I thought of myself as an independent fierce woman.
But I also wondered, “… is that what life is really about?”
While by society standards I was doing all the right things I kept, wondering if every other woman was as anxious as I was about how I looked. Were they as overwhelmed as me at the thought of not losing or worse gaining weight? Is it normal to feel this frustrated with food and not being able to eat like everyone else?
Everyone around me reflected that it was all ok, but secretly, I knew something wasn’t right. So, I kept going making sure I was checking all the boxes:
My partner: Making sure he was happy, satisfied, that he felt loved.
The boss: I was delivering the results expected.
Social circle: Making sure I was there for them and was pleasant.
My parents: Striving to be #1, working hard and making money to ensure my safety.
Society: being a good girl and kept striving for the female beauty standards of thinness
And then the forties came along
It wasn’t one thing one moment… one day. It was a series of little things that collectively lead me to realize I was living the illusion of a happy life based on others’ beliefs.
That’s why I was eating…
I was years in the making. In fact, I was a pretty smart child and wasn’t afraid of speaking my mind. I played with boys as much as I played with girls. Certainly, a tough little girl.
But at 13, the society led me to believe that I was too much. Too tall. Too big. That if I wanted to be a good girl from now on, I needed to be less. Smaller. Thinner and also quieter. To achieve this goal of being a good little girl, food was going to be the weapon of choice. Over the next few years, I learned to diet and that shrinking my body was the gateway for me to manage my “too muchness”.
By the end of my teenage years, I learned that my power was food because I was so into diet culture. I learned that for society to accept women, she must conform to its standards. Unfortunately, I wasn’t born with a body & spirit that naturally conform to the norm so I accepted that I would need to work hard at fitting in for the rest of my life.
That’s exactly what I did for nearly 27 years until my forties came along. I started to read self-improvement books and questioning the beauty ideal imposed on women.
Women Food and Power: My journey
Up to then, my power was food (and the attempted control of weight) all to fulfill the illusion that being smaller would deliver better. I thought if I couldn’t control my height at least I could control my weight.
It turns out that controlling my weight wasn’t an easy task. It worked and then it didn’t but I learned quickly to be a “good fat person” by at least trying to lose weight and making sure everyone knew I was trying hard. That’s when I started to eat in secret.
By the time I hit my mid-twenties, I had a strong coping mechanism in place to cope with my inability to conform to what my body should look like.
- People-pleasing: I sought external validation so I made sure I wasn’t rejected
- All or nothing: On and off the diet. It’s my fault it doesn’t work so try harder
- Perfectionism: To compensate my “not enoughness” and “too muchness”, I needed to strive to achieve everything perfectly
- Mental filtering: Life is about controlling my body, therefore, my food.
That’s what I call today Diet Brain. Diet brain was the way my subconscious mind evolved to cope with the world that I felt rejected me and my body.
But something happened in my late thirties. I had this resounding secret thought “I can’t do it anymore”. I felt exhausted and the excitement of the latest diet has vanished. Soon enough, my body followed suit and wouldn’t cooperate anymore. I was anxious, depressed, and sick.
I couldn’t imagine that the rest of my life was going to be just another “diet”. Is that what life was about? Really just managing my weight?
I was born worthy
The truth was that my life focus had been on chasing my self-worth. I was failing at the task but always trying and I was failing because self-worth was never going to come from being smaller.
I was born worthy but somewhere along the line of my life, someone or something led me to believe that I needed to earn my worth through my body size.
Although I had chased my self-worth for over 27 years through my body size and had yet to find it, I never questioned this belief. The indoctrination from diet culture early on in my life was still creating my reality today at 40. That’s the magic of the subconscious mind.
That is until I started to question my beliefs. Could I be enough without being in a smaller body? Is it possible to be loved and supported without being smaller? Could I be successful without being quieter?
I always had a choice
Yes: It was a possibility. I could be loved, supported, and accepted at any size.
I started to notice women in my life that were “enough” without being smaller. Women who were successful, happy, and confident in non-conforming bodies. Women whose power wasn’t wrapped around food. New people came into my life reinforcing the possibility. Books, blogs, videos… over months I had plenty of evidence.
Yet I was still stuck. I had made different choices. By then I knew it wasn’t my fault that I was the way I was but it was my fault if I stayed like that.
I needed to go from wanting to change to deciding to change. The problem was I was afraid. Scared of the perceived work it takes to change. I didn’t have time. I didn’t have the resources…
The pain of doing the work appeared to be greater than the pain of staying in the “not enough”. So, I chose to stay put. I kept lurking on what was possible.
I had so many stories in my head that keep me from not making the choice to change. Let’s face it, when it came to my ability to change my subconscious mind was telling me: “You are a failure” or “ You’ll never be able to do it” or “Why would this be any different than your attempt to manage your weight?”.
My subconscious mind was on a mission to keep me safe and secure in my comfort zone. Not believing in myself was my comfort zone. I wasn’t worthy enough to believe in myself.
What if you couldn’t fail?
I believe in paying to be held at a higher standard that I can conceive for myself. So, I committed myself to have someone show me the way.
The greatest achievements I had in my life up to this point came from being taught by a great teacher or coach: sport, business, and adulting. I knew that if I was going to make it happen it was not going to be on my own…
“What if you couldn’t fail, Stephanie?” she asked.
In every other part of my life, failure was not an issue… would have learned from my mistake and tried again. Likely tried something different but nevertheless, failure wasn’t fear.
Why wasn’t it different from food and weight? I don’t have the answer just yet but it was. I think it’s because I had so many traumatic experiences in that sphere of my life that fear of failure paralyzed me.
“You are wildly capable, Stephanie. Look at yourself, you have dieted for 25 years, starving yourself, depriving yourself, overworking your physical body… you’ve done it all! You are so capable to do the work and make peace with food & your body so you can reconnect with your innate power!”
So, I got over myself and went for it.
Women Food and Power: The tools I found
I learned to manage my mind, mostly my subconscious mind and the many stories trying to hold me back. I now decide what stories play in my head.
At the same time, I learned to be present in my body not to what others think of my body. I’m present in the moment in my body. I’m no longer afraid of being with myself.
I learned to interact with my body as my best friend and be neutral. My physical body no longer is the filter through which I see my life. That’s body neutrality.
Lastly, I learned that I had the power within me to feed myself. My body and I are “good enough” to be our own nutrition expert. That was a turning point for me… through intuitive eating, I shifted the relationship of power with food.
Food was no longer about being less… food was about being ME.
That was the work and I did it.
How you engage with food is how you engage with your life. If you feel powerless around food you feel powerless with your life.
How you think about our body is how you think about yourself. When you hate your body, you hate yourself.
There’s a basic formula for life: Our thoughts create the way we feel, our feelings drive the action we choose to take, our actions forge our results, therefore, our thoughts become our reality.
If right now you think you aren’t good and/or worthy enough to have what other women have, that’s exactly the reality you’ll keep creating for yourself.
The most effective way to feel disempowered is to give your power of choice to something else, someone else than you. That’s what millions of us, women do when we decide to buy into the beauty ideal consequently, diet culture. The path of less resistance is to conform not to question.
Being empowered is recognizing that you do have the power to affect your life. It’s simply recognizing that you have the power to choose.
On the other side of fear is freedom.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” -Anais Nin
It starts today
No matter how anxious you may feel right now, pay attention to suggestions and opportunities that suddenly present themselves in your life… new people, new books, this article. This time, make a choice from a place of love.
Take the first step in the direction toward something that feels right and see where it leads you. And do it NOW. That’s empowerment.
If you are serious about changing, you’ll find a way. If you are not, you’ll find an excuse to stay in your comfort zone.
Will you keep choosing fear instead of love?
PS: If you decide to choose love and want to be held to a higher standard and taught the easiest way to get “there”, I can help you…. that’s what I do now. Help other women get “there”. Going Beyond The Food Academy & Conquer and Thrive.