Lies Diet Books Tell

From Book Riot:

Content Warning: This article discusses weight loss, disordered eating, and the lie that being smaller makes you more worthy. Use caution and don’t forget you are already good.

I am a 37-year-old fat woman who spent decades of my life trying to shrink. I know diets. As a child I bopped along with Richard Simmons on his Sweatin’ to the Oldies VHS. I used smaller plates to simulate portion control. When I became a teenager, I decided to try recording everything I ate. I also learned that I enjoyed jogging and felt triumphant when I finished a short run in my neighborhood. These habits alone were actually great for my teenage self, but it started an emotional journey that would be torture. 

You see, I lost a little weight, and the response felt like I had saved a child from a burning building. People went wild. A man I loved like an uncle told me my dead father would be so proud that I slimmed down. More hauntingly, friends and extended family members let me know how gross and off putting they had found my old body. People I loved very much let me know that I was more lovable when I was smaller, and therefore more attractive. I started restricting my eating even more, living off Lean Cuisine meals and 100 calorie snack packs. (It was 2006, that was the height of healthy eating.) Getting smaller became very, very important.

I got married at a young age and immediately started working full time as a teacher. I  had less free time to focus on going to the gym and food tracking. This is when my weight started to shift to a higher number and I got desperate. Diet culture had its hooks in deep at this point, and I entered a cycle of having a huge binge period before starting a new diet. Completely separated from the basic habits that had made me feel good in the first place, I tried everything on the market. I have used Weight Watchers, the 21 Day Fix, Beachbody powders, My Fitness Pal, carb-free diets, Whole 30, the Special K diet (two bowls of Special K a day and a sensible dinner), and more. I have tried tricks like chewing gum to keep me from snacking, snapping my wrist with a rubber band when I reach for food, and pouring water over my meal after I’ve eaten half to make sure I wouldn’t eat anymore. It was disordered and it heavily messed with my head.

I gave up diets about eight years ago. Books are what saved me. I’m much larger, happier, and have a better relationship with my body than ever. I’ve learned what diet culture is and what it does. Diet culture (and the diet books that hold it up) spews lies daily. Some are easily debunked, and others I am still detangling. Some of these lies are so insidious we accept them as fact without any thought. The point is, we need to talk about it.

. . . .

LIE: HEALTHY FOOD AND EXERCISE ARE ONLY WORTH THE AMOUNT OF WEIGHT THEY CAN MAKE YOU LOSE.

I’m still deep in my journey of reconnecting with myself and the foods, habits, and movement that make me feel good. It’s not small or simple. In diet culture, certain foods are vilified and exercise is exalted as the most virtuous thing you can do. Once you realize that shrinking is not a worthy life goal and remove yourself from diet culture, it’s easy to reject exercise and any food that was considered “good.” Getting to a spot where you nourish yourself with nutrient dense foods and move for your mental health is so hard when you’ve been taught those things are only worth it if they make you smaller.

LIE: LOSING WEIGHT IS A FEAT OF DISCIPLINE AND MEANS YOU ARE IN CONTROL.

This one is so, so damaging, because it’s really easy to believe. It’s also dangerous to people in larger bodies, because society believes the opposite (fat means sloppy, letting go, lazy) without a single analytical thought. The truth is, all humans genetically have much less control over the size of their bodies than we would like to believe. It’s also laughable to assume that people suffering from disordered eating are in control. To be strict with diets and follow food rules that are based on shrinking, you basically have to shut down your connection with your body and the hunger signals that should vary throughout a day, week, and month. Whenever I’m tempted by the siren call of going back to my dieting days (“Maybe I really was much healthier before…”) I am reminded of a time when I was at my smallest, being praised left and right, and was caught with a spoon in a bag of sugar I had frantically dug out of the back of my mom’s pantry, because I was having an intense craving and snapped. I was not in control.

Link to the rest at Book Riot

PG can’t say he wasn’t warned before he started reading the OP. He made it through without being triggered.

4 thoughts on “Lies Diet Books Tell”

  1. Just an obvious point that most people don’t ponder.

    If diets and exercise actually worked, then insurance companies would charge more if you didn’t use a specific exercise/diet that did work, and then give you a discount if you did.

    It’s like eggs and bacon. For decades people said that they were bad for you, but no insurance company ever charged you more if you ate them.

    The problem is, weight is a function of how your gut bugs are programmed. They are little machines and can be programmed to preferentially store food as fat rather than in feeding the body.

    The so called “epidemic” of obesity is simply stressing people in different ways to reprogram their gut bugs.

    Google the phrase “gut bugs and obesity” and you will find many interesting articles.

    One key discovery was to take a skinny mouse, do a fecal transplant from an obese person and watch the mouse blimp out. The mouse does not suddenly start overeating, in fact they ate less, they simple blimp out as the gut bugs store fat rather than feed the mouse.

    Now, Google the phrase “gut bugs and autism” and you will find many interesting articles.

    The result is parents are having their kids drink bleach because they think that this will “cure” them. Yikes!

    You will also see articles about “gut bugs and health” where doctors are doing fecal transplants from healthy people to sick people, with the result that the sick person dies from the “healthy” feces. They have ordered such research to stop until they know what they are doing.

    A century from now, doctors will routinely use bacteria to cure most ills, once they know how to talk to them.

    Remember, 90% of your DNA are from all of the critters that keep you alive and healthy.

    BTW, Ten years ago I stopped dieting and have lost 100 pounds. 60 pounds to go. I put on the weight by following every rule that medical science said to do. There is many a PBS special on diet watched during pledge week, that points out for the past 60 years the medical profession has been lying about diet and exercise. Go figure.

    • The problem is that people treat nutrition and healthy eating like it’s a one-size-fits-all thing. Different people’s bodies react differently, and more doctors need to realize that.

      Meanwhile, while society needs to realize that being actually large-framed isn’t bad for you, the whole “body-positivity movement” currently runs the gamut from “You don’t need to look like Gal Gadot or Jason Momoa to be attractive and healthy” to “If you think that carrying around half again as much weight as your frame is meant for is bad then you’re just a brainwashed fatphobe.”

    • HA! I don’t believe this. I stumbled on an episode of 60 Minutes from Sunday that is tangential to my comment.

      Promising new weight loss medication in short supply and often not covered by insurance | 60 Minutes
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMRnDNhPwqM

      OMG, I will be watching TV and they will have commercials pushing you to “ask your doctor about…” then a few years later there will be ads for law firms on class action suits against the drug mentioned earlier. I’ve seen this happen far too often over the past decade to expect anything else. The TV stations make money from commercials for drugs, then years later on the class action suits.

      – Whatever the drug is doing, they are focusing on the wrong “brain”.

      The gut is called the “second brain”. The gut bugs communicate with that “second brain” and the brain in the skull.

      I have stories that use the bacteria that lives in our bodies. Everything from healing disease to becoming immortal, even becoming the occasional god.

      Example books:

      – The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned by Anne Rice

      – Vitals by Greg Bear

      BTW, The original Frankenstein by Mary Shelley did not use electricity to assemble the “monster”. Adding electricity to the later versions was a deliberate change to prevent people from figuring out that they used bacteria.

      That’s my Story, and I’m sticking to it.

  2. Not me, PG. I was triggered and possibly irreparably harmed by the content warning. I might have to consult with an attorney.

    Re “the lie that being smaller makes you more worthy,” um, I’m 70 years old and I don’t remember ever having seen or heard or even inferred that particular “lie” before reading this excerpt. I know that being smaller makes you less likely to get shot in combat, so is that the same thing? (shrug) I dunno.

    But I take strong exception to the “don’t forget you are already good” silliness. I’m a little offended that whatever brilliant editor added that sweeping feel-good note can somehow know that I’m “good,” considering s/he/it has never met me and has not yet added seasoning to taste. A bit Dahmer-esque. The whole thing is a little chilly, really.

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