Have you noticed how big events in life are often bookmarked by diets? Weddings, holidays, Christmas… In the run-up to the event and then afterwards, it’s all about the diet.
I was not immune to the diet trend. Before my wedding day I dieted and worked out like a fiend, terrified a few extra pounds might spoil my day. And in the past, before and after every holiday I would “watch what I ate” too. As if being 5 pounds heavier might somehow ruin the experience of lying on a sun-lounger with a book in one hand and a cocktail in the other.
This year there was no pre-holiday diet, and there’ll be no post-holiday diet either. In truth, I have no idea what I weigh, because I now know that fixating on the number on the scales is not a healthy thing for my mind to do. My body is as it is and any extra jiggle is proof of what a fantastic time we had while we were away. I won’t let any guilt sour the taste of all that amazing French cheese and wine.
When I’ve talked about ditching the diet (both IRL and online – the talking I mean, not the diet) I’ve sometimes been met with a bit of a defensive response, as if me choosing to stop following diets is a judgement on someone else’s behaviour.
Sometimes it’s a “Oh but I love healthy eating!” response. But the thing is, dieting is not “healthy eating” and “healthy eating” is not dieting. You can love salad and chow down on the veggies and enjoy all the fresh fish and protein without having to ban whole food groups and see carbs as evil. Eating doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing.
The other thing to note with any type of diet is that, ultimately, it’s big business. People selling us diets and “aspirational body shapes” are there to make money. They’re quite literally profiting from our insecurities. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend my cash on cushions or outfits or cool experiences or self-help books that actually make me feel GOOD and POSITIVE instead of a failure. (Or cheese, I really like cheese.)
Then there’s the science. There’s evidence that diets are not the answer to long-term weight loss and that they can actually have a negative effect on mental health, which is just as important as physical health. (The Anti Diet Riot Club is a really great place to read more about the danger of diet culture, if you’re interested in this.)
I know there’ll be people reading this who’ll roll their eyes and think “But she doesn’t need to lose weight, what does she even know about diets”. But tell that to the me of two or three years ago. No matter what my body looked like post-baby number 2 I would always find something to hate about it. Insecurities related to body image can affect people of all shapes and sizes.
Then we get to the Piers Morgan attitude. The “you’re promoting obesity and an unhealthy lifestyle” approach. Giving up dieting does not mean advocating a Morgan Spurlock approach, eating fast-food at every meal. It just means eating without the restrictions of counting calories, thinking about how the food will make you look and unpicking the guilt from our relationship with food. Considering one diet company literally refers to certain types of foods as “Syns” as if they were made by the devil himself, I think it’s fair to say diet culture doesn’t always do the best things when it comes to guilt and food and mental health.
Of course you might read this and feel angry. You might see my approach to my own body as a judgement on your approach to yours. You might be following a diet and enjoying it and feeling happy, and I do not want to take away any positive feelings you might have on that score. It’s YOUR body and you get to choose what you do with it – I am not about telling you what to do or how to feel.
But for so many years we’ve been told that we all need to diet, that we are all not quite enough as we are, that if we all lose “a few pounds” before a big event or holiday that we will all feel so much happier. I’m so tired of this attitude. The idea that we are only allowed to love ourselves once we reach a goal weight, or look a certain way. It’s restrictive and, ultimately, does no one any favours – particularly those of us trying to raise the next generation of humans who we know are worth so much more than their body shape or appearance.
So that’s why I’m not doing a post-holiday diet.
P.S. While you’re here, if you’re interested to see more of our holiday I’ve uploaded a couple of videos from our time in France. This is the latest one – you can see the other by heading over to my YouTube channel.