This is a bit of a controversial topic, and I’m talking about it with the understanding that some people will disagree and possibly even get angry.
I’ve touched on this before, and I can’t possibly cover the entire topic in one post, but it is definitely one of my most important lessons.
In my personal experience over 20 years, dieting has never, ever worked. Oh sure, it gets the weight off, and usually pretty quickly. But it never stays off. Even when I’ve attempted so-called ‘lifestyle changes’ – for example with something like Weight Watchers, which seems pretty healthy and reasonable.
But over the course of my 20 years of dieting and hating my body (yes, it was around age 10 that I realised I was bigger than others and it wasn’t a good thing) I’ve learnt that it’s pointless.
It’s the same old cliche – lose some weight, gain back more. Steadily, over this time, I have gotten bigger and bigger.
You may be thinking, and indeed my thinking was similar for a long time – that it is my own fault, obviously, because if I’d just stuck with it, then the weight would’ve stayed off.
But given how much I have loathed being bigger, I can’t help but think that if it was just that simple, then I would’ve kept it off. I mean, it’s not a matter of being ill-informed; I know how many calories I should be eating, how many steps I should be doing, what foods to avoid, what foods to increase, what exercise is best, etc. I think most of us do.
The issue is not with a lack of education (although there are many conflicting and often confusing dietary guidelines out there, such as less carbs or less fat, 3 big meals or 6 smaller meals, etc).
You could argue it’s a lack of willpower. But honestly, having to force myself to eat less than my body seems to need forever, well… that’s doomed to fail.
Anyway, I’m not writing this to justify why I am overweight.
From my journal:
We are taught that we must try to be smaller to be good enough – we are not taught to question this. I had to find the idea and the permission to question it on my own. I had to dare to consider that I am not flawed – the whole system is.
You see, I simply decided to stop dieting. I decided to stop looking around the corner for the next diet, the one that would finally work. We are taught that if diets aren’t working, then it’s a problem with us – we just need to try a little harder, want it a little bit more.
I call bullshit.
Dieting itself is the problem. Instead, I’ve chosen to love my body and stop punishing it for being imperfect. Does that mean I eat junk food? Sometimes, although after learning about intuitive eating, I’m eating less of it. Does that mean I’m fatter than I ‘should’ be? Yes. Is my health at risk? Well, I’ve had blood tests and they all seem to be fine. Not to mention I usually exercise several times a week.
And exercise is another thing – I now actually just do exercise I actually love, which is usually walks in nature, yoga or sometimes cycling. Gone is the guilt for not pushing myself to the point of almost throwing up – instead is the pleasure of moving my body in ways that really feel good.
I would like like to lose weight, I’m not going to deny that. But I just plan to do it gently, from a place of love, and if I don’t lose much weight when doing things I consider to be reasonable and sustainable, then that’s that. I won’t be pushing myself further.
I choose to love myself as I am, even if it’s bigger than I’d like. I believe I can love and accept who I am, but still work towards positive changes in a (mentally and emotionally) healthy way.
I once did lose a lot of weight and got down to a size smaller than I had ever previously thought possible. But I was so miserable, questioning and regretting every bite, and so insecure. I felt fatter then that I do now. Even though I am bigger now, I have more love and acceptance for myself than I did at my smallest size.
I have nothing against those of you that choose to diet, or to exercise for weight-loss reasons. Please don’t be offended by what I have said, this is simply a lesson I have had to learn for myself, about my own life.
To quote one of my favourite health at every size bloggers:
You are the expert on you. You do not need to pay someone to tell you how to live your life. You do not need to follow a blogger or weight loss success story to know what to eat or how to exercise. There is no point in any of it unless it is something you personally are willing to continue for life. What that is is necessarily different for each person.
I’ll leave you with that.
What does the word ‘diet’ mean to you? Have you ever dieted? Did you manage to keep the weight off? If so, how? If not, why not?
If you were to reject the idea of dieting and perfecting your body, what else could you spend that energy on? How might your life look different if you chose to accept your body as it is, and focus on other things?
In what ways do you treat your body poorly? How could you do this less?
In what ways do you show your body that you love it? How could you do this more?
If you’re interested in learning more about some of the things I’ve discussed, I recommend the following resources:
Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.