This might sound like a weird question, but do you ever miss dieting? I promised myself that I would never go back to punishing my body with restriction and over-exercising, but sometimes it feels like things were just more simple then. Do you feel that way ever?
Let's start with some of the things that I don't miss about dieting:
I don't miss going to bed hungry and convincing myself that fantasies of my dream body would fill me up better than food could.
I don't miss saying no to weekend trips, family dinners, date nights and days out because I couldn't guarantee that the food there would be 'on plan'.
I don't miss living and breathing by the number that flashed up at me every morning from my bathroom floor, deciding how I'd feel that day before I had a chance to feel anything.
I don't miss being unable to walk past a mirror without lifting up my top to measure how much of my stomach I still had left.
I don't miss the calculations of calories consumed and burned that filled every corner of my mind every day until there was no room for anything else.
I don't miss the taste of zero calorie cooking oil. I don't miss the sound of that same song playing over the cardio section of the DVD. I don't miss feeling like my body is the be-all and end-all of my existence. But I do miss something about dieting.
I miss being so sure that I had the answer to happiness. The one-step cure-all solution to making everything okay. A belief strong enough to build my world around, that making my body smaller would make all the other things fall into place.
Because that's what diet culture is really selling us: the promise that it'll all be perfect once we hit the other side of the before and after. We'll be loved. We'll be desired. We'll be successful. We'll be ambitious. We'll be adventurous. We'll be the version of ourselves we were born to be. We'll finally be living our real lives. All we have to do is follow the plan. The one-step cure-all solution to life.
I miss how having that kind of hope and promise and simplicity felt. But I don't miss how it felt when it all came crashing down around me over and over again. When I played by the rules and my life didn't magically fall into place. When I gained the weight back and had to believe that it was all my fault. When I hit the goal weight and looked around and realised that everything wasn't perfect, and I still didn't feel like my body was either.
Because the hard to swallow truth is that there is no one-step cure-all solution. There never was. Only an illusion that went on to be one of the greatest marketing schemes of all time. When we miss the feeling of hope that dieting gave us we're missing something that never truly existed in the first place, and we have to hold onto that truth.
Of course it feels easier to distil your whole world into a calorie count than to actually live in all of its messy, unpredictable, complicated and so far from perfect reality. Of course at times when life feels overwhelming we reach back for old solutions that made it more simple and all too easily glaze over how much those solutions hurt us. Of course it's harder to admit that there is no single answer to happiness, and that finding it is going to take a lot more than adding up the numbers. But if we choose to go back to easy and simple rather than navigate complicated and messy, we will hunger for more our whole lives.
So no, I don't miss dieting. Sometimes I miss the illusion of life being simple that dieting gave me. But I know deep down that I've traded simplicity for so much more, and remembering that makes it easier to stop looking back.
Plus I can eat ice-cream whenever I want.
Love & bopo,
P.S. If you like this column and want more advice like this, I wrote a whole book of it! You can find Body Positive Power here.