Let’s Take the Word “Diet” Back

Let me start with where it all began for me—the decision to go on an extreme diet. This was a choice I made in a moment I was scared and hurt and felt fat, hideous, and out of control. I believed that being skinny would put me in control and guarantee me a happy life.

I have since learned this decision—to will myself skinny—set off a horrific chain of events in my mind and my life that set me down a path of horrendous, daily struggles with food for decades.

While it is easy to step outside of that belief in good, healthy moments, look at it, and say “That won’t make you happy,” we all know that  in moments when we’ve felt fat, hideous, and out of control, there’s no belief that is stronger. Being skinny will save me from this misery, we tell ourselves. But, I have since learned this decision—to will myself skinny—set off a horrific chain of events in my mind and my life that set me down a path of horrendous, daily struggles with food for decades.

This is why I initially struggled immensely with whether to include that word—DIET—in the name of this blog. Although the word itself merely refers to your food intake, (i.e., what types of foods you typically eat) I believe that as part of society—bombarded daily with the image of what a “pretty” or “sexy” body should look like and the many products, potions, and powders we’re supposed to buy and the pushups we’re supposed to do to get there—that the word “diet” takes on the one singular meaning of a restricted food plan designed to make you lose weight.

How often do you hear people say, they need to “go on a diet” as opposed to “my diet consists of…”? For this reason, I was sure the word “diet”—and better yet, the thought of a “wine and cheese diet” that could actually work (sign me up!)—would attract people out there who may be dipping their toes in the wicked pool I jumped into and help them before they, too, slip under the water.  However, I also know that word likely ignites immediate feelings for you. They may be feelings of guilt? Irritation? False hope?

Your diet is the food you eat—the delicious, necessary, fun food you enjoy making and eating that allows your body to do amazing things. Your diet does not have to be that depressing albatross you torment yourself with.

After much internal debate, I eventually settled on not just the appropriateness and function of including the word diet in the name of my recovery blog, but, rather, the need for it. I eventually decided I had to include that harsh word. 

Why, you ask?

Because we need to take that word back! Steal its thunder. Shake its shoulders.  Shake off its hold on you. Your diet is the food you eat—the delicious, necessary, fun food you enjoy making and eating that allows your body to do amazing things. Your diet does not have to be that depressing albatross you torment yourself with.

Now, is the transition from “I’m on a diet” to “my diet consists of” an easy one? Heck no! At least it wasn’t for me. My albatross and I put in some serious years together—him always there, an ugly, sweaty thing hanging around my neck squawking at everything I put in my mouth, every mile I did not run.

Your diet does not define you.

But, I hope that just the simple realization of the unnecessary hold that the word DIET has on you—its futile, frustrating strangle—will also help you realize your ability, at any moment, to rip it off, stare it in the eyes, and tell it: “You’re just the food I eat. You’re not my heart, my hands, my incredible ability to love, teach, and share. To make people laugh. To make people feel embraced in a warm hug in my company. You are not the entirety of my being and especially not what most people see or even first notice when they meet me.”

Then, I hope you will start to feel free of the enemy-hold food has had on you. I hope you, too, will be able to say “my diet consists of wine, cheese, taco salad, stuffed snapper, crab cakes, chicken marsala, insert your favorite dish here, and lazy mimosa-laden lunches with friends, picnics on green grass, romantic candlelit dinners, and snacks during scary movies. That is my diet.”

Most of all, I hope you can realize this: Your diet does not define you. If you let it, the food you eat can redeem and free you.

Let your journey begin.

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