Dieting will make us do and believe the weirdest things. Here’s things dieting made me do or believe.
I came across this post on Instagram by Caroline Dooner of @thefuckitdiet a couple of weeks ago. The image reads “In 2006 I was a raw vegan and brought a whole papaya to Christmas dinner and that was all I ate”.
In the comments to the post, hundreds of people started sharing the things they did or believed while on a diet (or suffering from an eating disorder). The post, and the comments on it, got me thinking of all the things dieting made me do. As a result of my eating disorder and subsequent years upon years I spent dieting, over-exercising, running on way too little fuel, and not nourishing my body and mind enough, I was convinced of all kinds of things and followed various routines and rituals that lived up to those beliefs.
Things Dieting Made Me Do or Believe
When I was in the worst depths of my eating disorder I would walk for hours every day, walking home from work no matter the weather or how tired I was. On my route from work I would pass a pasta and pizza restaurant which emitted a scent of fresh baked pizzas, pasta and garlic bread out onto the street. Whenever I approached the restaurant I would hold my breath, somehow convincing myself that breathing in the delicious scent of food and carbs would mean I was consuming calories. Yes, I believed that the scent alone was calories.
Terrified of what would happen to my body if I didn’t follow my strict workout regime, I would do 100 situps on the floor by my bed every night before going to bed. Sometimes, I was so exhausted that I forgot to do my ritual hundred, realising it once I’d got all tucked into bed and was about to fall asleep. In a panic I’d fly out of bed, lie down on the floor and do the 100 situps and then go back to bed. The years of doing situps on the floor, my boney spine rubbing against the hard surface, left me with a constant bruise along the middle of my back. And no matter how diligent I was with my situps, regardless of never missing a day, I never did achieve those six pack abs. My malnourishment left me with zero muscle mass and thus, no six pack abs.
For years, I struggled with extreme anxiety about other people seeing me eat. My mind would go absolutely haywire with thoughts on what the witness of my eating was thinking of me, my food, my portion size etc. I would often take my meal to my room to eat in privacy, where I could feel calm and avoid the anxiety of someone seeing me eating. Once, I was up before my mom and eating breakfast in the kitchen when my mom – to my utter surprise and horror – got up to go to the bathroom. She passed through the kitchen and in a panic I threw a napkin over my plate, mortified at the thought of her seeing me eat…my completely normal breakfast? It’s taken forever to get over the anxiety of eating with others, and I still feel most comfortable and relaxed when eating alone.
In my years of dieting I would soak up whatever the internet, magazines or celebrities were saying about how to lose weight. One year, I decided to go raw vegan for the first month of the year, as some kind of new years resolution (and, of course, to lose weight). This meant I ate only fresh, uncooked fruits, vegetables, and occasionally some nuts. I was extremely stubborn and determined to make it through my month of raw vegan eating. I was tired, cold, and hungry as hell all month but determined not to fail. Of course, the second I’d finished the 30 days of eating raw, I dove right into all kinds of carbs – candy, crackers, bread. My body was starving and desperate for food, carbs, nourishment! I went on a binge and felt absolutely horrible afterwards. I never did 30 days of raw food again.
Related: My Eating Disorder Story
I tortured myself through hot yoga for days and days because I’d heard it made you lose weight quickly. Hot yoga is a 90 minute strenuous yoga class, performed in 107 F / 42 C degree heat. One morning, less than 10 minutes into the class, I began to feel faint. The room had mirrors covering each of the four walls, and in my reflection I could see how the color had completely drained from my face. I looked like a ghost. At the start of the class, the teachers would always say that they do not condone people leaving the room during the class. No matter how hot you get, you are to stay in the room. Wanting to please everyone, not do anything wrong, in fact, determined to do everything perfectly, I felt a jolt of panic at the state I was in and knowing I wasn’t allowed to leave the room. My knees buckled and I sat on my haunches for a minute or two, and then proceeded to finish the entire 90 minute class. Thankfully, the colour eventually came back to my face and I didn’t feel as faint throughout the class, but a sane person would have taken this as a good signal that their body was telling me to give it a f’ing break already. And as so many other times, I didn’t listen.
Eating at restaurants was a nightmare when suffering from an eating disorder. The anxiety it caused me was crippling. Some time back in 2008 or 2009, my then boyfriend suggested we grab dinner out in favor of having to cook. Needless to say, I really didn’t want to but felt I had no choice but to tag along. Once at the restaurant I ended up sending the waitress back and fourth to the chef two or three times asking if they could make me something special off the menu (since nothing on the menu would suffice my restrictive diet). The waitress finally suggested they make me pasta with vegetables, no sauce, and I agreed. When the dish came out, I still panicked about it and ate only tiny little bits of the vegetables, I didn’t touch the pasta and felt betrayed by the chef that they’d obviously cooked these vegetables in some kind of oil or butter. HOW DARE THEY!? My company pleaded with me to take on more bite, just a little bit of pasta but I absolutely refused. In my mind I’d done enough damage just eating the few little bites of vegetables. God knows what this would do to by body! My previous anxiety and mindset about eating out still haunts me to this day. I always hesitate when the suggestion of going out to eat comes up. It’s far from as bad as it used to be, and these days I often eat out, and am able to enjoy myself in the moment. But there’s always that little bit of panic and mind chatter before visiting the restaurant – remnants of past behaviour and beliefs.
These are just some of the stories of my years with dieting and disordered eating. There’s a lot more to tell, but the fact that I can recognize how unhealthy these stories are shows how far I have come from that state of mind. And that alone is a huge accomplishment.
I think it’s important that we share our stories of the things dieting made us do or believe. In talking about it, we’re not only telling ourselves that we know better now, we’re also showing others that whatever society is telling you about dieting, is not the answer. Partaking in dieting behaviours will give you nothing but a miserable and lonely life. In talking about it we’re contributing to contradicting the millions of triggering and false statements out there suggesting dieting is ever the answer to anything.