BY SUSAN ESTRICH
The other day, I walked into a bookstore looking for some escapism and stumbled right into a wall of diet books. It’s January. I published a diet book right around this time back in the ’90s, which is why I’ve been able to mostly avoid the diet book section ever since. But did I ever used to know that world.
Every year, for more decades than I care to count, my resolution was the same, even the same weight: the holy grail of 125. [Years ago I learned that when you’re lying about a number, never let it end with a zero or a five. Even now, I laugh when I look at my license with the hopelessly-untrue-at-the-time 125. If I had to do it again, I’d make it 126.] I bought every book that existed, tried every diet they offered, no matter how stupid – sure that life would be entirely different and better if a smaller number were staring back at me in the mirror.
And then it was.
Not that simple, of course: steamed vegetables, grilled chicken breast and egg-white scrambles day after day, to the point that you hardly care anymore, and then you know you’re in the groove. Keep doing every day what you did the day before. Whatever works, keep doing. Think about it the way you do all the things you’re good at, like work and taking care of other people and feeding your children and animals. No standing there doing the “I hate myself” routine. After all the things everyone said to you for years, to which you nodded your head as if you understood, one day it clicks and you do.
And then what happens? Dressing rooms are better. Doctor visits are better. Last-minute changes are stunningly easier to accomplish. But the thing you discover when you’re thin is that, really, it’s all still very much the same. Not that it isn’t worth doing, but it only solves what it solves, which is less than you think.
Instead of telling me I was too fat, my mother told me I was too thin. My hair was still what it was. I was way past bikinis, anyway. I felt better. I looked better. I was more confident, some of the time. But I was still me.
I’m not telling you not to lose weight, take up jogging and yoga, meditate daily and eat more fiber. For sure, most of us should do some version of all those things. But if you do so knowing that success is what it is – not a panacea, not the solution to everything, just looking better and feeling better – then I think it’s easier both to succeed and fail, since ultimately we are all destined to do both.
The most devastating thing about diets is the failure part, which is far more common than success. And what makes it so devastating is the certainty that if only you were just a little stronger, there would be a new “you” and everything would be better. Not so, or at least not so fast. Dieting is just about putting your fork down. But when you do, you’re still you.
The best New Year’s resolution, I think, is to accept just that. My friend Annie just sent around one of those corny, beautiful and true messages about accepting yourself, being kind to yourself, being grateful and not angry and disappointed about the person you are. I was supposed to pass it on to 12 people who mattered. Here it is:
“May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. … May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. … Let this knowledge settle into your bones and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.” [author unknown]
Beats resolving to lose weight. Happy New Year.
– Susan Estrich’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer