Why I’m Done with Diets. My entire life has been focused around dieting. Every photo I look at, I can tell you how much I weighed and what diet I was on.
It recently occurred to me that the “always dieting” trend has been unintentionally engrained in me since birth. In a recent conversation with my 88-year-old grandmother she told me that she needed to go on a diet and lose some weight. Really, that’s what your worrying about at 88?! It struck me I’ve been having that same conversation with her my entire life. What’s more is that it was the same conversation I have been having with others my entire life; usually the first thing I talk about before getting into anything of real substance. I knew then that I didn’t want to be old and grey and still dieting – something needed to change.
Nowadays there is a strong movement for body acceptance, particularly in women. Plus-sized models are increasingly common in magazines and on runways. Having three young girls and having struggled with my own body issues, I fully embrace and applaud this movement and the desire to teach and live a healthy lifestyle. However, as I continually struggle to take off these last 10 pounds so I can get back to my college weight (a number on the scale I was obsessed with) it occurred to me that while I was preaching body acceptance, I wasn’t actually hearing the words and applying them to myself.
My Diet Consumed Life
Growing up, diets were a constant topic of conversation in my household. Being a child of the 80s and 90s, I was surrounded with endless diets fads, fat loss pills, fake potato chips (hello Olestra and the bathroom!) and a barrage of exercise tapes and workout gear. I even had a Thigh Master when I was 11, the Ab Rocker came soon after.
In high school I was at my heaviest. At one point I tipped the scale from overweight to obese. High school sucks as it is and I’m just grateful that I didn’t have social media to further bring down my ego. But I did lose the weight. Come senior year I proceeded to diet the commercialized way: Slim Fast. With my twice-a-day meal replacements, a full-time job, and caffeine pills, and the pounds came off like crazy. I was able to drop 70 pounds in less than a year. Looking back was it healthy, no. Was it safe, hell no. Would I ever want my kids to follow this madness, not in a million years!
In college and grad school, I went through a plethora of diets which all seemed catapulted by some life event. Going on a trip with friends to Mexico, can’t eat over 1,000 calories a day for a month until then! Graduating college, need to do a week-long detox so I can look my best. Heck, I even passed out while giving a presentation in grad school after going on an extreme no-carb diet.
The Wedding Period
I met my husband in my late twenties and things seemed to settle. Being in love can make you forget about the other things in your life and focus on what’s at hand. We ate, we drank, and you know what, I gained five pounds and didn’t give a damn.
And of course, come my wedding in my late twenties, I did the same thing that every bride seems to do and was determined to be picture perfect on my wedding day. In my mind, that meant I needed to be as thin as possible. Why? I already had the guy and he loved me for me, so why diet? Nevertheless, I threw myself into a grueling six-month dieting body prep that included restricted calories and lots of Bikram Yoga.
Dieting in my 30s
But the diet race end was near, right? In my mind, the wedding was supposed to be the last time I obsessed about dieting. I readily looked forward to the next chapter in my life of settling down and being happily married. So, when I got pregnant six months later, I blissfully ate whatever I wanted adding in healthy foods and exercise for good measure. That landed me into gaining 50 pounds and having my OBGYN inform me that I needed to watch what I ate or it would never come off after birth… ugh.
Since then I’ve had two more daughters and voluntarily enlisted in another 32,569 different diets! Personally, I just wanted the answer. What the hell should I be eating!? I became fixated on Netflix documentaries and diet books, trying to find the solution. Vegan says meat is bad, keto says meat is good. Processed food is bad but ok in moderation? I even read a book telling me not to eat beans!
I tried them all: keto, intermittent fasting where I starved sixteen hours a day (that was rough!), rigidly counting calories, vegan, modified Atkins, even the old South Beach Diet. And you know what, they all worked, for a while. But soon I realized that every time I sat down to eat my “special diet” dinner with my three daughters (or not eat at all when I was fasting), I was doing more harm than good. I was setting an awful example about restrictive eating and leading them to become diet obsessed like I have been all my life. It was a “do as I say and not as I do” moment. Teaching them to be body positive and eat healthy balanced foods, while I was restricting my diet and only eating what the latest diet trend allowed.
Done with Diets!
So, at 37 years old, I am done with diets. No more pills, no more fads, no more shakes, and no more food documentaries. People may tell me that I’m being naive now in not wanting to know the nitty gritty details of the foods I eat, but I don’t care. I’m going old school back to the (now revised) food pyramid and eating lots of fruits and veggies, and lesser amounts of protein, dairy, and grains. I will not spend my time trying to figure out the calories of every morsel I eat so I can plug it into my app. I will not make special meals for myself so I can adhere to what my diet is telling me. And I will not talk about my latest diet to my grandchildren when I’m old and grey.
Food is delicious, nutritious, provides sustenance, and should be enjoyed. Be balanced, be healthy, everything in moderation. Be strong. Exercise for your health and mind. That’s what I want my kids to know and that’s the real-life example I’m going to set for them.
Bio: Angela Allison is a wife and mother of three little girls ages 3, 4, and 6. She works from home and publishes the blog This Delicious House that focuses on easy make-ahead meals (a mix of healthy and decadent) and party planning. She is a lover of enjoying the deliciousness in life and all things in moderation.