A Diet Free Life
Today, May 6th, is International No Diet day, a day that if you’d told me years earlier, I’d be celebrating, would’ve brought with it, raucous laughter.
After growing up with a mother who dieted, it seemed only fitting and natural that I would follow along that same path. Weight Watchers, Keto, you name it, I’d done it.
Two years ago, this month, that all changed. Sometimes there are moments in life that have the power to change the trajectory of your life; for me, this was one of them.
After coming clean about secretly living with a hidden eating disorder for the previous 20 years, and now as a mother to 3 beautiful children, I wondered how on earth I was going to teach them how to have a normal relationship with food and their bodies, if I in fact didn’t know how to have one myself.
It had begun bothering me the way my children were imitating my ways. I’d get up and stand on the scales first thing in the morning, and then they began doing it too. I gave up carbs and my daughter- who was only 6 at the time, wanted to follow suit. It’s challenging as a parent to explain to your children why only you’re allowed to do certain things, despite knowing deep down that my methods were only covering up a much deeper problem. I didn’t know how to eat without the strict rules of a diet.
Two years ago, this month, I sought help for bulimia, a disease that gave in to my black and white thinking- I was either being good or bad, there was no room for grey. I either restricted or binged, there was no middle ground for me, I needed diets, I needed the control because time after time, I proved to myself that I couldn’t be trusted to my own devices.
Whilst my methods were extreme, I think the cycle of dieting is familiar to most of us. We ride the highs of weight loss, and then feel defeated and ashamed when we eventually gain back the weight.
Overcoming bulimia also saw me overcoming diet culture. I often say that I was an addict, I was addicted to weight loss, addicted to being slim and addicted to the praise that I’d get for my well-kept body (although little did they know). Like any addict in recovery, whatever that vice was, you need to give that up. One sip of alcohol for a recovering alcoholic is enough to send the mind spiralling, so too was my need to diet and change my body.
For the first time in my life, I wanted to love myself despite the size of my body. I wanted my children to have a mother who was more than her aesthetic, and so I embarked on a journey of change and transformation.
I’ll never forget the first time I went to a restaurant after giving up dieting. I asked myself what it was that I felt like, letting go of the prior knowledge I had regarding calories and fat content, I got back to purely what I felt like eating. I remember feeling so frightened that I would always want to choose the deepest fried foods, as those were so often the foods I craved when I was on a diet, but I was so interested to find that I craved flavours and textures. I don’t recall exactly what I chose that day, however I do recall the satisfaction I felt during and after eating it.
I found myself immersed in the Intuitive Eating guide book.
For a time, I rebelled against myself, as I over ate, challenging myself to do something about it. At all times I stayed aware and alert to what I was doing to myself, but I understood that this was all part of the journey.
I have watched as my thighs have grown and I have sat with the discomfort and worked through the worries of what others would think. Over time I came to understand that I was not any less worthy, that the smaller me wasn’t more worthwhile, and I realised that in truth no one else cared.
Research talks about the importance of our daughters seeing their mothers comfortable in their own skin. Daughters who think their mothers are unhappy with their bodies are much more likely to be dissatisfied with their own. It makes sense. I was acutely aware that my mum wasn’t happy in her body.
Two years on, and whilst I might not love every single inch of my body the same way, I have love and compassion for it. When I learnt to shift my focus from how my body looked, to how my body felt, I was able to develop a new perspective.
My kids see me loving my body. They know I’m proud of every single bump, lump, crease and roll because it’s my body and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
My wish on this International No Diet Day, is that one more mother makes the decision to stop hating her body. Positive body image starts in the home. Positive body image starts with us.
If you would like to learn more about how I changed my life, you can order a copy of my book here.
Or if you are ready to start your life diet free, the Mirror Movement for Mothers Online Course takes you through all of the mindset shifts I had to make to get to a place of freedom with food and my body.