Non Diet? Freedom from dieting? That was a joke - until my self esteem lesson changed that. But until then I was constantly on some or other diet. I was constantly hopping on a scale and fearing the result.
But I remember clearly the day in 1991 when it dawned on me that I was a diet-aholic, and that despite all my desperate dieting, I'd only succeeded in getting fatter. On that day it was as if a lightbulb came on somewhere and here was my self esteem lesson: I realized it was less destructive to be fat than to be constantly yo-yo dieting and hating myself.
I realized I had to be free from dieting. I had to go the non diet route! But how?
To download a free sample chapter that gives you a brief outline of my story from the Mind over Fatter programme (it does require an Adobe reader) right click on the 'Download your free sample here' and from the menu select 'save as.
This self esteem lesson was a defining moment in my life because it was the start of my non diet journey. I never for one moment realized quite how life-changing this would be.
In many ways, going the nondiet route was like taking life as I knew it and turning it upside down and inside out and changing every rule I'd lived by for years.
Up until now - I had belonged to a group of people who only felt safe and in control when we had some plan telling us what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. All I could focus on was:
Choosing a non diet self esteem lesson I had to learn was completely opposite to all these things.
That’s where all my life’s energy was focussed, and I’d never noticed it before. What a ridiculous waste of a wonderful life!
For years I'd believed I was powerless against fat and food. I'd used diets to give me the illusion of happiness and of being in control. Any time anyone commented that I'd lost weight, I had a pleasure rush that hooked me.
With the help of all my yo-yo dieting, I’d lost my sense of self, my drive, my passion and my purpose. My non diet journey which revolved mainly about rebuilding my self esteem would land up leading me back to all these things! Yay!
On that day, I vowed to listen to - and trust - my body to tell me what it needed. It was scary, but it was also liberating, challenging, exciting and empowering.
As my self esteem lesson and growth continued I discovered I had several kinds of hunger, and that most of the time I was eating for imposter hungers. I needed to work out what emotional issues were 'eating me', and to feed these non-body hungers in other ways.
When I let go of food, it let go of me. The process of connecting to my inner wisdom was empowering. The journey ironically landed up helping me feel as if I was in control, rather than that food was controlling me.
Who would ever have believed that? It was such a miracle!!! Incredibly, food became a source of pleasure rather than pain and shame. Everything I'd believed about dieting was turning out to be false. My biggest self esteem lesson was that I had to give up on the idea of losing weight. I decided to focus on gaining emotional and physical health. So, imagine my amazement, when, without even trying to always frantically lose weight quickly, my body did gradually slim down. And when I found ways to enjoy exercise it also became more toned.
And no, as you can see from this photo, my body isn't the insurance ideal, or any other goal weight - it's just the size my body stays at comfortably without effort. I have no idea what I weigh - along with ditching diets, I ditched my scale a long time ago.
Whatever my weight is, it's a weight at which I: feel healthy, have loads of energy and feel at home in my own skin.
Self esteem lessons from research
In their book, ‘When Women stop hating their bodies’, Hirchmann and Munter discuss research with 87 'obese' women who took part in 10 group sessions and focussed on:
• eating for hunger instead of restrictive dieting;
• body-acceptance regardless of size;
• and coping mechanisms for handling emotional distress.
While there were only relatively small weight losses, there were significant improvements in eating attitudes, body image, self-image, depression and self-esteem which were maintained at the two-year follow up when more weight had also been shed.
Participants answered ‘very true’ to a questionnaire before and after (the 'after 2 years figures are in brackets) following this non-diet approach:
My weight fluctuates: 34% (18%...a 16% improvement)
I feel controlled by food: 73% (27%...a 46% improvement)
I eat when not hungry: 84% (32%...a 52% improvement)
I’m ashamed of my eating habits: 70% (25%...a 50% improvement)