“Do you suspect that you may have an eating disorder?” My nutritionist asked me after I had given her my weight/diet history.
“Eating disorder?” I asked incredulously. “Me? I wish! At least I’d be thin!”
My very patient nutritionist excused my ignorance and explained to me that eating disorders, or as in my and many others’ cases, disordered eating, comes in many degrees, forms and guises and afflicts many more people than we think. Although it is more commonly attributable to women, it can also affect men.
In my case, my disordered eating was evident through my negative body image and my constant search for the newest diet out there. You name it, I’ve tried it. I’ve counted calories, cut out fat, cut out carbs, fasted intermittently, cleansed, exercised, had special diet food delivered, not exercised, lifted weights, ran a marathon…and the result? Six kilos above what I perceived to be my ideal weight, or at least, the weight I was striving for.
It has been six months since I have been seeing my nutritionist and I recommend her to anyone I meet, especially those who comment that I’m looking great.
“You’re looking great,” said a friend one day, “how much weight have you lost?”
“Not one gram,” I said.
But I felt great. I felt great because my head was finally set straight and after six months of solid work, I was ready. Ready to accept myself as I am and accept the hard truth that if it was to be, it was, in fact, up to me. But most importantly, I was ready to stop dieting.
What? I hear you say, stop dieting? But what would I do instead? Eat until I become a balloon? Dieting and exercising have become part of our identities, a constant goal of perfection. The harder it is to attain the better we feel, the more driven we become. Until we give up and start again.
So before you jump onto diet on the block, think about this. Here are eight hard truths I have learned on my way to freedom from dieting:
- Ditch the negative body image, it’s someone else’s anyway!
As children, we do not have a body image. We look at ourselves in the mirror and see…ourselves. And then we start hearing giggles, comments, sniggers, words like fat, thunder thighs, flab, blubber, are you sure you want to eat that? Aren’t you full? And that’s what we start to see in the mirror. We stop seeing ourselves and see what other people see. So do yourself a favor, and see yourself with your own eyes!
- Educate yourself, don’t just listen to what others are saying.
You owe it to yourself to be your own judge and source of information. There is a lot of information out there and not all of is based on truth or scientific evidence. Do your own research and see what works for you. Your next door neighbor may have lost weight on the latest gluten-free diet but maybe it does not work for you. Be your own guinea pig.
3) Exercise for your head and your heart, not for your body.
You cannot outrun a bad diet. If you burn 450 calories out on a run and reward yourself with a 600 calorie pizza afterwards, well, you do the math. If you don’t believe me, check out the video here.
Exercise is a fantastic way to build strength, endurance and to feel good generally.
But if you want to lose weight you need to eat according to what your body needs.
Focusing on what you should eat for optimum function and performance puts you in a better mindset than restricting food intake to lose weight. Thinking that you will eat blueberries with natural yoghurt sweetened with a bit of honey is more positive than thinking that as much as you want that bar of chocolate, you cannot have it. A pot of yoghurt with fresh blueberries also supplies your body with a plethora of vitamins and fiber whereas a bar of chocolate will bring your energy crashing down before you can say “yummy!”
Think about it this way, if you restrict your food intake too much and don’t exercise as a result, you are depriving yourself of two things that bring immense pleasure and reward, whereas if you eat properly and exercise, that’s a double positive!
Yes chances are you’ve inherited your body and your propensity to put on weight or lose it may be pre-determined, but that still leaves you a big margin to work with. You cannot defy genetics, but you can definitely tame them.
6. Understand that it’s simple, but it’s not necessarily easy.
Reversing a lifetime of eating habits takes a lot of work and effort, which is why many of us cannot be bothered to do it. That’s why it’s important to do it slowly, step by step. Focus on improving one area, such as eating slowly, before moving on to drastically changing all your habits at once, a project that is doomed to fail. Also, work on ditching the diet mentality once and for all (the hardest habit to break!) There is no miracle cure out there, you are your own miracle.
Finally, set up a reward system where you treat yourself to activities you love to do that are not related to eating. Personally, I like to get a haircut and buy new sports clothes. Keep your pleasure sensors on when you are planning your meals to keep a positive mindset.
7. Be patient!
Chances are you did not gain 5 kilos in a week so please don’t expect to lose them in a week! Understand that this is a journey that is for life and not for the next two weeks. That is why it is important to ditch the diet mentality. You have to very slowly change your habits and your mindset but assuredly, every kilo you lose will be gone forever. Better to lose 1 kilo in 5 weeks and keep it off rather than lose 5 kilos in 1 week and put it back on ten minutes later.
There is absolutely no shame in admitting that maybe, just maybe this once, you are unable to solve everything on your own. There are people out there who are way more qualified that you are in all matters physical, nutritional and psychological. Just like you may be better than them at something else. They can help you reach and attain your goals, offering you the support that you need and reliable information that is based on fact and proven success.
I may not have lost any weight working with my nutritionist over the last six months but I can tell you this, I have taken a whole weight off my shoulders!
I have learned to form my own image of myself and to feed my body and my soul instead of my emotions. I may lose weight and I may not, but at least I am off a destructive roller-coaster. If you have read this article till here, then I hope that you will too.