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There’s something exciting and promising about starting a new diet — a certain lure that screams “This will be the diet that changes your life!” You’ll finally get the body of your dreams, every article of clothing you try on will fit perfectly, you’ll get a promotion at work, meet the girlfriend/boyfriend of your dreams, and settle into a perfect, shiny, rainbow-studded fairytale life.
Except, not really.
If you’ve been through the diet lifecycle more than a couple times like I have, you know how the story really goes.
(I bet I’ve gone on at LEAST 50 diets in my 35 short years, if not more),
You clean out your cupboards and fridge, tossing (or eating) anything that isn’t on your new diet plan. You’ve got a serious endorphin kick happening as promises of a fresh start, smaller pants, and an all-around happier life whisper in your ear.
On Monday (or the first of the month, or next Sunday, or New Year’s Day) your diet begins. Newfound determination and motivation carry you through day one with relative ease. By day three, however, you’re starting to miss chocolate and find yourself fantasizing about ice cream during meetings at work.
On day seven, you get overwhelmingly cranky when you order a salad with dressing on the side while out to dinner with friends (who are all enjoying burgers, pasta, and pizza). By day nine you’ve thrown in the towel, slipped on your most forgiving sweat pants, and plunged face first into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, one hand holding a dozen donuts, the other hand googling the closest pizza delivery joint.
Or maybe that’s just me?
Whatever your experience with diets, I’m pretty sure we can all agree: they don’t work, they never last long, and they’re absolutely no fun.
(except maybe during that short window of preparation where you feel like you’ve found the answer to all your problems).
I’ve dieted alone and I’ve dieted with others. Diets are all around us. I bet we all know at least one person that is on a diet right this minute.
They’ll come to work with extra pep in their step, rambling about how they’re swearing off all carbs because their cousin Larry lost 78 pounds by giving up bread. “You wanna do it with me? Swimsuit season is almost here!” they’ll say.
Or maybe your bestie calls you on a Sunday afternoon to tell you about a new diet she read about in a magazine. “Kim Kardashian lost 20 pounds in three weeks following this new plan. We have to try it,” she’ll declare.
As someone who has spent nearly half my life on a diet, I know how hard it can be to escape that diet mentality. It has taken a lot of practice and years of work and self-discovery to shift my thinking, love myself as I am right now, and accept the fact that no diet is going to fix all my problems.
Most importantly, I’ve realized that being thinner won’t fix my problems.
With all my dieting experience, I’ve gone up and down on the scale, and I don’t think I was ever more miserable than when I was at my all-time lowest weight. I was thin, but I was also hungry, cranky, unhappy, and not enjoying life to the fullest. And all my problems were still there.
That being said, when diet-crazed friends and co-workers come calling, sometimes I still have to fight the urge to join the (deprivation) party. I know diets are no good, but that promising lure can be ridiculously strong, especially if I’ve had a bad day.
Though I try to practice the below on a daily basis, these areas get extra attention if the diet mentality comes knocking:
1. Practice Intuitive Eating
I practice Intuitive Eating by honoring my body’s natural hunger and fullness cues and eating whatever it is I really want to eat. This simple act is incredibly empowering, and reminds me that my body will tell me what it needs if I listen. I don’t need a diet to tell me what or when to eat.
2. Practice self-love by nurturing other areas of my life.
Self-love might mean starting a new art project or book, painting my nails, making plans with a friend, or watching an old favorite movie. Feeling joy in everyday life is important. Making my happiness a priority has helped de-glorify food, which used to be my only source of pleasure.
I meditate on what I want my relationship with my body and with food to look like. Maybe “meditate” isn’t the word you’d use, but envisioning myself feeling good in my skin and eating whatever it is I want in a calm and joyful state of mind — free from rules and restriction — always gives me a boost.
Remember, you don’t need to explain anything to anyone.
A simple “No, thanks; I’m really not interested” is sufficient when someone tries to get you to diet with them.
The road to recovery is studded with choices, and the more you practice making ones that serve you well, the easier it becomes.
In October 2007, after 20 years of starving, binging and everything in between, Sara promised herself she would never diet again. Intrigued by the notion of Intuitive Eating, she applied different principles to her life but wasn’t fully ready to let go and trust the process until late 2013. Mom to two young boys, Sara now strives to set a strong, healthy example for her kids. She enjoys yoga, the great outdoors, red wine, and being a Mom, and reminds herself frequently that happiness is not contingent upon the size of her pants.
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