Sorry, I know you would rather be called by your proper name, Lifestyle Change; but alas, it’s January — again — and I’m not really in the mood for proper names. But either way, Happy Anniversary! What has it been, 15 years? That’s what I thought. I wish I could say I’m happy to see you again, but I’m not. I’m tired of you.
You and I go back farther than most of my friendships, relationships, and defining moments. We met when I was 13 years old, and back then we had a fairly healthy relationship. You taught me about balanced meals, how things that I thought were healthy actually weren’t, and most of all, I learned about moderation. We had a good run for a while as I learned more and more, but after a few years, our relationship turned toxic.
We’ve met under your many aliases over the years. I’ve called you Adkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers, Whole30, and more. I’ve crossed paths with you in the form of cleanses and meetings, and I’ve tolerated your antics in the name of being healthy and reaching a goal. In fact, four years ago I even wrote a blog post about all the versions of you that I’ve tried. To think that since then I’ve added so many to the list makes me want to cry. You don’t encourage me, and reading back over that post makes me realize that for so long you’ve only made me feel badly about myself. You make me feel shame and like I’m not good enough because you haven’t worked for me.
Speaking of working, I know you work. I’ve seen the ads and heard the stories. You work for some women, but you’ve never worked for me. You make me feel like I’m different, and I wonder what I did to cause it. I’ve put in the work over and over, but I always end up feeling like a failure because my body doesn’t respond to you. I find myself comparing my body, my habits, and my weaknesses to other women, and as promised, it steals my joy.
When I think back over our relationship, I can’t help but remember the one time you actually did work for me. It was a decade ago. I was 19, in college, and you came to me in the form of super strict calorie counting. Man, you really worked that time, and I looked awesome! But I knew deep down that eating 900 calories a day probably wasn’t okay, and likely wasn’t sustainable. But I loved you then, and you loved me back. It wasn’t the good kind of love, though, and when all was said and done, I was left feeling empty and broken and looking for love elsewhere because of you.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve tried. You know I have. I’ve gained and lost, and gained and lost with your help. I’ve loved myself and hated myself. I’ve accepted and I’ve refused. I’ve cried and I’ve celebrated. I’ve binged and I’ve restrained.
But I can’t do it anymore. So I’m writing to tell you that we’re breaking up.
Starting this year, I’m entering into a new relationship; a relationship with Strong.
Starting this year, I want to begin a journey of becoming strong — strong in my body, strong in my heart, strong in my mind. I want to have a strong and healthy self-image to portray to my daughter. I want to feel my body move and lift and change from the inside out, and not from what comes from the outside, in.
Starting this year, I am not going to wince when I see pictures of myself and feel guilty about the ice cream I shared with my toddler the night before. Now, I’m going to own it, be proud of the memories that I’m making with my family, and put in the time to compensate when I can at the gym.
Let’s talk about pictures — you know, the non-selfie kind. When we began the adoption process over four years ago, one of the things that I was most worried about was taking pictures with my child(ren). For too long, I’ve hated looking at pictures of myself. For a long time, my phobia of photos was my main motivation to pursue you, Diet, but for some reason I could never shake my fear. Now that I have a super active 15 month old, I know I need to capture these fleeting moments with her. Yet, somehow, that voice inside my head has to fight with the voice in my heart saying, “Don’t look at your arms. Don’t notice that crease. It’s okay, no one will care.” Dear Diet, you didn’t do this to me, but you haven’t made me strong enough to resist that inner monologue either. So I’m choosing Strong over you now, and I pray for contentment and happiness when it comes to my inner voice and self-image in the days and years to come.
Will healthy habits and eating good, whole foods still be a part of my life? Yes — I’m not breaking up with being a healthy person! But now, I want health to be a full picture of a strong life, rooted in taking care of myself for my family, not because of shame or guilt.
Here’s the thing, Diet, nothing is foolproof. There’s work that needs to be done, whether it’s with what I put in my body, what I do with my body in the gym, or what my mind tells my heart about my body. I’m not naive to think that I’m going to look or feel different overnight. But without you weighing me down (literally), I have the freedom to make the mental and physical changes that help me live a life of freedom and joy.
So there you have it, dear Diet, we’re done. It’s been real, but it’s time for us to part ways so that I can become Strong.
A Mom Trying Her Best