I have toyed with the idea of this post for a long time. I have a lot of anxiety about either being misunderstood or judged harshly about this topic, so it was easy to put off.
In March of 2008, I gave up dieting. I had been thinking about it for about two years before that, ever since I read Geneen Roth’s Breaking Free From Emotional Eating. What I read in that book resonated loudly within me and something deep inside knew, knew that it was a message for me, but I wasn’t ready to really face the reasons behind my emotional eating.
Finally, in March of ’08, I reached my breaking point. I had been struggling with trying to diet for several months, but the pain of infertility just dumped me back in the arms of comfort binging time and time again. I was miserable, and my struggle with food was just an expression of that. I knew something had to change. I re-read the book, and decided to take the plunge. No more diets. I would be dealing with my eating problem in a different way now.
Mr. X was initially supportive, but after about a month, became very critical of my efforts (especially when I started to gain weight and I didn’t freak out about it, when I didn’t immediately run back to dieting). A huge piece of the downfall of my abusive marriage is tied to my decision to start dealing with my emotional eating, to stop dieting, to start caring for myself in tangible ways, and in my defining myself as different than Mr. X in regard to food.
I’ve talked here about my struggles with food several times. Food is a struggle for me, and comfort eating is the primary way that I’ve learned to cope, learned to survive my pain. The reason that I don’t just go back on a diet is that, for me, dieting is just the flip side of the emotional eating coin. Instead of numbing out with food and with regrets about eating, I would be numbing out by obsessing about calories and fat grams and ounces lost or gained. And what’s worse, the thing that feeds dieting for me is self-hatred. I have to loathe my body just enough to push myself into deprivation mode. This is what dieting is for me. I know it may not be that way for everyone, that’s why I don’t go on your blogs and wag my finger at you for dieting (well, that’s one of the reasons; the other is that I don’t want to be an asshole). I have some pretty fucked up ways of thinking about food and thinking about my body. If I diet, it just makes it all worse. As hard as the struggle is right now, I know that dieting would be worse. I am committed to working on my problems with food; dieting would only mask them and make them worse.
I don’t expect everyone to understand. I don’t expect everyone to think that I’m right. That’s why it took me so long to write this post.
I’d like to tell you about an experience I had last night. I was thinking about eating, about how I wanted something or the other, but feeling not hungry in the least. For some reason, I decided to challenge my “mouth hunger” and asked myself if I really wanted to eat. A quiet voice inside said, “no.” Immediately I was flooded by grief, by the very feelings that I know I’m eating to suppress. I remembered thinking, “No wonder I eat so much. I can’t feel this way all the time.”
I am hoping to learn new ways to deal with my feelings. In the meantime, I’m going to love myself as much as I can, and for me, that means not dieting.
I will leave you with a quote from the book that has had the most positive impact on me in this struggle, When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies:
Self-contempt never inspires lasting change.
For me, the only way for me to sustain a diet is to live in a constant mode of self-contempt. I refuse to do that anymore.