Sometimes it’s hard to stay positive about my choice to abandon dieting. The past couple of weeks, I’ve had midterms to study for and a major project to complete, things that turn me into a bundle of stress and trigger the perfectionist in me to go into hyperdrive. I struggle a lot with the need to be perfect – a major recurring theme of my past four years of therapy has been the struggle to accept myself as good enough, to embrace and reveal my authentic self instead of hiding behind a faux-perfect false self.
So when it comes to mainstream diet culture and the societally-embraced notions of diet and exercise, of what a woman’s body is supposed to look like, of the requirement to self-flagellate when we “fail” at dieting, of the equation of thinness with health — it’s awfully hard to choose to reject these; because even though I believe I’m making the best decisions for my body and my (physical, mental, and emotional) health, I worry that to everyone else, it looks like I’m failing. I worry that people will see me and think, She REALLY shouldn’t wear those pants. Or I can’t believe she just ordered french fries, when she looks like that. Or I hope I never get that way.
Success at dieting — even though it’s statistically elusive, temporary, and unhealthy — is at least visible. Success at rejecting diet culture — I’m not sure it looks like anything. Sometimes — like now, when my need for perfection is going full-speed-ahead — I want success others can see.
In our culture, people give compliments for losing weight. People do not give compliments for having a great self-image.
Right now, I’m feeling surrounded by reminders that I’m “doing it wrong.” This morning, a well-meaning friend added me to a Facebook group for “healthy moms”; I clicked through to find a lot of women criticizing themselves for not sticking to their eating plans, or not making time to do their daily 100 crunches, or caving in and having a snack after the kids were in bed. I immediately went abort abort abort! and closed the page, but I’ve been thinking about it all day, and I’m feeling pretty vulnerable to these sorts of messages right now.
A lot of this vulnerability right now is because I haven’t been making time for good self-care this week. I spent eight hours sitting in a booth at Panera yesterday, drinking too much coffee and pounding away at a research paper, while my husband and kids were out at the park, enjoying the first glimmers of spring. I’ve been staying up too late studying and worrying about making an A+, I’ve stopped making time for exercising, I’m letting myself eat food I’m not hungry for to medicate my crabbiness instead of dealing with the things that are making me crabby and stressed.
So I’m taking time, right now, to do some things just for me. I’m going to re-watch the body-positive Emma Thompson video that Fat Heffalump posted this morning. I’m going to turn on Adele and dance around the living room. I’m going to set my homework aside and snuggle with my boys. I’m going to eat a grapefruit, which is sounding amazing to me right now.
And if all of that doesn’t work, I’m going to re-post this tweet from @sween on the “healthy moms” facebook page: