I started a ten day diet break this weekend, and one big thing has immediately become apparent. I no longer know how to feed myself. That is to say, my gauge for when I’m actually hungry is broken. I have been counting calories for about a year and half now, tracking everything I eat with a number on an app every day. It can be exhausting, but generally I eat similar foods or choose recipes that list the calorie count, so it’s fairly automatic at this point. The thing that really really gets me down, and the thing that is ultimately my “failing” is saying “no.” All. The. Time. Saying no to treats or extra food during the day, because I know that I’ll need those calories for dinner and I don’t want to go to bed hungry. Saying no to a glass of wine with dinner most nights, saying no to drinks when everyone else is celebrating. I get so worn down from saying No all the time that when I so much as whisper, “Yes…” the dam breaks, and the river of Yes comes surging out, rushing out of control. I want to eat EVERYTHING that is fried, fatty, salty, sweet, creamy, crunchy and god help us all if it has cream cheese frosting on it. And so I do. I eat every snack I can find. I eat until I’m full, so full that I’m nearly sick. This is no longer about fueling my body or curbing hunger. It is about trying to find self love in saying yes to food, when saying no has become a constant punishment. Of course, binge eating is going about self love all kinds of wrong, but that is the intent. It’s really about looking for something that I will never ever find in my kitchen cupboard, but I will doggedly, ravenously, and somewhat gleefully, continue the search.
And then I feel like a failure. Like a weak person. Diet and fitness culture makes it sound, ultimately, so simple. If we follow a set plan, if we are strong enough and have enough will power, we will lose the weight. Which is true, I suppose. But we are dealing with human beings who have a complex relationship with “need” and “want.” If it were so simple, the diet/fitness industry wouldn’t be such a huge empire, we would just all be out there exercising and eating organic veggies. All svelte and crap.
In any case, I haven’t been feeling so svelte and crap, and feel like my relationship to food is spiraling out of control. I did some Googling and reading about binge eating, and one website used the phrase “diet break.” This wasn’t really a concept I had thought of in terms of a healthy, successful diet. It sounded like failure, and massive backtracking on weight loss. I did some more Googling and reading, but asking the Internet for weight loss advice can be about as effective as asking a room full of kindergarteners for love life help. The rules for diet breaks varied widely, but I decided that I needed to follow my (pun intended) gut on this one, and give myself a mental break from tracking calories and obsessively worrying about food. I would take ten days where I didn’t think about food as a bunch of numbers, trying to eat mainly healthy, but not worrying too much if I indulged. I need to see what happens when I let go and try to listen to my body.