International No Diet Day and My Story With Dieting

International No Diet Day and My Story With Dieting

Filed Under: Anti-Diet

3 May 2024 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

In 1992 on the 6th of May, Marcy Evans created International No Diet Day. She struggled with anorexia and her intention was to help people around the world who struggle with dieting realise the potential dangers of dieting. In 1992 I had gained weight from my previous diet after my father’s death and I was desperately trying to lose it before my wedding.

I remember how excited I would feel planning my next “last” diet, imagining how amazing my life would be. Naturally, the diet would start on the Monday. This year No Diet Day is on a Monday, there may be some of you reading this that are thinking of starting today? In my life, diets represented hope, change and with that approval and belonging.

Diets come with hope. They give us a sense of purpose, they provide structure. When life feels out of control, dieting is even more tempting – it becomes a way to cope by providing distraction. We focus on counting calories and points and not on the issues around us. The idea of not dieting is terrifying because we make it mean we won’t stop eating. There is a part of us that knows dieting does not work, but if not dieting, then what?

Have you ever thought about how dieting has affected your life? I am so grateful that there is such a day and a growing anti-diet movement that hopefully will one day end diet culture.

My Story:

My dieting days began at the age of 12, a typical age for young girls to go on their first diet. This was the beginning of over 30 years of dysfunctional eating, binge eating and obsession with food and negative body image.

I am grateful to my struggle with food, it has come with so many blessings like bringing me to this meaningful work, practicing mindfulness and meditation, learning about self-care, boundaries and many other things.

Whilst my experience of yo-yo dieting has come with some gifts, it has not been the case for many people. Dieting is one of the biggest causes of eating disorders. I was reflecting on the negative effects of dieting on my life and the lives of most of my clients. The dangers of dieting are multi-faceted and have an effect on our body, our mind, our heart and our soul.

I never actually lost the weight permanently. I would lose it and gain it back and lose it and gain it back. This went on for almost 30 years. My metabolism slowed down, which led to thyroid issues in my later years. My weight set point just got higher and higher and it became more and more difficult to lose the weight. This came with shame and blame and led to a low self-worth not only around my body but also extended into other areas of my life.

I put my poor body under such distress. I took injections and pills that led to heart palpitations and sweaty palms. Never did my mother and I think to ask what was in the injections or what the side effects were of those pills? Anything and everything was okay in the name of thinness. A few years ago I discovered that those pills (Ponderacs) have been taken off the market because of the high incidence of strokes. My body suffered the abuse of over-exercise and living on very little food. It now makes sense why I couldn’t concentrate at school. I thought of the hours at the gym atoning for my sins and running until the point of exhaustion before an evening out, so that I could have dessert or extra wine. I believed that I needed to earn the right to eat. I was completely disconnected from my body. I had no idea how normal hunger felt in my body. I only knew starving and stuffed. Not only did my body endure physical abuse, but the internalised verbal abuse was equally painful.

I would lie in bed at night doing an audit of what I ate and promised myself I would eat less the next day. The next morning my mind would immediately go to food and how I was going to be “good”, as if my goodness depended on what I ate. “Good” meant no sugar, no carbs and no “cheating” or sticking within my points range. My behaviour became so dysfunctional that if I had a tiny spoon of Nutella, all was lost and a binge would follow, sometimes for days. The post-binge beating myself up and the barrage of judgement was so debilitating, I would snap at anyone who crossed my path.

I always worried that people would judge me about my body or what I was eating. I remember friends of my mother’s telling me what a pretty face I had and if I could just lose the weight, I would look so much better. I felt embarrassed to eat cake or pizza in front of people. A meal out with friends was not a simple occasion, it was fraught with anxiety about what to choose. I would spend the evening watching who was eating more than me. “Oh good she’s eating bread – so can I!” I felt that people everywhere were judging me but the truth was, that my judgement of myself was far worse than anybody else’s could be. Nobody could hurt me more than my own harsh thoughts.

My happiness was determined by the number on the scale. If the number went up or I was gaining weight, despair and depression would set in; euphoria and triumph would follow if I was losing weight and the number was going down. There was promise and hope at the start of a diet only to be left feeling crushed and shameful when the weight would come back on again. I believed I was a failure because I couldn’t stick to a diet and that I was destined to fail in other areas of my life. If only…I could just stick to it everything would be all right. At the time, I didn’t know that dieting has a 95% failure rate. Dieting was the problem, not me. I believed it was my fault, that I didn’t have willpower. I remember how addictive the praise and compliments were when I would lose weight and the shame when it would come back – wanting to hide away and not see anyone. My mother would give me the disappointed “look” of “hmm she’s gained it back again”.

When my life felt out of control, dieting was the answer. It provided structure and safety. It provided a distraction from things that were too difficult to address.

My soul ached for connection and fun. Because of my negative body image, I would turn down invitations to pool parties or to weekends away because I didn’t want to be seen in a swimming costume. I would decline invitations because I couldn’t trust myself around food and buffets. I denied myself so many things because I believed I wasn’t worthy in the body I had. Often, I didn’t go to parties, auditions or interviews. As a way to compensate, I would either be drinking or eating to numb my dreams and hopes. When I met my husband I couldn’t believe that he loved me and chose me. I remember the same friend of my mother’s asking me how did I get so lucky? When my daughter was born I felt such shame that I couldn’t lose the baby weight and felt desperate every time I would re-join Weight Watchers. I would compare myself to thinner moms and I felt that they just had it all together and I was floundering between a career I hated, a body I hated and navigating the challenges of motherhood.

My story is by no means unique. It’s the sad tale of most people with a history of dieting and restricting food and hating their bodies in a culture that promotes a certain body ideal.

When are we going to acknowledge the harm of the dieting?

Will we ever accept the futility of the pursuit of weight loss?

These dangers affect our bodies, our psychological well-being, our behaviour, our emotions, our souls and ultimately our lives.

I am very grateful that I found my way out of this prison. If you are reading this, please know that there is hope, it doesn’t have to be a constant struggle. If you are not ready to stop dieting, I completely understand. If you are ready – I want you to know that there is a way out and it’s a sustainable way out. You really don’t need to spend your remaining days, worrying about sugar and bread and the number on the scale. You can live a full life of meaning without this. I would love to hear your story, if you would like to share?

May we all be free from suffering around food.
May we all be free from the struggle with our bodies.
May we all find peace with food and our bodies.

Wishing you well,

✨ I have space for 2 new clients. Book a free 30-minute mini session to find out more about how I can help you feel free around food.

Here’s what a recent client said:

“Working with Xen was amazing. She gets it. She’s been there and was able to help me through my issues with food. Food no longer takes up so much space in my life, this feels so freeing.”

Rebecca, Boston, USA

“From our first meeting - two faces on Zoom across the world from each other, there was a sense of familiarity and comfort that was a healing balm for a lifetime of food struggles and dieting. Without realizing how much damage I had done to myself by adhering, for decades, to restrictive food plans and rigid diet programs, Xen had a way of redirecting the harsh and negative self-talk and sending me forth each week with compassion, mindfulness and a new way of seeing myself in the here and now. Gone are the maybe somedays, and if-only, and when-I’m-smaller thinking. Now I am committed to the imperfect and rocky path to listening to my body, accepting my perfect imperfections, and rejecting diet mentality. Those negative voices will revisit me from time to time, I know, but Xen has offered valuable tools for meeting each day as a fresh start - another choice, another chance. Her devotion to this work and her belief in her clients is a remarkable gift; I am so fortunate to have found her. It is never too late to let go of the drama and embrace joy, ease and self-acceptance.”

Karen L, Denver, USA

“I felt hopeless and helpless in my daily struggle with mindless eating for many years. Then I found Xen which is exactly what I needed! My decision to work with her helped me to finally repair my relationship with food. It's changing my life for the better, one day at a time. Now I have control over the food, instead of it having control over me, which is the way it should be. I highly recommend Xen to anyone who has a desire to overcome similar food struggles. Xen, thank you from the bottom of my heart!”

Karen J, Colorado, USA

“I reached out to Xenia because 2021 started on a tumultuous note for me. Between deaths, businesses suffering, hospitalizations, and job losses in our personal circle, I felt depleted and found myself being available for everyone but myself. Then I was hit with an unexpected health diagnosis, which was the last straw as it meant giving up “healthy foods” and workouts that I leaned on for my well-being and stability. Despite working in wellness (Yes, coaches and healers are vulnerable too!), I found myself reaching out to desserts for comfort. I like to live a life of permissions (not labels or deprivation leading to bingeing), so I wanted to work with someone who approached healing from a place of mindful compassion. I didn’t want to be my own client. Xenia was great in reminding me to be kind to myself. Working with her, brought me peace and helped shift my mindset. I love how desserts and I look at each other now.”

Sweta Vikram, New York, USA

“Working with Xenia was amazing. She armed me with a bunch of tools to help me through difficult times. Xenia is the kind of person who really cares for helping you in the long run. Her work will forever have an impact in my life.”

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“Working with Xen was a game changer for me. After working together for a few months my relationship with food radically changed. I no longer felt like a failure. I now have the tools to nourish my body with foods that feel good in my body. I don’t feel guilty about eating cake or chocolate, I also don’t overeat cake and chocolate. I no longer feel the need to exercise to compensate for my eating. I feel much more free around eating and I am more accepting of my body. Xen has a nonjudgmental and compassionate approach to coaching and really supports you in the process.”

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“Working with Xen has been very empowering. Her approach is so refreshing from the usual. I have learned that I am in charge and that I get to choose what I put in my body and how to move my body in a way that I like! I get to make my own choices. It’s so liberating. Once you get a taste of freedom with food, there is no turning back to old ways! Thanks Xen for guiding me along the way to freedom.”

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Michelle, Johannesburg, South Africa

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“I don’t obsess about food like I used to. I am thinking differently about food and feeling so much more relaxed around all types of food. It’s wonderful to have pleasure and satisfaction from eating.”

Sarah, Illinois, USA

“I learned a new way of thinking about food. I have learned that food is not the enemy and that it can actually be enjoyed with no guilt.”

Sandy, London, United Kingdom

Certified by The Life Coach School Certified and Trained by The Original Intuitive Eating Pro Professional Member of The Center for Mindful Eating