I don’t always know if I’m doing the right thing. I honestly don’t.
Sometimes I can’t breathe from the anxiety. Sometimes I spend the entire day in bed, paralyzed with fear over what I’ve chosen to do. I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing, but I do know that doing anything else feels wrong.
I decided to stop dieting last summer. I just didn’t have the energy anymore. I was stuck in a cycle of restriction and binge eating, and no amount of self-criticism or will power seemed to work anymore.
I didn’t necessarily want to stop losing weight, but after reading Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, I finally realized the harm that dieting was doing to my mind and body, and I knew I had to find another way.
What came next was terrifying. Allowing all foods, eating whenever I felt like it, listening to my hunger, indulging my cravings. All of these experiences were new to me and felt like I was cheating somehow. I simultaneously felt like I’d freed myself of chains, but that I’d given up on myself, too. Self-care for me was always synonymous with weight loss.
But I gave up the war I’d waged on my body for years, and put my faith and trust in just being. I decided that I was enough just as I was. I let myself go.
If you’d told me at the outset that I would gain back the weight I’d spent my life trying to lose, I probably wouldn’t have gone ahead. I probably would have chosen to stay in the cycle of losing and gaining and losing and gaining, rather than live out my biggest fear. But once I realized I was destined to fail, there was no turning back.
All diets promise the first part, but nobody wants to talk about what happens next.
There is so much shame in gaining weight. It’s the insidious part of the dieting cycle that nobody likes to talk about. All diets promise the first part: You lose weight, which feels so good. Everyone congratulates you. Everyone compliments you. You’ve been a good person and done what you were supposed to do, and your self-confidence soars.
But nobody wants to talk about what happens next. Nobody talks about how our bodies fight back. How it gets harder and harder to maintain the food restriction and weight loss, and you start to feel betrayed. What’s wrong with me? I’m trying so hard to be good and yet I’m a failure. I have no will power. I’m a disgrace.
Breaking the addiction takes guts beyond measure.
And as the weight comes back, the compliments cease. The silence that remains is a thousand times worse because you’re left to wonder what they’re thinking instead. “So sad for her.” “She couldn’t keep it up.” “She gave up.” “She looks terrible.” “She must be so unhealthy.” It’s painful and it’s shameful. Your self-confidence is lower than ever before.
And so you vow to lose the weight again, and the dieting cycle continues.
To make the leap off that cycle, to say enough is enough, is scary. It’s lonely and you’re filled with self-doubt. Breaking the addiction takes guts beyond measure. Facing your inner critic, silencing the voice that shouts at you to get your act together and keep working toward the body you’ve always desired, takes a kind of strength and courage I never thought I had.
Most days I doubt I have what it takes. Sometimes the inner turmoil is so overwhelming that I can’t stop crying. I avoid people for fear of what they might think of my larger body. I chastise myself for needing new, bigger clothes. An addict in detox, a part of me cries out that I’m making a huge mistake and need to run back to what’s safe. I wonder if I’ll ever feel good about myself again.
I imagine telling her all the things I say to myself.
And just when I’m about to give in, I look over at my 10-year-old daughter and I’m snapped back to reality.
I imagine telling her all the things I say to myself. I imagine her living in a world where she believes that she’s not enough just as she is. I wonder how long till she doubts her own self-worth because she’s not the thinnest girl in the room. I wonder if it’s already too late.
And when I hear that voice in me, the one that wants to control the critics so she can avoid any hurt and shame, I realize that this thought-cycle needs to end with me.
I want my little girl to believe that she’s perfect just as she is. She doesn’t need to change. She is loved and accepted. She is enough. And that belief needs to start with me. I need to be brave for her.
I think back to my own adolescent self, and the decades I spent desperately fighting my body size and wishing I looked a certain way, convinced I’d be happier and more accepted if only I was thinner.
And I realize I was the one who never accepted me for who I was. And so I am ending that. I am saying no to the voices, the demons, the self-loathing, the shame. I’m untangling a lifetime of negative self-image and self-criticism. I’m saying no to fear, and I’m moving forward the only way I know how.
I’m writing this for me, because I don’t always know if I’m doing the right thing. But for now, doing anything else feels wrong. So I’ve chosen to trust that feeling simply because I’m out of options and I need to keep going.
I’m writing this for you, wherever you are on your journey. It’s slow and it’s hard. It’s really hard. And if you feel scared, know that you’re not alone. You’ll get through this.
And I’m writing this for her. Because when I look at her and see her future and all that she will accomplish no matter what her size, I know that it’s worth it.