Controlling Your Waistline
Cynthia Sinclair has been on a diet since she was 14 years old.
She’s gained and lost hundreds of pounds, and has everything from a size 5 to a 20 hanging in her bedroom closet.
She’s counted calories, signed up for Weight Watchers and endured a tasteless liquid protein diet that caused her to pass out on a city bus.
She’s lifted weights, exercised compulsively and even sat down with a therapist.
But seven months ago, Sinclair did something radical – she said enough is enough.
At age 52, she’s finally done with the diet game, and is pursuing a new life of “natural eating.”
“I know everything about trying to lose weight and controlling your waistline – believe me. So it amazes me I’d never heard about this until last September,” said Sinclair.
“I’m in it now to make long-term changes, and I’ve had an epiphany. I finally realize diets are the problem.”
Could she be right?
After all, it goes against everything we’ve ever been told – especially now, amid a virtual hurricane of high-profile diet trends in the past two to three years.
Atkins’, South Beach, The Zone, Ornish and even the all you can eat Amish diet. You name it; it’s out there.
Americans spent $40 million on diet books last year alone, with the number expected to increase in 2004.
An Ipsos-Reid study last August showed 61 per cent of Canadians currently limit their carb intake to avoid gaining weight, while six per cent are on some form of low-carb or no-carb diet ala Dr. Atkins.
But in the weight loss numbers game, statistics also show more than 80 per cent of people who adopt a diet will gain back any weight they lose within two years.
And what’s to account for the alarming rate of obesity in Canada and the United States if diets are actually doing their job? Fat is considered such a big health risk today that it’s been dubbed the “new tobacco” by organizations like the Heart & Stroke Foundation.
Michelle Morand with The Cedric Centre in Victoria hopes women will start asking some of those pointed questions on International No Diet Day May 6.
“So many people engage in the experience of dieting without ever questioning why or what the affects will be,” said Morand, whose centre provides community eating disorder and related issues counselling.
“Ideally women would throw their diet out next week. In reality, I’d be happy if they could ask ‘Could I throw out my diet?’ If it scares them to let go of their restrictions – even for one day – then it’s no longer about health. It’s about something else in their life.”
The Cedric Centre’s clientele ranges from girls as young as 10 to a woman who’s 68 years old. While their life experiences and backgrounds vary, there’s a common thread in how they believe diets – or more specifically the personal control gained through restricting calories – can improve their lives.
Those desires are often supported by the mass media, and what has become a woman’s Holy Grail in modern society – the perfect female form.
“I can’t tell you how many people come in and say they want to look like Jennifer Aniston,” said Morand. “It’s that underlying belief that if they look a certain way, they’ll get everything they want in life – fame, success, happy relationships. All of a sudden, everything will be put right.
“It’s sad because the reality falls well short of that. Brad Pitt isn’t dumping Jennifer.”
Instead, Morand tries to help women break the vicious cycle of cutting calories, bingeing because they’re hungry, feeling guilty about eating excessively, then dieting again.
In her opinion, weight loss through regimented eating only sets people up for failure, and until they get free of it, they’ll never be happy.
Instead, she proposes what’s been coined “natural eating” or eating what you want until you’re full and letting your body find its own unmanipulated weight.
As part of that process, Morand also helps women get to the root of how and why food has become a lifelong focus, and why diets are getting in the way of more important things.
You may never squeeze into a size two using “natural eating”, but at the same time a petite waist line will no longer be a barometer for your self worth, according to Morand.
“I’m sure Dr. Atkins’ intent in developing his diet was to help make people healthy,” she said. “But it doesn’t recognize that a majority of people out there aren’t dieting for better health.”
This is the “salvation” Sinclair says she’s been searching for after years of not understanding her own relationship to food, and her subsequent addition to diets.
Since taking a course at The Cedric Centre in September she’s stocked her kitchen with cookies and whipped cream, but no longer has the desire to run in and eat it all in one serving.
“This works when you accept at a gut level that diets don’t work.” said Sinclair, adding a tumultuous relationship with her parents and a tough time in high school is what initially turned her to food for comfort.
“I had this vague feeling that I needed something. Maybe that something was cheese. So I’d have a piece, and when that didn’t change anything, I’d have more. Of course that didn’t work, so I’d try ice cream, then cookies. The next thing you know, I’m criticizing myself, ‘What the hell did you do that for?'”
“I always thought because I was a larger than normal body size, something was wrong – I was doing something wrong,” added Sinclair, who hasn’t lost a significant amount of weight since September, but feels hundreds of pounds lighter emotionally.
“I’ve concluded there are 300 genetic freaks in this world who are keeping the rest of us in line, and at 52-years-old, I’m just not buying into it anymore.
“If my story can reach just one person on International No Diet Day then I’m glad to have shared it.”
© Copyright 2004 Victoria Weekend