Before recovery, I never met a diet I didn’t like. I was literally obsessed with dieting. Every diet has the same (false) pretense: “It’s a lifestyle change, not a diet!” But they all require you to restrict. And to a person struggling with an eating disorder, restriction is a death blow to recovery.
A slave to dieting
The diet industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, and they definitely got their money from me. During the darkest times of my bulimia, I owned about 25 books on diets.
I devoured them continually, buying a new one as soon as I finished the last one. I tried it all: low carb, low fat, low sodium, vegan, vegetarian, mediterranean, paleo, protein counting, calorie counting, point counting, carb counting, hormone counting, the 17 day version, and skip-a-meals.
Of course, I purchased all the corresponding accessories, including: detox shakes, fasts, protein shakes, protein bars, specially prepackaged meals, patches, energy drinks, diet pills, diet elixirs, essential oils, audio programs, weekly meetings, and group memberships.
Once I got into a diet, I would go all in.
Hyping it up to myself as the greatest diet to ever exist. Recommending it to my friends and family. Plastering the results all over social media.
“Look at me! I lost some weight doing X diet!”
And it was true, I did lose some weight on diets. But of course, I always, always gained it back. I was just as addicted to the act of dieting as I was to the eating disorder itself.
The temptation to go on diets did not stop when I entered recovery. If anything, it only got worse.
I learned that I could not have my cake and eat it too. By that I mean, I couldn’t recover from my eating disorder and diet at the same time.
The two were one in the same and to quit one was to quit the other.
2 common scenarios (and exactly what to do in them)
Was it easy? No! But through trial and error, ups and down, I found my way out dieting prison.
Here are a few situations that I encountered regarding dieting while in recovery and how I dealt with them.
1. The dieting friend
We all have friends who mean well, but simply don’t understand how destructive diets can be to our recovery.
Sometimes it comes in the form of an office weight loss challenge. Or it might be a friend who wants a dieting buddy and knows you as the dieting queen. Often, friends on social media, who sell various dieting products, ask you to join groups or purchase packages.
Honestly, the urge to diet can come from anyone, anywhere, and at any time.
What to Say:
Generally, our friends and family have good intentions, so I’m never rude. But I also know that I cannot entertain the idea for even a second or I risk falling off the diet wagon.
So, I say something like,
I appreciate the offer, but I suffer from an eating disorder and I prefer not to be part of any sort of diet program.
Simple enough. There ‘s no need to go into specifics- but also, there is no need to hide the truth.
I have an illness and it is certainly nothing to be ashamed about. Most people understand this and respect my feelings.
However, I occasionally get someone who pushes back about how their program is not really a diet. In that situation, I respond with, “I’m sure it is helpful for many others, but for me, it is not a good idea.”
2. Internal pressure to diet
The urge to diet when you know you are gaining weight is excruciating. There were times when I begged and cried to my therapist about how awful it felt to put on weight. She stood her ground with me and, in the end, that was what I needed.
It forced me to stand up to myself… that inner voice that tells me I’m too fat, or too lazy, or too stupid to continue with recovery. I learned, through months of therapy, to stand my ground and say “no!” to that voice whenever it decided to pop up in my thoughts.
What You Can Do Instead
Saying “no!” to that voice is difficult and it takes time and practice to get good at it. But it eventually gets easier to resist the urge to diet.
Here are a few things you can do to keep yourself from knee-jerk dieting:
1. Don’t consider it
Not even for a second. The moment the idea of dieting comes into your mind, push it away. You can actually say “No!” out loud. Trust me, it helps (I’ve actually done it)!
2. Don’t weigh yourself
Being a slave to the scale causes more harm than good. Just throw that thing away!
3. Journal it
Whenever you feel as though dieting is the only answer to your problems, write down your feelings. After that, let them go.
Don’t give yourself permission to think about those toxic thoughts again.
4. Tell yourself, “I love you”
Do it at least 10 times per day. Set little reminders on your phone so you don’t forget. Write yourself little love notes and stick them all over the place.
You won’t believe it at first, but soon, it’ll start to sink in that you love yourself no matter what your weight.
5. Buy new clothes
Your old, skinny, ED clothes aren’t going to cut it anymore- and that is okay. Do something fun like join a monthly clothes box mailing service that sends you clothes that actually fit you.
I joined Dia, a plus-sized monthly mailing service, and it did wonders for my self-esteem.
6. Find a new hobby
Gone are the days when you list your hobbies as “dieting” and “obsessing over weight.” Try new things to fill the dieting void and see what works.
I tried drawing, painting, playing the flute, yoga, makeup, blogging, watching movies, gardening, photography, and video editing.
Life > dieting
The urge to diet may never fully go away. There are times when I see an interesting group on Facebook, or an advertisement for a new diet trend on television, and that little voice perks up deep inside, wanting to know more details.
But I assure you, the longer you go without dieting, the easier it is to say no when that voice pops up in your mind.
And with time, you’ll see: life is so much better when you finally become free from perpetually dieting.