My Journey From Diet Hell to Food Freedom
In today's blog post, I share my personal journey with dieting. Join me as I discuss how moving from South Africa to Canada exposed me to different beauty standards, emphasizing the pressure to be thin and white to be considered attractive. This led me to embark on weight loss diets, even resorting to extreme calorie restriction and excessive exercise to impress someone who ultimately didn't reciprocate my feelings.
Hey everyone, it's Tash, and I'm back again with another blog post! This week, I'm going to be sharing my story with dieting, so you can understand why I am so against diets and why they really don't work.
A Journey from South Africa to Canada: Shifting Beauty Standards
I moved to Canada from South Africa when I was still in grade school. At that time, I was aware of my surroundings enough to notice that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and I didn't think anything of it when I saw larger bodies. Back home, it's not unusual to be in a larger body and everyone seemed to be quite comfortable in their skin.
Flash forward to moving to Canada, and I was bombarded by the media constantly pushing out messages that thinner is better. I quickly realized that western beauty standards were completely different from the standards we had back home.
From a young age, I learned that to be attractive, you needed to be in a thin and white body. As an adult looking back at my younger self, it breaks my heart that I was so deeply concerned about weight loss while I was still going through puberty. I didn't get the opportunity to
The Desperate Quest for Acceptance
I realized just how far away I was from this western standard of beauty, and since I can't change my skin colour, I decided to go on a mission to lose weight. I felt that at least I would be a bit more acceptable as a person if I could shrink my body. I was also terrified of never finding love, which greatly contributed to my desire to lose weight.
Over the years, I tried restricting here and there, but living at home with my parents and being a kid, it was kind of hard to completely just not eat. But I did try my best to cut corners and lose weight, but it never actually worked in the long term.
The Unhealthy Pursuit of Love
In my last year of high school, I really liked a guy but unfortunately he just wasn't that into me. He actually told me that I should lose 50 pounds to be more attractive, and I saw that as encouragement rather than a red flag. At that point, I thought to myself, "Hey, if I can just lose this 50 pounds, maybe he'll like me more, and maybe he'll finally respect me." I then made it my mission to go on this weight loss diet so I could finally be more attractive and deserving of love.
I started using MyFitnessPal at the time, and it recommended that I eat 1200 kcal/day, which I now know is the calorie requirement for a toddler. But at that time, I didn't know this, and I made it my goal to never exceed that amount. If I ever went over my calorie limit, I would punish myself by eating less. Mind you, I was also working out six times a week, trying to aim for twice a day. It was an awful experience, but I managed to be consistent with this extreme diet for three months, and I lost 50 pounds!
The Bittersweet Victory
The gag is that even though I lost the 50 pounds, the guy didn't actually like me, so we never ended up actually being together. But as I was losing this weight at a very rapid pace, the people around me were actually very happy and wanted to know exactly what my weight loss secrets were. So I was very much enjoying all of the congratulations, and I was enjoying giving people advice.
So I decided to actually study nutrition in university because I wanted to be able to help people lose weight, even though the means to losing weight would not be that healthy. I wanted to help people get to the same goal that I had got to, even though I thought I was happy.
The Price of Acceptance
What I didn't realize is that all the acceptance that I was getting from people was conditional. It was not because they actually liked me or respected me as a person; it was more just because the shape of my body, the size of it, was more acceptable. But at that time, I really didn't see it that way, and I really rode that wave of false self-confidence, which all came crumbling down.
Once I wasn't able to keep up with working out six times a week and also not eating enough, which is actually a good thing because my body was fighting back against being deprived in so many ways.
Over the next four years while I was in school, I gained weight every single year, and it was so embarrassing for me, being a nutrition student. Because if I'm supposed to help people lose weight, how am I supposed to do that if I can't lose weight and if I can't control my own weight? And so that made me get pretty depressed because I couldn't figure out where I went wrong.
A Turn for the Better
I ended up visiting a dietitian, and I went into her office and told her my life story basically and just the fact that I really wanted to lose 50 pounds because I had lost that 50 pounds but ended up gaining 100 pounds back, so it was even worse than before. I hated myself so much, and I was at an absolute rock bottom.
I really appreciate the fact that she did hear me out and didn't judge me. What I didn't know at the time was that she was not going to help me lose weight, but what she did was actually so much better. She asked if I was willing to learn a different approach to health, and honestly, I had nothing to lose, so I said okay.
When she introduced me to intuitive eating, I was quite hesitant because it's not a mainstream thing. I had never heard of it before, and I really had to unlearn everything that I had learned. It was a very challenging process, and it took years to finally get to where I am now.
Finding Happiness in Self-Acceptance
But I can happily say that after a lot of hard work, I was able to get back to the shape and size that I was when I was trying to lose that weight. But the difference is that now, I am so much happier. I eat foods that I enjoy, I move my body because I want to, and not because I'm trying to lose weight. My relationship with myself is a lot better, and I also don't seek validation from anyone else.
The Moral of the Story: Diets Don't Work
So the moral of the story is that diets don't work, and if you do need help with your relationship with food and body, please find a non-diet nutrition professional. And if you are trying to find a nutritionist, I can definitely help you with that. If you're looking to just get some support, feel free to message me.