For nearly eight years, bar two pregnancies, I’ve been fighting my ascent to size 14, but now I’m done and ready to be rid of all the items in my closet that don’t quite fit; the dresses that fit me once, the trousers that were a bit tight and now don’t button up, the jeans that would have fit when I bought them if I could lose just ten more pounds. It’s safe to say that they are not a motivational factor but a constant reminder of failure.
This week I bought a few size 14 dresses without rationalising that they would be a temporary measure. In the past anything that size was ‘just for now’ as I’ve been on a perpetual fight to get to size 12 and then 10. I’ve reached a solid 12, but never maintained that size for more than a few months. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about nutrition and calories, even gained a nutrition diploma, and I can tell you exactly what you need to do to lose, gain or maintain weight; but I’m not interested in that fight anymore. My new fight is for body acceptance.
Does this mean I’ve ‘let myself go’? Well, yes, I’ve let go of the chains of patriarchy that tell me as a woman I must strive for the perfect image of youth. An image that, counter to what we’ve been told, doesn’t indicate health any better than a shiny paint job on a car indicates engine quality. I’m happy to have learned what I have about myself and my body over the past eight years, but I do regret the time I spent obsessing over whether I could afford a rice cake with peanut butter. I can eat burgers and pizza and drink wine without gaining more weight, and this is exactly my intention.
I’m still working on the confidence to consistently feel this way but I’m giving up on ever hearing “You look amazing,” in exchange for contentment and the mental energy to strive for more important goals.
Here are some more things I’m giving up on that you may understand all too well yourself:
Hunger: I’ve been on enough diets to know that feeling hungry for a day feels like a month. Three days feels like a herculean effort and sacrifice but is met with very little reward; a bit of water loss, a short feeling of triumph, but nothing that will remain without the herculean effort in perpetuity.
Mental Energy: Dieting consumes me. I pretend to get busy with life but the truth is I am constantly adding up calories eaten and working out what else I can fit in, or else I’m thinking about what magnificent feast I can prepare for my next ‘free meal’. Forget it, these days all my meals are free meals, which negates any need for frequent feasts.
Side effects: Dieting comes with irritability, sleeplessness and depression. Know what else has side effects like that? Parenting. Ain’t no way I’m doubling up anymore, and it isn’t just for my own sense of well being either. The way I act and react to everyday situations right now will shape the lives and personalities of my girls. I don’t want to teach them to be short and sharp with people just because I wanted a bagel.
Energy: Keeping up with two small kids, a home and a job or two is hard enough with a maintenance diet. Throw in sub-calorie levels of food and it becomes impossible to keep up. This is no different to how I felt with just a home and full time job, it’s simply taken me some time to become sick and tired of it.
Beauty standards: I’ve never been one to spend hours preening but I did accept western standards of body size for a long time. It takes an enormous amount of confidence to say: I don’t care what you think I should look like, I have other ideas. This could be different opinions of beauty, or it could be different priorities. No matter; I’m adopting both.
Only 5% of dieters will succeed and keep it off for at least two years. Those 5% will keep the weight off by eating less and moving more than someone of the same size who never had that gain and loss experience. On top of that, there is still no proof that losing weight will make you as healthy as a person who has always been that size.
So I ask, why should any of us continue to be tired, hungry, crabby, and jealous when all we really need to do is learn to let it go?