Jennifer struggles with her weight and has since she was 12 years old. She suffers from
breathing problems and high blood pressure. She also leaks urine every time she sneezes, laughs or even walks up the stairs. Obesity is the second most common cause of urinary incontinence, and as her weight increases her UI gets harder to control.
Excess weight puts undue stress and pressure on pelvic floor muscles so she lines her underwear with thick pads and must always know the location of the nearest bathroom. There is a solution. People with incontinence who lost between 26 and 29 percent of their body weight noted a significant improvement in their bladder control, according to Healthcentral. The greater the weight loss the more improvement they saw. So why can’t she and others like her just lose some weight?
Jennifer grew up in a family obsessed with weight, and her mother stocked the kitchen with low-fat crackers, diet sodas, fat-free cookies and even low-fat butter. Jennifer rebelled by stuffing herself with junk food any chance she could get. Her weight went up and her concerned parents put her on a diet. Over the years she tried everything – pre-packaged meals, Atkins, South Beach, meal replacement shakes, counting fat grams, and counting calories. Her weight only went up. She began every diet full of hope, but invariably she would stray, feel like a failure, eat even more, and gain weight.
Now she’s in her 40s, heavier than ever and feeling miserable, guilt-ridden, and a disappointment to her parents, husband, and children. She’s not alone. Every year, according to the Boston Medical Center, 45 million Americans go on a diet and
spend $33 billion on weight-loss products. If there are so many options, why are we still getting fatter?
Stop dieting and start eating
In their book Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch provide the tools to do just that. They encourage readers to make peace with food and rediscover the pleasures of eating. Tribole, a registered dietitian, and Resch, a nutrition therapist, offer several principles to help readers normalize their relationship with food. Here are a few examples:
1. Reject the diet mentality
Tribole and Resch encourage readers to reject diets and “get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight.” For chronic dieters the idea of not following a diet is scary. But then you have to ask: “Have any of these diets worked for me?” Invariably the answer is no, so why not try something new.
2. Honor your hunger and feel your fullness
Trust your body to tell you when it’s hungry, and then eat something. If you wait too long, you increase the chances of overeating and making bad food choices. Then, once you do begin to eat, pause every once in awhile to check in with your body. Ask yourself does the food still taste good? Am I still hungry? How will I feel if I keep eating? If the answers are no, no, and overly full, it’s time to stop. This can be the hardest thing to do because most of us are programmed to eat everything on our plates, knowing we can’t eat again until the next scheduled meal, which leads to the next principle.
3. Make peace with food
“Give yourself unconditional permission to eat,” say Tribole and Resch. By denying yourself a specific type of food (chocolate or bread) you develop cravings that take on a life of their own and lead to binging. By allowing yourself to eat whatever you want, you take away that fear of deprivation. You end up eating a bite of chocolate rather than the whole candy bar because you know you can always have more.
4. Mindful exercise – feel the difference
“Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie-burning effect of exercise,” they say. Find what feels good for you, enjoy the movement, and focus on the benefits to your body. Pelvic floor exercises may not burn a lot of calories, but think of the benefits – improving bladder control, increasing sexual sensation, and improving your quality of life. What could be better than moving just because it feels good?
5. Honor your health with gentle nutrition
In his book Food Rules, Michael Pollen says, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” By food he means, “Eat only food that will eventually rot.” Wise words, but does this mean you can never eat potato chips again? No. Just make sure most of your food comes from sources you recognize. It’s all about balance and how the food makes you feel. Sometimes you’ll want a bean burrito with a side of nachos. Other days you’ll crave a spinach salad. It’s all about balance and trusting your body.
Jennifer recently gave away all her diet books. She cooks a variety of foods, emphasizing fruits and vegetables at every meal. She purchased a pair of underwear from Carin, follows the pelvic floor exercises on the accompanying app, and has noticed her posture is better and her leaks are fewer. She knows this way of eating is not a quick fix. It could take years and she may never reach her ideal weight. However, she feels better, eats a lot less, enjoys her food and her life more, and will reach the weight she was meant to be. That may not be a size 2, but it will be what’s right for her.