This is what a diet looks like for me…

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I have been dieting on and off since high school. I have done Atkins and Weight Watchers, counted calories and counted carbs, stopped eating gluten, given up meat, stopped eating processed foods, eating foods low on the glycemic index, based my diet around superfoods, and for five LONG days, followed the Fat Flush plan. They all start out the same:

“This is it! This one will work! This is the first day of the rest of my life! I’ve got this!” I weigh in, head to the grocery store for supplies, buy myself a new journal (or download a new app) for tracking purposes, and wait for the pounds to melt off.

Sometimes, the “being good” period lasts a long time. My longest successful diet lasted almost three years and resulted in the loss of 75 pounds. I was strong and proud and motivated…and numb. Where I had once used food to avoid strong emotion (as any good compulsive emotional eater tends to do), now I was using dieting to keep myself from having to think about the hard things in my life…how my mom was sick and my marriage was failing and I was unhappy and my self-esteem was in the toilet.

My mom got better, and my marriage ended. My self-esteem was still in the toilet, but I put on a happy face and listened to people say, “You are so strong,” and, “You deserve to be happy.” I didn’t feel strong. I was not convinced I deserved to be happy. After all, how can a fat person deserve to be happy?

Anyway, as a matter of course, every one of my diets has come to an end. Most often, recently, it has been once I hit my stride and start seeing the weight come off that I start to cheat a little, or I take a “day off,” or I find myself wondering how I could have the nerve to think that I deserve to be thin and happy. In the case of that last thing, a “good” weigh in causes such a strong emotional response in me that I usually dive into food. Or maybe into Old Navy’s website. But usually into food. And I might not surface again for a few weeks. And by that time, any progress down that the number on the scale made has been remedied by the return of those lost pounds and maybe a couple more. And I can feel bad about myself again because, once again, my diet has failed.

So in the early days of the unraveling of my marriage, I headed to therapy. And although I went to therapy because I needed someone to talk to about my marriage and subsequent divorce, what we have talked about the most is the demon in the corner of every room I am in, my compulsive eating (and dieting and also shopping) disorder (I like to call him ED. He looks like the Grim Reaper, but without the scythe).

Anyway, the diet mentality sucks. It doesn’t work. Or at least, it doesn’t work for me. The ups and downs of the successes and failures and the fact the food becomes punishment for me, when it should be a form of nourishment, has shown me that I cannot base my worth on the number I see on the scale. However, I can’t yet quite get that knowledge out of my brain and into my gut. I would LOVE to be able to give up dieting. I would LOVE to heal my relationship with myself and my relationship with food. But I can’t yet see it. 

I don’t want to diet anymore. I just want to eat like a “normal” person. The problem is that I have not yet learned what that looks like.

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