When you know better, do better!

By Michelle May, M.D.

Have you ever looked back on something you did or said in the past that caused you to feel embarrassed, or even ashamed? Now imagine you had written it down in a book!

Gentle ChangeThat’s where I found myself.

Six months ago, I began the process of updating my books and workbooks that were more than five years old. I thought the process would be relatively quick, simple, and painless. Instead, I was surprised to realize that they all required significant rewrites!

Don’t get me wrong… I am still 100% behind the awareness, new skills, and life-changing shifts that come from using the Mindful Eating Cycle to completely rethink one’s relationship with food. Those concepts continue to help others recognize and resolve even longstanding challenges with food, so I didn’t need to change them.

What I discovered though was how many subtle weight-related messages had slipped through and needed to be removed or modified! It’s not that I promoted weight loss, but the ubiquitous weight-focus in our society was present in my words, and at the time, I couldn’t see it. As I reread the material through my current lens, I experienced feelings of confusion, embarrassment, regret, guilt, and even shame.

Diet Culture is Just One Piece of the Puzzle

Eight years ago when I wrote Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat, and then when I updated it in 2013, I clearly understood the harm that diet culture was doing to our relationship with food. However, I didn’t yet understand how much our cultural obsession with weight was feeding that diet culture. That seems obvious now, which is why it was confusing to read my own words.

Here are two examples from my descriptions of instinctive eating, before and after the rewrite:

Before: Think of someone who stays within her natural weight range.

After: Think of someone who manages her eating effortlessly.

Before: She never stops to ask the question “Am I hungry?” yet somehow manages to eat enough to grow and maintain a healthy weight.

After: She never stops to ask the question “Am I hungry?” yet somehow manages to eat enough to play, learn, and grow.

Depending on where you are in your journey, these changes may or may not feel meaningful. But from where I sit now, my “before” versions reinforced our culture’s focus on weight—a focus I believe is feeding disordered eating, eating disorders, shame, guilt, and less health, not more. The recognition that I contributed to this paradigm, made me feel sad and ashamed.

It’s a Process

At times, I feel frustrated that there are still so many restrictive messages out there feeding the eat-repent-repeat cycle. However, updating my books has been a humbling reminder that we are all in process, and that change takes time.

Weight, or more specifically weight loss, is one of the most common concerns people have about giving up dieting in favor of mindful eating. As I explained in this article, Mindful Eating and Weight Loss, weight loss isn’t the reason to learn how to eat mindfully, and focusing on it gets in the way of healing your relationship with food.

Still, it is understandable that you might have trouble letting go of a weight-focus. After all, this is my work, and look how long it’s taking me to get it! So, I sincerely apologize if anything I’ve written may have reinforced your beliefs about weight.

Be Gentle With Yourself As You Are Learning to Change

Throughout the rewriting process, I had to gently remind myself that I am a product of this culture too. At the same time, it has been exciting to realize how much my thinking has evolved, and to recognize that there will always be more room for growth.

As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

It is safe to assume that I am still making mistakes and have a lot to learn. I am committed to continually doing better—and I fully support you in your journey to do better too!

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