“With every diet ending, I failed three times: the diet didn’t work, I’m a quitter, and I’m still fat.” ~A quote from a woman at diet rock bottom
Have you been dieting for as long as you can remember and hate your body?
Do you feel addicted to food?
Do you binge or emotionally eat and tried everything to just eat normally?
This is diet rock bottom and there is hope. While most nutrition books teach you quick fix diets, Food Peace™ takes you on a journey.
This post serves to give you the basic framework to heal your relationship with food and eat normally without binging and without dieting. I write this post after 20 years working with people at diet rock bottom looking for another way to relate to food. They didn’t want to hate their body anymore and they knew diets weren’t working. After witnessing what it took for them to take these brave steps, I have gathered 6 key strategies to make the Food Peace journey.
This post is designed to read from beginning to end because the 6 keys build upon each other. The keys are also designed to be revisited when your Food Peace journey becomes bumpy and challenging. It can help you gather more healing tools by reading the parts you need in the moment.
If diets work why do you go on them every year? Dieting is a 61 billion dollar industry and an estimated 45 million Americans diet each year. The public is taught to need diets. Health professionals are taught dieting is a sign of self-care. You trust the diet industry with your life, but are you actually healthier? No.
Food Peace shows you how dieting is behind the weight changes, bingeing, and negative body image. Instead of improving your health, diets fuel your unhealthy relationship with food and promote body hate.
But if you have dieted your whole life, how do you eat? Every time you try to stop dieting, the binges begin. Eating without a diet plan feels scary and out of control.
Food Peace begins your journey by teaching you the first key, how to Respect your body. The teaching is more like unlearning the oppressive rules that dictate how you eat and move. You may not accept your body the way it looks today, and learning how to respect it by unlearning can help you step away from diets with less chaos.
Acknowledge your diet history. How many times have you tried to lose weight? You have pushed, tortured, cut out, abstained, and hungered long enough. Respect as it relates to Food Peace acknowledges that diets have only harmed and failed to produce long term results. You weren’t weak or lacking character. Diets didn’t work because you are a successful human that through evolution have been wired to survive famine.
You don’t have to love this part. Or love your body. You don’t even have to accept your eating or body.
Rather, let’s gently acknowledge that the tools you were given were flawed. They weren’t the right tools. They will never work.
Diets didn’t work for you because they don’t work.
Try with compassion to opt out of diet culture and the pursuit of weight loss. Keep in mind you don’t need to be fixed and it is ok if you don’t believe me yet on this.
Explore more within this first key, Respect:
I appreciate the shame you are holding onto because diets didn’t work for you. It’s not your fault since diets are a shitty tool. You’ve been manipulated by big oppressive systems and massive rich corporations to believe you are to blame.
Because you’ve been successfully manipulated, you are wearing a very heavy shame cloak. I want you to identify shame’s role in your complicated relationship with food. Bingeing and food addiction experiences connect to diet culture’s manufactured shame and lack of permission for pleasure.
You haven’t fallen off the wagon all these years. It is time to burn that wagon down.
Connecting with who is to blame usually brings on a flood of anger. Ouch it can hurt and be uncomfortable especially if you don’t have permission to feel anger. I encourage you to experiment with permission for anger.
This pissed off rage makes up the second key Release. It is a vital part of fueling the Food Peace journey. It gives you the direction and places the blame where it belongs: off you and onto cultural systems like white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, etc. And wow, is that heavy.
Food Peace in this place may feel scary and exhilarating. It won’t feel like you are connecting with hunger or fullness because this Release takes up so much space. You may literally feel as though you are full of anger that hunger and fullness cues will be miles away.
Many wonder how long they will be in the space of their Food Peace journey. Many long to connect with their body in a more neutral way and the anger is draining. There is no way to answer this because it is so individual. It depends on your lived experiences, your support systems, and the systems you must navigate to live your life. I hope you give yourself compassion while navigating this part of the journey.
Diet culture has been unkind and violated your human rights. I encourage you to experiment with giving yourself permission to be where you are in your relationship with food. This permission is a major part of repairing your relationship with food.
There is healing to be found in permission.
Altering your view of eating behaviors happens within the third Food Peace key, Repair. Harvest compassion, mindfulness, and nonjudgmental curiosity to your thoughts about food.
What does this look like?
When feeling rebellion while connecting to diet culture’s trauma, notice the craving to rebel and give permission (even if the permission feels experimental or awkward) to eat. If or when that permission twists into shame, notice this. Call it out. Remind yourself that shame is from conditioning and doesn’t belong to you.
Does this all sound too tough? Too much? That’s ok too. Permission belongs in that space too.
Repair work tends to allow for slowing down so you can connect with what your body is saying and needing and practicing a nonjudgemental response. This key is NOT about eating only when hungry and stopping only when full. That is not part of permission rather a perverse twist making Food Peace into a diet.
Healing is the most important part of Food Peace and vital for the Repairing.
As you start to heal while repairing, you will gather the diet culture artifacts: food and body rules. The Rewire key helps you unlearn those rules and decide what you would like to believe instead. Going rule by rule, you build an arsenal, rooted in permission, of compassionate nonjudgemental responses to ingrained diet culture rules. Over time, this takes you from thinking about food nonstop to mostly when you need to eat normally, when you want to, and to promote health. I mention the word “mostly” here because no one is a robot and only eats when hungry and stops when full. Further, depending on your access to food and/or levels of marginalization this can change.
Do you have certain foods you always binge on? Do you have certain foods you can never keep in the home because they are too tempting? This Rewire space will help you have comfort and ease around these foods again.
For many people I work with individually, this is the place where studying Intuitive Eating often begins.
How do you know your body is hungry? How do you know when your body is satisfied? Are you meal hungry or snack hungry? Or panic hungry?
These are questions that can only be answered once respect, release, repair and rewire work have been done. Reconnection begins the process of relearning you how to rely on your body’s own ability to know how much to eat and what to eat. This step is simple yet not easy (a quote I first heard from Evelyn Tribole). Looping back to the other keys allows Reconnection to take place using hunger, fullness, and satisfaction guides.
Advocating for others not home in their own skin allows you to add power to your Food Peace journey. After learning these keys, you will want to spread the Food Peace message. This helps others not go down the path of diet rock bottom and helps you with your eating recovery. Picture a community circle allowing connections to the keys and permission. Let’s join together to allow more people to take this journey toward healing and make the world a better place for more bodies.