This time two years ago I was on a diet. This time three years ago I was on a diet. This time four years ago, despite just having had a baby, you guessed it… I was on a diet.
Thing is, at no time did I admit to myself that I was “on a diet”. But it was a diet, because although it didn’t get called “a diet” it very much looked like a diet.
Sometimes it involved calorie counting, sometimes it involved cutting out carbs, sometimes it involved doing a shit-load of HIIT workouts and trying to drink three litres of water a day (side note: that’s really bloody hard actually) and sometimes it involved just eating what the hell I wanted to eat but feeling guilty afterwards.
Either way, whatever I was doing, the end goal was always to lose weight, get toned, change my body.
And then something changed. I decided in the run-up to Christmas I was not going to beat myself up about gaining weight over the festive season, not going to plan some kind of “detox” or gruelling January training schedule, not going to attempt to change my body in any way, actually. Instead, I would work on my mind.
This decision came at a time when I was suffering regular moments of self-doubt. It felt like I’d arrived at some sort of cross-roads, and it was time to try something new.
In the absence of a diet or some kind of “January body plan” this is what I did:
1. I curated my social media feeds
If you don’t feel great about your body (or any part of yourself, for that matter), social media can be a triggering place. January, particularly, can be a difficult month to be online if you’re trying to swerve diet chat.
So I spent some time curating my social media feeds to make sure I was avoiding as much of this stuff as possible. Big influencers talking about their new “miraculous” diets? Unfollow. Posts showing before and after weight loss pics? Mute. And ditto anything on the clean eating or detox wagon.
In their place I searched for new accounts to follow. Non-Diet nutritionists (Laura Thomas is one of my faves on Instagram), self-love advocates (comparison coach Lucy Sheridan is another gem) and other Instagrammers talking positively about body image, food and self care. I wanted my social media to be a place of inspiration and positivity, not a place to drown in comparison syndrome.
2. I dodged the diet chat
Since I was 14 years old I’ve always known at least one person on a diet. This isn’t unusual, because losing weight and striving for the “perfect body” has always been such a huge part of our culture. It’s as ingrained in us as wanting to earn more money. We have years of conditioning telling us that if we’re thinner and richer we’ll be happier. So, if anything, you were the odd one out if you weren’t on some kind of diet or “body revamp” mission.
But in my experience, being surrounded by diet chat and joining in with conversations about losing weight just tends to make me feel worse about my own body. It leads to comparison and tends to confirm this idea that being thinner or more toned or changing our body in some way is what we should strive for.
I have no judgement over anyone else who wants to lose weight (as I said before this stuff is deeply ingrained and what you want to do with your body might be different to what I want to do with mine) but, personally, I just feel like there’s a kinder way.
3. I stopped weighing myself
This is a hard one and, as I admitted on an Instagram post recently, it’s a habit that’s clearly deeply embedded. I’d love to throw the scales away but unfortunately I’m married to a man who’s not yet ready to lose the scales forever. But I’ve found that since I stopped checking my weight on the regular, I’ve been so much happier. My value does not lie in a number on the scales and my body is worth no less if the number goes up or down slightly. I don’t run or do yoga to change my body and the less I’m aware of the physical effect on my body of these activities the more I actually enjoy them.
4. I looked at myself in the mirror naked
It’s weird how much I avoided looking at myself with no clothes on. Most of the time I’d be too rushed to properly see myself in the mirror (anyone who has kids to get ready for a school run knows this feeling) but even when I wasn’t, I’d often be quick to get dressed just to avoid my own reflection.
But once I actually stopped to look – really look – I realised a lot of things I thought I’d seen in myself simply weren’t there. And when I started to re-frame the “flaws” and see them as unique parts of myself, the better I felt. I made an active effort to only use kind words when I looked in the mirror and to look away if the mean ones started to come through. It helped, it really did.
5. I did some research
Once I started to feel like maybe I didn’t need to hate on my body so much, I started to become interested in why I’d always felt like I should want to change my body, even at times when I didn’t really feel like I needed to. I found a wealth of literature, articles, podcasts etc on the subject.
Rationally, I knew that the more insecure I felt about myself the more likely I was to buy into a product that might fix a so-called flaw. But the more I read actual science and proper hardcore evidence about this stuff the more confident I became in casting off some of the stuff I’d been subconsciously carrying about since the teen years.
I could go on about this for many more words, but these are my basics for now. If you’re interested in more then head to Instagram where I post often on this subject (and check out my Stories highlights if body image chat and self love is your jam).