To not diet and exist

On Jan. 5, I wrote two goals for 2017 in the notes application on my iPhone (one of my favorite ways to journal):

  • Learn to not diet and exist
  • Launch a business

The latter isn’t exactly relevant here, but in the spirit of transparency, I threw it in.

I found the first thought so interesting. You see, when I journal–even when I’m setting goals–I tend to use a free-writing-ish method by which I let the thoughts buried in the pit of my stomach (stomach thoughts carry the most intensity, in my experience, and therefore tend to be disruptive until released) freely flow onto the paper on their own terms (very important considering stomach thoughts have fiercely defined themselves and not allowing them to be as they truly are will not stop their disruptive effects).

Hence, the word choice–learn to not diet and exist (seems dramatic, yes?)–was completely intentional, but curated by my innermost self (the self that perpetuates stomach thoughts). This left my standard self (the self that laughs at fart jokes) wondering what it is my innermost self is trying to sort out.

My standard self hasn’t quite figured it out, but I (standard self) started the process of dissecting this thought by recognizing I have two default operational settings: on-diet and off-diet. (Mind you, I started dieting at 12 years old, and have dieted for most of my life.)

When I’m on-diet, I: create food intake boundaries; determine food intake based on boundaries; establish control; thrive when I’m in control (perceived).

When I’m off-diet, I: overeat because I no longer have boundaries; don’t know how to determine food intake because I most often rely on limitations to determine intake (referring to on-diet; and you best believe I’m eating to the limit of my limitations); feel out of control; fight feelings of low self-worth, depression (and often fail).

I know what you’re thinking (I often think this, too): On-diet is clearly where it’s at, Rachel.

The problem is, on-diet isn’t a solution to food addiction, disordered eating (binge-eating, in my case), food consumption-related guilt, etc. It’s a band-aid. And no matter how great the band-aid is, it’s going to fall off. Even the best band-aids (the fabric-y ones that are super sticky–you know what I’m talking about), fall off, and those are the ones that tend to leave behind a sticky residue that tugs on your baby hairs (with surprising tenacity) and seems impossible to wash away. The residue eventually turns black, and it holds on a while longer. In fact, if you don’t actively scrub it away, it’s quite possible it’ll stay forever. (Sidenote–the residue is a metaphor for the emotional and mental health effects of dieting.)

Bottom line: On-diet always fails.

When on-diet fails, off -diet takes over, and life gets messy. Eventually I surrender to on-diet again, because, “Girl, you gotta get it together.” But it feels heavy, and I don’t like it. I feel unenthused, uninspired and in need of a different solution.

I’m ready to off-diet and exist without overeating, feeling out of control, feeling unworthy and feeling depressed.

[Whoa–did you catch that? Standard self just caught up to innermost self. Watch out, stomach thoughts–fart jokes are movin’ in.]

And so, that’s where I’m at. Not counting calories. Not counting macros. Not counting points. I pledged to myself I would take this entire year to off-diet with the ultimate goal of off-diet and exist.

And, guess what?

It’s hard. Like, really hard.

Mental and emotional stability can be so fragile, and when I’m feeling frayed, I desperately yearn to return to a place of familiarity and comfort. In this case, on-diet.

But I press on because I know healing and peace exist for me. And I want more for my life than the constant pursuit of perceived control and poorly placed standards.

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