In her second guest post, client Terri Barger shares some of the most relatable thoughts and feelings about dieting. Do yourself a solid and read on…
I woke up this morning with a burning desire to weigh myself. Weighing myself was the last overt dieting activity that I gave up, and it is the most tempting first step back. I am analytical by both nature and training, and I find a certain level of comfort in measuring, tracking, and comparing.
Plus, dieting is seductive. It is a golden promise of a better tomorrow. Starting a new diet is exciting and it includes the fantasy that I can change my life by changing the size of my body. While I would not describe dieting as an addiction in the clinical sense, when it comes to dieting, I see in myself a lot of the qualities that describe addiction. Dieting is something that I do to distract myself from pain and discomfort. It’s a socially acceptable – even socially encouraged distraction. It is so much easier to talk about diet planning and diet success or failure than about the real things that make me feel vulnerable. Friends and acquaintances will compliment or commiserate with pounds lost or gained, with cravings, with restrictions. And the energy I focus there is energy I don’t focus on getting older, or feeling creatively stifled, or on boredom or anxiety. Dieting is a kind of numbing. It focuses my energy on something socially admirable, but outside myself. I have a history of doing it at times when my life is not going well and I am unhappy. All my most “successful” diets coincide with bad break-ups, major life changes, illnesses, deaths, or stagnation when knew change was best for me.
Of course, the idea of successful dieting is part of the golden lie. I think about all the times that I have talked about “successful” dieting in the past, how I lost 80 pounds on this diet or 30 pounds just by making this one change – and how, eventually, I gained that weight back, plus more. I’m not alone in this, approximately 95% of dieters gain back the weight they lost within three years. The worst part is, I KNOW this. I know it from my own experience and I know it from reading the research, and so I had to ask myself, “If you know this doesn’t work why do you keep doing it – or at least being tempted to do it?”
The answer is tangled up in so many things. There is a $60 billion diet industry trying to convince me that I’m wrong. They have slick advertisers and understand psychology. Also, dieting feels like I’m being positive and proactive, and that’s tempting, even if I know it’s a false feeling. Losing weight feels good. When I’m doing it on purpose, it comes with positive attention and feedback. The social aspects of dieting are also appealing. As I make new friends in a new place, other women make friendly overtures by using negative self-body talk or discussing diet regimens – it’s hard to avoid.
In the past dieting has served as a successful distraction from more genuine problems. It has shielded me from having to sit with my emotional discomfort – I chose to sit with hunger or cravings instead. I’m trying to learn to be present for my own discomfort and to allow vulnerability in my life, but it’s hard to change a lifetime pattern. And so some mornings, like this morning, I wake up thinking about the scale and the distractions it allows me.
I didn’t weigh myself this morning, instead, I wrote this. For now, I’ll accept that as a success.