Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday's musings - Why I'll never diet again

Ever since I was a little girl I've felt too big for the space I inhabit. Being tall and big-boned has meant that even when I wasn't overweight, I felt like I was.
I was about six years' old when I overheard someone at school saying I had fat cheeks. I was so embarrassed, I started sucking my cheeks in like a goldfish. Looking back at photos, I didn't have fat cheeks. Just a square-shaped jaw, that no amount of sucking in was going to change.
You can imagine the insecurities my size caused me during my hormonal teenage years. I didn't feel graceful or feminine - just big.

When I was 18 a friend of mine joined Weight Watchers and quickly lost heaps of weight. This was the solution I had been looking for (or so I thought). I got myself a Weight Watchers Points Guide and started scrupulously recording everything I ate. I was horrified to discover I was often 10 points over what I "should" have been eating, so I started cutting out things. The first to go was butter. No longer did I spread my morning toast with butter and Marmite. Now it was just Marmite. Avocado was also a no-no - just too Points heavy.

I also started drinking diet lemonade and chewing sugar-free gum to try and satisfy my sweet tooth. I cringe now to think of all that aspartame going into my system. It sort of worked. I lost some weight, but I never felt completely happy with how I looked.

And then a boy took my fancy. A boy who was reputed to like petite girls. And so I began doing Weight Watchers full force. For three months I cut out most of the fat and all of the sugar from my diet. My Points tally had never looked so good. The weight was dropping off me and I felt like I finally had some control over how I looked.

But then I started fainting. One minute I would be walking around, and the next I would be passed out on the ground. My body literally could not support itself on a low-fat diet. Although I didn't connect the dots back then.

The boy I liked started dating someone else, and so my biggest motivation for (what I now consider) starving myself was gone. I went back to eating what I wanted and the weight crept back on.

I thought I was a failure.

Over the following ten years I dabbled in various prescriptive and restrictive diets. Weight Watchers again. Sure Slim. Jenny Craig. Every day I spent on these diets I felt like I was running a marathon. Just trying to get through to the end of the day without cracking. After dinner, when all my food allocation had been used up, I would try to distract myself or go to bed early so I wouldn't accidentally eat something and ruin my diet.

These diets all worked for a little while, but eventually my control would slip and I would put any weight I had lost back on, plus more. My metabolism was well and truly out of whack by now.

When I wasn't on a diet, I would binge eat chocolate, and then try to make up for it by eating other low-fat products and drinking water. This way of eating wasn't good for me either, as my ever expanding waist-line has testified.

So you see, when I read In Defense of Food and Nourishing Traditions and realised that I had been totally hoodwinked about what a healthy diet actually is, I wasn't upset; I was relieved.

Finally I had found (in a totally obscure place that hardly anyone I know has heard of) a real life solution to the 'what should I eat?' question that has plagued me all of my adult life. Real fat is good. Real foods are good. Refined sugar and flour are not so good. Chemical food-like substances are definitely bad.

I've learned that hunger is a valuable tool, telling me, "Hey, you haven't feed me what I need yet." Tricking my body with empty foods so I get the satisfaction of eating without the calories doesn't work. It will never work.

Where does that leave me now?

Well, I'm the biggest I've ever been, apart from when I was pregnant. But I have a true, bubbling-up-inside-of-me joy at the prospect of learning about and eating real food. Food that is nutrient-dense and satisfying because it has been prepared in a way that my body can absorb its goodness, eg. sourdough bread.

I'm excited about what the future of food holds for me. I've been freed from that guilty, ever-present feeling that "I should go on a diet". In fact, I think dieting has done me terrible harm over the years and I refuse to ever go on one again. I think it would be better to stay the weight I am than to lose weight and then put it back on again.

I do hope that through my focus on eating real, whole foods, I will ever so slowly lose weight. But that is not the goal. Health and life are my goals. (These goals are made easier by the fact I'm married to a man who loves me just as I am, whatever size that may be.)

I hope you'll journey with me as I discover what good food really is.


  1. This was a great reminder to me of the need to encourage and compliment the people around us. Even people we don't suspect have hidden insecurities! Emma, you are a stunning woman, inside and out. You radiate the love of God which you carry within you. I don't think I have seen a bad photo of you, you are amazingly photogenic. Thank you for this post. I, too, refuse to diet now, prefering to enjoy my food and the odd treat but balance it out with regular (sometimes semi-regular) exercise. Most of the time, I like my curves :).

    God bless you xx

  2. Emma I love your honesty. You really are inspiring, and very beautiful. Love the way you are nourishing yourself and your family and friends.

  3. I wuv you Emmie.

  4. Wow Emmie you are cool. I agree with megan - you are just so beautiful and every photo i see of you is gorgeous! The thing I love most about you is how you 'glow'. I have told many people about my friend Emma that glows with health! Try as I might I just can't replicate it!

  5. You go, fabulous woman! I do agree that there is amazing power and encouragement when the man you love and respect supports and loves you. You can do anything!

  6. Love your honesty Emma, and agree with everyone elses comments... you totally 'glow' and look gorgeous all the time. You're always smiling! I can totally relate to a lot of what you said too! Keep up the inspiration for us all! Katrina.

  7. hi Emma, yay for nourishing traditions! It was such a relief to read it and find out that some fats ARE good and when you're hungry you can eat natural unprocessed foods until you are full, without worrying, because your body knows how much energy you need. If you want to know more about sugar and appetite control, I also found "sweet poison" very helpful (not that it has stopped me eating chocolate, but at least I know why I shouldn't eat it!). I haven't met you in person, but I agree with the comments above, you look gorgeous in all the pics on your blog. I'm a tall girl too and sometimes feel huge and ungraceful compared to my tiny friends! Good luck with your running regime, remember that a strenuous few hours in the garden can be just as good for you and way more fun (I don't run, except to chase calves). Cheers, Li

  8. Thanks everyone for your lovely comments! I'm blessed to have such cool friends!

  9. Well done- diets are not the way to go. Eating natural whole foods in moderation works great. I often find a good liver formula helps as if the liver it not working properly toxins are not got rid of and get stored in fat making fat hard to get rid of even if you are not eating much.Drinking lots of water and daily exercise help heaps. You have such a lovely smile and that is what drew me to your blog!!! God bless, Maree.


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