Throughout my life, I have received many comments about my weight, my body. I have had people refer to me as a “bigger girl” or “kinda chubby”, I’ve been called “healthy looking”, and I’ve been referred to as flat out “FAT”. As a dietitian, I have had clients who appreciate the fact that I’m not stick thin and others who have wondered how I can help them since I am not stick thin. I’ve looked in the mirror and hated my body. I’ve spent hours trying to put on clothes and nothing looked okay. I’ve been frustrated in fitting rooms. I have literally crawled into a little ball on the floor, cried, and said “I am so fat and ugly, I hate myself.” I know that I am not alone.
My weight changes have been pretty “normal”, considering my family history and lifestyle. During high school I thought I was fat – my little breakdown on the floor happened during class when we were working on a group project. Freshman through junior yet I was far from being “fat” – I am 5’6″ and when I got my driver’s license I was 145#. According to body fat % and BMI, my weight and build was perfectly normal. But I didn’t have a flat stomach and I had curves. And I wore a size 9 or 11 in Juniors, not a 3 or a 5. So I thought I was fat.
Then my senior year I put on weight. We’ve heard of the “Freshman 15” that you gain in college – I gained it in high school when I started dating a guy who played video games all day and ate fast food every day. I shot up to 170#, putting my BMI into the overweight category. I stayed that weight until January 2008 – the first New Year’s after I had decided to become a dietitian. I had learned a lot about food, nutrition, and weight management as a student, and I decided that if I was going to be a dietitian I couldn’t be fat anymore.
So I started by eating a little better. Then I read the book “Skinny Bitch” and became vegan for a short while, then vegetarian because I missed milk, cheese and eggs and that vegan stuff was too expensive for a broke college kid. I started working out with a friend of mine and became addicted to the gym and running especially. By that summer, I had hit my lowest weight as an adult – 140#. I felt great being so active, and I fit into my clothes from high school again. But when the next school year came, I didn’t have time to spend 4 hours a day at the gym. And eventually I got frustrated with being a vegetarian and having a meat eating boyfriend. I maintained a weight of about 150# for a while, but down the road I gained all the weight back – and then some. I hit my highest weight when I was a dietetic intern, at 182#. I wasn’t happy at that weight, and I wasn’t happy being the “fat intern” or the “fat dietitian” as I was referred to by some people. I had a rough time accepting my body for what it was and what it could or couldn’t do… until I became an eating disorder dietitian.
I embraced the “Health at Every Size” beliefs. I taught and practiced intuitive eating and mindful eating techniques. I let go of the guilty feelings that accompanied so many foods for me. I reminded myself that yes, I will be able to have cookies again. And that yes, the ice cream will still be in the fridge tomorrow if I want it – I don’t have to eat half the container now! I made peace with food, and I reminded myself how much I loved running and working out.
But every time I would make a “plan”, I would fail. And of course I would, because diets don’t work. If you exercise every time you diet, then that won’t work either. I was failing to recognize the most important aspect of intuitive eating, which was getting rid of all of those dieting thoughts and tools. Even when I told myself I was just making a “lifestyle change”, it didn’t matter – I was still dieting. And of course I didn’t have results, and of course I was frustrated.
So I finally gave it all up. I said screw the workout schedules, screw the diet plans and menus. I’m going to do what feels best, and I’m going to appreciate my body for all of what it can do. And screw anyone who thinks I need to go on a diet, I need to lose weight, or I need to work out. YOU don’t get to decide what’s best for my life or my body – I DO. It’s none of your business what my body fat % is or what my BMI is or whether I eat cookies or broccoli.
But in case you were wondering – this KEEPING IT REAL dietitian will tell you that I am a perfectly healthy 174#, making my BMI 28, with a body fat % of 32%. I wear a size 12-14 depending on the brand, and I’m curvy and beautiful. I am still a “runner-in-progress”, working on being able to complete a 5k race again, and some day I would like to train for a 10k and a triathlon. And I believe that I can reach those goals with this body. I do not need to deprive myself. I do not need to feel guilty if I miss a day of training or if I don’t eat a perfect meal. My health is about more than the size and shape of my body – it is about the fact that I take care of my spiritual and mental well being along with my physical well being, I feed my body what it needs, and I move my body in ways that make me feel healthy and beautiful. And I will promote this idea to anyone – knowing full well that as a dietitian I would probably make tons of money telling people to just cut 500 calories a day to lose 1# per week, and exercise 60 minutes 5 days a week, and blah, blah, blah. But when I know in my heart, from my own experience, that diets don’t work – even diets disguised as “healthy eating” – I just cannot promote failure to my clients, friends, and family.
All of that is why I’m NOT on a diet, and I never will be again.