Confronting Abusive Dieting

Yesterday I shared with you my epiphany regarding what might be called ‘abusive dieting’. The realization that I had been ignoring this for so long was quite a shocker. It led me to the decision to try an experiment: eat what I want without a shred of guilt and see what happens.

Now – this isn’t what you might think. It doesn’t mean driving down to the supermarket, hitting the cookie aisle, and knocking myself out – I have been eating low carb for so long it’s not in my makeup to do so. What it means is that I’m seeing what it’s like to eat without every bite I take being a judgement on my character.

It had become so routine as to become invisible: I had become my diet and every bite I took or didn’t take – and whether the food in question was allowed or prohibited – became a moral judgement on myself.

I think I had gone from losing weight as a way to be more happy to losing weight as the exclusive way to be happy.

I even had my instruments of torture to remind me every second of the day of my success or failure: my clothes.

When I originally lost my weight and got down to about 185, I bought a new wardrobe and tossed the old stuff out.

Oh what fun!

But as happens to some, the weight began creeping up, and less and less of the clothes I owned fit. So what I did as I began to run out of clothes that fit was to shoehorn myself into tighter and tighter stuff – all the time saying that this is a temporary situation and I will return to my idealized self shortly.

As this happened gradually, over the course of months and years, the situation evolved to a place where I would look in my closet and see more than a dozen shirts and slacks – but could only choose from a tiny subset.

I came to the realization that every single day of my life had become as if I had to go into someone else’s closet and pick out something to wear. These clothes weren’t mine anymore – they were someone else’s.

So what had occurred was that the clothes that had brought me such joy when I originally got to my target weight now became daily reminders of my failure – and since they fit so poorly, made me look like (or at least feel like) a clown – as well as completely comfortable throughout the day.

So I took my entire wardrobe and went through each piece. If it didn’t fit – or I just didn’t like it – it got packed away.

I then went out and bought a simple wardrobe of stuff that fit me and was comfortable. I used to buy clothes by the size, even if it didn’t fit. Now I tried them on, the size be damned.

I spent a little over $200 and got myself a minimalist wardrobe that fits.

Boy, does it feel good. I no longer go to my closet with a feeling of dread. I enjoy wearing the clothes. They feel good and I feel good in them.

And I eat what I want – at least until I figure out my next steps. I’m not giving up on losing weight, or low carb – I’m just at a waypoint – a place where I’m taking a breather and reflecting on where I’ve come from before I decide what direction I go next.

I don’t eat all that different – just without guilt. I have put on 10 lbs., and it seems to have stabilized there. I’m not judging it – I’m watching it. I’m a lot more relaxed, though my professional life is so hectic as to be unbearable.

I’m trying to be careful and not draw any conclusions about all this just yet. What I am doing needs some time to unfold. It can’t be rushed, and it shouldn’t be labeled just yet – the ball is in the air and the ref cannot call the play.

To be continued…

7 thoughts on “Confronting Abusive Dieting

  1. Perhaps you are at your idealised self now!!!! I think what your doing is amazing and really encouraging! I definitely think you are making the right choice. You don’t want to become your diet. Should be focusing on your happiness. I will be watching with great interest!!! Take your time.

  2. LCC< I like your article on eat to be happy!
    The other day a friend gave me a book based on eat what you want but slowly and stop before you´re full. The book is I can make you thin, by Paul Mackenna. It makes sense to me….

  3. Sounds like what you’re trying to do is eat intuitively. There’s nothing moral or immoral about food — and we shouldn’t allow ourselves to self-punish for what and how much we eat.

    Last year, I tried to switch from a pretty strict low carb diet to Intuitive Eating, and I think my previous deprivation made me go a little crazy with junk food I hadn’t allowed myself in a while. Either way, letting go of food guilt is a really healthy thing to do. Even though I’m low carbing again for my health, I don’t sweat those meals where I go totally off-plan.

    1. Thanks for the link, Tracey. They seem to have come to many of the same conclusions I have. There’s a point that seems missed in my scan of their site that you mentioned – that there needs to be an ability to ‘eat to plan’ that is healthy for body and mind. The way we think about these two things, I think, is part of the problem – and the problem in that is we think about body and mind as if they *are* two separate things when they are certainly not.

      1. There is also a book called Intuitive Eating. I have read it. It is very good. But I found that I can only do it if I eat low carb. If I eat too much then I just get food cravings galore. Having said that my flatmate lost heaps of weight following it.

        1. I struggle with this, too.

          Intuitive Eating is based on the premise that if we tune out all moral associations with food and cultural tendencies toward disordered eating, our bodies will be able to tell us what foods we need. But high carb, sugary/starchy foods, create immense physical cravings that, for me, totally override any needs my I have for proper nutrition.

          And I, too, have a big problem with how much food and diet literature tries to reinforce the mind/body separation. If we ARE our bodies, then they aren’t separate things that need to give messages to our brains.

        2. Hi Tracey,

          I’m totally in agreement with your first point. Carbs set me off – or at least I think they do. What if, at least in part, it’s a conditioned response? What if I was part of an experiment where I was given a what I thought was a ‘low carb’ meal, but it actually was filled with carbs? For myself I have to say: I dunno. I suppose my experiment at the moment is something of a test of this.

          As to the mind/body separation: I don’t think there’s any other way to write a diet book at present. A diet book that did address this with the necessary depth might get mis-categorized. Example: if the book used language derived from philosophy, it might appear in that section of the bookstore. If it used spiritual language, it would be found in the New Age section. If it used language from psychology, it might be there.

          All 3 are different ways of talking about the same thing.

          You need to write your book to the needs of the book classification system or you run the risk of it getting put in the wrong rack. Example: My copy of ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ states that it is a ‘New Age’ book. WTF?!? I am NOT going to get in to where the book should be classified, but ‘New Age’ ain’t it.

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