Addressing a reader’s concern–is it possible to lose weight without resorting back to disordered eating?

me & the kids Me & Hyrum, Amalia, 2009

 

This is not the post I was intending to write today.

But, from time to time, I receive notes from you. They touch me, make me think, & occasionally, like this one, cause me to be put on the defensive.

Today, I received the following from a reader (I’ve changed her name):

ive only commented once on your blog before (a few weeks ago) although I have been reading it for a few years….. I too am a vegan Christian mama pregnant with number 4. I suffered from an eating disorder in the past and have been recovering for the last 12 years. anyway, I was so exited when you posted your ‘curves‘ post a yearish ago and I have it saved and read it often as inspiration. there are many foodie bloggers out there who are also vegan and in ‘recovery’ from an ED past, but I honestly don’t think they are really ‘recovering’ but still suffering. anyway, your curves post and a few others really distinguished you from the crowd. you had given much such strength through those posts. I think on them often. anyway, I know that you just gave birth and I understand what that post-baby body feels like both physically and emotionally. and im honestly hurt at the measures you are going through and the things you are saying to ‘get back your bod’. I am in no way judging you. we all live different paths and I obviously don’t know you personally. and trust me, I know that I will feel the same way after this new bundle is in my arms. it just frightened me. because I looked up at you being so strong to embrace those curves and realize the more important things in life. and now im worried that I too wont be able to stand strong….Clara

I typically don’t respond to emails immediately–I like to let them stew for a bit before I formulate a response. But with this one, I felt it imperative to write back immediately. So that the response given wasn’t overly thought out,  but rather raw & honest.

 

Here’s my response:

Wow Clara. I think I will need a few moments to truly digest what you’ve written.

First, I want to say thank you for having the courage to write to me! I think most people would just think what you’re thinking & move on, & not take the time to write me a very personal email. So thank you for that.

Second, I’m not sure I can address all of what you’ve brought up in this email, but let me just share a few thoughts that come to mind.
I understand where you are coming from. Having struggled with disordered eating in my past (I go into greater detail in my ebook), I too have struggled with finding just the right balance with exercise, my relationship with food, & my body image. I spent a good chunk of the past decade immersed in the world of professional fitness, & was always in the spotlight as the instructor. This taught me so much about relating with others & how so many of us just want to feel good and be fit. I learned to truly love the joy of movement & also learned how awesome our bodies are! How we can stretch, bend, & give them just the right amount of resistance to adapt & grow stronger.
I also saw a darker side of the fitness world–one in which diet & the body become idols of sorts. It can become all-consuming & the pursuit for a “perfect” body can be never-ending, & rather fruitless.
As a result of these experiences, combined with my perspective gained as a mama of now five beautiful children, I’ve learned a lot.
That curves post marked a major turning point in my thought process, sort of a culmination of a lot of experiences. I became pregnant just shortly after I wrote that post (just a matter of months). From the writing of that post all the way through my pregnancy to a few weeks after, I didn’t exercise (at least formally). There were a lot of reasons, but I feel the pendulum had swung. And in hind sight (which is always 20-20, right?), I wish I had exercised, I had paid a bit more attention to my diet. Because, as you may know from reading my blog, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Whether or not this diagnosis was a result of my lack of exercise or what I was eating is neither here nor there, I know that I could have done better.
I’m a person prone to extremes. I’ve been rather transparent about this fact over the years with my readers.
Whether I like it or not, finding balance is something I have to work really hard at achieving. When I do something, I go all the way, I’m committed, focused, I work hard. But this drive, & tendency for extremes is something I also have to temper with a good amount of thinking, deliberation, discernment, & dialogue–particularly with my husband, & as a person of faith, with God.
Though I’ve struggled in the past (as I’m sure 90% of women do) with finding the right balance & approach to weight & exercise, diet, & body image, have to believe that it is possible to lose weight (through diet & exercise) without resorting to extreme measures or disordered eating behaviors. I have to believe that. Because otherwise, there is no hope for people like me or you. I have to believe it is possible to get to a healthy place, to have a healthy relationship with food & with our body image, without eschewing attention to diet & exercise.
With this past pregnancy, I gained over 50 pounds of fat weight (this did not include the baby, placenta, nor all the other weights associated with carrying a baby in the womb). Most recommendations for weight gain are somewhere around 25-35 pounds total weight (if you’re of normal weight to begin with, which I was). Clearly, I had gained too much weight. All of the physicians with whom I worked after my G.D. diagnosis, including a R.D., made it clear the best path for preventing a permanent diabetes diagnosis later in life are to do three things: 1) Get back to my pre-pregnancy weight 2) Eat a healthy, balanced diet (similar to, though not as strict as, someone who is on a diabetic diet) & 3) Make exercise a regular part of my life (which it was, up until about a year ago).
Since I have had the baby, I have done nothing extreme to lose the weight. I eat (a lot!) a variety of all kinds of foods, including flours, desserts, oils, fats, restaurant food. Nothing, aside from animal foods & gluten (because of my gluten-intolerance & commitment to a vegan lifestyle) is excluded. I make exercise a priority, though since I have five kids & am rather busy with other things, does not take up the amount of time it did when I was teaching fitness as a profession.
Clara, I know it’s scary to have to lose weight when you’ve had a history of disordered eating. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Eating disorder & thin, OR overweight & “anything goes.” A balance can be found. Though not perfect, I’m trying to find that balance. I feel happy & content with the choices I’m making. I have nothing to hide. And because of this, I’m sharing my journey with you, & with all of the bring joy community.
I know some, maybe many, may not agree with me. I use the word “diet.” I’m using a scale. I’m losing weight just a short time after having a baby. Some may think I’m losing too much weight or discussing it too much, but as someone who has willingly put my life out for scrutiny as a part of the greater online world, I’m okay with it. As a blogger, it’s a part of the deal, a part that if I’m being honest, I don’t always like, but I know that I can’t pick & choose all the consequences of my sharing some of the most personal aspects of my life on the www.
Obsessive, compulsive, or disordered behavior can be found in all sorts of approaches & methods. For me, the way to achieve a healthy balance is to focus on the things that matter most to me–my relationship with my family, my health, my faith. My approach to losing weight is not a narrowly focused one, with the end goal being a size 0 or 2, or 4 or 8. For me, it’s about getting back to a place where my weight is within a healthy range, where my body is strong & able to run and “not faint.” The means to that end, I believe, are not extreme, irrational, unhealthy, or disordered.
I hope I don’t sound defensive here. I’m coming from a place of understanding, I hope you know that.
Thank you for reaching out, & feeling comfortable enough to be honest & open with me.
I don’t know if I’ve addressed or resolved the main issues you’ve written to me about, but perhaps, in my sharing a few thoughts we’ve come to a better understanding of how it is possible to get to a place where diet is not a dirty word, where exercise is not a tool to erase “bad” food choices but as a way to enhance the quality of life, & where both of these can be used as just a few of the tools needed to sculpt a vibrant & healthy existence.
Take care, & please let me know your thoughts.
ox
♥♥♥
There’s a good chance that you have had thoughts similar to Clara.
I assure you I am not offended by you asking me questions, or calling me out. I want to remind you though, that sharing my life, these thoughts, often takes a great amount of courage for me. I’m not perfect. I don’t have all the answers.
I’m like you, figuring things out day by day. Hopefully making each a moment, one that is a meaningful part of the greater process that we call life.
I’d love to know your thoughts, if you have any you’d like to share.

……………….Thanks for coming to bring joy today!
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Comments


  1. Kelli
    on March 20, 2014 at 11:16 pm said:

    I know I’m way behind in reading & responding, but I’ve had this open in my browser for the past week and just now got around to reading it 🙂

    I’m glad that “Clara” had the courage to write her thoughts to you, but I’m also kind of sad that this is what she has taken away from reading your writings for years. I, even as a newish reader, so strongly feel the integrity that you share with us, and it’s obvious to me that you don’t make rash decisions. You think through things, bringing them through the filters of your family & faith, and are very clear on your motivations.

    Ensuring your health and wellbeing – both for yourself and as the wife/mother for your family – certainly isn’t born out of vanity. I’d be more concerned about you if you were overweight and less than healthy and didn’t care about it! Embracing your curves is very different from using it as an excuse for not taking care of yourself.

    I hope that Clara – now and once she gives birth – is able to “stand strong” – stand strong for her health and physical and emotional wellbeing. She needs to do it for herself first, in order to be able to do it for her family.

    Thanks for sharing this, Janae. It’s a beautiful and heartfelt response.

    • Janae Wise
      on March 21, 2014 at 5:23 pm said:

      “Ensuring your health and wellbeing – both for yourself and as the wife/mother for your family – certainly isn’t born out of vanity. I’d be more concerned about you if you were overweight and less than healthy and didn’t care about it! Embracing your curves is very different from using it as an excuse for not taking care of yourself.”
      I completely agree Kelli, & I’m impressed at your astute observations. You always have a way of seeing things, & have a way of putting that into words that is touching & thoughtful. Thank you.

      • Kelli
        on March 26, 2014 at 10:59 pm said:

        Aw, thanks Janae ~ you’re so sweet. xo

  2. Sandi
    on March 15, 2014 at 9:01 pm said:

    Hey, you maintained! Celebrate that success! Love the foods – you are right on. Looking forward to next weeks report – I predict a loser week!

  3. Sarah Godfrey
    on March 14, 2014 at 8:08 pm said:

    I never chime in on blogs, but I feel this needs to be said. Sorry it will be long, but I speak from a place of knowing from experience too. When you have an eating disorder, or even just disordered eating, you feel that you only have two options: (1) to continue with the bad cycle you are in and obsess forever, or (2) let go of all of that and be overweight forever. Even if you have given up on the behaviors, as long as you feel deep down that those are your only two options, you are not fully recovered. The roots of your eating disorder are still there and if you do attempt to lose weight without changing that belief, you are at risk for relapsing because you need to change your beliefs first. Seeing those things as your only options means that you see yourself unhappy, in some way, with who you are no matter what. You need to know in your heart of hearts that you have infinite worth, that you are lovable no matter what, and you need to love yourself as you are right now. Working from a place of self-love, you might decide to make healthier choices, and you will feel good about it, but it will no longer be motivated by shame. I struggled with body image and an eating disorder for years. Then when I decided to get help and stop my behaviors, I gained weight. Inside I kind of said, “I knew it. I knew I would gain weight.” But I just wanted to be happy, so I kept working on changing my beliefs about myself. And then a surprising thing happened, I wasn’t even trying to, but I lost weight. 50 pounds. (I don’t own a scale, but know this from regular checkups.) Yes, my eating and exercise habits changed, but only because it felt so good. I already liked myself, so this was just a surprising bonus to all the hard work I did on the inside. So, I whole heartedly agree, yes you can lose weight without resorting to eating disorder behaviors, but it all depends on your heart. If you are in some way trying to fix yourself and feel shame or worthlessness, you are already in trouble. But if you love yourself, truly, then of course you want to take care of yourself, and whatever that looks like on the outside won’t matter. Here, the options are endless.

  4. Mrs. Wetzel
    on March 14, 2014 at 5:55 pm said:

    I love your blog. Clara was very brave to write to you and you skillfully and honestly answered her concerns. I hope she will find peace and understanding from your response.

    I recently read a blog by Misty at J & M Ranch called What Makes you Beautiful (a great blog that I recommend be read by everyone) and as I read it, I looked at my little 3 year old daughter. I thought about how wonderful she is, what a gracious and joyful little spirit she has brought to our family and it pained me sitting there to think that she would ever consider herself fat or do anything extreme to make herself ‘thin’. I thought about how I had viewed myself in the last few years. I have three children (going on 4) in just 6 years of marriage and I was no longer the lil’ dancer I was in high school. I am a woman in the midst of my child bearing years. I was very different and I should’ve been embracing my curves instead of fighting them. But I kept using terms like “fat”, “Ugly” etc, terms that were mean spirited to myself and untrue. It was damaging! Thankfully, I realized this last year that I didn’t want my daughter or any of my children to think that way about themselves. My body is wonderful, I am healthy. I just needed a little balance, like you said. And, I am an example to my children so I better get my act together and start being a good one.

    I started exercising, almost every day if I could help it. 25 minutes is usually what I can squeeze in with 3 little ones. My husband and I try to eat a good diet, mostly food we cook ourselves and we encourage our children to eat good food too. I no longer using negative terms like fat or ugly. I am comfortable in the body Heavenly Father has given me and it helps that I remember my divine purpose as a woman and that reminds me to be healthy and take care of myself. I am in no hurry to get back to my pre-baby bod as I am still having children but I am not letting myself go either. I am seeking a strong body, a healthy body, one that will be there for me in the years and years of child raising to come. I have found a healthy medium, my preferred balance, for this time in my life that allows me to love myself, love my husband and children and fulfill my duties as a homemaker.

    There is a difference between taking care of yourself and being healthy while losing weight (letting your body do the work as you take care of it) and forcing your body to lose weight and doing damage in the meantime. It just takes time and knowledge for everyone to figure out what that is for them.

    Everyone needs a good balance and I am very happy you have found yours. Good job!

    • Janae Wise
      on March 14, 2014 at 7:03 pm said:

      “I started exercising, almost every day if I could help it. 25 minutes is usually what I can squeeze in with 3 little ones. My husband and I try to eat a good diet, mostly food we cook ourselves and we encourage our children to eat good food too. I no longer using negative terms like fat or ugly.”
      Sounds like you have found that balance! I think you pointed out what it’s all about–respecting our God-given bodies & taking the best care of them that we can so we can be a blessing to others for now & for the years to come.

      And can I ask you, since you come from a dance background (sorta off-topic, I know), if you’re glad you did dance growing up? We just barely started our oldest girl in dance & I’m having second thoughts. The time & money involved–is it worth it? I’d love to get your perspective!

      • Mrs. Wetzel
        on March 14, 2014 at 8:03 pm said:

        Oh yes, I loved dance! I still love dance. We have our daughter in dance and intend for all our daughters to dance…even our boys if they decide to. I actually wished I still danced. It is a great physical workout (barre work is hard!), it builds coordination and strength. It is also a great motivator for improving oneself. And it really enlightens the soul to dance. It’s like joy in motion. Some people express themselves through paint or music. I loved expressing myself through dance.

        Of course, if it were pursued professionally it does get very competitive and dancers in the past have been known to now take care of themselves properly but you are a wise woman and I know your daughter will learn well by your example to take of herself as she dances.

        I personally would avoid anything too modern or hip hop and pop culture related as it can be rather raunchy and some of it is not even dance. We are sticking to classical ballet, tap and ballroom. =)

  5. Katie Lorsch
    on March 14, 2014 at 4:44 pm said:

    I think you are doing a great job Janae. It is extremely hard to find such a healthy approach to losing weight. You are going against the norm and fads and losing weight to be healthy while still remaining balanced. You have great goals, to have a great quality of life. Personally, you are an inspiration to me. I hope “Clara” can see how your approach is different and wholesome. I feel for her and hope everything works out!

    • Janae Wise
      on March 14, 2014 at 6:59 pm said:

      I could hug you right now Katie. Thanks for your support. It means so much.

  6. April
    on March 14, 2014 at 12:41 pm said:

    I have to say-back when you had Salem, I thought you were quite focused on your weight and losing it. I remember you posted a picture taken days after the baby was born and you said something about how heavy you were. I can certainly understand being critical and/or real about your weight and how you look but I also know there needs to be some slack cut. Especially when there is a scientifically proven fact as to why you look the way you do at a certain point in time.

    I ‘ve commented before that I thought you were too critical on yourself those post Amalia and Salem days. This time around though you seem to have a much more balanced approach. You do have a lot of weight to lose (50lbs is significant) and if you don’t lose it not only will you be unhappy you’re putting your health at risk.

    Saying all that to say that I do think before you were too focused and critical and I think this time around you are much more balanced and realistic. It’s been a pleasure reading what you’ve had to post on this topic.

    • Janae Wise
      on March 14, 2014 at 6:56 pm said:

      Do you realize, that since you’ve read my blog for several years now that there’s a good chance that you know me better than many/most of my family members (excepting Joseph, of course!)? I love that you can see the difference from my other post-births. You are so right. After Salem I *was* much too harsh on myself, but you have to understand, at the time I was supporting my family by teaching fitness classes. I taught up to a day before I had her, then resumed teaching about a week later (CRA-crazy! I know, but we NEEDED the money, & fortunately, my body was strong & able.). I was immersed in a world that didn’t allow me to fully take stock of reality.

      Now that I have had time & distance from that time (which I truly did love & learned so much from), in combo with my experience with G.D., I’ve come to a much happier balance, I believe. Having to prick myself 4 times a day & eat in a very specific, controlled way, & living the life (if only temporarily) of a person with a chronic health condition made me look at diet & exercise in an entirely new light. Now it’s not about jean size, it’s about health & vitality & being able to live the kind of life I want to live. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had, & I’m grateful to be in a place where I can look back & learn, but more importantly look forward with confidence. This is what’s fun about aging–gaining wisdom, gaining grace & confidence.

      As always, thank you for your kind words April.

  7. lfwfv
    on March 13, 2014 at 7:04 pm said:

    I love you for your honesty. We are all walking a different journey and I love to read about yours.

    • Janae Wise
      on March 14, 2014 at 6:48 pm said:

      Thank you.

  8. Laurie
    on March 13, 2014 at 6:42 pm said:

    Initially, I had a long comment typed out that began with the 2 things I’m about to write but ended with stuff that went completely against those 2 things. I reconsidered before I hit “Submit” and will try to stick with just the 2 thoughts that immediately popped into my head as I read both your reader’s heartfelt message and your considered response:

    – A loved one who is a recovering alcoholic has exposed me to a lot of really useful…well, I think of them as “life tips.” One of those tips is to not take someone else’s inventory. (It’s really hard NOT to make judgments about others, but it’s also unlikely we know many of those people well enough to pass judgment on them.)

    – And I also try really, really hard every day (but don’t always succeed) to keep in mind the idea from someone (maybe Jay-Z? Russell Simmons? Martha Graham? Wayne Dyer? The Internet is hazy on the origin.) that goes, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” It’s a difficult thing to do, but it can be so freeing to not get bogged down or worried by whatever judgements others share with us about our lives.

    And, one more thing, because I think I might sound overly harsh and that’s absolutely not my intention: I am glad and very much appreciate that you share not only delicious recipes but part of yourself with us, your readers, and that your readers are willing to share thoughts with you in comments and emails. Your blog generates so many thoughtful, interesting comments.

    • Janae Wise
      on March 14, 2014 at 6:47 pm said:

      “It’s really hard NOT to make judgments about others, but it’s also unlikely we know many of those people well enough to pass judgment on them.”
      Oh boy, life lesson for all. I think we need to learn, & re-learn this crucial truth.

      “What other people think of me is none of my business.”
      Love this! I’m putting this on a sticky note & pasting to my computer screen.

      “Your blog generates so many thoughtful, interesting comments.”
      Thank you. You just complimented yourself. You’re a part of the dialogue created here & you offer a lot.

      ox

  9. Alanna
    on March 13, 2014 at 5:42 pm said:

    Thank you for sharing this response, Janae. I am always impressed by how genuine your communications are.
    You’re also far braver than I am. It’s a scary thing to put yourself out there in a public forum. I’m sure it’s a delicate balance receiving positive and negative feedback. I’m grateful that you do it though. Sharing wisdom gained through experience is priceless.

    “I have to believe that it is possible to lose weight (through diet & exercise) without resorting to extreme measures or disordered eating behaviors. I have to believe that. Because otherwise, there is no hope for people like me or you.”
    Amen to this.

    • Janae Wise
      on March 14, 2014 at 6:37 pm said:

      :”You’re also far braver than I am.”
      Ha! I didn’t start out this way, that’s for sure. I think the longer I blog, the more guards come down. It is a little Truman-showish in a way, & to be honest, sometimes it freaks me out to know I’m putting myself out there in such an exposed way to any, & I mean ANY one. But, I move forward & don’t look back, trusting that being honest & open will help others with their own journey. If I can help just one person, it’s worth it.

      “It’s a scary thing to put yourself out there in a public forum. I’m sure it’s a delicate balance receiving positive and negative feedback.”
      You can say that again! I can’t think about it too much. In fact often I’ll do a post & my brain will race for hours after, thinking & overthinking about what I shared or didn’t share. Joseph reminds me I ought to just write from the heart, hit publish & move on. Good advice from a pretty awesome husband.

      “I’m grateful that you do it though.”
      Thank you! I wouldn’t continue to do it if I didn’t get awesome feedback from people like you. You & others who keep reading & sharing are what makes it worth it. It ain’t the money, that’s for sure 😉

      “Sharing wisdom gained through experience is priceless.”
      Completely agree, which is why reading & writing are such valuable tools for change. So much can be learned through vicarious experience & learning from others.

  10. Emma
    on March 13, 2014 at 5:26 pm said:

    Thank you for bringing this up Janae. I actually see you as a real role model in terms of your attitude to eating and weight. It seems like the pendulum has swung somewhat and wanting to lose weight, even if it’s a healthy thing to do, is often demonized.
    Of course there are many many people out there seeking to lose weight who definitely don’t need to, for vanity’s sake alone or getting sucked into eating disorders, but just because they have a problem, doesn’t mean that everyone should have to suffer. Your approach to weight loss is very realistic and healthy, in practical and emotional terms. Keep up the good work 🙂 xxx

    • Janae Wise
      on March 14, 2014 at 6:08 pm said:

      “Of course there are many many people out there seeking to lose weight who definitely don’t need to, for vanity’s sake alone or getting sucked into eating disorders, but just because they have a problem, doesn’t mean that everyone should have to suffer.”
      Absolutely. Some people need & should lose weight, & just because they do it through careful attention to diet & exercise does not mean they have an eating disorder. LFWFV actually pointed out that a key thing with eating disorders is secrecy. I think she hit it on the head–if a person is hiding what they are eating or not eating, or deliberately avoiding eating in front of people, bingeing in private, all of these things are a indicators of disordered eating. But eating a balanced diet of nutrient-dense foods as a part of a weight loss diet is something entirely different.

      Anyway, it’s a spectrum, for sure, but as you said, more or less, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

      “Your approach to weight loss is very realistic and healthy, in practical and emotional terms. Keep up the good work 🙂 xxx”
      Thank you dear girl. You are so sweet, & I just love all the wonderful & bright things you’re coming up with over at coconut & berries.