If you spent years obsessing over food and exercise, like I did, there is a good chance it slowly engulfed whatever free time you had on your hands. It can go as far as defining your whole identity among colleagues, classmates or your family as the ultra-fit, diet-obsessed gym freak. Perhaps you even became a personal trainer or a registered dietitian nutritionist, aiming to pass on your newfound ‘wellness’ (aka the new politically correct term for weight loss) secret to others.
This is a phenomenon anti-diet dietitian Christy Harrison refers to as ‘The Life Thief’ because, under the disguise of promising weight loss (and by extension health and wellness), dieting steals most of the joy of eating and transform meals and gatherings into warzones, involving forbidden ingredients, moral judgement and a dangerous inability to actually be emotionally ‘present’ around food, since all our energy is focused on controlling our bodies. All this causes chronic stress, which in turn reinforces physical and mental health issues including sluggish digestion and a slower metabolism.
In most cases, there is a point where this identity suffocates us, for physical or emotional reasons. But habits die hard. Even if you are determined to let go of the diet mentality and conscious not to internalize fatphobia anymore, it can be daunting to go cold turkey when most of your free time revolved around your food and exercise routine, and when most of your social circles still subscribe to diet culture principles, which worship thinness above everything, including your effective quality of life.
One thing that was major in my recovery journey was to go on a ‘discovery’ journey, for my ‘real’ identity. As per my coach at the time (thank you Kayla Tova!), discovery involved looking into past hobbies or interests and investing in an exploration quest for new pastimes. Here is how to proceed:
1/ Think of who you were pre-disordered eating.
What activities used to make you happy, satisfied and relaxed? Revisit some of those hobbies and see if they spark the same joy for you today. Let go of them if they don’t, keep only what’s genuinely enticing to the person you are today.
2/ Say yes more!
To try pottery or pole dancing. To join friends for quiz nights on a regular basis. To learn a new language or how to dive underwater. If you are also recovering from hypothalamic amenorrhea and cannot focus on movement for now, consider getting a pet, or taking a meditation workshop, or finding ways to be more creative with knitting or sewing. [NB: If you are in this situation, I also wrote more about specific steps for HA recovery here]
Do not let your diet-obsessed mind dictate your life anymore. Take risks, face the fear. The worse that can happen is for you to find yourself.