Hands up if you have ever been on a diet. I have; a ton of them. Hands up if you think about eating in terms of being good or being bad. Yep, that’s me. How does it make you feel when you are “on a diet” or “being good” and you fall off the wagon so to speak. Guilty? Do you say “screw it” and binge on something on the naughty list? How would it feel if you were able to eat whatever you felt like, didn’t have to obsess over food and the scales and were happy with your body? Sounds pretty amazing to me.
I’ve been on a lot of different diet plans. Weight watchers, Michelle Bridges 12 Week Transformation (remember the show the Biggest Loser), F45 challenge and the process was always the same. Leading up to the diet, I would eat like a crazy person about to be starved, then I would get all excited about the prospect of the diet for the first few weeks and eat those reduced-calorie meal plans counting all the points and being extra “good”. I’d track how many calories I had burned when exercising and tried to make sure I stayed in a deficit for the day. If I ate something that was not on the plan or went over my calorie intake, I would admonish myself, vowing to do better the next day. Inevitably when the diet came to an end, either because the program finished, I had reached my goal weight, or I’d just given up, I would go out and celebrate (or commiserate) with a meal, start eating like I did before I was on the diet. Then the weight would creep back on and the cycle would start again.
How did I get here? Apart from all the images of what women, in particular, are meant to look like, growing up, I came from the clean plate club. We always had to clear our plates because there were starving children in Biafra and it was terrible that we would waste food and they didn’t have a lot. Whilst my parents meant well and were trying to avoid wasting food and money, it taught me to ignore my hunger cues, my body’s natural ability to regulate what and how much it needed. I always just ate everything that was put in front of me, regardless of how full I was. Going on all those diets, I also learned that if something tasted good, I should gobble it all up because I didn’t know when I would be allowed to have it again. Aside from the habits I created with how I ate, eat fast and eat it all, I lost my ability to feel and follow my internal hunger cues.
So what to do about it? I have written about approaching my body differently and that is still a work in progress. How to change my relationship with food has also been a tough one. I stumbled across Intuitive eating a few months ago and found that all of a sudden I was hearing about it from a multitude of directions, which is strange because it’s been around since the 90s. Intuitive eating is a set of principles that guide you to rebuild your relationship with food and your body by rejecting the diet mentality and getting in tune with your hunger, taste and internal cues. After years of fighting against my body and trying to control my relationship with food by sheer willpower it so far has been a weight off my shoulders. It’s taken me about 25 years to embed the habits I have with food so I know this is not going to be a quick change but it is nice to stop beating myself up after having a donut.