I know it seems a little strange for a healthy food blogger to write post stating I’ll never diet again. This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. If you’ve read the About Page on my blog, you know that I lost a fair amount of weight a few years ago. I’ve managed to keep most of it off, but the reason I am writing this today is to let you know the real deal. It’s to let you know that this journey is not without challenges and tough lessons. It’s to also let you know that whether you’re in the process of becoming healthier or you’re just dreaming about your future success story, the weight loss will NOT solve all of your problems. You’ll also run into ones you didn’t even consider.
My Relationship with My Body- a Life Long Battle
I will not start this paragraph by telling you my highest weight. In fact I am not even going to mention it because what my highest weight was may be your goal weight. I want you to know that numbers mean very little and I also don’t want you to be deterred from hearing this simply because you don’t think I’ve ever really been where you’re at.
I’ve never been the biggest girl in the line up, but I’ve always been far from the smallest. I developed way to early for my taste and this lead to a constant frustration. The fact is breasts are genetic and no matter how much you want to continue being a kid, you look down and one day you wake up a woman. It’s confusing and my mother will tell you I cried more tears about it than she can count.
While my closest friends were actually asking their moms to purchase bras before they were needed, I had grown men staring at my chest. Minimizer bras, studying breast reduction and crying over under garment issues with every prom gown are vivid memories in my teen years. I’ve never owned a bra or bathing suit I loved. I’ve always owned the one that covered me and fit.
As an aside… bathing suit manufacturers if you are listening… please help me understand how bras are sold in every letter of the alphabet, but bathing suits come in a one size fits all triangle? I don’t understand how the garment I wear under my clothing is full coverage, but the little bit of fabric I am supposed to wear exposed at the beach serves as little more than a nipple cover. Rant over.
Early Development means Hormones and Weight Gain
Another nifty side effect of developing early is that your hormones are in over drive. Around 12 I go from a rather small kid with a normal appetite to a hungry bear who seems to be packing it on for winter. As a child I used to buy “slim” jeans. Remember the slim Levi’s? I had a pair of black slim fit Levi shorts. I remember them to this day. I also remember the summer I tried them on and saw my thighs begging mercy.
Throughout high school I remained what I would refer to as a little above average size. I fluctuated up and down, but I pretty much skipped the sizes 1 and 3 in the junior department and went right to the 9 to 11 range. I was happy to mature into shopping the women’s section where clothes were actually made for my body. Junior clothing has no curve factored in so the choice is either to wiggle into something or dress like your Mom. Which is totally fine if you are your Mom’s age.
Adulthood – Comfortable or just Avoiding?
As I entered adult hood I just avoided all talk about my body. I lost a fair amount of weight going into college and felt pretty decent about where I was. In a way I was comfortable in my skin for the first time. Like any college student can tell you though, the pressures of work, school, and an endless supply of crap food helped the weight creep right back on. By the time I graduate I am at my heaviest, moving and preparing to get married. Sure, I have the occasional moment where I can’t stand how I look in a photo, but I quickly reconcile it and move on. I admit it helps being with to someone who loves you for you. It’s hard to regret late nights with Dominoes pizza and a beer with someone who makes you laugh endlessly. Until you go to button your jeans that is…
Enough is Enough
Around 2012 I was at a crossroads on many levels. I had a long career in banking that I realized I hated and when I looked in the mirror I was equally disappointed. My baby sister was about to get married and the mere thought of putting on that dress brought tears to my eyes. So much so that my reaction to some of her dress choices lead to many a dressing room melt down. The fact is it was never the dress choice, it was the way I felt about myself. It was the fact that these photos would live on forever and I hated the way I looked.
After a lot of tears and feeling sorry for myself I kicked it into high gear. I counted calories, meal planned and worked out 5-6 days a week. By the wedding I managed to need the dress I purchased taken in a bit. I felt pretty freaking amazing. I lost 20 lbs. before her wedding and those pictures are still some of my favorites.
Progress continued and by 2014 I reached my lowest weight. I documented my progress in photos and shopping was actually fun again. I kept on with the plan and in mid 2015 I launched FreshFitKitchen.com.
Plateaus and the Diet Curse
I was not prepared for the plateau that happened. I thought I cracked the code on my body. Dreaming of that first beach trip in a bikini, I kept showing up for my workouts. I still do to this day. After a while I also curbed the restriction a bit. I ate after dinner. I said yes to dessert more often. My every thought and plan just isn’t about what I am going to eat next or what I am going to avoid. I find myself both scared and relieved about it.
Scared because I don’t want to be that girl I was 5 years ago. Relieved because the constant focus on food, exercise, and your body gets exhausting. Sometimes you just want to live. I look around at friends or family who haven’t known the severity of these struggles. The ones who seem to hit the drive through weekly and never gain a pound. On one hand I wish I could say that was me and on the other it reminds me that we’re all different and maybe beyond extreme measures there’s just only so much we can do.
Fitness gurus and diet commercials will try to convince you that you just need willpower. Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels they say. I am here to tell you that is lie.
If Only it Were True
Being thin is attached to some ultimate peak of happiness. It’s as if as a society we send the message that only thin people are successful and happy. That’s a lie perpetuated by a multi-billion dollar diet industry that is solidly invested in you finding the answer and yet never finding the answer. The truth is if we all get happy with ourselves. If we accept that some of us are fitness models and some of us are just average size then they can’t keep selling the dream.
Take just a second and think about food trends. Whole grains are the answer. Get your fiber. No wait- carbs are the devil go Keto! No don’t go Keto. You’ll have a heart attack. Go Vegan! You need animal protein. Never mind, go the way of the cave man and eat Paleo. It’s exhausting and it’s all centered around an industry that makes money off of every one of us searching for the code.
Today- and What I know to be True
Oprah always does column in her magazine centered around “What I know for sure.” Consider this my version. I feel confident that despite a 10lb weight gain from my lowest weight, I will not become that girl from 2012. This woman knows what she can accomplish and has successfully said goodbye to things which are not healthy for her. Sodas and fast food are no longer a regular part of my diet. Vegetables, fruit and well balanced meals are. Desserts are usually the healthier version. I’ve maintained healthy blood pressure, low cholesterol, and healthy glucose levels. These are the numbers that will give me a long life. A long life is far more valuable than looking good in a bikini.
Weight and health are only related to a point. Do not mistake this post as a rail against caring about your weight at all. Morbid obesity is a health crisis and there are clear benefits to managing your weight. It is not however required for you to be a bikini model to be healthy. The average woman is a size 14. There are plenty of women at that size and even a little larger who are perfectly healthy. Take their cholesterol and some of them are at less risk of a heart attack than some of their skinny friends. Bottom line- you can lose weight in a variety of ways. Many of them will not lead to overall health. Weight naturally comes off when you go from eating high fat and sugar foods and replace them with whole fruits, vegetables, lean protein and healthy grains. Bob Harper, the Biggest Loser Trainer, had a heart attack last year inside of a gym. Do not make extreme choices out of fear and anxiety. The truth is you could be going so far in the other direction that you end up dealing with the very thing you fear.
My body issues began when I started developing. News flash- I still have large breasts. While my band size went down, my cup size went up and bra shopping has never been more difficult. Like I said, weight loss will NOT fix all your problems. I still have curves a plenty and pants shopping means finding something that goes over my thighs, but stays on my waist. Body shape and the way you distribute fat naturally are determined by genetics. Short of extreme, invasive and expensive measures surgically at some point it’s easier to love yourself.
I will never DIET (by definition) AGAIN.
I will always HAVE A DIET. This can be a hard concept for people to grasp. Let me try to explain. I will always eat what makes me feel good physically. A diet rich in plants, protein and whole grains cannot be denied. The diet I will have is the one that helps my body function best and that means eating all foods. I will not eat to the point of being over full, not because that leads to weight gain, but because the stomach pain and bloat of that are very uncomfortable. There will be times I eat less and times I eat more. There will be days where I just sink into the couch with pizza and a glass of wine. The next day I might wake up and want a big bowl of a fruit and a bowl of oatmeal because I indulged the day before.
What I won’t do is be ON A DIET. Diet as a verb is something I am working beyond. Simply Google the word “diet.” You get 2 definitions using it as a noun- “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats” and “a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.” Diet as a verb is defined as, “restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of foods to lose weight.” What you do habitually is what matters.
To get down to the ideal I had in my head for so long, I’d have to diet (verb). I learned that dropping the high fat and high sugar foods got me to a place where my body naturally falls when I eat well over all. It’s not my ideal. It’s not perfect, but it’s healthy. I am learning to love the strength, the curves, and to be grateful every day for a healthy disease free body to live in. Some people would give ANYTHING to have what I have. After over 20 years of battling myself, I’ve decided to learn to love myself.