How I Gave Up the Dieting Struggle and Found Myself

“Can you imagine what would happen if the women of the world stopped being worried about the number on the scale?”

That’s the single question that changed my life. Rocked me to my core. Was the initial kernel of an idea that led to our mission — and, quite frankly, made me feel like the biggest asshole on the planet.

At the time, I was 20-something, educated, holding a great job in a field I liked and was months away from getting married. I had it all going for me.  And yet there I was, sitting in the chair across from a registered dietitian who specialized in emotional eating and intuitive eating because I was miserable.

Turns out, the “healthy lifestyle” it looked like I was living … wasn’t healthy at all. At least not for me.

Sure, I was working out and eating healthy foods — but my mindset? Not healthy in the least. More tortured than anything. So torturous, in fact, that it lead me to seek out professional help. No one really knew it from the outside (in fact, I was at the time teaching seriously fun group exercise classes and working as a personal trainer off and on — side jobs I truly did love), but I was simply and utterly consumed with my weight, how many calories I ate, and how many calories I burned. I’d overexercise, over-restrict or try some new diet — and then end up binge eating and even hiding the evidence of it.

This happened over and over and over again. As you’d imagine, I put on weight — and began to turn to food to comfort myself. Which, of course, only fueled the self-hate more.

Thinking that there was something wrong with me and that I had no capacity for self-control, I spent years internalizing feelings of shame and guilt, which harbored a deep distrust of my body and myself.

The pressure from society to look a certain way coupled with working in the fitness industry where I had the mindset that I HAD to have a six-pack and see a certain number on the scale to truly be taken seriously weighed (no pun intended) heavily on my soul. I never thought I was enough — and I took extreme measures to try to fit into a box that simply wasn’t me.

Until finally, I couldn’t take it any more.

I was planing my wedding and realized that — unless I changed something fast — I was going to walk down the aisle on my wedding day, consumed with worry that my arms looked fat or that I was barely fitting into my dress. Clearly, this was not how I wanted one of the best days of my life to be.

I wanted freedom from the pressure. Freedom from the arbitrary rules I’d set for myself. Freedom to enjoy the moment — an incredibly important and love-filled day — to the fullest, without interruption, and with a full sense of self.

It wasn’t easy. I worked weekly with this registered dietitian (I am deeply grateful for her work and approach — especially considering this was back in 2007 when it wasn’t even on most of her colleagues’ radars) and, through lots of tears and honesty, began unraveling years of patterns of thoughts that had led me to that place of poor body image and poor self-esteem. The work to transition away from obsessive dieting to intuitive eating wasn’t easy — and in many ways it’s ongoing, as it’s a life-long practice — but, DUDE, was it worth it.

Like, so, so worth it. So worth it, in fact, that looking back, I’m now grateful for that struggle and experience.

Yes, I said grateful.

In addition to leading to the creation of Fit Bottomed Girls, my struggles actually served as a gateway to finding my true self, my passion and my voice. I learned to trust my body, love myself unconditionally, and take my power back from the number on the scale.

Plus, I had one hell of an awesome wedding day.

These days, my mental space isn’t taken up with counting calories or figuring out when I’m going to get to the gym to “burn off” the pizza I had last night. I eat the foods I love with zero guilt. I work out because it makes me feel good. I love myself healthy.

And, now, I even have the privilege of paying my experience forward: by letting all women know that they are more than the number on the scale and helping them to break through, too.

How would your life change if you gave up the struggle and just loved yourself? —Jenn

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