The first of January, every year for 25 years was not a day of celebration for me. It was a day when I had to face up to the fact that I had not managed my weight this year – again. It was a day when I heaved a sigh of annoyance at first and as the years went on the sighs turned to resignation and then despair as I realised it was again time to look for another diet. Another restrictive and punishing regime which, fingers crossed, would work this time. An externally created, internally driven life-style change which would result in life-long weight loss and the ability to sail serenely into the future without saddle-bags, thunder-thighs, bingo-wings and without looking 6 months pregnant.
No, the first of January was not a good day for me.
The beginning of the calendar year is traditionally the day on which we re-set ourselves. We acknowledge that we may have been a binge-eating, slothful backslider for several months towards the end of the year as the winter weather caused us to huddle up in big warm jumpers and we needed to drink hot chocolate and eat jacket potatoes swimming with butter and cheese and we just couldn’t get to the gym on all those cold dark winter nights and we knew … we knew that come January the first, all that would be taken firmly in hand again. It was a routine I went through year after year. The Last Supper would take place as I finished up all the foods which my latest diet forbade and which I would henceforth never allow fridge-room and never allow to pass my lips again. I would pin up an inspirational photo of myself taken before I started dieting, looking lithe and carefree in a bikini, so that I knew what I were aiming for. The less inhibited amongst us (ie not me) would join the diet club, hook up with a diet-buddy who would be there to snatch the biscuit from our wavering hands and we would fill our fridges with carrot and celery sticks to divert us from cravings for chocolate biscuits.
The first of January was when it started all over again.
What gets me about this is how long it went on for. TWENTY FIVE YEARS. That was over a quarter of my life spent believing that I was at fault, that I was weak, that I was disgusting because I couldn’t control myself, that all I had to do was stick to the diet and all my problems would be magically resolved. I bought absolutely into the myth that thin equals happy, that thin equals successful, that thin equals attractive. And because I wasn’t thin, I couldn’t be happy, successful or attractive. But dieting could make me thin and then I’d get all those other things, guaranteed.
If only I’d known then what I know now ….
So what do I know now?
I know that dieting actually causes weight gain. It’s totally the other way round from what I once thought. I know that making resolutions to lose weight results in me unhappily and furtively eating more than I need and actually gaining weight. The opposite of what I once thought is actually true. I also know that it is the diet which fails, not the dieter. The diet is inevitably doomed to fail and will take the dieter down with it. It is the opposite of what the diet companies would have us believe – their diets are at fault, not us. It is biologically impossible for the majority of us to diet 24/7 every day of every year for the rest of our lives. Our bodies will ensure that we fall off the diet wagon sooner or later because the diet is not a sustainable way to live or eat – and the diet companies will ensure that we blame ourselves for our disgusting lack of will-power. Many diet companies boast about their returning members ffs! If their diets worked, there would only ever be new members … no-one would ever need to come back.
I know now that there is something which works. It’s called Beyond Chocolate. I discovered it one January while looking for my next diet. I had reached the point at which I was despairing of ever keeping the weight off for good and I was not looking forward to starting over with a new set of rules and having to learn a new list of things I could/n’t eat etc. In fact, I was feeling quite sick and miserable at the thought. And suddenly there was another way forward, like a rainbow pointing out a pot of gold. I found out that there is another way and that I need never reach the first of January and despair ever again.
So, the first of January 2016 is hurtling towards me and I am quite happy about that. It is the start of another year, but not the start of another failure. I will not be looking for a diet of any description at all, regardless of who promotes it or how successful it is alleged to be. I probably won’t make any kind of resolution at all since I tend to forget what they were by the end of the first week in January anyway. The only thing I need to remember as the year turns is that I have had a great year working on my own relationship with food and my body and that it has not been in any way a wasted year. I have learned a lot and enjoyed a lot and will go forward into 2016 with curiosity and kindness and certainty that I will go on growing and learning and refining my relationship with food and my body. I also know for sure that this community will be beside me every step of the way.