About to Go on a Diet? You Need to Read This First.

I’m very pro-food.


For 15 years, I tried to pretend I wasn’t obsessed with food. But that was a lie. Anyone who dramatically restricts calories for a few years, then spends a couple years eating as many calories as she can shove in her mouth, has made food into a god.


My entire existence revolved around food, whether it be the behavior or not eating food or the activity of eating all the food, So while it’s safe to say I’ve been “pro-food” for a very, very long time, I wasn’t pro-food in a healthy, loving way.


Back in 2015, I finally realized I couldn’t hide from my food obsession any longer. Since I can’t seem to get away from food (or control it in the way I want), I thought, maybe I should just go with the flow.


What would my life look like if I just accepted the fact that I love to eat food, and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that?


The short-and-sweet version of this story is that my life magically became 70% easier, brighter, and more fulfilling once I made that choice.


I didn’t gain a bunch of weight, like I feared. (In fact, I actually lost weight.) I slept better. I stopped bingeing because I didn’t feel deprived. I enjoyed social outings where French fries and craft burgers were involved, and they weren’t followed by guilt- or shame-induced behaviors.


I was thrilled to share my newfound freedom with the world. I wanted anyone who struggled with emotional eating or other disordered eating habits to know that food is not the enemy. You don’t have to eat chicken and broccoli every day, or go on a lemon juice fast right before beach season, or say sayonara to pasta.


You can eat fun things. You can enjoy your life. Your body can be trusted.


I took to my blog, to write about the struggles I’d faced and the solutions I’d found. When I became a certified life coach through JRNI, I even developed my entire brand around the name “Eat the Damn Cookie,” with the tagline “Love Food. Love Life.” I was on a mission to destroy the diet police, to rescue those held imprisoned by a fear of carbs and yummy things.


I stayed in this happy place for a little over 2 years. Then I got distracted.


I decided to go on a diet.


To clarify, I did not call it a diet. It was known as a cut because I was going about it strategically. I wasn’t simply cutting calories to lose weight; I wanted to maintain my lean muscle and lose body fat. So I worked out the most appropriate ratio of carbs to fat to protein that would enable me to achieve this.


I tried to tell myself I was doing this for the right reasons. A lower body fat percentage would help my performance in CrossFit. A little bit more definition would help me feel more confident as summer got longer and clothes got shorter.


And while these healthy motivations were valid, I wonder how much of my decision was caused by the impending sense of doom I always feel when swimsuit season is right around the corner.


During the first 3 weeks of my cut, I proved to myself that I had been successful in healing myself from my past eating disorder, simply by the fact that I did not binge. I was sorely hungry, but I managed it well and did not resort back to old thought patterns.


I was trying to maximize the amount of mastication I could engage in each day (after all, we already established that I love to eat) so I shied away from calorie-dense foods (ice cream, jasmine rice, pizza, protein bars, all the fun stuff I had deprived myself of years ago) and focused on vegetables, protein sources, and cauliflower rice.


By week 4, I was bored. Naturally.


And that’s when the thunder clouds arrived.


I found myself standing in the kitchen after work one day with a pint of Halo Top in my hands. I took a bite, and the next thing I knew, all the frozen stuff was in my stomach, the empty carton in the trash can.


What just happened? Did I just binge?


That blissful, unfettered ingestion of protein ice cream satisfied my cravings for the rest of the night — I didn’t spiral into “fuck-it” mode and sneak away to find more sugary goodies to eat — but the next day I was still antsy, depressed, and anxious about my cut.


I continued on with it for another week and a half, despite the gnawing feeling that I was stepping into quicksand. By that point I had lost a few pounds, and I felt pretty tiny. Someone told me my legs looked more toned. My clothes were baggy in all the right places. I saw a few lines in my shoulders and abs that hadn’t been there before. I tried on a swimsuit and thought (for the first time in 26 years), Hell yeah. I actually can’t wait to wear this to the pool.


But I was barely hanging on the edge. I was food-obsessed again, and not in the healthy way.


And even though all those “positive,” externally-validating things were happening to me, things that should have justified the misery of my cut and improved my body image beyond reproach, I still had body image issues.


And when I came face to face with this — the realization that I was starving myself for a cause that didn’t magically fix all of my insecurities — suddenly I didn’t care about body fat percentage anymore. I didn’t give a shit about feeling lean enough to work out in just a sports bra. I gave absolutely zero fucks about what the scale said, if so-and-so thought my legs looked better, if my clothes fit loosely, or if my shoulders had striations.


I just wanted to be able to eat.


At this moment, I knew I had to end my cut. It was earlier than I’d originally planned, but I also knew that I didn’t care about self-control and commitment anymore — and if no fucks were given, nothing would stop me from inhaling an entire pizza on the way home from work.


Would I rather be lean, or eat ice cream?


The answer to that was a resolute “Take me to Baskin Robbins and leave me alone for an hour.”


The life I had to live, just to lose a little bit of body fat, was absolutely not worth it.


Would I rather work on my body image on a full stomach, or while fighting an eating disorder on top of it?


So I abandoned my cut.


I stopped logging into MyFitnessPal.


I decided, once again, to go with the flow, to listen to my body.


I still eat lots of vegetables, but I also eat Rice Krispies Treats and real ice cream. The shoulder striations are retreating back into hiding, but I don’t mind as much, because I know that there is jasmine rice in my lunch bowl and caramel ice cream in the freezer at home.


For me, right now, a scoop of ice cream every night or two is more important than being shredded. A spoonful of that gooey madness contributes more to my emotional well-being than having visible abdominal muscles. And I have a feeling it will be that way for a long time. Maybe forever.


So that’s why I’m swearing off of dieting.


Of course, things change. Maybe 5 years down the road I will want to try again. But today, I’m taking my own advice (again) to “eat the damn cookie.”


To love food, and in turn, to love life.


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