By Judith Bowtell, Albany Lane
The other day I had an epiphany. It did not come with any great fanfare or flights of angels. I was not knocked down, road to Damascus style. I was not struck dumb or burst into tears. It was an awakening to a whole new world view, one that I did not until that point believe possible.
As I was walking down the street with the dog it dawned on me. I had finished my last diet. Forever.
Never again would I have to traverse the neighbourhood averting my gaze from the artisan bakeries and French patisseries. Never again would I go through the supermarket and delicatessen, avoiding cheese, chocolate, bread and biscuits. Never again would I have to dismiss the range of eating options around me, from upmarket Thai food to cheap and cheerful Japanese.
Had I found some miracle pill, some potion that would allow me to eat-all-I-want-and-not-gain-weight? Had I reached my “goal” weight and so had permission to relax restrictions and eat normally again? Had I found the answer to the problem which takes up xxx per cent of women’s brains every day?
Well no. Sorry. This is not that story.
The realisation that came to me as I followed my dog down the street was simply this: It no longer made any sense to “diet” and so I would never be doing that again.
I was not at “goal” weight, not anywhere close the slimmest I had ever been. I was not even particularly happy with my body shape and size at this point, finding it a bit uncomfortable and unattractive. I had no great desire to eat chocolate and cake until I collapsed. I was not about to go overseas or on holidays, and therefore wanted to lift the restrictions of a diet.
I simply realised that the idea of “dieting” no longer held any hope or allure. It no longer had a seductive hold on me as the cure of all ills. As a behaviour or belief it no longer made any sense. After 30 or more years of on-off dieting, it was like realising that the earth was round or the sky was blue. The old way of thinking about the world as something that could be controlled through a restrictive form of eating or plan, just no longer made sense.
By dieting I meant any type of food monitoring or portion control. It was stopping trying to eat “clean”, cutting out sugar or gluten or any type of radical cleanse. It included stopping exercise regimes designed to lose weight or address “problem areas”. At its heart it was giving up the belief that I could control my physical processes, and that there was something I had to fix about myself. I was giving up believing that “one day” I would have all of this under control and could give up worrying about it.
So I had finished my last diet. And a part of my life was over. Just like that.
I walked home….. and a few days later I began to grieve what I had given up. I had given up the hope that with enough effort I could have the ideal body shape and size. I had given up playing a game for acceptance and approval. I had given up any certainty that I would fit back into my “skinny jeans”. I had given up looking a certain way in photos. I had given up listening to the world that said it can all get better if you follow these rules. And the grieving hurt for some time.
Then it slowly got better.… After a while I realised that I could actually trust my body to choose the food it needed in the amounts that worked for it. I found the intuitive voice that knew that a chocolate brownie was not right for now, but on another day a cupcake was welcome at afternoon tea. I noticed that if I ate more for lunch than usual I tended to want less for dinner. I found that I did not really want a big breakfast on most days, but sometimes I did. I tried out new fruits and vegetables, tasting them for what they were, not for what I thought they should be. I really liked some food on some days and others at other times.
Food became food. Something I bought, cooked and ate. Nothing more, nothing less.
Like meditation, exercise, writing or any creative pursuit, intuitive eating is something you do, not something you can just read about or even learn in a logical way. It is giving up believing that your mind can control your body, and that sometimes it is better for your body to lead the way. It can be scary at first, but then it simply makes sense. It is how we are designed after all.
It took me many years to have my epiphany, but I did. It came without force, when I had stopped trying to change. I was awakened at exactly the right time and place. Following my little dog down the street.
Judith Bowtell is lead coach, facilitator and founder of Albany Lane: a transpersonal coaching service for people wanting to find an authentic path in life. After 20 years or more working in leadership roles in government and cultural agencies, Judith now supports women to get back in touch with their intuition, creativity and spirituality, finding uniquely satisfying ways of working and living, in balance and harmony with their own values and purpose in life. Many of her clients have experienced powerful “aha moments” or epiphanies just like this: releasing long held beliefs that held them back and embracing new paradigms that inspire and nurture.
“At Albany Lane we work together to realise that you have everything you need right now to live a life you love. We have enough, we do enough, we are enough.” Judith Bowtell (2014)
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