WARNING: I talk about dieting, bad body image, and disordered eating in fairly personal detail below. If this is triggering to you, I’d advise skipping to the previous post about Twilight (unless you’re allergic to articles about horribly written sparkle-vamp stories, in which case, you’d best skip down even further.)
I spend a great deal of time talking about how damaging the diet industry is on young women, and how important it is to encourage self esteem and happiness at any size. Given this theme it seems dishonest not to share my own experiences with you, even though they do not paint me in the most flattering light.
So, here goes… the other day I went to pull on my favorite rainbow skirt and I found, to my dismay, that it was really uncomfortably tight in a way that it hadn’t been a few weeks ago. I’ve gained weight. I thought, with dread, before committing my first mistake: weighing myself, something I haven’t done in months, to confirm what I already knew. Once that number got into my head, I was doomed.
See, for all of my talk about body-acceptance and loving yourself there’s still this whisper of self doubt, a voice that is always waiting to let me know just how much better I would look and feel if I just dropped say, ten pounds? Fifteen? Maybe even twenty?! It’s a voice that I work incredibly hard to silence with projects, outings, new dresses, and accomplishments. Most of the time I’m stronger than it but if I do something like, say, get on the scale and discover that I now weigh five pounds more than I thought I did… that’s when the voice in my head takes over.
So I told myself I was going to cut back and I made a few easy rules that essentially boil down to:
1) Stop snacking so much, especially at night
2) Exercise more: hula hoop, do sit ups, take a walk, whatever.
See? Perfectly rational. It started off fine – I stopped snacking on crap when I wasn’t even hungry and I bought a hula hoop. The first two days were totally normal and I was feeling happy and healthy and good.
Then the voice got louder.
If you actually commit to a diet, it whispered, you’d lose that weight so much faster. What you’re doing now… you may was well just eat a tray of brownies for all the good you’ve done, you’re not really committed to anything. You’re not really going to lose anything this way. Think how awesome it would be to go back to school in the fall and have your roommates notice how slim you are! Don’t you want that?
Just like that, food became the enemy.
Breakfast jump-starts the metabolism, so no skipping. A bowl of cereal with 2% milk fills me up before work without ruining my diet. Lunch consists of a salad, no matter how gross the salad bar at work may get, and an iced tea. A banana or an apple gets me through the rest of work. Something small like grilled chicken and a baked potato (NO BUTTER) for dinner and then that’s it, cut off, nothing else until tomorrow.
I’m eating a normal amount, certainly. The Daily Plate account I set up says that I am well within an appropriate calorie range, and I’ve actually gone OVER in terms of sugar. (No more bananas I reflect, after noting the high levels of sugar they contain.)
I am eating enough that no one should worry, and yet, this is sick. The fact that bananas can so quickly become a “bad food” in my mind (despite the fact that I know enough about nutrition to know that this is bullshit). The way that I panicked yesterday when my boss offered me a Hershey Kiss, insisting even after I initially refused so that all I could do was try and savor it over the guilt welling up inside me. The way that I can go through my sane exercise routine three times in a night because once doesn’t seem enough. I’m not exercising much, but still, it’s excessive because I can’t get anything else done without feeling guilty that I’m not doing crunches.
Aside from my guilt, the other thing I found was that I couldn’t stop wanting to talk about my diet incessantly. All I’ve wanted to talk about was how much skinnier I already felt, and how little I had eaten, and how many unhealthy foods I had to cut out of my life, and how much more I planned to exercise… if I hadn’t kept myself in check I would have become a caricature of everything I never wanted to be by now. The weirdest thing is that this was coming right in the after a week where I had read some interesting articles and written a few awesome blog posts. I also have an awesome internship that I am in the midst of applying for and I’m reading an incredibly fascinating book. Essentially, there were plenty of things for me to be thinking and talking about that have nothing to do with my dress size.
Essentially, I decided to start watching my weight and, within two days, quickly devolved into a nervous wreck who has to bargain with herself before eating anything more than a piece of lettuce. It’s like a switch just got flipped in my brain, from content & chubby to crazed weight loss… just like it does every time I try to start restricting.
I can’t continue to be like this, but I can’t go back to the way I was either because, regardless of weight, the behavior I was displaying was not healthy. So what the hell do I do? There has to be some sort of happy medium between feeding each and every craving and restricting myself to just lettuce and water… but I’ve never been capable of finding it. If some foods are bad then, suddenly, all foods become bad & the less I eat, the better I am. This is a dangerous mentality that comes easily to me because it’s just the way I do everything: full commitment, obsessing until it’s perfect… I’m not content to stop at even ten, I’m cranking this thing up to eleven or not turning it on at all.
If that wasn’t bad enough it was all to easy to find computer programs (like Daily Plate) that were ready to recommend a calorie intake of about 1,100 and forms where I could talk incessantly about this diet with other people because our society is structured to encourage diet talk more than nutrition talk. I mean, yeah, we cue in to eating disorders most of the time but you can’t even get diagnosed with an eating disorder until your body weight drops to a dangerous level. This is creepy because it means, essentially, that I can have all of the behaviors of anorexia (I don’t, but hypothetically) without the medical institution even acknowledging something is wrong with me until I drop enough weight to concern people… this makes sense considering American culture focuses on weight as the bottom line, rather than behavior/nutrition/health/etc.
Essentially, our culture tends to encourage people to develop disordered eating behaviors (which I certainly have and I’m not the only one) by focusing so firmly on diet pills, instant-gratification plans, before & afters etc. instead of focusing on NUTRITION.
I won’t let this beat me down.
Starting today I am no longer allowing myself to count calories, nor am I allowing myself to only eat “acceptable foods.” I will not weigh or measure myself, and I will limit my exercise to an hour at most each night (I hula hoop and do some abdominal/leg exercises or I take a walk.) Most importantly, though, I will force that stupid little voice to shut the hell up and let me live my life :) If I lose weight, great but if I don’t… that’s great too because as I said over a year ago in the blog post that became the monologue that inspired me to make The Body Image Monologues: “ I’d rather keep the ten pounds then lose my sanity along with them.“