...the fear of food that you’ve worked so hard to cultivate as a means of motivation never really leaves you.
Let me tell you what happens when you finally get skinny: You still can’t eat cake.
You still can’t eat cake. You still can’t wear crop tops. You still can’t skip yoga without feeling guilty. You still can’t order the cheesy pasta. You still can’t enjoy pizza. You still can’t fuck the love of your life without self-judgment. And — did I mention this? — you still can’t eat cake.
You spend all this time and energy being hypervigilant so that one day, you can cross the “UGW” finish line into ease, into relaxation, into normalcy. But that day never comes because no matter how far you run, the course ahead of you grows longer — or, at least, the obstacles along the way change.
Because the fear of food that you’ve worked so hard to cultivate as a means of motivation never really leaves you.
Instead, it morphs.
Like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, it starts out as a project of your own design, and then it gains a life — a mind, a purpose — of its own. And you’re left in the dust wondering how this inanimate thing got the best of you.
You think that the fear of never being skinny will vanish once you achieve the coveted social prize of thinness (however you’re measuring — literally, measuring — that concept). But once you get there, you realize that there’s maintaining to do — work that’s harder than what you’ve already put in because now you’re fighting against your body’s survival mechanisms. Your fear turns itself into the atrocity of losing your thinness, of becoming empty of the currency you’ve finally obtained.
And so you still can’t eat cake. Or go for a walk just to breathe in fresh oxygen and linger to watch the kids playing in the schoolyard. Or hop out of bed and into an impromptu brunch meeting with your best friends. Or pack your daily lunch based on your needs and tastes, and not your limitations. Because, in your head, you’re still counting, still ticking off every single calorie. You’re never free.
If you think you’re unhappy in the diet cycle of “6 a.m. CrossFit, 7 p.m. Pilates, salad for lunch with light dressing on the side, maybe try cutting out carbs entirely, CW, GW, UGW,” consider this: that you may never be happy again.
The day that I decided to pursue weight restoration was the day that I realized I could either be happy or skinny — never both.
To put this in perspective: I’m already a thin person. There was only one period of my life when I teetered over to “overweight” (if we believe in BMI scales, which we shouldn’t), and that was in college. For the rest of my adult life, I’ve been thin, fitting into standard sizes and never incurring a second glance from fat-shamers.
But for a huge chunk of that time, I’ve wanted to be thinner, specific numbers dancing in my head promising salvation from body hate and life ruts. And even when I dieted (read: eating disorder-ed) myself into ruin to meet those numbers, new ones always popped up. I became obsessed with scales and measuring tapes, trying to work out my worth.
And the truth is, the times in my life when I’ve been the unhappiest have been when I’ve weighed the least.
And so, one day, with the help of my therapist, I came to realize that if I was always going to have a somewhat precarious relationship with my body (what woman in today’s society doesn’t, really?), I may as well be enjoying my life in the meantime.
And so I slid the scale to the back of my closet, started freely eating doughnuts when I craved doughnuts, and simply donated the jeans that stopped fitting instead of holding out hope for them.
And in this time, I’ve realized how many of the huge fears that I had about weight restoration have yet to materialize. No awful thing has happened so far. But my entire life was awful when I was dieting.
I fretted for so long over whether or not I’d be able to physically and emotionally handle gaining weight that I refused to even try it as a possible solution to my deep-seated unhappiness. I was terrified.
As it turns out, I shouldn’t have been.
I’d been running for miles on treadmills, trying to shed the weight that I thought was holding me back from a life I would love — one where I would sport stylish bikinis at the beach without self-consciousness, one where I would feel sexy instead of stupid in a tight dress, one where I would wake up every morning and the first thing I’d do wouldn’t be to reach for my hipbones to make sure they were still visible.
The only weight that I needed to drop was that of internalized misogynistic self-hate. I didn’t need to lose any pounds. I needed to lose the sound of “You’re worthless” that reverberated in my ears — in my own voice — every time I had a craving for chocolate or was too tired to go to the gym.
I used to be afraid of weight restoration. I used to hold onto dieting like it could save me from myself, because I didn’t really believe it was possible to be happy with extra weight. I used to look at people who had done it, who said their lives were vastly improved, and think that they were lying.
And now, perhaps, I’ve become that person for you.
But ditching dieting was the best thing that I’ve ever done.
If for nothing else than that because now, I can eat cake.