Yes, I constantly worried about weight. This is my story of why I don’t diet. (Anymore.)
As I sit down to write this, I want to slam shut the laptop, scream, and run away.
A. It’s hard, and
B. it’s private, and
C. I could say it’s none of your business.
But it is your business, especially if you’re a girl/woman, because unless you are like .01438% of the population (stat made up entirely by me) and have never felt insecure about your body, then you’re the Rest of Us, who have.
We Need Honesty About the Weight, Worry, and Dieting Cycle
I’ve had a couple friends rise up and be honest and fierce and brutal about this topic, and while I am cheerful to talk one on one with anyone about it, taking it to the interwebz is a whole other level of vulnerability.
But guess what? I have daughters and my daughters have friends and they will have daughters, and Jesus, Mary, and the camel, this cycle we have all been riding for so many years needs to come to a stop.
The I-Hate-My-Body one.
You know the one. You’ve bought tickets, and the ride never stops. It’s like Hotel California, my friends. Check in for the night, and never leave.
Somehow, through the grace of God or a recessive DNA strain, my daughters are so secure in their confidence, even in their body images. One is stick thin, one is curvy, but both are confident, which blows my mind, because I can tell you succinctly they did not learn it from me.
Here’s my story.
Constantly Worried About Weight: My Story
As a teen who had thrown herself into the world of professional ballet from an early age (my first paid dancing gig was at age 11), I was surrounded by women who were underweight and could see how hard it was for them to maintain their (i.e. the studio and company) standard.
Even at 114 pounds I still had curves and was constantly worried about weight. The only thing I was concerned with was getting down to the weights of the girls surrounding me.
At this point, ballet was more artistic than athletic (those times they are a’changing, can I get an amen) and ballerinas existed through the healthful consumption of Diet Coke and cigarettes.
Again, this seems to be changing drastically in the dance world now, so don’t freak out, Dance Mamas. It was the early ’90s so no one knew carbs were bad, or sugar, it was just low fat all the time.
If it said low fat on the carton, I was all there. I went several years without touching butter (the wasted years. Oh, the wasted years), or any type of dessert (unless it was Snackwells, remember those?).
I would work out to recorded VHS tapes of PBS step aerobics every morning, and they definitely worked. I didn’t have one of those nifty, newfangled plastic steps, so I used the fireplace hearth.
I slimmed down enough that if a whole week went by without someone telling me, “you look too thin, are you okay?” I would be angry with myself and restrict food further.
BECAUSE YOU GUYS, TO SOMEONE WITH AN EATING DISORDER, “YOU LOOK TOO THIN, ARE YOU OKAY?” IS A TOTAL COMPLIMENT AND TASTES BETTER THAN ALL THE FRIED CHICKEN AND MASHED POTATOES.
It never went “too far” with me, this dabbling in anorexia – like, I wasn’t hospitalized and I didn’t look like a skeleton – but it was my constant companion.
At age 16 I started working as a waitress and ate my meals at work. I’d arrive at 5 am and mix a hot cocoa package with my coffee, and they had pastries every morning… Suddenly I gained a few pounds and my curves were back.
The ballet mistress asked me to lose weight because our upcoming costumes were spandex red hot-pants and sports bras (we had an Aerosmith performance). My constant companion was back and with a vengeance.
Ever since then, a day has not gone by where I don’t think about my weight, shape, size, and wonder if you are thinking about my weight, shape, size as well.
The Lure of Dieting
In my head, I know no one cares about what I weigh but me. Literally. No. One. Not one single friend, spouse, child, student, random stranger. I know this. But the voices in my head are so hard to turn off, you guys.
Childbirth does magical, wonderful things to our womanly bodies, and it also does weird, stressful, annoying things. Like pouchy bellies and saggy twins and stretch marks the size of the continental divide.
Annoying thing is, some women seem to snap right back, and then there’s the rest of us, glaring at them while we buy Spanx and eat our unbuttered toast.
I’m convinced that every clean eating, intermittent fasting, keto, whole 30, paleo, vegan, fitbit, etc, DIET out there exists and makes money because we worried women will try anything to be skinny.
They are totally capitalizing on our worries and fears. These trends, no matter how “healthy,” or scientific, are making money because we are desperate.
It’s a socially accepted way to have an eating disorder.
“I just want to be healthy, not skinny,” says the woke one.
We want to be skinny! I don’t give a rat’s patooty about being healthy when I’m lost in my anorexic world and that’s the honest truth.
I went years without eating in front of people, being the lone person in a restaurant who wouldn’t order anything (I was a bundle of fun to date, let me tell you). Now those days are gone, but the voices are still there.
If I DO order food, I wonder if you’re judging my choices. Really? Fries? She should have a salad.
If I buy leggings for work (I’m a ballet instructor now), and they aren’t black and my shirt isn’t long to cover what I believe is big ol’ butt, I am completely in my head and anxious the whole evening.
Body Image Issues
I’m an expert at standing in front of those full length mirrors and angling my vision so I only see my forehead, or my feet, or my arms: parts of my body I look at without feeling ashamed.
If I am at the pool or the beach and in a swimsuit, I am looking for someone bigger than me to stand next to.
My teenage years in this regard – the body image one – were rotten, my 20s not much better, my 30s still hard, and then health problems hit me like a ton of bricks in my 40s.
Suddenly (and it really did feel like suddenly) I was at the weight I hit at nine months pregnant with all three kids. I was 5’31/2″ and 159 pounds.
Now, you guys, I NEVER tell my weight.
Like if you aren’t my doctor, you don’t get that information. Even my husband never knows how much I weigh (not that he’d care, bless him).
Even at 120 pounds, I would not let anyone near me on a scale. But at the age of 42, I’m getting really tired of this mindset.
Why I Don’t Diet Anymore
Last year I joined a gym and started cardio and weight training religiously (in addition to teaching 15 dance classes per week). In six months, I lost 3 pounds.
Let that sink in.
Six months. Three pounds.
My body has a freakin’ mind of it’s own, you guys.
So I quit over-exercising, ate more butter, and just tried to limited carbs. My body reacts to this better (for the moment), and I’m down to around 145.
Gosh, those numbers are scary to write out! Most of my adult and mommying life I sat around 135, which of course I felt was ridiculously fat.
Now I’d love to get back to that. And if I could go back to my teenage years when I thought I was fat? I’D WEAR A BIKINI EVERY DAMN DAY.
I am old enough to know that skinny women are not necessarily happy women, and I look around at women who are much larger than I am and think they look damn fine, but the standards for myself – like most girls – are set so high.
All this to say, if you are a girl/woman, or heck boy/man, who is being relentlessly pursued by negative voices in your own head, calling you fat or chubby or gross or less-than, I am here to tell you, that’s a lie.
Drowning Out the Lies with Honesty
I don’t have the magic prescription or advice to tell you for how to turn it off, but I think being willing to talk about it more honestly with one another is a great place to start.
At first, it seemed so narcissistic (which is a quality I DESPISE with all the burning fires of a thousand suns), talking about my eating disorder and how I was constantly worried about weight, but then I thought to myself… well, self, maybe it’s just being honest, which isn’t such a bad thing.
And maybe we can help each other turn off those voices, or drown them out a bit.
P.S. If you leave links to your diet programs and such, I will find you and I will hurt you.