There is nothing in this world so easy as failing a diet. It takes no effort at all. Sometimes, no more than a thought will push you over to the Dark Side, and calories are instantly converted to pounds of unwilling, globulous fat.
I wish it were not so. I wish that falling off the wagon was the hard part and staying on the diet was the easy bit. I’m fairly certain that I’ve never managed to last more than a day and a half on a diet before I have had at least a tiny mouthful of something ‘forbidden’. Sometimes, it’s taken less than that. I remember one time when I got up on a Monday morning, had two slices of toast with lashes of butter and peanut butter for breakfast and was on my way to work before I remembered that I was supposed to be starting a diet that day! (Naturally, because I’d fluffed it on that Monday, I decided to start again the following Monday.)
This time around has been no different, really. Except that I lasted until Thursday before I ate something I shouldn’t have. Usually, this would have sent me into a tailspin of self-recrimination, name-calling and deep feelings of guilt and regret. But one of the things I decided up front, when I decided to go on this diet, was to never do that again.
Why? Because it does nothing for you. It doesn’t motivate you to do better, it doesn’t take the food back out of your tummy, and it doesn’t make you lose any weight. It just makes you feel bad.
And I know what happens when I feel bad: I eat.
So this time around, I just shrugged it off. I tried to consider how to avoid doing that again, and I tried to think of things to stop myself doing it again – but the one thing I didn’t do was stop the diet.
And that whole mental attitude is a very different angle for me. For my whole life, whenever I’ve been on a diet, it was essential to me that I be ‘perfect’ for every day of the diet. By perfect, I mean that not a single mouthful, not a crumb of ‘forbidden’ food was to pass my lips, and any scheduled exercise happened as writ. The slightest deviation from this perfection was enough to ruin the day, and therefore the entire diet. I’d spent many a day after such failures, bingeing about how I didn’t have the willpower to stay on a diet. And then put on more weight (anybody still wondering how I got to be so big?).
But not this time. This time I had a small but powerful epiphany: I don’t have to be perfect.
Yeah, I know, radical, huh? For those of you who haven’t been through this, it might seem a bit of a no-brainer, but I know there’s plenty of people out there who have stumbled on the same block of expecting perfection from themselves by following the assumption that if you’re not perfect at it, the diet simply won’t work.
So now I don’t have to be perfect, I can stay on the diet no matter what I do. If I have something ‘forbidden’, then the next thing I eat is back on the diet. It’s no big deal. Or at least, not such a big deal that I stop. And by continuing on regardless, I don’t feel bad and I don’t binge. I don’t hate myself and I eat better and better as each day goes by. The real failure is to use a slip-up as a reason to stop altogether. By carrying on no matter what, I give myself that chance to learn and improve, and every meal, every hour that I do better is not only good for my body – it makes me feel good, too.
And that, my dear friends, is what I call success.