Monday, March 11, 2013

Diets Are Not the Answer

photo courtesy of stock.exchng
I trained under a director who made us weigh in weekly. Rumor was that if you weighed 110 pounds or less you were allowed to partner. Experience taught that if you looked like you weighed less than 100 pounds you didn't have to weigh in.

Needless to say, I've spent (wasted) a lot of time dieting. I've been so hungry I couldn't think straight. I've met horribly unrealistic and probably dangerous calorie goals. I trained myself to look at pictures in cookbooks instead of actually eating food. After a while I just stopped feeling hungry at all. I've gotten professional help.

When I think back on that poor girl (and I was under 21 for almost all of it) I just want to hug her. It is so tragic to think that weight is that important to anyone, and I know I'm not the only one who has felt that way. Weight is that important to someone right now.

(In all fairness, I do not blame my director for my issues with food. I am the one who chose to internalize messages, I chose to put ridiculous amounts of pressure on myself, and I distorted my own thoughts. But the weigh-ins didn't help.) 

Okay, that was then. I am now a happy, healthy woman who has worked very hard and decided not to waste another moment on a silly diet. I don't even own a scale. I thought I had put this all behind me.

Then I had a daughter of my own. 

In college I heard that girls as young as seven were going on diets and feeling pressure to be thin. "Surely not all seven-year-olds," I thought, "those girls must be the rare exception." No, not so much. My own little girl was seven when a classmate first introduced the idea of dieting and the importance of being thin. When I found out what was going on I truly felt physically ill. I want nothing more for my child (and yours) than for her to grow up confident that she has a special gift to give the world. And no one's gift is how they look.

This is such an overwhelming topic. How can I protect my sweet little girl from this unnamed, ever-present pressure to look a certain way--especially when I couldn't even protect myself? I don't pretend to have all the answers. All I have is one decision:

I've decided that the Beatles were right when they sang "love is all you need."  Love is what I need to hold off this pernicious voice that tells us to look a certain way in order to be "good enough." I'm not talking about increasing my love for my daughter--I have that in spades. What I was missing for so long was unconditional love for myself. The key is to love myself just the way I am. Right now. With "imperfect" weight, blemished skin, unfinished goals, whatever. 

I love myself it won't matter who says what about diets, because I won't listen. But this doesn't just help me. I truly believe that love multiplies and that if I love myself without conditions, I can love and accept you, too. If we love ourselves we can stop comparing ourselves to each other or to air-brushed/styled/professionally-crafted standards. We can simply be ourselves. And our daughters will see that whoever we are is "good enough." Whoever they are is good enough. We will build their strength and resilience by showing them our own.

Our daughters deserve to live this way. And so do we. Love is what I have to offer.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. "Love is what I have to offer." Unfortunately, society has all the prejudice in the world to offer, so don't push your kids into the "however you look, it will be good enough" mindset, because society will slap them on the face. Hard.

    Teach them the standards of society, since, you know, that's what we live in, and not an island where there is only you and your daughter.

    Diets are not the answer, but neither letting a kid eat whatever they want, whenever they want, because children don't know what's good for them. The answer is good parenting. And that's up to you.