There’s an “I” in Diet, but There Should be a “U”

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Whatever your pleasure, I think all of us ladies can agree on how great it feels when you realize you need to go down a pants size when you are trying to lose weight. Over the past two years, I got to experience this phenomenon a whopping 5 times as I descended from a size 12 to a size 2. I’ve also thrown it in reverse and bumped back up to a 4. For some that might be the worst feeling, but for me, putting weight back on was necessary. And it made me feel even better.

Through my long and trying journey, I’ve come to learn that both losing weight and gaining weight can be fantastic feelings, so long as you are changing your body for yourself.

For me, it started my senior year of high school. As a graduation requirement, we were forced to watch videos released by the USDA that talked about balanced eating. It was here that I realized just how bad all of the junk food I ate was and what I had to do to fix it. A great, eye-opening experience, right? Except that I’m a perfectionist. I took my eating and exercising to the extreme.

By the summer after I graduated high school, I had become completely obsessed with losing weight. The girl who never ate a vegetable in her life was existing on romaine lettuce and fat-free yogurt. The girl who never exercised was spending 2 hours every day on the elliptical machine. By July, I had lost 80 pounds, but that wasn’t it. My hair was falling out. Despite the summer heat, I needed to wear sweaters as soon as the sun set. I lost my period month after month.

“You should eat something,” everyone was telling me. “You look sick.”
I felt sick, too.

But I didn’t believe that I actually had to gain weight. In my mind, I still had to lose! I was still 118 pounds, after all. I never achieved supermodel thinness. I looked in the mirror and my tummy still wasn’t flat enough, my arms not skinny enough. I still didn’t look like I had walked right out of a magazine, so I didn’t think anyone would consider me beautiful, not even myself. I went away to college still paranoid about how I looked and every little bit I ate.

My first weekend in Boston, I walked 10 blocks to a mall. I jogged up the front steps, sat on a bench, and promptly passed out. That was my wake-up call. Though I had adopted my new diet in an attempt to become healthy, it morphed into something that was quite the opposite. I wasn’t doing it for myself anymore; I was doing it for everyone else. The sad part, as I learned from my friends’ reaction to my weight loss, is that no one else cared about my weight as much as I thought they did. It was understanding that, having that moment of clarity, that woke me up and got me to stop killing myself. I traded in my intense cardio for yoga. I started eating things my body needed and stopped eating things that really weren’t as healthy as I thought. I proudly put 15 pounds back on, for me and for no one else.

I have so many tips and tricks I’ll eventually share, but I wanted to give you my story first, and also 2 pieces of advice. First, there is no such thing as a “diet.” The only way to truly make a difference is to make lifestyle changes. Secondly, and as I’ve already discussed at length, you will never be able to maintain these changes if you aren’t doing this for you. Lose weight because you want to eat healthier, lower your risk for diseases, or finally be able touch your toes. Don’t do it so that someone will pay attention to you, or to one-up your sisters/friends/co-workers. You will never be able to healthily sustain choices you make if you are making them for someone else.

If only they had told me that in those healthy-eating videos . . .

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