Tag Archives: struggle

The Diet Temptation

Dieting is tempting. It provides a linear path to a simply defined goal, and clearly set rules and guidelines that can get you there.  “Good” and “Bad” are suddenly black and white, and there’s no room for speculation or doubt.  You can let go; you don’t have to think or decide, you can put all your faith in these rules and follow them blindly. And everyone will admire you along the way, people will validate you and fawn over your apparent moral superiority.  Losing weight is tangible, visible, frequently reinforced and praised. (Intuitive eating, on the other hand, is none of these things – though that’s a post for another time.)

give in

I’ve been off dieting for about three years now, but that’s not to say the temptation has entirely faded away.  It comes in waves – if I’m feeling fat or ugly, if I had a bad day, if I feel like I’m not accomplishing anything, if I’m feeling lonely.  In a way, my relationship to dieting at any given moment acts as a signifier of my mood, and of how I feel about my life.

Last week, for the first time in these three years, I let myself fully succumb to the temptation – I signed up for Weight Watchers.  It felt scandalous and thrilling to just give in, to stop the fight and let dieting back into my life… to hand the reigns over to a corporation, to let them tell me how I should feel about my body and what I eat.  It was a weight off (no pun intended).

I understand why I succumbed. I’m working at a relatively demanding job I have no passion for, that is rarely rewarding, and that is hugely unappreciated. My next step career-wise is uncertain at best, mostly because I struggle with a paralyzing fear of failure.  I’m not currently doing anything that I truly value, or that maximizes my potential.  I’m single, as I’ve been for many years, and I crave support, love and connection.  On top of all this, there’s my tenuous relationship with intuitive eating and my seemingly unending struggle to truly accept my body.

OF COURSE I want a goal, something to work towards, and something that will be praised and admired. Of course I want to achieve something that society would ubiquitously validate, and that would make the process of getting dressed a little less fraught.   Losing weight would (on the most superficial of levels) make some things better.  For a while.

So I shut the door to my bedroom and, with a feeling of guilt as though I were searching for pornography, I googled “Weight Watchers.”  I quickly paid $58 for a three-month membership (it was the best deal, after all…..)

Researching point values was entertaining for a while.  Why do I ever put mayonnaise on my sandwiches? Why do I by 2% milk when skim shaves off a point? How did I eat a BEEF BRISKET sandwich for lunch and not gain ten pounds??  Points are everywhere, especially in all the wonderful local Seattle IPAs I enjoy drinking.  I might as well chug milkshakes.

At any rate, I only tried Weight Watchers for about a day, and I found it to be something of a relief that I couldn’t entirely get into it. I couldn’t find it within myself to embrace the diet mentality – it was like trying to believe in Santa Claus after someone has already proved to you he doesn’t exist.  Because he doesn’t.

The main thing I was forced to remember, which I hadn’t experienced in a long time, was the extent to which dieting dominates your thinking and limits your capacity to live.  When I was on Weight Watchers the first time around, I said “no” to everything.  I was a drag to be around, and I gave off an air of superiority when I asked waiters how much oil was used to cook a piece of fish.  Since then, I’ve become a “yes” person, and I embrace life instead of cower in fear of it.

That’s the thing about dieting…. it’s all about postponing life.  I’m not ready to postpone my life right now.

One day of dieting was more than enough, and I feel as though my faith in intuitive eating, and in the wisdom of my own body, has been partially restored.  Or at least I’ve been reminded of the disparity between the life I live now, and the life I lived while I was on a diet, and I’ve proved to myself that I really can’t go back. It would be only a band-aid anyway, and would do nothing to solve anything real in my life.

So… to tie this post together and bring it to the corniest of endings… maybe my one-day fling with Weight Watchers was worth the money, after all.

 

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Reading Geneen Roth is like reading a giant hug.  I found this quote particularly relevant after my last post on the self-torture thoughts about exercise can induce:

Exercise is a lure the way dieting is a lure.  They both hold the promise of thinness if only you stick rigidly to the “program.”  In a short time the freedom (from misery and size 16s) that exercise promises turns into the dailiness of prison bars.  No longer a matter of desire, exercise becomes a matter of necessity, an act upon which your well-being depends.

We fool ourselves if, when we give up dieting and turn to exercising, we think we have broken free.  We have in fact exchanged one kind of rigidity for another.

When you turn exercise into a “have-to” rather than a “want-to,” you take the strong and healthy part out, you take the joy out, you make it an endurance test, just another act in the long line of other grudgingly performed acts that you have to do because you have to be thin and you have to exercise to be thin.

… Appreciation of movement is learned through direct experience.  Being told “it’s good for you” isn’t good enough. If you’re causing yourself mental and physical anguish because you’re trying so hard, let it go for a while.  Or spend time sampling different kinds of movement and physical experiences. They are as varied as foods, and it is possible to find the ones that hum to you.

… I feel that the link between fitness and thinness must be cut.  If you exercise to get thin, the implication is that the way you are now is not good enough.  This engenders a slew of critical judgments that eventually lead to frustration, hopelessness and a decision to forget the whole thing. Negative judgments almost never lead to long-lasting change. If you are exercising because it makes you feel healthy now, then you are not involved in any sort of Catch-22. You are moving because you like yourself.  It is the difference between punishing yourself and taking care of who you already are.  – Geneen Roth, Breaking Free from Emotional Eating

The Lure of Exercise

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Gym Thoughts Are Relentless

 

hamster-wheel

My brain is exhausted.  I cannot stop the constant stream of thoughts both for and against exercise, shoulds and shouldn’ts, wills and won’ts… the clashing and battling seems like it will never quiet down, will never be resolved.

Do I go to the gym tonight? What would I do there? I could run on the treadmill, but I dunno, I’m feeling pretty tired and I don’t really want to do anything too intense.  I could just walk for a little bit.  But then what’s the point of that?

Well, that would be better than nothing, right? At least I would be burning some calories.

Oh, wait, I’m not supposed to be thinking in terms of weight loss or calories. I’m supposed to be exercising in ways that I enjoy, only in ways that make me feel good.  I’m supposed to listen to my body and honor it and move how it wants to move.

Okay, well how does it want to move right now?

….

I’m on the bus, I just finished a full day of work.  My eyes feel tired, they have that burning feeling right behind them that just makes them want to shut.  I ate a piece of chocolate raspberry cheesecake at work.  I feel fat now, I can’t deny that.  I feel fat and guilty and I can feel the familiar urgency to do something to combat that overindulgence, to work it off immediately, to run and run until my thighs don’t chafe anymore, till my cheeks don’t bounce and my back doesn’t have automatic folds.

But that’s impossible to do in one workout.  One workout doesn’t do shit.  So what’s the point of going tonight? If I go tonight, I’ll have to go again tomorrow and the next day and the next, and I know I’ll never keep doing that, so isn’t it all just futile to begin with? What’s the point of going at all if it’s not part of a pattern?

I know the irrationality of this.  Logically, intellectually, I know that, in order to get to a place where I can truly and totally accept my body, this is the opposite of the kind of mentality I need to have.  I shouldn’t be thinking of the future, but of the present. How would it feel today to move my body? How would it feel right now to lunge or ellipticize or walk on incline?

The thing is I find it utterly impossible to even entertain the idea of exercising without taking weight loss into consideration.  I can’t walk up a single flight of stairs without picturing my thighs slimming down, ever so microscopically, step by step.  I can’t lift a heavy box without relishing in the bicep burn.

I’m so tired of the thoughts.  They take up so much space in my brain.  Like a never-ending hamster wheel.  And I can’t help thinking… if only it were a literal hamster wheel.

At least then I’d be getting my heart rate up.

 

 

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