Dieting Doesn't Make Me Lose Weight, It Makes Me Lose Myself
Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.
Project HEAL has started a #DoneWithDieting campaign and it’s got me thinking. I am done with dieting. But why? And how? I mean it’s one thing to say it, but it’s another thing to back it up. So it’s time I stepped up to the plate and did a little explaining.
To put it simply, dieting can destroy lives. It can become all-consuming for so many. In my experience, it takes over every aspect of my life until I no longer do the things I love. I no longer surround myself with the people I care about. I become a shadow of a person.
My brain is filled with nothing but numbers. Pounds, calories, sizes. It’s all I can think about. I don’t have room in my head to think critically and perform well at work. Or understand what I’m reading for school. Or play a game of checkers with my daughter. Those damn numbers take up too much space.
I become hyper-focused on my appearance. Do these pants fit differently than they did last week? Is my shirt too tight? Can you see my muffin top? Are my boots too snug against my calves? It gets to the point that I don’t want to wear anything but sweatpants and oversized T-shirts. It’s the only way to turn off the self-criticism. And there’s no way I’m going out into the world dressed in pajamas. So I’ll just stay in my room. Under a blanket. Taking a nap.
If I’m not taking a nap, then I’m in the basement. Working out. And it’s not a choice. It’s feels like a requirement because of my eating disorder. Unless I want to spend the rest of the day wallowing in guilt and shame. It’s a compulsion. A “have to.” Don’t let me fool you when I lie through my teeth telling you it’s fun. It’s not fun. It’s torture. But I don’t have a choice. This is it.
Isolation. Depression. Compulsion. And for what? I’m never happy no matter ho much weight I lose. It’s never “good enough.” I can always “do better.” There’s still more weight to lose, more calories to burn, more sizes to drop. I can never get enough.
Dieting holds me hostage in my own body. I become controlled by fear. Fear of a number. I let this little box on my bathroom floor tell me whether I’m allowed to have a good or bad day. Forget the “A” on a test or the positive feedback at work. Forget the hug from my daughter or the dog’s tail wagging as I walk through the door. Forget the moment when my favorite song comes on the radio. None of it matters if the scale tells me what I don’t want to hear. None of it matters when I’m dieting.
I think that’s what gets me the most. The overbearing thought that none of it matters. None of my life matters when I’m on a diet. Not my work. Not my people. Not my hobbies. None of it. And I know it. I know it as it’s happening. I see myself becoming this shadow. But it doesn’t matter.
Dieting doesn’t cause me to lose weight, it causes me to lose myself. And in the process, it causes me to lose everything I love. Everything.
You know what I regret most about my pursuit of the “perfect” diet? The number of years that I’ve lost to it. The time with my loved ones I’ll never get back.
My loved ones.
Which leads me to my how.
How do I ditch the diet mentality? It’s not easy. When I’ve spent half my lifetime trying to control my weight, it’s a difficult thing to leave behind. But what it really comes down to is people. My daughter, especially.
I want more for her than I’ve settled for myself. I want her to be free from the compulsion to diet. I want her to bathe in self-love, not self-criticism. I want her to focus on her friends, not her food. I want her to dress herself in kindness, not the perfect outfit. I want her to find her worth in Jesus, not a scale. I want her to count her blessings, not calories. I want more for her.
And to give her more, I have to be more. I have to be more than a number on the scale or the size of my jeans. I have to be more than the food on my plate. I have to be more than miles on my bike or the tread on my sneakers. I have to be more.
But dieting makes me less. Less human. Less loving. Less compassionate. Less, less, less. And I want to be more. I have to be more. I guess that means I’m ditching the diet, eh?
It’s the only way.
I am done with dieting. I want more for my daughter. I want more for myself. I want more for the world. I’ll shout it from the rooftops if I have to. Dieting doesn’t work. It can destroy lives. It comes to steal joy. It comes to drain the light from your eyes and the spunk from your soul.
So what about you? Are you through being told you’re not good enough? Tired of believing you’re unlovable? Over the isolation? The depression? The failure? The only things that diets bring?
Me too. So join the movement and be #DoneWithDieting.
Follow this journey on Realistically Optimistic.
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Getty Images photo via MistakeAnn