Everything That Ever Made Me Feel Bad About Myself Was Based On A Lie

19 Aug

This was my epiphany moment. I remember it clearly.

I had already been paleo for a few months and things were going very well. I was binging on calorically dense, nutritious food, and my body was loving me for it. At the same time, though, I was starving for information. I spent hours each day reading articles and publications and books explaining why what I was doing was working, looking at the science and the dogmas in a whole new light.

I call this my “deprogramming” period.

It reached its peak of success when I started to read Good Calories Bad Calories, which—through fastidious science journalism—shows not only why the way we I works, but how our society became so saturated (lol) in the high-carb-low-fat “Conventional Wisdom” in the first place. It was the latter discussion that was the most amazing to me. Although the book is not a light read I burned through it, stunned by the accounts of politics and ego overpowering good scientific discourse.

And that’s when I realized it. All of those lies the book discussed had rippled across society and cascaded down through the years to make my childhood and early-adult years miserable as I struggled with high weight, low energy, and even lower self-esteem. Every time I tried to steel myself to do something about it all and “fix” myself, I would embark on the well-traveled roads of advice that led in the exact opposite direction of my goals. And yet, when I failed, I was always made to feel like it was my fault. And now, for the first time, I could see all of those lies for what they really were.

I want to say something dramatic happened to mark the moment, like a choir of angels or a crash of thunder. Hell, if it had been noon on a Tuesday, maybe the weekly San Francisco city-wide emergency-siren test would have gone off right then. But there wasn’t anything like that. I was just sitting in bed, and all I did was look up and stare off into space, letting that thought sink in. There wasn’t even a sense of weight being lifted, just…a new clarity. Like the brief, subtle moment of lightness at the top of a rollercoaster, before the big drop.

Which is an apt metaphor, considering that everything dealing with health in my life until that moment had always been an uphill slog, and everything since then has been an exuberant, breakneck ride by comparison.

I bring up this story now because an interesting article is making the rounds of some of my paleo feeds. It’s an open letter by a woman who used to work at an unnamed-but-obvious national weight-loss clinic. She eloquently explains how she now realizes that her job at said clinic was to reinforce and perpetuate those same lies that affected me so badly. She calls out these lies for what they are, and apologizes for them and the damage they caused even when they were said with the best intentions.

In the letter, I see echoes of my own epiphany, especially in the following quote:

I’m sorry because I wasn’t trying to trick you or play games to get your money. I believed the lies we were fed as much as you did. And it wasn’t just the company feeding them to me. It was the doctors and registered dietitians on the medical advisory board. It was the media and magazines confirming what I was telling my clients. A palm-sized portion of lean chicken with half a sweet potato and a salad was PLENTY. No matter that you had “cravings” afterward. Cravings are a sign of underlying emotional issues…Except when they’re not. Except when they’re a sign that your body needs more food and you’re ignoring it. Then they’re a sign that your 1,200 calorie diet is horseshit. Then they’re a sign that you’ve been played.

And I also see echoes of my own passion, anger, and frustration:

I am sorry because many of you walked in healthy and walked out with disordered eating, disordered body image, and the feeling that you were a “failure.” None of you ever failed. Ever. I failed you. The weight loss company failed you. Our society is failing you.

I was moved. Even though I obviously never met this woman, nor have I ever visited a professional weight-loss clinic, she represents “The Other Side” that has fed all of us so many lies for so long. So even though it is the tiniest gesture, I feel like an apology from her is the beginnings of an apology from that whole behemoth of a system.

So thank you, Iris Higgins. It is always a difficult thing to admit that you were wrong. I am only sorry that these lies have hurt all of us so badly.

Apology accepted.

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