What comes to mind when you think of this word? For me, it conjures feelings of restriction, hunger, unhappiness. Most diets are based solidly on fear of some kind. Fear of fat, fear of carbs, fear of calories, fear of eating after 7 pm. When did we become gremlins? When did we start fearing our food? When did it become something that made us feel shameful?
I spent the better part of my early 30’s being afraid of food. I went from “diet” to “diet” praying that this was finally the right one. This time, if I eat like a caveman, or cut out all dairy, or shame away the sugar, that was going to be the key. I restricted calories to less than 1400 a day. And when that didn’t work the logical step was to go to less than 1200 a day. All I thought about was food. What food I couldn’t eat. What food I wanted to eat. What food that guy over there was eating. It consumed me to the point that I would finally give up, raise the white flag and start throwing all the things at my face that were off-limits. It was a vicious cycle. One that left me feeling like a failure, not to mention too tired to even hit the gym.
Then something magical happened. I committed myself to a race. I signed up for my first triathlon and starting training. All the sudden I needed food to finish my workouts. Food was no longer my enemy. It became a tool that made me stronger. And it was so freeing. I started to pay attention to how foods high in sugar and carbs made me feel and I didn’t like it. No longer were these foods “forbidden”, I just chose not to eat them because they slowed me down. What an amazing feeling when food becomes a choice and not a punishment.
I also learned to trust myself. When I was restricting and counting every single calorie that crossed my lips, I had very little control over myself. If I opened a bag of chips, there was a good chance that the starving, food crazy girl who lived inside might finish that whole bag before I could stop it. I no longer live in that space. I still have m&ms and chips. I am human. But I am also able to make better choices based on how I feel and not the outline of a diet that only involves grapefruit and cottage cheese. I don’t diet. That is so 90’s anyway. I make good general choices and as a result I feel good. It’s just that simple.