What’s the best diet of the decade? Eat ten avocados a day, nothing else. Cleanse your intestines with juice for hundreds of dollars. Wish on a shooting star. Adopt a dinosaur (running away from a raptor really burns calories).
I believe the best way to feel good about yourself is to stop dieting and working out with the sole intention to burn calories. Instead, learn to listen to your body. I know it seems impossible. Filtering out everything we’ve internalized about body image is difficult. But, you can do it. If your relationship with food feels oppressive and occupies too much brain space, a therapist can help. Mine did more for me than I could’ve imagined.
What inspired this post
I saw this Pinterest ad and got upset. How dare they invade my space, I thought. I tried taking the “quiz” to analyze it and report all about it here but it was depressing and triggering, so I stopped. I realized that this post isn’t about this specific campaign but the larger problem.
As a kid, the only thing women seemed to talk about was losing weight, counting calories, and not eating all day to drink beer at the christmas party. I was confused. Why would they talk about that? It’s boring and weird. It hit me when I was thirteen. Family members started commenting on my appearance, my new “curves”.
“You’re always in the fridge.”
“Are you sure you want to eat that?”
“You’re gaining weight. Be careful.”
“Look at those nice love handles.” Person grabs the love handles.
In highschool, some of my friends sponged fat off of their pizza with a napkin, others stopped eating altogether. My tactic was to wear baggy clothes to hide my body. I loved food. I lacked the tools to deal with the changes my body was experiencing. The bombardment of criticism only made me retreat. The women in my life couldn’t help me because they were victims full of insecurities too.
And so, the obsession began. Am I fat? Am I ugly? Does the the extra roll around my belly make me unattractive? I cried everyday in the mirror, willing myself to be beautiful and skinny.
The food fixation never stopped. It followed me through to university. When I completed my bachelor’s degree, I shopped for a nice dress to wear under my graduation robe. A particularly kind salesperson told me, “You should go with the purple dress, it makes you look less fat.” I bought the purple dress because I couldn’t find anything else and was too distraught to go to another store.
“Being skinnier” remained at the top of my priority list, but it never worked. I tortured myself mentally, wondering why I didn’t have the “willpower” to work on my body. Anytime I ate something unhealthy or simply ate “too much” I felt remorse, disgrace, and shame. When the scale said I gained weight, I cried. When it was really bad, I made myself vomit. The guilt haunted me. I overanalyzed my stomach, my thighs, my arms. I cried some more. I threw hate at myself. I biked 14 km a day. I ran under the afternoon sun when it was 30°C. (I hate running.) I got migraines from overexertion and guilt-induced stress. I tracked my calories, weighed my oatmeal flakes, and on and on.
The result was exhaustion. It was all too much and had to stop. But I was terrified. If I stop obsessing, what will happen? Obsessing is all I know. How does one have a healthy relationship with food?
How I stopped tormenting myself
Last year, I decided it was enough. I would stop the torment at the source. I stopped weighing myself. I stopped all forms of counting. I chose to do what feels good and fun. It has been and remains a process. It’s not easy, but kindness and patience is key. When it gets too bad, I talk to my partner or a friend about how I’m feeling. When I eat too much, I do yoga for digestion with Adriene. She reminds me that it’s okay. She tells me to love my body, to be kind.
I stock my fridge and my pantry with foods I love. I eat when my body says eat. I stop when it says stop. After months of practice, I started hearing my body. It’s voice was there all along. I just didn’t know how to listen because I’d been stifling it for so long.
Two days ago, my body said, you know what would be amazing right now. Grapefruit. So I ate grapefruit. Yesterday, I wanted a cookie. So I baked some. The guilt was finally gone.
I still have bad days where I obsess and dislike my body. But when it happens, I do try to stop the abusive thoughts right away. I have a tea and read a book (or something else that I love to do). I’m working hard on banishing the obsession and the hate. I’m thankful for people who talk about how unhealthy our diet driven culture is. It helps. Want to be inspired? Follow Jameela Jamil on Instagram.
I’m also done working out to lose weight. Instead of punishing my body, I do sports that I love. I tried boxing with a friend for a few months. We had a blast doing it, and now, I can throw a great punch. My favourite activities are: cycling as my main mode of transportation, practicing yoga in my living room, and bouldering. The climbing hall is a great place to meet cool people. There, I also learned to push my body and fears to their limits—in a way that is good for my mental health.
Want to move your body in a loving way? I recommend Yoga with Adriene’s 30-Day Journey called Home. She always makes me feel good about myself and my body.