Thank god I've never been on a "diet" and bought into all that crap. A couple of times I've bothered to be thoughtful about drinking less soda, replacing it with milk, juice, and water. I gained lots of weight when I was pregnant and then over the next few years slowly returned to my usual baseline with no effort; my body shape was different but that's about it. When I got ulcers I lost 20 pounds and was starving and miserable; I saw how people treated me with vastly increased respect because I was thinner; this only increased my resolution to fight that kind of thinking.
I think I'm the only woman I have ever known who has never been "on a diet". Is this true? Am I the only one? Speak up if I'm not... or even if you know for sure that you know a woman who has never in their life dieted.
I will never starve myself on purpose to comply with some fucked up pseudoscience and with the equally fucked up patriarchal control tool of fatphobia and misogyny instilled in all of us. I put my fingers in my ears and went LA LA LA about that issue a long time ago. I refused the message of self hatred, guilt, and torture. It was not just about fat; I also rejected the idea of braces for "cosmetic" reasons. About 99% of those "cosmetic" reasons were to teach you to hate yourself and to torture yourself and that if you hated and tortured yourself every minute of the day for years, maybe you would achieve a particle of worth. No... just absolutely not buying into it.
It's good to read articles like this one: How We've Come to Believe that Overeating Causes Obesity. This post from Junk Food Science tells a story of research done in WWII in which healthy people were put on a "starvation diet" of 1600 calories per day.
"Diets" for women regularly recommend 1200 calories a day, by the way.
So, what happens when you starve yourself for 6 months like the men in this study?
As the men lost weight, their physical endurance dropped by half, their strength about 10%, and their reflexes became sluggish — with the men initially the most fit showing the greatest deterioration, according to Dr. Keys. The men’s resting metabolic rates declined by 40%, their heart volume shrank about 20%, their pulses slowed and their body temperatures dropped. They complained of feeling cold, tired and hungry; having trouble concentrating; of impaired judgment and comprehension; dizzy spells; visual disturbances; ringing in their ears; tingling and numbing of their extremities; stomach aches, body aches and headaches; trouble sleeping; hair thinning; and their skin growing dry and thin...They suffered psychological disturbances as well:
But the psychological changes that were brought on by dieting, even among these robust men with only moderate calorie restrictions, were the most profound and unexpected. So much so that Dr. Keys called it “semistarvation neurosis.” The men became nervous, anxious, apathetic, withdrawn, impatient, self-critical with distorted body images and even feeling overweight, moody, emotional and depressed.They suffered lasting effects.
The best part of the article is here when Junk Food Science's author, Sandy Szwarc, quotes Dr. Keys, who led the study:
“Starved people cannot be taught democracy. To talk about the will of the people when you aren’t feeding them is perfect hogwash.” This was also what led early feminist activists to see dieting and weight concerns as a way to keep women preoccupied with food, filled with guilt and self-hatred, more easily influenced by others, and too mentally and physically exhausted to succeed professionally and politically.
I understand the pressures that make women (and a few men) "diet", and the struggle to gain control and to get the huge amount of increased privilege you get if you conform to the current standards of control over & obsession with your physical body that constitute "attractiveness".
But... I wish they wouldn't buy into that pressure and that model of the world and themselves... AND especially I feel for the damage young girls go through as their parents and caretakers, role models and peers, create an atmosphere where it is normal for young girls to replicate this medical experiment of STARVATION on themselves.
Fight harder. Look deeper for information. Some women get mad at me for saying this, and feel I'm not respectful of their agency, or they act like mock-afraid that I'm going to "yell at them" for dieting. I'm not saying you suck for "being on a diet". I'm saying you decided to do that based on bad information, based on a foundation of lies and misdirection. And... yes... I do consider myself to be right on this issue... and it is a harsh message... hard to hear. Fight harder. Fight against something that's not your own body.
It is a deeply political and feminist issue for me. I am happy to see my stance expressed, and supported, so well in Sandy Szwarc's article.
I believe in trying to be fit and healthy at whatever weight and body shape a person happens to be in.
(Thanks to janni for the link.)