Jamie's Diet Story
Follow along as Jamie shares how she got sucked into the diet world, how it impacted her life and how she's finding freedom.
I grew up in a family of six. The majority of my immediate and extended family was overweight.
If you didn’t eat something when it was in front of you, chances were - you weren’t going to get another opportunity.
I never second-guessed my parents’ love - they were funny, supportive, loving parents.
And they gave us an awesomely weird, fun and safe childhood.
But they weren’t without their faults.
My Dad was forever instilling us with the power of positive thinking - a gift I am grateful for, but everyone knew where the lunch meat and ice cream was disappearing to overnight.
And when she wasn’t slinging ice cream on top of our Saturday morning waffles, Mom was talking about dieting, joining a new program, buying some sort of chemically altered diet food or giving us permission to smack her hand away if we saw her eating chocolate.
Food was how we celebrated, how we bonded, how we showed love and gathered with relatives.
But in the 1980s/90s suburban American household where I grew up, food was also the enemy.
Weight loss was victory.
When I was 6 years old, I sat on the edge of my bed and my mother patted my belly.
“Jamie, we need to lose some of this,” she said.
There was life before that day. And there was life after that day.
And at 6 years old, whose fault was it that I had issues? And whose issues were they? Because before that day, they certainly weren’t mine.
When I was in third grade, I deliberately lost some weight. I remember riding my bike for hours around the cul de sac and declining biscuits at dinner.
One evening, I rolled my bike into the driveway as my Grandma was getting out of her car - she had just arrived for a visit from out of town. “
Jamie! Is that you?!”
She was so proud of me. She gave me $30 - a dollar for every pound I had lost as a 9-year-old girl.
A couple of months later, she paid me $11 more.
I remember looking in the mirror one day after I had lost that weight, thinking, “cool. Now I can go back to normal.”
And I did. And I gained it all back.
By the 5th grade, I was already using the treadmill regularly after school and hiding my body in oversized clothes.
Most of my adolescence was spent feeling ashamed of my body while pursuing academic and artistic success.
The smarter I got, the more awards I earned, and the more praise I received.
It validated my existence. It earned me respect and made me less of a target.
I was not immune to grade school teasing but my weight often acted as a filter, weeding out the assholes and paving the path to good friends.
I started developing anxiety over good grades and perfectionism. While other kids were out having fun and being kids, I was doing hours and hours of homework and double and triple-checking my answers. I was afraid to make a mistake and call attention to myself in any negative way.
My body was already doing enough of that.
In college, long hours on the computer were inevitable. It was hard and intense. I was getting stressed and burned out fast.
I clearly remember eating ice cream in the middle of the night "not caring" and willing myself to "deal with it later".
I gained weight and eventually got to my highest weight. All-nighters were common.
AOL Instant Messenger was new and I used it to stay awake and in touch with my friends as we all worked into the late-night hours. I
t didn't take long to learn that I could use AIM to find guys on the computer too. Aside from a few dances in high school, and a college major consisting primarily of dudes, I had very little experience with guys.
And now, here I was - a smart, funny, sarcastic, interesting, faceless girl on the internet at a time when not many girls were on the internet and most douchebags had not yet arrived. Jackpot.
I thrived in this environment - for the first time, my body was not an issue when building a connection.
But one of them accidentally turned real.
It wasn’t supposed to happen.
He asked me to meet several times over the course of a few months and I blew it off. He asked me to go to his work Christmas party. I said, “I don’t know.”
That night, I dug out the dress I had worn to a dance in high school and I put it on and stood in front of the mirror.
I couldn't do it.
I wouldn't do it to myself. I would not allow myself to risk that kind of rejection.
And in that moment, I knew my weight was keeping me from things I really wanted. It was keeping me from experiences I really wanted. I was letting both of us down.
Over the next couple of years, I did lose weight. Like a LOT of weight.
For the first time in my adult life, I was passing as “average” sized, though I was never satisfied with my body or the number on the scale.
I was also obsessing over spreadsheets of calorie counts and macros and little weird low-fat recipes I would make for myself.
I was working out 5x a week, trying Weight Watchers, Curves, Jazzercise, zumba, gyms and trying to stay on top of my school work.
Shortly after graduating college, I began dating the man I would go on to marry.
I had a hard time wrapping my mind around why this smart, great, hot guy wanted to date me.
Early into our relationship, his family invited us out to a Mexican restaurant.
I nearly had a nervous breakdown over the thought of swapping the workout I had planned that evening for indulgent restaurant food.
And when the waiter said they couldn’t do the modifications I asked for my food, I couldn’t stop the tears from falling and I spent a good portion of the evening hiding in the bathroom.
My perfectionism and anxiety were getting worse too. I couldn’t leave my apartment without triple checking every lock, outlet and appliance.
I was late for work every day but was able to mask it with the open door policy. I would just stay at work longer and then go home to work out.
I carried my spreadsheet on a thumb drive (this was pre-smartphone) and logged every calorie I ate as soon as I got to a computer where I could plug it in.
I was constantly feeling my pocket to make sure the thumb drive was there.
I was alive but not really living my life.
My boyfriend was patient but my behaviors were frustrating us both.
The year after we were married, I put on a little weight. Maybe 20lbs or so.
We had gone to 8 weddings and just as many wedding showers, bachelorette parties, mini-trips, etc. in that first year of marriage.
I would celebrate and eat all weekend and ‘start over’ on Monday.
And then the celebrating was over. I experienced my first miscarriage. I was angry and hurt. But still hopeful.
Seven months after that, I had another miscarriage.
It was a dark place.
I began to spiral and the stress was unbearable.
I did fertility treatments, had surgeries, tried acupuncture, discovered meditation and energy work, visited a medium, I went gluten free - anything to try to increase my fertility as I willed my body to conceive again.
Almost three years would pass before I would become pregnant again. But this time, there was a heartbeat.
My belly swelled and I felt beautiful in my body for the first time. But I was paranoid about losing her and I stayed gluten-free ‘just in case’.
We went on to bring home a beautiful baby girl. I didn’t lose all the pregnancy weight before becoming pregnant again a couple of years later.
Another baby girl. But midway through, an ultrasound showed a birth defect in our baby’s anatomy.
It was devastating and stressful.
We did not know how to move forward or whether we would have a baby to bring home.
All within a few weeks, we started a bunch of invasive prenatal testing, my husband’s appendix burst and he landed in emergency surgery and I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
So on top of working and parenting a toddler neither of us could lift, 3x weekly hospital tests, weekly shots I received from a home care nurse and my self-imposed gluten-free diet, I now had to check my blood sugar 3x daily and restrict my food options even more.
It was depressing and my coping mechanism (food) was being even more limited.
It was the most stressed I’ve ever been. And then I went into labor five weeks early.
I had an emergency c-section with no less than 20 people in the delivery room.
My baby was put into a bag to keep her warm. I gave her a kiss and she was taken away from me via ambulance to another hospital. She had a successful surgery to repair her belly and a stressful stay in the NICU. But we got to take her home.
And after all that, when the self-imposed and mandatory food restrictions were lifted and we were all finally home and recovered, I ate whatever the hell I wanted.
And I ate more. And I ate like that for a while.
A year later, having barely budged the scale from when I gave birth, I decided to try keto.
I happily made myself a new spreadsheet because I just knew this was going to be IT. This was finally going to work for me.
I listened to a podcast that said I had to be perfect for at least 6 weeks before I would be fat adapted. I made a section in my spreadsheet where I counted the ‘perfect’ days. And if I messed up, I started over at 1.
I never got to 42 consecutive perfect days. I did, however, gain more weight.
I was eating more bacon and cheese and regular fat things than I had ever eaten before. But when I fell off the plan because of the food restrictions, I was eating all the other stuff too before starting over ‘again’.
This went on for over a year.
Then 2020 hit. All of a sudden people were hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizer and canned goods.
One day I was at the office happily chatting with my coworkers, and the next day I was homeschooling my kindergartner while potty training a toddler and trying to work from home.
Cue the stress. And the cookies. And the chocolate. And the carbs. And the crying. Oh, so much crying.
Within the first few months of the pandemic, I knew I had to do something. I was gaining even more weight. I found a little online support program about consistency and behavioral change. It was good and it sparked something in me but it didn’t go deep enough.
I knew I had very deep-rooted issues. I didn’t want to play this game anymore. I wanted a permanent fix. So I kept looking.
I hesitated on sharing my story because I am not an ‘after’. I am not healed and free. I am progressing.
With cognitive eating and the other behavioral tools I’ve been learning, I’m discovering patterns of self sabotage and core feelings of unworthiness.
I’m finding sources of my behavior rooted in childhood reinforcements.
I’m recognizing the shit I’ve been through and I’m being kinder to myself instead of meaner to my body. I was never taught how to handle emotions so I’m learning that as an adult.
Eating was how I coped, how I numbed the feelings, how I avoided the people that wanted to be close to me and the situations I didn’t want to acknowledge or even things as simple as making a decision.
I’m recognizing that my Mother was just trying to do what she thought was best for everyone, what she had learned from the generation before her.
I’m trying to heal my relationship with my belly, the belly that was the start of my issues, the one that I hated and stuffed full and tried to hide away and cursed during the years of infertility and miscarriages but the very same belly that I cried and prayed over every night trying to heal my unborn child, the belly that went to hell and back and ultimately gave me two beautiful daughters.
I don’t want this for my daughters. I know I can’t protect them from the world.
But hopefully, the work I’m doing will be enough for them to withstand the bullshit noise of the diet industry.
My journey in moving away from diets started with the promise of “food freedom” when I reached a breaking point during a global pandemic.
But it has led to so much more.
Recently, I was nervous about taking family photos because of my body but I took them anyway.
I deleted all the keto and diet accounts I followed on social media and curated a more uplifting collection of women with real bodies who were sharing real stories.
I saw a number I didn’t like on the scale at the doctor’s office last month.
It didn’t feel great. But I wasn’t devastated. It didn’t break me.
I’m resurrecting decades-old projects simply because I enjoy working on them.
And sometimes I’m choosing those things over a workout and that’s ok.
For the first time, I’m looking beyond a weight loss goal to see what I am capable of.
I’m trying to figure out who I am as a person - not who I will be as a person after I lose weight.
I’m making room in my life for things I enjoy now, not when or if I lose weight.
I want my daughters to see their mom showing up for herself, and for them.
Moving away from diet culture is helping me to learn how to rely on myself, instead of external validation.
I’m doing this work because I am worthy. Just because.
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