by Gretel Hallett, Beyond Chocolate Facilitator
I remember looking in the mirror and the words of the Bruce Springsteen song always rang in my mind –
‘I check my look in the mirror, wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face.’
To me that didn’t sound like someone who just wanted a makeover; this was the cry of someone who thought that changing external appearances would lead to a change to the internal as well, that changing clothes, hair and face would make for a better person. During those pre-Beyond Chocolate days, that was how I felt – I wanted to change myself and thought that it would take more than a haircut, a facial and a new outfit.
Along with many other women, I believed that dieting would change me not only outside but inside as well – suddenly I’d become a more confident person, I’d be successful in my personal and professional life, I’d have more friends, be more outgoing and would no longer dread social occasions where I’d be expected to dress up and/or there’d be food.
This is the dream we are sold by diets – a reduction in our outer casing will lead inevitably to a boost to our inner selves – a thinner person is a happier person, a thinner me is a more successful and attractive me, a thinner body should be the goal of every woman. I can indeed remember two occasions on which I was thin and happy – that’s two days out of the 18,250 days I’ve been alive.
Just two days. That’s all the happiness that those years of dieting and exercising achieved for me.
Was it worth it?
I guess that two days of happiness is better than none at all – but I have been happy and not thin far more often than I was ever happy and thin. I can’t even count all those joyful days – but there have been many and not one of them has depended on me being thin. However, it took me until I discovered Beyond Chocolate before I could really begin to challenge the diet myths and empty promises.
Beyond Chocolate Principle number 7: Own Your Body was the one that I struggled with the most – after all, by the time I discovered Beyond Chocolate I had spent over 20 years wanting a different body to the one I had. I had dieted and exercised myself thin several times and had eaten my way back to being more overweight than I’d been when I’d started – every time. And I’d believed this was my fault, not the diets. All I had to do was stick to the diet for the rest of my life and I’d be thin forever. And I couldn’t even do that.
And suddenly there was Beyond Chocolate to reassure me that it wasn’t my fault – it was the fault of the diets and I was not a failure because I couldn’t stick to them. However, Beyond Chocolate also presented me with what appeared at first to be an unsurmountable problem – to Own My Body. How could I ‘own’ something I’d spent so many years trying to change? Why should I ‘own’ something I didn’t want in its current format? Surely it would be better to wait until I’d achieved the body of my dreams and then I could ‘own’ it because I’d be proud of it?
It’s fascinating to see how strong the dieting message is and how pervasive and how well it sticks in our minds and warps how we see ourselves and the world around us. How many people am I hurting by acknowledging what I have and where I’m at right now? Probably none at all that I can think of.
How many people am I hurting by rejecting my body and trying to torture it into a different shape? Just one. Just me.
So, I continue to work on my relationship with my body – it’s always there behind everything else I do. Do I ‘Move’ because I think this will help me slim down? Am I stopping eating right now because I still believe that eating less than I want/need will help me lose weight?
Challenging my own beliefs and practices is an on-going process and behind it all is the 7th Principle, patiently waiting for me to reach that happy Nirvana when I can finally look in the mirror and accept what I see for what it really is, not what I think it should or could be.
Only then is true change possible.