When I started writing this blog I knew I couldn’t carry on with the endless dieting cycle I had been on for all of my adult life: losing weight, gaining weight, knowing the calorie content of every food in the universe, talking negatively to myself all the time, having a rubbish life. I wanted to do something different: I wanted to feel normal around food, I wanted to not worry about a number on the scales, I wanted food to be nourishment, not the answer to my problems, my friend when I was lonely, something to do when I was bored. I wanted it all to go away.
I have read endlessly about how to give up dieting, how to live with food again and I thought I had come up with the solution. I couldn’t ban foods anymore, I needed to think about what I wanted to eat, I needed to eat slowly, I needed to think about whether I was hungry and what for, I needed to use food for its original purpose and not for everything that was wrong with my life. I understood the logic, I threw out the bathroom scales, I stopped wearing clothes that were too fitted as a tiny feeling that they had tightened would be enough to send me back into a dieting panic. I thought I was doing all the right things, but now I feel I am back at the beginning.
I suppose I thought that I would go through the months I have gone through, thinking about what I am doing, working hard to overcome all these issues, and would emerge as a smaller person, magically transformed into the person I wanted to be, physically at least. But today I had to wear my swimming costume and it took me right back to the world of self doubt and insecurity, with those negative voices screaming abuse in my head. It feels so sad, so demoralising, so unfair.
So I go back to the start, I remember how I want to be, I start all the intial steps all over again, trying to feel positive but feeling scared about my future and uncertain where I shall end up.
The voices are back. I was feeling ok, I was getting my head around things. I knew I had put on weight but I was keeping the old feelings of panic under control. I felt like I was moving in the right direction: I was leaving food on my plate, I was eating what I wanted to eat, but I was still eating when I wasn’t particularly hungry to fit it in around my life, having lunch because I knew I wouldn’t have time for a proper dinner so something I still needed to work on. The chocolate stash was no longer calling to me every day but I was working on my crisps things. So far, so good: it felt like I was moving in the right direction but then….
In the old days, the PD (permanent diet) days, I would jump on the scales every day (well sometimes several times a day) to make sure I hadn’t become huge overnight. Every tiny increase would send me into a panic until I justified it, cut back and the scales returned to the previous level, usually the next day, or after a weekend. Now I don’t weigh myself, I haven’t weighed myself for well over a year. I know, well my logical brain knows, that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life on this dieting merry-go-round, I know that my body works better when I eat more but all parts of my brain know that I don’t want to be the fat girl, the one who other people look at, marvelling at the size of their bottom while being too polite to say anything. So I have found other ways to keep an eye on my size and yesterday it was the winter coat. The weather has turned colder so the coat came out. Now the coat still fits but it’s much tighter than last winter so bring on a panic and a frantic searching in the mirror for clues that I was becoming larger. Yes I have already said I have put on weight, but I was accepting this (in a panicky way) as a necessary step to becoming a normal eater, ie I had to allow myself to eat what I wanted so I could get to the point that nothing was banned and then I would learn to listen to what my body wanted/needed, eat enough and stop. All seems very sensible. But I don’t want to be fat, large, the big girl and now I feel like I am in freefall.
So I am trying really hard not to return to the old habits, go back to dieting under another name, I am trying to keep calm. Yesterday I heard about someone who has lost weight only eating one meal a day so I thought perhaps I could go back to skipping meals but surely, and I know this, that’s just dieting under another name. So I am trying to tell the voices to be quiet, I am trying to keep going, I am trying to tell myself how well I am doing. All this has pushed food and eating right back to the front of my mind just when I thought I had taken a huge step in the right direction, I thought I was getting there, and now I feel so tempted to just go back to starving myself. How sad.
The most frustrating part of working on myself and the way I feel about my body is that just when I think I am getting somewhere, that I am moving in the right direction then I suddenly swing back the other way and enter another period of self loathing, doubt, the chattering, incessant negative voices won’t go away.
In the last few weeks eating has started to feel more natural, more normal. I knew I wasn’t sorted, I hadn’t reached the end, but I felt like I had made huge strides in the right direction. I would catch myself eating something because I was rewarding myself, or because I was bored, but I just sort of filed it away rather than thought how awful it was etc. It seemed to be happening less and less: food was moving out of its place as the primary focus in my life, I was beginning to feel more relaxed about it.
So what happened? I went out today and was sitting having a cup of coffee with a friend when I caught sight of myself in a mirror. What did I see? Well the mirror was low so I couldn’t see my head so all I saw was fat! My stomach looked huge, I had rolls on my back, I thought I looked hideous. I suddenly felt stupid, that I had been deluding myself, I was just being lazy rather than keeping myself in check. I tried to make sense of the way I felt about myself: my clothes are the same size as when I last weighed myself so why should I suddenly feel I had become some sort of whale?
Sitting here now I feel cross with myself: angry because I kept looking, allowed those negative voices to hold the floor, came home and thought about restricting my eating, thought about how other people must be looking at me and commenting on my weight, all the old negative, horrible stuff that has gone through my head for years. And then I decided to take back control: I sat down to write this to reset my brain, to move on, to keep going and tell those voices to shut the f*** up!
The problem I have found with giving up dieting is that I need something to happen quickly and I have realised I have to wait, to go through some sort of barrier in my thinking that I am not going to go back to dieting, detoxing, eating plans etc., anything that is a restricted eating plan under any sort of name. When I think, even in the very back recesses of my mind, that at some stage I shall be forced to go back to restricting myself I am giving myself permission to eat too much, eat all those banned foods whilst I still can, before the famine comes. If I accept that the famine is never going to happen I can relax more about what I am eating, and why I am eating, rather than panicking. The problem is for me, and many people who have been on this hideous weight loss treadmill for so long, is that I find it hard to believe that I will ever get to a point when I can eat like a normal person: a day of anything resembling normal eating is swiftly followed by a day of congratulatory eating: wow you were good yesterday, you deserve that bar of chocolate, bag of crisps etc. Are you hungry? Who cares!
It’s only food, it’s only fuel, so it needs to be put back in its cage, it needs its power taken away from it and then, maybe, I can silence those negative voices. It’s so, so difficult: it feels like a struggle, an ongoing struggle, and I suppose I need to see some sort of light, some indication that I am doing things right, that I will end up succeeding but it’s so hard for me to trust, ignore the irritating voices. I need to keep going but it’s very, very hard.
We had a lovely family day yesterday: a birthday meal, plenty to eat and drink, lots of laughter, a really lovely day. I went to bed feeling blessed and happy. And then I had a horrible dream: the only bit of it I remember clearly is being told I had put on a lot of weight. I woke up feeling awful, and then sad that this obsession I have with my body, my eating, my weight, could impact on me so strongly and spoil the end of a lovely weekend.
The primary feeling I had was shame or embarassment. Perhaps the idea that I could enjoy a family day without monitoring all I was eating and drinking was too much for my subconscious, perhaps it was trying to inflict my old ways of thinking back on me? I sat and thought about it, remembering I hadn’t actually eaten that much so why were these negative voices so strong? And even if I had eaten more than normal why did it matter that much? We don’t do this every day, every week or even every month so one day wouldn’t have a huge impact. It just all seems so pointless and negative.
I don’t want the focus of my life to be on this, I want food to be simply fuel but it seems like parts of me are fighting back and I hated the feeling of shame, the idea of someone really hitting me where it hurts: the way I look and the way I feel about the way I look. I imagine every mouthful causing my hips to expand and I am fighting this really hard, talking to myself with the kindess I use with other people, but it is still fighting back. I still look at photos of friends from school to see if they are bigger or smaller than me: what a sad way to judge the world and the people in it. I realise the fight has just begun just when I was hoping it was getting nearer the end!
I’m sure I’ve said before how frustrating I find this process: understanding what I need to do, trying to do it but having to wait so long for results. I want to change my thinking and I know I have to do that slowly, in baby steps, not rushing anything, but I want to get to the end. I want my thinking to be different, my mind to be different, I suppose I want me to be different and, being really honest (and what has really only occurred to me while sitting writing this) I don’t want to put in all the hard work. That’s a bit strange, as I was always a champion dieter: once I decided on a plan I stuck with it, losing weight faster than most of my friends, following the rules religiously. This feels different: there aren’t any rules, I have to trust myself not follow someone else’s plan. It’s hard for me.
Often I feel blown off my course: I can wake up feeling positive and then decide I’m letting myself go (for no other reason than I look at myself differently) and then I seem to go into a decline. I have to keep fighting those voices in my head, those negative irritating voices that tell me how awful I am, how I should be slimmer, basically how my whole existence and its meaning is dependent upon my dress size! Sounds ridiculous when I write it down.
So I am going to keep working, I am going to keep telling those voices to shut up, I am going to keep trusting myself. This is just one more step forward.
Oh dear! I really thought I was beginning to get this sussed, that I was beginning to feel normal around my eating BUT I sabotaged myself! Why did I do that? Why couldn’t I have kept the faith a little bit longer, become more relaxed, be more accepting of myself? Why did all the old ways of thinking start creeping back into my head? I feel disappointed in myself.
So what was my big mistake? Yesterday was not a great day so what should I wear? Too cold for a skirt and my trousers were in the wash so why not wear jeans? But, of course, the jeans were a bit too tight to wear. Yes I could get the button done up but the flesh trying to escape from above the waistline was not what I wanted to see, not what I wanted to be. So the negative voices started screaming inside my head, telling me that I had let myself go, that I needed to get back onto the diet treadmill. These voices woke me up this morning and start suggesting that I get back onto the bathroom scales, confront my fat, get myself back under control, start again with the ridiculous diet spiral of self-hate, depression and misery. The only good part of this story is that I resisted. I am trying to accept this is just a blip, just a small step back on the road to self acceptance, of being able to eat normally and be ok around food. I am doing well so I can’t let myself sabotage myself again.