Up until the last couple of years, I have been on the ultimate quest for the PERFECT DIET. I was convinced that it was out there; I just had to find the right perfect diet. My bookshelves and Kindle were filled with books of various perfect diets and I committed to all of them in the hopes of reclaiming my rightful perfect body. Atkins, Fat Flush, Metabolic Typing, Eat Right For Your Blood Type, Weight Watchers, Paleo, Intermittent Fasting, The Zone, a diet called The Perfect Diet and many, many more, I tried them all and adhered to every “rule”. I was the perfect diet follower, until I wasn’t, because diets aren’t sustainable. Looking to an outside source to tell you how to eat, when to eat, what to eat is too far removed from our innate wisdom of how to feed ourselves. Eating, feeding ourselves, something so endemic to our survival and seemingly so simple has become insanely complex in our world of control, misogyny, the industrial food complex and the search for the perfect/healthy never die body.
But I am tenacious, I was certain that it wasn’t the diets that were wrong, it was my adherence to them and not finding the right fit for my body. I was wrong. What I learned in several decades of dieting is that ultimately, for the vast majority, dieting makes one fatter. For every action, severe restriction there is an opposite and equal reaction. Our bodies want to be fed and that can be different for every body on any given day. Some days I may need more carbs, more protein, more fat, more pleasure…it can vary with the seasons, my workouts, my stress level…Not respecting or listening to what my body was telling me all those years was detrimental to my health, which is ironic that in my quest for “perfect health/body” I ended up doing more damage than good.
What crazy travails did I go through over the years while ignoring my body’s signals? For a long time I was in starvation mode, eating as few as 900 calories per day, which severely down-regulated my metabolism. I have memories of listening to my stomach growl with intense pride, thinking how wonderful and strong I am that I can resist food and I must be getting thinner by the second. On my Atkins stint I would eat handfuls of meat, while keeping my carb intake to below 20 grams, it didn’t seem to matter that my thyroid was being damaged or that my mood was so low and my stress level so high that I wanted to scream if anyone looked at me sideways, I was getting thinner. Intermittent fasting was the nail in the coffin for my adrenals and cortisol regulation, but hey I was hungry so I must be getting thinner.
Then came the moment that no matter what I did my weight refused to budge, whatever crazy diet I tried nothing would happen and I mean nothing, the scale remained steadfast and I became more disillusioned with myself and my life. How awful that so much of my power was given away. That is the real damage. A life not fully lived, because I was convinced that I wasn’t worthy because of my pant size. It’s pretty remarkable in our size-obsessed, keep a good woman down culture that I am able to look in the mirror and for the most part be okay with what I see. My body is not amazing, I’m not the most beautiful woman and I’m alright with that, because it’s me, it’s familiar, it’s what carries me around and allows me to experience pain, joy, pleasure. That’s tantamount to heresy these days, how can I not want to change/fix myself, be better, do more, fight fat, fool aging, how dare I accept my body as is and not listen to everyone else telling me what I need to do to be better! The irony is that the more I listened to and trusted myself, the happier I became, my sleep improved, my digestion improved, my weight stopped yo-yoing… But wait, I don’t have the perfect body, I’m not skinny, I don’t have a six-pack, I have wrinkles, oh my. Who cares, who cares…I prefer a life less restrictive, less filled with shame and never measuring up, more fulfilled with compassion, deep friendships and searching for what is meaningful and I can tell you having spent several decades looking for that meaning in a smaller ass, I never found it there and you won’t either.
But that doesn’t negate the desire to find peace with food and body; that is worth searching for. Once found it frees you up for so much more. Now I eat intuitively, mindfully, NOT perfectly. I don’t have to binge to compensate for severe denial, I know there will always be more and I will never starve again. Yes there are a few foods that don’t work well in my body and I avoid them for the most part, but I don’t live in a restrictive mindset with food anymore. I don’t give away my innate power to the latest “expert”, still my body, my business. I love food, I enjoy cooking, I especially love cooking for friends and hanging out for an evening of good food and great conversation. The wonderful part now is that I can embrace my love of food and eat what I want, the focus has shifted, the food is not as important, the conversation, the connection and time spent together that’s the real meat of the meal and that is my perfect diet.