Why It's Easy to Lose Yourself When You Start Losing Weight

Originally published on Unwritten by Stephanie Tate.

My whole life has been a series of sugar free cookies (why?!), salads without croutons (tragic), and choosing to get to resistance 9 on an elliptical instead of getting drinks with friends. Throughout my life, I've been told to lose weight several times. Each reason they gave me seemed more insulting than the last. Rude girls on the bus in 8th grade told me,"No one will love you." Over the years, I've gotten variations of "don't you want to fit in," "you can't wear a bikini looking like that," and my absolute favorite was from a guy I had the worst crush in the world on, "Girls should be pretty."

It was as if everything I accomplished was less valuable than fitting into some unreasonable social construct of beauty. My life wasn't necessarily better when I lost weight. In fact, I was probably more miserable while on each diet and shockingly enough, once I stopped those diets - the weight slowly came back. The vicious cycle never ended.

Do you know what it's like to constantly diet? Do you have any idea how awful it is to be hyper aware of your caloric intake and to have some of your favorite foods suddenly become your worst enemy? You may, but if not, I'll tell you. It is utterly exhausting. Recording, measuring, sacrificing, and punishing yourself every time you go the slightest bit over your limit is enough to drive any person insane.

Somewhere along the line, being thin became more important than being happy.

It's about damn time that someone admits how incredibly tiring it is to hate yourself for not meeting someone's definition of pretty. I was always self-conscious. I never told my friends when I was on a new diet because they'd try to help out. They'd be having burgers, but I'd have a salad. I met my diet requirements, but I always felt out of place. Whenever I did give in, I was comfortable in  only eating half of my food because I was so nervous about someone judging me. In reality, it was just me judging myself for no good reason at all.

I never felt good enough. Diets have quick results, but they also lead to yo-yoing weight. I'd lose, then I'd gain. The intermittent ups-and-downs never allowed me to feel more confident about myself. Instead, I always wondered what I was doing wrong. It never occurred to me that there might have been a problem with the system I was using. I just blamed myself for not being good enough to achieve the desired results.

There was a constant war between eating what I want and what I should. Watching what you eat becomes a job. You have to be paranoid at every turn. Going out with friends transforms into a chore, and it's easier to eat at home alone than it is to interrogate the wait staff about portion sizes, substitutions, and calories in dishes.

Post-eating guilt ruined meals. There was little worse than finally indulging in some of my favorite foods and spending the whole time feeling guilty for eating it. After every meal, it was a constant litany of "I ate too much" and "how many minutes do I need to do on the elliptical to burn those extra calories?" At a certain point, eating loses its appeal and you start doing it simply to survive.

Every lost inch of progress never made me happy because it was never enough. To win was to lose.

There is a difference between eating right and dieting. I spent most of my life dieting, when I should've been making lifestyle changes. Yes, eating right involves sacrifices, but it focuses on compromises. You find ways to eat what you love, but on smaller scales. Trade out regular chips for thinly sliced zucchini chips crisped with olive oil and sea salt. Instead of ice cream, eat all natural fruit-pops.

Diets are temporary fads that never have lasting impact. It took a long time for me to grow from dieting to a healthy lifestyle, but when I made that change, I gained confidence. Exercise is fun instead of punishment. I don't dread meals. I go out with my friends. I don't feel guilty for indulging my cravings.

I'm happy and in the best shape that I've ever been. I will never, ever go back to dieting.