Now that I am a bit older, I refuse to diet, but that wasn’t always the case—through high school and university I tried to pay attention to how many calories I consumed, cut out sweets and treats, never ate after 8 pm, downloaded a food tracker on my phone and on and on. I was never really overweight, but I felt uncomfortable in my body, conscious of my belt digging into my stomach when I sat down or how tight my shirt was and if my bra lines were bulging.
You’ve probably heard this story before; dieting ups and downs are a well-worn narrative in our society. We need to kick this trend and opt for something way better: a loving relationship with our bodies. I’m not saying being healthy is as easy as making a statement of love and hoping for the best. But what I am saying is that it’s possible to feel good about fitting into your clothes and happy with what you’re allowed to eat, without going on another diet.
Sick of being in a constant state of weight despair and self-conscious around food, I had to make a change. The first changes started when I went vegan. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “What if I don’t want to go vegan?!” No need to fret, I’m no longer vegan, but the lessons I learned still absolutely apply. The shift in thinking started with viewing my relationship with food as something that can be fun and by changing what I was eating, I was actually able to eat more and get more out of it too.
You know how most diets focus on restricting what you’re allowed to consume? Making that chocolate cake or plate of fries even more irresistible, until eventually you can’t help but cave and feel the waves of guilt after? Well, when I was a vegan I learned that there’s a foundational shift that needs to take place if you’re going to succeed in a lifestyle change or dietary change.
If you want something to stick, you’ve got to feel good about it. This is likely the reason why most diets never last more than a couple months; they’re too hard to maintain because deep down we don’t feel happy about them. Sure, we may like that we’ve shed a few pounds, but there’s also a sense of lacking or missing out since we have to restrict ourselves when it comes to what we’re eating.
Now, instead of dieting, I’ve created a lifestyle of abundance; new recipes, more yummy fruits and veggies, freedom to have whatever I want if I truly want it and, most importantly, I’ve let go of the guilt I used to feel about foods I’d labeled as ‘bad.’ Nothing is really bad as long as you maintain balance in life—since I can have a treat if I want to, there isn’t this weird energy around those unhealthy foods. Since I have the freedom to eat them if I want, I can also choose to not have them. Both options are okay, so I don’t feel this urgent desire to have something ‘bad.’
I’ve also started changing how I feel about my body. Instead of seeing it as working against me—something I have to try and drastically change out of shame—I’ve taken steps to be on the same side as my body.
Our bodies are meant to help us as we move through life; they’re doing everything they can to keep us alive. So instead of viewing my body as an enemy, I work on building a healthy relationship with it:
- Sending it loving thoughts
- Exercising because it feels good and not because I feel obligated (this boils down to finding exercise routines that you honestly enjoy—for me, it’s hot yoga)
- Eating more healthy and tasty foods
- But also eating the ‘bad’ stuff because it’s effing delicious.
All of these things are good for our bodies because it contributes to our well-being, which will 100% lead to a happier life than dieting ever will.
This is a lifestyle change that has the power to stick. It involves the freedom to choose what your relationship with food is every step of the way, adjusting as necessary in order to feel good in your own skin. No one will be able to make changes for you about how you feel about your body, so let’s not go with the typical dieting trends or advice—lets be the kind of people who create our own system for feeling good and be at peace with our bodies!