Ep. 116: My Dieting Story {Replay}

My dieting story {replay} Blond haired woman wearing a yellow shirt and black pants, sitting outdoors by a shop window and eating vibrant red strawberries. White canvas bag with French bread sits near her.

I’m re-airing my first ever Quit Dieting for Good episode today! This one is all about my dieting story. It’s a reminder I’ve been where you are; I dieted for 15 years! It is completely possible to begin intuitive eating at any time in your life, no matter how long you’ve been a dieter.

I would love to help you apply intuitive eating principles to your life! Although I haven’t accepted one-on-one clients for awhile, I have a few openings now since I’m coming back from maternity leave. If you’ve been thinking about trying intuitive eating out, I’d love to connect with you and see if coaching might be the perfect next step. You can apply HERE.

7 Years of Intuitive Eating

I started my own intuitive eating journey in May 2014! I love intuitive eating, and have no plans to do anything else. Since this episode about my dieting story aired (115 episodes ago!), I’ve continued to grow my practice. Here’s a quick update on that before we rewind all the way back to my dieting days.

Something I especially appreciate about this way of living is that it can transition with you through any age and stage. I’ve lived in two countries, gone through two pregnancies and births, and started a business — and intuitive eating has been part of my life through it all! The way I eat has changed over the years, because my body and life have changed. Intuitive eating has been a source of freedom and joy as I’ve navigated other parts of my life (through the ups and the downs).

I’ve also found I’m passionate about teaching others about intuitive eating because it WORKS. It’s sustainable, it feels good, and it allows you to practice daily self-care. It’s the honest truth: there’s no reason you have to stay stuck in the dieting trap (even though it’s January!). You get to build the life you want, and you don’t have to diet to do it. Instead, you can learn about body confidence, self-care, loving yourself, and being free.

Intuitive eating has served me well these last seven years, and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

A Few Updates Since Ep. #1!

If this is our first time meeting, I’m Caitlin Ball! I’m married to an awesome guy, and we now have two adorable kids together. (If you’re a sucker for baby pics, you can see the newest little guy here.) At the time I first recorded this Cooper was just 19 months old, so our family has been growing! Also, since this episode Jon and I have moved back to the San Francisco area. As much I treasured our time in Switzerland, it’s wonderful to back near our friends and families.

I have continued to work as a Health & Lifestyle Coach. In a nutshell, I help women learn to quit dieting and gain confidence in their bodies and selves. That includes 1-1 coaching, as well as a group coaching program called Quit Dieting for Good.

My hobbies include yoga, baking, paint-by-numbers, and learning more about eco-friendly living. My favorite snack is chocolate – I don’t let a day go by without indulging! (Side note: the grocery store chocolate in Switzerland is better than any chocolate I’ve ever had in the US. It’s insane!)

My Dieting Story

I’ve always loved food! My grandpa used to tell this story that as a baby I would cry between bites of food because no one could feed me fast enough. Today, I still dream about food and love getting excited about my next meal.

However….I also experienced a lot of discomfort in my body. I grew a lot faster than most other girls my age, which created an obvious size gap. In fact, in grade school pictures I was always placed next to the biggest guy in our class (who went on to become an NFL linebacker). On top of that, I was a little socially awkward. I was good at school, less so with the social stuff!

By middle school, I started to think I was too chubby. Reading the magazines and seeing what others did inspired me to think I should start losing weight. My mom (who used to be a WW consultant) taught me how to count points. That summer, I lost 8 pounds. I was thrilled to show up for picture day with a new, slimmer face. The rush of confidence I felt about my weight loss felt so good.

Starting the Yo-Yo Cycle

Back at school, I gave up my dieting. I had slumber parties to go to, and pizza to enjoy! As you can probably guess…I gained back all the weight I had been so proud to lose.

Even when I wasn’t officially dieting, calorie counting became a constant weight on my mind as well. Even when I was eating something I wanted to eat, I would feel tremendous guilt about eating things I knew I “shouldn’t” be eating. Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches became my passion…even though I had to eat 2-3 to be satisfied.

Now, I realize that I was actually craving confidence. I had been uncomfortable in my body, and I wanted to be more social and confident like the girls I admired. In my mind, starting a new diet and losing weight was going to position me to look better and feel good about myself.

Through high school my friends and I frequently dieted together. We’d restrict ourselves to look great for the next dance or school event….then binge on all our favorite foods as soon as it was over. We also started getting interested in boys…which led to my first boyfriend!

Weight Loss & Approval

Once I started hanging out with my boyfriend all the time, I was no longer using food to comfort and distract me. (I was having so much FUN!) Initially, that resulted in a lot of natural weight loss. My boyfriend’s mom owned a high fashion clothing store, and on a trip to LA once she had me try on some of the clothes. I was the smallest I had ever been….but I couldn’t fit into a lot of them. When we left, she said “Now you know what you need to work towards.”

As I got more comfortable and settled into my new normal, however, I gradually put that weight back on. Unfortunately, his mom noticed, and she was not thrilled about it. She walked in on us eating ice cream once, squeezed my leg, and said “Caitlin! You’re going to get fat!” Once, in front of his whole family, his mom told his aunt not to pressure me to try a donut because I needed to lose weight. Agh!

If you’ve had someone in your life offering you that sort of “advice” or feedback, I feel your pain! That sort of thing really gets into your head, and it doesn’t feel good.

As I progressed through college, I went through cycles of partying, having tons of fun, and gaining weight….then going home for summer, dieting hard, and trying to return thinner than ever. In fact, I once got a terrible stomach bug over the summer and ended up thinking of it as “the jump start” my body needed because it resulted in me losing 7 pounds.

Loss and Comfort Food

Losing my mom to breast cancer was tremendously hard, and I turned quickly to food to deal with the pain. Between the eating and the partying, I gained any weight I might have lost, sending me back into the restricting/binging cycle typical of all diets. Looking back now, I can see that I was seeking comfort. At the time, however, it seemed like just eating.

My first “break” from the dieting mentally came when I went abroad after college. I decided I wasn’t going to calorie count or restrict myself, and that I could eat whatever I wanted. This was kind of like the first step of intuitive eating, except I wasn’t doing any internal work alongside it!

Pair that with the stressors of being in a new country, observing the anniversary of my mom’s death far away from my family, and general struggles feeling comfortable with who I was….and you have a recipe for eating as a form of comfort and relief. When my family visited me for Christmas, my brother was immediately concerned for me.

Up-Leveling My Dieting Game

I realized I hadn’t been taking care of myself very well, and I wanted to change. So…back to dieting! I started using My Fitness Pal and attending spin classes. Eating “healthy” became an obsession, and I was constantly pushing myself to eat “right”. (Although Sundays were all about enjoying and overindulging since I knew I would be back to restricting on Mondays. You’re probably familiar with that cycle!)

I didn’t yet know how to stop counting calories and enjoy eating!

I tried running (and ran my probably-only-ever half marathon), and got into the smoothie cleanse trend. My friends and I were all doing a lot of the same things; eating “good” food, working out, counting calories and following trends.

And then…

I started a baking blog! Even though I was giving away as much of it as I could, it was a struggle because the comfort of baking made me think of my mom.

New Ways of Thinking About Food

When I was dating my (now) husband, I remember thinking it was crazy he would quit eating with food on his plate. He’d have a few bites left and just…stop eating.

When I questioned him he shrugged and said he just wasn’t hungry anymore. Having grown up in a family that insisted you don’t waste food and always cleaned your plate, that was crazy to me! (Plus, it just didn’t make sense with the dieting story I had believed for so long.) Now I realize that Jon was just already practicing intuitive eating principles; when he was full, he stopped eating.

As I prepped for my wedding, I was working hard to lose weight. I tried a yoga retreat and working out 2 hours a day and all sorts of other things. Ultimately, I settled on doing Whole 30, which ended up being my last major diet! It also taught me that my body doesn’t really love dairy, which I discovered when I reintroduced it.

Enjoying My Food & Eating for My Body

Post-wedding, we headed back to Switzerland and I started yoga teacher training. I realized pretty quickly that I had to eat appropriately to have enough energy to get through the long days. I also realized that yoga training and dairy weren’t going to be a great fit for me, for reasons you can guess!

It was the first time in my life I started eating for my body, which was crazy! Around that time, I also came across an intuitive eating class. It was perfect timing, and I dove in headfirst.

I started eating food that felt good for my body.

Vegetables and lighter foods became something that I chose because I wanted them.

Sweets were something I could indulge in with joy and pleasure – no more guilt.

Eating more food when I already felt full didn’t work for me anymore.

Dieting no longer seemed like the key to feeling good in my body.

My emotions were something I could talk about and journal through, rather than eat.

Body acceptance became real and possible; not something other people were able to do that I could never attain.

Practicing yoga became about doing yoga and feeling strong, rather than losing weight or changing my body. (Yay for intuitive movement!)

My {Real} Dieting Story

Dieting does NOT work.

Intuitive eating is powerful because you get to incorporate everything: your body, mind, emotions, and full self. You get to practice self-care, love yourself without guilt or shame, and grow in confidence and acceptance of who you are.

Now that I’ve experience this, I can say with confidence that my dieting story has come to an end. I’m free from that, and I’m here to say that you can gain that same freedom yourself!

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