At a party I recently saw a friend who I hadn’t seen for almost a year. She had lost a lot of weight and was being praised for the achievement by all the women at the party. With my history of rapid weight loss, crash dieting, binge eating and excessive exercising I stayed silent. I wasn’t jealous (I swear) but it just didn’t feel right to congratulate her.
I’ve actually put on about 20 lbs in the past eighteen months and I’m still coming to terms with how my body feels since I quit dieting. I’ve immersed myself in an online world where it’s OK to have lumps, bumps and visible cellulite. It’s also OK to be thin and not have boobs, wide hips or a bubble butt. I believe all body shapes are acceptable and should be represented in the media.
When I meet women who still praise each other for weight loss I feel icky. In my opinion weight loss itself doesn’t make you beautiful, nor does it deserve a “well done” sticker. Weight loss may lead to a healthier lifestyle, more confidence and self-love but that isn’t attainable purely from calorie restriction. It comes from learning to accept yourself warts and all.
In celebration of National No Diet Day which takes place on May 6th, I wanted to speak to online fitness babe Carly Rowena. She’s someone who promotes an exercise regime, balanced diet and above all self-acceptance for what your body looks like at all times.
In the online fitness world there is SO much pressure to appear lean, muscular and eat a clean diet and I’m impressed that Carly cuts through the bullshit and gets honest with her audience. She’s often captured eating chocolate, ice cream and pizza and will express candidly the negative feelings she’s had towards her own body in the past.
When I asked Carly about diet culture in social media she spoke about the importance of being upfront with her viewers;
“I think there is a lack of honesty to a degree, we need to remind people that we don’t eat like that all the time. That’s why I enjoy Insta-stories, it’s a chance to show a behind the scenes. I always try to share my clean days and my relaxed days, honesty is the only way forward”.
As someone who has always dieted, I’m curious whenever a new brand comes to market promising to deliver the best plan for optimal health and fast weight loss. Even if I don’t follow the plan I’m still interested in the science behind new fad diets and how they claim to work. However, Carly promises there is no one perfect diet that will work for everyone;
“We are all individuals so how can we ever all have the same results from the same diet? I recommend people really think about what they want, how they want to live and what they can afford both to give and to spend. Most people just need to make a few adjustments, swaps if you will. We need to stop thinking about our bodies as something we have to keep changing, we need to think about our lives and want we want our bodies to be able to do”.
Dieting has often left me with the overwhelming urge to binge. I would restrict my calories to 1000 per day, only consuming foods which I deemed ‘safe’ such as salad, fruit and vegetables. After a few weeks the urge consumed me and I would eat up to 5000 calories in the space of an hour to satisfy my hunger. The binges continued for days at a time before I forced myself to restrict again, only to result in an inevitable binge eating episode a few weeks down the line.
“Take a step back, rethink what you want from your life. Are you trying to be a bikini competition or an athlete? If the answer to both is no, then why are you trying to diet or train like one? Most of my clients are under-eating which is why they’re forever struggling to reach their goals. Top tip is to write own your food for a week and find out exactly what you’re eating, how many calories, are you getting enough fats, proteins, carbs or fibre, then you have a starting point from which you can make adjustments”.
I’ve found keeping a food diary is a great way to analyse your behaviour if you feel like food is ruling your life. I’ve learned that urge to binge often comes during a stressful time in my life, or after a period of restrictive eating and now I feel more equipped to deal with those urges when they arise.
The biggest thing I’ve learned is that ultimately dieting doesn’t work for me. It works on the surface and I can easily drop pounds by making a few simple changes to my food intake but the damage done to my mental state lasts longer and has been a challenge to rectify.
I’m glad that people like Carly Rowena are talking about the realities of over-restriction and the negative affects of dieting. There’s no shame in simply eating for health, exercising for fun and focusing on loving your body as it is!
Will you be celebrating National No Diet Day on May 6th?