After being relatively slim and comfortable in my own skin til my early twenties, I went to university.
I discovered alcohol, the joys of a late night takeaway, and being in control of my own diet. I gained some weight, noticed my clothes were becoming tight, so I started to eat more fruit and veg, and walk around a bit more. I soon got back into clothes comfortably and with minimal stress.
Unfortunately a couple of years into my course I became massively unhappy, for various reasons. I soon discovered food to be a temporary distraction to how terrible I was feeling. Soon “treat” food, like a takeaway, a bar of chocolate, a cake etc, just basically became my staple diet. As I gained more weight I became more unhappy, and ate more… At around this time, I was going to a family wedding, and what should have been a lovely day out shopping with my mum for a nice outfit, actually ended up with me being a sobbing mess in the changing rooms about how completely unrecognizable my body had become.
I joined a slimming club – It doesn’t actually matter which one, because I’ve joined more than one time to more than one club. I lost all the weight. Then I went through another unhappy period involving a disastrously short marriage and subsequent divorce. Gained it all back, and some additional weight just to really seal the deal.
And that, ladies and gents has basically been the pattern of my body over the last ten years. Proof, if it were ever needed, that diets don’t work.
It’s quite amazing really when you think about it. The diet industry is a multi-million pound industry in the UK alone – Worldwide, it is an amazingly lucrative business to be in. The thing with diet’s is, they give us a set of rules to live by, which are often completely alien to us. If we fail to stick to these rules, we are a failure, we need the help and support the diet industry can offer. In short, most people are set up for failure, with the solution being to seek help from the people who set us up for the failure in the first place.
If you do manage to stick to a diet for long enough to get to your goal weight, you then finish the diet, and in many cases “celebrate” with treats which slowly become a bigger and bigger part of your diet.
I know this, and yet the fact that all diets have done is leave me bigger and bigger makes me want to keep trying, because surely it’s just that I haven’t found the “right one for me” yet. I do know some successful dieters, let me hasten to add, and if it’s worked for you, you feel good and you’ve kept the weight off, I’m really happy for you, and in no way am I trying to rubbish you or your lifestyle. I’ve just come to realise that they aren’t going to work for me.
In some ways, this was always going to be the case. I come from a line of yo-yo dieters, and we learn behaviours from those around us. I’ve come to the long needed conclusion, however, that I don’t actually want to spend the rest of my life obsessing about food. Neither do I want to spend the rest of my life avoiding being in photographs and dodging clothes shopping as much as possible. I’d also like to be healthier, wear clothes from the high street like everyone else, and not worry about any impact my weight might be having on my ability to have children, let alone run around after them.
So I’m giving up dieting. Instead, I’m focusing on a healthier approach to food. While I’m going to try to stop thinking of food as being “good” or bad”, I’m going to try and make the bulk of my diet healthy, whilst still enjoying the odd treat. Secondly, I’m going to actually listen to my body, and try to learn to stop eating when I’m full. Thirdly, I’m going to try to improve my self esteem by trying to make the most of what I’ve got. Oh, and I’m doing more exercise in the form of hot yoga and some tentative running. I’m planning on these changes being long term, not the short term I’ve I’ve sought before. Basically, the word “Diet” has also been hi-jacked – I want to take it back to basics, meaning “what I eat” rather than “what I am allowed to eat”. I know I need to think about food differently, and I am hoping this will come with time, like a new habit developing. After years of feeling like a failure after yet another “bad food day” and failed weight loss regime, that will not be easy, but I have had enough of being so nasty to myself. I wouldn’t let anyone else speak to me the way I speak to myself, so I will be working on that.
I am aware that I am oversimplifying this issue in some ways – the way we eat, and our body images are massively complex issues involving the politics of the food industry, the media, social expectations, and for the women who make up the majority of dieters, gender politics. There can also be issues around mental health, physical health, disability, finances and a myriad of other issues at play here. Which, at the end of the day are more reasons why dieting doesn’t work for many people in the long term. So please don’t feel like this post is derogatory to you if you are struggling – it’s not. My irritation is aimed squarely at the diet pushers.
Have you called a halt to the dieting bandwagon? What worked for you?
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