It’s rare to lose 140 lb dieting and to keep the weight off. Most commonly people will binge, gain back weight, feel bad, and restart with another diet.
So what’s even more rare lose weight “successfully” is to then switch to intuitive eating. The few people who control their diet and “successfully” lose weight often remain feeling trapped by their diet for rest of their lives around food.
Emotional eating is always the diet demon around the corner just waiting to find a time when you’re willpower is down!
But Sophia is not ordinary. She’s brilliant, like a shining sun 🙂 Sophia “successfully” lost weight but then went beyond. She realized losing weight just made her binge or feel trapped around food. Sophia became obsessed about being good by exercising and her diet did nothing to help Sophia with her feelings.
So Sophia decided to switch to intuitive eating!
By reading this interview article you will learn:
- How Sophia Lost 140 lb
- Why Sophia Switched To Intuitive Eating
- How To Not Binge eat
- My opinion on “successful weight loss” stories
Below are some links to the full interview, podcast, and how to change contact Sophia. Here is direct download Mp3 from Eating Enlightenment podcast (no email).
How To Not Binge Eat Show Notes:
I’ll be using quotes from our interview to tell the story of how Sophia lost 140 lb. I have lightly edited the quotes for readability and context.
I also include bullet points to summarize answers and write in rhetorical questions to help setup Sophia’s answers to make things useful and clear to you.
Please note: this “successful” dieting weight loss story is an exception to the general science towards weight loss. Overall we know from research that dieting for 95% of people is dangerous.
Yet 95% is not 100%. Often in Eating Enlightenment I talk about the health dangers of dieting. Yet in Sophia’s case, dieting did help her health. So there are always exceptions. These exceptions are important to talk about so we avoid falling into black and white thinking.
Nonetheless, I would like to emphasize this is a not in support of dieting, purposeful weight loss or anything of that nature.
How Sophia Gained and Then Lost 140 lb.
This section explores how Sophia started to gain weight, and then how she lost weight. The two sections are:
- Why did you start to binge eat?
- How did you lose weight to the tune of 140 pounds?
The reason we start with the beginning of Sophia’s binge eating is because sometimes when you hear an incredible story about losing 140 pounds you just want to quickly skip to the “how to”.
Yet if you want to do this whole health journey the right way, you need to start at the beginning when you first began to binge eat.
Question To Sophia: “How would you recommend someone how to not binge eat?”
- First, understand what food means to you
- Second, understand how you are abusing food because of a lack of love
Sophia says on her recommend for someone to stop binge eating, “What would I say to them? Well I’d want to know what their relationship with food was like. Because it’s so important this person knows what food represented to them. Because I think food represents different things.
I’d want to get at their experience of how they relate to their body and how they relate to their emotions. How they’re caring for themselves. Because emotional eating at the root is a lack of self-love, self-mothering, or self-care.“
So there you have it.
If you want to stop binge eating then you must learn why you are binge eating in the first place.
So how did Sophia develop binge eating disorder? Sophia, like most other people with binge eating disorder, began her binge habits at a young age.
Why did you start to binge eat?
Here’s why Sophia says she began to binge eat:
- Was very sensitive and didn’t know how to protect myself
- Started looking for ways to feel safe
- At age seven began to use food to soothe my emotions
“My story of eating disorders started at age seven. I was really empathetic as a little girl, very sensitive. But then when I went to school. I didn’t have the proper defenses as a seven year old to really protect myself and create energetic boundaries.
So I started to look for ways to feel safe. I think food also represented a relationship, a nourishing relationship to my mother, which I really needed at that time. So at age seven I began disordered eating and that lasted from kindergarten age seven until I was 17. I was emotional eating, binge eating. Using food to soothe my emotions. And at age 17 I weighed almost 270 pounds.“
Sophia’s story is probably similar to yours.
Often eating disorders begin before we actually start to diet. Often emotional eating starts at a young age when foods become a way to control how we are feeling.
Question for Reflection: Did you frequently use food as a young child to make yourself feel better?
Food may have been the only way you knew how to protect your child-safe from feeling unsafe. If so, please forgive yourself. You were doing the best you could at that time.
Binge eating is still your karma though, so you also need to accept the past to face the present moment.
Sophia’s world was not perfect either.
Somehow food became mother-like to Sophia, protecting her. Somehow food was keeping her safe. In a perfect world we grow up feeling safe and we are all our natural intuitive eater selves. But the world is not perfect.
Often people must unlearn their behaviors around foods. People must learn to give up control and to ask for help.
Now this next section is perhaps slightly controversial and perhaps hard to believe because it’s a successful dieting story, but it’s the truth!
How did you lose weight to the tune of 140 pounds?
Sophia’s answer here greatly surprised me for 2 reasons!
- I’ve heard too many stories yo yo dieting
- The science doesn’t support good health outcomes when dieting
Reason #1 – For years I had worked as a Personal Trainer and always heard firsthand stories of people gaining back weight after dieting. Control just costs too much willpower and even on best days there’s an risk of “slipping up”. On bad days eating regularly and with control just goes out the window.
Reason #2 – I’m also familiar with the long-term diet science. The diet science paints a bleak picture.
For example, a national meta-analysis of every long-term weight loss study found that 66% of people who lost weight on a diet actually gained more weight back in few months or years time. That’s horrible!
But in Sophia’s case, her diet did help her lose weight without weight regain. Again, see the bottom of this post for my opinion on cases like these!
Here was Sophia’s diet:
- 1200 calorie diet per day
- 12 grams per fat per day or less
- 140 pounds lost over 1.5 years
I went to a weight loss camp at age 17 and I had so much fun. There were so many great people and I lost like 14 pounds. And they were really encouraging. I think their encouragement was a big part of it for me. Their positive feedback helped me because I had felt a lot of negativity towards myself.
I kind of just took it from there. And then I ended up losing a hundred pounds from like age 17 to my first year in college. And like a year and a half I lost 140 pounds.
The weight loss camp was basically 1200 calories a day or less and 12 grams of fat per day or less.
Why Sophia Switched To Intuitive Eating
This next section I’ll be asking Sophia questions like:
- Why did you switch to intuitive eating after “successful” weight loss?
- When did you switch to intuitive eating?
- What was your “Eating Enlightenment” moment?
I really like this section because my purpose here at Eating Enlightenment is to end binge eating disorder. And in terms of learning how to not binge eat, there is really nothing better than intuitive eating along with some new good ways to think.
It’s great to have a role model like Sophia who openly talks about her “successful” weight loss struggles. The truth is that there are many people who look slender or are even underweight but still have not learned how to not binge eat.
Binge eating disorder affects all sizes, all genders. About 3% of the US population has binge eating disorder at any given moment in time.
Binge eating disorder is also marked by obsessive time spent thinking about food, which was a symptom Sophia experienced …
Why didn’t you stick with your “successful” weight loss?
- No freedom
- Obsessed about food and exercise
“I would say it was not free at all. Yeah. It got lost all the weight, but I was still disembodied. Like I was still disconnected. So I think that that’s not, I think at that time it was all about exercising. Like I said, hours a day and restricting my food and I thought about food and sugar so much. I thought about food all throughout the day.
“What am I going to eat next? What am I going to eat for lunch? Am I gonna eat for snack? What am I going to eat for breakfast? Could I have this food or that food?” And like we’re just like, this constant session never really gone away until I moved into intuitive eating.”
Why did you switch to intuitive eating?
The most common answer to why people start intuitive eating is “I had no choice to make other than to binge.”
Interview after interview I have asked people this question. People have different routes to how they arrived at “could make no choice”.
Why could they not make a different choice?
For some people they just need to get out of their heads. Other people go crazy around foods or when they go on vacation. This is because vacation has an association with freedom.
Many times people have an impossibly hard time with triggers which make it likely they might try to binge. A common trigger is coming home after work after a stressful day of work and where you end up binge eating.
For Sophia she had several motivations to switch over to intuitive eating, including:
- lost menstrual cycle for years
- had a big binge on vacation
- realized that control would lead to binge
For so many years I had been like on such restrictive diets. Like I had not eaten practically any carbohydrates for years. I had lost my menstrual cycle. Like all I cared about after my weight loss journey was being thin.
I remember one day, so specifically. I was in Hawaii and I would take of others but not myself. This is so common for women who overeat, they are oftentimes a caretaker and over caring for others and not caring for themselves. And they need some way to care for themselves and if they haven’t figured out how to take care of themselves then they turn to food.
So I was living in Hawaii and I ended up just sitting in the car just feeling super depleted. Then I looked over and there was all these snacks that I had not allowed myself to eat in like nine years. I got so curious I had to know “What would it be like to eat this kind of food again?” And um, it backfired. I think it was like so much restriction. It’s like backfired into a huge episode of binge eating.”
What was your “eating enlightenment” moment?
People can usually find a memory when they officially started intuitive eating.
In my 3-month “Stop Binge Eating” training program, I start people with an unconditional eating exercise in week 6 of the program. Oftentimes for people they get their first experience officially beginning intuitive eating. It’s a great time and feeling you get to have letting go of all these rules around various foods!
This is an example of an Eating Enlightenment moment. I wonder what Sophia’s moment was?
- Restricting for years
- But Sophia also noticed ‘good days’ when she just was ‘in’ her body
- Deep desire to let go
I had like this awakening moment, I remember I was sitting in my bedroom holding a bag and was contemplating things within myself. Suddenly, I realized I no longer want to like control. Like I no longer want to have rules around food. I just wanted to let it all go.
I realized that I had never actually listened to myself. And I found that there were certain moments or certain days where I did listen to my body and those days were so much more freeing because I wasn’t focused as much on food or health. I just kind of was connected to myself and would eat from that place.
And so I think it was just like realization that having so much control around food was taking over my life in my mind and limiting my experience. Because I think when we restrict for so long, eventually there’s a part of our psyche that will make us want to rebel against that.
How To Not Binge Eat
This next section I take various quotes from Sophia. I put these quotes in context of the question “How to not binge eat?”.
Something I really admire about Sophia is how she sharing she is about her past binge eating experiences. She’s also willing to detail how to stop binge eating and emotional eating. Please make note of these lessons, they are gold and can help you to end binge eating!
Here are some tips and topics related to the how to not binge eat theme of this article that we touch upon:
- How do I stop overeating once and for all?
- Can I learn to be an intuitive eater?
- How to handle urges?
- Let go of food rules to stop binge eating?
How do I stop overeating once and for all?
The key to stop overeating once and for all is to understand the root cause of overeating. Sophia details:
- Under how food can be used as a substitute for love
- You get in touch with your body so you can heal your nervous system
- Pay attention, come back to yourself and see what you really need
I feel like food is a representation of love in a way. And so if we’re not receiving love or if we’re stressed out then we may seek food to feel better. Life can be really challenging sometimes and if foods always been there for us then it’s natural for us to desire food to feel better. The only thing with that … you don’t actually need food.
There will be a repercussion over time because you’re not actually addressing what’s really needed. What you need is to pay attention, come back yourself and see what you really need. And what you really need is internal. It’s not external.
How do we meet our internal needs?
- Connect with your body
- Then learn how to let go and begin practicing letting go
- If we can connect and let go then we can access our inner power to meet our true needs
I believe learning how to really tend to your body and the nervous system is imperative to healing relationship with food because you get to literally be you with your own self within you, with your own physical physicality. You don’t have to hold on to so much. And I think when we’re holding onto so much, we’re heavy, we feel low, and we’re depressed. And so we seek comfort externally in meals. Instead, if we learn to connect then we can recognize that there’s a lot of power within us at our center that we have access to to help address our needs.
Any thoughts on diet culture?
- We live in a suppressed culture
- emotions that get suppressed build in the body
- You need to learn how to get the stuck up energy out of your body
We’re living in a culture that’s suppressed. We suppress so much of our emotions. So most of us are sitting down all day. If you’re sitting down all day so much energy gets stuck in your body. And if you don’t have ways to move the energy out of your nervous system, the energy accumulates and is bad for your health.
And there’s also so much discomfort that comes from that. From this discomfort we then turn to food. So by listening to your body and even your nervous system, you can learn to find ways to move the energy out of you body so things don’t get too uncomfortable.
How can I learn to be an intuitive eater?
- Connect with yourself through mindfulness practices like dance, eating, meditation and journaling
- Learn to connect to your capital S Self
- Learn to truly listen
Intuitive eating starts with the body and really being connected to your body. I always say that being intuitive is knowing how to truly listen in our lives. Intuition isn’t magical, although intuition may seem to be magical. Intuition is just knowing how to truly listen with an even mind. So intuitive eating is just knowing how to truly listen.
And also I’ve found that through really reconnecting to myself, like my capital S self, is the key. Psychology and mindfulness practices and meditation and through dance and through eating – these are all different ways I can connect and what works for me, my health, and my soul.
How to handle urges?
So I asked Sophia, “How do you handle urges when they come up?”.
Sophia’s response was amazing!
- If my body gives me a desire to eat I eat!
- Binge eating and no-allowance is what causes people to lose control around foods
- I can trust myself around foods because I know I can have these foods in the future
“Urges? I believe I don’t have urges because if I did have a craving – like for instance MnM’s or if I’m craving dark chocolate, I’ll totally have it. Or if I want some kind of cookie, I’ll totally have it. And I think that’s an important piece that I should bring up is allowance.
I think is important for intuitive eating because when I was dieting I didn’t allow myself to have any treats or anything. This was back when I had binge eating. And so now with allowance I’ll allow myself the chocolate or whatever I crave. From that place of allowance, there’s never an urge to over at or to eat a whole box of cookies. Like just a few cookies satisfies me because I know that I can have these cookies again in the future if I’d like to. And I think that’s been really helpful too. “
Let go of food rules to stop binge eating?
Oftentimes people think that letting go of food rules will mean they will eat like crap.
And I want to be clear – letting go of food rules doesn’t mean you will automatically eat “healthy” 100% of the time.
As Sophia makes clear, letting go of food rules means that you have freedom to discover what foods work for you.
Without rules, you can listen to your body instead of following the rules. Your body and hunger will tell you what’s best for you.
“Let go of the rules and find what foods truly work for you because not every food is going to work for all of us. I don’t eat everything and not everything works for me. But I’ve figured that out by trial and error and asking myself, “How do I feel after this meal?”
And that’s what you have to do. You have to listen to your body really closely for sensations and ask yourself questions like, “Am I’m enjoying this meal?” and “How do I feel after the meal?”
Because oftentimes somebody hears “let’s let go of all the rules” and they think this means “Let’s just eat whatever we want”. But if you’re not really listening to your body and honoring her needs, I think there’s still a level of disembodiment there and letting go of food rules is not going to be sustainable or healthy for you.”
If you want to read another story of transformation and how to not binge eat lessons, I have a much shorter article about my journey from binge eating wrestler to zen buddhist monk here.