite but I put on two stone and became very unhappy with my body.
Having always maintained my weight easily, I found myself totally unsure of how to deal with my weight gain. I wondered if it was something I should accept, embracing my curves and accepting that our bodies change shape as we grow older, I tried it but I remained very unhappy inside. I tried to lose weight using the techniques I had used previously but nothing shifted. I had always felt that diets don’t work, I mean if you are ‘on’ a diet it stands to reason that at some point you will be ‘off’ a diet. Plus, as a mum of a teenage girl, I was also mindful not to teach her bad body habits.
As I moved away from that stressful period and learned new ways in which to improve my life on the inside and outside, I decided that I had to embrace every part of myself in order for it to become healthier; this included my mind, spirit and body.
I remember thinking one day that it is impossible to take care of something you hate and this really clicked with me. I also learned that when we have a traumatic experience and feel very vulnerable, we are prone to putting weight around our middle as a form of protection. This is amplified when we are stressed, as our bodies have to use a lot of energy to keep us on a heightened alerted state (in case we need to run away from a sabre tooth tiger!) to do this, our body spends less energy on less important functions at that point in time such as our digestive system. I realised that in being stressed, my body was constantly in fight or flight mode and therefore had permanently slowed down its digestive function.
These two facts changed my mindset very rapidly. I started using positive affirmations to support my love of my body, my favourite is “My body is amazing” which I still say constantly throughout the day, especially if I notice a critical thought come into my mind. I also meditated to improve my perception of my body image with this guided meditation that I have now created.
I also brought my mindfulness practice into my eating routine. Before eating, I silently bless my food saying “I love my food, my food loves me” I then mindfully eat slowly taking slow deep breaths in between and putting my fork down if I notice I am picking up the pace. I grew up in a house with two very big brothers and so it was eat or be eaten, I had spent all of my life guzzling my food quickly which meant not chewing correctly, not noticing my body signalling that I was full and not appreciating the flavours, scents and sight of the food which all add to the eating experience.
By slowing down my eating, I started really tasting what I was eating and strange things happened. I started to notice how I did not like the taste of some foods which I had always thought I loved (like milk chocolate!). Slowing down also made me notice how food affected my body and I quickly realised that certain foods left me feeling bloated, low in energy or even nauseous. The more I took my time, the easier it was to see what foods I needed to eat and what foods were not doing me good.
This was almost two years ago and within no time at all, I lost the two stone. Never dieting, never beating myself up and never depriving myself of anything. When I first started doing it, the first thing I noticed was that carbohydrates left me feeling really bloated and uncomfortable so I tried eating less (and now almost none) people thought I was on a diet to lose weight, but that was never it for me, it was all about listening to my body.
In the past two years, my diet has changed radically and I can honestly say I am the happiest and healthiest I have ever been.
I really urge everyone, no matter what their weight, to stop worrying so much about what they are eating and to start focussing upon listening to their body, that way you will hear it tell you what foods make you feel good and what ones make you feel bad.