Why, oh why, must I always be on a diet?
In the spring of 1984 I was eleven years old and my Mom took me bathing suit shopping. As I stood in the dressing room, my Mom said, “Honey, suck your stomach in”. I thought she was surely seeing things incorrectly. Surely I didn’t have a belly that needed to be sucked in…or did I? I stood and examined my side-view and sure enough, much to my chagrin, she was right. There it was: I had stopped growing up and started growing out. It seems completely unfair that this happened to me so early in life, but puberty has it’s own agenda and me growing to a bony, willowy 5’10 wasn’t part of the plan.
In that moment, it suddenly made sense. This exact problem was the reason my Grandma would stand over the doughnuts in her work place’s break room, inhaling their sweet scent instead of taking even the tiniest bite. This was the reason my Mother never let me eat that second piece of cake, even though I was a thin child. These women who’s genes I inherited knew that my days of wine and roses would come to an end and there would be a hefty price to pay for all of those extra calories.
My first diet began that day in the children’s department dressing room. Over the years I’ve tried every diet out there. I’m not kidding. Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Atkins, the Grapefruit Diet (I HATE grapefruit!), starvation, the Fast Metabolism Diet, Phen/Fen, Ketogenic, no-fat, Paleo, the Cabbage Soup Diet…the list goes on, and on, and on. Every time I get serious, I lose ten, twenty, or maybe a couple times, thirty pounds. Then every single time I gain it back.
People say, “Don’t diet, just eat healthy and exercise more”. This is lovely and, in theory, so darn smart. Of course I want to eat healthy, and exercise is fun, right? Ok, maybe that’s a small exaggeration (I’m not a huge fan of exercise)…but at least it’s an excuse to buy new sneakers and some snazzy new workout clothes and I can wrap my head around that! Sometimes that’s all the gimmick I need to get myself started, but then what keeps me committed once the new shoes are broken in? Nothing.
Every April I seem to find myself staring into my closet, looking at the summer clothes I shoved to the back of my closet in October, wondering (hoping) if any of them will still fit. I swallow my pride and face the inevitable by trying a few things on. (White pants, tight! Shorts, ugh! Bathing suit, forget about it!) Then once again I climb back on the dieting wagon. I swear off all things fattening and begin yet another diet where I’m telling myself I can’t have this, can’t have that, and in general, must be miserable and suffering in order to succeed.
This year, I had an epiphany to try a different approach. What if I tell myself I’m fine just the way I am? What if I didn’t tell myself no? What if I simply bought healthier food? What if I didn’t force myself to join a gym I’d only use for a month, but instead parked at the back the parking lot and walked more? What if I planned to try to avoid bad foods, but gave myself a little bit of understanding when I felt the need to have a splurge instead of chastising my reflection in the mirror for being “so bad”? This gentle approach to weight management has never been my method of operation…my inner Drill Sergeant is very, very good at her job. She’s been at it for such a long time. But don’t people respond better to positive reinforcement? Why should I be any different?
I’ve begun to treat myself like I would treat my daughter: with gentle and kind guidance. I haven’t told myself no, but rather reminded myself of the myriad reasons I want to lose weight and be healthy. If I want a glass of wine, I have one. If I want something sweet, I have a single dark chocolate piece of candy. I’m eleven days into this newfound mindset and I’m happy to report I’ve actually lost seven pounds! Maybe there’s something to this positivity and self-love?
What are your thoughts? Have you struggled as I have, or are you one of the lucky one’s that have figured out how to balance maintaining a healthy weight with everyday life? What are your secrets?
My Mom, and Grandma in the early 1980’s
Actress, writer, and Mom living in Burbank, California.