I’m in the middle of a 24-day cleanse. This is my second one this year. For those of you, like me, who struggle mathematically, by the time I finish this cleanse, I’ll have cleansed for 48 days so far this year. In my first cleanse, I lost 13 lbs. This time, while I’m electing not to weigh myself until the end, I can already tell I’ve lost inches. In losing that weight and inches, I’ve gained some perspective on the most idiotic thing we tell ourselves and each other when we’re trying to lose weight.
It occurred to me during a potluck at work. I chose to only indulge in the side salad, passing on the pans of cheesy pasta and the table of adorable, petite whoopie pies, cheesecake, and brownies slathered in a half-inch thick layer of fudgy icing.
When I take a seat with my lunch bunch when my coworker turns to me and interrogates “That’s all you’re eating?” I explain about the cleanse and try not to stare a brownie directly in the eye as it sings its siren song to me.
My sweet, well-intentioned coworker eyes me with admiration and says, “Good for you! You know, it’s not just a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.” And that’s when I laughed. Way too hard for her kind words of encouragement. But the notion that I have made some sort of long-term lifestyle change is richer than that brownie (full disclosure: I may have asked the same coworker to just describe the taste of the brownie to me. I’m weak, ya’ll).
My lifestyle change can best be described echoing the sentiments of Mindy Kaling, “I fluctuate between chubby and curvy.” And I have since I was born weighing in at a whopping nine pounds, two ounces. I went on my first diet when I was nine. My mama packed me a salad shaker full of vegetables and low-fat dressing to be the laughing stock of the third grade. Try swapping your bleu cheese and raspberry vinaigrette chopped salad for some Oreos and then tell me what you know about struggle. You couldn’t even make that lunchtime trade in our office break room today, much less 20 years ago.
This trend continued into the next year and the next. Each year I’d lose weight on a diet only to gain it all back and then some, like literally every other person who’s been on a diet in the history of ever. The fourth grade brought the diet-all-day-and-eat-whatever-you-want-so-long-as-it’s-consumed-in-one -hour diet. This may actually be the closest to a lifestyle change as my eating habits have ever seen as I still implement this wonderful plan today; however it now largely manifests itself as diet-for-two-weeks-and-then-eat-everything-I-have-ever-craved-so-long-as-I-stop-exactly-three-months-before-I’m-in-Jenna’s-wedding (and let’s be honest, three months is really only the cutoff because Heidi at David’s Bridal has me convinced I’ll never be able to have it let out in time if I need it).
Weight Watchers. Optifast. Slim Fast. South Beach. Atkins. Jenny Craig. They’ve all seen me lose and regain about 6,000 lbs in my 27 years.
College brought me so many new experiences, chief among them cheese breadsticks with my new roommate at one in the morning and learning that pizza slathered in ranch dressing is really fucking good because, calories! The freshman fifteen is real, ya’ll, but for a girl with no self-control and a bad habit of yo-yo dieting, freshman year meant tipping the scale at over 300 lbs. I had to change my lifestyle. I lost 115 lbs.
I’ve largely maintained the same weight over the years, but I’m no longer fooling myself. When I eat a half dozen donuts for breakfast and then by noon am convincing my boyfriend to take me to Chick Fil A, I have obviously learned nothing. I have not changed my lifestyle one bit. And, really, does anyone? Why do we keep fooling ourselves? We really just want to cleanse for 24 days maximum so we can countdown the days until we can order a large pizza for ourselves on a Friday night and not feel guilty. I just want to lose 10 lbs until I feel good enough about myself losing 10 lbs so I can feel good enough to order nachos when all of my friends are eating salads.
My lifestyle consists of weasling free shots of Patron at the bar because I told some guy it was my birthday and then begging the Uber driver to take me through the Taco Bell drive thru. And honestly? There’s never been a better diet or a lifestyle.