I used to be an extremely devoted dieter (when I wasn’t bingeing), and those diet book introductions were always sooo exciting to me. I will DO this. I will do this right. And I will finally make my life AMAZING.
And I would do it. Until I eventually failed and started the binge/repent yo-yo, or until I went on a bender, or replaced it all with another, better diet.
My dieting started at fourteen, when I realized my shorts were really tight and my face was becoming oilier and puffier by the day, and I had to go to Nordstrom’s to buy bras in a size E in the brand that Oprah recommended because Victoria’s Secret bras were too small.
I have to fix this. . . . I guess my days of eating are behind me. So for the next ten years I was either “on a diet” — obsessed with following the rules perfectly— or “off a diet,” because I was bingeing and feeling out of control and horrible about myself.
I tried the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet, the insulin resistance diet, the pH diet, the blood type diet, the Rosedale diet, the raw vegan diet, many versions of the Pray to God to Be Skinny diet, The Secret™ (not a diet but you can make anything into a diet, especially new age self- help), the “I’m Going to Listen to My Body SOOOO WELLLL” diet (also known as the obsessive version of intuitive or mindful eating), the French Women Don’t Get Fat diet (which is a hybrid of the intuitive eating diet and the coffee and wine diet), the paleo diet, the GAPS diet, andddddddd . . .
Boom. Epiphany. It hit me, on my twenty- fourth birthday, after I ate nine squash “pancakes” and twelve sugarless almond flour “cupcakes” that I made for myself and that nobody else would eat. I had a legit spiritual epiphany, with my stomach distended and my heart palpitating. I stared at myself in the mirror of my crumbly little bathroom on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and as if I was in some sort of not- that- funny romantic comedy, I spoke to myself out loud. “What are you doing? Are you going to do this for the rest of your life?”
I’d spent the past ten years truly hating my body, constantly disgusted with myself, and wanting to be skinny more than any-thing else. I spent years obsessing over diet rules, planning what and when I could eat next, and counting up calories and carbs. I spent all of my energy trying to control my weight and salvage my health, but still, no matter how hard I tried, or how important dieting was to me, I was bingeing. I felt completely out of control for years on end.
I was petrified of carbs and sugar, and being full, and absolutely everything I did was for the purpose of trying to weigh less. Every day was good or bad based on the number on my scale and what I had eaten. And I truly believed I was doing it all in the name of health, because in my understanding, health and weight were synonymous.
Also, every fantasy I had was basically just me being skinny and pretty and maybe dating Prince Harry, I don’t know. But definitely skinny and pretty, as if those were my actual dreams and as
if that was my actual purpose. As if being skinny and pretty was the thing that would make me happy.
As for my actual distant buried dreams? Well, if I can be skinnier, then they’ll finally work out. Once I am skinny for good, I can finally take myself seriously.
But even the times when dieting “worked” and I was actually skinny, it was never, ever enough. I didn’t feel skinny, or worthy, or confident. And the moments that I did feel skinny? I was mostly panicked that the skinniness wouldn’t last, and that made me even more obsessed with dieting.
I’d spent ten years thinking that skinniness would make me like myself. I thought that skinniness would make me happy. And that is a method for happiness that doesn’t last.
Skinny doesn’t create happiness — just ask any model or any “successful” dieter. Sure, once you reach your goal weight, you think you’re happy for a moment. If you’re reading this book, you already know that it doesn’t last. Changing this search for happiness- through- skinniness- and- beauty to something more real, attainable, and life- affirming is a big part of this book.
But the part we are going to focus on first is the fact that diets don’t even work. The way we try to exert control over our bodies is biologically flawed and set up to fail from the start. When we try to override our survival response, our survival response wins. Every time.
We will get into it all. But first let me tell you what I did after my bathroom mirror epiphany. I decided to learn to eat normally— and I finally understood what that meant: I had to eat a lot more than I ever thought was okay before. I decided to give in to all of the foods I was afraid of, and all the hunger I had been trying to repress for the past ten years. And I mean all of it. There was a lot of hunger.
I also decided to research all of the reasons dieting doesn’t work. I armed myself with every bit of scientific information I needed to keep myself trusting that not dieting was the right path. I found a whole movement dedicated to educating the world on why the way we approach health and weight loss is deeply flawed. I learned about all the ways I was actually screwing myself over with diets— on a biological, chemical, and hormonal level.
But most importantly, I decided I was going to learn to like and accept myself at whatever weight I ended up. I really wasn’t sure what that weight was going to be because I’d been yo-yoing up and down many times every year for the past ten years. I thought my weight might end up at the top of my yo- yos, my highest weight, where I’d always felt like a serious failure. There was nothing more panic- inducing to me than seeing my weight up there, but I was choosing to change my priorities, big- time. I decided, Fuck it. Seriously, fuck it. I was too miserable not to do this.
I was going to learn to like myself wherever my weight fell, because I could not spend one more day fighting myself, waiting for that magical, elusive day when I would finally become permanently skinny and content. I knew that this was the only way out of the trap I was in — and The F*ck It Diet was born.
The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Dooner is available now (HQ, £12.99)
[Via GLAMOUR UK]