“If diets worked, we’d all be thin already.”—Sandra Aamodt, neuroscientist and science writer
Several years ago my friend Janelle and I were having another late night work conversation, long after we should have gone home but for the crushing workload. We were lamenting our weight and body conditions. This gorgeous, 5-foot, dark haired beauty who looked pretty tiny to me uttered a phrase that captured my 40 years of searching for the perfect body. “Vicky, I’ve been looking for the zipper to the fat suit all my life too.”
Wham! Just like that, one simple sentence struck my soul center like lightening. All my years of dieting, exercising, self-loathing, success on some programs, epic weight swings were summed up in one thought. If only I could find that zipper…
As I look at old black and white photos, I see a normal size 7-year-old kid with a pixie haircut, deep dimples and sparkling eyes. It would be convenient and fashionable to blame my mom (and Dad) for my early weight issues. Dad was a man short on words of love, but knew how to share his affection through cakes, cookies and Trevalino Bakery’s jelly doughnuts. He worked the night shift at the paper mill and brought me treats to discover in his lunch box each morning. Even now Henry’s Hostess fruit pies whisper love to me though he is gone.
As I approached puberty, my Mom worried I was getting plump. I overheard her tell my dad to stop bringing me treats. She started monitoring my snacking, calling out from our living room, “Tory, what are you getting?” as I rummaged for evening munchies. She suggested I eat a piece of fruit when her delicious pies, chips and Dad’s booty sat on the counter. So I learned the art of sneak eating, stashing forbidden loot stuffed under my shirt as I made a beeline for my room, waving an apple in my hand as I hustled by Mom.
But I won’t blame my mom.
She experienced her own weight issues throughout her life. Just as Dad showed me lunchbox love, Mom showed me love through misguided efforts to control weight through restricted eating. She did not want me to go through the ups and downs of chasing thinness, mean comments and rejection from shallow teenage boys. Mom held her own tears in check when I came home from high school bullied by the mean girls for my weight and size 16 fat clothes, letting me know these girls were not my friends. When I sobbed for the lack of prom dates and boyfriends, she told me in no uncertain terms that there would be someone who would love me one day for the inside of me, which was even more beautiful than the outside of me. So no, you get a big pass Mom. Your pure love and support for me far outweigh those early attempts to steer me to a different body shape through dieting.
Even so, I’ve been seeking THE PROGRAM that would work since I was 16. Atkins, Tops, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Sugar Busters, The Metabolism Miracle, The Six Week Body Makeover, The 100, Happy Hormones Slim Belly, a personal weight loss coach, Wheat Belly. Even spiritual practices on weight loss. Just reciting this list makes me realize how much I relied on “experts” to have the magic cure.
The plain truth is, I do know how to treat my body with respect. To feed it the nutrients it prefers to run all systems in tip top shape. And that isn’t regular helpings of sweets, chips and ice cream. Nor too much of the “acceptable” carbs like whole grain breads, pasta and fruit. Rice is just fine as are most protein sources. Cheeses are good so are nuts. Sugar in small doses is OK. Unbelievable but me, the die-hard, Starbucks-five-sweet ‘n low in-a-venti-cup-girl has gone cold turkey on sugar in my coffee. That was a defining moment for me.
Perhaps that’s really the tab of the zipper. Appreciating the wisdom of my body to guide me to better food choices, efficiently using the fuel I give it. Packing away my weight loss books, unsubscribing from the myriad dieting emails and visiting the scale much less. Relying instead on my clothes as evidence for living healthy and eating well.
I declare with moxy, “NO MORE DIETING!” I am rewiring my brain and habits to enjoy life without the constant self-judging undercurrent over what I put in my mouth. Really listening to my inner guidance as I plan meals, enjoy my food. Feeling exhilarated as I hike three-four miles with puppy Miles, climbing hills arms pumping. I have so much more mental room now to start a new writing piece, make new friends and explore the wonders of Bawlmer.
My self-love thoughts are a work in progress as I catch my reflection, noticing my beautiful smile, gorgeous hair and perky stance. Little by little, I am choosing to tell myself “You are pretty, joyful, fun! You’re a person I want to play with.”
So that fat suit? It’s going in the trash, along with the rest of the old ideas that no longer serve me. Thank you Janelle, for changing my life.
Glinda Recommends: For a wonderful TED Talk on Why Dieting Doesn’t Usually Work, check out Sandra Aamodt’s talk from June 2013. You may just change your own life and those of your children.
The brilliant book, Body of Truth by Harriet Brown presents fact based research on how the medical profession and big pharma are complicit on keeping the myths of obesity about weight and health.