I Felt So Ashamed of My Weight Regain

I wiggled into my only pair of jeans that still fit, draped a shawl over my upper body, and anxiously headed out the door.

It was the best I could do to hide my larger size—besides not leaving my house at all, which was what I had been doing.

As I rode the train downtown to meet a few past coworkers for tea—friends I hadn’t seen in a year since I was laid off from the company we all worked for—I thought about all the ways I could justify my weight gain.

It felt important that I acknowledge it first before they had a chance to jump to any conclusions.

My life had changed drastically over the last year. There were so many things I could point to that would possibly explain my fuller face, bigger belly, heavier hips and thicker thighs.

Afraid of What They Might Think
Despite what may have sounded like valid reasons for my body changes, more than anything, I was afraid of what my friends might think of me: That I was a failure. That I was weak. That I had lost control and let myself go.

I feared my reputation as a super-disciplined healthy eater and exerciser—who was applauded for losing a lot of weight a few years prior—was now tarnished.

I feared I would now be the topic of water-cooler gossip.

I felt so embarrassed and ashamed.

No Longer a Success Story
When I had shed all those pounds, I truly thought I had finally cracked the weight-loss code.

With arrogance that I now mightily cringe at and regret, I strutted around believing I had conquered the one thing so many people struggle with.

I had successfully lost weight.

And now I had regained it.

I was no longer a success story.

The Body Fights Back
Sadly, if I had known on that train what I know now, I could have saved myself from a lot of unnecessary pain, isolation and suffering.

Unlike what’s so commonly believed, rebound weight gain is not due to a lack of willpower or self-discipline. Nor is it from following the wrong plan or program.

When you deprive your body of food, it thinks it’s being subjected to a famine and will do everything it can to survive.

This means triggering numerous physiological and psychological changes, like increasing food thoughts, intensifying cravings, boosting appetite and decreasing metabolism.

When you understand the compensatory measures a body makes when it’s restricted of food, you can understand why an estimated 95 percent of dieters regain the weight they lose, and up to two-thirds gain more than they lost.

It's not because they fell off the wagon!

If I Only Knew Then
If I had understood that my body was simply trying to keep me alive, I might not have felt ashamed for failing to maintain my weight loss.

I wouldn’t have blamed myself and viewed my weight gain as a personal failure and character flaw.

Nor would I have wasted so much time and energy strategizing about how I was going to fix my body and being stuck in a vicious restrict-binge cycle for the next few years.

I wouldn’t have avoided events, activities or friends who love me regardless of my size.

Instead of being mad at and mean to my body, I would have been grateful for how smart it is! 

Ideally, if I knew everything I know now about how damaging dieting and diet culture are on both an individual and collective level, I would have never attempted to achieve the impossible thin ideal in the first place.

I would have better understood my internalized weight stigma and respected my genetic blueprint instead of trying to force my body to be something it was never meant to be.

A New Success Story
Thanks to everything I’ve experienced and learned, I’ve redefined what a success story is when it comes to food and my body.

For me, it means having a peaceful, trusting, nourishing and intuitive relationship with both—one that’s completely shame-free.

What Food Freedom Tastes Like

With the Fourth of July upon us, I’ve been reflecting on what Independence Day was like for me as a kid.

Naturally, the fireworks were the highlight of the holiday. However, I also have very fond memories of the food.

I recall kicking off the festivities with a pancake breakfast at our local pool. I happily gobbled up syrup-soaked flapjacks topped with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream in honor of the occasion.

After hours of swimming and playing with my neighborhood friends, the day would end with a big block party. What a thrill it was to be able to ride my banana-seat bike down the middle of our street!

Picnic tables were hauled from backyards and covered with an array of homemade summer dishes, while a couple of grills smoked away on the sidelines.

Food-Fueled Fun
My nighttime fun was fueled by ketchup-covered hot dogs, honey baked beans, buttery corn-on-the-cob, crisp watermelon wedges, salty chips and dip, and very patriotic Jell-O salads. All of this was washed down with thirst-quenching cups of lemonade.

No matter what I ate, I always had room for a fudgy brownie or strawberry shortcake topped with rapidly melting vanilla ice cream.

I ate what looked good, sounded good and felt good in my body. Sometimes I ate it all, and sometimes I left some behind.

I ate freely and intuitively.

Not Yet Tainted
My young mind hadn’t been tainted yet by diet culture—an oppressive system full of food rules, eating restrictions, good/bad food lists, careful counting (e.g., calories, points, macros, etc.), weight stigma and false promises.

I hadn’t been taught yet that I should be hyper-vigilant with food and micro-manage every morsel.

No one had told me yet that my body couldn’t be trusted and that I needed to rely on a plan or program to tell me how to eat.

I hadn’t learned to abhor my belly, demonize certain foods, feel ashamed about my eating and compensate for my food “sins.”

I didn't worry about others judging my choices nor did I play Hide & Eat to keep myself safe from scrutiny.

Do I Want It?
While I loved all that food, I had more exciting and important things to focus on, like water-balloon tosses, sparklers and bottle rockets.

As an Intuitive Eater, I just ate and moved on.

Eating was simply a matter of: I can have it. Do I want it?

Diet Mentality Takes Over
Unfortunately, all of this changed as I entered my teenage years and began adopting the diet mentality powered by salads, rice cakes and diet sodas (hello, Tab!).

My desire to achieve the “thin ideal” led to decades of disordered eating.

Thankfully, with help from some very wise guides, I eventually broke free from diet culture and made peace with food and my body.

The healing process wasn’t easy or fast. Some days, I feel like I'm still a work-in-progress. But, it’s all been worth it.

Ending the war I was waging against myself enabled me to return to the food freedom and body liberation I experienced as a young girl.   

It’s Still Within You
I’m sharing this story as a reminder that we all came into this world as Intuitive Eaters—that is, we ate based on our instincts, inner cues and desires. We ate without worry, guilt, fear or shame.  

Sadly, we’re losing touch with our ability to eat intuitively at a younger and younger age. Shockingly, an estimated 80 percent of 10-year-old girls have been on a diet.

I’m also sharing my experience to assure you that if you’ve become disconnected from the Intuitive Eater within you, you can reconnect with it.

It hasn’t gone away. It’s just buried under layers of diet-culture gunk, which today, is often packaged under the guise of “wellness.”

Magical Powers Not Required
I don’t have any magical powers. My clients don’t either. If we can relearn how to listen to and trust our bodies, so can you.

“I’m no longer searching for the ‘answer’ to the perfect way to eat. I don’t stress about how I eat because it isn’t that big of a deal anymore. I no longer believe those food guilt thoughts and that is F-R-E-E-D-O-M!”
–Client Molly

What I'm Consuming [Top Reads]

As I’ve shared before, I constantly have my nose in a book or my ears plugged into a podcast.

I especially have a big appetite for content regarding food and body liberation, like Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size.

Here are a few recent articles that really resonated with me (and many others!). Perhaps they will with you, too.

Smash the Wellness Industry
“The diet industry is a virus, and viruses are smart. It has survived all these decades by adapting, but it’s as dangerous as ever. In 2019, dieting presents itself as wellness and clean eating, duping modern feminists to participate under the guise of health.”

What Does Intuitive Eating Even Mean?
“If you find that you’re counting things, that’s not intuitive eating,” says [Evelyn Tribole, co-author of Intuitive Eating]. If there’s something called a cheat day, that’s not intuitive eating. If someone’s promising weight loss, that’s not intuitive eating.”

(To learn more about the basics of Intuitive Eating, head on over to here.)

What Happens When You Put a Kid on a Diet
This heartbreaking story is sadly one I’ve heard hundreds of times.

“If you are an adult putting kids on weight loss diets, restricting their eating, or telling them they can’t trust their body, you are an adult who is saying that the risk of a lifetime of struggle—a lifetime of self-hatred, a lifetime of disordered eating, a lifetime of not trusting oneself—is worth the possibility of a brief moment of thinness."

When Did "Fat" Become an Insult?
"For much of history...'excess body fat [was] a symbol of wealth and prosperity as the general population struggled with food shortages and famine, as we can see in Renaissance portraits celebrating full-figured women.”

I’ll be sharing more of my favorite content in the future, so stay tuned…