Magazine covers are littered with phrases to entice the masses. They promise a “10 Day No Fail Diet!” and offer ways to lose the flab and get bikini body ready. They play on our insecurities– or if you didn’t have insecurities before, you probably will after flipping through the pages of these magazines. The advertisers are banking on your low self esteem. Diets are notorious for failing so we have to come back, repeatedly, looking for solace in the glossed pages. The average woman will go on 16 diets in her adult life and she will lose, on average, 5 pounds. After years of torture, I am ditching the diets for good.
When I was anorexic, I spent an alarming amount of time researching the best way to restrict my calories to a dangerous degree. I was a frequent poster at popular “pro- ana” (pro- anorexic, if you will) forums, where we exchanged restriction tips and comforted each other during emotional times. I thought about food ALL. THE. TIME. When you subsist on strawberries, pickles, rice cakes, beef broth, green beans and little else, it is hard not to think of anything else. On top of my extreme restriction, I was also exercising vigorously 6 days a week; running on fumes. I didn’t care that I experienced dizzy spells or frequently fell down when I stood too fast. My health was the furthest thing on my radar. The only thing on my mind was reduction and I would do anything to hit my next goal. Of course, the goals were never enough. Once they had been reached, I evaluated my body in the mirror and deemed it unworthy. 5 more pounds down would be my next goal. This pattern repeated itself. There were times that I would obsessively weigh myself a dozen times in a row to make sure I got the most accurate number. I would move the scale around the bathroom floor each time, compulsively, in case there was a slight divet in the floor that would effect the accurary of the scale. Calorie counts were constantly going on in my head. If I eat this, then that. If I eat that, then this. I was so hungry all the time that I would try to sleep to escape the madness but even then I couldn’t escape it. I would dream of it.
Then one day I threw my scale off the balcony. Literally. I was shaking, in tears because I had just had enough. It was eating me alive and I felt like I was dying. After a brief inpatient stint and some counseling sessions, I was on my way to getting my life back. Fast forward to today. All the same messages are out there, telling me I’m not good enough as I am. But this time, I am not buying it. Dieting makes me feel miserable. For me, dieting is also a slippery slope because it can be triggering. I eat when I am hungry and when I want dessert, I have some. I exercise lightly 3 times a week and if I miss a day, I don’t freak out. I don’t subscribe to the idea that my self worth is tied into my dress size. That took a long time. I am worth so much more than that and I have so much more to offer. I don’t feel ashamed of my body anymore; instead, I am amazed. I am amazed that I could put my body through so much hell and it remained so resilient. I am amazed that this body carried 2 babies who are now healthy children today. All of the torture and hate I have put on my body and it still just keeps on moving forward.
I have never felt more free since I gave up the notion that I needed to be constantly working to achieve some sort of “results” regarding my body. This– my body– this, is the result of self acceptance and self love. And to be honest, I think I look pretty damn good.