When I stopped dieting I was ecstatic about giving up all those restrictive, boring, senseless rules that I had been unsuccessfully trying to live by for more than 20 years. After a while though, I realised, quite to my surprise, that there were some aspects of dieting that I missed. They were the little rituals that accompanied any weight loss regime I attempted and that I had developed and refined over the years. Like typing out meal and snack plans and taping them to the fridge or measuring out every bit of food that passed my lips and writing it down in a little book.
What I missed the most though were the scales, or more precisely, the ritual of weighing in. I had been weighing myself practically every day since the age of 11. Although the scales themselves had changed over the years - I started using my mum's then graduated to my own and went through a number of increasingly sophisticated models - the way I weighed myself never did: always first thing in the morning, always stark naked and always with a sense of anticipation. It was a ritual I cherished and dreaded in equal measure. The ritual provided predictability - the certainty of doing the same thing in the same way every day. The scales gave me a point of reference, an easy benchmark by which to measure my success or, more often, my failure. The little numbers that appeared between my feet every morning gave me an objective to strive for and I could delegate my mood to them without having to think too hard. If the number went down then I was happy, if they went up I was miserable. Simple. Safe. Reassuring.
And yet....and yet I knew that weighing myself kept me stuck in diet mentality, was counterproductive to a healthy, balanced relationship with food and my body and was, ultimately, a completely arbitrary way of measuring progress. I decided I needed a new ritual, something that would give me that sense of control and safety that I had got from my daily appointment with the scales.
Over the years, I have experimented with many rituals. Some have been more successful and long-lived than others. This is the beauty of Beyond Chocolate and being my own guru: - I am constantly transforming and updating what works for me so that my rituals fit perfectly into my life rather than me trying to squeeze myself around them.
Right now my favourite ritual is meal planning. I know this may sound bizarre in the content of Beyond Chocolate but I have a busy life and nothing leaves me feeling more anxious and out of control than desperately trying to come up with a clever idea for dinner every night. I love my menu planning ritual. I sit down with my sister every Monday morning with a cup of tea and a slice of something one of us has baked. Armed with our very useful weekly menu planner, a stack of cookbooks and various online shopping sites, we go through the week and chat about what we've been eating, new recipes we've experimented with and foods and flavours we have a 'thing' about and would like to eat more of. We bounce ideas off each other and 20 minutes later have a good idea of what we'll be cooking and eating for the next week as well as our shopping done and dusted. It's simple, it's safe and it's reassuring.
Do you find yourself missing your favourite dieting rituals and, if so, what could you do instead? Rituals are a good thing to have, they provide a framework to work with. So be your own Guru and create your own Beyond Chocolate ritual.