Diet, Nutrition & Fitness

Getting Real about Diets

January is bright and shiny over social media. Ads for parties, champagne popsicles, glittery make-up tricks and perfect red lips, deals on last-minute flights to exciting destinations for a party of a lifetime… you know.. the usual pre-New Year’s Eve party push. But something else is being pushed harder than any other time of the year also, the diet gangs.

Please don’t hate me – you haven’t read the story yet. It’s not all anti-diet gangs, I have a point and it’s not to put down all diet-pushers! I pinky promise.

See, I’ve been that girl who calorie counted. I’ve food blogged. I challenged myself to eat less, do more and lose the inches. I was that insecure girl who thought my success and value was somehow tied to my appearance.

I’ve been the girl who would challenge herself to be a ‘better version’ of herself by eating an apple a day. Only an apple a day. The girl who thought if she could be fine on 300 calories a day, then let’s go for 280. And if that’s attainable, let’s see if we can make 220… and so on.

I’ve been the girl who would skip English class so she could take a bus to the nearest gym for an afternoon workout. Even though there was a work-out at 5:30 a.m. and would be another at 6:30 p.m. The one that would challenge every single workout to be longer, harder.

I’ve been the girl – the mom –  to toss out photos because there was a double chin or some roll or… well… it could have been for any crazy reason really… because when you are that girl – that mom –  the reasons are plentiful.

I’ve been the girl who had to fight herself for two years in order to change her mind enough to know that the size of the clothes she wears does not define her, nor does any person’s opinion of her ‘pretty’ness. I am not my appearance. Yet a decade later,  this girl – this mom – still can’t own a scale in her house for fear of relapse in that seemingly crazy mental state. This is my confession. 

I’m probably like 80% of women out there who has struggled with some level of body issues or eating disorders (*I did not fact check that number. This is a blog, not a newspaper article). Maybe mine was a bit more severe than some, but certainly not as bad as others. And in the end I don’t think that’s what matters. What matters is that the large majority of women experience a daily battle of not believing their bodies are good enough, not pretty enough, not desirable enough, not successful or valuable enough unless it’s skinny enough.

And while I am a huge supporter of fitness and healthy eating habits, I hate diet fads and social media ‘fitness’ groups that push those kinds of messages under the veil of support.

I hate groups that challenge people to believe it is the inches that count and that food diaries are the best way to stay accountable. I don’t like weigh-in groups. I don’t like groups that stress the best you is a skinny you. I don’t like fads that push expensive products as a way to maintaining an ideal body weight.

30 Day challenge? That’s great, can we do that without pedalling a product? Can we just support each other to focus on mental and physical strength instead of inches? Can we do that challenge without even mentioning calorie counts and shakes and prizes for the best performer?

I made a pinky promise that this article was not about putting down all diet pushers and I’m sticking to that.

I’ve seen some amazing women that truly support other people in creating healthy lives. Who help people balance fitness and life. And I’m 100% behind that. I am an avid supporter of physical literacy and my paying job is not as a writer, but as a swim coach, so I live and breathe fitness programs and understanding the body. I am an avid supporter of helping other adults see the importance of sports that encourage physical and mental fitness for life.

But I am not a diet-group pusher. I don’t push products. And I hate seeing ads at the end of the year for more and more of these groups that sell women the promise of a better them, through products.

The diet pushers I support are the real nutritionists. Really ladies, there are plenty of well-trained professionals out there that can help you find a real diet that will give you success in health. They can teach you about real food, there won’t be expensive branded shakes and powders and capsules. Instead, you can learn how to follow a sustainable and healthy – real – plan for life. Want to learn about fitness, go see a personal trainer or join a running group, a swimming group, a basketball group or start some yoga classes.

Find something you love to do, not for the calories it burns or the veiled-competition against other women, but for the strength it provides to you otherwise.

I know these groups are popular. It’s full of positive “ra-ra” messaging, but true strength and self acceptance comes after you let go of what a group leader tells you to do.

It comes when you don’t need a leader because you are you’re own leader. It comes when you forget that you are running that mile because of the pizza you had last night.

It comes after you decide to dump the scale into the garbage, throw out calorie charts and just say “screw it”, and eat what makes you feel good.

It comes when your favourite part of the day is when you hit the circuit training part of the gym and you feel sweat dripping and your legs shaking, but the thought of what you earn to eat or what size dress you want to squeeze into, does not even enter your mind.

True self acceptance comes when you know you can skip a work-out without guilt or concern, because at the end of the day, it does not matter. You are not your work-out. And if you are doing it for the love of fitness and health, you’ll get back to it another day. Which is why you should find something you love to do, not rely on a product or an uncertified ‘coach‘ for success.

We may want to blame the media, celebrity culture, the mean girls clique, advertising and our moms or grandmas, but that’s all shit. I know there are lots of external factors for the pressure we create on ourselves, but it all comes down to us.

We are the ones that continue to support those products and the groups that profit from it.

And here’s the deal, no matter how often you tell your child they are smart and wonderful and kind and beautiful for how they were created, they notice our messaging. They notice whatyou pay attention to. They notice how you define your own body’s value. So accept it. Deal with it, share the blame and then do something real about it.

Go play basketball with your kids. Join a family soccer league. Or if you want to have some time alone while you work-out, do that. But if you want to teach your children that diet fads, calories and waist size is not important, then show them that. Don’t teach them about shakes or magic capsules. Teach them about running. Teach them about skiing or skating or dancing. Show them your bodies can be strong enough to run a marathon or do a triathlon or complete a bike race.

Show them that you can live a healthy and balanced life without the need to step on a scale. Kids will never learn just by the words you tell them if your own actions  towards yourself show them differently. 

I feel like I almost need to apologize for the article. That maybe there is too much preaching going on. But as I’ve confessed, I’ve been at the bad end of body image problems. I know how challenging it is to climb out of that hole. I know that some never get out of it completely. I know how terrible it is to feel your body is not good enough, no matter what those around you say. And I see moms do themselves and their children huge injustices all the time by getting caught up in discussions about ‘pretty’ness. This year, all I want is for others to say “no” to wanting to get ‘pretty’ skinny. Instead, I want people to get back to real fitness and health.

Can we do that?

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Getting honest about shit, from a mom's perspective.