It’s sort of interesting, really, that growing up, my relationship with food was actually pretty normal. I was one of those kids who could eat whatever I wanted to and stayed skinny. Then around the age of 15 I ballooned up 20 pounds in one year. I was still relatively slim, but I had one nagging problem. I am the youngest of four siblings and the biggest and the only girl. My brothers are all tiny, short, skin and bones guys.
You can just imagine what this could do to a person’s self-esteem. Thank G-d I managed to keep mine in tact.
Maybe it was the scare of one of my childhood friends getting diagnosed with anorexia, visiting her in the hospital and innocently asking her, “How much longer are they giving you to live?”, that was a huge wake-up call as a teen that food restriction was unhealthy.
And so I was more or less able to have a positive body image, and I graduated high school at a healthy and comfortable size and weight without the overwhelming shadow of poor self-image.
The funny thing was that I weighed more than I looked. As teens often do, we would play the game of guessing each other’s weight, and I was always 15-20 pounds more than people thought I was. You know those booths at amusement parks where they guess your weight, and depending on how far off their guess is, the bigger your prize? Well, I won a big plush doll at one of those booths because the guy who ran the booth guessed that I was 20 pounds less than I was. This probably helped me feel better about my size, because although I weighed “a lot”, my size was socially “acceptable”.
Things started to shift when I went to seminary and started eating food that was unsatisfying, which led to overeating at late night ice cream parties, cookies from our Eim Bayit, and food from our amazing hostesses on Shabbos.
In a nutshell, I not only put on 15+ pounds during my 2 years in seminary, but I showed up at my brother’s wedding 3 sizes larger than I was when I left to Israel.
It was somewhat embarrassing, especially being a young woman who was about to enter shidduchim.
And especially seeing the family pictures where I, once again, towered over everyone else in both height and weight.
But still, somehow, I knew deep down that dieting didn’t work, and firmly believed that my body would naturally drop the weight in due time.
Surely enough, within a few months of returning home and returning to a regular eating routine I had dropped back down 2 skirt sizes, and the scale showed that I had lost about half the weight I had gained.
At that time, my friends told me about a sale happening at the local gym, where I could get a membership plus work 1:1 with a personal trainer for a really great price.
I signed up, and was excited to get started and finally lose the weight I had gained.
Then one of the members of the faculty suggested a food plan that included cutting out carbs and all sweets, which sounded totally ridiculous to me. We all need good, delicious food in our lives, and I wasn’t willing to compromise on that.
Then I remarked to a friend of mine who was also working out at the gym that it seemed that I would have to continue exercising forever if I wanted to maintain a certain body shape. Her reply was a sort of, “Duh?”
It all sounded ridiculous to me, and so while I continued working out because I found it fun, I basically concluded that it wasn’t so terrible to remain at the weight I was, and life went on.
And miracle of all miracles, several years later I managed to get married at that same weight.
At some point early in our marriage, I got very sick with some sort of upper respiratory infection. The usual round of antibiotics didn’t work, and so I started a different type of antibiotic, which did work.
In the meantime, though, my mouth had swollen up from the infection, and my gums were extremely sensitive to textures, flavors, and temperature. I couldn’t eat anything that required chewing, anything salty, or anything that was even slightly acidic or warm. The one thing I could eat was yogurt with a peeled pear blended into it. Anything else was too painful and even that was a challenge to eat. For 3 weeks I subsisted on little more than air, until finally the infection went away and I slowly returned to normal.
And I lost every bit of weight that I had gained all those years, and was surprised and honestly excited to see the scale show a number I hadn’t seen since I was about 16 years old. For years I hadn’t thought too much about weight, and now, without any conscious effort on my part, it had snuck right into the spotlight.
Then things got worse. Shortly after that incident I had some more health challenges, and the doctors told me that there was nothing that could be done for them, and to just wait them out. We were getting some information from my doctors who I respect and who had great training, yet there was a knowing inside my body that there WAS something that I could do.
I went to see a holistic doctor, who made some nutritional recommendations. He gave me proportions for carbs:protein:vegetables. It was, essentially, a low-carb diet.
I did that for a while, and as a side effect I saw that it was helping me lose more weight, and so I took it a step further. I had by now been doing more research on food and health and had read that carbohydrates were “poison”, and so I effectively cut them out of my diet completely, with the exception of some challah on Shabbos. I wouldn’t even eat fruit.
I lost even more weight. This dieting thing wasn’t so bad after all.
I also cut out dairy, at some point basically went vegan (except on Shabbos), and dabbled with raw foods for a bit.
People were noticing the ease with which I was maintaining my appearances and would turn to me as the one they could turn to for help with incorporating healthy tips into their lives. I was great at that! I could tell you how to eat healthfully in any situation.
And somehow, over time, and quite inconspicuously, I had gone from someone who didn’t think too much about my weight to someone who kept a sharp eye on the scale watching every fluctuation of the numbers. Diet had taken a central role in my life.
It would take a long time and a lot of heartache for me to realize that I had sabotaged my life in three ways.
First of all, despite the fact that I looked great…I felt horrible. I was getting sick too often, I was feeling low energy, unfocused, and irritable. I was definitely not giving my body the type of foods it was asking for, rather I was giving it the foods other people told me it needed.
Second of all, the more I created restrictions around food, the less control I actually had over my eating. Keeping on the low end of the scale was by no means a natural process and staying there meant a constant battle. Other than the work and the stress behind it all, every simcha, every Shabbos, every stressful event was an endurance challenge to see whether I could withstand my temptations until I would finally break down. And sometimes it would be a day or two later.
Third of all, I was wasting SO MUCH time in my life chasing something that ultimately, didn’t bring me any closer to my goals: that is, striving to be the best person I could be, working on my middos, avodas Hashem, marriage, mothering, and my life’s purpose. It certainly wasn’t making me any “happier”.
It took a full 6 years of battling until I woke up to the fact that this can not be a long term solution. There had to be a healthier, more balanced way to live.
Eventually I started to discover Intuitive Eating, which I now eat by, and teach to my clients.
Here’s what I know about Intuitive Eating: It provides everything that is missing when you go down the diet/healthy food plan path.
Living a truly pleasurable life, just as Hashem intends it to be.
These things are all under-prescribed. You can’t get a prescription for them. There is no diet for them.
I can help you feel good now — and SO much more.
Curious about working together? Register for my free teleseminar class “Mind Over Munchies” here to get a feel for the work I do and if working with me is something that would interest you and help you move forward with your goals.