I’ve tried to count how many times this last month I thought about dieting in some form or fashion. By dieting, I don’t mean a full blown “I’m cutting out carbs or going on Paleo”. I mean more of a “hmmm, I should really try to eat super healthy and perfectly”.
(The number of times that thought popped into my was 22; yes, I did count 🙂 )
This is coming from someone who hasn’t officially dieted in 6 years, who has been working on my “stuff” for 13 years, and who knows inside & out that restriction never ever has any positive effect on my life.
And yet, my body had been feeling off from going backpacking, I was struggling adjusting to winter & the transition to cold weather, and my stomach felt “bigger” than normal. (Plus, I had picked up my wedding dress…but that’s another story for another blog post 🙂 )
Instead of exploring deeper, it seemed easier to just eat according to some sort of predetermined plan… (or so said that old tape in my head that rears up when I’m feeling out of control in some area of my life).
So why is not dieting so damn hard? Why is it that we get tempted and sucked into the lusty eyes of the diet-industry?
It’s because of the promises we make to ourselves…
“I promise to only eat when I’m hungry, to never eat for emotional reasons, to only have egg whites for breakfast, to always eat vegetables every meal, to never eat carbs after 7, & to go to the gym at least 4x a week.”
“I swear I’ll only have one cookie, express my emotions calmly when I feel stressed, make the kids healthy dinners every night, eat mindfully every meal, & make time for myself every day.”
“I promise to never eat sugar because I know it makes me feel bad, to only stick to the produce aisle at the grocery store, to say no to my office cookie exchange, and to never lose my cool in front of my kids.”
“I really will not eat when I’m bored or stressed, to know my triggers, to never eat in secret, and to not binge at night because I know I will just regret it in the morning.”
And the reality…?
We’re exhausted in the morning and press snooze 6 times instead of going to the gym, we grab muffins on the go because we ran late yet again, & we have our 3rd cup of coffee just to get through the day.
We’re lucky to get the kids to eat anything besides chicken fingers & we can’t seem to cook anything that the whole family likes.
We get overwhelmed, feel like we’re juggling 27 balls at once, have 1,000 on our to-do lists that never get done, and fantasize about running away to an island and living there forever…by the end of the day, as we sink exhaustedly into the couch, ice cream seems like an easier solution than dealing with life.
Not only are we trying to just get through each day, but we’re trying to raise good kids, work our jobs, achieve more, climb the ladder, find work/life balance, take a gym class, make times for ourselves, cook healthy dinners, explore our passions, find a fulfilling hobby, make time for fun, say yes to way too many things we don’t want to do, and arrive at the end of the day feeling utterly and completely exhausted.
Besides the promises we make to ourselves, as women we’re expected to not only work long hours, advance our career and achieve…but also raise a perfect family with polite kids, have dinner on the table every night and keep a sparkling clean household.
We’re expected to have it all together, but never need help, to be emotional but not TOO emotional, to never age or look “old”, to look effortlessly put together, to be thin, be small and strive to always look beautiful.
Is it any wonder that we turn to dieting? It seems like the only structure, the only control we have in a world where we’re spinning ourselves in circles.
The expectations and unrealistic standards we’ve placed on ourselves set us up for failure.
Dieting gives us something to grasp on to when our world feels like it’s too much. If we can JUST feel in control of our weight & look good, then everything else won’t feel as overwhelming…
It gives us focus, meaning and purpose when we feel exhausted, lost and tired.
And not dieting?
Well, not dieting is so damn hard because it feels like… So. Much. Work.
And it is.
But here’s what I want you to remember.
I remember a client once who told me that she felt like dieting was her full time job.
She was a mom of 3 and said she rarely felt present with her kids.
Instead, her mind was busy researching the next diet, plotting her next weight loss endeavor, mapping out food plans, spending hours at the gym, obsessing over how to make up for overeating…and basically spending all waking hours consumed with dieting and weight loss.
When we shift our focus away from dieting and onto ourselves, it can feel excruciating at first. Because all of the stuff we were ignoring comes to the surface.
Think about a champagne bottle. When you pop the cork, it all bubbles up and over. That same thing happens to us when we realize dieting doesn’t work.
All of the things we didn’t want to look at (or didn’t even know were within us) now come up for healing and processing.
And we easily get sucked into dieting because we don’t want the world to know we struggle.
We “wear” our weight, so to speak.
If we struggle with food and are overweight the world knows. We can’t hide it.
So there’s shame in admitting that we struggle with something so trivial (like food). We’d rather take the easy route and just diet and not have to deal with it.
So where do you begin in this mess of dieting, not dieting, swearing off dieting and then just sitting in this confusion of not knowing where to turn?
Begin with finding a community where other women can walk beside you, picking you up when you feel alone.
Begin with talking to your best friend, your partner or your loved one about what you struggle with and where you need support.
Begin with taking it one day, one hour at a time. Just for today, you can get through anything. (That’s my favorite saying from OA).
And above all else, begin with cutting yourself some slack.
This isn’t a one and done decision to stop dieting.
You’ll get tempted. You’ll try again, convinced it’s easier than dealing with emotions.
You’ll fall. You’ll pick yourself back up. You’ll swear never to diet. And then you’ll swear it’s the only solution.
It’s a dance and a balancing act.
At the beginning of my journey, I thought about dieting 15,763 times a month. Now I only think about it (but don’t act on it) when I feel like I need “control”.
But I’m reminded all the time of diets.
My fiance is always trying some new low-carb, counting portions, cutting out sugar program. One of my close friends is trying to lose weight on some “lose weight before the wedding” plan. A girl friend swears that the ketogenic diet is THE thing that has “fixed” her.
We live in a world where diets are the norm. But there are more and more of us who come to the “other side” every day 🙂
Not dieting takes courage and determination. It requires leaving your comfort zone, exploring vulnerable emotion places, and exposing yourself emotionally to the world.
But once we really, truly, & deeply understand that dieting does NOT give us want we want, we can come back to that truth again and again.
And when you know that truth deep within you, you can’t ever “unknow” it.
You realize you want something more than a life filled with dieting.
And that’s the beginning of a very, very powerful journey.