Or is it really a series of successes so elegant and easily obtained
you can’t even recognize them as success?
Oh, you know how to diet. I do too. We know how it works, how all diets ultimately work. We know the ins and outs, the “secrets,” the plateaus, the kick-starts, the long slow periods of extreme effort for very slow returns. We know that new diet books are mainly exciting because the smell of fresh ink on fresh paper is appetizing. The newness of the latest book makes for an interesting community of souls hopeful for a fresh start. And that’s how we’ve made the diet book industry such a bottomless well.
Sure, we know how to diet. All my life I’ve been a wildly successful dieter. A Navy brat, I understand how to follow rules. I look for them when they aren’t there. Nothing like a good rule to tell you whether you’re being good or bad.
Follow the rule? Good! Break the rule? Bad!
And so I’ve lost maybe a thousand lbs. in my life. Maybe more.
I have traditionally labeled the corresponding regain in weight as “failure,” focusing on the regain rather than the achievement.
The problem with my approach was that I was following somebody else’s rules. And once I lost the weight, I didn’t find their rules easy to live by. Or attractive to live by. Or livable. The dieting mode was always a temporary state, and I never transformed the skills of these many and various diets and programs into skills for maintaining a lower weight.
I suppose what I wanted more than anything was to put the diet behind me, to embrace my new life as a thin person who doesn’t have to think about what she eats. The new me, experiencing a rebirth.
But it was always just a smaller me with the old metabolism, the old cravings, the old habits of inactivity.
I have friends who are alcoholics who help me understand what constant vigilance requires, looks like. I had a revelation at the beginning of my last diet that watching my weight and minding every mouthful and conscientiously exercising was something I would have to manage always. I know it seems silly to call something so obvious a revelation. But that’s what it was. I would have to manage obesity like other people manage addictions, take it on and attend to it forever. You know, My Name is Julie, and I am Obese.
It’s not fair, but I’m stuck with it. Since figuring that out, and accepting it, I have been able to keep the weight off. It’s been a simple matter of accepting that the rest of my life will include sustained attention to what I eat and how much I exercise.
Was all that dieting before my revelation a waste of time? No. All along the way I learned how my body responds to different foods, how it responds to different calorie levels, how certain restrictions make me crazy and others don’t. How my body hungers throughout the day, how it strengthens and weakens. I picked up a lot of information, and all of it worth knowing.
There is no history of failure here, only a long list of lessons learned.
How about you? Why don’t you pull out your journal and make a list of every diet program, crash diet, book, tool, class, group you’ve ever used to lose weight. Beside each effort, put down not how much you lost or regained, but what you learned about yourself while you were on it?
What skills did you pick up? What would you never do again? What was good or bad? What lessons did you take with you? Did you learn that meal planning really helps you or makes you feel confined? Did you learn that you like your foods prepared simply or with more complex flavors? Did you learn that you operate better with a bigger breakfast or a smaller one? What snacks work to keep you going in the afternoon? What about cooking for yourself and your family? What did you pick up about food combinations, servings, measures – any revelations there? Which diet would you never do again and why? Did one give you bad breath, another mess with your digestion? Did you discover a food allergy? Overdo it in aerobics? Discover a talent for soup making?
Discover what you’ve learned, and give yourself a little credit, love. All of your learning is helping you even now, with every decision you make. Every success is building toward the final one, the one where you make your own rules for maintaining your lighter self.
Oh you know plenty,
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