An essay about diets, body image, and self-love.
We need — I need — to have the same little talk we have every year at this time: I know you might be starting a New Year’s diet. I used to start diets, too. I hated to mention this to my then-therapist. She would say cheerfully, “Oh, that’s great, honey. How much weight are you hoping to gain?”
I got rid of her. No one talks to me that way.
Well, okay, maybe it was 10 years later, after she had helped lead me back home, to myself, to radical self-care, to friendship with my own heart, to a glade that had always existed deep inside me, to mostly healthy eating, but that I’d avoided all those years by achieving, dieting, bingeing, people-pleasing and so on.
Now when I decide to go on a diet, I say it to myself: “Great, honey. How much weight are you hoping to gain?” Here is what’s true: Diets make you fat, 95 percent of the time. We gain it back, plus five pounds.
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I may have mentioned several hundred times that I have had the tiniest, tiniest struggle with food and body image for the last — well, lifetime. Hardly worth mentioning. It is a long story, having to do with childhood injuries to my sense of self, terrible anxiety, and the inability of my parents to nurture my soul, so starving and chastising myself cannot possibly heal this.
I hate to say it, but only profound self-love will work, union with that scared breath-holding self, and not a diet that forbids apples or avocado. Horribly, but as usual, only kindness and grace — spiritual WD-40 — can save us.
Can you put the scale away for a week? Okay, then how about four days? I have been addicted to the scale, too, which is like needing former Vice President Dick Cheney to weigh in every morning on my value as a human being.
Can you put away your tight pants, that don’t actually hurt you? Wear forgiving pants! The world is too hard as it is, without letting your pants have an opinion on how you are doing. I struggle with enough esteem issues without letting my jeans get in on the act, with random thoughts about my butt.
By the same token, it feels great to be healthy. Some of you need to be under a doctor’s care. None of you need to join Jenny Craig. It won’t work. You will lose tons of weight quickly, and gain it all back, plus five.
Some of you need to get outside and walk for half an hour a day. I do love walking, so…