Let’s talk about dieting, shall we?
You’ve already heard me rant about how diet culture is everywhere, and how we are being trapped, as a society (and especially as women), to believe that there is something wrong with our bodies and that they need to be changed; our bodies are problems that need to be fixed.
The ultimate cure to our “problem”? DIETS!
When I say “dieting”, I’m talking anything from Atkins to Paleo to low-carb to sugar-free or to just plain “clean” eating (which, yes, can totally be a diet). As Isabel Foxen Duke says, dieting is any way of eating that we are emotionally attached to. As in, we hold value with this way of eating and feel negative emotions when we do not eat a certain way that we have deemed “better”. We feel that when we don’t eat a certain way, we’ve fallen off the wagon; eating is either done right or done wrong.
People diet for lots of different reasons, with the ultimate goal being a transformed body, which we believe leads to a transformed life.
Thinness equals …
feeling good in your clothes
easy dating and romance
a better sex life
peace around food
Here’s a secret: you don’t need to be thin to have any of these things.
Get honest with yourself for a second and think about all of the things you’ve imagined doing better or more of once you reached that goal weight, once your abs were as toned as you wanted them to be, once you had that dream body.
I’ll put myself out there and say that I believed that men would be more attracted to me, I’d be more respected as a health coach, and that I would never crave sugar again once I had the body I’d always dreamed of. I’d be like a healthy, sexy, floating piece of air that never needed food for any reason except for fuel, never for pleasure.
The hardest truth I learned was that, after I had what many people would refer to as the “perfect” body, I was still miserable with myself and what I looked like. Having toned biceps, a round booty, and hard abs did nothing for my self-esteem when my motivation to obtain these things came from a place of self-hatred. I was not more confident. I still thought my body should be better looking than it was. I still felt like shit.
Now I know that men can be attracted to me no matter what I look like (and more importantly, I now find myself damn attractive so who really cares), I can be a successful health coach with the body I’m in, and that sugar is, yep, still delicious. Though the journey was long, peace with food came once I stopped trying to reach a totally unattainable ideal with my body. I stopped incessantly craving sugar because I allowed myself to have some.
But I digress…let’s get back to why dieting just doesn’t work.
I’ll go into a couple different scenarios here that are common with dieting.
Scenario one: You diet and don’t reach your goal weight
Bummer, huh? You had a diet plan laid out all plainly in front of you…eat this, don’t eat that, don’t ever eat this, etc…you tried your hardest to be “good” and stay away from those evil carbs but your weight barely even budged. All those weeks of restriction weren’t even worth it. So then perhaps you find yourself diving into the nearest jar of cookie butter, because frankly…F*$# it, right? Clearly this diet wasn’t the one, and now you’ve got yourself feeling like a total failure. You’ll never be able to feel sexy in your clothes because your body just isn’t looking the way you want it to. How could you not just lose the damn weight when other people look so amazing eating the same type of food? Life sucks because your body sucks.
Scenario two: You diet and DO reach your goal weight
You’ve hit that number on the scale that you’ve been dreaming about. But…wait. Where are the men lining up at the door for your number? Where’s the blossoming social life you just knew you’d have once you looked this way? What about the clothes in your closet? You still don’t feel good in them. Like I mentioned before, we assume that by looking a certain way, we’re going to attain a certain way of life that we didn’t have before. As if the number on the scale will magically transform everything happening in our lives. Maybe you continue dieting because you believe that what you’ve done so far isn’t enough. You know you can make your abs more toned, your thigh gap a little wider, your life a little better through a specific regimen of eating.
In both of these scenarios, we end up blaming our bodies. Either we can’t lose the weight and we hate our bodies, or we do lose the weight and blame our continued unhappiness on our bodies. OR we lose the weight and it comes back because we’ve been depriving ourselves so much. Read more on this here and here,
What most people don’t realize is that we got ourselves into these diet messes because we were searching for happiness and validation from an external source. We based our self-worth entirely on our bodies. It’s like looking in the mirror and telling your body, “Hey, I’ve got years of buried emotions and self-esteem issues in my heart so if you could just look perfect to cover all of that up that’d be great.” When you put your body under this much pressure, of course you’re going to think your body let you down. Enter: body hatred.
I want to mention that this is a totally normal way of thinking. It’s nothing more than a defense mechanism. Hating your body - a tangible object that you view as changeable - is MUCH easier than overcoming some of your deepest heartaches, which you view as engrained.
We see our bodies as the problem, not our mindset.
You have the ability to look and feel amazing no matter what you weigh or how much you’ve been deadlifting at the gym. Your body isn’t keeping you from living the life that you want - you are. We have to learn to get out of our own way.
Here’s an exercise: Write down all of the ways that you imagine your life changing once you have the “perfect” body. Then make a commitment to do one of those things or manifest that feeling this week. It may feel uncomfortable. It may feel wrong. But you need to give yourself permission to be happy no matter what your body looks like. Your body isn’t here to bring you down, she’s here to keep you alive…you just have to make the choice of how you want to live.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What have your experiences been with dieting? Has it ever made you happier?