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You Can Keep Your Willpower, Because I’m Not Dieting!

I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with diets, so much so that the mere mention of the word makes me wince. I admit I struggle reading through various materials when the word diet is mentioned. A healthy regimen of a variety of food choices and moderation is NOT the first thing that comes to mind. Rather a long history of being on restrictive regimens where one has to stand up in front of people admitting one’s ‘shame,’ checking off charts, eating insipid foods, counting calories or exchanges, points, etc., and weighing oneself on a weekly basis to the approval or disapproval of a stranger serving as an arbiter. And that’s what most people seek out when we speak about dieting.

As a child, my mother put me on all manner of these kinds of ‘diets’ in order to get me to lose weight. I guess she couldn’t really understand why I was gaining weight… so these were some of her more desperate attempts to deal with the situation, but they were also some of the darkest moments of my childhood. The fact is, as parents *we* are responsible for controlling the food supply at home, and what we feed our children. We are the ones responsible for teaching children how to make balanced meal choices, and learn to eat their vegetables. But my mother didn’t do any of those things for me. She didn’t realize that the choices available to me were all in her power. What could she have taught me, if she had nothing to teach? Diets don’t teach anyone anything – rather they keep people in a perpetual state of dependency on this artificially created structure.

So I have some very vague memories as to how I began binge eating… I remember moments of my childhood when I was underweight, and my mother would force feed me more than what I wanted. Far more than what I needed. I remember feeling incredibly sick and begging to stop from being force-fed. I remember the feelings of abandonment when she went back to work and would leave me with her smoking, alcoholic adoptive mother. I remember eating for self soothing, for comfort, and for company.

So mom would put me on these crazy diets – anything from a beet juice diet, to a diet where I had to drink some weird powder mix and straight lime juice in the morning, to other mainstream ones. But it was always the same – ‘You just don’t have enough willpower. If you really wanted it, you’d lose weight.’

Willpower – that other word that makes me cringe. We live under these illusions of diets and willpower. We somehow think that the habits ingrained in us since infancy by nurturing parents can be just changed by wishing them away; by mindlessly pushing rules on ourselves. But food can become a complicated relationship for us human beings. We cannot and should not treat how we eat as a thoughtless exercise.

Changing ‘diets’ is not really about the in and the out of some calories– but rather about changing the entire lens we use to look at food; the why we eat it, and how it makes us feel. It is about engaging in self-exploratory exercises where we learn those baby steps we never had, or perhaps have forgotten. Learning to eat vegetables and enjoying their flavor; learning to appreciate water; learning to move our bodies. These are not things we should do out of any willpower or strict structure… but because we want to acquire a taste for them, to enjoy them, and give ourselves the chance to experience things we’ve never allowed ourselves to experience before.

What is it like to give myself love with refreshing water, instead of soda? With a walk around the block that puts oxygen in my lungs, instead of potato chips that make me feel loggy? Have you ever really taken the time to slowly taste your food, and appreciate it? Or discover it? Experience it? Have you stopped to really see that it doesn’t feel good to eat too much?

Knowing ourselves… it’s what it’s all about, and it’s never too late.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.