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Picture this: You’re a mother with two kids in the next room and in the middle of your 3 day juice cleanse. “Exhausted” falls short of describing how truly weary and lethargic you feel. The children start to bicker with one another, arguing over a toy and demanding you help them resolve it when you snap at them. You’re instantly filled with guilt and regret, left thinking “am I bad Mom? Why can’t I be more kind, patient, playful with my children?” It’s not you, it’s the diet.

Picture this: You’re on vacation with your friends and setting out on your first day to explore a foreign city. You’re doing keto and intermittent fasting, so you skip breakfast and allow yourself only black coffee for most of the morning and afternoon. As you walk through the city streets you feel cranky and tired, unable to muster the energy and enthusiasm your friends have, seeing the sites around you through glazed eyelids and high irritability. It’s not you, it’s the diet.

One of the more malicious tricks of diet culture is convincing you that you’re the one to blame for the side effects and eventual failure of diets, not the diets themselves. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When you are not nourishing your body consistently and fully, your brain lacks the energy to process and be present to the world and people around you! It’s not a character trait to “always be tired” or short-tempered, it’s a sneaky side effect of dieting! 

Personally, I remember the years where I thought my lack of patience, “flat” feelings and inability to find things as funny as others around were legitimate parts of my personality. That I just wasn’t as “fun” as my friends or outgoing or passionate. But that’s wrong. In reality, I was an underfed person and because of that not my true self. Dieting dulls your life, but you are not a dull person. Once I started to nourish myself and fuel my body and brain I was astounded to find my laughter again, my spark and my drive to rediscover what makes me truly passionate. 

When that diet eventually fails (as they’re scientifically proven to do) you’re left feeling shame and a sense of failure. But you did nothing wrong. The diet failed YOU because it tried to make you believe that you weren’t already “enough.” I’m here to tell you that you are. You’re enough just as you are in this very moment in time. It’s ok if it takes you time to truly believe it. But in the meantime I urge you to resist giving diets the level of power to dictate your “enoughness.” They are a harsh, unforgiving and empty “solution,” to a human life looking for meaning. And you are so much more. 

By: Maddy Weingast, Assistant for Therapy for Eating Disorders and Body Image