I’m not dieting this January. Here’s what I’m trying instead…
Growing up I shopped in the “Pretty Plus” section of Sears and Ross. When you are raised by a single, working mom “Making it Work” doesn’t usually come with support for home cooked weeknight meals or include the Whole Foods salad bar. Shuttling between my elementary school back to my mom’s job or for a few hours of study time at the UT libraries usually meant stopping for a .99 cent Whopper (RIP to the Burger King on the Drag). My kids eat a tremendous amount of burgers and fries, the fare of the American Child, because even though I thankfully finished my Master’s Degree before my youngest baby was born; we are tired, busy, or just far from home at meal time. Plus, they are delicious.
Exercise was not part of my family’s culture or routines and it took me until my mid-twenties to realize it is something I love.
So when babies don’t sleep, my night meetings pile up, or pre-K viruses come in never-ceasing waves, I return to my childhood pattern of soothing my troubles with cookies, ice cream, cakes, double portions of everything else. I’ve gained ten pounds since October thanks to the factors above and what we call in Spanish “amsiedad” or “nomxiety”.
The pull is so strong for me to kick into January riding the Whole 30/New Year, New You reboot diet wave. I want to feel like the radiant, glowing, confident woman I see in my wedding photos from six years ago. The truth is though, I’m not! Step Mommy Poppins is trying to find her new parenting groove with three kids, a job, several hobbies, infinite business ideas, and many sleepless nights. I have so many young people watching and listening to me at my best and at my worst and it’s important for me that I show them how to navigate both with balance, grace, and self-love, at every weight.
This January, I’m not dieting and trying this instead:
Adding New Healthy Habits
I could swear something off, but instead I will replace my vices with new habits. I’ve started brushing my teeth after dinner. If I still really want something after that, I’ll eat a piece of fruit and brush my teeth again. And still if I want ice cream after that, I’ll go for it! Rather than saying I will never never never eat ice cream after dinner I want to give myself space not to prohibit anything. If we are at a birthday party and the cake looks yummy, I’ll have a slice–just like I would expect of my kids when I imagine what a balanced relationship with sweets looks like.
I’m creating a new family routine to be active together after dinner every night. This happens sometimes organically either with a walk, or running around the kitchen island but planning on it means that I am mentally prepared (and dressed!) to be on a trampoline, have a bad weather plan, or out on our bikes every single night.
Identifying what habits are not serving me
What am I doing that is not making me feel good? Too little sleep? Too much dessert? Too much prefabricated food? If I don’t like the desserts I’m eating can I instead bake new ones that I feel good about? I initially planned to participate in Dry-uary and abstain from alcohol, but I found myself overindulging to compensate. I’m taking the same flexible approach to alcohol as I am to sweets, and instead breaking my evening snack-drink-snack-drink-dessert routine with the tooth brushing above.
Figuring out what is sustainable
Dieting has led me down the yo-yo path every single time. While I get results from all kinds of diets, the weight always comes back for me. Cycles of depravation also lead me to cycles of binging…either on the food or drink I cannot have or something else. This time I am determined to find a more sustainable path. Instead of ruling off my kids leftovers as forbidden, I’m going to factor their leftovers into my food orders. Instead of ruling off a particular food group I will think practically about how much of it I need to fuel my body the way I want. Instead of burning myself out on intense exercise, I’m going to walk on the treadmill while watching White Lotus or The Menu or any other adult-only television pleasure I don’t have time for otherwise.
Investing in the journey, not just the destination
There have been so many clothing sizes in my closet. I’ve done the typical thing where I buy something that doesn’t quite fit, planning to slim or trim down into the right size. Now that I’ve had two babies, my body is just not in my control in the same way. Between pregnancy, post-partum, nursing, weaning, and living life with littles it’s up to my biology in addition to my limited choices what my body will do now.
I went to the amazing Goodwill on South Lamar today for a shopping spree with my step-daughter to find clothes that fit me who and where I am today. The body I’m in deserves clothes that fit it well and I can model that practical and radical self-acceptance to everyone in my life—without breaking the bank or creating more clothing waste.
Modeling what I want for my kids
Do I want to raise children who criticize their own bodies harshly? Who abstain from celebrating life’s little moments? Who exercise for fear instead of joy? This year I am thinking very closely about what I wish for my kids. My outer dialogue will become their inner dialogue. My son has already asked me once to close the curtain at swim class so other kids don’t see his fatness at only three years old. He is by no means fat, but even if he were heavier, I would want him to close the curtain for privacy and comfort, or respect of others’ social norms, not out of any shame or guilt about his own body. The more I can represent a balanced dialogue about food for nutrition and culture, fitness for pleasure, and radical self-acceptance in myself, the more my kids will grow with balance and confidence.
Are you trying something different than dieting this year?