I Quit Dieting a Year Ago. I Don’t Miss It.

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I quit dieting a year ago. I don’t miss it like 24 hour fitness Jordan landing.

A few months into my journey, Dina and I met with another single mom at a playgroup, who asked if we were both on diets, because she wanted to start again herself. That was the moment I realized two things: 1) she thought that being thin was the only way to be healthy; 2) maybe not every thin person is healthy because so many starve themselves just to stay thin.

My own journey has shown me that weight and health don’t always go hand in hand. The obsession with being thin can be a self-destructive one, cutting us off from the real world and making us unable to treat ourselves well. All of the articles I read about women who turn to anorexia, bulimia or just crash diets are all based on this phenomenon. The pressure of society and parental figures is too much for some people to bear, and they resort, desperate measures out of not being happy with their bodies.

Whom I was grateful for?

I was grateful I wasn’t one of those people. I didn’t like my looks; it’s not that I was ugly but, because of my extremities (i.e. difficulty with my eyes), I never felt good about my appearance. I never had a real sense of self-esteem because I dealt with constant bullying through school and throughout my life.

Early life

Once, at the age of 11, during a school assembly, a classmate called me “fat” in front of everyone. It was a large group – over 50 kids – and the two boys who were doing it were leaders of the group at that point in time. They took turns catching others’ attention and making fun of certain kids, having some sort of power trip that allowed them to act like bullies without consequences most of the time. After hearing their comment, I felt like going up to them right then and there… but I didn’t. I was too scared to. I didn’t want to make things worse for myself. Instead, I went home, cried and tried to forget about what happened during the school day.

My father never taught me that it was okay for me to like my body, even though he was open-minded and told me I could be whatever I wanted in life. He liked when I shared how passionate I was about music and reading, but he never exchanged a word about how well my clothes fit or how good my hair looked. My friends used to tell me they loved my long straight hair but they would also say things like “you have a really nice smile if you would only brush your teeth” or “you’re so pretty… but you could lose 10 pounds.” I was always aware of being “not good enough” so I didn’t tell people my inner thoughts and feelings.

Body-hate relationship

I started hating my body, which made me feel bad about myself. There’s this song by Melissa Etheridge, “Come to My Window,” and it’s pretty personal and has a bit of a sad tone to it, so while I was in the car with a couple friends, they started laughing and mocking the song (it obviously wasn’t funny at all). At one point during their mean laughter, I got really quiet and one of my friends said, “You’re so happy-go-lucky that we need to bring you down to reality. You need to start hating your body too, like we do.” I laughed it off and didn’t even pay attention to what they said but the feeling of shame lingered.

After that incident, I started hating my body more. I started thinking all sorts of negative thoughts about it and convinced myself that under the idealization of being thin are hidden fat people. (The “idealization” is a widespread psychological phenomena nowadays where people sometimes put themselves on a pedestal out of not having self-esteem because they’re not “good enough” for society by meeting society’s standards.) I felt like I was constantly hiding behind my clothes, so I’d always wear too-small clothes in order to hide as much as possible.

Body-positivity

About a year and a half into my journey, I started hearing more and more people talk positively about their bodies. It was almost like a revolution where people were sharing their issues/struggles/challenges with eating disorders (or any kind of disordered eating) and talking about positive affirmations techniques. Everyone was sharing what worked for them, which made me realize that the person most responsible for the problem I was having in my life wasn’t me – it was other people’s negative comments about my body, not just for myself but for other people too.

Most importantly, though, I started hearing about all the benefits of body-positivity: loving your body, being confident in it and enjoying it… not just the way it looks but how your body feels and where it can take you in life. I didn’t want to keep hating myself or thinking badly about my body, I wanted to do better for myself and lead a healthy life, so I started doing things like writing down positive affirmations or journaling about my body to empower myself.

Change of mindset

I knew that by starting a new healthy lifestyle with fitness (and eventually all around fitness) I had the power of choice to influence how my body was going to look years from now. In other words, if I didn’t eat the way society told me that I needed to eat in order to be thin, my weight would go up and down. Whether or not I would be able to reach my goals would depend on my willpower to stick with it because of all the negative thoughts I had about myself.

The truth is that every time I ate whatever was on my plate, I always looked at myself in the mirror and panicked when a voice in me screamed “you’re fat!” Then, even if there was not an inch of fat on me, I’d force myself to eat something else thinking that having a healthy body meant that one couldn’t have a little bit of fat. And only after the food was gone did I realize how much damage that kind of thinking had done to me.

What does the present and future look like?

I still struggle with body image issues and negative self-talk but I’m trying to find the balance between loving my body and staying in tune with what my body needs. In other words, eating healthy is not about getting to a certain weight; it’s about taking care of myself because that’s what I need the most.

My life looks like me loving the skin I’m in and feeling good about myself. For example, when I find an outfit I like on some website, instead of being ashamed by it because it doesn’t fit me now, I take a handful of pictures to remember how my style used to be so that maybe one day (when it finally fits) I can look back at those pictures and feel proud of my achievement.

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