I used to be obsessed with my weight. I used to weigh myself everyday and would get so frustrated if the scale went up, even if it was just a quarter pound increase. No matter what my weight, I still wasn’t satisfied with how my body looked. Even when I reached my goal weight I wasn’t completely happy.
I have followed so many diets over the past 25 years, starting each one with a great amount of enthusiasm. Believing that each one would be “the answer”, that each time would end in a different result. With a couple of them I had such success that I even started working for the companies themselves!
I used to exercise in order to make up for what I had eaten the day before, or to prepare myself – to save up for – what I was about to eat. I would get frustrated that my body didn’t reward me fast enough for the exercise I was doing by making me look like I had actually been lifting weights and doing squats. I looked at exercise as a merely a transactional activity; calories in, more calories out.
Dieting became something that I just accepted as part of my life, and I know I’m not alone in this struggle. When I look back on those years of dieting and trying to live my life at a certain weight and size, I wonder why I felt so much pressure to look a certain way. Well, there’s really no mystery. All I had to do was look around at the magazines in the checkout, the ‘Diet and Nutrition’ section of the bookstore, TV commercials and FB ads. Diet culture has infused our lives with a belief that we need to constantly be restricting ourselves in order to fit in and be happy, and we shouldn’t be happy until we’ve reached that magical number. And after we’ve reached that magical number, we still need to sculpt and shred our mid lines and thighs. Diet culture wants us to never be satisfied.
And if we stop dieting, we’re said to be “giving up” or “throwing in the towel”. The diet industry provides us with plenty of evidence with why we shouldn’t stop dieting, and plays on our fears of not feeling worthy or valued in order to keep us on this ridiculous roller coaster.
Can we hit pause for a second? Just stop and take in the insanity of it all. Why are we letting an outside force, a multi billion dollar industry, dictate how we feel about our bodies? Is the thought “I need to diet” even true? Or how about the thought “I can’t trust myself around cookies” (or pizza, pasta, chocolate, etc….)? Take a minute to ask yourself what it would feel like if you could be around those foods and feel indifferent, even relaxed.
I no longer diet. For real. I haven’t replaced my “no diet” with a new diet. I hate that, too. When someone says “never diet again” and then they introduce you to a new diet. Or they don’t call it a diet, they call it a “meal plan” with a whole list of foods that are off limits. Can you see the insanity yet?
I love food! Why would I continue to restrict myself from one of the greatest pleasures in life? Depriving myself of one of the most pleasurable things in life left me feeling just that – deprived. No, I don’t eat cookies all day. But you know what? I have some sort of quick pleasure food everyday, and I savor every bite. And when I eat salads, I don’t choke them down because I have to; I savor those too and feel nourished in doing so. By allowing myself the freedom to choose what I put in my body, instead of allowing my meals to be dictated by a set of rules created by someone else, I’m discovering what tastes good and feels good to me.
And what about exercise, you ask? Getting to sweat is something I enjoy almost everyday. Exercise provides me with an outlet for stress, helps me creatively and just generally helps me feel like a badass. I’m currently 2 weeks away from running my first marathon, a feat I may not be attempting had I still been concerned with looking the part.
I love my body and I’m grateful for what it does for me everyday. Do I still want to make changes? Sure I do! The difference now is that I’m starting with love for myself, not waiting for it to materialize after weeks of deprivation. And, I have given up. I’ve given up the need to fulfill unrealistic cultural expectations. I’ve given up the thoughts that told me I had to restrict myself and punish myself with exercise. And I’m gaining back my natural trust with food and a desire to move my body as often as I can.
Think about how our culture would change if every woman stopped dieting. Think about all the things in our lives that would change: the way we shopped, talked to each other, what we thought about, how we showed up in our lives. It would all be different!
Diets are unsustainable; the promises they offer are temporary, and the cycle of yo-yo dieting leads to mistrust with food and abuse of exercise. Beginning with love, choosing acceptance from the beginning, is a mind shift and one that leads to continually choosing love over loathing. You have one body, one life. How much longer do you want to spend it on a diet?