Why I quit trying to eat like a normal person, and how I finally managed to do it.
The kitchen is empty. I reach up to get at what’s left of the birthday cake on the counter. I grab what I can and shove it into my mouth just as my mother walks in. I freeze, hoping she won’t notice my bulging cheeks.
“Kelly,” she said. “You have to EAT LIKE A NORMAL PERSON.”
Heart beating like a hammer, I spent the next 20 years hiding in dark kitchens, cars, and empty classrooms, bingeing on sweets, fast food, pasta, mashed potatoes, ice cream, and bread.
Secret binges and overt overeating meant I got big young. I was the biggest kid in every one of my class photos from kindergarten through high school.
My mother and grandmother did their best to help. Weight Watchers. Deal-A-Meal. Pick-A-System. Menus and portion illustrations from nutritionist after nutritionist. Each had me eating what looked and felt like microscopic portions of pasta, ice cream, cake, and the rest of it. 1
But I felt like a bow was being pulled back in my gut with every unsatisfying, suggested portion.
One diet at a time, the bow reached its limit, and I shot like an arrow back into my old habits, eating as much as I could, and often more. 2
Today I know that I didn’t have a problem with portion size anymore than an alcoholic has a problem with glass size. I have an addiction. I can’t eat certain foods in moderation, 3 and, if I do, I can’t do it for long.
Just like an alcoholic’s first drink of the day, certain foods change me.
Certain foods turn me into an obsessive, uncomfortable, and distracted shadow of myself; a me that only wants to isolate, ruminate, and eat.
I’m proud to say that I eat like a normal person today, and have for some years. Want to know how I did it? I’m glad you asked…
1. I accepted that struggling to “eat like a normal person” made me want to Eat All The Things all the time.
When I commit to eat just a smidge of certain foods, I fixate on the moment I get to have them. The rest of my life becomes the shit I need to endure in order to get my treat. This is not how I want to live my life.
2. I accepted that struggling to “eat like a normal person” was hurting me…
Trying to get “well” by dieting was, at best, ineffective and, ultimately, damaging. Physically, I always ended up heavier and less comfortable in my body on the other side. Mentally, every “failed” effort to diet leveled my self-confidence. Emotionally, I walked around feeling sorry for myself. Then, when the diet tanked, I felt demoralized, ashamed, and embarrassed.
3. …and robbing me of precious time.
I wasted YEARS trapped in a cycle of craving, obsession, feeling deprived, caving in, and feeling ashamed.
4. I realized that struggling to eat smaller portions of certain foods was, for me, inauthentic like whoa.
Brace for it: I cannot be ME if I am actively ignoring the truth about myself. I know – shocking!
And, the truth was, and is, that I am addicted to certain foods. When I embraced that, I could finally, mercifully, be my whole, real self.
Empowered by the truth, I gave “eat like a normal person” a new definition:
EAT LIKE A NORMAL PERSON: To eat foods and in ways that support and nourish; to eat foods and in ways that minimize physical, mental, and emotional pain and discomfort.
Life’s gotten better since I started eating like a normal person – eating whole foods that don’t spark craving or make me want to Eat All The Things. Maintaining my health has gotten easier, as has maintaining a body I’m comfortable in.
Even with this new, improved definition, it still takes work to eat like a normal person.
To do it consistently, every day, I…
1. Give myself permission to embrace what’s true for me.
I am incapable of relating to certain foods in a healthy way. This is neither good nor bad, it’s just what it is.
2. Eat the foods that make me feel like Wonder Woman.
Whole, minimally-processed foods – preferably cooked by me – make my body strong and keep my head quiet.
3. Keep away from the foods that don’t.
Hyperpalatable foods – especially sweet foods – wake a desire in me that cannot be satisfied. They make my body feel like shit. They also skew my tastebuds and make whole, healthy foods taste bland and boring. Once I stopped eating hyperpalatable foods – especially sweets – my palette returned to normal, and I was able to enjoy eating whole, natural, healthy food.
4. Do the work to remember every day.
Because I’m not the wellest crayon in the box, I’m prone to forget and/or ignore the truth about who I am and what I need. To help me remember and honor what’s true for me, I write about it, talk about it with my personal training clients, and support women worldwide who are working on accepting the truth about themselves – whatever that happens to be.
Good on you for respecting whatever’s true for you today. It’s the only way to “well.”
OMG why aren’t you following me on Facebook yet? Jesus.