The Good Little Dieter
For me it wasn’t ever really a willpower thing – you know, the not cheating. It was more about being good. Being perfect. Living up to something. You see, when I was being good, I was very, very good.
But there was also the other side. The binger. The not so very good.
I was the little girl from the poem. The one with the curl, right in the middle of her forehead. Do you remember that one? It goes like this:
There was a little girl,
And she had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good
She was very, very good,
And when she was bad she was horrid.
~ From “There was a little girl”
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)
That pretty much described my relationship with food for A LOT of years. It was either very, very good. Or it was horrid. Not much in between. One or the other.
Perfect little dieter. Detailed calorie counter. Precise macronutrient tracker.
Out of control binge eater. Emotional eater. Compulsive overeater.
Either / or. One or the other. Black or white. No shades of grey. Masculine or feminine. Restriction or excess. Deprivation or overindulgence. No moderation. No balance.
My food life was one of extremes and my biggest fear was that if I stopped the control side, I would live in the out of control side. So I kept holding on to the control for as long as I could and each time I lost my grip, I’d swing out of control again. Year after year. Sometimes I’d hold on for days, sometimes for months, but over and over again, the pattern repeated.
Until finally, decades later, after feeling like I’d tried everything else I could try, I let go. I just let go (reluctantly, but I did it). And, yes, it took some time for the swinging to stop. But it did finally stop.
That’s the thing about pendulums – they obey the laws of physics. When I stopped pulling it to the control side, it stopped being swung to the out of control side. Eventually the violent swinging slows down to a gentle sway.
Dieting. It seems so simple. So innocuous in the beginning. Drop a few pounds. Lose the muffin top. Get beach ready. Feel better in your skin. Be healthier. More confident. Happier.
But in the end they are all empty promises. It all comes down to physics. Preservation of energy. It has to go somewhere.
Here’s what I think. If what you really want is to be happier, putting your energy into depriving yourself of the joy and pleasure of delicious food seems like a pretty roundabout way of doing it – especially when it often turns into the desolation and isolation of a binge.
I vote for cutting out the middle man and putting your energy into figuring out what it is that actually makes you happy and doing more of that!