How do you want to feel this holiday? (Or any other time of year for that matter?) Did you know you have a choice? Here is an excerpt from my journal many years ago. Trigger warning: I was in the thick of diet mentality and hated myself. I have also included an excerpt from a more recent year showing how things are different and how I feel now. Nothing has changed materially in my life circumstances but everything has changed internally and it makes all the difference.
At the end of this post, I will tell you the top 3 things I did to change my perspective and change my life for the better. Read on and tell me, which way do you want to feel?
Holiday Past: So I am constantly trying to figure out my relationship with food. We just had Thanksgiving. I knew it would be a food fest and I would overeat and I am ok with that. I am ok with having one day where you overdo it. The rest of my family also over does it on Thanksgiving. Lots of people over do it and they don’t have issues with food. The fact that I have issues with food makes overdoing it so much worse. Even before the holiday starts, I overeat - mostly because I am telling myself I can’t eat. And then on the days following the holiday, like today, I also overeat, throwing it all into the holiday weekend. And the whole time I hate myself.
And I hate that I am the one who works out the most and thinks about eating the most. And I don’t really know what triggers the food anxiety or how to fix it. It’s not that I don’t know what to eat. It’s not that I don’t exercise. It really kills me when I work so hard at it. I am always bigger then I should be and it shows. I see myself in the mirrors and think - why did I ever think I looked good? And I feel worse this year because I’m not exercising like I should and I can feel the flab getting flabbier. It’s one thing to weigh too much but it’s worse to weigh too much and be totally out of shape. But I read magazines and try to figure out why things are hard for me and I can’t figure it out. I know I am jealous that no one else has my struggle. I know I am jealous that everyone else can overeat but reasonably. I don’t even eat what I am hungry for necessarily - I just open the flood gates and go for it and somehow end up so depressed about it that I can’t even get back on track and I feel less than motivated to do better.
I am not opposed to eating healthy. That’s why I can’t figure out why, when I have all the tools, I am still failing. I know I should be happy that I lost some weight this year and maybe I can lose more next year, but at times like this, I am happy just not to gain back the weight that I lost this year which is already creeping back on. I feel apathetic and not really interested in what is going on around me in my world. I guess I need to eat better and have a plan. I’ll spend my time tonight and tomorrow planning my food and maybe I can make it through to Christmas without gaining and even looking a little better. When others do the right thing and eat less or go running, it makes me want to eat even more which makes no sense. I fail at abstaining every time.
Can you feel the pain and the sadness and desperation in reading that? Oh that poor girl! I want to give her a big hug. Let me point out some of the things she was struggling with:
(1) Internalized fat phobia (my fear of being fat or gaining weight)
(2) Weight cycling (97% of diets fail and she was experiencing the loss and gains that are common with dieting but didn't recognize it and thought it was her fault.)
(3) Fear of food
(4) No self compassion
(5) Binging caused by restriction
(6) Disconnected from world around her - no purpose - no compass - apathetic
(7) Basing self worth on size
(8) Disconnected from hunger cues
(9) Preconceived notion of what weight she "should" be or how much exercise is "right"
(10) Going to magazines for advice that are likely perpetuating the problem
(11) Thinking she is alone in feeling this way
(12) Missing out on enjoying time with family at the holiday
(13) Disconnected from body entirely - looking at it all from her head
(14) Comparing to others
(15) "Working so hard" = constant stress on the body
(16) Mental health was suffering - depression
(17) Participating in the classic diet cycle without even realizing it - getting excited about making a plan over and over again only to feel like a failure over and over again.
(18) Using dieting, food and weight as a distraction from real life
Diet culture is a bitch huh?
Now here is how I felt recently after Thanksgiving.
Friday - the day after Thanksgiving. I had a wonderful holiday. I really enjoyed the food for the first time ever. I wasn’t hungry for the appetizers so I didn’t eat any and when the meal came I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I went back for some seconds even though I was full. I didn’t really want pie either but it looked yummy so I had a some. I heard and listened to my stomach for the first time on a holiday. It was definitely full but I had none of that desperate need for food where your stomach feels like a bottomless pit and you can eat a whole wheel of baked brie by yourself. What a lovely day. I tried hard to be open to conversation with friends and family too.
I have also been taking some classes lately, topics that interest me and make me think. They are moving along and I’m excited that over this holiday I have so many things to occupy my mind. I have classes, I have meditations and fun and motivational holiday challenges that I signed up for online. I have plans to get even more involved in my classes and go deeper into my self acceptance journey in the new year. I am excited to set my intentions for how I want to feel in the new year. I also still have all the podcasts and books I’ve accumulated this year to listen to and read.
I am excited to decorate for Christmas, actually, and even do some shopping. I had been hating all that in years past. I also need to take care of myself and go easy on myself and use my self compassion skills to stay healthy both physically and mentally. Today I’d like to exercise and move my body. During this holiday season, I will work on opening up my heart while at the same time maintaining my boundaries so I do not feel like I am giving in or giving something up. I’m going to sit quietly with that for a minute and then go move my body. Overall I am feeling good. I am also recognizing that there is so much potential out there for me and so many possibilities and directions my life can take that never even occurred to me before and I’m excited to get started. Bring on the New Year!
Wow – big difference huh? Notice that in this post I didn't even mention my weight or my size. Yes, the change was many years in the making but that was mostly because the old me didn’t know what I was missing and she was firmly entrenched in the diet culture in which she was raised. I didn’t know there was another way. I kept trying to make the best of the world I knew but I didn’t know that a world existed where I could immerse myself in activities that I loved and my size would not even be an issue.
What were the biggest things I did to cause the shifts illustrated above?
- I stopped dieting and started recognizing how diet mentality was all around me and how it was making many people miserable, whether they were fat or thin. When people are talking about other people’s size, that is their own insecurity but it doesn’t have to be mine.
- I became interested in something to fulfill my soul – I took classes and listened to podcasts and read books that were uplifting and inspiring and reminded me of the magic and mystery of the world in which we live. I found rituals that were calming and supportive of my overall mental health such as meditating and visualizing how I wanted my life to look. Being thinner started to seem like a very small and very shallow goal.
- I became aware of the need for self care and self compassion. Self care comes from being loving and gentle towards yourself and taking the time to truly nourish yourself on all different levels. Self care is about being curious and exploring what makes you feel good. Dieting and punishing exercise that makes you feel guilty is not self care.
All of the things I did were 100% free and available to all. Books at the library, podcasts online, not dieting, talking nicely to yourself. The dieting industry is a 60 billion dollar enterprise.
Wouldn’t the diet industry be bummed if everyone found out that you can actually get the happiness that diet culture promises all within yourself and all for free?
Share this and help me spread the word.