You’ve bought the book, read it cover to cover, got pumped up, trashed everything in your fridge, filled it with your new special foods, followed the meal plans to a T, kept a list of the rules and OK/Totally Not OK food lists on your fridge, ignored the callings of your favorite and now-forbidden foods, and you even lost weight!
This is the part no diet book wants to talk about. This is where many people come off of their high—the high of having a purpose (aka losing weight, not eating), direction, goals, and the giddy excitement of fitting into new or old clothes. After riding on the clouds of complements, inches and pounds disappearing, and ketones burning, your chariot finally lands. Bummer.
From the media surrounding us (take your pick of digital or print sources), the message is that we’re always going to have to be on a diet. We’re never going to get to the point post-diet where we get to live again without rules either in the forefront or camping out in the back of our minds. There will always be ten more, five more, one more to go. One reason is because most diets are not sustainable. They focus on restriction, blame you for a lack of willpower, and lead to cravings and binges. They are a never ending cycle and once you jump in, it’s hard to break out. The diet industry is counting on us buying into the lie that we are never good enough and that we should never and will never be content. Another, and I think an equally if not more fundamental reason, is that I don’t think we know what to do after the diet is over.
Have you thought of what happens when you don’t need or want to lose any more weight? What happens when you hit that magical number you have in lipstick on your mirror, or when those jeans from high school fit like a glove? What then? Will you have arrived? Will your purpose be fulfilled? Will you now be able to pick up where you left off and no longer worry about food, weight, or exercise again?
For many of us, this is the fantasy that keeps us acting insane, addicted to and dependent on diets or at least a diet mentality.
The truth is that no weight, pair of pants, or dramatically restrictive diet will make you special, fulfilled, satisfied, content, beautiful…or happy. It won’t fix your marriage, take away your anxiety, pay the bills. And it won’t last long as a phony purpose.
If we expect weight loss to do these things, it makes sense that we keep dieting. It makes total sense that we hold on to something that seems to bring temporary happiness even though it also brings a host of trouble with it. It’s harder to examine our lives and think about changing careers (too risky), going to counseling (too vulnerable), or pursuing our dreams (too scary).
But look at what we’re risking if we don’t.
For kicks, let’s say that there is no diet, no self-hatred or disgust with my body, no mother, coworker, or marketer to suggest that I need to lose weight, no ignoring of body cues that I am full or stressed or tired or in need of TLC, none of it! Let’s also say that I look into the nitty gritty of my heart and life and decide to take risks, be vulnerable, and overcome my fears. Let’s say that this is the hardest thing I’ll do. It’s harder than dieting, but the rewards far surpass any that diets can claim—rewards of peace and joy.
The choice is clear to me, but it’s one each of us has to make for ourselves. A life of dieting or a life of freedom.
What did you or are you dreaming about your life “after the diet”? What are you hoping to feel or do? What is keeping you from feeling or doing that now?