FRR 174: My Story & Lessons Learned From Recovering From Chronic Dieting/Body Hate

SummerBody Image, Eat the Rules, Self-Love, Self-WorthLeave a Comment

In this episode of Fearless Rebelle Radio, I’m running solo doing something on this podcast I’ve never done before – sharing my story.

I also talk about lessons learned from recovering from decades of chronic dieting and body hate.

In Part 1, I talk about:

  • How I developed the restrict-binge-cycle from the messages I was learning at home,
  • How the mentality of scarcity leads to and normalizes binging,
  • When and why I began thinking my body was a problem,
  • How parents can do better to ensure their kids don’t develop disordered behaviours with food,
  • The assignment at school that was the catalyst to starting diets,
  • The importance of forgiveness in my personal journey,
  • The need for parents to do their own body image work in order to model it for their kids,
  • How my dieting progressed into disordered eating and exercise addiction,
  • The time, energy, and money that goes into dieting and diet culture,
  • The lessons I learned about the lies diet and wellness culture sells us,
  • That it’s ok to question health advice you’re given,
  • Plus so much more!

Stream Part 1 Here

In Part 2, I talk about:

  • What drove me to study nutrition and what I learned through that experience,
  • The breaking point when I realized I had a problem and that it wasn’t going to be resolved by the food on my plate,
  • Why we have to stop participating in diet culture in order to heal,
  • My “anti-diet” awakening and why this process took a long time,
  • The recognition that a lack of self-worth was at the centre of the way I felt about my body and the personal development that followed this realization,
  • How it can take a really long time to rewire the thoughts and behaviours of diet culture,
  • That this work takes intention and practice,
  • The biggest things that helped me heal and the mistakes I made along the way,
  • Finding the root of why weight loss was important to me so I could break free of those limiting beliefs,
  • The specific steps I give to everyone who is new to this space and quitting dieting,
  • Plus, so much more!

Stream Part 2 Here

Other Ways To Listen

Don’t forget, I’m on iTunes! You can be one of my kick-ass subscribers. Also, I would be SO GRATEFUL if you took 2 minutes to leave a review. Go here -> click “Reviews and Ratings” and then “Click to Rate”.

Links Mentioned in Show

Episode Transcript

Episode 174 (Part 1)

SUMMER: This episode of Fearless Rebelle Radio is brought to you by You on Fire. You on Fire is the amazing, 12-week online group coaching program that I run, where we build up your worth from the ground up, so that it’s no longer hinging on the way that you look. It’s got personalized coaching from me and incredible community support, plus life-time access. Get details on what’s included in this program, and sign up to be notified when doors open for the next cycle, by going to summerinnanen.com/youonfire. I would love to have you in that program and in that group.

INTRO: This is Fearless Rebelle Radio, a podcast about body positivity, self-worth, anti-dieting, and Feminism. I am your host, Summer Innanen, a professionally trained coach specialising in body image, self-worth, and confidence, and the best-selling author of Body Image Remix. If you’re ready to break free of societal standards and stop living behind the number on your scale, then you have come to the right place! Welcome to the show.

This is Episode 174, and I am solo, doing something I’ve never done on this podcast. I’m going to share my story, and some of the lessons I’ve learned from recovering from decades of chronic dieting and body hate. You can find all the links and resources mentioned in this episode at summerinnanen.com/174.

Before we begin, I want to give a shoutout to @IntuitiveRD, who left this amazing review: “I really enjoy listening to Summer smash diet culture and the incessant need that women feel to be smaller. I’ve listened to many of them, but most recently, the ones on body image are wonderful.”

Thank you so much, @IntuitiveRD! I wonder if that is Kirsten, the actual Intuitive RD. If it is, thank you, and hi! And it was so nice chatting with you earlier this week on your podcast, which, those of you can listen to by going to the Intuitive RD’s podcast which is called Intuitive Bites. And if that wasn’t Kirsten who left that review, then whoever else is using the tag @IntuitiveRD, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

You can leave a review by going to iTunes, selecting Ratings and Reviews, and clicking to leave a review. It helps others to find this show here, and everything that you’re learning, and you can also help this show out by subscribing. So subscribe via iTunes, or Spotify, or Stitcher, whatever platform you’re using to listen to podcasts. And lastly, you can get the free Ten-Day Body Confidence Makeover at summerinnanen.com/freebies, with ten steps to take right now to feel better in your body.

So for this episode, I wanted to do something I’ve never done before, which is talk about my story. It has been 174 episodes, and I’ve never shared my story. I was looking back, and I realized that the very first episode of this, I said something along the lines of, I’m not going to be sharing my story in this first episode, and maybe I’ll do it at the later date. I’ve talked about it a little bit on other people’s podcasts and written interviews that I’ve done and things like that, but I’ve never shared it on my own. I’ve shared bits and pieces of it, and have talked about it, like I said, on other people’s platforms, but I wanted to open up about it today, and specifically, use it to share lessons I’ve learned in doing this work, and working with others over the last several years.

So I’ve hesitated to share my story on here for a couple of reasons. Number one, I really don’t want my story to supersede my coaching training and experience. My story is part of who I am and it drove me to want to pursue helping people with body image, self-worth, and confidence, but that’s not what I want to be known for. I want to be known and respected for my expertise on the subject matter, my ability as a coach, and not my experience as a chronic dieter, although it certainly helps give me a perspective, but my lived experience is not the same as others, so I don’t bring that into my coaching practice. My coaching practice is based on my coaching training and my expertise in that area, and so, that’s why I’ve always sort of divested the two, and kept them seperate.

And the other reason why I haven’t really shared it is because I have a lot ov privilege, as a cis, hetero, medium-sized kind of cute white woman, and I don’t experience things like weight discrimination, or racism, which will have a big impact on our body image and the way we feel about ourselves. So I would never want to say, if I can do this, so can you. That’s why I’ve held back on sharing that story, and I’ve instead chosen to share other people’s stories that represent a wide range of experiences and lived experiences that I don’t have.

But why I decided to share it today was for a few reasons. I wanted to give you some lessons that I’ve learned. I want to share some things, because I know a lot of you listening are maybe newer in this process, newer in this journey, and maybe it would be helpful to kind of know, Oh, okay, there’s something that I can maybe do better or do differently, or, I haven’t thought about it that way, and that could be really helpful for me as I’m moving forward.

And I also just want to illustrate what a disordered relationship with food and exercise looks like, because I honestly thought that everything I was doing was normal and healthy, and so maybe some of the things that I’m going to mention, without going into too many specifics, is something that you can just resonate with, and then hopefully know, okay, that’s not normal. It doesn’t mean you’re broken, it just means that you’ve been influenced by diet culture, but there is a way out, and it doesn’t need to be that way.

And that you’re not alone. That’s really important too. And I want to illustrate what a healthy relationship with food and movement can look like, and that that doesn’t come overnight. And I also just want parents who are listening to hear more about what you can do to ensure your child has a more healthy relationship with food and movement than I did.

So those are my reasons behind wanting to share my story, and I’ll be curious to know what you take away from it, and whether you found it helpful. But let’s dive in!

So, as a kid, my story’s probably pretty similar to a lot of people. I don’t remember ever feeling good in my body. I was really always sort of a more self-conscious, shy kid, which now I realize is just sort of traits of being an introvert. I was never athletic, and I was teased and bullied for my body from a young age, a lot. I have an older brother, who’s five years older than me. We have a really great relationship now, but when I was a kid, I was bullied a lot by him, mentally, emotionally, and he really teased me for my body incessantly. It’s traumatizing, really, what I experienced. And I’ll talk a little bit about forgiveness and working through that, but when I look at pictures, I was clearly in a straight-size body, but it didn’t feel that way, because I was constantly teased for it. Constantly bullied. Anytime I ate something, anytime I walked through the house… it was relentless.

So that created a lot of shame inside of me, and I went from not feeling good in my body, to really hating it. Before I was even a teenager. That’s just what I remember, is just absolutely hating my body and thinking, this is the worst possible thing that I could have. So that was a huge factor in why I started dieting, but I also never really had a normal relationship with food.

So, my mom was always yo-yo dieting. From the time I can remember, my mom was always on or off a diet. I remember her taking me to Weight Watchers meetings, her Weight Watchers weigh-ins, and she was always talking about how “good” or “bad” we were for eating certain things. And she was always talking negatively about her body, asking me what I thought of her body, and things like that.

So the messages that I got really early on were: fat is bad and it is to be avoided. We are supposed to be thin. Thinner is better.

And in terms of my relationship with food, it was a really interesting dichotomy because my mom is half-Italian, so I grew up with a lot of Italian influence. You wouldn’t know that I’m part Italian, but I am. So I grew up with this message that food is love, and we were always encouraged to eat more. I’d go to my grandmother’s house and have this massive dinner, and then she’d come out thirty minutes later and say, Who needs a sandwich? And you’d be stuffed. And encouraged to eat more. And we were applauded for eating.

And then on the other side of the coin, I wasn’t allowed any sugar, and very limited processed foods. So my mom used to take me to this weird health food store, which was in the 80s, so this was pre-Whole Foods, and pre-health food stores. So nowadays this would seem like a normal store, but back in the 80s, this was a very strange store.

And that’s where we would get cereal with no sugar, and peanut butter with no sugar, and cookies with carob chips instead of chocolate chips… and just gross stuff. So I had this really interesting paradigm of like, on one hand, this foundation of restriction and good/bad, looking at food through the lens of good and bad, and then also having this normalization of bingeing and encouragement of overeating and food is love, and all that stuff was laid down early. And not in an intentionally harmful way; it was because those were the two dynamics at work in my house, one of them being the cultural influence of my grandmother and my mother, and the other being the influence of diet culture on my mom and therefore my household.

And for me, I just always lived this life of restriction and bingeing, because we weren’t allowed anything with sugar in it. Like, everything was “health food store” type stuff. But then when we were allowed sugar, which was on special occasions, on weekends, we were allowed to eat as much as we wanted.

So to give you a couple examples, my dad would take me to a baseball game, and I would be allowed to have whatever I wanted to eat, so I would go to these baseball games with my dad, I think I was probably like 10 years old at the time, and I would spend the entire game eating, like, everything at the concession stand, which there’s nothing wrong with, but because all that stuff was forbidden, I would just stuff myself, and then as soon as I was stuffed, I’d be like “Can we go home?” We’d always have to go home in like the seventh inning.

And then the same thing with Halloween. My mom’s philosophy on Halloween was like, Okay, whatever you don’t eat tonight, we’re throwing out. So this whole idea of that scarcity mentality was implanted really early, and when we have that mentality of scarcity, that this food is going away, I won’t have access to it anymore, then we’re always going to binge and eat to physical discomfort. And that’s exactly what we would do.

So instead of kind of having access to these foods all the time, and seeing them as just all foods, like, it’s just a food, we saw this as this forbidden thing that we were only allowed once in awhile, so when we did have it, we had to eat as much as possible, in order to kind of satisfy our desire for it. And that’s dieting, right? But as a kid, that was just the way that we were brought up to eat. And I wasn’t necessarily restricted, like, I was eating fairly intuitively, but within the confines of the foods that were accessible in my house.

But you can see how this restrict-binge cycle was happening before I was even actively engaging in dieting. And this is just what I thought was normal, and I see this, a lot of parents think, I’m just doing what’s best for my child. I don’t want my child to have sugar, I want to control what we eat in the house, and to some extent, that’s fine, but then depending on how it’s worded, depending on how you do handle things like sugar, you start to create this relationship where kids are seeing food through the lens of good or bad.

There was a lot of talk of, We’re eating this, we’re being bad right now, in my household. So, We’re eating chocolate bars, we’re being so bad, let’s be bad together! That was a lot of the language that was talked about as it relates to food. Or like, Good for you for eating that! And so all that stuff was diet culture talk right there. And that was my relationship with food as a child.

And then, around the age of 12 is when things started to really shift in terms of my body image, because I hit puberty quite early, and my body changed quite rapidly compared to some of my friends, and I remember I was a synchronized swimmer when I was that age, it was actually the one sport I was quite good at, but one of the things they did there was body fat testing. And I don’t remember specifically what they said about my results but I do remember thinking I needed to lose weight. I remember that being part of it, as a result.

And so then I started to kind of think, Okay, I need to lose weight. That was the age that I remember thinking, I need to start to lose weight. And I got teased more for my body then, because I got big boobs really quickly, so the kids at school would make fun of me about that, and I also remember around this time, sitting on my bed and my mom pointed at my tummy and said, We need to do something about this. Because my body had change quite rapidly when I hit puberty, which now I know is totally normal, and actually one of the lessons I want people to take away from this is that a significant increase in weight can happen around puberty, especially for females as a result of the hormonal changes that are happening.

And so, I think I hear sometimes, parents getting alarmed because they see their child’s body changing quite rapidly, but it’s normal. That’s what we’re supposed to do. But unfortunately, in my case here, it just seemed like it was more excessive, I guess. And that was really when I started to actively try to change my body, so I’d exercise in my room, nothing extreme, I wasn’t cutting out foods, but I just sort of was thinking, Okay, I need to lose weight.

And I remember talking about it with some of my friends, they were eating some diet food and stuff like that. That’s when it started to pop up for me. And shortly after that, I was diagnosed with depression, and had a couple of really rough years. And that sort of threw gasoline on the fire, in terms of the way that I felt about myself, and just feeling like there was something wrong with me, and really just feeling really bad about who I was and hating my body.

And then, once I entered into high school, I think this is one of the biggest catalysts, and again, this is a lesson, especially for parents, but I was 14 years old, we had to do an assignment for science class that involved tracking our calories and macronutrients. And we had to do it, I think it was for a week or something like that. Which I know seems absolutely ridiculous in hindsight, but I heard from someone who is a podcast listener who follows me recently that their daughter was given the same homework assignment, to track calories. I don’t know if they had to track macronutrients, but they had to track calories, and it just blows my mind, because this can be such a catalyst to disordered eating. That’s something that no one should do, let alone kids and teenagers who are much more vulnerable to that kind of messaging.

But for me, when I did the assignment, my mom had this diet book with macronutrients listed for each food, so I used that for the assignment, and I remember my mom saying, Well, if you want to lose weight, you have to eat a certain number of grams of fat or less.

And I’m not going to say the number, because it’s ridiculous and low and wouldn’t be enough to sustain any human, and also, again, this was early 90s, so still super into the low fat craze. But after doing that assignment, I remember, that’s when I started to be really conscious of calories, and really conscious of macronutrients, and I stopped eating peanut butter and I started to eat low fat foods that were super popular in the 90s. And I was on that low-fat train for way too long, before I then switched to a low-carb train. And then who knows what the trend’s going to be in a couple of years.

But looking back, I don’t recall ever following a “diet” during that time. I never said like, Okay, I’m going to do this. But I started to become really hyperconscious of what I was eating and the macronutrients in my food and I started to try to exercise more with the intention of trying to lose weight.

And my best friend through high school, she had, because we had different stuff at my house than my friends had, my friend had this cupboard full of cookies and chips and twinkies and everything, just everything, right? And I remember just going to her house over the weekend and just eating like her entire pantry. And I’d just go to her house and binge. And I don’t remember feeling guilty about that at the time, so I was just in this normal restrict-binge cycle for most of my life. But there wasn’t a lot of guilt or shame around that until later on, when I was really being more intentional with the restriction, versus it being just kind of the result of the way that I’d been raised around food. And because I was never really, at that time, I wasn’t really restricting calories that much, I was just being more conscious of things, and it still felt kind of normal and kind of innocent.

And so I’m just pausing the story here because there’s some things I just want to call out. If you’re a parent, this stuff starts really early, and kids are watching and learning from everything that you do. The research says that 1 in 4 kids have already tried dieting by the age of 7. Like, 7 years old. That blows my mind.

And the message for me that was loud and clear was that fat is bad and something to be avoided, which is really the message of our fatphobic culture, but that message was never challenged for me at home. In fact, it was propped up, and that’s what I interpreted as believing is true.

And I learned that as women, we needed to be thin, and that was reinforced at home. And all the media that I was exposed to contained images of thin, white, socially attractive women, and Disney movies always had a really thin woman who needed to be saved by a prince, very sexist, there was no media literacy happening in my household.

This was the time where Special K has this ad campaign that said “You can’t pinch an inch.” And it was like, you shouldn’t be able to pinch an inch of your waist, which, yeah, you should probably be able to pinch more, is the way that I would respond to that now. But anyways, that was the time. That was the times that we were in. Diet culture, sexism, patriarchal society, stuff that we still have, obviously, now, it’s just sort of morphed into a different form, but back then, the message was loud and clear that you had to be thin.

And I learned that some foods are good and others are bad, and that we’re bad if we eat them. And so the overarching messages of “Watch what you eat,” and “Move less and eat more,” was really embedded into my brain.

And so what I really learned from that time of my life was, 1.) We have to speak up when we see problematic assignments and teachings in school. Because I think that was one of the biggest triggers for my disordered eating, which later really blew up on me. But if you are a parent and you see stuff like that, if your kids are being taught health and nutrition, and you see things being classified as good and bad, or you see messages that are fatphobic, that don’t promote a message that your health is disconnected from your weight, please speak up. We have to change these things in our schools, and feel free to message me if you need some resources around that.

I also learned that for me personally, this stuff was implanted in me for a long time, but it’s still possible to change our beliefs and our patterns of behavior about food and weight, and our value. Even if we’ve been operating that way from the time that we came into this world. I don’t restrict and binge anymore. I don’t see food as good or bad. And I think that it’s actually kind of shocking that I’ve overcome that, given the fact that it was so hard-coded in me from such a young age. It was like learning the English language, which is the only way that I speak. But I don’t look at food that way anymore.

And the other part that I wanted to touch on here is just the notion of forgiveness. So, like most of my clients, I was influenced by people in my life, my mother, who was under the spell of diet culture in her own way, my brother, who really bullied me for my body. I could hold a lot of resentment and anger for both of those things, and I did for a long time, so when I started to open my eyes to diet culture, I felt a lot of anger towards my mom for watering so many of the seeds that our culture had planted in me.

And it took me awhile to really get to a point where I was able to look at it and know, first of all, my mom’s amazing. She’s a really good mom, so this may not apply to everyone, because I know there are some not-so-good parents out there, people who were abused, and things like that, by their parents, or emotionally neglected. I was not one of those situations at all.

So when I talk about it, my mom was really doing this whole thing from a very innocent perspective. It was her own disordered relationship with food, that she learned from the culture, that was then part of our household. And I can have a lot of empathy for that now, because that wasn’t her fault. She grew up in a time when oppression against females, or females experiencing oppression, I guess, was even more significant than it is now. And she was hard-coded with these messages too.

And so I can have a lot of empathy for that. She was honestly doing what she thought was best to protect me, and was messed up with her own body image and her relationship with food. And so, forgiving her for that and being able to let go of any kind of blame or resentment or anger, was massively important in this process, and in this journey.

And then later on, forgiving myself too, forgiving myself for not knowing better, forgiving myself for the years of dieting, which is something that I always work with clients around, because often we’re kind of looking back and thinking, How did I not know better? How did I go down this path? Why did I waste so many years of my life? We have to forgive ourselves.

Because again, it was an innocent response to living in a culture that makes us feel the way we do about our bodies. I had to forgive my brother, because I carried around so much hatred around that for years, because it was really quite traumatizing, but I have empathy for the situation, and I’ve let go of that blame I carried around, he’s a completely different person now, we have a really good relationship, and I don’t let that get in the way anymore, at all. And I actually am able to look at that and see the gifts in it, and see how that made me stronger, more resilient. I certainly don’t take shit from men, that’s a huge one.

What else did I take away from it? Well, I think the experience in general has just given me a broader perspective and the ability to understand how much things like that can hurt you and shape how you feel about yourself. And certainly, something I want my child to learn is that bullying has lasting impacts, and not to do that. But anyways, that’s a very short way of saying it.

But forgiveness is really individual. It’s not about the other person, it’s really about you letting go, so that you can move forward. And I find that in this instance for me, my way of forgiveness was really about trying to see someone else’s perspective, trying to have empathy for it, in order to really let it go to move forward. Forgiveness is something I sometimes work with clients around, in terms of forgiving people who have done things to them, or themselves, and there’s different ways to approach it, but in this particular circumstance, it was helpful for me to really have that empathy and take that lens on it.

And then the other thing I really learned here was just the importance of neutralizing the word fat, and the shame I had associated with it. That was something that was really important for me in the process of healing from all of that, was to see fat as just a neutral descriptor. Fat and thin, they’re just neutral descriptors. Because that word was so negatively charged with shame for me, that in order to overcome that, although I don’t identify as fat, because I’m in a straight-sized body, I still needed to do the work around neutralizing that word and challenging the beliefs I had associated with it, which is a lot of the work that I do with clients as well.

And so as a parent, what I try to focus on is, I don’t use “good” or “bad” phrases around food or behaviors. We have an “all foods fit” philosophy in this house. Food is not a big deal. We don’t say, Oh, yay, you ate your broccoli! Or like, Oh, you’re going to eat all that cake? It’s just not a big deal. Food is just neutral, and we use the Ellyn Sater model, which is, we decide what we’re eating and when, and he gets to decide what he wants and how much.

So we always have an offering of food, like I have three things on a plate, and there’s always something on there that I know he really likes, and then he gets to decide how much he eats of it. And it’s unlimited, so if I put blueberries down or something, and he only wants to eat blueberries, like, the other day, he just had blueberries for lunch. He ate like a pint of blueberries, but I was like, Okay! I’m really trusting him here. And it all tends to balance out in some way, shape, or form.

And it’s been really interesting to watch, because he kind of is just not really that interested in things that are more like sweets and stuff, cakes and things. He’ll have a bite, and then just move on. Doesn’t really care that much about them. Definitely likes crunchy things better, but even then, he’ll eat them, and then just sort of stop and move on. And it’s really cool. It’s interesting to see, because that’s how we’re all born, and that’s how I believe we can all get back to that, with support and community, and the right education and the right tools to change those beliefs.

As a parent, I also want to focus on never commenting on my body or other people’s bodies in front of him, and making sure that if i hear anyone else do that, to teach him that that’s not right. And so, for anyone listening to this, I highly recommend reading Ellyn Sater’s work, following Feeding Littles, if you have a toddler, following Kids Eat in Color, I guess they’re more towards toddlers too. I’m sure there’s other ones that talk more specifically to kids. Virgina Sole-Smith, who was on one of the earlier episodes this season, talks a lot more about this as it relates to kids, and specifically slightly older. Because I think her kids are slightly older. I think. Anyways.

And if you aren’t a parent, but you know someone who is, then you can always pass along this information for them too, and the other thing I really want to do as a parent is have a lot of diversity in the media that we’re consuming and in books, and open up the discussion around these things. He’s a little too young for that now, but as he gets older, to make him aware of problematic things that we’re watching, and help to challenge those things, so that he’s questioning what he’s taking in as well.

And then most importantly, if you’re a parent, the biggest thing I want you to take away here is to do your own body image work to heal in order to role model a different way of being for your kids. Because your kids are watching everything. Like, everything. And they’re taking it in, and they’re developing their beliefs, and if you are struggling with this, that is a huge motivator to get support and work through it to heal your relationship with food and your body.

Okay, so that was my childhood. Part one. And let’s talk about the next phase of my life. And I’m not going to go into too, too many details here, because it’s really about the lessons that I want to share with you. Once I hit university and had the freedom to eat whatever I wanted, I did, so that first year, I pretty much lived off grilled cheese and cheesy bread from Domino’s, and rum and coke… not a lot of other stuff. And I didn’t work out once.

And I don’t know what shifted for me specifically, but somewhere along the way, further into my second or third year in university, I started to get really into exercising in the means of losing weight. Then by my last year of university, that was when things got pretty intense, and that’s when I was actively dieting and overexercising, and that started to get more intense after I graduated from school and started working in the corporate world.

And I can’t pinpoint anything specifically that triggered it, it just sort of happened and then gradually intensified, just beame this quest. I always sort of hated my body, but it became this quest for me to lose the weight, once and for all. I was the biggest one out of all of my friends, and again, I’m in a straight size body here, so this is coming from that perspective. But I always was like, If they can be smaller, why can’t I?

And then I remember being at my smallest, and still hating my body, and that was a common theme through all of these years. It was never enough. I would maybe think it was okay for like a day, and then I’d be like, no, no, it’s not good enough. I don’t know. I guess I needed to be invisible for it to be good enough.

And isn’t that the metaphor for it all, really? That we’re just trying to make ourselves less visible. And at the same time, more visible, because we want the validation for being attractive, and the social currency. Anyways, I’m not going to unpack that, because it’s kind of a deep thought, but just throwing that in there.

But my parents defined who I was, and it was really dependent on others giving me validation. Getting compliments from other people. That was the only thing that I wanted. And I guess it was just, feeling unlovable and unworthy, not feeling good enough, and I wanted that validation from other people.

And so that pattern of compulsively exercising, and restricting food during the week and then bingeing on the weekends, I lived like that for years. And then, when I was in my late 20s, that’s when I discovered Crossfit. And at the time, it was just called Boot Camp, and then I later found out it was actually a Crossfit. But back then, Crossfit wasn’t really a thing. It was one of the only Crossfit gyms in Canada. People didn’t really know what it was. But it turned out to be a Crossfit program. And I got into that world, and there’s so much about Crossfit that I love, and hate, and especially the kind of underlying ideologies of the owner, who they finally fired for making racist comments.

But aside from that, at the time, this was many years ago, this was like 14 years ago now, 13 years ago, but anyways, it all fed into my disordered behaviors. Because I was like, Oh, I want to look like a Crossfit person! And that’s where I started to get more into actively dieting, aside from just kind of cutting out, like eating low-fat foods. I started to actually, consciously try to diet, because it was really promoted within that culture, at least at the particular gym I was at at the time. Every gym is different. They’re not all like that, for sure. Some don’t even mention diet at all, which is what I would recommend looking for if you ever want to go down that route.

But at the time, the one that I was at was pretty entrenched in promoting the Paleo diet as part of the program. And that’s when that was really introduced to me, and I was really against it at first, because it was the polar opposite of the low-fat stuff that I was into. But then I hurt myself before my wedding, and I was unable to work out, and so I thought, Well, I want to lose weight for my wedding, so I’m going to give it a try.

And what was recommended to me was by the Crossfit trainer, and it was kind of like a combination between the Paleo diet and the Zone diet, which is essentially just a restriction of certain foods and macronutrient counting. In other words, it’s hell. It occupies a hell of a lot of your mental space, to try and figure out what the fuck you’re going to eat for each meal. And this is going to go to a later point I’m going to make, just about the time and money and energy that goes into all of this dieting that for me, personally, I was able to reclaim, and that I always see my clients able to reclaim, because they’re not doing that stuff anymore.

But let me just talk about why this is so fucked up for a moment. Because, so you have these Crossfit coaches who go to this certification in a weekend, and I know what it is, because I’ve done it, and the nutrition piece is like 1-2 hours max, but then you have these people coming out of it thinking that they can be a nutritionist, and they start prescribing these meal plans to their clients. What was prescribed to me was basically an eating disorder. Like, here’s what you should eat, and I’m not going to tell you how many calories it was, but it was what would be classified as an eating disorder, essentially.

And I remember when I took the certification, because this is way back, I’m not going to go into all of my history, but at one point, I took the Crossfit certification. I remember the girl teaching that part, she was talking about how she took a tupperware container with her measured food on a date, and everyone laughed, like this was normal. They were like, Oh, yeah! Because that’s what we all do! And that’s not normal. That’s not normal.

Yeah, I drank the Kool-aid, and I started to do types of things like that myself. I remember taking Tupperware to family events, because I was afraid to eat the food that was being served there. And so, cycling back a bit, once I started to get into that diet, and that mentality, and that sort of cult, so to speak, I really thought, Oh, this is the solution to all my problems! This is going to… I’m finally going to lose weight on this!

And I remember getting down to probably the thinnest I had been, and still, it was never enough. And then what would happen was, I would just eat everything. So I would try to eat really strict for a certain period of time, and then I would eat everything under the sun, and gain everything back, plus more, and that cycle continued for a really long time.

And then gradually my body couldn’t even do it anymore, and I remember just not being able to even restrict for three or four days. That was the most I could do it, and then I would basically just binge on the weekends, and at one point in time, I remember I went on a trip, and I gained ten pounds in two weeks, because I just had been restricting so much before. And that’s the cycle of the restrict-binge, regain more weight, that started to set in for me. And that pattern continued for a few more years.

So everything sort of progressively got worse as I got older. And that’s why whenever I have clients who are younger, I’m like, You’re so lucky to get out of this sooner than I did! And at the same time, I have clients that are older, and I’m like, It’s not too late! We can help you!

But at one point in time, I was going in to work, and I was spending the first 20 minutes of my day inputting food into a spreadsheet to track my macronutrients. And I was working out just way too excessively. And it was taking up so much time and energy, and I remember sitting there doing this, and I was like, how am I supposed to keep this up? I don’t think I’d ever really thought about the fact that, I don’t know, in my mind, I sort of thought, Okay, you diet, and then your body just stays smaller, and then you can eat normal again, and your body will stay smaller. But I just remember having this moment where I was like, Wait a minute, am I going to have to keep this up? Am I going to need this spreadsheet to track my food for the rest of my life?

And it started, I slowly started to think, Wait a minute. But I was still so obsessed and I drank so much of the Kool-aid. Diet culture had just infiltrated my brain so much. And I was trying to just feed this sense of unworthiness by trying to be thinner, that it was kind of a fleeting thought. And I just sort of let it go.

And I just went through my life, just constantly feeling panic and shame about my body. All my food decisions were based on whether or not something would cause me to gain or lose weight, which is not a good relationship with food. I was comparing myself to other people, just constantly picking myself apart, I hate myself in pictures, compulsively stepping on the scale, checking my body in the mirror, avoiding social occasions because I couldn’t control the food. And I just operated that way for years, and I definitely had body dysmorphia, when I look back.

But this was kind of like, this is when things got the most escalated, I guess you could say. And let me pause here and just talk about what I learned from this period of my life. Number one, health and nutrition advice is usually rooted in fatphobia and often disordered. So, one of the things that I encourage you to do, and people to do, is to really read Body Respect by Lindo Bacon and Lucy Amophor, and know that your BMI is not connected to health, that a lot of that is a myth. Christy Harrison does an amazing job of unpacking that in Anti-Diet, actually. I highly recommend that book.

And know that it’s okay to question health and nutrition advice that you’re getting. And that if it is rooted in fatphobia, it is probably not the best advice. It’s probably incorrect in some way, shape, or form. And often, a lot of the advice we get from these “experts” is discorded. Another thing I really learned here is that dieting gives us a sense of community validation and belonging, which a lot of us are seeking when we don’t feel good enough. When we have that lower sense of worthiness, when we don’t feel good enough, we seek out that community validation and belonging. It helps to boost our confidence, although it is fleeting. And dieting can sort of give you that.

When I remember being in the Paleo community, it was like, Ooh, I found this sense of community here. But really it was kind of rooted in diet culture, rooted in fatphobia. A lot of it’s disordered. and it wasn’t actually healthy. And what I really needed was to have communities outside of that, and to know that I was good enough regardless of whether I was getting validation from others.

Dieting can become your sense of purpose, which makes it even harder to break free from. And that’s one of the things that I really work with people around, is helping them to define their sense of purpose outside of that, now that they’re no longer in that world and dieting. And the other thing that I learned is that disordered behaviors can escalate slowly over time, and something may seem pretty innocent, and then get increasingly more problematic.

And it’s hard to know that when you’re in it, because I honestly thought everything I was doing was healthy. I really thought that was normal and healthy, because I had a trainer telling me that, I had other people telling me that, I was being validatedby the Paleo community. Everything was being promoted from under the guise of health, and this was kind of the shift of when things went from being more low-fat diet culture to wellness culture (that is really diet culture in disguise).

And we have to be really critical of those things, because they’re preaching empowerment, they’re preaching health, and really they’re not. They’re not healthy. And it’s not empowering, because it’s taking our time, our energy and money, and it’s not actually making us more healthy. It’s depleting our mental health, it’s in some cases messing up with our physical health as well.

And I truly believed at the time that everyone could just be thinner if they worked hard enough. And that’s the biggest piece of bullshit advice that diet culture sells us. That is what diet culture is propped up by, this belief that if we only worked hard enough, if we only found the one diet that would work for us, we could all be thinner. And that’s why we think we’re broken. I thought I was broken. I’m sure many of you can relate to that. But that’s how it remains so profitable, because it feeds into this idea that we’re broken because we haven’t figured it out yet. And so we have to keep trying different ones, or trying harder, sticking with it more consistently, so to speak.

And it’s all a fallacy, because we’re not all meant to be thinner. Body diversity is a real thing, and it is set up to fail. Diets are set up so that we will blame ourselves, come back, and then reinvest in them again. And again, it’s making us feel like we’re broken. And we’re not. Our bodies are actually doing the best they can to try and protect us.That’s what they’re doing when we binge. They’re trying to say, Hey, I’m trying to get you back into equilibrium here, because you’ve been depriving me. And so we feel resentment for our bodies, but really our bodies are doing the best they can to protect us, and it’s a protective response when we binge, and when our body regains weight after dieting. That’s protective.

The other thing that I want you to take away from this is that even if we do lose weight, a lot of the time, that doesn’t change the underlying feelings of not feeling good enough. And a lot of the people I work with will tell me, Even when I was at my thinnest, I still didn’t feel good enough. And we have to really know that feeling good enough doesn’t come from our body size, it comes from detaching our value from our appearance and our body size, and starting to really cultivate this belief that we are good enough.

The other thing I want you to take away from this is, we should never give people praise for people’s bodies or their food choices, because it only feeds into internalized fatphobia within ourselves and within others, and their belief that their value is in their appearance. So I remember when people were complimenting me on my body, and then they weren’t anymore, and that was really hard to let that go. Because you kind of think, Well, I’m not valuable then, because they’re not commenting on anything else. So I think as everyone listening to this, if we can all agree to not comment on people’s bodies, or their food choices, not give compliments in that way, it can go a long way towards helping to change the way that we as a culture operate.

And as I mentioned throughout, I was spending so much time, energy, and money on this quest to lose the weight once and for all. And that’s dieting, though. It’s a tool of the patriarchy. It keeps us focused on our body, instead of working towards fighting against systems of oppression. It keeps us fixated on the way that we look and trying to be more desirable, instead of having the time and energy to take up space in conversations, and call your local NPs or senators, whatever country you live in, and read and learn and participate in actually trying to change our culture.

And that’s why leaving this world behind is so freeing, because it opens you up to being able to pursue and do so many other things, even if that doesn’t look like doing something that is directly political. In many ways, just resisting it is a political act, and being a role model for others as a result, is as well.

We are going to end this episode here, and I’m going to pick it back up next week with Part II, where I talk about the healing process and how I came to the other side, and what I will call my diet culture awakening, and some of the specific things I learned there when I finally started to try to eat intuitively and when I was initially learning to accept my body as well as some of the specific steps that I took and things that I give to clients when they are starting this work that are critical in terms of breaking free of body obsession and weight obsession and food obsession. In the meantime, you can find the links and resources mentioned in this episode at summerinnanen.com/174. And I will talk to you next time. Rock on!

OUTRO: I’m Summer Innanen and I want to thank you for listening today. You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, @SummerInnanen. If you haven’t yet, go to Apple Podcasts and subscribe, rate, and review this show. I would be so grateful. Until next time, rock on!

Episode 174, Part 2

SUMMER: This episode of Fearless Rebelle Radio is brought to you by You on Fire. You on Fire is the amazing, 12-week online group coaching program that I run, where we build up your worth from the ground up, so that it’s no longer hinging on the way that you look. It’s got personalized coaching from me and incredible community support, plus life-time access. Get details on what’s included in this program, and sign up to be notified when doors open for the next cycle, by going to summerinnanen.com/youonfire. I would love to have you in that program and in that group.

Episode 174 (Part 2)

INTRO: This is Fearless Rebelle Radio, a podcast about body positivity, self-worth, anti-dieting, and Feminism. I am your host, Summer Innanen, a professionally trained coach specialising in body image, self-worth, and confidence, and the best-selling author of Body Image Remix. If you’re ready to break free of societal standards and stop living behind the number on your scale, then you have come to the right place! Welcome to the show. 

This is part 2 of Episode 174, and I am solo, coming back to my story, which was something I’ve never done on this podcast before. So if you haven’t listened to part 1, go and listen to part 1 of Episode 17, and in this second half, I’m going to be sharing the part of my story where I have what’s called my diet culture awakening, lessons I learned from recovering from those decades of chronic dieting and body hate. You can find all the links and resources mentioned in this episode at summerinnanen.com/174. 

First I want to give a shout-out to @SargentCamo, who left this awesome review: “I’m a brand-new listener to this podcast, and in the beginning stages of rejecting diet culture. Finding this podcast has really struck a cord inside. Sumter’s choice of words and phrases are those that make you feel as though she is one of my oldest friends and talking to me in a way that I don’t feel lectured. Love this so much. Thank you.”

Thank you so much! And oh, and the title of this one was “It’s like hearing my best friend speak.” Oh, that’s so kind. Thank you. I really appreciate that. I love hearing that. I really, I mean, this is just how I speak to people, so hopefully that’s just the way that I present myself. But I’m so grateful that that resonates with you and that you feel that way, because that’s how I really want this to be, like I’m just speaking to the one person who’s listening. 

And I’d love for you to leave a review if you haven’t already done so. It helps others to find the show. You can go to iTunes, search Ratings and Reviews, and then click to leave a review. It helps to bump us up in the ratings and take down all the other shows that are promoting diet culture. Yay! 

In other words, you’re contributing to the revolution by leaving a review and also by subscribing to the show, which you can do by hitting the subscribe button on whatever app you use to listen to podcasts, whether it be the Apple Podcast app, Stitcher, Spotify, YouTube… All the episodes are on YouTube too. You can subscribe there. All those things help. And lastly, you can get the free Ten Day Body Confidence Makeover at summerinnanen.com/freebies, with ten steps to take right now to feel better in your body. 

Last episode, we left off where things had sort of come to a head in terms of the damage I was doing with my body. And the impact that that had and just the things I learned and throughout my childhood, the things that had influenced my relationship with food and my body. So if you haven’t listened to that, definitely listen to that part first, because it’s going to provide a lot of context to this next part of the story, which is really revolving around my diet culture awakening, we’ll call it, and specific steps that I took to heal and things that I do with clients, and why I’m so passionate about this work. So let’s get started with the second part of this episode: 

And so the last kind of phase of this, actually no, I think there’s a couple more phases, but the second last phase is when I decided to study nutrition. So I was so obsessed and interested in food, I wanted to go back to school to study nutrition, and while I was in school and working full-time, that’s when the wheels started to fall off. I couldn’t keep up with my ridiculous tracking and workout schedule anymore, but I was still on that same restrict-binge cycle. Restrict as best as I could during the week, binge on the weekends. And it was around this time that I went off the birth control pill, and then for two years I didn’t get a period. And I assumed that was because of the pill, but later found out it was most likely due to all the overexercising and stress that was put on my body from chronic dieting. 

And this is when I just started to not feel like myself. I was gaining more and more weight, trying to follow the same routine that I had been following for years, and I really thought something was broken inside of me. 

I started to go down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out what was broken inside of me, and I spent hours listening to podcasts and reading nutrition blogs and articles, and I honestly thought that if I could just find what was broken inside of me, and find the one missing nutrient, that would solve all my problems. Everything would be okay. 

And I saw a couple doctors who, instead of saying, hey, you’ve actually got a problem, they would say, you just need to move more and eat less if you want to lose weight. And this is because my weight was never “underweight” according to the BMI, and it was always either the higher end of normal or in the “overweight” range. 

And so, doctors never looked at me and thought I had a problem. They would actually, when I would tell them I’m gaining weight and I don’t know why, they would say, You just need to eat less and move more. Which I’m rolling my eyes into the back of my head, because I’m like, Oh my gosh, they didn’t see the problem right in front of them. I remember a doctor saying, “You’re too big to have amenorrhea.” That was what a doctor said to me. 

And at this point, I was miserable, I thought I was broken, I was obsessed with food, and I was like, What is wrong with me? Why can’t I figure this out? And along the way, I finally saw a naturopathic doctor and she ran a ton of hormone tests on me, and she was the one who finally, I had to fill out a food log for her, and she looked at me when she had the results, and she said, I’m surprised you’re alive. She was like, I really don’t know how you’re operating right now. 

My hormones were the same as a post-menopausal woman and I was, at the age of 30, I was completely burned out from the chronic dieting and overexercising and stress. And it had wrecked my hormones. And she looked at what I was eating, and she was like, “Okay, we need to make some changes here. You need to eat more, you need to eat more carbohydrates, you need to stop exercising.” And her first recommendation for me was to stop doing any intense exercise. 

And I just remember crying because she told me that I couldn’t exercise. Instead of crying about my hormones being in such bad shape. And that’s when I started to really know I had a major problem, because I was like, I’m more upset about the fact that I can’t exercise, than I am about the fact that she was surprised I was alive. And I’ll just sort of stop here before I go into the next part, but what I want you to take away from this, or what I learned from this, is that a lot of us are looking for this one thing that will fix our weight, and if only we can find it, then everything will be okay. 

And that is wellness culture, and again, this belief that we’re all capable of losing weight if we just find the right solution. Or, we’re all capable of being in “perfect” health, if we just find the right solution.And here’s the thing: the solution is the problem, which is a quote from Krista Scott Dickson, who was on one of the very first episodes I did of this podcast. We have to stop participating in the culture in order to break free. 

The other thing that I want you to take away from this is that low-carb diets are the worst, okay? From my own experience, nothing has messed me up more, from all of my clients, nothing has messed them up more, and I am so glad Keto wasn’t a thing when I was doing this, because I would’ve totally gone down that road, and I don’t even know what it would’ve done to me. But that is one of the worst ones that I see, in terms of the metabolic damage that happens, in terms of how it fucks with your relationship with food and your metabolism, and the way that you feel about your body and food and everything else. 

I’m not going to go into any of the science around that. I think there’s probably bitter resources out there. I think Louise Adams has done podcasts on the Keto diet. Anyways, if you want to see someone go into the research and stuff. But I’m just talking about my experience with it, and the experiences that I’ve had with clients that have done it. Low-carb diets are the worst. So if you’re even tempted or kind of trying, just stop. Please. I’m telling you. You will regret it if you don’t.

And again, you can hear just the time and energy and money, just so much of that went into this quest for me. And to reclaim that after is just a lot of mental space that you get back. And if you’re listening to this and you feel like something isn’t right physically with you, find a doctor who can help you, and run the other way if they suggest weight loss. So those are the big takeaways I want you to take away here. 

And also, just that I think a lot of people go into nutrition or dietetic school because they’re so obsessed with food, or they have the disordered relationship with food. And I hope that what we’ll start to see is that more people start going down that road because they’re discovered intuitive eating, or they’ve discovered Health at Every Size and they want to be a practitioner in that way. 

But I can tell you, when I was in school, there was a lot of normalized disordered behaviors happening amongst the people attending. And it’s kind of like, you’ve found your people. Again, you’ve found this community of people who are all obsessed with food and it’s a little big strange, but it’s not a bash against the schooling or the education or anything like that, but I think a lot of people go into it with that disordered mentality. 

And so the last piece of this story is really what I’ll call my diet culture awakening. After I met with that naturopath, I just tried to rest, I didn’t do anything strenuous, I ate more, very slowly, and I started to dig deep into why I felt the way I did. I read a lot of Brene Brown, and I learned about self-compassion. But I was technically still dieting, as I wasn’t giving myself full permission with food, I was just eating more, and not doing strenuous activity. 

And at first I went down the road of reading Geneen Roth, and people who weren’t totally anti-diet, and still promoted weight loss, because that was my comfort zone. I was like, “Oh, I’ll just deal with the mental side of it, and then I’ll lose weight!” I went from kind of actively physically restricting and stuff, to thinking, “Well, if I just change the way I think about food, and the way I feel about my body, then I’ll be able to lose weight.” 

So that whole weight-loss theme was still there. So I think it’s pretty common. You might even be laughing and thinking, That was me! or That is me! And that’s totally fine. That’s often one step in the process, because it’s a little bit safer than going all the way towards rejecting diets. 

But somewhere along the way, I remember searching “body image” through podcasts, and at the time, there was only really one, and it was hosted by Anne-Sofie Reinhardt, who’s still around with her podcast, Escape Diet Prison. It wasn’t called that. At the time, she was co-hosting with somebody else. And I remember listening to them, and they were talking about their eating disorder recovery, and they kept talking about this book called When Women Stop Hating their Bodies. And I got it, and I just, that was when so many lightbulbs went off for me. 

And this book is quite old. I don’t remember if it’s 100% free of fatphobia. I think it is. It certainly helped me a lot at the time. But I’m just putting that caution out there, because I haven’t read it in a long time. But for me, a lot of light bulbs went off when I first read it. And that eventually led me to find Intuitive Eating, and again, so many lightbulbs went off. And that was a long process. That was not a quick process, as those beliefs were so hard-coated in me. It was a slow awakening and opening of my eyes. I didn’t suddenly say, “Fuck this! I’m done with dieting and I’m going to smash my scale and eat whatever I want!” Some people do that, and that’s awesome. I think that’s fantastic. Like, go, get through it! I slowly dipped my foot into it, and gave myself more permission to eat. 

This was a time when there weren’t all these Instagram accounts, there weren’t a lot of people talking about it, there weren’t podcasts about it. So it was all really new and felt very, like, What the hell is this? Is this right? But something in it just felt right to me. And as I began to work on the root of the issue, which was the way I felt about myself, I realized that the way I felt about my body was really just this lack of self-worth and not feeling good enough. 

And I did a lot of personal development. I read a ton, as I said, I worked with coaches, I worked with a therapist along the way, who connected a lot of dots for me, helped me to change my beliefs, helped me to cultivate compassion, helped me to really discover who I was outside of dieting and my appearance. Dieting had been my identity for so long, so I didn’t really know who I was without being the annoying girl who talked about how gluten was the devil. 

And before this awakening, as I mentioned, I was a nutritionist, I had started a business as a nutritionist, and I was focused around weight loss at the time. Because that’s what I thought we were all supposed to do. But I kept seeing the same patterns show up in my clients that had shown up in me, so that same cycle of restrict-binge-blame-repeat-hate your body, start over. 

And as I was waking up to how fucked up this was, I started to change how I worked with clients. And I slowly stopped focusing on our weight and focused more on helping them have a good relationship with food. And I realized that body image was at the root of everyone’s dissatisfaction. This was the reason they dieted. Much like me, they thought they were broken and needed to be fixed. So I realized that every client that I was working with had struggled with their body image, and kept thinking that food and exercise and weight loss was the solution. And that’s when I realized that, Okay, if we can actually help people with the way that they feel about their body, and address the body dissatisfaction piece of the puzzle, which is inherently connected to self-worth, then they would be able to get off that cycle, and they would be able to experience the peace and freedom they wanted. It would break that cycle. 

And so I had worked with a couple different life coaches in my journey, and something about the way they worked really resonated and connected with me, more so than the therapist, and that was just my own personal experience there. I also have a therapist now. I just see them being two different jobs, two different roles. But I just loved the whole coaching thing. I was like, “Oh, this is something that really resonates with me, and I want to do it.” So then I took a couple of different courses to change course in my professional life, and become a life coach, and use everything that I learned in life coaching to really help people to accept their body and live their lives. 

And the initial struggle I had in creating the business was that people were so connected to weight loss, and used to being sold weight loss as the solution, so it was like a 180 to really remove that outcome and to say, “This is not about the size of your body. This is about the way you feel about your body, and what if you can feel accepting and confident in the body that you have? Or as my tagline is, What if your perfect body is the one you’re in today? What if you can live your life and be free of these negative thoughts, and be able to really know who you are in your core, and know that you’re valuable and worthy. What if we work on that? Can we work on that? 

And it has worked! I’m still here. Seven years later, or however long I’ve been focusing specifically on body image. But being authentic and having integrity was always more important to me, and I knew there were enough people out there who were done with dieting, that would want to take this leap. And so now, when I’m working with people, I’m really focusing on self-worth, because that’s the worth of our negative feelings about our body and us believing that our value is in our appearance. And I believe we’re good enough as-is, and I believe that if we can all believe that we’re good enough as-is, then our body size and our appearance won’t matter so much anymore. 

And so, the things I really learned there is, it’s okay to ease your way into this stuff. Everyone has a different process and way of doing it. Some people promote kind of really just diving in, just eating whatever you want, give yourself full permission. And that’s great. I do that sometimes with clients too. And some people slowly dip their toe in. And that’s fine too. The biggest thing that was holding me back from really diving in was fear of weight gain. 

And that’s why body image work is so important. To really become an intuitive eater, you have to heal your relationship with your body. And just accept that your body’s going to do what it’s going to do. You can’t just turn off that desire to lose weight. It’s a really slow process. You can be working on accepting your body, and still have that desire to lose weight. Those things will exist concurrently for a long time. And the majority of people hope they’ll lose weight by doing Intuitive Eating and working on body acceptance, at the beginning. That’s totally normal. And that’s okay too. Again, we can’t get rid of that desire or that hope until we’ve actually worked on accepting your body. 

And I don’t want to make it look like it happened really quick. The healing process was long. I think I ate past a comfortable level of fullness for two or more years before my brain finally got the memo that the famine was over. So it can take a really long time to rewire these thoughts and behaviors. 

One of the things that I did, one of the mistakes I made along the way, was turning Intuitive Eating into a hunger-and-fullness diet. I still struggle with not feeling good enough, but it’s rarely about my body anymore, and I’m able to be more resilient when these things show up. The discovery part of this process is also really important, so I needed a life outside of dieting and fixating on my body. I didn’t have that. I needed to really discover who I was beyond that. What my values are. What my value is. What qualities I bring to this world. What my purpose is. And that’s a huge part of the work I do with people, because we need to know who we are in order to then know that we’re valuable and worthy. 

And the changes happened really slowly over time. You don’t just wake up one day and think, “I’m good in my body now! Yeah! No, I’m good!” You hardly even notice it. One day you just sort of realize you didn’t hate your body today. And then, maybe you have a bad day, then maybe you have a couple more days where you’re like, “Oh, I didn’t really think about my body today.” 

And then they just keep growing and growing until you’re like, “Wait a minute! I haven’t really felt guilty about food in awhile.” Or “I haven’t mirror checked in awhile,” or “I haven’t been really critical of myself.” And it’s pretty amazing how it happens, but it takes intention and practice. It doesn’t just happen with a hope and a dream. It happens with: “I’m actually going to work on this stuff. I’m really going to work on changing my beliefs. I’m going to work on knowing my value outside of my value. I’m going to work on self-compassion.” It takes intention and practice. 

And for me, investing in my recovery and exploring the reasons I felt the way I did was massively helpful. The biggest ah-ha moments I had were when I was working with other coaches who helped me, and a lot of it was when I did my coaches training too. Just the training is really intense, because you do it all on yourself too, and there’s a lot of stuff that was uncovered in that, that was immensely helpful for me. Which is just why I’m so passionate about coaching in general, because I just know the power of it. 

The last thing I want to speak to here is some important steps that I took along the way, that really really helped me. I’ve mentioned a couple books, and just reading Brene Brown, and working with coaches and stuff, but I just want to specifically talk about some of the tools or actions that were game-changing, so to speak, in this process for me. And things that probably are going to be no surprise for you if you’ve been listening to me for any time, or if you’ve done the Ten Day Body Confidence Makeover, because they are covered in there as well. 

But getting rid of the scale was huge for me, and it took me a long time to get rid of it. I didn’t get rid of it right away at all. I sort of kept it around and thought to myself, Okay, I’m not really going to use this. Or, I’m going to use it less often. And then I’d step on it from time to time, and I was still just hooked on that number. And if the number was up, then I would just feel shame and panic about my body. And if the number was down, I’d feel like, This is amazing, and what can I do to keep this? What have I been doing? And so, it really kept the focus on my body and it kept the focus on my value being in the size of my body. 

And I remember one day, just stepping on the scale and having that flood of shame and panic, and thinking to myself, I’m in an abusive relationship with this scale. I would never let any other human being treat me the way that this scale does. It was belittling me, it was creating shame in me, and I was a prisoner of its power. And I just remember thinking about it that way, and I actually wrote a blog post about it at the time, which is probably still somewhere in existence on the internet, about how one can have an abusive relationship with their scale. 

And that was really the breaking point where I thought, You know what, I’m going to get rid of this. And I think, I can’t remember if I… I’m pretty sure I got rid of it, or put it away, and then that was when I did the very first photo shoot I ever did, smashing it with a sledgehammer. Not the pictures that you’ve maybe seen more recently of me doing that, but one of my initial photo shoots that I did when I first started working as, I think it was still a nutritionist at the time, actually. But that’s when I was slowly starting to move away from doing that. But that was huge for me. 

And I really do insist on that when I work with people. Getting rid of it. I think it’s really cathartic to do something where you smash it or throw it in the trash, or drive over it with your car, because it just releases some of that energy, and it releases this notion that it has power over you. It’s really a reclamation of power, when you get rid of it. 

The next thing was getting rid of the clothes that didn’t fit me anymore. And I had so many nice clothes from my corporate days, when I had a lot of disposable income at that time to spend on really nice clothes. And I cared more about what people thought of me, and labels and things like that. I don’t care so much about those things anymore. But at the time, I had really nice clothes, and they didn’t fit me anymore. And that was really hard. 

And I remember just having a lot of tears and it was kind of this mourning process to get rid of those clothes but once they were gone, and the clothes that I had available to me, were ones that fit my body, and I felt comfortable in. Again, it was like a reclamation of power, because before, those smaller clothes had power over me. And every time I went into my closet, it was like the voice of my inner critic or the voice of diet culture, whatever you want to call it, telling me that I needed to watch what I ate, or I should exercise more, all that stuff. It was just perpetuating that disordered relationship with food and my body. 

And so that was really really transformational for me as well. And I know that’s a really hard step, because it can bring up a lot of emotions. And so, I suggest maybe putting them away first, out of sight, out of mind, and then slowly getting rid of them if they don’t fit. But you’ll see that when you have stuff that fits you comfortably, it’s so much easier to feel better in your body, like physical comfort really really influences the way we emotionally feel in our bodies. 

The next thing was social media. Actually, these might be kind of out of order, but the next thing was social media and just changing all of that. Because all I followed was nutrition pages, and pages that were promoting weight loss, and even from the perspective of “wellness,” things that were making me feel like I had to bio-hack my metabolism in order to figure out what was wrong with me. 

And realizing that I didn’t have anyone in a larger body on my social media feed. And how damaging that is. No one that even looked like me, for that matter. I mean, everyone was just in a very thin body. And that can do a lot of damage to the way that we feel about ourselves, when we’re only exposing ourselves to those images, which is what the media presents to us as the “normal image.” 

So to change that, and to unfollow, delete all of the accounts that made me feel bad about myself, or made me fixate on food or my body, and then really discover this world of body positivity, and plus-size models at the time, that was a lot of the accounts that I followed at the time. Really really helped for me to see and dismantle these beliefs that I had about thinness being better, and confident, and all the other things I had associated with it. It helped me to really see, Okay, you can be in a larger body and look super cute and have awesome relationships and live your life and be athletic and all these other things. And that was really really transformational as well. 

The other thing was working on changing my beliefs about what it means to be in a larger body, versus a thin body. And really, what those things mean to me. So, why was weight loss so important to me? And getting to the root of that so I could really work through those fears and break free of those beliefs that were really limiting and causing me to continue to go back to wanting to lose weight and feel better about myself. 

And then learning self-compassion and the first book I ever read on that was Dr. Kristin Neff’s book. She has been on the podcast before. I will link to that one in the show notes. But her book, Self-Compassion, is kind of the book on self-compassion. And I think there might be some stuff in there that is fatphobic. I really can’t remember. It’s one of those books I read so many years ago. So I just give you a heads-up there. 

I think that a lot of times, people evolve in their work, and so I think that there’s still a ton of amazing stuff in that book, even if there is a couple mentions of weight loss. But anyways, take what you will from it. I certainly got a lot from that. That’s a foundational thing that I teach to people, self-compassion, and really cultivating that voice of self-compassion within ourselves, in order to build up this sense of enoughness, and this belief that we are good enough as is. It’s huge. It’s huge. 

And then, the other thing that was really big for me was recognizing that body shame was a go-to way for me to manage complex anxieties and stresses in my life. Whenever I was experiencing things like overwhelm or vulnerability, or anxiety, I would immediately get urges to diet, start fixating on my body more, because fixating on my body was easier than feeling and dealing with these larger feelings at play. 

And so, being able to separate those two things and then learning how to feel and express feelings and tune into those and tend to those, was huge for me. Because I was able to then see, Okay, this is not about my body, this is really about these feelings that I’m feeling. And it’s society that’s made me feel that my body is the problem. And it’s diet culture that’s made us use dieting and weight fixation as a coping mechanism. And so, those were some of the really big steps along the way. I’ve kind of mentioned other ones, just in terms of finding my value outside of my body and my purpose and everything out. 

But those are some steps that I found to be really important, and today, I really don’t think much about my body anymore. I mean, I don’t look in the mirror and think, I’m so hot. I never think that. It’s just kind of there. And I’ll look at it, and maybe I like it, maybe I don’t, and usually it’s just kind of neutral, and I’m on with my day. And I’m like, my weight fluctuates, and I’m like, okay, well, it is what it is. My body’s going to do what it’s going to do, I can trust it and just do my best to treat it with compassion and respect and treat myself with compassion and respect. But I know that I’m good enough, regardless of that body size and regardless of what other people are thinking about me. 

Where I still struggle a lot with self-doubt is in my work, not when I’m working with clients, but just getting your message out there, and the performance of the business and things like that. I mean, that’s really hard. It’s hard to completely detach your worth from everything, and I think that’s one area that is always going to be a bit of a work in progress for me, because I’ll always be a bit of a recovering perfectionist in that way. I don’t think I’ll ever completely be a non-perfectionist. I think it’s just in my DNA. And that’s okay, but it’s more about having the tools to be able to work through those moments to build resiliency, to be able to still get out there and do the work I want to do, without letting fear of rejection or failure or other people’s opinions get in the way of that. 

And in terms of food and movement, it’s just, I have a really great relationship with both of those now. Food is just totally neutral. I eat what I eat, I eat what I want, I move on with my life. I move my body because it feels good, I rest it because it feels good. There’s no should’s or guilt around either of those things anymore. And that is just a huge sense of calm and peace and freedom. 

And it’s given me this fulfilling life outside of food and my body, and I think that one of the biggest things, one of the biggest gifts in all of this, was being able to have a child after all those years of messed-up hormones. I honestly didn’t think it was going to be possible. The years of abuse on my body, combined with just deciding I wanted kids way later in life. I really didn’t think it was going to be possible. 

And so I do believe that the healing process I went through, and eating like a grown-ass woman, helped so much with my fertility and being able to get pregnant. And I know that fertility is really complex, and even if you’re eating like a grown-ass adult, there are still some factors that can get in the way of that. So I’m not saying that that’s the one solution there at all. But I do know that that was immense. I wouldn’t have been able to, I didn’t have a period, I wouldn’t have been able to get pregnant before. 

And so I am so so grateful for that, and what my body was able to do, and that I’m able to focus on being a parent without worrying about how my body looks, or what he’s eating, or what I’m eating, or having to “get my body back.” That’s amazing, and that’s such a gift, and to have this additional sense of purpose outside of, well, dieting and weight hasn’t been my purpose for awhile, but to have this additional purpose now is just, it’s amazing. 

So none of that is to say I don’t have bad days. I totally have major ups and downs, especially in the days before I get my period, I’m a bit of a disaster. But I know that that’s why. And I also know it’s totally normal to have ups and downs. And so, I’m going to end this episode here. I hope that you found it insightful and helpful. 

I recorded a lot of this a couple days ago, and then ran out of time to finish it, so came back to loop back around and close this episode out. And in those past two days, I started to overthink everything I had put in this episode, and ruminate on it, because that’s what I do. And I started to think, Oh my god, are people going to think that… what am I saying about my mother? What am I saying about my brother? And so, just to make myself feel better, I really have the best relationship with my mom. She’s amazing. She was an amazing, amazing mother. She was just wrapped up in diet culture. 

And so, I do want to really stress that, because when I focus on telling my story, and I focus on those pieces of it, it’s only focusing on that one sliver of my mom’s influence on me. And there was so much that she gave me in terms of being strong, being resilient, not taking shit from people, going after the things I want, working hard… there’s so much that she gave me and that I learned from her. This was one sliver of it, it happened to really form my life in a different way, but it’s given me, I can see it as a gift now, because it’s given me this work. And something that I just feel so passionate about, and changing for the next generation. 

And same thing with my brother. We have a great relationship now. He’s a totally different person, and I think that everyone is allowed to change and become better versions of themselves, and that we can forgive for past things, if that person changes and is a better person. And again, I’m much stronger as a result of that. 

So I just needed to say that for my own comfort, because I’ve been ruminating on this for awhile, for like 48 hours. So that was this episode here. I mentioned a couple links. I’ll share those in the show notes. You can find the show notes for this episode at summerinnanen.com/174. Thank you so much for listening. I hope that pieces of this have resonated with you, and helped you to just give you hope and give you some lessons to help you on your journey. Thank you so much. Rock on.

OUTRO:  I’m Summer Innanen and I want to thank you for listening today. You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, @SummerInnanen. If you haven’t yet, go to Apple Podcasts and subscribe, rate, and review this show. I would be so grateful. Until next time, rock on!

    Share this Post

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.