The Anti-Diet Project: Hitting The Wall



adp3Photographed by Jessica Nash.
Sometime around Christmas last year, I had a realization. I was grouchy, worn out, and not just a little bit needy. My workout high had waned, and the novelty of eating a sandwich instead of a salad whenever I felt like it was no longer so exciting. It was just lunch. And, despite all this work I was doing to fix my relationship with food and adjust my body to daily exercise, I somehow still had to deal with all the other not-so-great parts of life: family drama, work stress, getting to the subway three seconds after the train doors had closed. My general attitude at this time was, but, it's not faaaaaiiiir.

Then, I had an aha moment. One cranky day, it occurred to me: Just because I'm not on a diet, doesn't mean this isn't hard.

I know. Shocker. Turns out major lifestyle adjustments aren't so easy. Sure, my body is growing stronger and healthier thanks to the daily addition of fitness into my life, and I can eat a slice of pizza without panicking over points. But, none of that comes without effort in other areas. For instance, I still carefully monitor every meal — not for calories or fat grams, but to track my hunger, fullness, and satisfaction. Not to mention all the feelings that exploded in my face when food was no longer an emotional crutch. And, yeah, some days I would rather just stay in bed than go to the gym.

You can imagine what a treat I was to be around for those few weeks. I didn't feel like I could talk to anyone about it because, after all, I was The Anti-Diet Girl! I was leading a bagel revolution, and everyone was cheering me on, so where did I get off complaining? But, you know what? Even bagel revolutionaries have lousy days. Sometimes, they have lousy months and fights with their friends, and sometimes their bagel comes out burnt. One of the most valuable lessons I've learned during this whole process is that just like a diet isn't going to make everything better, the same goes for not going on a diet. You're going to have tough times and there's no way around it, so you might as well learn how to deal.

In an ideal world we would be meditating daily and taking ourselves on silent, self-actualization retreats or whatever. But, if you're looking for a slightly quicker fix to pull yourself out of a funk, here is my helpful, soothing, if slightly controversial list of self-care tips.

adp2Photographed by Jessica Nash.
1. Go The F*ck To Sleep
I've always been the kind of person who feels like a PMSing zombie without a good night's rest. Now, I need it more than ever. Give yourself permission to leave the party early if you know you have an early morning. Or, if you must burn the candle at both ends, then promise yourself that the next night will be an early one. If I know I have a night with nine hours of sleep coming my way, then a couple nights with only six isn't so bad.

2. Have "Nothing Nights"
Get out your calendar right now and schedule a "nothing night" for every week of the month. If you're already jammed, then try for a nothing night every 10 days. Still packed? Anything you can push off to a less-crazy week without doing too much damage? I find that having at least one weekly night (or weekend day) just for me, with nothing but quiet and sweatpants and Call The Midwife makes me an infinitely happier person (not to mention a better friend, girlfriend, and coworker). This one is mandatory.

3. Stay in with a friend
Even if you're not the type to reach out and whine about your problems, reach out anyway. Go to your friend's house to make dinner and bring a bottle of something bubbly. Even if you don't crack open and spill your guts, you'll feel better remembering you've got a good friend. But, try to spill a little, if you can. You'll feel even better knowing you've got a good friend who's willing to listen to you moan and vent and be irrational for a while.

4. On the other hand, go out
I lean toward the "I" scale on the Myers-Briggs, so going out doesn't recharge my batteries the way it does for some. But, if you feel refreshed and fulfilled by going out and working your social-butterfly side, then prioritize it. Remember that this is self-care, and a happy hour isn't just happy because there's a Manhattan in your hand (though it sure ain't hurting).

5. Comfort Not-Food
I know we're supposed to be feeling our feelings and that's all well and good, but sometimes I need to table that for a few hours and watch a "comfort" movie. I have a friend who prescribes herself regular screenings Something's Gotta Give when times are tough. For me, it's period dramas and Holocaust documentaries or just three straight hours of South Park.

6. Buy yourself something
I KNOW. I know, okay? For the record, this is not Refinery29's stance on fixing your problems, and I am in no way advocating that you swap emotional eating for emotional skin-care-product shopping. But, that's pretty much what I did for a week. Now I realize that credit card debt will virtually negate the happiness benefits of your $100 night cream, but, that said, there's nothing wrong with treating yourself to something you truly want (and can afford). I remember that passage in Eat Pray Love, where Liz Gilbert talks about the joy of buying herself a new pencil case. Of course, she then took that pencil case on a trip around the world — but if you can find the compromise between international travel and a trip to the stationery store, I think you'll find yourself having a better afternoon.

7. Keep it up
The most important thing to do when things get hard is to keep moving forward. Doing this may be hard, or even harder, than a diet. But, unlike every diet I've ever gone on, I'm not going to take a break when I hit the wall. When I feel hopeless or afraid that I'm just not getting there fast enough or that eating will never be easy (or that I'll never not look like a flailing sea monster when I'm on the last set of sit-ups) — I have some ammo to throw at the doubt. I can honestly tell myself that I'm doing something different and good this time. I'll be proud that I still took the time to eat mindfully when all I wanted to do was read Gawker and zone out. I can give myself a solid high-five for getting up and going to the gym even though this week has been crap. Then, when I hit the next crap week, as we all inevitably will, I can remember that I kept it up through my last hard time. I can do it again. I am doing it.

The Anti-Diet Project runs every other Monday — the next update will be 3/3. Until then, you can follow my progress at @mskelseymiller or #antidietproject on Instagram and Twitter — and feel free to jump in and hashtag your own anti-diet challenges and inspiration! What's your go-to self-care tip for when it gets hard? Did you have a $100 night cream I should know about??