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Disordered eating.  What does it mean for you?   

Do you feel like you have a healthy, sane relationship to food and your body or are you caught in a constant struggle to control your food to get to or maintain a certain body size?  You may have lost and gained weight so many times that your metabolism is crying foul. Or sadly, you may not be able to look in a mirror without spewing harsh words at yourself.  

There’s also a new category, orthorexia.  This is when you become so obsessed with a healthy diet, perfect macros at each meal and a certain shaped body that you cannot enjoy eating.  This might not seem like it is as destructive as other extreme dieting.  I mean, at least you are trying to eat healthy food and not starve yourself, right?  But we have seen this mindset be just as destructive and damaging to living a healthy, happy life. Wherever you fall into this food, body image stew we’ve created a program to help you heal.  

Zesty Ginger has teamed up with Stacie Heintze, an Eating Psychology coach, to dig into how this struggle is affecting many people. Whether it shows up for you as chronic dieting, fear of food, bingeing, overeating, negative body image or any combination.  

We wanted to start by telling you our personal stories.

Hi I am Stacie. Here is my story.

Sometimes it feels like a professional Ping-Pong match is taking place in my brain and the players are volleying the latest nutritional facts, diets and the “perfect” body shaped images I need to attain.  Living in a world where a woman’s body size and shape are continuously being critiqued the messages are ubiquitous.  

Growing up in a family where food was often restricted and my body was frequently commented on, I was hungry a lot.  I was hungry for real food and real acceptance.  Like many parents, mine were passing on what they thought was right and what they were taught.  However, I grew up having no idea how to feed myself, something so basic to survival was a minefield for me.  Everything was measured in terms of how it would impact the size of my hips.  Often times I’d eat as few as 800-900 calories per day, did I mention how hungry I was!  

Over the years my weight began to Ping-Pong from underweight to overweight and all points in between.  It’s been a crazy-making journey, but what I’ve learned along the way is how to truly listen to my body and to respect what it’s telling me by honoring what it needs and accepting that needs change.  If I’m truly listening then I can navigate those changes without going “crazy” and make adjustments.  That’s what “normal” eaters do. So many of the “perfect” diets out there are based on what the authors did for their body, what worked for them.  The problem is that we don’t all have the same physiological make-up and trying to align our unique selves to their plans often doesn’t work.  

What I’ve been able to do with practice, trial and error and learning how to respect and accept my body where it’s at is to figure out how to best eat for myself on any given day.  For some this may seem like, duh, but if you’re like me and have struggled with trying to figure this out, it’s life changing.  If you’ve tried a bazillion diet plans only to regain what’s lost and then some, if you’ve struggled with digestive issues, mood issues, overeating, binge eating, body hating then you know how much energy this constant struggle saps from your life and living your best life.

Hi, I’m Megan.  You may know me, I am the co-founder of Zesty Ginger. 

Today I am going to tell you something about myself that I have not shared with some of my closest family and friends (until now!  Hi mom!!!).  I consider myself an intelligent person.  I don’t mean crazy brilliant, but smart enough to get all A’s in school, be able to land a good job and then start my own successful business.  But I had an experience in college that left me really questioning my sanity. What was going on up there in that organ in my skull that made an intelligent person act in ways that made me feel so unintelligent?

I was a college student studying to become a mechanical engineer and although I could handle my papers and final exams, I couldn’t seem to ‘control’ my own body.  For a 6-12 month period (not sure I kind of blocked it out!) in college I was bulimic.  Yes, I would binge and purge.  I would eat boxes and boxes of Little Debbie cakes and those prepackaged apples pies and stuff myself at the all-you-can-eat dining hall and then throw it up. Not a pretty sight I know, but this was my painful reality.

The most bothersome aspect was that I felt like I didn’t have any control.  I didn’t want to be binging and purging and knew intellectually that it was a horrible thing to be doing to my body.  I would actually go the library and sit and read books about bulimia in an attempt to snap myself out of it.  I thought if I kept reading about how it was going to ruin the enamel on my teeth and ruin my long term health that I could somehow get myself to stop.  Unfortunately mind over matter didn’t seem to work. Because knowing about something, doesn’t make change.

My days of extreme dieting are over (thank goodness for no more binging and demolishing boxes of Atkin’s peanut butter cups). But, by healing I gained insight into what drove me to my “crazy” behavior, how I felt the need to have some control in my life and controlling my food provided that for me during a very stressful time.

How would it feel to ditch the body shame, food confusion, waiting to do, say or reach your highest potential until you have the “perfect” body?  How would it feel to let go of chronic dieting, be content and present in your body, to not view your body as the problem?  It’s pretty freeing that’s for sure, not that we’ve reached the pinnacle, we haven’t.  But being able to let go of so much confusion and body shame has given us a sense of lightness and hope which serves as a wonderful touchstone to be able to keep coming back to on the days where we’re having a bad body day and not feeling all unicorns and roses.  

From practicing, making wrong turns, beating oneself up, and failing so many times, we now more often than not can listen to our bodies and make choices that strengthen, create peace and health and honor our needs.  The great thing about this is that it translates to so many areas of our lives; where aren’t we listening, what are we doing that we don’t want to do, what do we want, need, how can we help folks around us?  It’s not just about the food! That’s been the real beauty of this work and where we’ve gained so much perspective.

We help folks navigate this uncertain terrain to figure out what’s best for them and how to shut down that constant Ping-Pong game in their head and find and listen to their voice.  AHHH, what a relief to be able to trust oneself!

If these stories resonate with you, know that you are not alone.   Whether you are restricting calories and following an extreme diet, binging or just eat “so healthy” that you can’t step outside of your house, we feel your pain. We are able to better serve our audience when we can hear YOUR story.  

Do you have time to tell us about your story and struggles?  Click this link to answer a 1 question survey !! Do you already know that you need more support on this topic?  We have a really exciting program in the works with Eating Psychology coach Stacie.  Click here to jump on the early update list.