Compassion For Dieters

“…One of the ways that shifted for me to be more compassionate is, I kind of struggle with feeling perpetually disappointed in people a lot. Like, why aren’t they living up to their expectations, why aren’t they living up to my expectations, why are they making these self-destructive choices?” -Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

It can be hands love signhard to live in this diet- and weight-obsessed world on a daily basis when you are no longer participating in the BS. Hearing diet-talk or food-fear driven conversation can be infuriating at best, triggering at worst. When we’ve tasted the freedom of a restriction-free life, we want to grab the world by the lapels and shake it and yell, “WAKE UP AND SMELL THE CREAM-AND-SUGAR INFUSED COFFEE! THIS IS EFFING GREAT! STOP DIETING FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY!” After giving up dieting and a life of chasing fleeting goal weights, we no longer see the world the same way – and so we no longer understand why so many others still seem stuck in the current weight-loss-diet paradigm.

This was me immediately after having given up dieting (and up to pretty recently).  Suddenly I was mystified that everyone was not aiming for non-diet nirvana like I now was, as though I had not spent the prior 16 years in ever-worsening diet-restriction oblivion. It’s easy to want to project our experience as the universal experience; after all, many of us came from the “if I can do it, everyone can do it” diet-mentality world. And it’s also easy to take the diet talk of others personally, and maybe even feel as though we are being judged for our non-diet choices.

Brené Brown explains how she dealt with these kinds of feelings in her book, Daring Greatly:

“One of the things that shifted for me, was this idea that maybe everyone – myself included – maybe everyone’s doing the best they can. But sometimes, that means that I don’t have to engage. …What I’ve learned for me, around boundaries and compassion, is that I don’t know whether people are doing the best they can or not, but my life is better when I work from the assumption that they are. … at the same time, that means that I need to have really clear boundaries. So instead of judging you, and feeling resentful, and feeling like you’re sucking me dry, or you’re taking advantage of me, I need to assume that you’re doing the best you can. And I need to set my boundaries, and not get involved to the degree where I lose control over how I feel about myself and what’s going on in that relationship.”

That’s where I’m trying to get with diet talk right now. I don’t always have to walk away or plug my ears and yell “LALALALALALALA,” but I don’t have to get emotionally involved, either. I can assume the dieter is trying the best she can. I don’t need to be angry or feel personally judged, especially because I feel good about the choices I’ve made around giving up dieting and embracing my body (aka, my boundaries) – and I can talk about that too, if that’s where the conversation is going. I don’t mind planting some non-diet seeds when appropriate, I just don’t need to get my knickers in a knot like I used to about “WHY DON’T THEY UNDERSTAND?”

This has actually come as a big relief. I spend plenty of time being angry at a society and diet industry that tells us we are not good enough as we are; I don’t need to be angry at the victims. I used to be one of them, after all.

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11 thoughts on “Compassion For Dieters

  1. kathleenbee June 13, 2016 / 12:35 pm

    Thank you! This is a big struggle for me since I’ve stopped the diet mentality.

  2. Lauri Stewart June 13, 2016 / 4:45 pm

    Agreed! My mom is 71 and still lives and breathes WW. I was counting points and binging so much making me yo-yo even worse. She says we are like alcoholics and when we get a bit of sugar, we won’t be able to stop. Yes. When sugar is being restricted! I have been working in this “non-dieting” thing since September and I was scared to death. Scared to stop tracking my food. Scared to stop weighing. I am not 100% but since I have stopped restricting, the binges have slowed down greatly!! Thank you for your guidance but I agree, you cannot judge others b/c they haven’t found the correct road yet. Some people don’t even know his road exists!

    Lauri Stewart

    • GlenysO June 16, 2016 / 4:07 pm

      Congratulations on taking the non-diet plunge! Yes, it can be very scary at first, especially as weights and appetites fluctuate while your body finds its way back to its natural cues. Keep up the good work!

  3. hannahkenway June 14, 2016 / 3:40 pm

    Since I have (very recently) become interested in intuitive eating I find myself getting caught up in feeling the scale of the tragedy that our slavery to the diet world has created. The wasted years, the time that has been spent pointlessly obsessing which could have been spent creating a wonderful life. I look at the young people around me and like some kind of religious evangelist I want to tell them the good news – but of course you’re right, it doesn’t work like that, so making some kind of attempt to model a different way of living is as far as I get!

    • GlenysO June 14, 2016 / 5:08 pm

      Haha yes! I have to hold myself back. I hear myself saying in my head “Have you heard the good news?!” and then I cringe a bit. Thank you for sharing!

    • RobVK June 15, 2016 / 4:44 am

      When you find something that works for you it’s hard to stop yourself from becoming preachy about it – after all it works so well for you, why don’t they all do it? But then you remember that, like Glenys says everyone is doing their best, and trying to do something that works for them.
      I’m personally in the dieting camp. No let me rephrase that, I’m in the camp of trying to make more informed choices to keep my weight within a bracket that our local health service considers “healthy” and reduces weight related health risks. It really works for me, but I see people around me struggle with the same plan.
      But I think regardless of what weight you are, or are aiming for, the message on this blog of just “being happy with the weight you are” is a really important and healthy one. The health benefits of being happy with yourself probably far outweigh any health risks of being clinically overweight. And you’ll live a much happier and more fulfilling life as a result. Bonus! 🙂

      • hannahkenway June 16, 2016 / 10:47 pm

        Yes, there is no one sized fits all approach to life and saying”I’m right” tends to inherently suggest “you’re wrong”. That kind of black and white thinking is just what we’re trying to avoid and paints the intuitive eating approach as just another diet philosophy rather than a balanced approach to food and health.

  4. Jennifer H. June 15, 2016 / 5:34 am

    As a recent “convert” and reforming diet junky, I do want to share “the good news.” But stop short because I have nothing to back me up. I am still obese, just no longer obsessing about food and my body. My family would probably laugh and say no thanks. They would rather not look like me, even if it means freedom from diets. In this visual world, we look to the “fit” for our inspiration. And what is equally sad is, when I hear a “fit” person talking about heath at every size, my own bias is exposed because I immediately think, “what do they know about being fat and fit.” Lots of work to be done for me there! Thank you for your wonderful blog.

    • GlenysO June 16, 2016 / 4:05 pm

      I totally hear where you’re coming from. I often joke that no one asks the fat dietitian how she/he eats! LOL. But I remind myself that I’m here for me and others like me if they want that help. Your experience is valuable to you and that’s the most important thing!

  5. Josée Sovinsky July 7, 2016 / 7:56 am

    Glenys! I really needed this today. There are days where I get so riled up when I see friends (or patients) talking diets and weight! I completely agree that if we are going to be angry, we should be angry at this weight and food obsessed society – Not at it’s victims. Thank you for this important perspective!

    • GlenysO July 7, 2016 / 9:07 pm

      Glad it helped you! I know the frustration…but then I just remind myself people feel very safe in the status quo.

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