How to Cope With Weight Gain When You Stop Restricting

How to Cope With Weight Gain When You Stop Restricting

During the 80s and 90s, diets ruled.

Losing weight, no matter how, was considered a good thing. I did my first real diet when I was 18, the summer after high school. I lost 25 lbs, easily, and I finally looked like the dancer I wanted to be. I received all kinds of praise for the changes in my body, especially from the people who loved me. But, the dieting was a full-time job and took center stage in my mental and emotional energy. I didn’t understand why other people weren’t dieting. Afterall, it was easy. If all you did, and all you thought about, was food and exercise, you, too, could be really thin! I knew it was probably weird that I would walk to the grocery store and look at and touch all the food I wasn’t going to eat, but, hey, I looked great, so it must be ok, right?

What I now know is that every subsequent attempt to shrink and control my body shape and size was harder and harder. It was also sending messages to my metabolism. These messages said that there often isn’t enough food. So my body, all on it’s own and without my permission, raised my weight set point and lowered my metabolism, and sent me increasing messages of hunger and decreased messages of satiety.

Turns out, my obsession with food wasn’t some weird thing. It’s what happens when we fight our body’s natural signals for food. It drives us to pursue it all the time. Then we become at war with our selves and our biology. It is a war we will ultimately lose in one way or another.

Intuitive Eating is a well-established and well-researched way of returning to our natural relationship with food. The book, first published in 1994 (the year of my first diet), offers ten principles for intuitive eating. Each principle is designed to bring us back into alignment with a truly healthy  relationship with food.

I had to learn that healthy does not equal thin. We can be Healthy At Every Size and we can be unhealthy at every size. Weight is not a primary determinant of health. For many people, a return to intuitive eating means a change in body size and composition. It can mean a decrease in weight. It can mean an increase. Understandably, given the intractability of diet culture all around us, these changes can be difficult.

Five Tips for Coping with Weight Gain When We Stop Restricting:
  1. Know your Why. The most powerful way we can support ourselves through our intuitive eating healing journey is to know our “Why.” Why are we doing this? For many people, the answers lie in improvements to our mental health, our relationships, our daily living experience, and how we feel holistically. Revisiting this daily will help balance the feelings we may have about changes in our bodies.
  2. Focus on how you feel. Identify all the ways in which you feel better physically and emotionally when you are well-nourished. Are you enjoying going out to eat with friends without worrying about sticking to your diet? Does it feel good to explore foods that used to be off-limits, especially traditional foods for holidays and celebrations? Is it exciting to have mental and emotional energy freed up from obsessing about food and weight? Focus on these benefits.
  3. Buy clothes that fit. It is hard to feel good in our bodies when our clothes do not fit. Today, there are wonderful, stylish clothes available in a wide range of sizes. Enjoy styling yourself in ways that compliment your features that you like best!
  4. Follow creators and influencers that send messages of body positivity and body neutrality. We need to counteract the influence of the bombardment of diet culture messages we receive from media, medical providers, and friends and family. Curating our social media and podcasts to include a healthy dose of body positive and body neutral messaging is a great way to change how we think and feel about our bodies.
  5. Focus on what your body can do. Begin exploring movement that feels good to your body. Think of your body as a vehicle for relationship. What might that mean to you? What if your body belonged to you for your purposes and not for the purpose of being acceptable or consumed by others? How would you see your body differently?

Finally, be kind and gentle with yourself. We didn’t get here overnight and we won’t heal overnight. Find community where people understand what you are doing and why, but also how you feel when it’s hard. You deserve to feel healthy and whole. You deserve to be nourished and take up space. You deserve to belong to yourself.

5 Ways to Win at Blending Families

5 Ways to Win at Blending Families

Getting married and starting a family is tough.

It’s extra tough when it’s the second (or third) go around and one or both of you already have children and an ex- who comes along with the package. Each family is unique and there are few resources for navigating this sometimes treacherous terrain.

However, with A LOT of patience, listening, and compassion, families can successfully blend.

Here are five ways you can help your blended family become a family:
  1. Slow down. Blended families become families in a slow-cooker, not a pressure cooker. Whatever your situation, it’s complex. There are several different people each with their own perception of what’s happening and their own feelings about it. Don’t expect that everyone will be excited about becoming a family. Children are often still grieving the loss of their first family. They may resent a new step-parent. They may fear the changes in routine and rules. Be aware of your own expectations for how things “should be.” Families grow and become over time, so it’s important to give each member time and space to have their feelings and grow into this new set of relationships.
  2. Focus on relationship first. In all relationships, we just want to know: Can I trust you? Can I trust you to care about how I feel? Can I trust you to listen? Can I trust you to protect me? Can I trust you to understand? In marriage, this is the fundamental question, especially early on. However, our children want to know the same thing, especially when their family goes through such big changes. By focusing on communication and connection first, it is possible to turn down the volume on family member fear and anxiety and build up trust and openness. Check in with each other. A lot.
  3. Make sure your current spouse knows and feels like they’re the priority. This can be especially tricky for men who feel that their spouse is the priority in their heart, but complicated dynamics with his ex-wife, and fear of separation from his children, may drive him to feel he has to appease his ex-wife, inadvertently making his current wife feel deprioritized. It is critical that spouses communicate regularly and thoroughly about these issues. Really try to understand what this is like for your spouse and what they need. When both of you feel heard and it’s all out on the table, then you can work as a team to decide how to meet each other’s needs – often hers to know her time and family is protected, and his to know that he is supported around making difficult choices to protect his relationship with his children.
  4. Keep some old traditions and make new ones. Families become families over time due to shared experiences and traditions. Children will need to know that important things from their first family will still happen. It’s ok, especially in the beginning, to have special time between parent and child(ren) without the steps-. Create opportunities for time that is separate and together. New experiences will create new memories and shared meaning. This is about the long-game – investing in the family of the future now, even if everyone isn’t feeling like a family today.
  5. Don’t wait to get help. If things are really tough, don’t wait to get help. Individual, couples, or family therapy can help. Sometimes one or more children are really hurt and angry and make sure everyone knows it. Sometimes the actions of an ex-spouse are very disruptive and sabotaging to a current marriage. Sometimes we want help for ourselves in learning how to best navigate the blended family situation. By proactively seeking help, families can better ensure their success and everyone’s well-being.

Remember: you don’t have to have all of the answers. It’s OK for things to be messy. How it is right now is not how it will always be. You won’t go wrong by focusing on relationship and connection over behavior.

It will get better.
Wellness Tip:

Find a therapist or support group that focuses on blended families from the beginning. It is important that you have someone in your corner and that you get to see that you are not alone.

Also, remember that children know when a parent is healthy and caring for them well. If they express all of their big feelings to you, then  you know that you are their safe harbor. As they grow up, they will gravitate toward the people who cared for and supported them.

Strive for a healthy process, not just an idealized outcome.