When I was twelve years old I went on my first diet. I remember the worn paperback book with the golden embossed pineapple and the title “Beverly Hills Diet” blasting from its cover. As a girl living in Northwest Philly, Beverly Hills was planted in my imagination as the land of diets and deprivation. My mother, my two aunts and I did this diet plan together. I did not have a choice. We were a team, but at the same time competitive with each other. I was already developed and self-conscious at twelve, and now getting a clear message that my body must change and I need to change. I learned that the bodies of all of the women in my family were flawed and out of control. I learned to embrace the competition and comparisons. I looked forward to the daily weigh-ins. I don’t have a memory of weighing myself on a scale before “Beverly Hills.” Did we even own a scale before “Beverly Hills?”
In high school, I took a break from dieting until 12th grade. I knew that college was my opportunity to escape and reinvent myself. In my senior year, my mother and I went to Jenny Craig. I was on a mission to change myself no matter what. I was scared to go to college fat. For me, the limited calorie intake of Jenny was not enough. I was not losing weight fast enough for my college timeline. Now the competition was with myself; how fast could I lose weight? I was obsessed. I abused over-the-counter laxatives and diuretics by the handful. I was empty, dehydrated and out of control. I lost over 70 pounds in less than 6 months. I went away to Smith College sick. My disordered thinking was again triggered. I went on medical leave for a full year after my first semester of college. I was ashamed and felt like a failure. I came back home, went to therapy, got a job and took classes at my local public university. I started to work on myself and on my disordered mindset. I went back to Smith College and stopped dieting for good.
May 6th is International No Diet Day (INDD), an annual celebration of body acceptance and body shape diversity that was started in 1992 by Mary Evans Young of Great Britain. When you think about body acceptance, keep the focus on yourself and think about self-acceptance. Wherever you are in your body acceptance journey, use INDD as a day to examine your relationship with your body. Your Body Raks because it is yours! Listen to your body and begin to make peace.
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