My birthday was less than a week ago, and I've found myself to be more reflective about my journey and who I am than usual. Perhaps it was the recent loss of 2 family members within 3 months, perhaps it is that I'm in my last year of my twenties; likely both. I began working on my next installment of "30 Things I've Already Done, Accomplished, or Experienced" and grouped together 5 items that all took endurance. However, I was even wordier than normal, and decided to dedicate this post to just 1 item on that list, rather than knocking out 5 at a time.
For those of you just joining me (or have forgotten) this list is a reminder of things I've already accomplished that I am proud to have done. This is a list I can revisit when I have the blahs, or am feeling unaccomplished, or pront to comparing myself with others. Previous installments include list items 1-5, 6-10, and 11-15.
16. Gave up Dieting
As soon as I began writing this list, I knew I would include something about this. I’ve mentioned it before in less detail (here) but I wanted to talk about it more in-depth, as it is one of the single, most positive things I have done for myself (and one of the hardest). I’d say it was even harder than giving up smoking, as I started dieting way before my first cigarette.
I’m not exactly sure, but I probably began dieting around age 13. I remember disliking my body and worrying about my size as early as 9 or 10. I remember skipping breakfast and lunch and only eating dinner in high school so my parents wouldn’t know I wasn’t eating. So many diets, so much disappointment. And all this before I was “fat” (High school weight fluctuated between 135 when I started and I think was around 160 or so when I graduated).
I remember picking up running again in college, because runners were skinny, and if I were a runner, I’d be skinny too! When it didn’t work, I gave it up, despite the fact I managed to run 2-3 miles several times a week when previously I couldn't run for 2-3 minutes. (Since I’ve started running again I can’t believe I quit it so easily before, I think about how far I’d be now if I only had kept with it!). The year before I got married I obsessively followed the South Beach Diet, and managed to land at what ended up being my lowest adult weight- around 170.
I kept most of the weight off for awhile, and came across Health at Every Size and the Fat Acceptance Movement while “skinny”. Health at Every Size is a weight-neutral approach to health. In an HAES approach, weight loss is not the goal, or the focus, but rather an increase in healthy behaviors. From the website…
“Health at Every Size is based on the simple premise that the best way to improve health is to honor your body. It supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control). Health at Every Size encourages: accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes; eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite; and finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.”
This was easy and refreshing. I get to like myself? I get to move my body for enjoyment rather than punishment?! I can wear clothes I like, without constantly obsessing over whether I’m “too big” or “too round” or “too something”? Then I was diagnosed with asthma, started on steroids 5 times a day, and gained 25 pounds. And then I struggled.
Ultimately, I never went back to dieting. I have gone through times when liking myself and my body was easier, and times when its been more difficult. I notice during times of stress, regardless of the source, one of my first tendencies is to start getting down on my body. I still struggle during the January blitz of diet & new years resolutions; and now that it is getting warm, the soon-to-be “beach body” talk. I remind myself that dieting is not treating my body with respect, and I refuse to buy into the billion dollar industry that wants me to hate my body. That I can promote health and practice self-love, and that is not measured in pounds.