“I’m on a Diet”… it’s such a common phrase to hear uttered by American women. In libraries and book stores whole sections exist that are devoted to various diets. Low carb, low fat, vegetarian, paleo, raw… the list is infinite! This is only natural when looking at our health statistics and our cultural beauty ideals. According to the US government, 69.2% of Americans are overweight or obese (BMI greater than 25) and 35.9% are classified as obese (BMI greater than 30) (Center for Disease Control and Prevention 2013). At the same time our culture and media glorifies unrealistically thin bodies. In my opinion, the majority of models could be classified as having an anorexic BMIs (17.5 or less) (sad that women in the public eye depict a body that is not healthy for many women to have). I believe this great discrepancy between who we are (many of us “overweight”) and who we want to be (Barbie) fuels the huge diet industry.
Well, ok. People (especially women) diet. So what? Right? I don’t think it’s quite so innocuous or simple. I believe that the diet industry also fuels eating disorders which are also sadly quite rampant in our culture. I believe that these disorders are often overlooked much more than the issue of being overweight, and while they might be slightly less common than obesity, they are still prevalent and I believe that they can be much more harmful than being overweight. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders, up to 3.7% of US women suffer from anorexia in their lifetime and up to 4.2% struggle with bulimia during their life (ANAD 2014). Eating disorders have severe health consequences including heart failure, organ failure, and even death (ANAD 2014). I believe that some individuals are biologically predisposed to develop eating disorders, but need to be triggered into it, often through malnutrition from dieting. Our diet-happy culture, I believe is often the trigger to push girls over the edge into these disorders. I have definitely been there. And I lived in that dark prison for about 6 years of my life. The journey out has been long and arduous, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
So, what to do? it seems like both ends of the food spectrum (dieting/ controlled eating and over eating/standard american eating) can have profound consequences. I was thinking about this today as my mom was telling me about a new diet that she is going to try. Some low sugar low carb plan (Wheat belly?). For some reason, diet talk really is triggering to me. Maybe because deep down, I’m still have some of that 95 lb teenager in me who longs above all else to be thin. Who has that tinge of “it’s not fair that I can’t be naturally thin and healthy and have the body I want”. Maybe a part of me wishes I could go on a diet. Now. And succeed (Heck, I remember being a skinny child and enjoying reading diet books and begging my mother to let me tag along to weight watchers with her. I’ve always been interested in diets for some reason). And watch my body shrink. But I don’t think that’s fully it. I have seen both ends of the spectrum with dealing with an ED and hypothalamic amenorrhea so clearly. And I have come to a realization. Why does it have to be so difficult to simply maintain a healthy weight? So many people have health complications from being too thin for their body or too heavy for their bodies. So many people struggle with disordered eating and skewed body image and fall into focusing on numbers on the scale. Why does it need to be this way? I don’t think God designed it to be such a struggle to maintain an optimal weight for health.
I have also come to the realization, that I never want to “Diet” again. As much as restricting my food gives me control and a sense of pride and temporary satisfaction, I’ve seen it’s not good for me. From now on, I always want to eat what I believe is healthy for my body, and I may not even want to know a number on a scale again (I get fixated on numbers and they upset me). I hope that if I eat mostly natural, whole foods, and make sure I’m not eating anything, particularly carbs and sugar in excess, that my weight will stabilize at a healthy place. For so long I based my worth on “the number” on the scale. If it went up, it was a terrible day and I was an unworthy person. If it went down I was on top of the world. I don’t want to let a number define my worth. I want to be able to nourish my body that God gave me and be in complete surrender. It is a struggle for me, since in my opinion, I look best at around 110 lbs which is probably about 15 lbs less than I am now :(. That ED part of me that is still present (although I like to pretend it’s all gone) is disgusted with myself, but I quickly surrender those thoughts and realize that I cannot take back my will with this. I am a bit worried that I don’t have a “set point” or it may be much higher than I’d like as I know that I have to basically restrict myself to a few hundred calories a day to get below 110 lbs, and eat maybe btwn 1000 and 1500 at most to be 110-120 lbs. I’ve let go of the number for the very first time, and I’m quite scared of how high my weight might go. I am very honestly scared deep down that I’m going to keep gaining. But I really know I can’t handle trying to control my weight more than just eating healthy and keep surrendering my body and will. It’s easier some days than others, but some it’s freakishly discouraging and scary. And I want to take back that will of mine and start cutting calories like crazy. But I know what is right for my mind, spirit and body and will do that, Just for today. I am grateful that I am energetic. I am grateful, that most of the time, my life is so not ED focused. I am happy that I got my period back basically 4 months in a row. I need to focus on the positive. And realize that the D word, is not for me. Healthy is , but Diet is not and never will be, again, I believe. Regardless of that ED voice that is there, I have been given new eyes although they see more clearly some days than others, and for that I am grateful.
ANAD. (2014). Eating disorders statistics. Retrieved from http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013, November 21). Obesity and overweight. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/overwt.htm
Today has been such a discouraging day. One of those terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad days where just nothing goes right (although I did find a dollar on the ground this morning!- i suppose it was not good omen)… whatever… I know, I seem bipolar here. I am here at the library in a little white study room with tears in my eyes. I really am at that place where I don’t think that I can do this recovery thing anymore (I’m sure it’s just a fleeting discouraging moment). I am so stressed about school and have so much to do but really feel that I need to vent. NOW.
So today started out ok, I went to the library. I then proceeded to drop my iPod into the toilet (my favorite item). I realized that I don’t have much money right now probably because I spend a lot of it on foods that my family does not buy. At the same time I’m fat (yuck). I’m so immature, I know. 23 going on 13… Can I afford to work 1 more day a week, since my mom isn’t gonna support these endeavors anymore? I don’t think so, honestly, right now. *Sigh* I am working part time, taking a full course load, and doing 2 part time internships right now and trying to finish a thesis that might not go through. Very stressful time. Though it’s all stuff that I believe God has put in my life to do. So I’m trying to look at the big picture and be grateful.
I know I’m so all or nothing. After a day like today I kind of want to just curl up in a ball and cry. And give up. I thought God wanted me to do this. Does He not? I’m not sure now, really. OK… I guess I need to just pray for guidance with my life, and with school. Maybe things aren’t as discouraging as I feel since I’m in the moment. I just sense this great dissension lately with my parents. Like I can’t do anything right at all. Should I quit? Go back to how things were before? Maybe this journey really is ME and not the LORD? i thought I was surrendering things but perhaps I’m just picking up some nice new idols for the old ones.
One of those “pray” kinds of days. For clarity.
“All that I can do, is lift my hands to you… take hold of my life, hold of my life… and make something beautiful.”
ps: it’s later in the day… and I prayed and I DO have peace. More to come. Have much to do tonight!