Early this century, the first diet book hit the bookshelves. Since that one book, there have been countless other diet books written, clinics opened, programs offered, and dieting has grown into a multi-billion dollar business. Yet, with all the time and money that has gone into dieting, 98% of those who lose weight regain it all.
So diets don’t work. Really, we have known that for years. We have known diets can work – temporarily – and we have known the frustration of regaining all that we’ve lost and more over and over. Can that really be considered success? I don’t think so.
And whose fault is it that diets haven’t worked? Ours, of course. We have no willpower or motivation. We are just weak and incompetent. Right? Wrong.
Why, then, have we held onto the illusion that diets are the answer? What about the illusion that our lives would be wonderful when we lost weight? We hang onto that dream in spite of our experience to the contrary.
What price have we paid physically and emotionally for hanging onto these illusions? How much of our lives have we spent on these illusory goals? The price has been too high.
Now at least one of these illusions is being put to rest. What we have suspected all along has been finally confirmed. The illusion that diets are the answer is dying a slow death amongst dieters and health care professionals.
So now we know what doesn’t work. Does this mean that we must resign ourselves to being fat for the rest of our lives? Not necessarily. It may mean that we are going to have to take a good look at ourselves and our lives. It may be as simple as making changes in our food choices – on an ongoing basis, not just until we lose weight. However, it could mean a lot more. It may mean we have to spend some time getting to know ourselves better, discovering what subconscious motivations, hidden fears and buried feelings we have kept stuffed down with food and hidden behind our fat. It might mean we have to figure out again how true physiological hunger feels. We might also have to figure out what those sensations are if they are not hunger. Perhaps we will have to learn new ways of expressing our feelings, taking care of ourselves, experiencing pleasure, protecting ourselves from any number of dangers, real or perceived, or facing our fears. We might have to learn to trust ourselves, to listen and respond to our bodies’ signals and to our intuitive voices that know what is right for us.
All this to lose weight? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. This journey is not just about losing weight, just as being fat is not just about overeating. If we relearn how to eat for true hunger, our bodies will go to our ideal weights – whatever that may be. This journey is also about getting to know and understand ourselves better, giving up our use of food and fat to cope with life’s challenges and disappointments, finding new, life-affirming ways to cope, taking risks – in other words, living our lives to their fullest potential.
Are we ready for the challenge? Are we ready to look beyond the external solution offered by diets? Are we ready to look inside ourselves for the answers that are already there, if we would only listen?
Patricia Kelly is a Registered Professional Dietitian and counselor specializing in compulsive eating disorders and body image issues. She can be reached at 921-9670.
Reprinted from Feminie: A Magazine for Women, June 1993.