THE PROMISE OF A DIET IS A LIE
By the age of 13 I started to have body dissatisfaction.
The pressure for women to look a certain entered my conscience leading to an obsession with thinness. I didn't know the term thigh gap at the time but I was very concerned with my own.
I was not overweight as a child, in fact my slender frame was something I was often complimented on. You'd think that would make me feel good about myself but it fueled insecurity and a desire to be model thin. It actually made me more self-conscience and at the same time created a link between self-worth and size.
By age 14 I was restricting calories and by age 15 I was on my first official diet. I chose Atkins.
There was no loyalty to it though.
I used to always get seduced by the next latest and greatest one. As soon as I heard all about its miracle workings and how it would leave me feeling great and with the body of my dreams I willingly pledged allegiance to it.
There is always the same promise with every new diet. This one will be the last one, solve your weight-loss woes and make you love your body.
Over the years I had compounded the idea of happiness with having the perfect body. What I thought having the perfect body and losing the “weight” would give me was confidence and peace of mind. I thought it would set me free.
I thought it would give me a different life.
In her book Women Food and God, Geneen Roth explains that “"even a wildly successful diet is still a failure because inside the new body is the same sinking heart. Spiritual hunger can never be solved on the physical level."
The beauty of my obsession with weight and food was that I escaped the madness of the world. I got to overlook the emptiness in my heart and focus on the fullness of my thighs.
But the size of our thighs does not correlate with the fullness we feel in our hearts. No matter what size we are, our fulfillment in life isn’t a function of gaining or losing weight.
We have bodies but we are not our bodies.
Weight loss isn’t truly the goal. Sure it would be nice to have a banging body, don’t get me wrong, but feeling loved, feeling like enough, feeling like we are living out our lives purpose.... that is so much more fulfilling than any number on the scale.
So what is it that we think weight loss will give us access to? If we look past the desire for a smaller body and into our heart what is really there?
We always want access to something. We want to experience living a life we think we can’t have because we have weight to lose.
We bolt from the feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, boredom, anger, regret, vulnerability, accountability, pain, and acceptance and obsess over food and weight.
Our joints might hurt, we have headaches, we’re fatigued, have brain fog, our clothes don’t fit, we can’t walk upstairs without getting winded, we might physically be miserable because of the extra weight, but if you’ve spent the last 5, 10, 15, 30 years obsessing over 5, 10, 15, 20 extra pounds, there is something else going on.
And it has absolutely nothing to do with the weight.
I was hypnotized by the idea that a perfect body meant the perfect life. It took me years to untie the knot between the two in my mind.
This idea allowed me to not take responsibility for my life. As long as I was the victim to my body I stayed stuck in my comfort zone. This idea allowed me an excuse to not put in the work. To not put my heart on the line.
It’s much safer to focus on a problem like our weight instead of going after what we really want. Admitting what we really want means we have to risk not getting it and that is really scary and vulnerable.
There is always a reward in it for us to keep the cycle of yo-yo dieting, binging and purging and emotional eating alive.
But what there is to discover is that the reward is so small in proportion to the impact of what it’s costing us in our life.
It costed me so much freedom, joy and self-expression. My longing to look different made me small. It dimmed my inner light so much that eventually I lost myself.
What I didn’t understand was that dieting to find the life I wanted was like drinking salt water to quench thirst. It seemed like a good plan but in fact it only made me thirstier. The more I dieted the more things I found to fix.