It is 35 years since I graduated as a Dietitian and it has been a massive journey of personal and professional growth.
In my teens, like many women, I thought I was too fat and started on my dieting journey - Gloria Marshall was my first port of call, and not a very supportive one at that! Then Weight Watchers (who hasn't!) with all those meetings being weighed and judged for my weight - not that I realised it at the time - and my first and last time trying scallops from one of the Weight Watchers recipes (yuk!). After that I tried meal replacement options - even today I just need to think of diet strawberry topping to be able to smell it and feel sick! My desire to diet was also spurred on by my friendships and my internal comparisons to those around me; to me, one of my friends was better at dieting spending days eating only chicken or apples as we hitched up our school uniforms and perfected our tan during lunch. For me the perfect body and perfect life would be mine for the taking - if I could find that perfect diet!
Even during this period of my life, there were times when I thought there must be a better way. When I heard about dietetics, I thought - this is it - this is THE WAY!
So when I went to live in Geelong to go to uni and become an 'expert' - I knew it all, I was a dietetic student. I could now count calories (or kilojoules as we were taught) and had no need for those silly diets! And yes, I lost weight.. because I was worried about being a 'good dietitian' so I was too scared to eat and exercised obsessively - not healthy at all (and counting anything is still a diet!). Despite losing this weight I didn't feel better, because my issues ran much deeper.
On graduating, my first job (in the 1980's) was handing out 800 - 1200 kcal diet - horrible! What was I doing? It didn't sit well with me but what did I know? So I followed the rules and tried to be enthusiastic about kilojoules (calories) and how much protein, fat and carbohydrate was in each food (these were the days of fat- in -food phobia). Patients couldn't stick to the diets and both of us were failing. There was very much the idea that if it wasn't working one of us was doing the wrong thing! This wasn't what I wanted - it wasn't the better way - and my weight had gone back on!
So many times I wanted to quit my profession but I had invested too much in it. It took me 10 years of searching before I found a group of Dietitians who looked at eating and bodies more holistically, they looked at the psychology of eating and the impact of our culture and weight obsession on all of us. This was before the term HAES (Health At Every Size) had even been heard of. It was like coming home.
Over the years the movement away from diets has gained momentum in a small group of people but it is still prevalent. Research is showing how harmful dieting is, both physically and psychologically and how health does NOT equal weight. It is much more complex than this. The terms my have changed - "healthy eating" or "clean eating" (or a multitude of other names) may now be used, but the control they have over our lives has not changed.
The myth is that we control our weight, and that if we don't we are failing in some way! After 35 years I can definitively say - your weight IS NOT YOUR FAULT! Our bodies are wonderful, complex living beings and they will change throughout life for a variety of reasons. Over the past 10 years my body has continued to change, especially post- menopause, but I am happier in my relationship with food, activity and my body than I have ever been.
It's time to enjoy our food, moving our body and what our body does for it in whatever way is right for you and if you want, to let this area of your life be just a small part, not the controlling factor. We are all meant to look different, have a variety of shapes and abilities and that should be celebrated!