December is here. Put on that woolly scarf, sing carols around the Christmas tree and spend four weeks trying to avoid every mince pie, Bailey’s and cheese ball that comes flinging it’s way towards you as you cling desperately to that Vanilla Shake you packed in your bag 3 weeks ago.
Apparently, the run up to Christmas is when people try and restrict themselves the most so that they can fully indulge *cough binge cough* their way through Christmas day, and Boxing Day. OK the 27th, 28th and 29th doesn’t count. I mean we might as well start the diet after New Year. OK, the hangover is going to be bad on the 1st, let’s start on the 2nd. OK, guys, the 2nd is a Tuesday this year, we can’t start a diet on a Tuesday. Monday 8th January 2018, that is the day we can start our new diet. I don’t mean diet, I mean ‘Healthy Eating Plan’. We will start our new HEP on the 8th. But before, that I am going to diet, like really try, I mean I know I am going to miss out on my works Christmas Do, Dinner with my family, drinks with my best friends, and that lunch date with my new Tinder beau…because on the 25th December, shits about to go wild. It will be totally worth it. Is this you right now? Are you struggling to ‘stay on track’, constantly frustrate by your apparent lack of will power?
Will life always be this way, a constant cycle of deprivation and overindulging, or is there another way? What if our lives didn’t revolve around diets, and times when you could and couldn’t eat. What if our happiness was based not solely on our jean size or the weight reflected on the scales. What if diet culture didn’t eat up our entire existence and let us bloody live? What if we ditched the diet, and not just for December, what if we never dieted again?
I have done just that. I am diet free. It has been 4 weeks and 6 days since I last dieted. And I feel bloody fantastic.
OK, so firstly, I admit, I am a complete fraud. I was a fraud when I was in therapy for my eating disorder, and I was a fraud throughout recovery. I was fraudulent, because I pretended to work my recovery whilst also dieting. Madness. I sat and nodded in my therapy group when I was told that dieting would undermine my recovery, that restricting my food intake will lead to binges and that by doing that I would never get better. I heard, I agreed, but I just couldn’t stop. I bloody loved a diet.
I used to think I was addicted to bingeing. I would plan whole days around a binge, bingeing was my beau (RIP you gluttonous fucker). But when I gave up bingeing, I didn’t miss it one bit. It made me feel grim and bloated and pretty unsexy. But dieting, now that beauty, I didn’t want to give up. I ploughed on with dieting despite knowing it was bad for me, I went for regular weigh ins, I talked about diets to all my friends, and I lied about restricting to my therapist on a weekly basis. I loved losing weight. I got to my lightest weight in years whilst in therapy and I wasn’t bingeing and everything was glorious. And then therapy ended, and I continued dieting and then after ten desperate months of dieting, restricting, bingeing and feeling thoroughly scared that I would never get well, I listened.
In November, I gave up dieting. Good God it was hard. At first I panicked. I was sure I would put on weight. Over the last 10 months, despite dieting throughout, I had put on over a stone. Surely if I stopped dieting, if I gave in to my desires, I would put on weight. I would get bigger? But it hasn’t been at all how I thought it would be, so here’s what I have learnt about going ‘diet free’.
The ‘Diet’ Voice is relentless and she rules the roost.
If like me you have dieted since you were a young teen, then stopping dieting feels a bit like you’ve entered an alternative reality and you aren’t sure how to function quite the same.
Since I have stopped dieting, I notice how often I think about it. All the fucking time! I never realised how much of my life was focused on food, and exercise, and restricting and syns, and calories and points and carbs. My brain is filled with so much useless information about food I could open my own university up in there. I notice how often I immediately want to try and restrict my food whenever I feel low or sad or desperate. In turn, these thoughts about restricting also encourage my bingeing, because the “I’ll be really good on my diet tomorrow’ means I can be really bad on my non diet now. It is a pattern I have tread so often it is very difficult to break. Even last week, after feeling guilty about eating some Jaffa cakes, I walked in a shop and bought a pack of meal replacement shakes. I walked out and threw them in the car park bin, because life is too short to drink watery fart smelling water for breakfast.
Non Diet ‘Me’ likes vegetables as much as she likes biscuits
When I first stopped dieting I ate a lot. I never binged, but boy did I find all the food I had been missing for the past 25 years and consume it.
“Do you want a biscuit Cara?”
“Oh yeah I bloody do, give me 6, and a hot chocolate for dippage”
I had a hot chocolate every day for a week. Break time? Hot chocolate. Bit chilly? Hot chocolate. Not hot chocolate? Hot chocolate. I went through two weeks of fully indulging in everything I fancied, until eventually, I found I wasn’t craving hot chocolates and biscuits anymore. I wanted vegetables, and green juices, and bloody salad. I can’t tell you how often I have bought salad on a Monday, ready for diet 1204385739 and then 2 weeks later found the same salad limp and dishevelled at the bottom of the fridge. But finally, I am buying food and eating it, not wasting it, because I am buying it because I want to eat it, not because some bird on a fitspo instagram told me to. Sure, sometimes I want to eat biscuits, sometimes I want to eat fruit, sometimes I eat fruit and biscuits. I eat what I want when I want and that feels glorious.
Yes, sometimes when you stop dieting you put on weight…for a bit.
Sure, when I first stopped dieting I went a bit wild. That lasted around 2 weeks. Out of curiosity I jumped on the scales to check the damage. After two weeks of not dieting, I had put on one pound. One pound! Are you actually kidding? I used to come ‘off plan’ for a week when I dieted and put on a small baby and a dumbbell in weight. Yet here I was, not dieting and I put on a pound. Why? Because yes I ate biscuits and drank hot chocolate, but I only ate when I was hungry. I was no longer shoving food down my gullet because I only had 4 hours of Sunday left until Monday morning diet guilt hit. I went to McDonalds, but rather than buying a Big Mac Meal, a shake, 2 apple pies and a Mcflurry (because I haven’t tried that flavour before and it would be rude not to), I bought a chicken wrap and a hot chocolate. Do you want fries…Nah not really thanks.
We are so convinced by diet culture that we are wild, overeating piglets that we can’t trust our own bodies, our own intuition and that we need to pay a million pound a week to some dieting deity so that they can control us. But do they, or do we “fall on and off the wagon” forever telling ourselves that next week will be better, next week we will smash it? But what if we just trusted ourselves, what if we just let go?
And guess what, over 4 weeks into this, and I am lighter than when I started. Does it matter? No not really, but if you’re scared of getting bigger by not dieting, you have been lied to. It might happen at first, but there is more to life than a pound or two.
Being thin is no longer the ultimate goal.
Not thinking about food (other than to think what I want to eat when I’m hungry) has freed up so much of my time. Whole Sundays spent food prepping cauliflower rice, or travelling up and down the country in search of a ‘group’ I can be publically shamed by weighing in front of, has provided me with so much more time to see friends, go running, or do whatever I like. My life feels wealthier, freer, and lighter. Sure I still have bad days, or sad days, or days I wish I was thinner, but not having that instant whip to punish myself, not having to down some gross green concoction because I have licked a Lindt ball or miss dinner because I snaffled a snowball. It is freeing.
I am also free to socialise, to drink, be merry and bloody bright with my friends and family without any guilt and that feels fabulous. Of course, I still struggle with my image issues, my self-doubt and self-esteem. I haven’t found a cure, but what I have found is a purpose. A way of living that is more important than whether I am bigger or smaller by this time next year.
Are you disheartened by your diet? Ready to jack in the diet mentality and life care free for a bit? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.