Katy’s “Worth It” syllabus

This past year has been one of immense personal growth for me. I started 2016 as a Weight Watchers leader intent on “getting skinny again” once and for all by beating my binge eating addiction.

I ended the year as a certified health coach, having regained my sense of self-worth, loving the body I’m in, vowing never to diet again and helping other women to do the same. (Oh, and I finally did beat that binge eating addiction once I started actually feeding myself again and nourishing my body from the inside out.)

I used to think that I was setting a good example to my daughter by being “healthy”(ie. skinny) and making exercise a central part of my life (ie. obsession). Now I’ve realized that if I truly want to be a good example to my daughter, I need to teach her that we are more than our clothing size, and that healthy comes in many shapes and sizes. I want to nourish my body with good, wholesome food, but I also want to listen to my urges and eat ice cream whenever the hell I feel like it without feeling the kind of guilt and shame that ultimately leads to binge eating.

True food freedom means allowing all foods (not just the healthy stuff), listening to what makes me feel good and what doesn’t (it’s amazing how much I don’t crave my old “go to” binge food anymore), and trusting that my body wants what’s best for me. That’s a scary leap of faith when you’ve been taught your whole life to control your eating, control your body size, fear fat and take up as little space as possible.

This year’s transformation certainly didn’t happen overnight, and I credit many resources in helping me on this path to food freedom and self-acceptance. So, I thought I’d gather them here as a syllabus for others, and then I can update it as my own journey progresses.

Books (Non-Fiction)

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

Eating In the Light of the Moon by Anita Johnston

Women, Food, God by Geneen Roth

Brain Over Binge by Kathryn Hansen

Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon

Body Respect by Linda Bacon & Lucy Aphramor

Books (Fiction)

Dietland by Sarai Walker

Podcasts

Food Psych (Christy Harrison)

Fearless Rebelle Radio (Summer Innanen)

Love, Food (Julie Duffy Dillon)

Life. Unrestricted. (Meret Boxler)

Dietitians Unplugged (Aaron Flores & Glenys Oyston)

The Fuck It Diet Radio (Caroline Dooner)

The Recovery Warrior (Jessica Raymond)

Mind Body Musings (Maddy Moon)

Quit Binge Eating (Alen Standish)

Extras

Isabel Foxen Duke’s Stop Fighting Food free video series

Ellyn Satter Institute “What Is Normal Eating?”

3 simple alternatives to try INSTEAD of dieting

Is one of your New Year’s resolutions ALWAYS to lose weight?

For me it has been. Every. Single. Year. And how has that gone for me in the past? Usually I lose some weight. I feel great, I get compliments, and I swear the weight’s never coming back!

But guess what? It comes back. And more often than not, I end the year heavier than I started. Sound familiar?

This yo-yo-dieting phenomenon is not because we’re failures at dieting. It’s not because we just gave up on ourselves. It’s actually because our bodies are efficient machines and diets fail us! Our bodies are really, really good at keeping us from dieting. Whenever we’re dieting and restricting food, we crave food a LOT. We obsess over recipes. We can’t stop thinking about our next meal. We stuff our faces when nobody is looking. When we declare war on our bodies, they fight back in any way they can!

Whenever you find this happening to you, these are all signs that your body is doing a good job of keeping you from starving, and keeping you healthy!

“But Katy, I’m desperate to lose this damn weight! I just gained a ton of weight over the holidays, and if I’m not supposed to diet, how else am I going to get all this weight off and feel good about myself again?!”

Watch my video below as I discuss my own journey, and why I will never diet again.
I also give a sneak peak at my upcoming 2-hour workshop called “New Year’s Dieting Totally Isn’t Worth It! But Now What?!” and new virtual workshops!

Can programs like Weight Watchers work when you’re trying to quit binge eating?

I recently received this email from a reader:


Hi Katy!

I absolutely love your approach and your story really resonates with me. Every time I read something you write, I feel like you’re reading my diary!  I was wondering … after reading your latest blog entry about the similarities between leaving NYC and leaving dieting … what are your thoughts on Weight Watchers? Is it possible to really listen to your body and be on WW? I’m at the point of wanting to lose weight for my health (prediabetic and uncomfortable), but I’m finding restriction is making me crazy.

Can WW work for someone with BED?”


Wow! What a great question.

Believe me, I tried for years to make Weight Watchers work for me while also secretly struggling with binge eating. In fact, even when I was researching the nature of binge eating, I kept thinking: I would be so successful at dieting if only I could cure this binge eating!

As for Weight Watchers, I’m grateful to the program for teaching me to love fruits and vegetables and make them a major part of my meals. Before WW, I was not a healthy eater in the least, so I credit the program with turning around my own eating habits, for sure.

Also, I love the concept of the meetings and the sharing that goes on among members. Weight Watchers was the first place where I realized my own chronic issues around eating and food were shared by so many others. The meetings made me realize I wasn’t alone. In fact, if it wasn’t for the meetings, I probably would have hid in my own cave of shame indefinitely, feeling like I was doomed to fail at diets over and over for the rest of my days.

I also applaud the Beyond the Scale program and how the company has shifted their message toward body positivity and general fulfillment. Health comes in many sizes, and I’m glad the WW marketing materials reflect that.

As long as a program makes weight loss its primary focus (and primary promise), then it’s a diet.

That said …

I have come to believe that dieting programs like Weight Watchers absolutely cannot work if you want to recover from a binge eating disorder. And before you say, “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle,” as long as a program makes weight loss its primary focus (and primary promise), then it’s a diet.

And any form of dietary restriction, either in the form of SmartPoints or calorie counting or Paleo or Whole 30 or 21 Day Fix or food control of any kind, ultimately leads to rebellion (in the form of eating out of control, ie. binge eating). It’s simply how our bodies are made.

As soon as we begin to restrict food, our bodies go into overdrive. They slow their metabolism and start holding onto fat stores. They tell our brains to crave food ALL THE TIME, and we start to obsess over where our next meal will come from. And when the weight starts to creep back on, as it inevitably does, we feel like failures because we “have no control over ourselves.” It’s true. The mind can’t control the body when it comes to food and weight, so it’s time to stop trying and let the body do what it does best.

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Giving up on dieting for weight loss was a GIANT leap of faith, but I can tell you now it’s worth it!

Like I said, I tried for months to figure out how to feed myself and nourish myself while ALSO pursuing weight loss, and the binge eating continued. It wasn’t until I completely stopped any pursuit of weight loss and focused instead on really listening to my body’s cues — What do I want to eat? What tastes good? What’s a nice treat? Am I thirsty? Am I full? — was I able to stop the binge eating entirely. 

At first, this meant eating more than I was used to because I was recovering from YEARS of diet restriction and guilt about eating. But eventually my eating has leveled out and now I’m happily following my heart and my stomach when it comes to food.

Weight loss was central to my sense of self-worth and success. But I also knew that the harder I reached for it, the farther away I got.

But hey, IT’S REALLY SCARY! Dieting is all we know and the only way we know how to lose the weight. Giving up on dieting for weight loss was a GIANT leap of faith, but I can tell you it’s paid off. My body no longer wants to stuff itself (because it feels uncomfortable)! My body isn’t rebelling against anything or anyone, so it stops when it’s full. I’ve been listening to my body, and now that it’s in the lead (rather than a SmartPoints daily total), it’s treating me well. It craves healthy food and activity. 

Also, I’ve stopped weighing myself AT ALL. I’ve stopped determining a “good day” or “bad day” based on the number of the scale. I can tell when I’m bloated or feeling energetic before I even step on a scale, so I now refuse to give it any power over me and or determine my mood. I’ve also stopped any form of exercise that I’d previously been doing for weight loss. Instead, I like to walk my dog and do yoga — both of which are great forms of activity, but neither of which triggers me to work harder to lose those pounds.

Like I said, ditching the diet mentality is SCARY stuff. It’s been the hardest addiction I’ve ever had to break. After all, weight loss was central to my sense of self-worth and success for my entire adult life. But I also knew that the harder I reached for it, the farther away I got.

Giving up on dieting was really hard, but it was only through giving up that I was truly set free and able to see myself as the healthy, capable woman I’ve been all along. No scale can do that. 🙂

Finding my space

NYC and dieting: The surprising similarities, and why I’ll never go back

Do I miss living in NYC? Definitely. Would I ever move back? HELL NO!
Do I miss living in NYC? Definitely. Would I ever move back? HELL NO!

It recently occurred to me how similar my experience with quitting dieting has been to my experience with leaving NYC.

My husband and I spent only 6 years living in NYC (2 years in Manhattan and 4 years in Brooklyn), but they were instrumental in shaping who I am today. I’d never been the kind of person who dreamed of living in New York. When we had the opportunity to move there, I was mostly excited but also reluctant.

Living in New York is tough. The rents are high. The apartments are small. The subways are crowded and the stations are filthy. There’s a lot of hassle. There’s a lot of jostling. Getting around is difficult and irritating. The infrastructure is crumbling. Strangers are rushed and vacant.

But no matter how difficult it felt at times, there were always those moments of beauty, of triumph, of pride that made me feel like the fight was worth it. The theater! The food! The museums! The envy!

Yes, the envy. I was envied.

I was living in the city when I first joined Facebook back in 2007. During that time, I reconnected with many old friends from back home, and the response to my new zip code was always the same: “Wow, you live in New York! How cool! You’re so lucky! I’ve always wanted to live there.” Usually followed by: “I can’t wait to come visit you!”

It seemed I had achieved an automatic social status upgrade, simply by living in NYC. And that got addictive really fast! Nobody ever wondered if I enjoyed living there. It was just assumed that, of course, I must! And I really did enjoy it for a while. Seeing myself through their eyes made me realize I was on top of the mountain!

For us, the hassle had finally tipped the scales. It was time to come down from the mountain.

But then we had a child. And the city with a baby makes life even more of a hassle. Lugging a stroller around the subway system. Cramming your family into tiny restaurants with a wriggling child. Paying an arm and a leg for delivered groceries because you can’t fathom the trip to an actual store. Trapped at home every night in your tiny apartment because you can’t afford a babysitter AND theater tickets. Surfing the suffocating crowds in museums and hoping you can still make it home before nap time.

For us, the hassle had finally tipped the scales. It was time to come down from the mountain.

Lots of parents absolutely love New York and all it has to offer to their children. But I was not one of them. I had enough, and when we got pregnant with our second child, we knew it was time to leave our tiny apartment and find more space and tranquility in the country.

And that’s what we did. My husband and I left the city and moved to a more rural setting 2 hours north of the city. We moved to a big old house with a porch and a backyard. We take daily walks in the woods. We drive our Subaru to get groceries. We love the peace and quiet and having more space. I love where I live.

But leaving the city comes with an automatic social status downgrade. Nobody is excited that I live “2 hours north of NYC.” Nobody thinks I’m cool because of my zipcode. In fact, it felt like many pitied us and thought we couldn’t hack it anymore. New York is for the strong and wealthy and we were neither of those things. We weren’t fighters. We didn’t care about triumph. Instead, we longed to be free, so we walked away.

Do I ever miss living in New York City? Definitely. Would I ever move back? HELL NO!

That pastime of comparison doesn’t seem to exist for me up here in country. I am now able to live an authentic life — genuine, happy, and free of pretension.

Not only was there the hassle and the nuisance, but I felt so anxious when I lived there. Surrounded by the “best of the best,” I often compared myself to everyone and everything and felt like a failure. I wanted more — more money, more space, a better job, a better body. When I walked around my neighborhood in Brooklyn, I would peer in the windows of brownstones from the street and feel an overwhelming sense of inadequacy, defeat and envy.

Yes, envy. I never felt wealthy enough. I never felt pretty enough. I never felt smart enough. I was always vying to be better, and that striving only left me feeling exhausted and miserable.

Once we left the city, all of that envy-fueled striving disappeared. That pastime of comparison doesn’t seem to exist for me up here in country. I am now able to live an authentic life — genuine, happy, and free of pretension.

What does this have to do with dieting? Wow, where to start. When I lost a lot of weight with Weight Watchers, I was granted an instant social status upgrade because of my body. I was congratulated repeatedly by everyone I knew, and I was noticed by the public in a way I’d never experienced before. I felt so proud of myself, and I was told over and over again how great I looked. It didn’t take long before I was addicted to the praise, the flattery and the envy. There’s that word again: envy.

I weighed less than I ever had in my adult life, and seeing myself through everyone else’s eyes, I felt like I was on top of the mountain again!

Do I miss my thinner self? Definitely. Will I ever diet again? HELL NO!
Do I miss my thinner self? Definitely. Will I ever diet again? HELL NO!

For about 3 months. And then, as it inevitably does for 95% of dieters, the weight started to creep back on through no fault of my own. You see, losing that kind of weight requires eating very little, and my body ultimately began to rebel. As I tried to keep the weight off and keep up my highly restrictive eating, my body did what healthy bodies do: it slowed down my metabolism to burn fewer calories, and reduced my levels of leptin, the satiety hormone that tells my body when I’ve had my fill. Reduced leptin meant I was constantly ravished and struggled with intensified food cravings. This led me to binge eat, which meant more weight gain. So I’d restrict my diet even more, which led to more binge eating. This vicious cycle continued for 3 agonizing years before I finally had enough. The mental anguish, the struggle and the shame finally tipped the scales. I longed to be free, so I walked away.

I feel like my body is making a very public statement: I’m lazy. I’m a failure. I couldn’t hack it.

But leaving dieting comes with unexpected hardships, much like leaving NYC did. Mostly, I fear that people look at me and think, “What a pity. She couldn’t do what it takes to keep that weight off.” I feel embarrassed, I feel ashamed. I feel like my body is making a very public statement: I’m lazy. I’m a failure. I couldn’t hack it.

It’s true. I couldn’t hack it. I couldn’t hack the restricted eating. I couldn’t hack the obsession with food and counting points. I couldn’t hack the social isolation. I couldn’t hack the binge eating or the shame and disgust that came with it. I couldn’t hack always vowing to get my act together once and for all. I was always vying to be thinner, and that striving only left me feeling exhausted and miserable. I couldn’t hack the self-loathing.

Now that I’m done with dieting and am feeding my body again, I feel free. I’ve jumped off the merry-go-round, and out here I’m grounded again and that pastime of comparison doesn’t exist anymore. I am now able to live an authentic life — genuine, happy, and free of pretension.

Do I miss my thinner self? Definitely. Will I ever diet again? HELL NO.

Today I eat what I want, and I feel proud of that fact. I have finally achieved food freedom and it feels amazing! Is this the body I would have ordered at the factory? Probably not. It’s soft and lumpy and larger than I’d like. But that won’t stop me from appreciating it and keeping it healthy and active. I fuel it with wholesome, nutritious foods. I treat it with sweets. I take it out for a walk every day. I bend it, I stretch it, I run it around, and I love and appreciate all that it does for me.

I love the peace and quiet. I love taking up more space. I love who I am, and I’m never going back.

 

How Girls on the Run changed my life

Here’s me hugging my daughter, Anna, after we crossed the finish line at the Girls on the Run final 5K last fall. The program curriculum is meant for girls in grades 3 through 5, but it transformed my own life, too.

The summer before my daughter entered 3rd grade, I was excited that she was finally old enough to join the Girls on the Run program. I’d first heard about it from word of mouth, but really got excited about the program after profiling Kim Quimby, the director of the Hudson Valley chapter, for an issue of Hudson Valley Parent magazine.

While I was speaking on the phone with Quimby, I mentioned that I planned to register my daughter for the program they already had running in New Paltz.

“You know,” I told her, “I live in Rosendale and I bet I could find enough other interested girls in my area that you could start a Rondout Valley team this fall.”

“That’s a great idea,” she said. “You should definitely start one!”

That wasn’t the answer I was expecting, but given the fact that Girls on the Run is almost entirely volunteer-run, I wasn’t surprised.

So, last August, I started scrambling to put together a team of my own. And sure enough, once other parents learned more about this program for girls in grades 3 through 5, I rallied together 3 other coaches, two junior coaches and 18 girls who registered for our first fall season.

Our Girls on the Run team during a practice last spring.
Our Girls on the Run team during a practice last spring.

Girls on the Run began in 1996, when Molly Barker, MSW, and four-time Hawaii Ironman triathlete, brought together 13 girls in Charlotte, NC, for an innovative new program. Using her counseling background and her own experience in what she called “the girl box,” Barker developed a program that combined training for a non-competitive 5K event with life-changing, confidence building lessons that enhance the physical and mental health of 8–12 year old girls.

The program caught the attention of Runners World magazine in 1996, and now has grown to more than 225 program sites throughout North America.

My fellow coach Carrie and her daughter, Maitreya, cross the finish line at the final 5K.
My fellow coach Carrie and her daughter, Maitreya, cross the finish line at the final 5K.

Themes of the 10-week program include positive self-talk, cultivating an attitude of gratitude, finding true friendships, healthy habits, gossip, peer pressure and other topics geared directly to that age group. Interwoven throughout, the girls train for a 5K, which is used to inspire and motivate the girls, encourage lifelong health and fitness, and build confidence through accomplishing a goal.

As we coached the program for the first time, I was amazed at how receptive the girls were to the research-based curriculum. They eagerly participated in the discussions and in the physically-demanding training sessions. I often thought about how I wished I had something like this when I was an 8-year-old.

We came together for the sake of these younger girls, but in the end we were all benefitting immensely from this program!

As the weeks progressed, I found I was applying a lot of the GOTR principles to my own life. As we discussed the power of visualization and using our inner star power when times got tough, I found the program was making a real difference in my own life, not just as a coach of girls but as a grown woman in need of positive self-talk and empowerment. I realized, too, that the junior coaches (high school students who volunteer their after-school time and are absolutely adored by the younger girls) were applying the same principles to their own lives. We came together for the sake of these younger girls, but in the end we were all benefitting immensely from this program!

As the day of the final 5K approached, we became a strong, nurturing team. The girls encouraged each other and found a strength in themselves they never knew they had. Not a single one of them had ever completed a 5K race before, and now each and every one of them was about to cross that finish line. Most of them run. Many of them walk. We don’t care how long it takes them — the emphasis is on completing that goal. I can’t possibly describe the feeling of seeing their eyes light up when they first spot that finish line.

After that first season, we went on to complete the Spring 2016 session and now we’ve started the Fall 2016 session. Our Rondout Valley team has grown to 5 coaches, 3 junior coaches and 22 girls.

In an effort to provide an empowering environment for my own daughter, I realized that many grown women like myself are still struggling with the same issues we were discussing with the girls.

Coaching for this program has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me, and not just in the way I expected. While coaching for the first time, I took a long look at my own healthy habits and my own self-image. In an effort to provide an empowering environment for my own daughter, I realized that many grown women like myself are still struggling with the same issues we were discussing with the girls.

Celebrating girl power with a participant last fall
Celebrating with one of the girls at a practice session last fall.

In January of this year, I started Worth It with Katy. In addition to blogging about my own struggles with yo-yo-dieting and binge eating, I encourage others to ditch the “diet” food forever, and instead to nourish their bodies and find their happy, healthy weight. I also enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and have become a certified health coach. I currently offer monthly group support classes, and I coach clients one-on-one to reach their own health and weight loss goals.

Thanks to Girls on the Run, I’ve now dedicated my life not only to coaching young girls like my daughter as the enter the daunting maze of adolescence, but to coaching grown women who, like me, are still in constant need of body-positive messages and desire peace with food and their bodies once and for all.

This piece was originally published in October 2016 in Healthy Hudson Valley, a special publication by Ulster Publishing.

Are SmartPoints working for you – or against you?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever quit tracking because you went WAY over your points total for the day. Now raise your other hand if you’ve ever quit tracking for the rest of the week because you’ve blown it and you figure you’ll start fresh Monday. Now wave both those hands in the air like you just don’t care, because you are definitely in a crowd of many!

Yep, it’s very common to do this. We are an “all or nothing” sort of folk. I personally have lost count of how many times I’ve thought, “Oh, I’ve really blown it for the day. So I might as well enjoy myself and go hog wild before I get back on track tomorrow!”

That, my friends, is using SmartPoints against you. Now here’s a way to use SmartPoints for you:

Track each meal as it comes, regardless of anything that happened before or will happen after.

This means NOT saying, “I guess I only have 3SP for dinner since I blew it at lunch.”

This means NOT saying, “I just used up my last weekly and it’s still 4 days till weigh in. I have to be really good or I’m screwed.”

This means NOT saying, “I’m going out for dinner, so I’m saving all of my points and starving myself until then.”

SmartPoints are feedback – they calculate information about food and they guide us toward healthy choices. They don’t think or feel, they simply appoint each food a number value based on that food’s nutritional information. They do not tell us food is good or bad. They do not forbid us to eat certain foods. They do not judge food. They do not judge us or our behavior. They do not tell us we’re failures. They do not tell us we’re off track or on track.

If we go over our SP for the day, it’s OK. If we use up our dailies by noon, it’s OK. If we use up our weeklies, it’s OK! (See a pattern here?)

SmartPoints are simply there to inform us about our food choices in the moment, and to help us make healthier choices for tomorrow. Our daily budgets are there to help guide us throughout the day. If we use them all up by noon, then we are not failures and we are not going to suddenly gain 100 pounds. There’s absolutely no reason to quit tracking.

My leader once said, “Think of each meal as an opportunity to get back on track.” I repeat this mantra a lot after I’ve had an indulgence, and it has really helped me stop thinking of my SmartPoints in terms of daily totals or weekly totals. When I think of each meal as it comes, I’m not really ever off track, and there’s nothing to quit, and there’s never a wagon to get back on, and there’s never a reset button in the morning.

In the same vein, our weekly SmartPoints are also there to guide us, and are meant to help us to not fear indulgences, special occasions, or the odd bender. They are meant to help us enjoy our weight loss journeys, and to avoid the urge to quit altogether if we use up our daily points.

However, if you fear that using up all of your daily and weekly SP will lead you to quit for the rest of the week, then don’t keep a running weekly total! Instead, simply look at each day’s SP amounts. When we think in terms of the week as a whole, we are too often tempted to quit mid-week and start fresh another week.

SmartPoints are here to help us make healthier decisions. If you don’t know the SmartPoints value of a food, use your own judgment, and MOVE ON. They are not here to torture us. They are not here to make us starve ourselves or judge ourselves as failures.
Feeling lost? Divide your daily SP total into thirds and think of each meal as aiming to be around that number. Or think of your ideal tracking day, and try to emulate it whenever you can.

And the next time you’re tempted to quit tracking altogether because it’s too hard, too rigid, too complicated, or too depressing, ask yourself if you’ve made it that way. Are SmartPoints working for you or against you?

Shedding the weight

Oprah and Deepak’s 21-day meditation experience that started this week is called “Shedding the Weight.”

Before it began, I was all excited because I thought this series would finally reveal the answer to losing weight once and for all. Eureka! The path to dropping the pounds would be revealed through meditation, and I could finally “ommmmm” my way to a skinnier me.

But during Day One, it was revealed that shedding the weight didn’t refer to my physical body fat, but instead it referred to the weight of expectations, the burden of stress, the heaviness of internal pressures on ourselves. Yada yada.

To be honest, I felt kinda duped.

After months of listening to body positive podcasts about binge eating, the harmfulness of dieting, and the importance of self-love and mindfulness, on days like today I don’t feel any closer to the answers I seek.

After losing 50 lb in 2012, I’ve spent the last 4 years slowly gaining back the weight while desperately trying to get back to that magical place I call “goal weight.” When it came to my body, I’ve been mostly miserable, and somewhere along the way I developed a binge eating disorder to boot.

On January 1, I gave up trying to lose weight. I decided instead to start focusing beyond the scale and loving myself today instead of waiting to love myself once I lost the weight again. I want my daughter to have a mother who loves herself at every size. I don’t want to spend the next 40 years feeling like I’m somehow inadequate because of my weight.

All of the body-positive information I’ve encountered tells me that if I ever want to stop binging and find my healthy weight, I need to stop counting points and I need to start enjoying my relationship with food again. I need to eat and drink whatever I want in order to listen to my hunger cues, nourish my body and end this horrible relationship with binge eating. And if my healthy weight isn’t my “goal weight,” I have to be OK with that reality once and for all.

So, today I did something that was long overdue: I went shopping for shorts that actually fit me.

I haven’t owned any shorts that actually fit me since the summer of 2013. I had reached a size 8 then, and threw away all of my “fat” clothes, swearing “NEVER AGAIN!”

Since that summer, I’ve yo-yo dieted, binged, obsessed, binged and cried as I slowly gained back 30 of the original 50 lb I lost. But I refused to buy a larger size again. I decided I would rather get back to my “goal weight” than buy bigger shorts, because that was an admission of failure and defeat.

Instead, for the last 2 years, I’ve worn skirts, dresses and yoga pants, living in denial that I’m no longer a size 8, all the while swearing that I will fit back into those shorts soon — I just need to get my act together once and for all.

So today I said enough is enough. I finally decided that it was time to accept my current size and that I am worth having shorts that actually fit me. I went to a department store and grabbed shorts in several sizes. After squeezing myself awkwardly into a few styles, it turns out I’m a size 12.

I thought I would feel relief and empowerment throughout this process. After all, I’m embracing my current state, I’m no longer obsessing about deprivation or weight loss. I’m eating what I want, trying my best to make healthy choices and to stay active. I’m focusing on nutritious whole foods, and I’m dedicated to ending this battle with food and failure once and for all.

So then why am I sitting here crying as I type? Why do I still need to tell myself that this size 12 is only temporary, and that I’ll lose this weight eventually? Why does acceptance feel so much like failure to me right now? And why am I still obsessing about food — wanting more than anything to feed this sadness by stuffing my face with chocolate and drinking beer until I pass out? Why, if I’ve made this major step toward body acceptance and living free from the deprivation of dieting, do I feel as far from happiness as I’ve ever been?

When I was in control and counting points, I felt so happy. I felt proud of my body and of my hard work. My shrinking size gave me the continued incentive I needed to stop drinking and stop snacking and grabbing desserts and chips and everything else I wanted on a whim. Counting points gave me structure and mindfulness. I asked myself “why do i want that” and I said “No” to that desire to eat junk. I liked that! Is that mindfulness and control really what has caused me to gain back this weight? Is counting points really what led me to binge eat my way back into a size 12? Is my desperate desire to get back to that state of weight-loss success truly the reason I’m this far from it?

According to nutritionists and therapists and health coaches and the dozens of podcasts I’ve been listening to nonstop since January, the only way to achieve a healthy body weight is to stop dieting and just let go. I’m trying so hard to make this leap of faith. I feel like I’m standing on the edge of this cliff, wanting desperately to jump off and be free forever of this obsession, but I fear more than anything that I will descend into chaotic overeating and will spend the rest of my life unhappy with my size. I don’t want to be a size 12! I don’t want to be overweight! Is that really so terrible and harmful?

So what is my ultimate goal? What am I trying to achieve? Would I rather keep trying to find the answers to losing weight for the rest of my life, even it means I’ll stay trapped in the cycle of failure, defeat and binge eating? Or would I rather stop trying and focus instead on accepting my larger size in the hopes that ultimately I’ll be happier?

Will accepting my larger size be the key to finally shedding this weight? And when it comes down to it, what is the weight in life that I really, truly want to shed?