Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Weighty Matters

Someday we'll have to explain to aliens how this gadget
 can make someone's day or ruin it. I hope we at least
have the good sense to be embarrassed.
Like most American women, I spent most of my life believing that all women were supposed to diet. Just like all American men are supposed to like sports. I'd play along with everyone else, beating myself up for eating something delicious. You know how your office gets a cake for each person's birthday? And then all the women eat the cake while loudly declaring how bad they are for eating it. Instead of, you know, focusing on the birthday person. That's the sort of thing I was all caught up in.

I started putting that bullshit behind me thanks to fat acceptance bloggers. The truth is that diets don't work. Not in the long term. If you lose any weight, a diet is considered a success. Then if you regain any weight, it's your fault - not the diet's. 

(My first chiropractor was really into Atkins and the whole no carb/low carb thing. Insisted that it was the only way to fly. Until he couldn't take it anymore and ate some bread. He blamed it on human frailty and not the human body's need for complex carbohydrates.)

If you get an infection, take antibiotics and the infection still doesn't go away, no one blames you. The treatment didn't work. But a diet? That's all on you, fattie. 

Like the story in this post on Kate Harding's blog. If you don't feel like clicking over, she shared a message from a reader who went to a diet plan weigh in, hadn't lost any weight and was told that she must have sabotaged her diet with cough drops. Which she hadn't taken.

If you're consuming enough cough drops to significantly affect your caloric intake for the week, then you have more important things to worry about than weight loss.

Think that's an isolated incident? When I was on Weight Watchers, I did the Core Plan, which meant that I could eat as much as I wanted of certain "good" foods. Avocados were on the OK list, but guacamole wasn't, even though every single ingredient is on the OK list. The assumption was that if you had guacamole, you'd be pounding back the chips. Well, screw you guys, I'm putting homemade, heart-healthy guac on my homemade tacos instead of cheese and sour cream. There were even people on the WW message boards making fun of that one. Be careful, one poster said. Don't chew your avocado too much or it might turn to guacamole in your mouth.

Which leads me to this article. A study has found that firstborn children are more likely to be overweight because in utero conditions lead to a slow metabolism. Just one more way that firstborns are breaking in our parents for our younger siblings.

So this finding should lead us to realize that there's nothing firstborns can do to change that and so maybe we should focus on other markers of health besides weight. But no. The article just says that firstborns should be more diligent in diet and exercise. 

Like we haven't been doing that our entire fat lives.

And we buy into this stupid nonsense because the chronic voluntary malnutrition keeps you from thinking straight. No, seriously. During WW2, a group of conscientious objectors volunteered to starve themselves to help scientists figure out the best way to nourish starving civilians in Europe. They ate 1570 calories a day, which is more than most modern diet programs allow. (Weight Watchers tends to recommend 1200 calories.) Before long, they were constantly tired, food obsessed and unable to care much about politics and world events. One guy ended up in a psych ward where his mental breakdown got all better after a few days of normal eating.

In my dieting days, I would eat those sad little fake oreo crisps that came in 100 calorie bags. There were maybe 12 little cookie crisps in each bag. One day, my manager asked if he could have one, to see what it tasted like. I told him no and I wasn't nice about it. He could eat whatever he wanted. That little bag of artificial crap was all I was getting until dinner. I was not about to eat only 11 tiny fake cookies for anybody.

I cringe when I think of everything I could've done if only I hadn't been throwing all my time, effort and energy into dieting. My poor, neglected novel. And all the fun dating I could've done if only I had;t been too busy hating myself.

Just think what American women could accomplish if we weren't putting ourselves through that. Millions of women getting out of bad relationships, quitting lousy jobs, fighting for decent, affordable healthcare and not putting up with the war on reproductive rights. But instead, we're too hungry to realize that we're in an abusive relationship with diet companies, or with ourselves.

That's why diet culture is a feminist issue. It's just one more way of keeping us down. It's a lot easier to oppress the masses when they're spending all day thinking about food.

To go back to the sports analogy, dieting is kind of like being a Cleveland Indians fan. (They're the ones that never win, right?) You're going to be disappointed, but you spend all season believing that maybe you won't be while pretending that your team's name and fan tomahawk chop gesture are a wee bit completely and totally racist. The only way to end up happy is to check out completely.

If you want to know more about fat acceptance and health at every size, Google Kate Harding, Marianne Kirby, Lesley Kinzel and Linda Bacon. They've written countless blog posts and books that discuss this issue way more coherently than I can. 

At least try eating your co-worker's fucking birthday cake without being a jerk about it. 


  1. Excellent post, BRAVA! I'm going to re read it when I find myself being the self loathing self I can be at times.

  2. Excellent post, BRAVA! I'm going to re read it when I find myself being the self loathing self I can be at times.


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