Obviously I hate diets. The very notion of them totally epitomises everything that I despise about society circa 2017. They are a huge part of why I started Pretty Normal Me in the first place and the topic of weight loss at the dinner table is one thing that is guaranteed to send me into an apocalyptic rage. It is therefore hardly surprising that I do not frequently partake in this particular form of torture. It will also not come as a huge shock to you that I don’t have an awful lot of time for the conversation that inevitably surrounds them either, or the people that start them.
These people, the ‘diet talkers’, I find to be rather tiresome, mostly because they end up making me feel incredibly guilty for eating whatever delicious thing I’m putting into my mouth at the time. Because these conversations are always started at meal times aren’t they? Normally on Sundays as big plans are made for Monday morning, whilst I’m busy tucking into my sixteenth roast potato of the afternoon, silently praying that no one eats the last slab of beef so that I can squish it into a sandwich for lunch the following day.
Obviously with disordered eating statistics at an all time high, I hope you can appreciate that I am talking about this in a light hearted way, my frustration is not, of course with those with a complicated or unhealthy relationship with food, rather it is with the society that promotes such a stupid fucking pass time and the pressure that many of us (read: all of us) are under to ‘watch what we eat.’
In a study done last year by Mintel it was found that 50% of people in the UK have tried to lose weight in the past year, with two thirds of them doing it ‘most of the time’. I hate this. But I can of course understand it. As a nation we are overweight, and as women we are by and large not totally okay about it. Everywhere that we look we are encouraged to lose the weight that we ourselves don’t like, and we are offered advice at every single junction.
And that’s before we have even brought our pesky minds into the mix; the part of our brain that tells us that we are ‘too fat’ every time we look in the mirror, the part that constantly compares our bodies to those of our friends and the people that we see online and in print, the part of our brain that says: you aren’t good enough.
Is it any wonder then, that we want to diet? That we feel that we need to? Of course it’s bloody not. So tell me this: is there anything more unfair than the fact that, after we have decided to give into it, to do as our minds say and BETTER OURSELVES, to starve ourselves until we look like everybody else, that the diets don’t work??? Well, they don’t for me at least.
Last Sunday night, after a week on the bike cycling for Help For Heroes, which should have been the ultimate weight-loss, boot-camp style adventure, that actually turned out to be the most fattening holiday of your life because you squish biscuits into your mouth at an undignified rate every chance you get, I decided that I should go on a diet last week. I didn’t have a huge weight loss objective, I appreciate that I’m far from fat, but really I just wanted to inject a bit of health into what was becoming a very beige scene.
Our Ocado order consisted of a lot of vegetables, I even invited an aubergine to join the party this time, a vegetable that has never made it anywhere near my basket on previous shops. High protein, low carb and a few gym trips, easy right?
NO. NOT FUCKING EASY.
Because I fell for the oldest trick in the book and I labelled what I was about to do with the dreaded D-word. I called it a diet.
The reason that weight loss can’t work in my house and my head can be traced pretty directly, back to my use of that word.
My mind went into overtime and if I thought I’d eaten a lot of biscuits the week before, that was nothing of what was to come. Whereas before I was eating enough to keep my energy levels high enough to permit my legs to do 70 miles on the bike in a day, I was now eating so much that I was hard pushed walking up and down the stairs. I had brought home a LOT of excess food from the ride, spare chocolate, cereal bars and biscuits by the kilogram. Within two days of being back at my desk in London, the food that I had failed to eat during a week when I had really deserved it, had gone.
It’s like the food was the big red button which I’d been instructed not to push and the part of my mind that constantly asks: ‘but why???’ went into overdrive. The food was the big red button and I’d not just pushed it, but chewed it and swallowed it at an incredible speed. Within three hours of starting my ‘diet’ I had failed it, and if that isn’t an excuse to just scream “fuck it” and eat an unholy amount of food just because then I don’t know what is. I know for a fact that if I had given absolutely no thought to my food at all, I’d have made it through Monday with a considerably healthier amount of food consumed.
When I was younger I would watch my mum try and diet, she would make herself a salad whilst the rest of us went to town on our jacket potatoes. Thankfully don’t think I ever thought too much about it at the time, other than to develop a mild notion that growing up looked horrible because you weren’t allowed to eat potatoes. Alas, adulthood and the insecurity that comes with it hit me early and by the age of 15 I was doing everything in my power to constrict my food, or at least to beat the original algorithm, the calorie to pound ratio. Someone once told me that if I ate an apple before each meal I would lose weight, this was just the sort of bullshit rumour that I lived for; diets that were easy enough to do. Of course it didn’t work and nor, by the way, did anything else that I tried during my time at school and the years since then.
The biggest change I ever saw in my body was at the beginning of this year when I really got into my exercise, if it had anything to do with what I was eating then I was not particularly aware of a change. And that’s the important bit here: if I have ever lost weight due to food, it has happened without my noticing.
Because as soon as I even think about it, I know I am destined to fail. Food is TOO complicated. Since we need it to survive it’s not a question of just cutting it out all together when we want to lose weight and then, since no one explains anything to us about anything, when we try and limit what we eat or cut out the bits that the Daily Mail have told us are bad for us during any given month, we can’t do it.
I can’t do it. It’s just too much pressure.
I am my happiest, truly at my happiest, when I do not think about any of this. When I can look in the mirror and not think much of it. When I can come downstairs and cook myself breakfast and not think for a second about the calories in there or what the nutrient value of an oat is. When I can sit and eat four slices of cake on the sofa because Bake Off is on and that shit makes me hungry. When I can go out to dinner with my friends and not one of them mentions how they really shouldn’t be eating this burger. (OK, the last one never happens but the occasionally, the other ones do) The minute I start doubting myself, worrying about food in any capacity other than ‘can I fit this whole cracker into my mouth in one go?’ or getting guilty for my choices, I get stressed and I get sad and all too quickly, I’m overwhelmed. No one works at their best when they are overwhelmed. Food can be very overwhelming and it absolutely shouldn’t be.
I don’t want to sit here and say to you that you shouldn’t diet and that losing weight is lame and pathetic, because that’s not fair or accurate. You may want to lose weight and you may have a million and one very valid reasons to want to do that, as long as you are okay about that and healthy about it then that is okay. It is also, by the way, none of my business. But when has that ever stopped me from butting my nose in before?
With this in mind I am going to offer you some advice: eat vegetables. Don’t eat your dinner too late. And whatever the fuck you do, don’t label the bloody thing as ANYTHING other than a tiny lifestyle adjustment. Or maybe an experiment.