Once upon a time… I was a carefree, happy, confident child.
My body was something wonderful that helped me to climb trees, ride horses, have rotten apricot fights, run through the khaki-bos fields and build forts.
It never occurred to me that I should be concerned about how I looked… or how much I weighed.
I was simply free… and happy…
As time went by, a couple of friends and relatives began to make concerned remarks about my weight.
It was no longer “puppy fat”, they said.
“Something needed to be done”, they said.
I was told that I should stop eating chocolate… and start eating salad… and stop being such a “greedy little piggy”.
I was eleven at the time.
It wasn’t long before I started self-doubting. Soon, I was examining my young body in my mother’s full-length mirror (whereas, before, I hadn’t even given it a second thought). Soon, I began comparing myself with other girls… girls in my class at school… girls in fashion magazines… and even my relatives. I obsessively began comparing the size of my thighs to my younger sister, Soo – and my older cousin, Bev (who was 4 years older than me – but considerably smaller in size).
There were 2 photos which, to me, symbolised the final nail in the coffin… the final “proof” that I was, indeed, “fat”… and that yes, something HAD to be done.
Here are those 2 photos:
And so, the dieting began.
At age 11. I began dieting and attending slimming clubs.
I believed that I was fat… that I needed to be “fixed”.
And with the diets… came the bingeing… and with the bingeing came the yo-yo’ing. And with the yo-yo’ing came the shame. The shame. The shame…
Here’s what 30 years of yo-yo looks like:
Back to this…
And on and on it went.
(as you can imagine… with 30 years of yo-yo’ing, I could add hundreds of photos… thousands, even!)
But… yes, well… you get the point.
I consider myself a Diet Veteran. You name the diet – and I have probably given it a try. I have lost… and re-gained… and lost… and re-gained… hundreds of kilograms over the course of my long dieting career. My lowest weight as an adult was 67 kilograms (147 pounds). My highest was 132 kilograms (291 pounds).
Just so you truly understand how deep the rabbit hole goes, here’s a quick (and by no means comprehensive) breakdown of what I’ve put myself through over the past quarter of a century:
Everything from Atkins Diet to the Zone Diet (and everything in-between). Milkshake diets… Cabbage Soup diets… The Biggest Loser Diet… Body for Life Diet… Grapes-Only diet… high carb diets… blood type diet… and many diets that call themselves “Healthy Eating Plans” instead of diets.
Over the years, I accumulated a small library of diet books (and have since jettisoned the whole lot!).
Slimming Clubs & Clinics
- Weigh-Less (on 5 different occasions)
- Weight-Watchers (on 2 different occasions)
- Slimming clinics at pharmacies
- Overeaters Anonymous
- Sureslim Clinics
- Diet Enders
- Dieticians… so… many... dieticians!
- Psychologists (x 3)
- Church counselling (including much prayer and begging God to “fix” me)
- Occupational Therapist
- Group Therapy with psychiatrist overseeing the session
- I’ve lost count of the number of personal trainers and fitness experts I’ve enlisted… (or the amounts of gym contracts accumulated).
- Appetite suppressants
- Fat-blocker tablets
- Drinking apple cider vinegar before every meal
- Running laps around the swimming pool at midnight… in the pouring rain… whilst sobbing inconsolably… (because I had ‘cheated’ on my diet that night)
- Donning a full-length plastic sweat-suit… and exercising manically in the full glare of the noon sun (hoping to sweat the fat off).
- Sticking a toothbrush down my throat in a desperate attempt to become bulimic, because “at least bulimics aren’t fat!”
- Not eating at all. I did this on 3 separate occasions. The first time, I managed without food for 21 days. A few years later, I didn’t eat for 30 days. A few years later, I went without food for 40 days straight. On this particular ‘diet’ – I allowed myself liberal quantities of tea (with sweetener only) and water. Every evening, I’d treat myself to one mug of milo (with low fat milk).
Like I say… Diet Veteran!!!
(And to the people who mock… or ridicule the obese for being “greedy” and “weak-willed”: YOU try going without food for 40 days!! And then go and read this article about why it’s just plain stupid – and RUDE – and unhelpful – to jump on the fat-shaming bandwagon).
Here’s what diets taught me:
Before I was duly enrolled into the first of many slimming clubs (at age 11), I hadn’t given much thought to food. Sure, I enjoyed it at meal times and I savoured an occasional chocolate yummy – but it was only after diets were introduced to my life that I began obsessing about food.
Instead of food being… well… food, I would obsess about it: the look of the food, the taste of the food, the smell of the food, the calorie content of the food, the portion-size of the food, the weight of the food, what constituted a ‘legal’ portion of a certain type of food… whether I had the right ‘legal’ foods to eat (and I’d panic if I didn’t).
It was only after diets were introduced to my life that I began the habit of bingeing, stealing money from my mother’s purse so that I could stock up on chocolate… and sneak-eating. Hear me: I never binged until I began dieting. Then bingeing became a way of life – for many years. Dieting and bingeing were natural, life-long partners. As long as I focussed on the one – I couldn’t help but naturally bounce back on to the other.
This obsession with food naturally spilled over into an obsession with diets.
I was like a blood hound, constantly sniffing out the latest diet… the latest cure… the latest hope that I could pin my weight-loss dreams on.
Unsurprisingly, the obsession with food and with diets spilled over like a three-tiered chocolate fountain into the biggest obsession of all: the obsession with my body and my weight.
Diets taught me to obsess… continually… about the size of my body and how much I weighed. It was an obsession so utterly blown out of proportion, that the yearning to be thin seemed to eclipse everything else.
“Is fat really the worst thing a human being can be? Is fat worse than vindictive, jealous, shallow, vain, boring, evil or cruel? Not to me!” – J.K. Rowling
Which leads me to the next lesson that diets taught me:
2. TO USE THE SCALE AS A TOOL TO MEASURE MY SELF-WORTH
The slimming clubs quickly taught me that I was “good” if I lost weight and “bad” if I didn’t. Every woman who attended those meetings measured herself in terms of “good” or “bad” (and it was usually “bad”).
If you ate certain Forbidden Foods, you were “bad” and you were a “cheat”. If, however, you were able to stick to the allocated diet… and if you lost weight, you were “good” (and were given a gold star and some half-hearted applause to prove it).
I quickly learned that weight-loss on The Scale equalled approval. My slimming club Group Leaders approved when I lost weight. My mother approved. My aunts approved, and later, my first husband approved. And let’s not forget, I approved too! I probably approved more than anyone!
However, I quickly learned that putting on weight was a guarantee of the opposite result. When The Scale announced that my weight was climbing, my self-esteem would automatically plummet and I’d be wallowing in the muddy Doldrums-of-Woe.
- “I suck! I suck! I suck!”
- “I’m a failure! I’m a failure! I’m a failure!”
- “I’m weak! I’m pathetic! I’m a greedy pig!”
For decades, my self-worth was measured by The Scale. The number on The Scale was the ultimate judge of whether I was worthy (or not)… acceptable (or not)… beautiful (or not).
The lower the number on The Scale – the better I felt about myself. I was “good”. The higher the number on The Scale (which was certainly more often the case) – the worse I felt about myself. I was “bad”.
As a side note: this is one of the reasons why I no longer own a scale. I respect myself too much to subject myself to the idea that a number on a weighing instrument determines my value, worth or beauty! The last scale I owned was deliberately hurled off my second-storey balcony and it smashed into little bits when it hit the paving below (which pleases me!).
Here’s the third thing that diets taught me:
3. NOT TO EVER TRUST MY BODY… EVER!
Diets rely on the idea that your body is hopelessly feeble and that it longs only for Big Macs, curly fries and extra-large jars of Nutella.
And that is why (the Diet Industry condescendingly assures us) we need a reliable and trustworthy “expert”… an outside source… to devise a list of rules and instructions for us to follow to the letter. Diets tell us that we should never listen to our own bodies. Instead, we should obey Diet-Rules which instruct us what to eat… when to eat… and how much to eat…
I can’t count the amount of times that I mournfully force-fed myself grapefruit and celery (both foods I loathe) because the diet said I “must”… or the amount of times I forced myself to eat (even when I wasn’t hungry)… because the diet said I “must”…
Shockingly!… when I eventually began paying attention and listening to my body… I discovered that I wasn’t always hungry… and that I didn’t always want junk food (This is where all the normal-weight people who haven’t been on diets their whole lives go: “Duh!”)
But it’s still a tough pill for many of us dieters to swallow. We’ve been so severely indoctrinated with a rules-based diet mentality that we’re like the bird who doesn’t know how to fly out of the cage – even when the door has been left open.
This post is already way too long… so let me wrap it up with this:
Here is a photo of the current Me.
I’ll tell you what’s different about the “ME” in this picture – and it has sod-all to do with what I weigh.
The ME in this picture likes who she is! I no longer obsess over food. I no longer own a scale (smashed to smithereens). I’m no longer punishing myself for not being “perfect”. Most importantly – the shame is gone.
You can’t shame me anymore.
That ship has sailed…. and disappeared over the distant horizon.
I will no longer allow ANYBODY to tell me that I should be embarrassed or ashamed of my body… that I’m not “enough”… that I should “fix” myself.
I am happy. I am loved. I am healthy (ask my doctor and my cardiologist!). My body is beautiful… (and faithfully long-suffering for all the abuse I’ve heaped upon it in the past). I don’t care that I have droopy boobs or stretch marks! My divine husband doesn’t care either. Neither do my kids.
My bum is big? So sue me! Like J.K. Rowling, I can think of FAR worse things to be than fat… (cruel, shallow, vindictive, troll-like, and bitter are words that immediately spring to mind).
These days… when I look in the mirror, I see a person that I love.
And what a wonderful… liberating place that is to be!
Okay…. this has been a long blog post. Signing off, now! X