There are many terms for it; I choose to say that I am a reformed dieter. This means I no longer embark on diets or join programs designed for weight loss. My reasons for this are many and my decision making process may be helpful to some; so from time to time I write about those aspects of my personal journey in my blog, Tasty Morsels. But today I am writing about something else.
As I review my futile quest to find the perfect weight loss technique, I see a road littered with detritus from countless attempts at a variety of programs. Some more renown than others, I have left in my wake a trail of Jenny Craig bar graphs, Weight Watchers Lifetime key rings, and Atkin’s dip sticks; all tangible proof of my countless endeavors to lose weight in order to be happy.
There are many common themes embedded in each pit stop on my way to “diet cessation” but one of the most irritating is how I perceived my successes and failures. Each time I lost weight, I sang the praises of the diet. “I love the South Beach; Grapefruits are the shot, me and Jenny forever!” And each time I inevitably gained the weight back, I would wail the dirge of self-hate, “I am a failure.”
All of the credit went to someone else and all of the blame went to me.
It is a double standard I can no longer accept.
Writing about low self-esteem as a component of body dissatisfaction and serial dieting is nothing new. There are few, if any, Weary Weight Warriors who hate their body AND have a healthy self-esteem. Body dissatisfaction is not created in a vacuum and is usually the result of someone being told that something is wrong with them. If someone feels they need to lose weight in order to be loved by someone else, they are most likely going to feel unworthy in other arenas as well.
Because the motivation to lose weight is usually extrinsically foisted upon us and then externally reinforced by the diet industry selling the solution, we can understand the ease with which we give credit to the Stillmans and the Jennys. We feel flawed so how can it NOT be our fault if we can’t fix the problem by using these undisputed efficacious diets? Placing the blame on ourselves instead of on the failure of the diet is part of the cycle of self hate that is inherent in using restrictive dieting as a solution to weight management, eating disorders and fighting the so-called war against obesity. The proponents of diet programs are counting on the self-hate that they have helped to create, to fuel our appetites for trying the latest fad diet and Jennifer Hudson-esque intervention.
Breaking the self hate cycle is no easy task. Ask any fellow salmon swimming upstream and the ones that make it will tell you it takes perseverance and motivation. But the motivation MUST be intrinsic. The choice to engage in a health based lifestyle instead of a weight based one must start from within and be fueled from within; not to please anyone else, not to live up to someone else’s expectation and NOT to be measured by any scale or tape measure. And guess what? Because there is no double standard, the credit and kudos for maintaining these lifestyle changes may just be able to swim, with abandon, in a new direction…inward.