It’s the new year and we’re in the midst of a shit storm of diet ads and articles about which celebrity lost XX amount of pounds and how. Oh, and how YOU can do it too!
Googling the word “diet” feels, in the words of one of my friends, like having my soul pelted with bean bags. But I did it for you, my beloved readers, to save you the trouble of having to do it yourself. This is what I found:
There are diets that will make Dr. Oz rich, that will line the pockets of Nutrisystem and Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig CEOs and shareholders (I’m looking at you, Oprah). There are diets that will help you to “magically” shed pounds with mystery injections (while you simultaneously reduce your intake to less than 1000 calories a day and exercise two hours daily for 8 days a week). There are diets in which you can give up actual food and replace it with powdered “food” that you eat twice a day along with a “sensible” dinner (because everything else you do on this diet is “sensible,” right?). Diets that use the magic of ketones, either in raspberries or…in your body…or maybe both?…to make you lose weight because ketones, y’know?!
Diets that will have you tracking every single calorie, or Point, or fat/carb/protein gram that you put in your mouth, because somehow tracking food will make you less hungry (it won’t). There are diets that advise you to give up major macronutrients, like carbohydrates, in order to “shed” pounds, and which means you’ll never enjoy movie popcorn ever again, or a baguette with brie if you go to Paris. Diets that teach you how to ignore your hunger signals by tricking you into eating tasteless cardboard foods or drinking massive amounts of no-calorie liquid to fill the void.
There are diets that will convince you that you aren’t your truest, most awesome self until you more closely approximate the cultural “ideal” of beauty (you again, Oprah). Diets that tell you that you aren’t worthy of love or attention because you aren’t the thinnest possible version of yourself. Diets insisting that weight is a good barometer for health, even though you could lose weight just eating candy or dirt or styrofoam all day which wouldn’t be very healthy at all (I know at least one person who supplemented her eating disorder with a lot of candy and not much else). Diets that claim they “work” and then, because they are required by law to do so, add in the small print that, really, they don’t (results not typical translated at last).
There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of diets out there. And they all claim that they work. But, sort of like that scene in The Social Network where Jessie Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg tells the Winklevii, “If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook,” if diets really worked, they would have worked. We’d all be thin because a significant number of people diet each year, and so at least a significant portion of that significant number would have lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off for a significant time. But they haven’t, as the science reliably shows again and again. And yet the diet companies continue to NOT have to prove they work, simply because we don’t demand real evidence. Yes, most people can lose at least some weight on any diet. And yes, most people gain that weight back within 3 to 5 years. And yes, the purveyors of diets will blame that failure on their clients.
So I implore you – at least know that you can choose something different this year because you don’t deserve to be tortured. Different how, you ask? Here are my suggestions:
Choose actual health, by deciding to honor your hunger and fullness cues and by choosing foods that feel nourishing to you.
Choose picking foods not for how thin or fit or healthy it makes you but for how much you enjoy it. Choose to expand your palette rather than restrict the kinds of foods you allow yourself to eat.
Choose learning to like and respect your body by rejecting the current cultural beauty ideal and deciding for yourself what you will find beautiful (hint: it should include your own badass* self).
Choose to understand that people come in all shapes and sizes, that body diversity is not only awesome but necessary to the survival of our species and that you will honor whatever size and shape your body decides to be when you’re treating it well.
Choose to move for the sheer joy of it. Not because someone told you to exercise to be healthy or thin because that’s not really any fun.
Choose to reject the dieting mentality that has put so many people on a weight roller coaster and left them hungry and unhealthier – both physically and mentally – than they started out.
Choose life over a fantasy that never seems to come true, because life is what you’ve got right now, and you don’t have forever.
*Young people tell me this is a good thing!
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