We all have those days (don’t we? Please tell me I’m not the only one…). The days where suddenly none of our clothes fit, when our stomachs bulge, and our upper arms take on the proportions of a Victorian cook pounding dough into submission. And speaking of dough – sometimes that’s exactly what springs to mind when we catch a glimpse of our thighs or our tummies.
Panic rises like vomit in our throats, and the only thing we can think of is to throw ourselves into another diet, to try and beat the body into submission. Because otherwise, we might eat the whole world and spill over our waistbands in a shameful show of excess: excess flesh, excess appetite.
Together with the panic comes a more insidious feeling: shame. We feel ashamed that we don’t look like the pictures in the magazines. We feel ashamed that we aren’t as slim as we used to be or could be. We feel ashamed of our bulges and rolls. We don’t want people to look at us, to touch us. We feel unworthy.
We feel as though we should be ‘in control’:
- In control of our eating.
- In control of our weight.
- In control of our bodies and ourselves.
Yet we feel anything but. We feel as though all control has been lost. Some battle we didn’t even know we were fighting has been surrendered. Part of us wants to go and eat the world in revenge, for comfort, because we may as well, if we’re fat. No point in denying ourselves now.
And yet another part wants to strap on a straitjacket so tight that we’ll never move again. It wants to start a regimen strict enough that only the tiniest morsels will pass our lips, our hips will shrink until our bones show again. The unruly flesh with be controlled. The appetite will vanish.
Somehow, inside us, we know that this straitjacket, the diets or clean-eating and the self-loathing, the need for control, is part of the issue – it’s part of the reason we’re here, hating ourselves, feeling ashamed.
There is another way. A gentler way. How about we talk about that?
When we feel fat and ashamed, it’s natural to want to punish ourselves. After all, we ate the food, so it must be our fault that we aren’t as slim as we’d like to be. And a diet is the perfect way to both punish ourselves (by depriving ourselves of what and how we’d like to eat) and to gain control (as we’re scared of how much we might eat if we allowed ourselves) and to lose the weight.
The reason we aren’t as slim as we’d like isn’t because we don’t have enough control. Its because we’ve been subjecting ourselves to TOO MUCH control. There are many many scientific studies that have shown that dietary restriction leads to excess eating, beyond the point of fullness, and beyond the body’s requirements.
The reason we aren’t as slim as we’d like is BECAUSE we’ve been punishing ourselves – depriving ourselves of what we’d like to eat.
We’ve stopped trusting ourselves, stopped trusting our bodies. And the media reinforces this. It tells us that we can’t know what to eat. We need diets, or nutritionists, or television programmes to tell us. No matter that for thousands of years before these existed we managed fine. These days, we’ve been told we can’t be relied on.
If we want to lose weight, we need to eat less than we have been. And if we’re eating less, I recommend that we enjoy every mouthful.
So the first thing to do is to wait until you’re hungry. This again might make you feel panicky. It isn’t about deprivation – this is about listening to when your body is ready for food.
And once those feelings of hunger start, then take some time to imagine what you might like to eat. Chicken salad? Or do you really want something hot? Ask yourself what would make you feel satisfied. Give yourself permission to choose.
Allow yourself food. Tell yourself that you can not only pick what you eat, but that you can take time to enjoy it too. And once you have decided what you’d like, ensure that you sit down, at a table, with a plate, and savour every mouthful. Stop occasionally and ask yourself whether you’ve had enough. It might be tempting to eat more than you want to, because part of you will be scared that a diet is about to start, and it won’t get any more food.
The problem with dieting (or clean eating plans, or whatever we call them), is that we cheat on them. We cheat on them because we don’t like the food, or we get hungry or bored. Or because something happens that means we can’t stick to them: a late meeting, a family dinner, or we’re too busy to do all the preparation required.
And when we cheat then the shame envelops us – it makes us feel as though we’ll never accomplish anything, if we can’t get through a day sticking to the plan.
So how about a new plan? We’ll talk about how to come up with a new plan next time.
You can develop your own diet plan. It takes a lot more work that reading one in a magazine or buying one from a blog. I work with my clients to develop a plan that works for each of them.
Believe it or not, you already know exactly what will work for you. It’s just been buried beneath all the ‘shoulds’ and rules and guilt.
If you’re feeling fat, the shame that accompanies this can be a terrible sensation. It extends beyond the physical and makes us feel that the whole of us is unworthy, that something is wrong with us as a person.
Dealing with these feelings is an important part of getting back to an even keel, as these feelings of self disgust can cause us to eat even more. We feel like giving up on ourselves.