I have a confession to make. I have a secret stash of ice cream that is just for me. Yeah, I’ve cried when my husband polished off the last of the chocolate brownie ice cream, and I fear it may be a deal breaker for our marriage. So, I got my own, put it in the back of the freezer, and eat it when my kids have already gone to bed. Listen, I don’t deprive my kids of ice cream, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to douse all their pajamas in Shout every time they eat dessert. The kids get vanilla based ice cream until they can show me that they can eat an ice cream cone without rubbing it all over their cute little faces.
So yeah, sometimes I feel guilty for eating ice cream because I intentionally and purposefully hide it from my very own flesh and blood. But the difference between these feelings of guilt and shame that I’m experiencing now and the guilt and shame I felt while I would scarf down a half gallon of my roommate’s Haaagen-Dazs while she was out for the day couldn’t be greater.
I had been struggling with a binge-restrict cycle since I was 15, and it took me a good 10+ years before I figured out what was going on. I often echo the sentiments of the non-diet dietitians I admire when I say that guilt and shame should never be feelings associated with food unless you stole it. It’s funny when you think about it, right? If you’re feeling badly because you went over your “points” or because you’re supposed to be keto or paleo or whatever diet is all the rage on Instagram, then I encourage you to take a step back and look at the big picture.
Call it a lifestyle change if you want, but if you’re setting food rules for yourself, then yes, friend, it is a diet. If these rules make you feel like you’ve failed when you have a cookie after 8 p.m. or eat a sandwich on real bread, then it is a diet. A diet with a different name is still a diet.
So if diets don’t work, then how can you lose weight, you ask? Here’s the thing: Actively pursuing weight loss can actually be worse for your health. The psychological pressure, shame, self-doubt, and bias that comes along with it can be damaging, so finding a way to eat and move your body in a way that supports your health–regardless of your body size–is the best way to give your body the respect it deserves.
If you struggle with binge eating and feel out of control around food, then I urge you to reach out for support. The anti-diet movement is growing, and professionals are out there to help you make peace with food. If you haven’t read the book “Health At Every Size,” and this message is resonating with you, please do! It truly changed my life.
Now that I have two little girls, I am committed to shielding them from the pressure to be thin for as long as I can. I make sure to celebrate all bodies and think about the other things that make them unique, like their compassion and empathy and humor and, yes, their sass.
The research is out there that supports the pursuit of health, not weight, and it is a step in the direction of getting your life back from diet culture.
Now, who wants ice cream? I’d even share.