Dieting is one of those things I don’t remember learning about, because it was always there. Diets were a way of life in my family. My mother who has been over weight since I can remember and my aunt who hasn’t ever been over weight as far as I can tell, would discuss diets, food, and fat body parts at the kitchen table as most women do. I remember my mom adding peanut butter to diet shakes and refusing to give up bleu cheese dressing. Mostly I remember not questioning the fact that dieting is what women do.
As a teenager I read magazine articles about anorexia and bulimia and used the information as dieting tips. Never persevering long enough thankfully, I wished I could manage some of these (purging, starving, excessive exercise) just long enough to get really thin. I wasn’t even over weight.
I guess my starve and binge cycles were set quite early. I’ve been through quite long and protracted periods of both as well as shorter, quicker cycles going back and forth daily or weekly. During my first marriage, we ate and ate and I didn’t even notice what was happening to my body except for a photo here and there. When the marriage started to break down, an anxiety induced starve cycle meant a thirty pound loss in a few months time and resulted in my obsessing about my body again. Knowing little about nutrition, I just ate as little as possible. It wasn’t until meeting my next husband and becoming happy again that I started eat normally and put on weight.
But that was just the beginning.
From there I would learn as much as I could about nutrition and dieting as possible, reading books, websites and website forums. I obsessed over every detail. I tried every weight lifter endorsed diet plan. I starved. I binged. I lost and I gained. I did exactly what the experts say will happen; with each diet I’d lose some and then come off the diet and eventually gain it all back and then some. And it’s not because I don’t know how to keep it off, I know exactly how to keep it off. But as those researchers will tell you, the human body does not want to lose weight and it will try any trick it can to get you to put the weight back on. Indeed the human body will use the human mind to trick you into eating something, anything, if it feels out of homeostasis.
I’ve gone from hating my body and crying in my husband’s arms that I will never manage again to look like I did when I met him, through two pregnancies, years of reflection and some time reading feminist literature about loving yourself finally to acceptance. Most of the time. I wrote Why I’m Done Fighting Size 14 and I meant it. I needed that period of time to come to full acceptance of my body how it is and really own the fact that there are more important things about a person than the size and shape of their bodies. I want to be a good mother, a good friend and a good writer much more than I want to be a size 8.
I once had a training session with a personal trainer at a gym and he asked me to rate from one to ten how important my goal of losing weight was. I said it was a seven. This seemed reasonable to me, even when it was a top goal of mine. I knew that it would be ridiculous to give it a nine or ten when relationships, learning, career and family were also in mind. Surely there are much more important things than weight loss? He told me I couldn’t succeed unless it was a ten on my scale of importance. I don’t know, maybe he was right; I still haven’t done it. But I could never put weight loss above all other goals in life, especially now.
Weight loss now is just a background goal. I am not desperate to get rid of the “excess weight.” I’m making better choices and I plan to lose weight very slowly so as not to shock my system sending me back to weight gain again, which I normally do along with 95% of other dieters. If it doesn’t work, then fine. There are more important things to worry about. So please don’t mention my diet to me if my kids are around. I don’t want them to learn to hate their bodies like I did. I’m trying desperately to model body confidence and don’t want that undermined in any way. We eat to fuel our bodies. We make healthy choices to grow and be healthy and none of it has anything to do with the fatness or thinness of our bodies. When they get older they will learn that eating too much and gaining fat can be an indication of choices being out of balance, but right now they are young. All they need to know is that healthy food and exercise make healthy, happy bodies.