what I talk about when I talk about dieting

Last fall, I wrote a post called (25 Ways) Losing Weight Will Not Change Your Life.

A lot of people liked it. A whole lot more rather vocal people felt incensed, angry, and personally offended.

Those people didn’t understand that I was actually advocating healthy lifestyle choices and changes. I am SO for eating healthier, moving more, & being comfortable with your body. How could I not be?

But the point of my post was that weight loss, in and of itself, will not guarantee a happy, healthy body, or a happy, healthy self.

A lower number on the scale will not guarantee that you will love yourself or have a better life. It will not guarantee that you will attract a partner. After all, there are people who are underweight and still think they’re unattractive or hate themselves. Are they really better off?

There are a lot of good reasons I wrote that post.

One is that I’ve witnessed a lot of wonderful people who’ve thought that if they just lost 10 pounds, their life would be happy. Their problems would be solved. They would be worthy and deserving of love. They would be, finally, “good enough” for everyone else.

Two is that I witnessed MYSELF, someone who went through an eating disorder, deteriorate into a terrible, self-destructive cycle when I started thinking that way, when I started focusing on the scale. And I wanted to warn others so they wouldn’t have to experience what I had (even though I know not everyone is like me, or has a risk of developing an ED).

Three is that numbers don’t always tell all. Diet Coke may have zero calories, but does that mean it’s necessarily healthy? The number on the scale doesn’t tell all– in fact, oftentimes it tells you jack shit. (See Nerd Fitness’ before and after photos at the exact same weight.) You can determine how healthy you are from how YOU feel, physically. How do you know if you need to adjust your eating habits and act in a way that is kinder to your body?

I don’t think you need a number to tell you when you physically feel uncomfortable in your body and want to move more or eat differently. I don’t think a number should have the power to tell you how comfortable you’re allowed to be with yourself and your body.

Four is that your worth as a person does not depend on a number on an external machine. In fact, nothing really depends on that number; not your awesomeness, not your agility or endurance, not your strength, not even your overall health.

Five is that not all weight loss is created equal. And that’s what I mean by diet. When I think of diet, I don’t think “healthy lifestyle change.” I think temporary fad diet. I think three weeks of eating nothing but cabbage soup, or three days of drinking maple syrup and cayenne pepper. I think unhealthy weight loss. I think of the “diets” I put myself on when I was anorexic (yes, that’s the first time I’ve used that word on cynosure)– grossly undereating, grossly overexercising.

It might not be fair that I impose this definition on you. In the end, it’s all just words. But here I am, clarifying what I mean when I say “don’t diet.”

When I say “don’t diet,” I mean don’t deprive yourself. Don’t feel like you’re “not allowed” to have what you really want to eat. Don’t blame, shame, or guilt yourself for choosing to eat a piece of cake, for honoring your hungers.

When I say “don’t diet,” I mean don’t go to the gym and exercise for hours on end if it’s something you have to force yourself to do.

When I say “don’t diet,” I mean that you are so much more than the size of your clothes or the number on the scale. You need to love yourself no matter what, or you won’t be able to make the lifestyle changes to enjoy the healthy body that you want anyway, because they depend on kindness to your body and to your heart.

When I say “don’t diet,” I mean be kind to yourself.

Like I said… it’s okay to love your body and still want to change, be healthier, be more comfortable in it.

A lot of people told me losing weight did, in fact, change their lives. They feel more confident, more attractive. They’re happier with themselves.

And I ask… is it because of the external change in the number alone, or is it because they feel empowered that they were able to make the healthy choices and lifestyle changes to get there? Because they feel more comfortable in their body, and don’t need a scale to tell them so? Because they’re happy with the way they feel in their bodies, not the number that doesn’t mean anything except in contexts of comparison? Because they now eat in a way that lifts them up rather than bogs them down?

Someone once snidely remarked on Facebook, when I argued that it was possible to be happy and love yourself even if you lost a limb, that “not everyone can be a Buddhist monk like you.”

I don’t think you need to be a Buddhist monk to derive your happiness from the inside, to be happy from inside your heart rather than depending on what’s outside (numbers on scales or clothing, other people’s validation, grades or income). To realize that loving yourself is, in effect, learning to love life, love the world, and love the way things are even if they might seem to suck sometimes. To realize that our self-worth, our love for ourselves, our happiness never has to depend on the way we look or how other people think of us.

And that, my fellow fearless warriors, is what I talk about when I talk about dieting.

you need to love the part of you that binges

You need to love the part of you that falls.

The part of you that binges. Or the part of you that disappoints you or fails or procrastinates or makes mistakes. (Substitute any of those for “binge” in this post.)

You need to love the part of you that binges, because if you hate it, you are still hating some part of yourself, you are still ashamed of some part of you, and that is not love. Love is not selective; love does not say, “I’ll only love myself when I eat perfectly,” whatever “perfectly” means. (Read: “eating perfectly” doesn’t exist.)

You need to love the part of you that binges, because you will keep on binging if you keep on hating yourself.

You need to love the part of you that binges, because only then will you be able to ever change your relationship with food and eating. Slowly, but steadily.

Let me tell you this…

It was SO hard for me to learn to love the part of me that binged.

When I first started my journey of self-love, I learned to be okay with basically every part of myself– except that part. I learned to love myself in every moment… except the moments that I binged or overate. That’s when I felt most shameful, most self-disliking. I love myself now… why am I still binging? I’m done with school now… why am I still binging? I’m in a relationship now… why am I still binging? I’m happy and strong now… why am I still binging!?

That’s when I realized just how important it was for me to love myself even moreso when I binged. Because that’s when I needed myself the most. That’s when I most needed not to turn my back on myself, not to shame or blame myself.

The part of me that binged? The part of me that binged was lonely and scared– she was the girl who found herself home alone for hours at age 11, bullied at school for being ugly, with nothing to do but eat. The part of me that binged needed the most love and kindness and support I could give– she was the girl who felt ashamed at age sixteen for being sexually violated, believing it was her fault. The part of me that binged needed my love the most.

When you binge, that you is still YOU. There is no difference between the “you that binges” and the “you that is strong and happy and wonderful.” There is no separation. The you that binges is just as beautiful, just as wondrous, just as divine as the you that aces your projects and produces great work and is a generous, loving person.

Except for one thing– the part of you that binges needs especial love. Even more care & compassion, even more patience & gratitude & support.

What doesn’t the part of you that binges need? Blame. Guilt. Shame. Hiding.

You need to forgive yourself for binging, and then stop forgiving yourself because you’ve stopped blaming yourself for binging in the first place.

You need to be patient & radiant & wonderful to yourself before, during, and after a binge.Especially after.

Instead of fighting against the binge, be curious. Find out why you’re binging. What are you feeling, what are you thinking? What happened? How else can you cope with this? If you can’t cope with it another way, it’s okay. Accept the binge, then move on.

Be loving. If you’re going to binge anyway, eat what you love, and be present for it. Indulge yourself. You might find that you don’t want to binge at all, but even if you do, it’s okay.

Be patient. Staring your behavior straight in the eye and really figuring out why you’re binging, what’s BEHIND the binging, can be a hard and difficult journey. It may take days, it may take months. It may honestly take years, but it is so, so worth it.

I assure you that if you do this– if you love the part of you that binges, if you are patient, supportive, & curious when you binge– you will probably binge less. And be much, much happier for it. That’s the sweet, delicious irony of it.

You need to love the part of you that binges because it is impossible for anyone to be completely binge-free. Even if you’re ED recovered. Even if you love yourself completely. Even if you’re super-confident. Even if you’ve never had eating issues.

We all have our moments. We ALL binge once in a while– a little too much at the holiday dinner, a time when it feels easier to eat the ice cream than face the overwhelming sadness of the loss of a loved one.

The point is not to vilify ourselves for binging, or for being imperfect, or for making mistakes… but to use the binge as a tool. To figure out what’s really going on with us. To realize something’s wrong or something needs to change. To be even more kind to ourselves. To grow.

As Geneen Roth so lovelily states in When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair:

My students often say, “I want to be done with this thing with food once and for all.” But there is no place to get to, no such thing as arriving and never having to leave.

If you take a big view and understand that eating, or thinking about eating, will probably always be the way you alert yourself to changes in your inner world, you can relax. You can use turning to food as a method of exploring the corners of your soul; you can think about emotional eating as a gift rather than a curse.

(emphasis mine)

P.S. If you’re dieting, stop dieting. You will never stop binging if you don’t stop dieting.Seriously.

the time to love your body is now. not tomorrow, not tuesday. now.

It seems that there’s a myth that’s being spread, propagated everywhere you can see. People repeat it on their blogs, in daily conversations, to each other, because they don’t want to believe that the opposite is true– that it is possible. And this time, it’s not just the myth about all the things we think we have to do in order to be happy, healthy, awesome.

I’m talking about the myth that we, as human beings, can never, should never, & will never be completely satisfied with our bodies. That to love & accept & celebrate our bodies for how they are now, not how we think we will shape them to be in the future, is impossible, or only at the very least probable for the people we think look flawless (but are possibly just as dissatisfied with their looks as anyone else is). That we might even love our thighs or hips or chest or biceps or shoulders, but we’ll still continue to dislike some other part of ourselves, and that that is practically mandatory.

The truth is that we confuse flawless with perfect. Nobody is flawless– but we are all perfect. Yes, you read that right. Perfect. This moment, this me, this you, is the only way it ever can be in this present– perfect. Everything in its right place.

The truth is that we can love & accept our bodies while still having goals (for health, fitness, strength, enjoyment of food/physical fun, whatever). The truth is that we can stop “striving” and start arriving. The truth is that we can stop focusing on the future and start living in the present now. The truth is that in the light of this present moment, the future doesn’t even exist.

The truth is that we can realize that the only moment we will ever have is now, and unless we start respecting & taking care of ourselves now, we might as well never will.

No matter how much you may have liked or disliked yourself or your body in the past. No matter how you felt yesterday. No matter what you ate for breakfast. No matter if you once believed you had to look like the 5% of the world (that still might be unhappy with themselves or have image issues) that media presents to us. No matter.

The time to start loving, respecting, & taking care of yourself is now.

This is the only moment you have. You can still want to achieve something, but you won’t get very far until you accept that you have what you have right now.

You only have this one moment to be satisfied with yourself, no matter what you look like. If you choose to be dissatisfied now, when will you ever stop?

I’m not going to pretend that it won’t be hard to love yourself, especially if you’ve spent most of your life doing just the opposite. It’s hard. It takes constant awareness, listening to your body & your heart & your mind, mindfulness, and strength. It takes daily struggles and fighting all the negative messages we’ve been socialized to believe and a whole lot of emotional and mental mojo. It takes guts and resilience and the courage to fight against what we believe society expects. But it gets easier once you just take that tiny first step. Trust me. It really does.

I myself am still learning, still growing… always. I love my body, every bit– but I’m on a constant journey, and every day I love my body more. You know the quote “There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way”? That applies to so many different brands of contentment, peace, joy.

“There is no way to recovery… recovery is the way.”
“There is no way to loving yourself… loving yourself is the way.”
“There is no way to learn to love your body… learning to love your body is the way.”

Of course it won’t be easy.

But it will always be so much better than the alternative: always contemplating yourself and thinking “I’ll be happy with myself/my life/my body tomorrow“, never realizing that tomorrow never really arrives.

how to start loving yourself more and be happier right now

Happiness belongs to the self-sufficient.
Aristotle

People spend a lifetime searching for happiness; looking for peace. They chase idle dreams, addictions, religions, even other people, hoping to fill the emptiness that plagues them. The irony is the only place they ever needed to search was within.
Ramona L. Anderson

If you don’t like someone, or if someone betrays you, you can walk away. You can stop being his/her friend.

But if you don’t even love yourself, you have nowhere to go.

This inescapable truth came crashing down on me when, for the first six months after I’d first moved 500 miles away to Southern California, I was absolutely miserable. I had no close friends, no family, no one to depend on. I felt like nobody cared about me, and that if I simply disappeared, nobody would even notice. When I woke up in the morning, I’d start crying before I even opened my eyes because I felt so alone. If only I had just one great friend that would be there for me, I’d be okay, I thought.

And then I realized I had to be that friend for myself.

And that’s when I started changing myself, little by little (and read a book or two that helped me along the way– look out for a post soon on a few of the books most influential to my happiness and self-development!)– and amazingly, I went from self-hating, depressed for as long as I could remember, self-destructive, insecure, and almost always sad to unconditionally self-loving and happy. (Of course, it took a LOT of effort, but I got there, and I’m still learning to love myself, even more, every day!)

And that very transformation is why this site even exists… to be there with you as you travel along this path of happiness and self-love.

The love of your friends and family is irreplaceable and valuable, but when you find yourself without that support, what will you do? Just give up? Or realize by taking care of yourself and loving yourself, you can be happy (and have the confidence to make new friends!) even if you’re alone?

And if you want to be in a successful and loving relationship… how can you expect your partner to love you at all, if even you find yourself unlovable?

Do you really need any more reasons to love yourself more, starting right now?

1. Let yourself be completely alone.

  • Feel what it’s like to be truly alone with yourself.
  • Resist the urge to escape and find company, to leave yourself.
  • Stay with yourself in the present, and be curious with yourself. Notice how the air feels against your skin. Try to feel the presence of your body. You are alive. Isn’t it amazing?
  • Forgive yourself for anything you’ve blamed yourself for in the past, and feel free without the burden of what no longer exists (the past). Tell yourself that you forgive yourself.
  • Breathe. Slowly. Listen to your breath. Let it go, and with it, any negative feelings.
  • Whisper to yourself, “I am awesome. I am beautiful. I love myself.” Or scream it from the rooftops. That works, too.
  • Don’t just be accepting; be open and unconditionally loving towards yourself.
  • Love your faults and honor your strengths.
  • Get to know yourself. Journal or draw about yourself, what makes you happy, and what makes you so great, so spectacular. Pay attention to yourself.
  • Trust yourself. Who else can you trust better than yourself? You’re the only one who will always be there for you. You’re the only one you’ll always have. If it’s difficult, take time every day to trust yourself a little bit more.
  • Keep a positive attitude, look on the bright side, and think positively. When you feel yourself thinking negatively, don’t try to push it away forcefully; just be aware, and let it come and go. Focus on the positive aspect of situations.
  • Smile. Smile at your reflection and say hello. Smile at the world.

2. Make a list of what you would do for the person you love most, and then do those things for yourself. Alone.

  • Take yourself on a date. Go to the amusement park, go to a museum, and treat yourself as the loveliest, best date you’ve ever had.
  • Treat yourself to a lovely meal. Go out alone to eat at a restaurant you’ve always wanted to try. Cook yourself a feast. Eat exactly what you want to eat, no matter how expensive it is (save up for this treat if you want). Be present for the meal. Chew slowly and enjoy every bit of the treat for yourself.
  • Go to the movie theater and watch a movie (in a genre that you love) by yourself. Yes, by yourself. (I did this for the premiere of Ghost Town and it was awesome being able to laugh and cry as much as I wanted!)
  • Take a long walk with yourself. Go to the park and look at all the creatures that live together in harmony. They don’t reject you or expect anything out of you. Or if you don’t like nature, take a stroll around the city alone, enjoying the sights and sounds.
  • Give yourself a beautiful present. Spend time making it special. You deserve it. (This is not an excuse to ignore your problems with retail therapy or by buying stuff. Create something spectacular and unique for yourself. On the other hand, if you never buy yourself anything, allow yourself to actually buy something you want for once.)
  • Write yourself a letter on beautiful stationery. Tell yourself why you love yourself, why you’re great. Keep the letter for times good and bad.

3. Take care of yourself– your body and your health.

  • Your body is a temple. Treat it like one. Evaluate what you choose to put into your temple. Does the food you eat nourish you, or does it make you feel like utter crap, like you have to have caffeine every 3 hours (or seconds)?
  • Don’t make your eating decisions based on what any diet book, magazine, or uninformed individual tells you. Choose foods that YOU love that make YOU feel good and give you the energy to have a great day. If this requires you to stop eating overprocessed junk food and start eating real, whole foods, so be it. Your body won’t just thank you later– your body will start thanking you right now.
  • At the same time, eat your cake, too– never deprive yourself. Simply consider making a dessert yourself instead of getting it from a fast food restaurant (or even many grocery stores– they usually have lists of artificial ingredients a mile long!). Make your own snacks.
  • Allow yourself to feel the parts of your body that you’ve rejected in the past. Touch them with love and tenderness and gentleness. Tell each of them how much you love them. For instance, if it’s your legs, say, “Thank you for even existing, so that I may walk and run and dance and travel and experience the world.”
  • Cancel subscriptions to magazines that make you feel like you are not good enough. Take the existing ones you own and spend a day tearing them apart if you’d like, and then recycling them. Throw out your diet books… into the recycling bin.
  • Get enough sleep. Turn off the computer or TV an hour before your bedtime, wind down, take a long bubble bath, and make sure you get enough rest so you’ll feel good throughout the next day.
  • Find a way to move your body (aka the dreaded “e” word) that you LOVE! If you don’t like the gym, don’t go to the gym. (If you do like the gym, keep on going!) Go on walks with friends, play tennis or basketball or any other sport with your family, go jogging with your dog!
  • Be conscious and aware… if you have any self-destructive behaviors (drinking/eating/smoking/etc. too much), don’t beat yourself up about them, but realize that you are making a choice to do something that might lead you to feel bad (physically or otherwise), and that you deserve much, much better than that.

4. Make YOU a priority.

  • Relax. Get a massage, go to the spa, take a bath. Spend at least one day (preferably per week) doing only what YOU want to do– no work, no thinking about what other people want you to do for them. Read a book or watch a movie.
  • Or simply, do nothing. Just sit or lie down. Zone out. Give yourself time and space not to have to do anything, even if it’s just five minutes.
  • Say some affirmations every day, if you want.
  • Respect yourself. Only settle for the absolute best, because that’s the bare minimum you deserve. Accept nothing less.
  • Refuse to allow anyone to treat you in any way that you wouldn’t treat your closest friend.
  • If you need to, cut people out of your life (or wean them off slowly) if they are anything less than respectful or loving towards you– even if you can’t imagine life without them because you’ve been friends for so long, or even if they’re family (if you can’t imagine doing that in the case of family, then only communicate when absolutely necessary). You are worth SO MUCH MORE than that.
  • Learn to say NO. Stand up for yourself. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you– you are strong and powerful, and YOU control YOUR life. Don’t do anything someone else wants you to do just because they say you should. Don’t let others guilt you, either– refuse to put up with their crap.
  • Be kind to yourself when you falter. Love the fact that you aren’t perfect. It makes you (and your life) more interesting, after all! Forgive yourself.
  • Be kind to others. It’ll make YOU feel good, too!
  • Do what YOU love. If you don’t know what makes your heart flutter and your soul smile, take time for yourself to find out. Make it a priority for yourself to have time to do this activity and make yourself happy.
  • Write notes to yourself filled with self-love and inspiration, and post them in random places. Post them in places you always see– on your desk, on your front door, on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge– and even in places that’ll surprise you later on when you find them again.
  • You are a being filled to the brim with love and beauty, and you were born to love yourself. Act accordingly.

5. Stop waiting to love yourself.

“I’ll start trying to like myself when I… get a new job, eat like a rabbit, look like a plastic mannequin, find the perfect partner to love me so I won’t have to love myself…”

No.

Love yourself NOW.

The only time you have to be alive and THRIVING is RIGHT NOW.

And you’re wasting your time if you’re waiting for any moment in the future, because chances are you might not even get to that moment if you don’t LOVE YOURSELF NOW.

P.S. This post has been a very long time coming; the ideas have been brewing in my mind for literally ages! It’s a culmination of a little bit of everything I’ve wanted to write about loving yourself, and there’s definitely more to come, though I tried packing as much as humanly possible into this post. You will get the best results if you do everything listed here, no matter how weird (or new) it might feel. Or uncomfortable. Uncomfortable is (usually) good. It means you’re getting somewhere. :)

Let it be known that I have done and/or still do everything on this list, so if you feel a little ridiculous doing some of them, worry naught for a fearless warrior has already paved the way! Keep on loving yourself and being wonderful! ♥