The DIEt Monster

One thing women all over the world have in common is the desire to be beautiful. We long to have someone treasure us. We want to believe we’re attractive. We dream of being someone’s princess. We like that “forsake all others” notion and want to be worth making that sacrifice for.

Unfortunately, there is something hell-bent on distorting it all. The DIEt Monster knows what we long for and he uses it to get us to turn on our own bodies. We starve ourselves, chronically diet, excessively exercise, undergo surgery, pluck this, shave that, push-up, suck in, color, polish, make-up… It’s no longer about “accentuating our positives” but rather about chasing that elusive image we have in our heads of the perfect woman. The problem? She doesn’t exist. She’s an airbrushed figment of mankind’s imagination. Striving to be her is like striving to be a unicorn. It’s a myth.

The DIEt Monster tells us we can’t be satisfied with our size. It tells us we can’t be trusted around food. It’s that voice in our head echoing every “expert”we’ve seen on TV or read about in books and magazines. He bombards our minds with those voices and before we know it we’re left with carrots and celery sticks to choose from…. and they must be organic too. He cycles fear through our mind that letting go of the diet books, diet apps, calorie counters, scales, weight-loss forums, and exercise regimes, will find us stuck in our bedroom, unable to fit through the door. He makes us question our worthiness of love if we gain weight. He praises us for losing weight, then turns around and mocks us saying it isn’t enough… pressing us to lose more.

I’ve got news for you (and me). For the DIEt Monster, it will never be enough… never. Even if we get to our goal weight with diets… if we don’t let go of the diet mentality… if we don’t kick the DIEt Monster out of our life… we’ll still be miserable. You see, happiness isn’t in a number on the scale or on a clothing label. Never has been, and no matter what the diets promise, it never will be.

Why do I keep harping on the diet mentality stuff? Because I believe it’s one of the first steps in moving on (First is admitting there’s a problem). Most “naturally thin” people aren’t that way because of genetics. I believe they don’t have a weight issue because they don’t consciously diet. They eat when they are hungry, and stop when they are full. They rarely eat for emotion sake and they never beat themselves up for what, when, or how much they eat. They simply don’t diet. The hard part for professional dieters is the letting go. We’ve bought into the lies of the DIEt Monster and letting them go is mighty hard. It’s a daily battle for a while. It’s a battle I’m in even as I type.

I woke up this morning craving fruit. I questioned whether this was me trying to start another diet, or perhaps feeling guilty for what I ate last night. I haven’t craved fruit in months and yet all I could think of was strawberries, blueberries, oranges…. etc. I didn’t want them because some diet said I should have them, I wanted them because my body was telling me fruit sounded good. I could imagine the juiciness and how it would taste. The DIEt Monster would have me believe that allowing donuts and pancakes and ((gasp))… coffee… would doom me to perpetual binging. Well, obviously this is simply not true. This morning I ate fruit. Just fruit. I ate it till I didn’t want anymore.

Now, I could suddenly think “I’m cured! My obsession is over!” While that is a tempting leap to make, I know that if I box myself in like that… and then I eat a bag of Sun Chips for lunch, I’ll be more likely to feel like a failure and I know I’ll question whether this process is such a good idea. I would be setting myself up to let that diet mentality back in. Instead, I’m choosing to look at this morning’s breakfast for what it was… breakfast – nothing more. Does it show progress, sure, I can admit that. However, I’m not putting pressure on myself to eat fruit tomorrow morning or a salad for lunch today. I’m simply saying, “I’ll eat what I want the next time I’m hungry”.

What I’m learning is that the DIEt Monster is a liar. While in the beginning it appeared he was right… that I would be totally out of control for as long as I “let go”… that is going by the wayside the more I truly let go of the diet mentality and stop judging myself for what I eat. I’m learning I can trust my body’s signals in this area. More importantly, I can trust the Creator of this body. I think the DIEt Monster is a bit angry I’ve kicked him out, but that’s ok with me because I don’t want him around anyway.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). John 10:10 (AMP)

Phases and Stages

I spent a lot of years in the “Diet Cycle Phase”. This is where a lot of American women live (some don’t even realize they live there). They cycle in and out of “diets”, “nutrition plans”, “workout regimes”… it’s like the hamster wheel. You think you’re moving forward, but eventually you realize the scenery hasn’t changed despite the passage of time. My more recent “diet” ventures championed the “in the name of health” banner. That seems to be the more popular version of dieting today… “getting healthy”. In fact, I’ve discovered that I can apply “diet mentality” to almost any way of eating.

What is diet mentality? Well, for me, it’s the notion that I must weigh/measure something in order to lose weight. It’s the thought process that says, “I can’t eat that… or I MUST eat this.” It’s the idea that I need some outside source to police me (diet plan, eating guidelines, scale, tape measure…etc). It’s also a mindset that absorbs a lot of brain power.

Yeah, I’ve spent a lot of years there.

Hanging out in this new space is proving to be unfamiliar territory. Oh sure, the familiar beckons at every turn. You don’t need to go far to read, see, or hear something about this nation’s obsession with body image and food. To stay the course certainly feels like swimming against the flow. Still, there are some who have navigated these waters. I mentioned them in this post if you want to read some of their books. While I do not agree with Geneen Roth on everything, I do find her detailed view of the four stages of “breaking free” to be quite helpful.

I am quite familiar with stages of recovery. I remember learning about and experiencing them when I went through bereavement classes and support groups years ago. Knowing that the stages are normal helps a person accept where they are in the process because they know it’s just a stage. The same is true for the stages associated with breaking free from dieting. Where am I? I think I’m somewhere between stage 2 and stage 3. I’m not fully in either one but I’m definitely seeing some of the benefits from stage three.

There is no set time to move through these stages. Of course, I do think I’m moving faster because I am rejecting diet mentality wholeheartedly. I’m refusing to let it sneak back in. This is probably the most difficult part for me. I’ve spent a lot of years thinking about dieting. It’s freed up some bandwidth in my head, which sometimes leaves me feeling a bit unsure of what to do with that space. I’ve been letting it rest mostly.

When we were really in the throes of grieving the death of our son, I remember someone asking one of the support group moderators how we should respond when someone asks, “how are you doing?” If you’ve been through the grief process, you know what a loaded question this can be. She told us to simply say, “I’m right on schedule.” If they require an explanation of such an unconventional response (the usual being “fine”). We can say, “I’m exactly where I should be in the grief process.” Of course, you can get even more specific if you want.

I used to ask the scale how I was doing, now I ask myself. My response? “I’m right on schedule.”

I’m going to leave you with this powerful video about “WEIGHT”.

ditch the scale

Actually, the title could be the entire blog post:

DITCH THE SCALE!

Do it. Right now. Stop weighing yourself. Has weighing yourself ever brought you long term satisfaction? NO. What do you hope to accomplish when you step on the scale? What do you really learn when you see that number? Is it uplifting? Does it make you feel good about yourself every time? Does it add quality to your life? Does it increase your libido? Does is add years to your time on earth? Does it help others? Does it benefit society? Does it enhance your worship of God? Does it make a difference in the world? Does it feed the starving? Does it clothe the homeless? Does it add to your financial security? Does is make your children smile? Does it create fond memories? Does it love you? Do you love it?

So much time spent measuring ourselves on the scale. So much wasted time. Let’s start living beyond the scale…. you know… life, that place where the really important stuff happens.

bumps in the road

As with any journey, moving from diet mentality into freedom is probably not going to go smoothly all of the time. For me, the thoughts of diet, weight, and food have been such an integral part of my life, for so long, breaking up is hard to do. Sometimes the habit takes over, especially when I’m tired or stressed.

The other night I didn’t realize that something was bothering me… it was lurking just under the surface enough that it wasn’t blatantly obvious. Well, my old reactions to this kind of stress (meeting the expectations of others) kicked in and I wanted a huge slab of chocolate cake. As you know, I’ve chosen to just go with it for now, so having the cake isn’t where I messed up. No, the error came when I snapped at my darling 10 year old for asking if she could have some too. I pointed out that she had already had ice cream and that this was my dessert. Now, before you think, “well, of course, she had already had dessert”, let me clarify that the Husband had told her she could have some of my cake if she wanted. So, she wasn’t being selfish or anything like that. This child will readily share anything she has with others and even offered me some of the ice cream earlier. I was waiting for cake.

Instantly I felt horrible. She had little tears in her eyes. I had dumped guilt on her. I do not want my girls to have those kinds of feelings around food. Here I was acting like a starving, caged lunatic who will fight to the death to keep her food.

“Fine, you can have a bite.”

Yeah, that wasn’t any better. She was like, “No, I’m ok”… with tears. I could tell the Husband was less than thrilled by my behavior. As was I, but I felt like I was careening toward disaster and couldn’t do anything about it. He started apologizing to her that he hadn’t gotten a second slice at the store. I know he was thinking, “so mom wouldn’t have to share if she didn’t want to.” He figured the slice was so huge, and I had been doing so well with sharing, there wouldn’t be an issue. Boy was he wrong.

And so was I.

I felt even worse. Suddenly the cake tasted like crap. I set the rest of it on the coffee table and contemplated storming out of the room saying something like, “Here, you can have it”. Boy am I glad I didn’t say that. I was fighting back tears myself. I felt so conflicted. I was mad because I felt guilted into sharing… but I was also angry that I reacted so badly to a situation that really, in the great scheme of things, should have been a non-event. “May I have some cake?” should have been followed by, “sure, sweetie, let me get you a plate.” Ugh! Sounds so simple and yet I utterly screwed it up.

Darn it.

I took a deep breath. Looked at the cake. Took it to the kitchen and cut her a piece. I handed her the plate and said, “I’m so sorry.” I may cry right now remembering how badly I behaved. I may cry thinking about how that one interaction might mess with her view of food for years to come. My words made her feel guilty about asking for cake… cake! No one should feel guilty over cake.

After everything settled down, I realized why I was stressed and made a decision that I’d been unwilling to make until that moment. I decided I was feeling pressure from others (and their expectations of me) to do something I didn’t want to do (totally unrelated to cake, lol). The only reason I would say yes would be to please others and perhaps feed my pride. I was trying to stuff down the stress with the cake and my darling little girl stepped right into the line of fire.

Now, I could continue to beat myself up over this bump in the road, but that would just set the cycle into motion again. I must forgive myself like my precious daughter has already forgiven me. I must recognize that this process is going to take time. No doubt there will be other bumps along the way, but Lord willing, they will become less and my reactions will improve over time.

permission to laugh

I’ve noticed I’ve begun to laugh more. I don’t just mean a chuckle. I’m talking about side splitting, can’t stop for a few minutes laughter. Even now I’m smiling as I think about the birthday card we gave to our new 17 year old. Apparently, freeing my mind of the stress of dieting is allowing room for me to appreciate the funny things in life a bit more. I even woke up this morning…. smiling. I opened the blinds, looked out at the gorgeous pinkish, purple mountains and grinned. My first thoughts weren’t, “ok, I’m going to be good today.”

How sick I was of the usual morning routine of donning guilt and determination to do better. I would lay out exactly what I was going to do to lose weight that day. I’m telling you, my mind didn’t have room for laughter. But this morning, I smiled, just happy to be in the moment.

We’ve all heard that “laughter is the best medicine”, so I thought I would look up a couple of articles about it. The first one surprised me with its huge emphasis on how many calories you burn when you laugh. Seriously? Now we’re making laughter into a diet plan? So, I moved on to the next article. You may find it an interesting read, so check it out if you like. Here’s a quote I resonated with:

Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.

 

One of the primary things I’ve focused on lately is recognizing and eliminating negative thoughts. I had started to think I have a thyroid issue (which as it turns out I may), but it seems that my particular thyroid results may be rooted in stress and negativity. I’ve begun looking for ways to help alleviate stress in my life, as well as coping mechanisms. Releasing diet mentality has been a huge step toward that end. In doing so, it appears laughter comes more easily.

Well, I’m going to go about my day and look for opportunities to laugh along the way.

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” ~ Psalm 126:2

the monkey chased the weasel

It’s been a bit since my last post. Life has been full and busy. In the midst of this I became desperate for another diet solution. Yes, this monkey chased that silly old weasel again. I stepped on the scale and then as a knee jerk reaction, went on another diet. That seemed to be working ok, until I woke up and remembered that “diets don’t work”. I was actually on a forum asking about changing habits when a woman recommended a book about “Intuitive Eating”. Once again, “no more dieting” was thrust into the forefront of my mind.

I wonder if I should post a sign that I read every day. It would say, “Don’t fall for it! Diets don’t work!” I want to eat mindfully and intuitively. In order to do that, I really must let go of chasing a number on the scale. I’ve been off the scale for about three weeks now. I’m fighting a bit of panic at just saying, “to heck with it all”. I’ve eaten for all the wrong reasons many times these past weeks, but I have learned even more about why I do what I do in regard to food. I’m figuring out the triggers to the vicious starve/binge cycle, but more importantly, I’m learning how to deal with them.

Diet talk is alluring. It’s everywhere. It even has clever disguises. I’m recommitting to this journey toward a healthy relationship with food… without dieting. Each time I recommit to this process, I feel I learn even more. Gradually, my belief systems are changing – and the time between lapses gets shorter. It is work though. It is a concentrated effort.

Hopefully, I won’t be chasing that weasel again.