A Diet Won't Fix Your Life

Hey there slimming club banner outside the pub (let’s call it ‘Thin Planet’). I see you’ve been strategically placed to make me second guess walking in to order a curry. You’re trying to make me feel guilty, aren’t you? I should surely be ashamed, for who knows how may Very Important Numbers To Track (let’s call them Sinful Points) are in that deliciously creamy full-of-oil curry that I’m about to order.

But I no longer feel guilty. I’m not ‘out of control’ either. I’m very deliberately deciding that I fancy a curry and I’m going to order one and savour every mouthful.

So thank you, but no thank you, Thin Planet banner. I don’t need to be saved by you. I’m not a woman in trouble or struggling. Instead, I recognize your marketing for what it really is: an attempt to taunt me with the smiling face of a woman who has lost weight since joining Thin Planet and now has a whole different life.

You see dear reader, apparently when this face of Thin Planet lost 60lbs, her bills started paying themselves, house prices became affordable, and her previously sexist boss gave her a pay rise, so she matched her male colleagues at long last. Thanks to her new rocking body, her husband fancies her again and has since stopped having an affair with his co-worker and her kids are also far happier now that there’s now a lot less of mummy to cuddle.

Her life’s completely transformed, all because she now takes up less space on the planet, thanks to carefully micromanaging her fuel consumption and energy output, while wearing a slinky size 10 Bodycon dress. Isn’t that amazing? Why isn’t everyone doing this?

I must have ‘done weight loss wrong’ when I lost 60lbs back in 2012. Because none of this amazing stuff happened.

I had the same life problems at 136lbs as I did at 196lbs. Same old problems, different weight.

“You look great!” - said everyone around me. But I still hated and resented my body.

I wasn’t looking forward to a life of forever tracking food, or dedicating entire weekends to the gym so that I could eat a meal out ‘guilt free’ on a Friday night.

So I stopped. I stopped trying to control my weight when my body was so strongly fighting against me. I stopped logging foods. I stopped tracking every move my body made. I stopped weighing myself.

For years I thought the answer to all of my life problems was to lose weight. Society had told me that being thin was the same thing as being happy in life and with myself. Don’t believe me? Google search images of ‘happy people’. Tell me how many fat people you see in the images that come up. Exactly.

After addressing my urgent physical health issues at the time (pre-diabetes and hypertension) I should have just stopped there, kept tabs on my blood work and then worked on addressing my depression and anxiety, my home life, my career and my relationships.

Instead, I got sucked into Diet Culture and carried on losing weight because of my BMI and the scale, told me I wasn’t done yet. And because everyone I knew praised me for now taking up less space and told me (for the first time in my life) that I looked amazing.

I neglected all other areas of life and clogged up vital headspace for introspection, in favour of over-analysis in just one area of my life: calorie control and weight loss. The world just continued telling me what I should eat, how I should move, how I should look. Taking my money in exchange for the many tools required to get me closer to society’s preferred body type.

When I began to focus on my overall life, my relationships, ambitions, mental health and home life, I lost the focus on my weight loss efforts completely. I just didn’t care about it because it seemed so insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

You might be surprised to know that I didn’t become pre-diabetic or hypertensive again, or even bounce back up to my highest weight.

Instead, I actually ate healthier, because I saw food for its different flavours and for how it made me feel (energized vs sluggish, full vs unsatisfied), instead of reducing it down to numbers and emotionally disconnecting from the human experience of eating. Exercise stopped being about burning calories, and became a way to clear my mind, and give me mental space and peace to think through my life problems and return to my desk with inspiration.

My life didn’t come crashing down after gaining some of the weight I’d lost back. It didn’t make a bit of difference in fact. Not even to my health or fitness! Instead, I gained my mind and life back after quitting weight loss.

So Thin Planet, with your smug, smiling banner, you might think you’re going to save the world from an obesity crisis by shaming a few women out of ordering a curry one day (while you profit from doing so). But what you’re actually doing is distracting us from real problems in the world, and our internal problems, by forcing us to blame all our misery on the number we see between our feet. All while trashing our mental health and our relationship with food, exercise and our bodies in the process.

No thank you, Thin Planet, I won’t be joining you today. Or next Monday. Or in January. Or Ever.

If you’d like to improve your health & fitness without the icky dieting and weight loss stuff being bashed over your head, you’ll love my free eBook: 6 Steps to Ditching Diets Forever. You might also like to join The Health Mindset Programme, where we focus on diet recovery, body confidence, body awareness and Intuitive Eating.

This post originally appeared on Beyond The Bathroom Scale.