Before I dive in to the story of how I went from being one of the most dieting obsessed people on the planet to a person that is not currently trying to change my body, it might help to have a short refresher on the history of my experiment. I began writing this blog about ten years ago, after I had quickly lost forty pounds on Weight Watchers (later to become a total of fifty pounds). On a whim, I started blogging with one question in mind, “How do thin people stay thin?”
I began interviewing my thin friends and I wrote about it. I researched the subject and quickly got enmeshed with a group of wonderful folks who were selling the idea that it was animal foods that were causing all of the ails in the world. It was meat and dairy that were not simply causing the obesity epidemic, but were the cause of the big three killers-heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Of course it didn’t hurt that I tend toward the thinking that animal suffering is something that I’d prefer to avoid, and I had been a vegetarian for ethical reasons for a decade before my big dieting experiment even began. So convincing me to become a plant eater only (aka and for lack of a better word, a Vegan) was actually super duper easy.
So I dropped Weight Watchers like a hot potato (I was starving and wanted to eat!) and began what became a period of what I now understand to be refeeding. I ate from the entire variety of plant foods (except oils and most processed Vegan junk food) and over the course of the next few years gained all fifty pounds back.
I was totally befuddled. How could the world’s most perfect diet, the Whole Food, Plant Based diet, fail me so completely and totally?
I was embarrassed and frustrated, to say the least. I thought I was a poor example of the health benefits of a WFPB diet.
Even though I had never had a significant health problem in my life, I was totally convinced that my body fat was a sign of dis-ease (that was sure to come if I stayed this way!) and bad character traits (gluttony . . .I must be a real pig if I weight this much!).
I never for one moment ever considered that I was healthy.
Everything became about how much I weighed, what I looked like in my clothes, how I could perform in an exercise class, how I represented the WFPB diet to the rest of society, etc. etc.
I sought plant-based diet after plant-based diet looking for the answers.
I eliminated more and more foods.
I became convinced that I must be a food addict. (I’m not, I never was, and I’ll tell you why in another blog post.)
I began to plan every bite of food.
I weighed and measured every ounce of food that I ate.
Instead of feeling free, instead of having a great relationship with my body and with food, I became stressed out all the time. Every meal was an opportunity to be self critical. The perfectionist in me was running wild. Social events and restaurants weren’t all that fun, because I was on high alert about what I was and was not eating. Nothing I did felt fun or creative anymore. My days were spent making sure that I had the right foods in the house and was eating them in the right quantities.
And of course, beating the crap out of myself for not doing “the plan” perfectly enough and for losing it with food every few days.
I did lose weight.
I was “thin” again.
It should have been great!
It was never enough.
Thinner became the goal. (Is anyone reading this as triggered as I am by the statement, “Don’t get so wrapped up in setting a goal weight number because you’ll be surprised at how much lower you can go on this plan.” If that’s not setting perfectionists like me up for anorexia and body dismorphia, well then . . .)
I still hated my body.
I began binge eating again.
And instead of trying to figure out how to lose weight and stay “thin” (I’ve got that covered now, you can ask me and I know how it’s done!) I began to try to figure out how I was going to stop my binge eating disorder. Stopping my binge eating because my new preoccupation. When I secretly landed in a psychiatrist’s office and he told me that it was normal and that I should take one of these happy pills, it didn’t even occur to me that something was very wrong.
As I write this now I can see that I was both anorexic and bulimic without even knowing it. In Bright Line Eating we called this “Simply Resume.” I now understand it to be the “Binge Restrict Cycle.” I was eating around 1200 calories per day and every few days I would binge. The next morning I would get right back on the horse and restrict again. It never occurred to me that eating only 1200 calories per day was considered restrictive. I simply thought this is what I need to do in order to stay thin.
It never occurred to me that the restriction was causing the binging.
It never occurred to me that this would be unmanageable.
And no one, including the whole host of professionals that I was working with, clued me into that fact. (Until I found a whole new set of “professionals.”)
Either they didn’t know it or they were in so much denial about the negative effects of dieting that they simply couldn’t face up to the fact that their diets were causing as much if not more trauma then they were curing.
At some point, I knew I just needed to be eating more food, and that’s where the shift began to occur. Little did I know I’d end up where I am now-and that story is coming, I promise!
But in my next blog post, I’m going to introduce three profound ideas that were totally new for me, and that have been informing my decisions every day since I became aware and educated about them:
Concept#1, The Thin Ideal/People Come in All Shapes and Sizes
Concept #2: Health at Every Size
Concept #3: Losing Weight Probably Won’t Leave You Happy With Your Body (aka Internalized Weight Stigma), but You’ll Sure Have a Lot of Other Messed Up Psychological Stuff Going On