It was on one of many drives to Adelaide to visit my sister that I promised myself I would never go on another diet again. I’d been struggling with trying to lose weight for about 3 months, starting out with determination on Monday, over it by Wednesday, and by Thursday it was all lost so that between Friday lunch time and Sunday morning, food was not so much to be eaten, but to be binged on, as would a starving man.
Such is the nature of the diet/binge cycle that caught me in its grip as a teenager. Me and about 1 billion other women on this planet not living in a third world country in genuine danger of starving to death.
My mother put me on my first diet, when I was just 11 years old. She’d been convinced I was fat since basically, I was born. And at 11, just at that age when body image and self-esteem are being thoroughly trashed by, well, pretty much everyone, she took me to the doctor and told him to put me on a calorie controlled diet. Just to make the mix truly toxic, he also prescribed me medication to reduce my appetite.
I had to fill in a form every time I ate something, calculating up the calories of every morsel I ate. At first, I was charmed by the whole idea – as a girl, I loved paperwork and forms and all sorts of things that appeared to put life into neatly framed boxes that could be organised and controlled. My first experiences with dieting fed into this desire to control my eating, to get it all sorted and organised because eating without that control was clearly what made me fat. After the first few weeks however, something else began to happen, and charming it was not.
I began to suffer from bouts of a black depression that were to me, utterly inexplicable. I’d always been a pretty happy kid, easy-going, with the occasional tantrum. Pretty normal. But this depression was like diving into a swimming pool of crude oil. I didn’t understand it, I could barely speak about it and at just 11, I was utterly incapable of understanding it.
After 6 months on my diet, and without losing much in the way of weight, I stopped. Not because it hadn’t been successful or anything – but because my mother finally recognised that the medication was making me a manic depressive.
Thank whatever deity you believe in for any small mercies that come your way.
I won’t say that all diets for me were all down hill after that point – but they all had much the same characteristics, except for the black depressions. Lots of hunger, denying myself, bingeing when I could, suffering and blaming myself, calling myself all sorts of names that I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) print here. I reach a point where the moment somebody mentioned the word diet, I would be ready to inflict violence. I almost gave in one day when somebody actually said to me, “Well, if you’re fat, why don’t you just go on a diet?”
So on that drive to Adelaide I came to a big decision – that I would never go on a diet again. And strictly speaking, I haven’t. What I am doing now is not a diet the way any of those previous diets were. What I eat now is food and quantities that I am changing my life to incorporate, not just now in order to lose weight, but for the rest of my life. I’m not going anywhere near the hunger, the misery, the self-hatred or the bingeing of the past. I’ve simply changed my eating habits and I plan to have them stay that way. To me, this eating plan isn’t anything like a diet in that sense at all. And I plan to keep it that way.
The bottom line is, diets don’t work. Diets that restrict you so much that you’re constantly hungry, make you feel guilty if you ‘cheat’ or a failure if you don’t lose weight one week are simply wrong. They don’t work, and they just make you feel like crap. Not only that, but they make you put on more weight. I’m living proof*.
* Further actual scientific evidence of how bad restrictive diets are for the health can be found below.
- Diet Dilemmas – Binge Eating (zumbawithjennyk.wordpress.com)
- Dieting forces brain to eat itself, scientists claim (telegraph.co.uk)