Give up dieting? Who’s ever heard of that?
Trigger warning: Discussion of weight loss surgery and dieting.
That’s a very good question.
Until I found Fat Acceptance six years ago, I had never heard of International No Diet Day — and I’ve been online since 1998 (then again, I’d never heard of Fat Acceptance either until six years ago).
Now, I’ve been off and on diets most of my life, and every single one of those diets failed me. But at the time, I didn’t think it was the diet that failed, I thought I had failed — that there was something I hadn’t done right, that I hadn’t tried hard enough, that I hadn’t wanted to be thin badly enough. Haven’t we all had those thoughts?
What opened my eyes to the fact that I wasn’t the failure was when I had my vertical banded gastroplasty (VBG) in September 1997. I lost 80 pounds in the first three months after the surgery and looked forward to losing another 20 or so.
It was not destined to be because, as I later learned from other weight loss surgery (WLS) survivors, very seldom do patients lose all the weight surgeons predict. Usually, they don’t even manage to keep off what they’ve lost for very long — less than five years for most of us, and it was less than a year for me.
I plateaued at that 80 pound weight loss, and then started regaining weight even though I wasn’t eating much (less than half a cup of food per meal) and most of that was coming back up. I ended up regaining everything I lost plus another 40 pounds.
That was my “Aha” moment — the moment when the light bulb clicked on and I realized that WLS was just another diet, albeit a forced diet, and it had failed me. If that was the case, I thought, then maybe I wasn’t the one who had failed with all those other diets. Maybe it was the diets that were the failures.
After a lot of reflection, it wasn’t really a “maybe” that those diets had failed. It became “those diets definitively failed me”. Finally, I could safely say good-bye to dieting forever. However, convincing every nurse practitioner and doctor I saw that not dieting was a rational thing to do was, and still is, another proposition entirely most of the time.
I still had some disordered eating habits to overcome, though. Diet talk was very triggering for me. Just hearing someone talk about a diet, even if it was on the radio or TV, and I would go looking for something to eat whether I was hungry or not. I had to do things like make a list and stick to it when I grocery shopped, and make sure I wasn’t hungry when I went shopping or there was no way I would stick to the list. I would buy more chips, cookies and candy than I really wanted or needed (but the hunger was talking, not my head). Those were the things I would binge on when I was triggered by the diet talk.
I ended up dropping my magazine subscriptions so I wouldn’t be triggered by the diet talk in them. I quit watching TV (other than the DIY/craft shows), and turned off the radio, listening to CDs instead.
It took me a few years of avoiding media coverage before I could say “I’m okay with this now. It’s not going to trigger me. Food is just food. It’s not going to disappear. Nobody’s going to take it away from me or tell me I can’t have it anymore. I’m the one in control. No one else has control over me or my decisions.”
Now I see diet commercials for what they really are: a way to sell me dissatisfaction with my body and self the way I am now. Diets want to sell us a utopia that doesn’t exist: lose weight and get a perfect body/personality/looks, your life will be wonderful/awesome, everyone will love you, you’ll be successful, etc. What isn’t said is that if you don’t like yourself now — the person you are now, with all your foibles and faults — you aren’t going to like a thinner version of yourself either, since you’ll still have those same foibles and faults, just in a thinner package.
I don’t need a diet company to sell me dissatisfaction — my mother sold me that for years and I finally told her to eat shit and bark at the moon. If I can tell my own mother to do that, I can sure as hell tell the diet industry to do the same. Its only interest in us is moving as many dollars from our pockets into its pockets as possible. Why else keep pushing something that they know has a 95% failure rate for the majority of people who use it?
And there are several great things about ditching diets. For instance, I have more time, more money, and more energy to devote to things that are really important to me because I’m not not obsessing about every calorie that’s going, or not going, into my mouth; not obsessing over how hungry I am all the time; and not spending money on diet books, diet foods, and diet plans.
I also get to spend quality time with my husband, my son and his fiancé, and my grandchildren because I’m not obsessed with dieting anymore. Saving all the money I used to spend on diet books, diet foods, and diet plans, I can now spend it on clothes, books, family, travel, and charitable causes I support.
And now I have the energy to do all of that, and work on three blogs occasionally because I’m not starving myself. I’m seeing to it that I eat as varied a diet as I can (within the limitations of having a mutilated digestive system).
Ditching diets has improved my life immeasurably. I only wish I’d learned the lesson 30 years ago.