Being skinnier isn’t the be all and end all to happiness, so why do we keep pushing the goals back a few inches? Rupen Kalsi discusses her own journey with dieting.
When I’m happy I eat my feelings. When I’m sad I eat my feelings. When I’m anxious I eat my feelings. When I’m bored I eat my feelings, and when I’m angry I write. I’m angry at being sold a dream that was never going to happen. We’re told to be happy with ourselves – to that I say fat chance.
Happy? While every media outlet holds a mirror up to our love handles and podgy stomachs to flip it into a shot of a willowy model? Happy? While I strap myself into a waist trainer that Kim K has told me will change my life, resembling a medieval torture device, and scratch my head at whether bulgar wheat makes me bloat? Is that happy?
Another slice? Maybe I won’t. I can see the VS logo on a pink bag out of the corner of my eye. A biscuit after supper? No, I didn’t plan into my calorie allowance. What’s losing another stone having lost two when 4 is the new 6 that used to be 8? Because you see I’m running, with a fitbit of course and drinking rain water from Borneo filtered by orphaned fairtrade pacifists, towards a goal that gets pushed back the minute I get there.
We’re sold the lie that after the 5.2 diet, once we’ve eliminated carbs, gluten and refined sugar from our diets we’ll exist better, we’ll glow and be outrageously flexible – even on vacation. Because happiness and success for women seems to be represented by simultaneous beauty and wealth in the media we consume. A screenshot of women like those in Sex and the City, charging their mimosas to health wealth and having it all whilst watching the setting sun. The reality of getting to a target as a woman in the 21st century is that the target moves and you’re left wondering which area you’re need to tweak next.
I was left with was a healthier body but a mind’s eye that was equally as critical as before. A slimmer waistline is sold as a placebo to all our worries and troubles and I believed that: more fool me. More fool us; this is an industry that knows its dinner plate-picking consumer all too well, craning over the health food isle in Whole Foods weighing up the fat content between two kinds of oatmeal. I believed my life would be better without that inch of fat to pinch because our society worships the slim and pretty. The truth is it isn’t, it wasn’t. It never would be. So why do I still believe the lie that it will be when the number on the scales gets a little lower. There is no end goal, and that’s where the danger lies; there’s just chasing images on billboards that are a hyper-edited reality. No wonder it’s unattainable.
All this is talk of an obsessive serial dieter, but watching women I love in my life repeatedly prod, pinch and then punish themselves with diets and strenuous workouts to lose a bit more weight makes me squirm. But I still do it to myself and I’m still doing it. Can’t you see what I see? Maybe not: I don’t see what you see.
It makes me sick to see others doing what I do to myself. Guilt tripping themselves from eating food they like, saying they’ll lose “just another pound” and counting calories on the devil’s app that is My Fitness Pal. Hint, it’s not you pal. Yet me of all people telling them to stop seems hypocritical. I don’t value them for all that they look like and they eat, they mean so much more than that, yet I suffer with the same image crises as them. I know how they feel and I know how you feel when the image in the mirror doesn’t match up to the image in your head
More fool me for believing the headlines on trashy women’s magazines about weight loss giving people a new lease of life, as though after I’d done it I’d be standing holding the waistband out of my old trousers with a demonic grin on my face for the rest of my life. My life: a Hello Magazine front cover.
It took me two stone and 20 years to realise I’ve been sold lies about how dieting makes your life better: it just doesn’t. Stopping dieting, calorie counting and measuring yourself leaves a gap in your life and it’s not one that’s easily filled, but I’m going to try day by day to accept what I am now.
Am I still unhappy with my body? Yes, but I’ve realised dieting isn’t the answer and you should too. Happiness lies within, and I don’t mean within a kale smoothie.
Follow Rupen on twitter: @rup_kal
Illustration: Stephanie Hofmann