Dear Diet: We've had a great run, but it's over.
In the beginning, things were great! You taught me a lot about nutrition and exercise. I lost weight and even started feeling better: I had more energy and slept better. I was getting compliments from my friends and family about how good I looked when we were together. I felt good about myself and I felt like you might just be the best thing that ever happened to me. I wanted to shout about our relationship from the rooftops! But then I started to notice things were a little…off.
Despite all you taught me about nutrition, I started to realize that you didn't teach me what to do when I have feelings, when I get sad, lonely, annoyed, anxious, worried, angry or elated. I started to realize that you failed to teach me resilience and how to love myself for who I am and the body I'm in. I started to realize that you taught me to pride myself in willpower and self-control so much that I became utterly disgusted with myself when I gave in to enjoying food for pleasure.
You forced me to focus so intently on hitting every required workout that I started to feel like a lazy you-know-what when I missed one. You made me hate you and yet I look in the mirror and hate myself even more.
It's time we break up. But yet, I'm terrified of not having you. Like treading water in the middle of the ocean, you're my life-preserver. If I'm not on a diet, will I just keep blowing up until I explode? Will I have to face the demons that plague me or the areas in my life that leave me feeling unfulfilled? Not to mention the fact that there are reminders of you everywhere: on TV, in my Facebook newsfeed, in breakroom conversations during lunch, even in the way my mom passes a critical sideways glance at my growing waistline. So what am I supposed to do?
Deep down I've had this nagging feeling that this whole culture we live in – the one that praises the thin body and assumes the larger body is lazy, unmotivated, unhealthy and unhappy – is completely wrong. I'm in good health, so what's wrong with my body the way it is? If there's anything unhealthy about me, it's the amount of stress I'm constantly under worrying about my appearance and maintaining the willpower to stay in this relationship.
So I've decided to go in another direction. I'm going to take an indefinite break from you and work on myself. I'm going to try this new thing called self-compassion. I'm going to accept my body the way it is now, flaws and all, and I'm going to focus on nourishing and fueling my body so that I can follow my dreams, love my family, move my body in ways that feel good, and help others. Because to be very honest, I've wasted so much time putting all those things off until I can "get healthy" and I'm realizing I won't live forever.
Diet, I thought I was the one failing at the relationship, failing to stay true. But I've come to realize the truth: you're the one who has failed me.
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