You can always tell when the new year hits: the gyms are packed, the diet books fly off the shelves, and the weight loss commericals run incessantly on television. Everyone is in such a hurry all of a sudden to deal with that holiday-eating remorse and letting-another-year-pass-without-exercising guilt.
There are some people who repeat this pattern every January without fail. Others struggle all year long with their body image — dieting and bingeing then dieting again, or starting fitness regimes only to watch them dwindle away a few days, weeks or months later. Some overexercise, going to the gym twice a day or for hours at a time. My friends and I call this “diethead.”
Sadly, most of the new exercisers will be done in about three weeks, many never even cancelling their gym memberships with the hopes they’ll eventually return. They have the right idea, but all those articles about commitment and how to stick to a diet or fitness routine just haven’t stuck. Once things go awry (and don’t they always?), people feel like failures and often throw in the towel. Or, they give it quite a good effort, but don’t see the results they want, and hang it up for another pint of ice cream. Since we live in a country where the anorexic model is the cover girl for health and beauty, it’s easy to want to give up. Not only will most of us never be a size zero, we shouldn’t even want to be.
I have always had a milder case of diethead than some people I know. I dieted half-heartedly (I find it tedious and un-fun) but exercised regularly, even though I despised it, too. I bought a lot of fitness and weight-loss books over the years. I’ve done everything from Bob Greene to Body for Life, with my lowest moment being the morning I bought hypnosis tapes from an infomercial (surprise, surprise — they didn’t work). I’ve answered long questionnaires about “emotional eating” and even read about overeating, thinking that might be the reason I consumed chocolate by the truckful.
I say my case is mild, but only by comparison to the many women I know who are anorexic, bulemic or who suffer from substantial self-esteem issues. The self-loathing is so thick, you can almost cut it with a knife, mine included.
Until the past two years, that is. I’ve done a lot of healing since finding out I had a bonafide problem called sugar sensitivity. Not long after this diagnosis and implementing treatment, my diethead was gone, my self-loathing was gone and my interest in dieting was gone. It’s not that I’m at my perfect weight, or that my body is perfectly toned in all the right places, it’s that I have no attachment to that powerful pull that I’m not what I should be and that I have to fix it “quick, quick, quick.” Moreover, since I need to listen to my body’s cues now that I am aware that blood sugar, beta-endorphin and serotonin levels are at stake, I no longer overexercise, overeat or starve myself. I am in balance mentally, physically and emotionally.
I don’t fret or panic; I don’t feel that incessant need to lose weight or look “better” and I really understand that my weight is the least most important thing about my health. Even if I weighed 400 pounds, it would be the least important thing because what causes us to gain weight, to fret about our weight, and to obsess about weight, has to be healed outside of the diet and exercise realm. I know many thin women who are just as screwed up about how they look as overweight women. It’s not about the physical reality. In fact, the more “perfect” they are, the more you can bet they are in trouble.
I have been emancipated from what felt like prison. I am now a steward for my own health and my own life. I was able to heal myself and be free of so many unhealthy things that laid claim to my daily reality. If you are a person who suffers from diethead in any extreme, it’s worth taking a longer look at what’s behind it.