In then book I’m reading (Intuitive Eating, 3rd edition) the first chapter discusses acknowledging the damages that occur as a results of dieting- today I’m going to focus on The psychological/emotional harm and the impact it’s had on my life. Welcome to the jungle.
Have you ever stopped to consider the mental pressure that occurs with dieting? For years I’ve been repeating the mantra “it’s not a diet it’s a lifestyle” as I try to navigate through the parameters of any given plan and make myself feel better about the ridiculous amount of change I had just forced myself into. When I would struggle Fitspo and women’s fitness magazine were my go-to methods to dull the desire to deviate from my new lifestyle. I thought it was a sign of commitment and mental strength… Or was it? Or was the pressure of wanting to be a success story building? Here were my true feelings:
#1- feelings of failure, guilt, shame. The perfect example of this was when I tried a low-carb diet multiple times (because lezzbehonest, carbs and sugar are rumored to be the devil and going no/low carb is supposed be the answer) I would immediately crave FRUIT. FRUIT. So I would try to “be strong” but eventually break down and have an orange that was taunting me from the fruit bowl. And then, commence downward spiral of “well I blew it today, might as well make it count”. Over an orange. And then I ate my weight in food vowing I’d do it right tomorrow.
#2- stress in social settings: being the social butterfly I am I would always try to make myself more comfortable around parties by bringing something healthier, staying away from “bad foods”, or do extra cardio or save all my calories for that meal. I would literally try to avoid the food areas for fear I’d be judged for eating something not on my plan or that I would unleash pent up cravings and ruin everything. This would typically result in me binging when I came home and blaming myself for having no willpower.
#3- lack of trust in myself and my abilities: literally the day I broke down and put all my diet paraphernalia away my fear was “omg I have no rules I’m screwed. I might as well go eat a ton and start over tomorrow. I can’t give this up”. It was so stressful to have to face an idea that I was to put my trust in MYSELF vs a plan. I need portion control. I can’t be trusted with food. What if I eat too many calories? I am struggling with trusting myself.
#4- feelings of inadequacy and failure. I have failure here twice. I’m extremely hard on myself, very goal driven and I’m always afraid that by not setting AND reaching for big goals, I’m settling for mediocrity. I am trying to wrap myself around the idea that NOT dieting doesn’t mean I’ve failed anything. But here’s where it gets sticky- while I know I don’t feel super comfortable with where I am now, I also know that my current method is super obsessive and unhealthy. I fear that by finally letting go of a societal ideal I’m settling for less than I’m made for.
#5- this wasn’t mentioned in the book, but guilt over the impact this is having on my family, specifically my husband and daughter. My fear of binging sometimes prevents us from ordering pizza, going out to eat in certain restaurants. Or when I do binge and my hubby is wondering “what happened to all the chips and salsa?” when he comes home. The idea that this is also impacting my husbands psyche about eating when he doesn’t have an issue to begin with. My daughter is now 5 and the idea she might start mimicking or remember a mother who beat herself up, weighed herself frequently and was experimenting with diets scares me. What if she inherits this distortion of what healthy is?
This is the tip of the iceberg, but it’s amazing that I can look objectively at how this has affected so many aspects of my life and consumed me. Being healthy is great, but there’s a fine line between balanced living and obsession. Is there a rainbow after this storm?
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