Here’s a guest post from another friend of mine. She is a white, able-bodied, heterosexual (I think) woman. She is a wonderful person to be around, and she reads Dances with Fat (who reminds us that we can’t hate ourselves thin), too! We were having a conversation about radical self-love when she agreed to let me use this piece.
Why I Quit Dieting
Even though I was an average-sized kid, I went on my first diet at age 9 because I thought from example that it’s what you do when you are female. It lasted a day because I was nothing but hungry all day. At 15, I got better at fighting hunger and lost weight by eating only an orange and then drinking Diet Coke and chewing Trident bubble gum during the school days – days that frequently included a couple of hours of tennis team practice – so I could go home and eat a normal dinner and not tell my stepmother I was on a diet. I definitely lost weight and for years my mother went on and on about how good I looked when I performed in a play at the end of that spring. I later revealed I was only that thin because I had basically been starving myself. Of course, I gained weight back. I went through about 3 more of those 15-pound cycles into my late 20s, one of them “accomplished” during a college summer by eating 800 calories a day, chewing on candy but spitting it out, and running about 2 miles a day. (I hereby apologize to the library information phone line librarians who had to answer all of mine and my friend’s questions about how many calories were in different foods before we had the internet.)
One of my first steps toward empowerment was after a re-gain when my mother called me and asked how she could help me lose weight. She had experienced a time when her mother read a newspaper article about one of her major professional accomplishments and her mother only commented on her hair. So, when she called me, I said something along the lines of: “You know how you felt when your mother only commented on your hair? Well, that’s how I feel right now. I am proud of what I am doing and the person I am. My weight is none of your business.” And then I lost about 15 pounds – because that’s what I wanted to do at the time.
A couple of things helped me shed the ideas of what NOT to eat and focus on eating nutritious foods: one friend said that to lose weight, he ate fruit instead of a hot dog for breakfast. It was so simple, but something about that got me to eat a substantial, healthy breakfast every day, something that is an essential part of my life now. After a thyroid crash in my second round of grad school, I worked with a naturopath who gave me a list of foods to eat every day and foods to eat every week to recover from my many inflammation-related conditions. I recovered from the thyroid crash, focused on what TO eat and stopped paying attention to what not to eat, except when I got rid of migraines by eliminating some foods.
I love my current naturopath who has never weighed me, but reports all of my kick-ass results of true health indicators (I think it was my C-reactive protein number that she said was the best she had seen in a long time). It feels so good to use my assertiveness to tell the medical assistants at “regular” doctor’s offices that “I do not want to be weighed today.” I’ve learned so much about what a poor indicator of health the number on the scale is and carry it through in my actions. Since I jokingly call myself an “empiricist pig,” I trust the research that shows that the number on the scale on its own is not useful as a predictor of health, that 95% of weight loss efforts do not last beyond 5 years, and that losing and re-gaining weight is bad for health. I’ll go with the real predictors: eating fresh fruits & vegetables, regular moderate exercise, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation.
I am so much happier and comfortable my current size than I ever was at the smaller clothing size that I “could” be. My size is not a (secretly) temporary size. It’s not full of regulations, obligations, or shame. It’s my size. It’s the size I am when I eat and relish the joy of delicious, healthy, whole, real foods most of the time (and relish less healthy foods sometimes as well – because they are delicious, too!). It’s the size I am when I enjoy exercising multiple times each week. I have always been physically active in many ways, but it is even more fun to exercise now that I do it for how much I love it, how good it feels to move, how strong it makes me, and for how much energy it gives me – without any concern for its effectiveness at changing my body size. Loving movement, loving food, eating when I’m hungry (until I’m not hungry, and not feeling guilty about anything I put in my mouth or even an occasional full week without exercise), is the most joyful and peaceful way to live.
#2 notes that focusing on fun and new things to eat has gotten her through a lot of pregnancy and related eating restrictions. There’s a whole world of healthy yummy food out there for all sorts of restricted eating, be it whole foods, gluten-free, nut-free, etc. etc. etc.
Got comments, Grumpeteers? Be nice.