I recently came to the realization that I’ve been a life-long dieter. Yup, it only took about 30 years to acknowledge.
If there’s a diet out there, I’ve tried it – from juicing, to the master cleanse, to keto, to macros. For as long as I can remember, my weight has yo-yoed. Not dramatically – but 5-10 pounds have come and gone off me more times than I can count in my adult life. I have a clear memory of myself in high school believing that by drinking black coffee and eating a slice of pizza (aka plucking off cheese and throwing the bread away) for lunch, I would somehow come out the other side as thin.
Even though I’ve always logically known that there’s no magic bullet to being a size zero, I’ve still tried every diet and trick that promises to get me there (celery juice, anyone?).
As an adult, there was always an event or vacation on the horizon that I could use as motivation to tighten up: Cut the carbs, up the cardio, look good by the time I had to fit into a bikini.
In between, there were many healthy days – but also many days where having a bagel for breakfast meant I had permission to “cheat” for the rest of the day, since I’d already gone off the deep end anyway.
How many of you have been there?
I never saw this as a problem until this year.
As the F-Factor drama unfolded (perhaps the only fad diet I had never tried), I spoke to many friends who had done the diet themselves. Some confessed they were afraid of carrots because of the diet’s philosophy. Can you imagine being afraid of carrots? No? Maybe it’s not a carrot, but it’s likely there is some food you’ve been “afraid” of because you’ve been taught to be – whether it’s ice cream, bread or fruit. Even though I had never done the diet myself (shocking), I had read the book and yes, swapped bagels for GG Crackers (I still eat them once in awhile, sorry!) – and I can still hear the diet’s founder equating the rice in sushi to white bread whenever I eat sushi.
In discussing F-Factor amongst friends, one of my dietician friends smartly pointed out that F-Factor wasn’t alone in creating diet culture: Many, if not most, diets rely on counting something, whether it’s net carbs, calories, Weight Watchers points or macros. This counting inherently turns some foods into “bad” foods because they don’t fit into the parameters of whatever diet we’re on. Now, I’m not saying counting is bad – some people may need to count in order to truly understand the food they’re consuming, whether it’s to lose weight or manage a health condition. But as someone who understands the bare fundamentals of food, this hit home with me. This internet drama set off a (very muffled, if we’re being honest) alarm within me about my relationship with food.
I gained 50ish pounds while I was pregnant with AJG – I say 50ish because I stopped paying attention once the pandemic hit and sitting horizontally on the couch became my only form of working out. Much of that weight came off those first six weeks after giving birth, and even more so once I got my Peloton – it just took time and persistence. But 7 months later, I’m still holding onto around 10 pounds that, to be honest, drive me fucking crazy. I don’t feel 100% comfortable in my body and I want to be able to put on my own clothing (confidently), not buy a whole new wardrobe.
In the past, I’d usually turn to some sort of extreme cleanse or diet to get to my goal weight. But this time around, there are new factors in my life that were holding me back. For one, now that my son is eating real food, I want him to try and eat everything – if I’m on a strict diet and cutting out food groups, I’m not practicing what I’m preaching to him. I want to set a good example of healthy eating and that he can enjoy any food he wants to eat.
Another thing – I have no free time to be making separate meals for myself. There’s nothing that sounds worse than putting together a different meal from what my family is eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to be able to sit as a family and all enjoy the same foods, no restrictions to what I “could” and “couldn’t” eat.
Lastly, that muffled alarm within me was now a nagging voice telling me to correct the foundation of my relationship with food once and for all instead of giving in to another quick fix. It came back to what my values are now that I have a child: I want my kids to look at me and mimic what they see me do day in and day out, not just expect them to listen to what I say while I do the opposite. For me, that means living a healthy lifestyle where food is fuel and being active is not a chore, but a privilege.
I started working with a health coach in November – something I never thought I’d do. While I understand this is a luxury for many, it was something that I decided to dedicate budget to because it was so important to me. What’s surprised me most about my experience so far is that the food I’m eating itself isn’t the main focus – we dive deep into stress, self-care, how (rather than what) I’m eating, and more. I’ll dive into my learnings in a future post.
While my initial goal was to lose 10 pounds, so far this experience has been shifted my goals to be more about my values and overall well being: Spending time with my loved ones and not being worried about food, getting in movement when it feels good (and not feeling pressure to do an intense workout every day to punish myself for eating ‘badly’), setting a good example for my son, prioritizing activities and food that make me feel like the best me.
I’m rambling a bit here – but my point is that if you are tired of being on the diet hamster wheel like I was, you can get off. It just took me a fucking global pandemic and having a baby to figure that out. It’s a work in progress for me, but being on self-inflicted crazy diets is something I’m leaving behind in 2020.