Thursday, 11 February 2016

Dieting – why I don’t do it!

I read an interesting statistic recently - only 1 in 100 people who diet actually keep the weight off long-term. I knew the success rates were low but didn’t know they were quite that bad. But from my own, albeit fairly limited experience of dieting, I’m not surprised either. I say ‘limited’ because I’ve only really tried one diet, although I’ve tried it maybe six or seven times. Another shocking statistic I heard once is that many (or is that most?) women diet throughout their lives, many being completely governed by their obsession with food.

I believe there are many reasons women have food obsessions and I’m not going to go into them here apart from saying that if only women could think a little more like men and men weren’t quite so critical and the fashion industry designed for ‘real’ women we wouldn’t be in a position where a large proportion of the adult female population is continually starving, weighing and obsessing in varying degrees, all to absolutely no avail it seems. Many women I know have been sucked into dietary obsessions. Some are unhealthily thin, others ‘allow’ themselves ‘treats’ and presumably therefore punish themselves regularly too and most women I know have at least some idiosyncrasy that at best can be described as unusual. I’m definitely saddened by this fact because, as I will explain, my own experiences have taught me that diets definitely mess with your brain, make you unable to function on a normal level and ultimately, don’t work – hence the  ‘six or seven times’ attempts with one diet.

I never really needed to think about my weight until I was in my mid-thirties and until I had a child. I remained roughly the same weight, neither fat, nor thin and though if I could have waved a magic wand there were things I would have changed, generally I was quite happy with my body. But I got older, I had a baby, my work became more sedentary and I noticed my weight creeping up and at some point I read a book about the Atkins diet. This diet appealed to me because it seemed to offer a quick fix, not too much effort – you could eat as much as you wanted of certain, (generally considered unhealthy) foods and lose fat fast. Isn’t that every dieters dream? And if it seems too good to be true, that’s because it really is.
In some ways it was easy. You do just stick to certain foods, leave out others and lose weight fast. But, and the thing I couldn’t get my head around was that the foods you leave out are the ones which we’ve been always been told are healthy and the ones you can eat plentifully, in fact almost excessively, are the ones we’ve been told are bad. Now, it’s not just indoctrination but I know that fruit and vegetables are good for you and that processed, fatty meats aren’t so it wasn’t easy to eat fried bacon and eggs for breakfast every day. Really there aren’t many alternatives; I wasn’t allowed cereal, bread, yogurt and especially not fruit, so bacon and eggs it was. And so on with everything. My long-term views were turned on their head - the ones that had kept me at a steady, healthy weight all my life.

But this is where the problems started. I found that though I lost the weight, the diet prevented me from functioning normally. I was unable to eat out or at other people’s houses and I suddenly understood the dietary obsessions many other women live with; being invited to someone’s house means an entire week’s work can be undone in a single setting. I thought about food constantly and I measured my day in terms of what I’d abstained from. Gradually, I became quite obsessed. I bought little sticks that I peed on to measure my ketones and my success was measured by whether the ketone sticks had turned purple - if they stayed beige the day’s abstinence had not been worth it (the really weird thing was that the colour change of the ketone sticks actually became a greater measure of my success than the actual weight loss).  I bought large quantities of food from an online company that sold low-carb diet plans and I regularly spoke to their earnest customer service reps who reassured me that apples were indeed bad and ‘I’d done really well by eating pork scratchings instead’. I weighed myself every day, sometimes several times. I felt guilty if ate fruit and then I felt guilty if I didn’t.
The worst of it all was that each and every time I failed. I failed because I just couldn’t stick to it long-term, because 99% of dieters do fail and because real life got in the way. I needed to work and to think about work, I needed to think about my family, my son, my parents, my friends, thinking about food all day just wasn’t sustainable. Did I lose weight? Well, that I don’t actually know because I threw away my scales, I think I had to for my own sanity.

1 comment:

  1. Sadly, the diet industry is making millions and invested in people NOT losing weight!