Always “Off Plan”

I’m not sure what caused my first binges, but I’m certain about what caused my last: dieting. I could trace every recent binge back to a deliberate period of caloric or food-type restriction.

Each new diet—sorry, lifestyle change—inevitably led to a desire for every “off-plan” food I could think of. Foods I had never especially cared about became the only things I craved. And when I was tired, overextended, and under-fed, my willpower muscle gave out. “Just one” off-plan indulgence became all of them, in secret, as fast as possible.

I knew that stopping my binge eating meant no dieting, ever again. But what would that look like?

First, I had to define “dieting” for myself. In my mind, diets limited calories, types of foods, or both. There were “musts” and “must nots”—always eat X, never eat Y.

But I had more than twenty years of dieting under my belt, so to speak. My mind wouldn’t stop labeling foods as “good” or “bad” overnight. So I worked from the outside in: no more diet books, no more shopping for plans.

I returned the nutrition and fitness books that I’d checked out from the library. I stopped walking by the magazines at the grocery store. Anything even remotely “diet-y” on my bookshelf went into the Donate box. I unliked, unsubscribed, and unfollowed.

With the external diet messaging silenced to the best of my ability, I was ready to address the internal messages.

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