Several months ago I cleaned out my closet and was amazed to find that in it, I had clothes that I hadn’t worn for nearly 20 years. Now wearing a size 14/16, I had to come to grips with the fact that the size 6 Betsey Johnson black and purple mesh slip dress wasn’t going to fit me anytime soon.

As I longingly stared at it, draped over the blue satin padded hangar, my thoughts wandered and I remembered the last time I had worn it. My husband and I were invited to his best friend, Ricky’s wedding.

It was November 1992, almost a year and half after my son, PT was born. I was still a few pounds away from my goal weight according to weight watchers, but at 137 pounds, I was feeling pretty confident that I looked great.

All day long I stressed about wearing that dress. Although I knew it would look wonderful, I couldn’t do anything to risk having a tummy bulge so I ate like a bird.

For the majority of the day I ate steamed vegetables and salad with diet dressing and sipped on endless amounts of water. The reception was in the evening around 7:30. As I stepped into the car, I smiled as I thought about how stunning I looked and the price that I had paid to fit into this dress, all the personal training sessions with Rob, the buckets of sweat, the weigh ins, the cooking, all the money spent on special low cal foods, work out clothes, gym equipment and sneakers, all the walking and running, the stair climbing and dancing, the push ups, pull ups, curls, sit ups, lunges and sprints, and all the temptation that I did my best to resist, culminating in this moment–I felt proud of my accomplishments and I silently patted myself on the back.

When we arrived at the reception, I was the belle of the ball. All of my husband’s friends and brothers swarmed around me, paying me compliments and saying how wonderful I looked with my satin skin and milky white shoulders. My husband, Angel beamed with pride. We danced a bit and all during our time together, all I could think of was how I looked in that dress.

Did I look fat? Did my belly pooch out from that last glass of water? I made up an excuse and told Angel that I wanted to sit down, knowing full well that my motive was my fear that standing made my tummy bulge more obvious.

When it came time to eat at the reception, I picked at my plate and had a few grains of rice and some chicken along with a few of sips of water. I just couldn’t risk not fitting into that dress and having my tummy bulge out. It was all I could think about.

It was just before midnight, as we were coming off of the highway heading home, I was starved. I was so hungry that I could have eaten a cow! I asked my husband to stop and pick up some Chinese food before the take out place closed. That marked the end of my obsession of fitting into that dress that night.

It was all over and now I could celebrate by eating.

That was the legacy that dieting taught me. I learned how to play the game and fool myself and others into believing that I had control over food. It was all an illusion and in reality food had me in its thrall.

Today I don’t obsess on food anymore and I don’t fear not being perfect. I’m not perfect. That dress? Mmmm. I have since passed it on to my daughter, Cara. She is going to wear it for Halloween this year. She’ll be the most fashionable witch in Rockland County.

It really was time to let go of that dress. That was the old Andrea, this is the new and improved version, much more confident and happy. In fact, when I think back to the days of craziness that dress represents, I realize that my decision to give up dieting was not giving up, in fact it was taking a bold stand for myself and honoring the woman I’ve become. When I gave up allowing a program to tell me what I could and could not eat, I took back control of the rest of my life. I’ve decided that like that dress, dieting doesn’t fit me anymore. I’ve simply outgrown it. There may have been some good memories from diets in the past, but for the most part, it was a lot of pain. Now I say, “Goodbye to Dieting” and “Hello Life.”

How about you? Are you still consumed by hating yourself for not being perfect? Are you embarrassed because you sneak food and eat when people’s backs are turned? There is hope and the way out is through. As you begin to release your food fears and recognize that you can take care of yourself, then you will begin to enjoy life more and live in the present. I’ll never get back those moments or years that I wasted obsessing about what I ate, how much, and when, but I can move forward with a greater degree of love and self compassion so that I’ll never waste my time like that again.

Would you like to learn to love yourself more now? Would you like to feel more deserving of treating yourself better? Let me know what you think about this by leaving a comment and sharing your thoughts. I would also love to invite you to take the discussion to the next level and share your thoughts in my Yahoo group.

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