You Haven’t Failed, Part 3: Diets Are Usually Soul-Draining
This post is the third in a series of five posts from my forthcoming book on Mindful Eating and EFT Tapping, to be published by North Atlantic Books in Spring 2019.
As a young girl, my client Sarah had no concept of herself as overweight. She was an enthusiastic athlete and a budding-talent actress who enjoyed her body in the unself-conscious manner of a free-spirited prepubescent youngster.
When Sarah was 12, her mother, who herself had always obsessed over her own body size, began worrying that Sarah was gaining too much weight and took her to a local diet club meeting.
Sarah vividly recalled “sitting in that hard chair … in a room full of strangers … I was the youngest there, and they were all so patronizing to me. They were welcoming me into their ‘club.’ I didn’t wanna be in their club. They kept talking about food and diets and points…. When I look back at pictures from that time, I wasn’t really a heavy girl. But ever since that meeting, I’ve felt like I weigh 500 pounds. Where did that younger, happier me go?”
Sarah’s initiation into the weight-watching world cast a pall of shame over her life. She shut herself off from her friends. She dropped all her athletic and artistic activites. She dutifully attended weight-loss meetings with her mother. Sarah attributes her decades-long pattern of yo-yo dieting and binge eating that created 200 pounds of unwanted body weight to the misery she felt at those meetings.
As I have witnessed with clients such as Sarah, parents—often mothers—will, with the absolute noblest of intentions, tragically and unconsciously transmit their own body-shame to their children and engage their young progeny in a lethal loyalty bond: If I’m gonna diet, you’re gonna diet.
According to neurologist Sandra Aamodt, girls who identify themselves as dieters in early adolescence are three times as likely as nondieters to become overweight within four years. And those pre-teen dieters are 12 times more likely to develop binge-eating patterns than their non-dieting besties.
When a diet is superimposed over a deep well of self-loathing, it’s like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing. By its very nature, dieting engenders the fat-shaming and fat-stigma it’s meant to relieve. And the chronic stress of that emotional burden sets loose a chemical swill of stress hormones that keep the extra weight pinned to your body.