Ok International No Diet Day (I’m sorry, the website is in comic sans. I hope you can forgive it) was like three weeks ago and I missed it even though I had PLANS for THINGS but whatever guys, every day should be no diet day if you ask me.
This is not a subject I can think or speak or write about calmly, detachedly. It involves a lot of very strong and personal emotions for me. So I normally don’t bring it up except among people I feel really safe with. The most I do around casual acquaintances is abstain from participating in conversations relating to body shame or food morality, and enthusiastically consume food in public.
I’ve tried at least four different directions for the rest of this blog post, but they’ve all ended in excessive abuse of the shift key, and lots of pacing and angry muttering and trembling on my part. Let’s just say I have some really personal reasons for believing that dieting can really fuck up a person’s life.
Every time I say something like that I worry that people think I used to have an eating disorder, because I’m small and thin, and I used to be downright skinny, and in the past I have in fact had people try to convince me I don’t eat enough food. And sure, looking back at my behaviors and attitudes in high school, I didn’t have what I’d now consider a healthy relationship with food or my body, but it was a pretty far cry from pathological behavior. I’ve never really tried to lose weight, and my adolescent attempts to “sculpt” particular parts of my body with exercise were always pretty half-hearted. Plus I paid attention to research on exercise fads and learned pretty quickly that the notion you can “target” fat anywhere on your body is basically ridiculous. You can develop specific muscles, but you’re still going to have fat distributed on your body in just the way your genetics dictate.
And usually I don’t address this fear because then I worry that sounding defensive will just make people even more convinced that I’m trying to hide something. Which is all basically ridiculous and paranoid, but welcome to what social interaction is like inside my head.
I have seen people close to me, friends and family, hurt by cultural ideas about weight and health and food, and seeing that has hurt me too.
The most personally I’ve been affected, aside from the fairly typical insecurities about my body that I’ve mostly been able to overcome, is in people assuming that I don’t eat enough, and that they should push me to eat more. This is usually because they are only seeing me at one meal (it’s almost always people who do not see much of me in general), and I almost never eat a lot at once. I am not usually physically capable of eating a lot of food at once. As I said before, I’m small, so on the one hand there’s only so much that can fit inside me at once. On the other hand, it’s just not how my metabolism works. The most natural eating pattern for me is to snack often throughout the time I am awake. Eating a lot of food at one time and then nothing else for hours just…doesn’t make me feel good. Unfortunately, this is not practical in most of the settings I find myself in, so I have to find ways to work around it.
So, I have no use for low-fat versions of perfectly delicious and nourishing foods, or artificial sweeteners (besides the part where they all taste gross and most of them make me feel gross in one way or another), or any meal that is somehow designed to trick my body into thinking I’ve consumed more food than I really have. My body knows better. My body knows when it has enough energy to function and when it doesn’t, and most of the time I have been in school I have struggled to plan my days around getting enough calories into my body at the right times so that I can think straight and tolerate the presence of other human beings. You can be pretty sure every day is a no-diet day for me, and if I’m not eating very much at the time you are seeing me, it’s because I have something else I’m going to eat in two hours. Probably cheese or a donut or full-fat yogurt (wishful thinking, this is impossible to find in convenient single-serving containers, so I have to go for the least “diety” kind I can find) or peanut butter and crackers. Something you’d probably be embarrassed to see me eating if I weighed 50 pounds more, you hypothetical nosy busybody with no business judging my food choices because you don’t know my life. Just like you don’t know the life of any stranger or casual acquaintance you see eating.
Anyway, some linkings:
the first rule of nutrition: eat, or die. There are no other rules.
health at every size - if you really care about health, care about health, not weight.
Junkfood Science on the obesity paradox - this is part of a whole series on a blog devoted to debunking the worthless crap that gets reported as “health” news in typical media outlets. I recommend scrolling down until you see “Junkfood Science Obesity Paradox Series” in the sidebar and read everything. Or just go back and read all the archives from before the blogger started writing about nothing but healthcare reform.
Shapely Prose’s FAQ probably covers the rest.
If I’ve got your interest, you might try an experiment and spend a day looking for messages or comments about the moral value of food. You could spend a day refraining from making moral judgments about food (or at least from speaking them out loud), from criticizing your body, or the bodies of others. You might spend a day forgiving yourself for wanting to eat, rather than die.