I went on my first diet at age eight.
Over the years I’ve given up carbohydrates, fat, protein, fruit, certain vegetables, sugar, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, all drinks that weren’t either water or alcoholic, and I was going to add that I didn’t do this all at once, but at one point I tried that too. I gave up eating altogether. Fortunately that didn’t last long because I woke up one day and ate like I’d never eaten before – once I started I couldn’t stop.
Here are a few ‘highlights’ of my history with food:
- Ages 8-16 I learned the calorie count of every food known to man, and I made it through far too many days on less than 900.
- Spent my college years discussing how fat we all were with my friends. Agreed we’d go on a strict regime and chose the date when our New Life would begin. Fell from grace on day three and still recall the overwhelming sense of failure.
- Met my first husband. At the time I spent an enormous amount of energy avoiding eating food whilst also thinking obsessively about food. Moving in together brought some relief as we ate healthier and more consistent meals. This didn’t last long and my obsessive behavior returned.
- I moved to London. A year later, my marriage fell apart, and I fell apart with it. I replaced food with alcohol. That and the all-night dancing meant my weight dropped again, but I was the unhappiest I’d ever been.
- When I reached a new low of binging and purging, I got scared. I stopped whilst I still could and continued to calorie count and exercise, but it was less frenetic. Within a year I met David, who I’m now happily married to.
Began yo-yo dieting again, only more intensely this time. It felt dangerous to be around food because I wanted to be able to eat, but I also wanted not to eat. It felt like the moment I put food in my mouth I couldn’t stop eating.
I knew my behavior wasn’t normal, so I went to my doctor and she asked me if I starved myself or threw up my food and I said, “No,” because I hadn’t done either in years. She weighed me four times because I insisted there was something wrong – but my weight was normal, so I was refused help because I did not have a Recognized Eating Disorder.
In March 2013, I heard Gabrielle Bernstein speak. She told the audience how she’d consciously chosen to see obstacles as opportunities. She had consciously chosen. Those two words caused such a physical reaction in me that I began to sob. I remember thinking, “I can choose not to diet anymore,” and in that moment, the decision was made.
Almost four years later, I can’t say it’s been easy. It’s only this year I’ve felt truly diet-free.
I’ve stopped labeling foods as good or bad, and it no longer feels dangerous to be around food. But whilst I’d love this to be the part where I tell you, “I started eating intuitively and the weight just fell off,” that isn’t what happened at all.
I’ve put on weight, and I believe my relationship with food still requires more healing.
What’s changed is I no longer care about the number on the scale, but I do care deeply about how I feel and about my health. Whilst I truly love my body and feel very protective of it now, there are still some situations when I’m not entirely comfortable with it…and I want to be.
I’ve let a false, lifelong story I’ve carried around, affect my entire relationship with my body and food. So at the end of the summer, I decided it was time to take the next step in this incredible journey.
No, I’m not about to start the Latest Diet Craze, or whatever workout is popular. I’m taking a holistic approach that will go far beyond food and exercise. I’ll be re-visiting old thoughts and stories, consulting with experts and exploring subjects such as body trauma, breath work, intimacy and I’m going to take on a personal challenge or two. One may even involve body paint.
And I’m inviting you to join me because sadly, I don’t believe my story is an isolated one.
Twice a month I’ll share what I’ve discovered – the ups as well as the downs – and I’ll be brutally honest. What you won’t find is advice on how to drop 30 pounds in 30 days, or what you need to follow in 2017 to achieve your Best Body Ever. I’m done with diets for good.
Just to be clear… This is not a fresh start. There will be no “before” or “after” shots. This is about deeply accepting and connecting with my body and attaining optimum health and fitness in a holistic and sustainable way.
The Pro-Body Project is published fortnightly. You can read the second entry, “The First Time I Was Body Shamed” here.