"...and so I've come to the realisation that I don't want to be on a diet anymore. I don't care what size I am or how much I weigh I'm just going to be content and happy with me. I'm just going to eat what I want, wear what I want and be grateful for exactly who I am..." put your hand up if you've read something along those lines lately?
They're well meaning words, souls sharing a decision that's a really bloody difficult one. Whilst they're well meaning, they're pretty damaging too. It gives the impression that there's a switch we can flick. That at the drop of a hat we can alter our thought patterns, our life long beliefs and the value we have for ourselves.
We'll often find that those words have come from someone who a couple of weeks or months down the line is sharing the new diet they're embarking on. The new exercise regime they're so excited about. They've even bought a new gym kit and started on a Sunday, unable to wait until the traditional Start Again Monday to roll around. I'm all for sharing sharing sharing, I'm a total over sharer myself, but as consumers of content we need to be mindful of how we interpret what is being shared.
Let's take a step back a moment and picture a thirty-ish woman - my average reader age and gender. She's dieted for as long as she can remember, poked and prodded herself in the mirror daily, no, hourly - since before her body began considering puberty. She's sat on her bedroom floor in tears over feeling too fat, too boney, too ugly, too UGH in ALL of the outfits she has in her wardrobe. She's avoided the mirror after showers, tucked up in a towel, hair carefully wrapped on top of her head, not daring to even catch the tiniest glance of the soft, blotchy skin from a hot shower.
As a child and teen she'd pull at her swimsuit before swimming lessons, desperately trying to cover those parts, something she still does to this day. She knows how to avoid the look of disapproval from her mum or older sister or whomever it maybe as she reaches for that second slice of cake - it doesn't make a difference though, she still feels the disapproval right down to her very core.
She's gotten in from work and headed straight for the fridge or kitchen cupboards nearly every day and just stuffed whatever she could find into her mouth, left over cake, left over pizza, left over three day old plain cooked pasta. She's popped into the shop on her way back from meeting friends guiltily justifying why she deserves a treat. Justifying any food that passes her lips. She's celebrated her wins and her losses with food, she's counted the calories, logged it on this app and that spreadsheet. She's tortured her body the next day desperately trying to burn off that bloody chocolate bar, okay three, that in her mind she's decided she really didn't need.
She's looked longingly at friend's plates piled high at dinner parties, desperately avoided anything but fizzy water at the Christmas Do so as not to un-do all of her "hard work". She's cancelled on dates because she felt too bloated, too fat, too blah. Tears have silently rolled down her cheeks as she looked in the mirror in the changing rooms of her favourite high street shop unable to JUST.CLOSE.THAT.BUTTON, breathing in as much as possible, pointing her hips forwards, her tummy backwards, on tip toes, jaw clenched.
Every family celebration, Birthdays, Christmas, Easter, god, even Funerals bring an added layer of anxiety. There will be food - she's going to be "good" but what if she can't? What if she just needs to try everything. What if she hears others say "no wonder she's so big", a phrase she herself has coined, a phrase she's never heard anyone utter and yet feels sure they do.
A life time of food stories, a life time of thought patterns and behaviours acted out over and over again. Our mind knows these patterns, it feels safe within these four walls of food stories played out time and time again. It knows it can't get hurt, yes there may be other ways, but it doesn't know what could happen if we try something different, so it prefers to revert back to what it knows. This is why we can't just turn off those stories. There's no switch to flick. No sudden decision that can undo a lifetime of the complicated, tangled web of food stories we each have inside of us. This is why those captions are damaging because we can perceive it as being that easy, and when it's not, we beat ourselves up about "falling off the bandwagon", for not having enough willpower, for not being strong enough. Healing eating and food relationships has nothing to do with willpower.
To find neutrality with eating and food it takes lots of work, it takes time and patience, love, a whole lot of soul searching and heaps of understanding and compassion for oneself. I'm not saying that you need to work with a coach like myself, not necessarily. I am saying that it takes time, a lot of time. It's about finding the right content for you, understanding yourself, your mind and why you eat the way you do. This can be done via books, courses, coaching sessions, podcasts, following certain people online and watching documentaries.
So much influences our lives, now more so than ever, please don't let the illusion that others can simply switch off their feelings, addiction and cravings with a click of their fingers fool you. It takes so much more than that.