Can you really change your relationship with food and your body?

When I was a teenager, my favorite part of magazines was the makeovers, you know, the “before” and “after” photos. As someone who naturally tended toward what magazines deemed “before,” I gazed in awe at the dramatic evolution from Plain (unsmiling) Jane to Exotic (ecstatic) Erica. The change was instantaneous, involved just a few simple purchases, and promised a better life to boot!

But how many times, in response to these images, did I buy something – thick bright-blue eyeliner, some hair styling tool, or ill-fitting on-trend piece of clothing – only to find that I lacked the raw materials necessary for the depicted transformation? And leaving me looking like a reject from “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.”

In addition to those magazine makeovers, we are bombarded with images of how individuals are changing, upgrading, and recreating themselves with the help of the latest trick, diet, excruciating workout video, or by avoiding an entire class of foods. While these images are inherently seductive – offering us a glimpse of the wonderful possibilities that could be in store for our future selves if we just stick with the program – they are also notoriously staged, temporary, and changeable.

Which often gets me thinking about real change, particularly in terms of our relationship with food and our bodies. How long does true change take? What does it look like? And how does it feel to be inside of the body experiencing transformation?

My work with clients gives me a good deal of insight into this question. Comparing where people are when they first come to me versus where they are a little while later – whether that be 3 sessions later, 6 months later, or more than a year later – I have been lucky enough to witness true change in action. While the following statements may not have the same visual impact as a sucked-in, fake-baked “after” photo, they are far more tender, genuine, and enduring.

Before:

  • “I hate eating”
  • “I wish there was a pill I could take so I didn’t have to eat”
  • “I can’t control myself around sugar. If I start, I can’t stop”
  • “If I let myself eat chocolate, I’ll always want it”
  • “I wonder if years of dieting have damaged my body irreparably. Maybe I’m too far gone?”

After:

  • “I see how letting myself get too hungry or not eating enough is the root of all my problems.”
  • “Eating sweets – what, when, and how much I want – is so much more satisfying now. I don’t feel deprived from restricting or out of control and I don’t want them all the time.”
  • “It makes a huge different to eat what I want and to really focus on it.”
  • “Part of being a grown up is learning how to take care of yourself.”

What I’ve learned about real change can be distilled down to a few basic points.

  1. True change takes time – as much time as it needs – and this varies from person to person.
  2. Transforming your relationship with food and your body may not be evident to outsiders; it’s a gradual evolution rather than a dramatic change, but to the individual experiencing it, it is life-altering.
  3. Real change comes from being kind to yourself, not cruel and punishing.
  4. Small achievements give way to bigger achievements, but only if you acknowledge the small ones.
  5. You are worth the trouble, effort, and work, and you must truly believe that for change to happen.

If you are interested in authentically transforming your relationship with food and your body, I’ll be exploring this further in an upcoming online e-course with Susan Piver called the Dharma of Diet. It will begin on March 9th and run for four Mondays. We’ll be discussing:

  • How to reconnect with internal signals of what, when, and how much to eat
  • Ways to feed the non-physical (or heart) hunger that can lead us to the fridge or pantry when we really need a different type of nourishment
  • How to begin to treat your now-body with respect, dignity, and loving-kindness
  • How meditation can serve as the foundation for a sane relationship with food and your body

For more information about Susan or the Dharma of Diet, click here. And to make the jump and register, click here.

Love this image from toothpastefordinner.com
Love this image from toothpastefordinner.com

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