As I said in my ultimate guide to stop binge eating, I used to be obsessed with food.
I’d think about it all the time. I’d sit at my desk and drool over what I could eat now, what I would eat next, what I could eat later. Whether I was out catching up with friends, sitting in the cinema, or lying in bed, it didn’t matter — food would constantly call to me.
It turns out dieting and deprivation is the reason you’re obsessing over food. If you never deprived yourself, or had a diet mentality, you’d never feel like you can’t go on living another second unless the entire bag of M&Ms are in your mouth. That just wouldn’t be a thing.
And why did we all diet in the first place? Well, duh… because we’re unhappy with how we look.
Personally, I wanted a six pack. I wanted to look, feel and therefore be, a strong motherfucking badass.
What started as a project of self improvement became a full blown obsession, of orthorexia, anorexia and then binge eating. My entire self-worth was put into an image of myself I could never attain.
When you spend this much time fantasizing, planning out exactly what you’re going to eat and at what time, constantly exercising purely to try to change your size and shape, checking the mirror to itemize everything that’s wrong with your body… when your mind is focused only on these things, you lose so many other things:
- You lose the mental resources to focus on productive and creative ideas.
- You waste a tonne of time.
- You waste a tonne of energy (emotional or otherwise).
- You can’t be fully present with your family, friends, the cheerful barista pouring you the most amazing cup of coffee, or the view from your AirBnB holiday rental.
You exist, but you don’t truly live.
But here’s the thing:
- 90% of women and 80% of men are unhappy in their bodies (obviously the stats depend on exactly where you look, but it’s not good).
- 95% of diets don’t work. (With people usually regaining more weight than they lost. And the people who restrict hardest and longest are often the ones who go onto binge eating. We’re too busy trying to crush it to be the best version of ourselves that it completely backfires.)
When statistics are this high, this isn’t about individuals anymore. This is about society (a) making everyone feel — at best — inadequate and — at worst — entirely worthless in the body they were given the gift of life with; and (b) the diet industry knowing this, and therefore getting repeat customers, time and again.
Think about it: it’s the perfect business model:
Step 1. I’m going to make you believe have a problem (since you’re not white with 3% body fat, and therefore don’t look the way only 4% of the population could ever look),
Step 2. I’m going to sell you something that will work for a bit, (so you trust me enough to come back when it inevitably fucks you up).
Step 3. When it does fuck you, I’m going to cash in on the fact that you’ve blamed yourself… You failed because you’re a lazy piece of shit, right?
Mmm, I’m gonna sleep well tonight.
It’s not ethical, but apparently it works, because according to Brene Brown’s (highly recommended) book, there’s a:
- $38 billion hair industry
- $33 billion diet industry
- $24 billion skincare industry
- $18 billion makeup industry
- $15 billion perfume industry
- $13 billion cosmetic surgery industry
While I know a lot of people get into the fitness industry because they want to help others feel and perform better, it would be naïve to not realise there’s a shit ton of people getting rich out of making you feel bad about yourself.
But Maria, I still need to fit in. Even if it’s wrong, I need to live in this society!
So what can we all do about this?
You can be aware of where this pressure is coming from. Ask yourself: who benefits from me feeling this way about myself?
You can acknowledge that loving yourself doesn’t make you fat (and hating yourself doesn’t make you thin).
You can realize that your feelings about your weight actually have zero impact on how other people feel about you (but your feelings about your body may have an impact on how pleasant you are to be around in general, because it turns out people actually like us a shit tonne more if we’re actually focused, friendly, and feel comfortable in our own skin, no matter what we look like).
Realize that feeling utter despair over eating a Mars bar is going to make you eat more Mars bars because of the emotional pain you’re in. Whereas eating a Mars bar because you were feeling a bit sad, then moving on with your life is totally fine and human. The strict diet mentality — that level of perfectionism — is actually holding you back. Try instead, to be compassionate towards yourself, no matter what you eat, do, or don’t do.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve and change yourself (which is presumably why you dieted in the first place), but when you take this too far, when you’re putting all your self-worth into what the scale says, or how you didn’t eat “perfectly”, maybe it’s time to diversify your identity. Maybe it’s time to go to that painting class you always wanted to go to, learn how to play the piano, or just take your friend out for coffee.
Because, I don’t know about you, but when I’m on my death bed, I don’t want to say “I obsessed over food for every second I was alive, but at least I had a six pack”.
How do food thoughts hold you back? Let me know in the comments or contact me with all the amazing things you want to do instead of thinking about food all day.