Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Crime and Punishment

I was just re-reading some of my old Oxygen magazines; I have a collection of about 100. There was once an article written by respected bodybuilder, fitness magnate and publisher Robert Kennedy (may he rest in peace) where he says that you should strip down, get in front of a mirror, and upon careful inspection, proceed to be utterly and completely disgusted by yourself.

This is the kind of flawed (and dangerous) idea that leads to distorted thinking and disordered eating. The point is that if you loathe yourself enough, are disgusted by your very being to the highest possible degree, if you hit rock bottom like an addict who loses it all, you will ultimately have no choice but to turn the corner and somehow generate actions that will bring about fitness, thinness and therefore greatness. This is the kind of thinking that led me to not eat in front of anyone for almost a year, to sit on the corner of my chair at the kitchen table during a meal, as if to say – don’t worry, I’m not really going to eat, I’m not committing to this food, I know that I don’t deserve it, I know that I should be outside running sprints instead.  Never mind looking at myself in the mirror, getting my picture taken or letting anyone else see me without the requisite covering (see Ninja Suit).

The collateral damage from this fruitless battle can be catastrophic.  And what a community of practice - others, like me, are more than a little twisted and obsessive about it. Some of us have developed whole friendships based on commiserating about losing that last 20 pounds, the untruth that “I cannot be trusted around cream cheese icing”.  We fit in by hating ourselves.

Anyone would agree that the nature of a diet, the proverbial yoyo – being either ‘on’ or ‘off’ - is damaging to the psyche.  I have friends whose current diet plan is immediately obvious from the minute we step into a restaurant. They’re either ordering a naked salad to go with the protein shake they've stashed in their purse, or a triple-stacked bacon burger, sandwiched between two buns made of bacon, with a side of bacon. And don’t even ask them if they want to split a dessert. ‘On’ means eat your naked salad, watch everyone else with wonder and envy (disguised as scorn), ‘off’ means eat anything that doesn't eat you first. Who do you know who has successfully won this war, anyway? Who has dieted and made lasting changes of more than six months, a year? Why play a game that is not winnable?

Geneen says that we should end the war with our bodies once and for all, and come back to ourselves, come back to love. We should stop trying to fix it - the body is not broken.  It has an innate, intelligent ebb and flow of hunger and satiety, if only we were to listen.

Now that I know this, I cannot unknow it. Obsession and awareness cannot co-exist. Here’s my bottom line:

Yes, I’m eating lunch. And it’s over when I say it’s over. 

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