Nov 15, 2019
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200 dpi 20p x 19p Hector Casanova color illustration of an emaciated young woman standing before her shadow which projects a much larger woman. For use with stories about eating disorders and body image. The Kansas City Star 1999

Coming home to your body by ditching the diet

Thinking about food to the point of obsession and ignoring your body’s sensations is a signal of a disorder.

Struggling with body image and restriction all of my life, I want you to know that being on any form of a diet is giving in to disordered eating.

Restricting your food intake when you are hungry and your body is begging for nutrition is slowly killing you. 

We live in a society where diet culture is everywhere. Whether it be Ketogenic, Weight Watchers, Flat Tummy Tea, you name it. 

Society is obsessed with finding the diet that is going to work, but the truth is no diet works, at least not permanently. 

Dieting is just another form of anorexia, orthorexia or bulimia that convinces you that the natural practice of eating is unhealthy.

I have learned through recovery of disordered eating that as a society we are taught to label food as “good” or “bad.”

However, the reality is, when we label food, our mind obsesses over the restriction. This leads to binges where we gain more weight, which leads to cycles that tell us we are not “strong” or “powerful enough” to lose weight, which overall leaves us feeling like garbage.

When you stop restricting, food just becomes less appealing. Good and bad food just becomes food. Labels on the food are what make it seem like a guilty remorseful practice. 

When I was on one of my million diets that was working because of unhealthy restriction, a co-worker of mine said to me, “I just wish I was as strong as you to diet.” Behind her comment was a girl who was suffering. A girl who was starving and isolating to avoid food. A girl using food to numb out unwanted feelings.

Being strong is not being on a diet. Being strong is being resilient enough to overcome our battles in life, not restricting yourself from a piece of bread or allowing yourself a “cheat day” on the weekends.

After I stopped labeling food as good or bad, I started to have less binges and just enjoy food for the taste. If I want pasta, I eat it, and I eat it without guilt. I now allow myself an ice cream before bed, not to “reward” myself but to listen to my hunger scale. 

When I stopped thinking about every single food item available at every moment of the day there was nothing left to think or obsess about.

Initially, recovery from restriction and dieting came with weight gain for me. I know this is everyone’s biggest fear from ditching dieting. However, let me remind you that no amount of weight gain is worth depriving your body from its cravings and malnourishing your body to the point of starvation.

Do I love myself for who I am? Some days, no. But that does not mean I do not appreciate my body and love it or how it works and how it fuels me. I am grateful for what my body does and am mindful of how it allows me, each day, to do things that some people are not lucky enough to do.

Ditching your diet and being willing to love yourself is not an overnight process. But it is a start. No compromise of health to achieve society’s idea of body image is worth your energy. 

If you can accept your body and its natural weight, you can live your life free of restriction and isolation in fear of thinking that every food decision is “unhealthy.” The key is to accept your body for what it is. To accept that maybe some days you don’t feel good about how your legs look or your stomach feels. That is naturally how you made and part of what makes you, you. 

In order to find real happiness, you must learn to love yourself for who you are and not just what you look like.

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