I've Been on a Diet Since I Was 6 Years Old. Here's Why I'm Finally Done.
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 741741.
When I was around 6 years old, my mother took me to see my pediatrician for what I assume was a yearly physical. I clearly remember this day since it was the first day someone said my body was unacceptable.
My doctor looked at my weight on the chart and exclaimed, “What are you feeding her, lead sandwiches?” This was the beginning of the end for me. As far as my mother was concerned, he just shamed her for being a bad parent. This would not stand. I asked myself if she would stand up for me. No. Instead, she acquiesced and said she would do something about my weight.
That was it. I have been on a diet ever since some 43 years later. My mother treated her newfound permission and shame as a weapon against me. She loathed her own body, and she was going to make sure I loathed mine, too.
She put me on every diet she was on. The hotdog diet, the cottage cheese diet, the grapefruit diet, amphetamines, Weight Watchers… the list is endless. I dutifully complied without questions since there was no defense for being round in the middle and heavy.
She went on to berate me in public, talking to friends and family behind my back and to my face. She was always making apologies for having a “fat” child (if you look at my childhood photos, I was not fat, by the way). When she got the chance, she starved me. To this day I keep a snack in my purse. I do not want to be caught without food.
My entire life, it was a family obsession to talk about my body and how unacceptable it is. When I was 22 post-graduate school, my parents called to tell me they had decided to pay for breast reduction surgery for me. This was totally a surprise. It should not have been. They were always trying to fix me. I went to see the surgeon. She said I had to lose weight first (did not tell me how, by the way). I gained weight instead. I’ll show them, I thought.
When I was 36 years old, they paid for a medically supervised liquid diet. They jumped at the chance. I was so compliant I got much smaller. They approved. Life got in the way and the weight came back on soon after. I gained three times what I had lost.
I am now 48. I have been on a popular diet for six years now. I have lost a substantial amount of weight, but it is slowly creeping up again. I am beating myself up again for “failing.” I never hit my goal. I hated myself for that. Now I am hating myself for gaining and I am hating myself for not losing it fast enough.
I recently read a 2018 article by Michael Hobbes published in the Huffington Post, “Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong.” It addressed the fact that health is not about losing weight, and that focusing on losing weight in our culture has been detrimental to the individual. He also featured stories of large-bodied people sharing the trials and tribulations of living in a larger body in this society. It brought me to tears. I knew their stories — all the things that happened to them happened to me. I wept for them and for me.
I felt free after reading this article. I have been trying to lose weight my entire life. The number on the scale has determined my daily mood. I weighed myself every morning.
I have lost and gained hundreds of pounds over the years — mostly “successful,” but never sustainable. Yet society blames me and thinks that tough love will get me to keep the weight off.
I talked to my therapist about the article and had her read it. I did not know how she would feel about it. All I knew was that she was trained in treating those with eating disorders. She said she totally agreed with the article and doesn’t believe in dieting. I was overcome with emotion. Maybe there was a way out for me. I was just so tired. Tired of the rat race and tired of hating my body and it hating me back.
She had me read a book called, “When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies: Freeing Yourself from Food and Weight Obsession.” I was enthralled. I read it in two days. The second day I woke up at 4 a.m. to keep reading. It urged women to stop dieting and explained that diets do not work. This seemed like a novel concept to me even though I was living proof that diets do not work.
I was just trying to get thin. Everyone promised when I got thin all my problems would magically go away. They never did. I was never at goal. There was always more to lose.
The book talked about how all food should be legal. Nothing should be off limits. The deprivation is what was driving my feelings of obsession and overeating. It talked about how you need an inner caretaker who would talk with you about loving your body and appreciating it for all it does for you.
The book talked about self-acceptance and self-love at any size. That we have been programmed to hate ourselves if we do not meet a certain beauty standard. If you do not have a White Barbie-like body, you should be ashamed of yourself and you should hide out until you correct your body.
The book talked about living your best life now. Do not wait to lose weight. Dress how you want, eat what you want, go where you want, live how you want.
This book really spoke to me. Finally, some wisdom that made sense and did not make me feel bad about myself.
I have decided to finally root for me and stop dieting. This is a big decision and will be a difficult journey. There will be ups and downs — including my weight. I have been programmed to restrict and deprive myself. But I must do this for my sanity. It is exhausting to always hate yourself, holding out for a better day that never comes.
The book recommends legalizing all foods and starting with your kitchen. So right now, in my pantry, I have every food ever forbidden on the many diets I have been on. All my favorites that I was told would be the death of me if I consumed them. I will no longer come from a place of deprivation. I will operate from a place of abundance.
I worry how my doctors, family and friends will react, but this is my life — not theirs. If they cannot get on board then they should move over. I will not be held back just because someone else is uncomfortable with my body. This is my body, and I am the captain of this ship.
I have a long way to go on this next chapter of my life. I am scared but I am also strong. I can do this.
Getty image via Alina Vasylieva