I read an article that shocked and horrified me. This article referred to research, which had found that the only result dieting is a predictor of, is weight gain. Yep, you read that correctly. I had to reread it the first time too. Dieting is a predictor of weight gain. Shock. Horror. It was worse than that actually, the study was a meta-analysis. (Meta-analysis. Definition. The statistical procedure for combining data from multiple studies. To improve accuracy and resolve uncertainty). In other words, this wasn’t a once-off reader survey from Cosmo Magazine. It was a careful analysis of multiple studies performed on dieting efficacy. And the result? Dieting definitely impacts weight…. In an upwards direction!
I was confronted with the reality that I’d spent twenty years pouring blood, sweat, tears, calorie control, ketosis, points, shakes, intermittent fasting, celery soup and a casserole of other diets into something that was proven to help me gain weight. What.the.flying.fat.fudge.
Honestly though… yes, this reality horrified me, but no, I wasn’t shocked. I knew deep down in my stretchmarks that diets didn’t work. How I felt in my skin, what I saw in the mirror, the size of my pants – It all told me this was true. Indeed, this dieting meta-analysis was playing out at that very moment on my rusty red bathroom scales. You see I had an Easter family trip to the Sunshine Coast fast approaching. As usual, the thought of reunions, swimming pools and summery clothes had stirred an urgent need to shift some kilos. And also as usual, the closer my self-imposed deadline – and the harder my efforts to diet, exercise and berate my failures – the worse my results.
It was somewhere amongst this crazed hungry panic that I’d stumbled across the research re: Dieting Causes Weight Gain For F’s Sakes. (Which was not entirely a stumble because my wild i.have.to.lose.this.weight.today.now.tomorrow triggers me to become a veracious consumer of all articles, books, blogs and anything googleable relating to diets and weight loss – ever hopeful to find the approach that will f_i_n_a_l_l_y work for me.) I read the article, reread it, swore a little, flashed through the five stages of grief, lingering at anger, and swore some more. Eventually, I took another swig of my chai tea and accepted the truth of it all: Diets don’t work.
I knew the time had come for me to quit diets forever. This realisation was one part liberating but… 99 parts terrifying. What does a life without diets look like? Is it even possible to lose weight without them? How and what would I eat? What would stop me getting so fat that I would eventually have to be craned out through a demolished wall of my house?
So, I chickened out. I continued to diet (shakes this time because the deadline was so tight) in a desperate effort to lose 5kgs before our family holiday. I committed instead to revisit this ‘no diet’ idea when I was just a little less chunky.
And what happened?
Smack on the research, my dieting didn’t work. In fact, I ended up a couple of kilos heavier. It was only then, in my battle-weary moment on the scales, two days before my holiday, that I raised the white flag and declared “Enough! You win! I quit diets!”
I was still terrified, the flag hoisted slowly and trembled, but I had to accept the reality that I’d been dieting on and off since my 15th birthday party and now I was 35 years old, still overweight and still hated my body. Einstein’s old gem bubbled to the surface of my thoughts: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. It was time. I had to disembark my insane dieting merry-go-round.
I Quit Diets.
Making this decision was immediately followed with: What next? Geneen Roth suggests that such a resolution requires a grand gesture… Like taking a sledgehammer to your scales. I wasn’t ready for that yet. My scales felt like the only thing between me and The Crane. They weren’t going anywhere.
Instead, I looked on my up-coming holiday as an opportunity to educate myself about this foreign world without diets. I filled my audible play list and kindle library with appropriate titles:
- If not Dieting, Then What – Rick Kausman
- What are you hungry for? – Deepak Chopra
- When you eat at the refrigerator, pull up a chair – Geneen Roth
- Thrive – Arianna Huffington
The holiday was wonderful. I naturally woke early each morning to the warmth and the sound of the waves, and took this opportunity of kid-free time (yes, that early!) to go for 1-2 hour walks along the beach before breakfast. I devoured the audio books as I walked. I started to implement the suggested strategies immediately. I would find a peaceful place on my walk and pause to meditate and repeat positive affirmations (I am living my happiest, richest life and the fat is melting away). I then returned to a healthy breakfast and a busy, active day with the kids. I journalled. I visualised my success. I worked hard to silence my negative self-talk and ignore my body image issues. I swam in the pool with my kids daily. I played with them at the beach. Hell, I even braved an inflatable water park (that’s a whole other story). I didn’t count calories or exclude carbs. I focussed on nourishing my body, happily choosing the best options I could (it’s tricky when staying with someone else). I also didn’t deprive myself. I had fish and chips by the beach with the kids, an ice cream on a hot day and a delicious Thai meal with my husband to celebrate our anniversary. In a first, I focussed on savouring each mouthful and stopping before my plate was cleared (who was this person?). And to round it all out, I often indulged in another peaceful walk before bed.
I felt happy, stress-free and like the fat was slowly melting away as I released myself from years of self-hate. My initial terror at the thought of the unknown world without diets was quickly being replaced with a quiet self-assurance that I was treading the right path and that I would finally overcome my food and body issues.
It was whilst in this euphoric state (and listening to The Writing Diet by Julia Cameron) that I decided I would start this blog on my return home. I chose the name My Fat Memoir deliberately. To me, memoir, implied the fat was already gone, that my life of diets and flab and hating on myself was in the past. I reasoned that writing about my fat in the past tense would only help that reality come true even quicker. Plus! I enjoy writing and I hoped that rekindling this passion would fill any void left by the absence of binge-y comfort eating. And finally, the blog would be a way to keep me accountable – To ensure that I wouldn’t go running back to the next 28-day challenge at the first sight of a stumble (read: weight loss stall).
On my evening walks I had already written a few words of my first blog post in my head… Something about my resolution to quit dieting, bla bla. How my first two weeks had been glorious, insert adjective and adjective … Came back to the happy surprise of having lost 1kg. Hoorah. Thrilled I am! … If I can lose even 100g a week (let alone 500) without deprivation, then that is a win for me. Bla, bla, smug happiness, etc., etc. … Resolution to spread the anti-diet word forever more. #preach.
The first morning I woke up back at home I practically leapt from my bed to my scales. (I know from my ample experience that the early morning, post-pee, naked weigh-in will always yield the best result.)
I stripped off, tapped the on button with my big toe, waited the few seconds for the digital display to ready and stepped on.
Beep, bop, beep.
What. The. Actual. F.
I had gained 4kgs over my 15 days away and now my weight was just one pad thai away from being in the 90’s.
Four kilograms. F_O_U_R! That’s 2kgs per week. That’s 2kgs per week even though I clocked up over 20,000 steps on my daily walks. Even though I spent every day in the pool, at the beach, lifting kids, twirling kids, frolicking, diving and piggybacking tired bodies. Even though I went to a waterpark… and played for 5 hours… in my bathers… in public… in front of complete strangers. (I’d been convinced that this act alone had been such a giant up-yours to my previous body-conscious self that it had earned me some serious fat-shedding points.) Even though I’d taken my magnesium and probiotics every day. Even though I had slept well, meditated, affirmed, visualised, journalled, ate when I was hungry, stopped when I was full.
Even Though. Faaaaaaaaaark.
My experience quitting diets had been a big fat disaster. It was my present tense not my past. Not a memoir. And what’s more, it was pegging down the tent to camp.
Sigh. So yep. I stood and stared at the number for a while. I’d lived this moment so many times before it was simultaneously devastating and mundane. So whilst I felt like sprouting hot angry frustrated tears, I really couldn’t be stuffed.
I was faced with a choice:
a) Go back to diets
b) Continue with the I Quit Diets resolution.
(Both of which pissed me off right-royally. I wanted to scream “Where’s my option C Eddie!? Where’s my option to just be a skinny bitch and never have to give any of this crap a moment’s thought!?)
For now at least, I chose b. – I chose to have some faith.
And that’s it. I have nothing helpful to offer yet. No insights. No Success. But I choose to persevere regardless.