How Does Dieting Benefit Our Health?

Published September 29, 2011 by sleepydumpling

**Trigger warning, topic is about weight loss diets and disordered eating.**

I got a fantastic question on my Tumblr yesterday, that got me thinking a bit about diet culture and the constant calls for fat people to go on diets “for their health” and “take care of yourself”.

I was thinking about my own life of dieting, and how I felt all those times, and what my own health was like in those years.

When people say fat people should go on diets “for their health”, they’re not factoring in a) how dieting  affects the body and b) the mental health of the fat person.  Even if they are genuinely concerned for someone’s health and not just using concern trolling to police fat bodies because of their appearance, how much thought do they give to what dieting turns people into?

Now let’s just establish here that we know that fat people aren’t lazy gluttons and that we’re not all stuffing our faces 24 x 7 and that “dieting” doesn’t equal “just eating healthy”.  I know that’s the rhetoric that is spouted at us all the time, that we just have to “Put down the donut/cheeseburger/whatever.”  Let’s make it nice and clear that I’m talking about food restriction or replacement, rather than the mythical “just eat healthy” that the anti-fat seem to think we are not doing already.  When people say “Just eat healthy.” they don’t actually mean that, they mean diet, because hey, there’s no possible way a fat person can already be “just eating healthy”.  I’m talking about weight loss diets.  Calorie counting, no carb, no fat, no sugar, cabbage soup, replacement shakes, Atkins, South Beach, Pritikin, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, grapefruit, high protein, high fibre, high cardboard… whatever the fuck diet we were on at the time.  And this includes any of the disordered eating habits too – bingeing, purging, starvation, laxative abuse, diet pills, exercise bingeing, and even weight loss surgery.  Anything that is designed to restrict, reduce or purge for the supposed purpose of making us thin.

Can I ask… have any of you ever known a person, fat or thin or somewhere in between, who has been on a weight loss diet/programme, who is/was actually HAPPY while they are doing so?

*crickets chirping*

I know I was never happy.  I always felt like shit.  Having to measure every bit of food, count points, calories or grams, having to think about what I was going to eat every minute of the day.  I couldn’t just relax and spend time with friends, because I’d have to think about what foods met my diet.  Organising lunches for work was a headache and I was always on my guard for people questioning my eating habits (or lack of them).  Grocery shopping was even more nightmarish than I find it now (and I hate it now, thank God for online grocery shopping!) because almost everything was “forbidden” on whatever diet I was on at the time.  I was always hungry.  When I did get to eat, it was shitty.  Either it was really bad food (cabbage soup?) or it wasn’t even food at all, it was some powdery substitute or rubbery/cardboard diet version.  I never wanted the things I was “allowed” to eat, and yet I was so unbelievably hungry all the time that I had to eat them when I could.

Physically, my body fought me all the way.  I was constantly sick with every cold and virus that came around.  My skin was bad.  My teeth were terrible.  I constantly had to fight bad breath and diarrhea.  I had constant hayfever and headaches.  I never had any energy and never slept properly.

Emotionally, I was depressed, anxious and obsessive.  Depressed because I hated being hungry all the time and having to eat things that tasted like cardboard or rubber, depressed because no matter what I did, I could never lose weight and keep it off.  Anxious because I never knew where I could get “suitable” food, and I hated anyone knowing I was on a diet.  Anxious because my blood sugar was always low and I was shaky and couldn’t concentrate.  Obsessive because food might actually GET me, if I let down my guard.

Yet all of this was supposed to benefit my health?  How?

We all know that diets fail on the long term in 95% of cases, with weight regain plus more, but we never talk about how bloody miserable dieting is.  How nobody is actually happy while they are dieting, and because 95% of them find diets fail, they’re not happy in the long term either.  The whole diet culture just sets people, particularly women, up to be miserable all the time, both during dieting and then when it inevitably fails.

And this is supposed to be for our health?  This is supposed to be “taking care of ourselves”.

I call bullshit.

Instead, we can put all that crap behind us, re-learn to eat to nourish us, let go of exercising as some kind of penance and learn to find activity that we enjoy and live our lives to the fullest no matter what our weight.

I know which sounds like taking care of myself to me.

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44 comments on “How Does Dieting Benefit Our Health?

  • I tried the Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet for a semester in college. It was my first “real” diet and it did work to an extent. I got to the lowest weight I had been since attaining my adult height and for the most part was ok with the food restrictions.

    Then I realized that “lowest weight” was still 20 lbs over the max of the normal BMI range for my height, the only way I could lose more was to drop some muscle/shrink my breasts/start showing bone, and I was thinking about food all. the. time. I couldn’t live like that, having come to it late.

    I like not thinking about food unless I’m actively hungry or planning a meal/shopping.

  • I have a friend who is on the Tony Ferguson meal replacement diet thing. She says she’s happy – and honestly, she certainly seems it. I can’t understand how she could be; but she explained to me that she really needed someone else to control how she ate, so that she didn’t HAVE to think about it. She has a shake for breakfast, a soup for lunch and salad for dinner. Plus her “allowed” snacks throughout the day. She seems happy to forego the variety of foods she was eating before. She has “bad days” (her words) but doesn’t beat herself up about them. In saying all of this, she is not fat, not even close. She has a wonderful figure and really went on the diet to ‘re-learn’ how to eat, and to get healthy before having surgery next month. She’s happy… I’m happy she’s happy, but the diet thing freaks me out.

    My dietician put me on a 2000 calorie ‘plan’ which I stuck to for 3 days and then gave up because I was CONSTANTLY thinking about food, and how much of it I was “allowed” and how many calories in this, that and the next thing. I HATED IT. I have never thought about food MORE than when I’m on a diet. I didn’t go back to that dietician…

    • People often are exhilarated at the beginning of a diet. Their fantasy of being thin might finally come true and then all their dreams will be answered! Or so they think. I would guess that after some weeks or months of malnourishment your friend won’t be so chipper. The human body is designed to resist famine and it doesn’t like diets… and it certainly doesn’t like a shake for breakfast in the long-term.

      I’m with you. Even after finding HAES, there was a period of time where I would humor new diets that people (some of them health professionals) tried to force on me. Nowadays, when the conversation goes there even for half a second, I cannot help but laugh out loud and say something like “Yeah… I’m not going near a diet. Don’t even try that shit with me. Thanks.”

      • I’m not one to deny anyone else’s experience, but I certainly remember the euphoria of control, the delight of losing as little as 100gms, the hyper-happy of preaching my gym conquests. Everyone in my life believed it, and said to me “You’re so confident now!” when I had lost some weight and was in manic diet and exercise to oblivion land. Hell, I believed it. I desperately clung to this kind of manic, false happiness that I projected to the world.

        And I do believe there will always be someone who does genuinely enjoy it, but they would be by far the minority.

    • I don’t know how your friend things that Tony Ferguson is teaching her how to eat. Even before my food epiphany a week or two ago I’ve hated meal-replacement diets for the opposite reason – they don’t teach you how to eat properly. If you need someone else to manage everything you put in your mouth you’re not really learning, are you?

  • Emily at XOJane had a column about doing Weight Watchers and it sounds like she was similar to your friend, Another Fat Princess. She wrote, “As a compulsive person, I am capable of only these 2 extremes at this point in my ife: total nutritional anarchy or a regimented, rule-bound way of eating. For me, my diet is not only about weight loss, but about functioning as an eating person. I’ve got to put stuff in my mouth, somebody tell me how to do it!”

    My boyfriend eats the exact same thing for breakfast (cereal/milk, OJ) and lunch (tuna sandwich, apple) every single day — he likes not having to make decisions about what he’s going to eat. (And I think if I weren’t around, every dinner would be frozen burritos!) I just cannot imagine doing that myself; I think I would be obsessed with food, even if I were getting enough calories!

    • When I meet people like that, I always wonder if they have this chaotic eating extreme because they keep trying to force this ham-handed diet restriction garbage on themselves. People often become more compulsive the more then try to over-control things.

      • That, and I think that dieting leads to disconnecting from your hunger, so that after a while the natural signals aren’t even there anymore. “Am I hungry? I have no idea. Tell me what time I should eat.”

    • I read that article too. All I got out of it was “There’s a person who really feels the need to control shit.”

      I go through times of eating the same thing every day too, because I like routine, and I like just clicking into pattern without having to think very much about daily life, like eating, sleeping and performing ablutions. It leaves room in my mind for other thinky stuff. But that’s in no way a diet!

  • Helluva a good read!! Also of the “large” variety, I’m always interested in how others see life on the round side! We shall have to compare notes sometime, I’m a total “hippie” when it comes to my diet (or lack thereof!) and find that once you STOP counting calories, fat, carbs, and all the other “healthy” things you’re supposed to think about that the pounds just tend to fall off as a side effect of pulling your head OUT of your fat cells. I’m still over 200 and really could give a flying rat’s a** what others think about my waistline. Keep it up!

    • For some of us it doesn’t fall off when you do that. For many of us, we don’t lose any weight, but we gain health, strength, energy and mental health. And that’s a perfect reason to get off the diet bandwagon too.

  • “Can I ask… have any of you ever known a person, fat or thin or somewhere in between, who has been on a weight loss diet/programme, who is/was actually HAPPY while they are doing so?”

    Yes, but I don’t think it was the dieting making her happy. I think it was the fact that the meetings (she was in Slimming World, which is a bit like Weight Watchers) were an opportunity to socialise in a way that was comfortable for her (which she wasn’t able to do much for various reasons.)

  • Great post & dead on. Dieting has been proven scientifically to be damaging to people’s health, both in the short & the long term, & to be more damaging the older one is, so that, by the time people are my age, dieting increases mortality risks by several hundred percent. It has also been proven, as we all know, not to be permanent, & dieting behaviors are eating disordered behaviors. Yet we are constantly told that we must go on a diet ‘for our health’. It makes absolutely no sense, yet it is believed in pretty much absolutely by about 95% of the people in so-called ‘advanced’ cultures.

    I haven’t dieted in over 30 years, though I have lapsed into 3-4 periods of compulsive exercise a few times, but now, at 62, seem to have even my exercise under reasonable control (maturity, plus cerebral palsy, arthritis, chronic pain, & the fact that I CANNOT work out 3-4 hours per day anymore). I feel better about myself & more at home in my body than I ever have & no one but me gets to choose what, when, or how much I eat. It feels like a pretty comfortable & happy &, yes, healthy, way to live to me.

  • How I felt when I was dieting: tired, dizzy, nauseous, and shaky. Now, it may have to do with the fact that, for me, disordered eating became an eating disorder, but i eventually began to *like* the feeling of almost passing out or feeling sick.. it made me feel powerful and in control and like i was being a “good fattie”. I can’t even begin to describe the emotions that remembering that brings up (or the occasional times when I still miss it). There was nothing about any of that which indicated that I was getting healthier (not that I was unhealthy to begin with- I wasn’t.. but everyone else assumed it of course) and yet it still felt like it was something good and right. Society encourages this and rewards this.. and that is ridiculously frightening.

    • Heather I had similar experiences in my eating disorder days. It was euphoric to reach that point where I had not eaten for ages and got shaky. It was almost like a high. I now recognise it as the beginnings of hypoglycemia – and I spend all my time avoiding those now!

  • I followed the Ultra Metabolism ‘diet’ for a while, which did result in some weight loss and helped me make some lifestyle changes. Despite maintaining those changes, though, I managed to gain all the weight back and more [thanks in part to a year of constant stress]. I’m working at coming to terms with my war with food and I look forward to a day when I don’t feel like food/meals/cooking/eating controls my life.

  • Every person I’ve ever known who’s gone on a diet has started out thrilled and elated with the diet – even the ones with really shitty fake food and insane restrictions – for the first few days up to about the two month point. Somewhere in those weeks, the reality of inadequate and often revolting food kicks in. Somewhere in those weeks the longing for a forbidden treat begins to eat away at them. And somewhere in those weeks, they discover they aren’t losing as much weight as they’d intended, or they just plain don’t feel well. It’s usually both.

    And then every single one of them comes to the conclusion that it’s their fault for being bad, bad people who really don’t understand how to eat and who have no self-control and probably deserve all kinds of crappy things to happen to them.

    So, anywhere from two weeks to two months of elation followed by a massive, massive crash into a giant crater of suck, all for the sake of losing anywhere from one to fifteen pounds.

    Oh, and I was reading over at Family Food Dynamics the other day about a study that indicated we get more nutrient value from foods we enjoy than those we don’t. So, in addition to: low self-esteem, constant hunger pangs, dizziness, obsession, being boring in public rambling on about our diets, frustration at not being able to share a simple meal with anyone who isn’t on our particular diet, and all the other myriad of health and wellness deficits dieting is known to create, IT’S ALSO REDUCING OUR ABSORPTION OF NECESSARY VITAMINS AND MINERALS!

    For our health? Bushwah!

    I would much rather take actual care of myself, inside and out.

  • The whole “put down the donut/cheezburger” thing pisses me off. If you’re really THAT fucking concerned about what total strangers are eating, why aren’t these trolls bitching at EVERYONE eating a donut/cheeseburger instead of just fat people who do? Jesus! It clearly shows that trolls really don’t care about “health”.

    Hahaha I love the “high cardboard” diet– I’ve said this many times; if we’re told don’t eat X, don’t eat Y, do it Z times a day blah blah blah and other fucking neuroses well…what the fuck do we eat then? Corrugated cardboard? Lightbulbs, perhaps? Oh wait! Then I’ll be told I’m eating too many filaments! OMG YOU SPLURGED ON THE NON-RECYCLED KIND OF CARDBOARD!! BAD FATTIE! Please stick to 40W bulbs! Yeah, you get the picture. :)

    And no, I’ve never known ANY person– fat or thin– who was ever happy while doing a diet program. Maybe some were happy with their usually temporary results, but never actually while counting the fuck out of everything. I’m an accountant and spend all day going over other peoples’ money and taxes, I do enough neurotic counting thank you! Counting that at least has a purpose and helps people and small businesses…

    I think about the time I spent on useless diets and the like, and how that’s time I could’ve spent doing waaaaay more worthwhile activities such as taking additional accounting classes. :P At least that’s counting that has a purpose, I get compensated for, and something I freakin accomplished. In my neurotic dieting days, I found it really sickening how I got more congratulations for losing 30 pounds than I did for becoming a certified accountant.

    • Rachel, one has to only stop and look at any fast food restaurant queue to see just how many thin people are standing their waiting for their double cheeseburgers and thickshakes to know that thin folks are very rarely policed about their eating habits. Nobody says anything to the thin folks in the queue, but if I was to line up there, it would start straight away… most of it from the thin people buying the exact same food as I am.

  • I saw a column from David Zincenko, in which he cited (but did not link to) a study that showed even entering food eaten into a food log raises our stress levels and cortisol levels…which makes us fat. BOGGLE. I tend to think of myself as pretty happy even when I am tracking, but actually…if I really let myself think about it? It makes me twitchy.

  • When I was 15 and dieting (aka purging, starving, and consuming laxatives and diet pills like they were M&Ms) I didn’t give a damn about my health. I would have gladly died the next day if there had been one day in high school where people (that means you too teachers!) treated me like an actual person, and not a big, fat punching bag. Only when I wound up in the hospital did people think, “Gee, maybe we should stop being mean to her now..” and that only lasted until I put the weight back on.

    So no, I never felt better when dieting or as a thin person. I have found that no matter what jerk-offs will still find something about you to hate.

  • I’m almost 60 years old, and for 45 years I’ve dieted. If dieting worked, I’d be transparent. Instead, I’ve put on weight each time I’ve dieted and then tried to eat normally. For all those years, I denied myself good, healthy food, I’ve missed out on 45 years of enjoying life, enjoying food and being myself. I’ve been through (and still suffer from) a multitude of chronic illnesses, I’ve got a colostomy because my gut atrophied, I take 18 pills each day just to survive.

    No more. Never again. The next time some medical practitioner tells me that dieting will solve all my health problems, I might just tell them the real truth.

    If I could say one thing to younger folk it’s this: Don’t diet!

  • I imagine there has probably been someone out there that enjoyed the weight loss process, just because there are so many people out there in the world and we are all so different, and there are always exceptions to most things in life.

    I agree with relearning to eat to nourish our bodies. There’s nothing wrong with eating for pleasure as long as you aren’t neglecting your nutritional needs in the mean time. Which I guess if someone wants to eat nothing but crap that is their prerogative, as long as they are truthful about it.

    Working out your body doesn’t have to be a chore. There are plenty of fun activities out there to do to get our hearts pumping, sweat happening, and muscles strengthening. And even if it isn’t 100% fun ever second, so what? You’ll be fine. I don’t understand why so many people are afraid to sweat a little.

  • Being fat we are told we are out of control and often I felt like that. Therefore when I dieted I felt like I was in control and so, even though it was hard and painful, I felt good and in control of my body and my life.

    I thought if I didn’t diet I would spiral out of control until I was forklifted out the side of my house. It took ages to actually trust myself that I wouldn’t eat everything in sight if I wasn’t dieting.

  • OK, TW for intentional weight loss etc.

    I’m happy. I’m on a diet. I’ve been on Weight Watchers for over two years now, and I’m just as happy, if not happier, than I was before. I’m not hungry, unless, duh, I don’t eat, and my eating doesn’t feel disordered. I eat the same things as I serve my family, as a rule, and I feel as normal as I did before I started on this (latest) track of intentional weight loss.

    I don’t think about food much, beyond planning what’s for dinner for my family. I don’t obsess about what I can have or not have. Time wise, Weight Watchers take out an hour of my week for the meeting, which I do enjoy, and maybe five minutes as I track what I’ve eaten.

    The reason I continue to diet, btw, is that while I was happy before, fatter than I am now, I was starting to see some limits on my mobility that I wasn’t ready to accept.

    I’m not in the “honeymoon” phase at all. My losses have slowed down, I’m still quite fat, and this might be where my body says ‘nope, no more’, but that’s ok. I feel good at this weight, I can hike, I can bike, I do the things I love to do. I know the limits of what I can do, in that I don’t expect maintaining this weigh, or any lower weight than the one I started at two plus years ago, will be easy, or anything like that. I’m ok with that.

    As for health… my numbers were good at my top weight, they’re a wee bit better now, but health numbers were not the reason I chose to lose weight. My knees didn’t hurt at my top weight, they did initially when I started losing, they’re fine now. Everything is pretty much the same, I’m not all of a sudden a marathon runner (HAHAHAHAHAHHA)! What has changed is that I can hike a bit faster, and a bit longer. I’m more stable on my feet, much more agile. I hiked fat, and I hiked thinner, and I can hike better now. That is perhaps the main reason I started on this diet, the desire to improve that. Because where I was at, in MY body, I was pushing the limits on what I could do. I was fit when I was fatter, but that level of fitness is different than my current one.

    Anyhow. I was fatter and happy, now I’m fat and happy, even while dieting.

  • I’ve read countless blog posts in the FA community about the evils of diets, most of which I agree with completely. A person’s way of feeding themselves should never be trademarked – how disgusting is that?

    However, when it comes to limiting calories, the “famine” mechanism is only triggered at extremely low calorie intake levels – say, half of what would maintain one’s weight. Lowering calorie intake slightly does not do permanent damage to one’s body. If that were so, we humans would never have made it this far.

    • Whether or not it does permanent damage to the body isn’t good enough. It’s unlikely most would be able to maintain it, it does temporary damage to the body (one gains back any weight lost and more) and it more often than not does psychological/emotional damage.

      Health is about more than avoiding something that does permanent damage.

  • Re: previous commenters – I also know someone who’s done the whole low-carb diet for a couple of years now, and I don’t know if he’s happy, but I wouldn’t say he’s miserable either. He just “doesn’t mind”, I guess. He’s not a culinary person in general, and has this whole “engineer” type of attitude towards food. Always buying the same things from the grocery store and then eating them during the week seem to satisfy him (again with the not having to make decisions thing). But then he did get upset once because there was this extra leftover salad that he couldn’t work into his meal plan, which for me sounded nuts. There is definitely a lot of problematic behaviour going on. However, he has lost a lot of weight and is happy with the results and for me it seems like he thinks he’s got it “all figured out”. Even though I’m not willing to hear about anyone’s diet these days, I’m very curious about the long term results in this case.

    Also, I wonder if there’s any difference in the “feeling like shit” experiences between men and women, because of hormones or something alike.

    • I dunno about the gender differences… maybe men are pressured less to conform to a beauty ideal and can diet without as much stress as we suffer?

      Again, another one that seems to be happy with control more than anything.

      • Sure, and I definitely didn’t mean to insert a gender binary here. I’m struggling with the vocabulary a bit, since English isn’t my first language. Most of the “differences” are definitely culturally created ones, I was just wondering whether the biology had anything to do with it – like female bodies having more fat tissue in general and needing it to keep the reproductive organs and hormones going. ‘Cause I think our bodies are pretty good in telling us when we’re about to do damage to them, like I dunno, starving ourselves.

  • I’m so over hearing the “put down the cheeseburger” type of attitude. My brothers (both buff gym junkies) would constantly tease me over my weight till one of them lived with me and found that on my healthy diet I wasn’t losing weight, that I didn’t live on candy and chips, and that I ate far less than he thought I would.
    I’ve been through the cycles of dieting-the euphoria of scales based success when your self esteem is measured in grams lost or gained. Where my husband hates taking me shopping because it takes 5 times as long for me to find the small sector of foods deemed acceptable to whatever crazy diet I’m on at the time. Where I’ve refused to go out into the big wide world and eat out because everything has carbs, or sugar,and I hate being watched while I eat. I’ve lived on diet shakes till the smell of them made me sick. I’ve suffered the public humilation of a weighin at weight watchers along with the “you are our heaviest girl” comments (and they wondered why I never went back).
    Even now I watch what I eat-but in a way of trying to manage the quality of the food I eat. I try to eat a range of vegies, lean meat, and cut back on the things I used to binge on like 250g bags of potato chips. I see this as making the healthier choices in terms of the nutrients my body needs, and I feel much better physically when I don’t fill up on takeaway and junk food. The consequence of this has been losing a little weight (mainly due to me discovering that I actually like exercise and have more energy when I do something), but it isn’t that obsessive type of weight loss where I measure, record every mouthful in my little book and weigh myself daily type of diet…and I feel a thousand times better now, but I can’t say how much of that is due to weight loss and how much of it is due to ensuring my body is getting the nutrients it needs from real food rather than some dodgy powder that turns into a “shake”.

    • Sounds like intuitive eating to me melhoneybee. You know that you feel better when you eat balanced, nutritious foods, and you know that bingeing doesn’t make you feel good in the long term. You listen to your body and give it what it needs. Sometimes folks shift weight doing that, sometimes they don’t, and either is ok.

  • The biggest problem I have with dieters is how obsessed they become. I had a colleague who was on the phone all the time, charting everything she had eaten or drunk to a friend who was likewise dieting. It was exhausting and painful to listen to.

    So many dieters get this strange obsessiveness that I’ve begun to wonder if there isn’t something about food restricting itself which does it to people. Maybe if the ancient brain was denied food, it had to be hyper-vigilant, watching out for food opportunities all the time. Maybe our ancient brain literally can’t think of anything else. So if we go on diets, we’re hard wired to do nothing but think and obsess over food.

    That’s the only explanation I can think of for the near universal diet talk that happens when people start restricting.

  • Trigger Warning for diet talk – read at own risk

    It is possible to be happy and count calories at the same time. For me, that is. It would be horribly presumptuous of me to assume that this is true for every fat person out there.

    My happiness has very little to do with my diet or lack thereof. I can be joyously happy at 255 lbs or 190 lbs and I can be thoroughly miserable at 260 lbs as well as 170 lbs. I would lie if I said that dieting as not benefited my overall health, but dieting hasn’t been the wonderful transformative life-changing experience that popular media promises. I simply am myself, as happy and fulfilled I were before, but somewhat smaller nowadays.

  • TW: diet talk.

    I was happy on my WW diet because of the group I was in, particularly our leader. She led us in applauding every success. She defined success not only as losing weight–as little as 0.2 pounds, “a stick of butter”–but also as remembering to stay hydrated, trying a new exercise program, figuring out how to eat a filling breakfast on a tight schedule, and even getting rid of the “someday” skinny wardrobe in exchange for somebody else’s too-large clothes. (The group held clothing exchanges twice a year.) I learned a lot about my own disordered eating during that time. I learned to identify the internalized messages that prompted me to eat food I didn’t want when I wasn’t hungry; I learned to tell hunger from thirst from boredom; all sorts of useful things.

    BUT. To stay on program, with three kids, multiple part-time jobs, and a house to keep, I had two choices: Either start eating Weight Watchers processed foods, which contained ingredients that got into my milk and gave all of my nurslings horrible tummyaches and cost too much besides, or sleep less so I could prepare frozen meals at home for the inevitable times when I was just plain in a hurry. Or hire a nanny to take the kids for much of the day–also out of my price range. Or quit my part-time jobs and see the whole household suffer for it. And also I would have to magically be able to stay on program when I was almost too sick to get off the couch. Oh, and there was the hip pain in my last pregnancy that caused me to limp so badly on one side that I ended up with tendonitis in my ankle that made it impossible for me to earn enough exercise points to satisfy my hunger, even at the relatively high food intake allowed for a nursing mother . . .

    I realized that I was just plain spending too much time beating myself up for not being the well-to-do mom on the go I would have to be in order to stay on program. And then the group got a new leader, who was all about “You didn’t lose two pounds this week? . . . Oh.” The last shred of encouragement that kept me hanging on even when I couldn’t stay on program was gone. So I quit.

    I thought hard about when I felt good on my diet and when I didn’t, and I realized that it boiled down to four things: Not getting ravenously hungry, not stuffing myself, not getting terribly thirsty, and getting my blood moving with some exercise. Those are goals I can accomplish in my life now. For a while I thought that when the kids were older I would go back to WW, but in the meantime I started reading about the actual success rate of diets, and then fat acceptance and HAES, and now I can’t imagine going back on WW or any weight-loss regime.

  • At this stage of my life I think restricting foods, sometimes even whole food groups, is not good to health. For about 32 years I have waged a battle with my body and wanting to make it smaller. I even had a go at WLS, all to no avail, as my body worked overtime to replace it’s missing bit and today I weigh in nearly double my pre- surgery weight.
    I hear women talk constantly about the newest diet trend, how they will shed enough weight for their son or daughters wedding, etc. I make no comment unless asked. Most people are surprised I am not dieting or restricting.I am working out what suits me and dont feel like sharing at this point. Thanks for another good post Kath.

  • Even dieting without the intention of weightloss can be fraught with ideas we get from society’s perception of weighing less as virtuous and weighing more as undesireable. I’ve recently made some changes in my diet (without the intent of losing weight–I’m drinking less alcohol because it was clearly a Bad Thing For Me and discovered grains, especially wheat, were bad for my digestion). The result had been a modest weight loss. My doctor was pleased with me losing weight.

    But I? I’ve lost scads of weight on two previous occasions through pretty extreme diets in the past: once via a kind of calories-counting that bordered on anorexia, the second time through a kind of orthorexia where I increasingly eliminated food groups (meat, eggs, cheese, etc.) and relied on various supplements and herbs for energy. Neither of which were especially happy experiences–I was applauded for getting slim, but it took up a lot of my mental real-estate to get that way, and what was worse–I had to live that way to maintain it: I gain easily and I enjoy eating. You know–in that “having to live and be maintained by sufficient fuel” sort of way. So this loss made me wonder if I was technically “dieting” now. Did I mean to lose more? Would I now be somehow disappointed if I didn’t? Would I be even more disappointed if I regained? (Because each time I lost before, my pounds came back and brought friends.)

    An odd door opens–I’ve been recently coming to understand how much perceptions of weight and it’s importance have been imposed on me from without and am gaining a sense of myself as a worthwhile person at any size b/c of finding the fatosphere and blogs like yours, and yet have this seduction to put myself through what I have experienced as a “wringer” for the temporary experience of finding better fitting pants at dept stores, and being more physically attractive to people who might not even care who I am inside–the takeaway?

    I need to do what is healthy for me. If that means I eat what agrees with me, drink less, sleep better, take exercise to try and stave off the encroach of arthritis–it’s for me. If I lose weight as a side effect or don’t, I can’t let that be my rationale for any of it. Losing weight for its own sake is hollow to me compared with enjoying my life. It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy my life healthfully–it just means I can’t find it healthy to put a number on a scale at the center of it.

  • I’m so jealous of those that can grocery shop online. I DESPISE it. LOL

    The only diet I’ve ever had any amount of “success” on is Weight Watchers. I got down to about 230 pounds and a US size 16/18. It’s the smallest I’ve ever been as an adult. But I was miserable. I obsessed so much over counting points that I used to dream about it. My husband got me a box of chocolates for Valentines Day and I burst into tears. I watched myself shrink, but I’ve never ever hated my body more. It’s like the smaller I got, the more I found to hate about myself physically.

    Right now I’m much larger than that, but I’m much happier. I do try to monitor my sugar intake because I’ve noticed that increasing my sugar also increases my mood swings. But I’m learning to eat regular food like a regular person. I’m learning to eat what’s going to make me feel good, either physically or emotionally. I’m learning to give myself permission to skip the weight workout at the gym and just play around in the pool if that’s what I feel like doing. I’m learning to give myself permission to dress my body in the size that it currently is instead of purchasing clothes that I’ll promise myself I’ll fit in to “one day.”

    I’m so eternally grateful that I found you on Tumblr so that I could read your words here. If it weren’t for you and Ragen over at Dances With Fat and a couple of other bloggers, I think I would have gone through with the WLS and be wasting away right now. {{{hugs}}}

    • Pange, I am so glad that you found us too, and that you were able to get some alternative perspectives and information in time to make a decision that you would have to live with forever.

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