Way back in 2014, I ditched diets FOREVER. I was sick of the never ending battle between 'good' and 'bad' food plus all the emotional baggage that went with it. Kelsey Miller through the Anti-Diet Project put me on the path to mindful eating and I've been a regular reader of her posts over at Refinery29 ever since.
For 2 years and 7 months, I refused to diet and I worked really hard at changing the way I thought/talked about my body and food. It is difficult unpicking my complicated relationship with food and unlearning all the social conditioning that goes into meal times. I avoid calling desserts 'naughty' or 'cheeky'. I refrain from ending a good meal with a promise that 'the diet starts tomorrow'. I don't reward myself with food but I don't punish myself with it either. I've learnt to talk to my body the way I would talk to a friend.
I know some of you are thinking how hard is it not to diet but think about it - really think about how often in the last year you've gone on a diet/lifestyle change that is focused on food. Did you do a detox in January because you felt guilty about having too good a time over the holidays? Did you go on a juice cleanse cos Jill from HR swears that's how she got back into her skinny jeans? How about that crash diet before your beach holiday? Show of hands if you are currently sugar free/dairy free/gluten free and not by doctors orders. Don't feel bad, I'm right there with you.
Diets make us feel like we are in control of our bodies. We are all one diet away from physical perfection and all consuming happiness. Skipping the diet says I am happy as I am and I am not looking to change. Unless you are built like a model, this is a pretty bold statement. 90% of the time I really like my body but there are days when I don't and one of those days turned into a month long diet. This month shall forever be remembered as the month of my despair.
Why and how I came to find myself back on the diet wagon...
I was having an bad body day - I felt gross in my skin and I wanted it to stop. Normally I give myself a pep talk and try to find out where this flood of emotion is coming from (it's rarely about my actual weight) but for some reason, I ignored all that I knew to be good and stepped on the scales. THIS WAS A HUGE MISTAKE.
I had gained weight. Not a lot but at the time, I honestly felt like my world was crashing around me. I instantly recalled every single negative comment that had ever been made about my body. The dam of positive thoughts that I had built over the last two years was nothing against the 10+ years of repressed body insecurities.
The shame spiral began and it went DEEP. I looked at pictures of myself at 16 and wished myself smaller. I compared my body to models, friends, strangers and I came up short every time. All the things you are not supposed to do in your lowest moments I did. The final straw was when I checked my BMI and there it was, I had slipped into the overweight category.
I committed to a diet right there and then. It was going to be quick and brutal but I justified it by convincing myself that I would hop right back on to mindful eating as soon as I got back to my formerly svelte self.
The diet was supposed to be low calorie, low carb, low on everything. I recorded everything I ate on my FitBit with the goal of eating less than the calories I burned in the day. At first it was great, my healthy meals weren't a massive departure from my usual and I just skipped on the sweet treats. I lost a significant amount of weight in a week and I was elated. The next week, I put it back on and that's when things started to go awry.
Cutting out 'bad' food wasn't enough, I started to reduce the portions of my main meals. A couple of days later, I contemplated skipping lunch not because I wasn't hungry but because I wanted to be thin NOW. I started weighing myself every other day as opposed to once a week. My mood was defined by the number on the scales and how many calories I burned in a day.
I would eat a KitKat then beat myself up about it. Off limit food that I don't even like started to tempt me. In a very short period of time, I lost perspective and became a pretty shoddy version of myself. The thing that snapped my out of the diet trance was when I considered flaking on my friends to avoid an unhealthy dinner. That is not who I am. My friends are hilarious but always busy so I never skip on a chance to hang. To even contemplate missing out on a hang sesh with the best women in the world was a sign that even I in my diet bubble couldn't miss. The diet had to end.
Stepping out of the diet haze...
The diet came and went and here we are. No weight loss just a whole bunch of emotional garbage to sort through. The positive body image and self worth that I built up for the last two years feels squandered. It was so easy for me to slip back into that old pattern of putting myself down, all over a couple of extra kilos.
Looking back I can see that my body issues as always are tied to deeper insecurities. Becoming self-employed has made me feel vulnerable and instead of addressing that I picked on my body. If I could make a success of my body, I could make my work and in turn my life a success. That is obviously ridiculous and I do need to work on that.
I am still quietly concerned about BMI so I am going to do what I should have done in the first place which is visit my GP. I've recommitted to mindful eating and I have started practising yoga everyday to keep stress at bay. The upside of this whole episode is that it reminded me that self-love is a journey not a destination.