As I count out each individual piece of buttered popcorn to fit into my daily Weight Watchers points allowance, I start to really question my life choices and how I got to the point of becoming so obsessed with dieting and a number on the scale.
From a very young age, I’ve struggled with weight and body image issues. As if being an adolescent female weren’t tough enough, try adding an unhealthy relationship with food and a set of Tonka truck arms! It took me years to realize that the thing I loved and enjoyed the most, was actually going to end up being my nemesis for eternity. Food was my emotional abuser and I kept convincing myself that I liked the abuse.
Unfortunately, my self-image issues were passed down and projected onto me from my mother, who struggled with her own weight her entire life. Being bullied and teased for years, she found herself suffering from an eating disorder in the desperate attempt to finally become the skinny sister.
My mother went on to meet and marry my father, who was a six-foot-two, 145 lbs (soaking wet) naturally thin, European, in hopes that her offspring wouldn’t inherit her so-called, chubby genes. Flash forward to June 20th, 1984 when my mother gave birth to her inevitably fuller-figured daughter, who at the very least ended up with glowing olive skin that can tan at the drop of a hat (Thanks anyway, mom).
If there was a fad diet invented from 1999 to the present day, I can almost guarantee I’ve been on it. From Weight Watchers, South Beach, Jenny Craig, Bernstein, Isagenix, I’ve even tried weight loss hypnosis! Most of them offered a temporary fix, a boost in confidence that let me share the pedestal with my much skinnier friends for a brief moment or two. I would evidently catapult off the wagon each time into a sea of sprinkled donuts and security.
We can become utterly overwhelmed by the fad dieting trends that seem to be shoved down our throats constantly. I find myself zoning out completely in the aisles of the grocery store on Sundays just trying to make good food choices. “Are we doing carbs this week?”, “Is guacamole a carb?”. With a grocery cart filled to the brim with Kale and broken dreams, I start to plan my weekly meals in hopes that I don’t succumb to some hormonal imbalance that leads me to the hidden chocolate in the back of the freezer.
I usually get through my nine-to-five workday with ease, a balanced breakfast, mason jar salad for lunch followed by a sensible dinner. It’s those dreaded after-dinner hours where my will power seems to be tested the most. I swear I could eat an entire Thanksgiving dinner between the hours of 7-10 p.m. and keep watching The Bachelor like nothing ever happened.
Like so many of us, my life has always revolved around food. Celebrations, times of sadness, sheer boredom, and worst of all, the countless social events that are all pretty much just an excuse to gorge on a perfectly Pinterest worthy charcuterie platter and drink our weight in alcoholic beverages. While we stuff our seventh slice of aged cheddar into our mouth and wash it down with our third glass of Pinot Grigio, our inner (and sometimes outer) dialogue always has us saying the same thing: “Diet starts Monday!” as if having a premeditated plan for failure was going to erase all of the guilt and calories consumed.
I couldn’t begin to count how many “Mondays” have come and gone where I didn’t start my day with a glass of lemon water and a piece of fruit, and by 3 o’clock find myself eating peanut butter from the jar like a savage zombie straight out of The Walking Dead. Lack of self-control is the worst type of failure. You have nobody to blame for your failed attempt at dieting but yourself. And the emotional damage runs deeper than my hand stuffed down a bag of Doritos.
Having been a yo-yo dieter my entire life, I’ve come to learn that I have a pretty significant pattern: Lose weight, feel great, meet a guy, and mess everything up. Usually, my motivation comes from the end of a relationship or the gutting loneliness from not being in one. Which is another issue all on its own. This unhealthy trend of becoming comfortable with someone and letting myself fall to the waste side had really taken a turn for the worst when I hit, what for me personally, was my scariest number on the scale to date. My journey to health started at the end of my marriage (as per the pattern, right on schedule), and shedding basically the weight of a toddler, seemed completely effortless, oddly enough.
Since then, it should come as no surprise that I have continued to yo-yo, as I bounced in and out of relationships and McDonald’s drive-thru’s, but I’m proud to say that I’ve never come close to my scary weight again. I have, however, gained and lost the same 10-15 lbs over and over again, and that in itself has been taxing enough to make me want to get off this dieting train once and for all.
I still have a ways to go to reach my ultimate goal, set for me by Judy, my always perky and upbeat weekly Weight Watchers consultant. Judy is a lifetime member, probably in her mid 50’s, been dieting most of her life, and all I can think is that if she wasn’t getting paid for this, she would probably be the first in line at the Pizza Hut lunch buffet next door. I give Judy credit for sticking it out and trying to cover up her own struggles by helping others with theirs, but sometimes I feel like just sneaking her in a donut, looking deep into her eyes and telling her, “it’s ok.”
I know I’m not alone in this battle of self belittlement based on what a number on a scale says you are. If you’re one of the lucky ones who are able to afford enough therapy to help you pinpoint the underlying emotional aspect of why you feel the need to barrier yourself behind cheeseburgers and fructose corn syrup, you may even have a shot at inner peace and contentment. I’m still trying to piece that together for myself, but at the end of the day, I’ve decided that in order to keep my sanity through it all, I need to stop feeding my gut and start feeding my soul.
Learning to love myself as it is, stretch marks, Tonka truck arms, and all will always be a struggle that I’ll have to work on every day, but age, wisdom, and the pure mental exhaustion of counting my calorie consumption has at least started to help with that. I know myself well enough to know that I’ll always be conscious of how I feel in my own skin and how my skinny jeans fit and appear to the outside world, but for the love of God, if I want a cupcake, I’m going to friggen have one!