You could say I have dieted or been on some form of a diet since I was about 10 years old. I put on weight in the later part of elementary school, likely as a response to the trauma I faced as a child. But without proper guidance- I thought it was just me not being good enough to be thin. I am of Indian descent and growing up Indian girls in my family were all rail thin with long straight black hair. I was chubby with curly hair- so I was the odd man out. I felt like I was broken because I was fat and decided very early on that I needed to lose weight. I’m 34 now, so safe to say for the last 20 years of my life I have been on some form of diet or calorie restriction mind game. Fuck. That’s kind of sad when I write it out loud like that. My mother struggled with her weight and relationship to food as well, likely as a result of her own internalized issues- so there wasn’t much guidance on how to navigate that space in a healthy way. When I was 12 I began severe calorie restriction – sometimes going days on just 100-200 calories. Then I would binge eat, and feel guilt and shame. I’m not sure how the cycle subsided- but I never stopped counting my calories. I got so good at tracking my calories – I didn’t need a food journal or nowadays- an app- I knew the calories to almost all food by the time I was in my late teens. This obsession with food and diet and looking a certain size was normal to me throughout most of my life. I was never skinny – so maybe that’s why this behavior didn’t raise any red flags to those around me.
Fast forward to 2018, I was in between jobs and started reading about the “keto diet”- I read that you could give up carbs and have more energy. Having suffered from depression and energy slumps for most of my life I thought I would give it a try. The extra 5 lbs I could never manage to shake – came right off- I was in heaven. My body looked the best it ever had! I actually saw abs, I was all in. I started fasting again- which most people on keto do in addition to eliminating carbs. This isn’t dangerous I told myself, as I guzzled my blender bottle full of ACV and water- even though at times I felt like my 12-year-old self- gorging myself after a long fast- I would just go back into a fast again to burn off the guilt. This is not an eating disorder- I reassured myself- this is healthy! Look at all the doctors proclaiming the benefits of this highly restrictive way of eating- surely this is a good thing? You know what- maybe it is. I’m not here to bash the ketogenic diet- I am just saying it’s not for everyone, and if you have a history of eating disorders or compulsive eating, a highly restrictive way of eating, such as keto, might not be the best long term answer. It certainly wasn’t for me.
It was NYE 2019 when my friends and I were all sitting around the table making our resolutions, I wrote on the paper loose 10lbs- because sure enough, the weight that I lost on keto crept back up. I had to do more I thought- be better, be more disciplined, workout more….wait…what the fuck? like what in the actual fuck? I think it must’ve been the next day or two it all dawned on me like a dam breaking – what the fuck was I doing? Why was I fighting my body? Was I going to spend my whole fucking life on a diet? Maybe my body just isn’t meant to be 125lbs? Maybe I can still eat healthily, be healthy and not count every fucking calorie I consume like a crazy person. Why was I so obsessed with being that size anyway? I had been dieting my whole life and really just fighting a losing battle. The body has a funny way of doing that huh? The more we try to control it the more it tells us to fuck off. My body was sending me to hell and this time it was loud and clear. I couldn’t walk past a mirror without looking at my stomach to make sure it was flat. Before each meal, I checked. After each meal, I checked. First thing in the morning, I checked. When I overate, I painstakingly checked. This sad preoccupation with body image was definitely a sign of other issues I was running from. Low self-esteem,guilt, and shame stemming from childhood trauma- and fear, a whole lot of fear. I was using food and trying to control my body and eating to account for the lack of control I felt in my own life. As I write this, I’m working on those issues, first and foremost bu acknowledging them each day and secondly, by sharing my story with others. In the interim have decided to give up dieting and counting calories for good. Like all change of habits, it’s a process. I still find myself quickly tallying up calories in my head, before I remind myself that shit is for the birds. I still look at my stomach but nowI kind of force myself, (lovingly) to look at my belly- the roundness of it- and appreciate it- it’s me- it’s my body -the temple that houses my soul- why am I fighting it- why not accept it as it is? My body has cared for me, carried me, and loved me for my entire life- its high time I return the favor.