Body Image and the Diet

I was reading an article recently in which the writer was talking about how dieting was such a negative way to live, she never dieted, she ate what she wanted and that people who were pro-body-image should be just like her and never deny themselves whatever food they wanted, and just be happy and healthy. She was, of course, naturally thin.

I don’t expect such people to ever be reading my little blog here, but I think it’s important to point out for the record that anybody who is naturally thin without working too hard at it is the exception, not the rule, in this sedentary culture. If you lucked out and won the metabolic lottery, it is a little bit disingenuous and insulting to give weight management “advice” to people who have spent their entire lives struggling with weight.

Let me be clear – I have spent my entire life struggling with weight issues. The decades I spent just eating whatever I wanted, I ended up so overweight I couldn’t even function normally. If I don’t work at it every single day, my weight will spiral out of control immediately. I’m not working at it every single day so that I can be thin and pretty and wear the latest fashions, I work at it every single day just so that I can maintain my health. My alternative isn’t being a little bit chubby if I don’t fight tooth and nail against obesity, my alternative is morbid obesity. I hang on to my health, some days it seems by my fingernails, working every day to maintain the weight I’ve lost, only to be lectured regularly by people who are naturally thin who tell me that I should not diet because it’s an “unhealthy, negative outlook.” Let me tell you what is an unhealthy outlook: Telling people how to manage their own health.

Here’s something that people who are new to exercising or weight maintenance, people who have never had to work at it might not realize: It’s not fun, mostly it’s hard work, and there’s usually other stuff I’d rather be doing, but I do it because it needs to be done. That’s how I honor myself and my body. I wish I didn’t have to do it. I wish I could just eat what I wanted when I wanted, I wish I could adopt a laissez-faire attitude about food and exercise. I can’t. Just like coming to work every morning, or doing the dishes, I do it because it needs to be done. I don’t get a choice. If it were fun and exciting and interesting it wouldn’t be called a workout, it’d be called a funout. It’s not awful, it’s generally not painful, it’s just that all things being equal, I’d rather be doing something else. But I certainly don’t need somebody who has never had to actively manage their weight telling me how to do it.

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6 Responses to “Body Image and the Diet”

  1. lizhamillscott Says:

    Those sound like the same people who earnestly tell me all about how they were hurting, and that taking up yoga cured all their ills. Then they ask me oh-so-earnestly if I’ve ever tried yoga. Sigh.

    I’m still not sure what to say to such people. What do you actually *say* in the moment when a thin girl tells you not to diet?

    • Laina Says:

      I’ve never quite figured it out. Like you, I have quite a collection of helpful advice I’ve been offered over the years. Usually I just end up stammering “What an interesting perspective…” or similar. *sigh* Wish I had a good response.

  2. Princess Dieter aka Mir Says:

    The metabolic winners don’t get it. Even some men, the ones who are tall and can eat a lot and stay slim, don’t get it. Folks who are naturally activity-prone and burn up tons of calories spontaneously and without deep planning, don’t get it.

    For most of us–the US has 68% overweight folks, 34% obese–living a sedentary 21st century computer-driven/car-driving life means we simply need fewer calories than, say, really active predecessors who had to farm/hunt/harvest/scavenge/fight enemies mano a mano/scrabble to survive/had no food stamps, social security, etc.

    I remember my dad, who was never fat a day in his skinny life, walking 8 blocks at age 72 to get a loaf of Cuban bread, walk 8 blocks back, eat a piece with eggs and his cafe con leche and maybe some fruit, then head out to climb to the roof, work on the car, pull weeds from the yard. THe man never sat still except at night for a little tv. Of course, he was naturally “gotta putter, gotta walk, gotta do.”

    A lot of us would rather sit with the computer/tv/dvd/video game. But we want to eat eat eat like an athlete or an active hunter/farmer/mountain-climber. Um, no. If we sit all the time, we need far fewer calories. Barring the genetically gifted ones.

    I find that controlling my food has a pleasurable aspect. It makes me feel like I accomplished something in my day if I DO NOT overeat despite all the society’s temptations. If I move, despite my couch potato inclinations. It’s a victory.

    But yes, I have to THINK about it. Genetic winner I’m not.

    • Laina Says:

      YES! Absolutely. And, I find that controlling my intake has a pleasurable aspect for me as well. I pretend I’m the BMR Warrior – Balancing the Numbers Nobody Else Cares About!

  3. Bluezy Says:

    Oh my boyfriend of 6 years was a couch potato, but he had a six pack naturally (abdominal and fortunately not beer). It was maddening how he could pack it away and just lay there and watch “Dukes Of Hazzard” reruns and wrestling.

  4. Yoko Olsgaard Says:

    Hear Hear, Laina!!!!


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