Healthy and Sane

Diet free living: Geneen Roth approved

May 24th, 2011 · 28 Comments · diet free living

I bounced out of bed at 5:30 am this morning, ready to leave for the airport in 30 minutes (I’m off to London for a business trip – yes, it was short notice!). And when I say “bounced,” I mean crawled. My lower back pain decided to resurface… perfect timing! Eye rolling smile But there was no time for this nonsense. London is waiting! (Kinda…)

Fast forward through the longest wait in the security line, breakfast at Cosi (mmmm), a short wait at my gate, and I’m in my tiny seat (yay, couch class!) with tears running down my face… and a slight smile. I’m reading Geneen Roth’s Women, Food and God (thank you, Nell, for the copy. Such a thoughtful birthday gift!!). [No worries, the seat next to me is empty so my bizarre facial expressions remain unnoticed.]

I’m crying and smiling and everything in between because I’m inspired and touched and feel like my decision to stop dieting and start [diet free] living has never felt more right.

Every time I meet someone that reads Healthy and Sane, whether it be my friends or readers I’ve never met before, they ask me how this diet free living is going… and my answer is the same. It’s been amazing but I still have work to do.

I sort of view this as a multiple stage process (I’m not sure how many of them there are, I’m on #2 right now). Stage 1 is the diet rock bottom, where you realize that you’ve done this diet-binge-diet-binge-give up-gain weight-diet-binge cycle one too many times and that it clearly is so much more than will power and food. And it’s time to deal with it all instead of the diet distraction.

You lose weight on a diet but unless you deal with the underlying issues, they will resurface. And if your “coping mechanism” is eating… well the excess weight will resurface together with those issues. Again. Until you deal with them.

So I’m there. I get it. I’m done with dieting. I really am. I still have moments when I wish my work pants didn’t create that stupid muffin top that must be hidden and I resolve to “be better” but it’s no longer at dieting but rather at eating when I’m hungry and not when I’m bored/uncomfortable/anxious/etc. [If dieting crosses my mind, I force myself to visualize how it will be, without the rose glasses, and I instantly snap out of it. Try it!]

So this is stage 2. Avoiding compulsive eating. Something I’ve been doing for as long as I remember (compulsive emotional eating, that is). My stomach literally feels empty (and sometimes even growls) when I feel these emotions… it knows food is coming. And I often give it food.

Because it’s easier than dealing. Than feeling the feelings. Because I no longer beat myself up over it so it doesn’t seem like a big deal.

And I don’t want to make it a big deal but I do think it’s time to do the work.

From Women, Food and God: “If compulsive eating is anything, it’s a way we leave ourselves when life gets hard. When we don’t want to notice what’s going on….. ending the obsession with food is all about the capacity to stay in the present moment… to not leave. Compulsive eating is basically a refusal to be fully alive. No matter what we weigh, those of us who are compulsive eaters have anorexia of the soul.”

Thankfully, I don’t have some deep rooted scary feelings to deal with. They are uncomfortable but they are not unbearable (and yet I know this but don’t follow through). The book teaches you to separate physical reactions to each situation and the stories our mind tells us. The ones that say you can’t deal with whatever-it-is; that it’s easier to just eat. To check out just for a little while longer. But often (always?) the feelings are bearable and once you allow and accept them, they pass. Without the numbing with food (and associated weight gain).

I can’t wait to read more and actually start following this advice (it ties really well with all the work I’ve been doing with Christie). And what better time to do this than during my trip to London? I want to be fully present once I’m there. I bet it will be that much more rewarding! Smile


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28 Comments so far ↓

  • #1 - Kelly

    I agree with you that it’s definitely complicated. I also think that everyone has a slightly different struggle to deal with. For me, it’s overeating when food is out. I was at the NRA show this weekend and I found myself continuing to eat even when I was grossly full already. :-/ I personally have such a hard time with the middle ground. I’m either on plan or I’m not.

    Oh and BTW, your post about why to blog or not to blog really struck a cord with me because I feel like I am going through the same thing!

    • #2 - Elina

      The all or nothing mentality is something I’ve been struggling with as well, as you know. It’s really refreshing to abandon it. I’m already experiencing new things as a result. So excited to have this platform to share it with everyone (so I’m very happy with my decision to keep blogging… just maybe less frequently and on my own terms).

  • #3 - SheFit

    I love your approach to non-dieting. It takes a huge burden off people when they start to deal with the root issues rather than using the weight of diets as a distraction

  • #4 - Julie (A Case of the Runs)

    Have fun in London! Totally jealous!

    I think a key to diet-free living is to understand that things work best in balance. So you will naturally cycle through periods of “bad food” cravings and “good food” cravings, and you have to trust that it will even out.

    I am also finding that food experiments/challenges are a fun way to change things up. Of course, you have to be careful not to get caught up in it too much, but for example, maybe once a month, I try to eat mostly raw food for a day. Another day, I might try vegan, and another to avoid refined carbohydrates. I find that these challenges help me learn more about my body and what works for me, as well as open me up to different foods!

    There is no easy answer, so I am not surprised that you haven’t found yours. Look forward to reading more about something we all struggle with.

    • #5 - Elina

      I used to love food experiments but found that it was just another way to restrict myself (under the umbrella of a fun challenge). I know we are all different and at this stage I know that it’s not right for me. Perhaps once I’m further in my diet-free living journey and feel confident it won’t distract me from the right path, I will consider them once again as a fun exercise and know it won’t be damaging to my progress. :)

  • #6 - Lauren at Keep It Sweet

    I’m so glad to hear that your intuitive eating is still going well. It really sounds like you are on the right track and on your way to a life without dieting:-)

    I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on that book once you are done, I’m tempted to get it myself!

    • #7 - Elina

      I read it in 2 days! I’ll try to talk more about it soon and already started reading Geneen’s Breaking Free from Emotional Eating which I also can’t put down. She’s amazingly inspiring!!!

  • #8 - Corey @ the runners cookie

    That sounds like a remarkable book. I would be very interested in reading it, as I think a lot of people (including me) occasionally eat for reasons we don’t want to or could use some improvement in our relationships with food.
    Thanks for doing this review and for, as always, being so open and honest about your journey. I always enjoy reading it.
    Hope you have a great trip to London!

  • #9 - Eric Marcotte, MD

    WOW do you have a bead on the truth right here. Dodging emotion is so harmful to the body and your description is absolutely true. Keep remembering and reminding us that “the feelings are bearable and once you allow and accept them, they pass” because that too is true. Bravo! Look out London!

  • #10 - Michelle

    This is definitely a struggle for most women and hard to find a balance. I’m glad that this book is giving you some inspiration and affirmation!

    Have a great time in London! I hope your back feels better!

  • #11 - Christie {Nourishing Circle}

    Yay!! So glad you decided to start reading WFG!! Geneen Roth is my greatest inspiration and glad you have already gotten so much out of the book.

    Have a safe (and fun!) trip in London. <3

  • #12 - Julie

    I applaud you for all of this. The only thing I really want to say is that I just spent the last 8 months trying to be diet free but lose a little weight. 10 days ago I threw in the towel and admitted that I needed help getting down to the “happy weight” and joined Weight Watchers. Within 10 days I’ve lost 5lbs and it wasn’t even a struggle. The new points system is amazing. I committed to doing this for one month (i don’t have much to lose) so after the one month is up, I can go back to my lifestyle of moderation and diet free living.

    Weight watchers online really is a thing to consider.. I lost 25lbs the first time and I’ve been able to keep it off for years – except the 7 pounds I’ve put back on post marriage.

    Have fun in London!

    • #13 - Elina

      Thanks for your comment Julie and I’m happy to hear that going back to WW has felt right for me. I can tell you that I am totally convinced that dieting is not longer part of my journey. I’ve lose and regained weight a million times. I know how to count calories, points, balance meals, etc. It’s time to dig in deeper and finally listen to my body rather than all the external cues and messages! This is me, though, and every one of us knows best what works for them (and it’s ok to try and try again until we find the right thing!). :)

  • #14 - jen @ taste life

    First off, Christie is amazing! Glad you’re working with her. I read w,f and g last year and LOVED it. Everything you’re saying is so true, and it sounds like you’re really ready for this journey, awesome!

  • #15 - jess [mycameraeatsfood]

    So true! I am definitely on the same page, and look forward to hearing about your journey.

    Have fun in London, I just got back from there! Drink a Pimm’s + lemonade for me :)

    • #16 - Elina

      I drank plenty of wine and even a few mojitos… hopefully that compensated for lack of Pimm’s 😉

  • #17 - Marcee

    Yes …. everything (mostly) said on these posts are true. I agree w/Kelly, Julie #1, Michelle, Christie, Julie #2, etc. Everything stated is reasonable and realistic.

    Your blog-post was also insightful Elina. I think Ms. Roth has taught us a great deal about many things we weren’t necessarily aware of. It often takes years and years to learn & recognize “things.”

    In general …. women, ladies, females, etc…..LOVE to eat! We ALL love food + sweet-treats! It could very well be about other things too. Obviously so. But overall, us gals really and truly enjoy the security of food.

    We’ve been taught/shown from an early age …. “food is love.” That in itself takes on special meaning for each and every one of us in various ways. Same differences though.

    Have good times in London! Keep us posted.

  • #18 - Shannon

    what a great post. i might need to borrow that book 😉

  • #19 - MelissaNibbles

    I don’t deal with overeating, I deal with undereating which is sort of the same thing. It all ties into underlying issues. I think diet free living is different for everyone. Some people like eating a healthy diet, but other people would view their style of eating as being on a diet because they don’t enjoy healthy foods. It’s different for everyone. Good luck!

    • #20 - Elina

      Overeating and undereating definitely have similarities – it’s treating other problems through food… which of course doesn’t solve anything but just adds other problems. I’m learning that until you take the time to really allow yourself to work though those, the problems will keep coming back and so is the struggle with weight.

  • #21 - Meghan@travelwinedine

    You are always so inspiring! I hope your back feels better, and you get to enjoy London a little bit!

  • #22 - N

    So glad you are connecting with the book — and it’s always good to have a written companion for those unexpected plane rides to exotic locales. Keep up with the amazing work you’re doing for yourself… and for all of us, who look to you for inspiration though ups and downs and twists and turns. :)

    I loved meeting you last week, happy belated birthday, and be safe and happy in London. xx

  • #24 - Deb (SmoothieGirlEatsToo)

    Hello fellow UK visitor! I’m here now on the isle of Guernsay, then headed to the Cotswalds and Cornwall- quick whirlwind 10 days it will be!

    I love that bit “anorexia of the soul” – I remember it from when I read that book. I’ve seen Geneen talk for decades and she’s inspiring but I wasn’t ready to make the ‘change’ until recently as you know. It sounds like this will really help you as it’s helped so many women!

    Hope you are enjoying London and that your back got better. Last yr mine went out the morning of our trip to barcelona so other than some walking around I stared at the ceiling of our apt :-/ Have fun!!!

  • #26 - What does diet free living have to do with running?

    […] and put an end to emotional eating, came the necessary work (in progress) of body acceptance, feeling my feelings (instead of eating them) and digging deeper. Questioning my actions. Pursuing only goals that feel […]

  • #27 - Cara

    Thanks, Elina, this sounds very interesting – I just ordered a copy!

    • #28 - Elina

      That’s great! So many things clicked for me. I’m excited and hopeful you’ll have the same experience.