The word "diet" conjures up hope for many of us, but an actual diet, in and of itself, is equivalent to a dodgy salesman: in a white suit and a leopard-print tie, he sells you candy-flavored water that he promises as a magic cure.
Unfortunately, the magic cure doesn't exist […sigh].
I spent so many years following diets. When I was in eating disorder behavior (full disclosure here), I relied on a new diet to start the recovery process over.
Dieting and finding the perfect diet was my life. And I chose each diet in the hope that it would be the end to all diets.
As I binged, I had the diet, and the shopping list for it, open to the pages of the magazine or my journal (with additional notes and amendments to the new diet in question; often I needed to be a certain size at a certain time, so edits were required). I glanced at the pages with hope as I shoveled food in my mouth.
For the first couple of days, maybe even six days (oh, who am I kidding, three if I was super lucky or dating someone), the diet seemed hopeful. Actually, the diet felt like it was the only hope I had.
In the beginning, my body screamed at the diet's demands, but my shame of the last binge insisted that I stick to it.
As time went on, shame diminished as hunger ate at my brain. Along with the limits and isolation required to make the diet successful, I unavoidably caved. And if — no when — I caved, I would end the diet with a binge. I binged because I knew I would start over again — with another diet — the next day.
I would either binge in my bedroom in secret (duh, of course) or binge while walking the streets. Going into one store after the other, I would purchase one thing at a time so as not to give away my dirty secret.
Then, like a bright light from above, I'd be grabbed from my food coma by a "before and after" image of a celebrity on a magazine that proclaimed: "Learn how so-and-so got her hot, new bod." My mind would be hijacked with images of the ideal body I always dreamed of, as I opened the trashy magazine to see the details of the cure.
Ahh, there was hope. [Play the songs of angels serenading here.]
I needed to be saved. But what I needed most was to be saved from myself.
I truly believed that this new diet would save me from eating the world; I would finally have control and be delivered into happiness. It promised! The diet told me, scientifically, that this time, it would be the one. It guaranteed me peace [a deep breath], and I so wanted peace.
I flew from London, U.K. to a retreat in San Jose, California, in a desperate attempt to stop the painful food shame cycle. I was there to see author and advocate of ending compulsive eating and chronic dieting Geneen Roth. At the retreat, she said, "With every diet comes a binge," and I have learned this to be a universal truth.
A slew of studies tells us that diets do not work. In fact, diets promote weight gain. (I know, right?! You already know this. Argh.)
I have also learned that the moment I think of dieting, I immediately start to eat more. I eat more out of fear of deprivation.
So, in my recovery, I do not diet [filled with relief] and that is the best diet in the world.
Robyn Cruze, MA is the National Recovery Advocate and online community manager for Eating Recovery Center.