How DietGirl Became Not-On-A-Diet-Girl

You may have noticed that I've not really updated the weight stats on my sidebar in a long long time. I keep meaning to explain why, but all I had to show you is fifteen abandoned drafts. The truth is, everything has changed this year; my attitude to this diet stuff. I needed to pull back from the scales and think long and hard about things. There's been so many incidents that screamed to me that after six and a bit years, I had to change my approach to my health and weight.

It wasn't until the lovely Sarah invited me to write a guest post for Elastic Waist that I actually sat down and put the massive changes in my head down on paper. The post is up today. Thanks all you lovely EW folks for having me over.

Update: I've archived the full post below for posterity.

I’d been on a diet for 333 weeks when the pickled ginger stepped in and saved my sanity.

Earlier this year I was on a spring-cleaning rampage when I came across the long-forgotten package. Instead of the usual pale pink, my ginger had turned into a swampish, scummy brown from sitting on the pantry shelf for so long. I’d bought wasabi, rice and seaweed too, with the intention of making homemade sushi, but for a whole year I’d been putting it off.

I’ve got to lose those last ten pounds first, I kept telling myself. If I make sushi now I’ll get bloated and it’ll show up on the scales! I can’t ruin my diet with a carb fest!

But when I found that dust-covered package I sat down on the kitchen floor and actually said out loud, “ARE YOU INSANE?”

After a lifetime of angst-ing about my weight, I finally saw how ridiculous it had all become. I was almost 30 years old, and I’d been dieting on and off through my entire 20s. My weeks revolved around my Monday weigh-in—what to eat, when to eat it, how it would affect my date with the scale. And it wasn’t just the pickled ginger; I had a whole drawer of wacky ingredients and a shelf crammed with untouched cookbooks, waiting for the day I gave myself permission to cook from them. After 333 weeks I knew I had to move on—before it became 666 weeks.

* * *

Way back in January 2001, I weighed 351 pounds. My weight-loss journey began with very negative motivations—I was depressed, angry and so full of loathing that I wanted to hack off my belly rolls with a knife. Even as I made changes to my lifestyle I never believed they’d stick; I didn’t think I deserved any better.

But surprisingly, my self-perception swiftly changed. The more I treated my body kindly with good food and gentle exercise, the more I positive I felt. At first I could only manage a walk around the block or 10 minutes on the elliptical, but I began to appreciate my size 26 body for what it could do, instead of what it looked like. For the first time I looked in the mirror and saw a worthy human being, not just a collection of flaws.

By August 2006, after 291 long slow weeks, I’d lost 175.5 pounds and weighed 175.5 pounds; I’d shed precisely half my body weight. I had the healthy lifestyle down pat, too. I loved my exercise and instead of binging or dieting I finally had a balanced relationship with food. When I took some progress photos in my new size 12 jeans I loved what I saw. I felt confident, healthy, sexy and content. I felt done.

But how could I be done? I still had 10 pounds to lose before I stopped being fat in the eyes of the Body Mass Index overlords. Surely my happiness wasn’t really valid unless I reached that number?

So for the next year that package of pickled ginger rotted away in the pantry while I became obsessed with my goal weight. But the harder I tried the more the scale refused to budge. I grew panicky and impatient, and instead of keeping faith in my tried-and-true formula of sensible eating and exercise, I scoured my old diet books looking for answers.

Finally in Week 333, I stopped and asked myself, What the hell am I doing? Haven’t I learned anything? Why am I torturing myself?

For six years I’d battled to achieve a balanced approach but now I’d fallen back into my old, obsessive ways. And what for? I was fit and healthy. I liked my body. I finally liked being me. But my weight fixation was making me lose sight of all those positives.

So the moment I tossed that rotten ginger into the trash I tossed my diet mentality too. No more number crunching, no more ritual weigh-ins and no more Last Ten Pounds. I decided to just let go and decided to see where my instincts took me.

Part of me worried what would happen if I didn’t obsess about my weight. How would I stay healthy without all that angst? Without the fear of a weekly weigh-in, would I go wild and wake up in a sea of candy wrappers with chocolate smeared across my gob?

But I didn’t. Instead life got a helluva lot more interesting once I ditched the scales and dieting. I carried on being healthy. I started yoga classes, something I’d yearned to do for years but had put off in favor of workouts that burned more calories. I went for long hikes in the Scottish Highlands with my husband. He’d been asking me to join him for ages but I’d turned him down because he always took sandwiches to eat on the summits and I fretted that bread would screw up my weigh-ins.

These days I’m not afraid of a sandwich. And I exercise purely for the joy of it, not to make my body more pleasant to the masses. Instead of thinking, “These are things I must do to lose weight,” I now believe, “This is just how I live my life.”

I don’t know where the scale will end up, but after 333 weeks I’m not wasting another minute worrying about it. I always thought the prize would be seeing that magic number, but now I appreciate that it was never about the scales or the size of my jeans. The true reward was finding peace and acceptance and embracing my own skin, with all its lumps and bumps. It's getting out there and diving into life, instead of sitting around getting old and moldy like that pickled ginger!

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