I’m often asked specifics around “how long it took me” to do something.
“How long did it take you to stop binging?”
“When were you able to love your body?”
“How and when did you stop dieting?”
“When did you stop using food to deal with emotions?”
And my answers are usually long winded and not very specific (because there were so many twists and turns in my own journey!)
So I wanted to do a post to answer those questions 🙂
I’ve been thinking about doing this blog for a long time, but I didn’t want to scare people off (i.e. “Oh my goodness, this takes so long, I don’t want to be on this path!“)
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized we need more people talking about “how long” it took them.
Because when we start, we often have diet brain…
“I’ll do this for 6 months and I’ll stop binging“
“If I do ‘intuitive eating’ for a year, I’ll definitely have lost weight by then“
But once you are on this path, it’s impossible to put a timeline on anything. Some people find change very quickly. Others it takes decades.
Some clients I’ve worked with “get” concepts super fast. Others it takes an entire year or more working 1:1 together.
That’s not to discourage you. It’s to shine light on the truth. For you to see an account of what it really took to get me to where I am now.
I got so discouraged by my own progress early on (and even later on!)
But when I look back, I realize I had to go through every single thing to be at the place I am now.
I had to go through every lesson, every tear, every “why is this happening again” moment to learn what it is I most needed to know.
And so it is with your journey 🙂
At the time, we never see why we have to go through it. In retrospect, we always (or hopefully always!) see why we went through a particular situation.
So, my intention is not that this outline of my journey discourages you, but that it inspires you to find more breathing room on your own path.
To show yourself compassion and kindness as you uncover all this “stuff” around food.
Here’s the rundown of some of my major struggles and turning points…
17 years old: I gained weight in high school and began feeling extremely uncomfortable in my body. On a whim, I decided to buy a bottle of diet pills to lose weight for the upcoming prom.
17.5 years old: I lost 25 pounds taking diet pills and eating green peppers and ranch dip for meals. I “successfully” lost weight for the prom. As soon as the dance was over, I spiraled into a month long binge.
18 years old: I spiraled into my up and down battle with weight. My cycle consisted of buying diet pills, severely restricting my food, going “off” the pills, and spending weeks in a binge.
18-20 years old: I went off to college and spiraled into depression and severe anxiety. I swung wildly between crazy restriction and unending binges. I gained and lost the same 60+ pounds over and over…
20 years old: I began seeing a therapist for depression & anxiety. He recommended that I see someone who specialized in food/eating issues (as I had no idea that I had a problem. It was “normal” to me to diet/binge).
21 years old: I met the woman who would change my life: Maureen Shortt. She gave me a crash course in balancing my blood sugar, eating “normally”, and dealing with my emotions. I saw her 3 times a week for 2 months and then went on a study abroad program.
21.5 years old: I embarked on Semester at Sea. This was a unique opportunity to see the world and I spent much of it battling my weight, my body and my terrifying fear that I would come home 50 pounds heavier. (But despite my struggles, I had the most incredible experience and these 3 months altered the course of my life).
22 years old: After graduation, I spent a year abroad teaching English in Thailand. Although I had spent much of the last 1.5 years in and out of therapy, I still struggled with food. But I had a solid foundation and for the first time in my life, I was doing what I wanted to do. I was catching more and more glimpses of happiness.
23 years old: I moved home after a year abroad and began a job as the Volunteer Director for a nonprofit outside of Philly. My weight had normalized a bit and I wasn’t swinging between extremes as much. I was still binging every now and then, but not as much as before.
23-24 years old: I still spent a lot of time trying to lose weight, experimenting with yoga, cleanses, retreats and other “holistic” ways to shed pounds. This was the very subtle diet mindset at work in my brain! I was still afraid of my body and of trusting myself. I did gain more confidence in knowing what I wanted, in dealing with my emotions in a healthier way, and eating much of the foods that I had deemed forbidden before. There were many ups and downs, but I was steadily moving forward.
24.5 years old: I enrolled in a Masters of Nutrition. The intense study of a plant-based diet, the dangers of processed foods, and how food impacts the body made me think about food ALL the time. I became obsessed again, thinking about food 24/7. For 6 months I cut out all sweets, sugar, refined carbs, most animal protein and anything that wasn’t “healthy”.
25 years old: Studying nutrition made me hyper-obsessed with every morsel I put in my mouth. I shed 20 pounds, lost my period and became much too thin for my body frame. After 6 months of super restrictive eating, I swung wildly to the other extreme. I binged on brownies, cinnamon buns, cookies and ice cream for 3 months.
25.5 years old: I felt desperately out of control. While I had some years of really stready progess, I couldn’t believe I had been “working” on myself for 6 years and this is where I was. I kept trying to find my way back to how I was eating before (i.e. restriction) and nothing worked. Sobbing nightly, I confessed to my mom that I needed more help. I began an outpatient program at an eating disorder center.
26 years old: I broke up with my then boyfriend, quit my job and moved to Ecuador. (Sound extreme? My parents thought I was nuts 😉 ) It was what I needed to do for my soul. I felt lost, sad and confused and needed space to figure out what it is I truly wanted.
26.5 years old: For the first time in my life, I felt free. Ecuador gave me a chance to explore more deeply who I was, what I wanted out of life, and what career I felt passionate about. Although I felt much more balanced mentally and emotionally, I caught a parasite and gained 30 pounds (I wasn’t aware it was a parasite at the time).
27 years old: I came back from Ecuador to deal with my health issues. I went the natural health route and found an amazing practitioner who helped me heal. I was ANGRY that I had gained so much weight, that my body betrayed me and spent every appointment in her office crying & asking when my weight would resolve itself.
28 years old: A year of natural healing felt like an eternity. But my health issues seemed to be a part of the past and I found myself wanting to move out of my hometown. I decided to move to Colorado 🙂 Right before my move, I gave Weight Watchers one last go (“I’ll just lose these few pounds before I move cities”). I lasted two days (I spent 48 hours obsessed with points and food) and realized that was the officially the end of my diet years.
29 years old: Colorado was good for my soul. I felt happy. I felt like myself. My eating normalized. Everything seemed to be slowly clicking into place. I found myself better able to deal with my emotions. I learned what it was like to be truly independent of other’s expectations. I experimented with my own boundaries, with telling others how I felt, with learning to love my body more. My path took me deeper into spirituality and in learning how to be happy from the inside out.
31 years old: I was working A LOT in my business and over a course of 6 months, I gained about 10-15 pounds. I noticed my energy levels diminishing & I felt tired all the time. Caffeine became a serious crutch and I couldn’t function without coffee. I went to a natural health care practitioner and realized I had a mild case of adrenal fatigue. I was once again pissed at my body: I had spent 5 years at the same weight-ish; how could I gave gained weight NOW?!
33 years old: After I recovered from adrenal fatigue, my body acceptance journey went to a deeper level. I realized my body love had been conditional on my old size; so I began exploring self-love in a deeper way.
33-37 years old: I continue to grow, trust myself more deeply, express myself more authentically, and evolve in my eating. As I always tell my ladies in the Normal Eaters Club, there is no “end” to this path. We’ll always be learning and growing, so you’ll always go deeper. So, I keep my heart open as I learn at a deeper level what freedom really is 🙂
So there it is in a nutshell 🙂 Obviously there are some parts that are glossed over, but I hope this gives you a better sense of “how long” it can take.
Again, not to overwhelm you, but to give you reassurance that this is not a linear path. It may be a very windy road, but you are always moving forward.
Remember, diets “fix you” from the outside. This path is healing ourselves from the inside out 🙂
You are doing it right. There is no wrong way to do this journey.
What has your own journey looked like up until this point? I’d love to hear about your twists and turns in the comments below 🙂
Thank you for this post. Everything you say is so real. The journey of self love and acceptance is long and not linear. It took me more than 20 years to heal and understand I had a food issue and that I needed help. The worst part to overcome is the fear of gaining weight. I am working on it. Now I am trying to be neutral about food and about my body size. This has given me a lot of freedom and enables me to live my life more intensely and more Joyfully. I know it is a lifetime journey though and do not expect anymore « results » or any weight loss side effect from this work on myself. My only intention is to give myself the love And care I deserve. Your blog is very inspiring. Keep up this great work. Elisabetta
Thanks, Elisabetta 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed it. The fear of weight gain is a real thing! It often seems like a leap of faith to trust ourselves…but over time that trust grows as you gain confidence in yourself and your body. Thanks for your comment 🙂