Today I fit into my skinny jeans for the first time in a couple of years - zipped and buttoned, though they still make me look like a sausage (slash muffin). Immediately after twittering about it, Bitch Magazine's twitter informed me that today is international no-diet day, and I felt like a very silly feminist.
I wouldn't really say I'm on a diet. I overate and overdrank in the second half of 2008, with no exercise. After returning from the holiday break and looking at pictures, I noticed that my face was distinctly chubbier, and realized that my clothes weren't fitting right. I began to realize that I was drinking every day of the week, eating to match my male partner, and eating oily and sugary foods on a daily basis. I simply wasn't treating my body right.
In some ways, this was a good sign. I used to hate my body, but grew to love it prior to and during a 30-pound weight loss in 2006 (which I gained back in 2007 and 2008). I wasn't noticed my weight fluctuation - it felt comfortable, and I still loved my body and felt that I was beautiful. Feminism helped me to maintain high-self esteem, and to understand that weight fluctuates, and it's okay. It's helped me to filter out silly ideas like the Skinny Bitch diet, and appreciate my body every day.
But I needed to change my habits as I aged. I don't want to fall into the trap of making "lifestyle change" a euphemism for dieting, but I needed to eat more fruits and veggies and less processed foodstuff - I'm not calling it crap because it's too delicious - for more reasons than weight loss. After years of happiness, I suddenly hit an emotional rough patch - my OCD cropped up after taking Plan B. My lack of exercise and poor diet was affecting more than just the flab around my belly. There's nothing feminist about resisting change that better my mind and body.
I still felt a need to focus on weight loss as a tangible goal. I joined myfooddiary.com at the suggestion of a feminist friend, and it helped me to understand and be aware of my caloric input and output. Calorie counting has been demonized by some as overly restrictive, but I like that it brings the focus to units of energy. That's what food is - not sinful, not indulgent, not morally good or bad. It's our fuel - chocolate or carrots. While myfooddiary.com offers suggestions (too much saturated fat, too little fiber), its calorie counting doesn't tell you "don't eat that chocolate" or "eat an apple instead" - it tells you what kind of weight you can expect to lose, and at what rate. I like that it communicated the trends of my habit and body in a clear and straightforward way without reducing my dietary habits to simple weight loss. There's no quick-loss gimmickery of the South Beach Diet or dismissal of heart issues like Atkins.
I began feeling better emotionally almost immediately, aided by a wonderful exercise plan that helped me feel alive and fully present in my body in a way little else does. And my body, slowly, is changing. And I feel positive about its slow and patient progress. I am not on a diet - I have a diet, like everyone else. On some days, it's high in fiber. On others, I drink the alcohol I want to drink and eat the chocolate I want to eat. Mine is right for me, and it's helping my body to function at the level and for the purposes I want. I cannot dictate or suggest what is right for others. I find my diet tips and trick and incentives on my own, figuring out what works for me physically and psychologically.
Most days I restrict calories - I shoot for about 500 under my caloric output. I have goals for my body, and it's not yet meeting my goals. These goals are not unrealistic - I have attained and maintained them before while enjoying life and looking after myself. However, I think of it more as seeking than shooting for a specific goal. What I want for my body now may not be what I wanted in 2006. There will always be new and different goals for my body and appearance - as with my writing, my career, my relationship, my field of knowledge. It presents new challenges and opportunities on a daily basis. As with all things in my life, I am happy but never more than temporarily satisfied with my body and appearance.
My skinny jeans are a size 12. They showed off my great body once, and will again. Other clothes will frame my body's beauty in the meantime. It's working, slowly, and with many pit stops to enjoy the wonder and glory of the food and drink that I love.
I don't shame myself for the goals I have or the stops I make. I don't hate where my body now or at its highest weight and I don't worship the slim frame I once carried. I appreciate my body's current incarnation and its future possibilities.
Every day is a no-diet day. I am aware of my body and what I want for it, but I love the way it is now. My body today is my ideal, same as tomorrow and yesterday.
I'll be writing about my body and how bodies are viewed a great deal in the future, in another space - but not for another month or so. Though I haven't directly reacted to the laudable goals of INDD, I want to address my body and how my attitude toward it has recently changed, before the moment moves away.