It’s spring! The trees are blossoming! All six of them! Or maybe that’s just on my block. The several tufts of grass are violently green. I suddenly want to buy at least two pairs of gladiator sandals. Because suddenly one doesn’t feel like enough. And also, because it’s spring, weight-loss advice is blooming. It’s everywhere. Shed those extra pounds before summer! Be able to fit into those shorts! Get your bikini bod on! Or, you know, catchier slogans.
I am going to the Caribbean in a couple months. My dad won a trip at an auction, and he’s taking the family, significant others included. When I found out, my first thought was “Yay!” and my second thought was, “Shit.” The “shit” related to the fact that I have not put on a bikini in well over a year, and since then, I’ve gained about 15 pounds.
I figured I should immediately go on a diet. And then, by the time the trip rolls around, I’d be sleek and beach-ready. I figured I’d start tomorrow. And then tomorrow came, and I ate a bunch of pizza. And then the next day came, and I had a generous slice of cake for dessert, with friends. And so on. It quickly became clear that the diet was over before it’d begun. The way that it is for most people. Instead of dieting, I was feeling guilty for not dieting. That was the only change.
But when I gave it some thought, it occurred to me that I shouldn’t diet anyway. And you shouldn’t either. Unless you have a medical problem or something, in which case, disregard this because I don’t want to be responsible for the demise of your health. Here are eight very important reasons why. So pay close attention:
1. Dieting is boring. Food is delicious. And usually the kind of food you’re not supposed to eat when you’re on a diet is especially delicious. Like pizza and cake.
2. Dieting takes forever. Weight is stubborn. It doesn’t like to move. So unless you’re really starving yourself, which is not dieting, it’s starving yourself, it’s going to take an excruciating amount of time to see real results. And let’s be real, you probably won’t make it that far. Because of all the delicious food that seductively surrounds us, every day.
3. Dieting is not very effective, in the end. And by the end, I mean death. No, that would be morbid. I mean, like, next year. Maybe you’ll finally lose a few pounds in time for the beach, but you’ll gain them back. It’s changing your lifestyle that results in keeping the weight off. And I mean, like, never eating carbs again. Several members of my family are doing this. They’ve been doing it for years. It really works. They also work out almost every day. That works, too. Neither of these things work for me. Three reasons: cake, pizza, my couch.
4. Dieting is all about pretending that losing weight is the key to feeling happier and better. Which is not necessarily true. So even if you lose weight, you might end up surprised at the fact that you don’t feel much different. And that is just incredibly frustrating, after not eating delicious foods for months. In fact, it’s downright unfair. Although, on the positive side, this proves that there’s more to life than how much you weigh.
5. Dieting can perpetuate bad body image. All those ups and downs, all that failure, and most of all, all that focus on your weight can drive you crazy. It can make you feel much worse about the way you look, because suddenly your appearance is the physical proof of your self-control or your failure. And suddenly your physical beauty is tied up in some fat on your belly. Or your thighs. Or your arms. Or all of the above (also, my boobs are definitely fatter. Oh, wait … that is not a problem. Never mind). And if you don’t get rid of that fat, it might mean that you will look bad forever. This is just wrong. No, seriously, it’s wrong.
6. Dieting is all about guilt. Which is a terrible, terrible emotion. In fact, often, like in my case, there’s more guilt than there is dieting. Your relationship with food is all about being good or being bad, and food is turned into an enemy. So you think a lot about how you gave in to the enemy just now, and what a bad person that makes you. What a traitor. And you realize you know how it feels now to betray your country and your cause. And you begin weeping quietly, in public, because you just couldn’t help it.
7. There’s a good chance you really don’t need to be on a diet. We live in a weight-obsessed culture. There is enormous pressure on people, especially women and girls, to be thinner. Thinner than whatever they are right now. Thin enough to fit into a zero. Going up a few sizes can feel like a personal failure. But that doesn’t always mean it’s automatically a bad idea. Sometimes it just means that our culture has it wrong. Or is being kinda crazy. Not all weight gain is unhealthy. Some of it is essential. Some of it is just nice. As I learned—the bigger my butt gets, the more comfortable it is to sit in this chair. Also, the better my jeans look.
8. Learning to like the way you look, right now, at this weight, is a lot more sustainable. And fun. Weight fluctuates, but self-esteem doesn’t have to. It’s something that you can work on getting better at. It’s something you can get positively good at. And if you do, you can spend more time enjoying yourself and less time feeling guilty. Confidence, believe it or not, doesn’t come from changing your body. Sometimes that can help, at least temporarily. But confidence comes from learning to like yourself how you look right now, whatever that right now happens to look like.
So I’m not going to go on a diet in preparation for donning my little black bikini. And I’m not going to feel guilty about it. I’m going to work on liking myself better the way I am, instead. I’m going to work on not feeling self-conscious about my body. Because even if I did go on a diet and give up the foods I enjoy so much, and feel stressed about what I am eating all the time, it wouldn’t mean that I’d then feel great about the way I looked. And ultimately, I want a long term plan for feeling awesome on the beach, or anywhere else. Which has nothing to do with having a flat-stomach, and everything to do with appreciating myself.
Also, being curvy is hella fun.
Also, if I look really bad in that bikini, I can just get a bigger swimsuit. They sell those, I’m pretty sure.