A few weeks ago, I pondered losing weight to make running easier on my knees. Since then, I have learned a term that encompasses all I have been learning about over the last couple of years — diet culture.
I had learned some time ago that diets don’t work — as in, this fact is scientifically backed. They may work for a few people in initially losing weight (though most do not) but research shows that such a small number of people keep the weight off after a few years that they may be statistically insignificant. Most people, like me, gain back far more weight than they lost. This makes me understand yo-yo dieting in a different way. Quite literally, and factually, dieting makes us fat, or fatter.
If that’s true, which it is, why would I choose to diet again if my desire is to have less for my knees to carry, not more? This is what I’ve been pondering over these last few weeks.
My decision? I will not actively try to lose weight. I’ve been on that vicious cycle for the last 10 years. Every time I lose a few pounds I gain double back. I try to lose the newfound pounds and it happens again. And again. And again.
There’s a part of this decision that lands like a thud in my chest. Does that mean I will never be thinner? Does it mean I will always be this size? Maybe. Logically, I should be glad about this. If I stay this size it will be the second year in a dozen that I have not gained weight. But giving up that thought of losing weight leaves a piece of me grieving.
What’s that? Why can’t I wear that now? A-ha. Good question.
My body may stay this size and shape and I will keep working on being okay with that. It may mean I have to give up running soon, or sooner than I would if there were less weight on my knees. That’s sad for me. It’s who I am now, though, and I have to adjust accordingly and learn to love her.
Weight Loss and Diet Culture Really Are to Blame
I’m not one to shirk responsibility any more, but diet culture got me here. Misinformation. Untruths. Profit driven lies. Myths fed to the medical community and projected onto patients.
But what about health? Surely being thin is healthier. I am still learning about this, however, what I know for sure after the self-educating I have done is this: if people were really concerned about the health of overweight people they would stop talking about weight loss. They would stop shaming. They would stop talking about how many pounds they’ve lost and how they did it. They would stop promoting food restriction, elimination, and calorie counting. This wouldn’t be for the sake of feelings, it would be for the sake of health.
Maybe it’s the morality of thinking someone who is thin or has lost a lot of weight is better than someone who is or has not. Maybe it’s a way to make you feel better about a different shortcoming you have. Whatever it is, it can no longer be called health. Diet culture makes people fat. If you believe fatter is unhealthier, and you say you care about health, you can no longer talk about weight loss. Yes, I said that twice.
Reconciling All These Years of Attempted Weight Loss
I don’t feel resentment or anger in looking back at what caused me to gain all of this weight. The initial circumstances were beyond my control, but the years that followed were too. (I was ready to type “were under my control” and changed it. Yay for paradigm shifts!). If I were encouraged to eat what felt good and stop obsessing about food my weight gain probably would have stopped, or reversed itself all together, 20 or 30 pounds ago.
Maybe anger and resentment will come later. Right now though, I am grateful to understand more deeply why I will never restrict myself from food again. I will never eliminate another food. I stopped fearing gluten a long time ago, right along with sugar, chocolate, carbs, and French fries. I started to eat because I enjoy it and stopped obsessing about food.
Once I went through an initial binge period, I stopped thinking about food, and thought more about whatever I was doing. Interestingly, my clothes started to feel bigger. As soon as I thought about losing weight a few weeks ago ,I started binging again without realizing it — getting ready for the deprivation I would provide myself in the interest of being able to run more. It’s so fucked up, isn’t it?!
So, my intentional choice is not to try to lose weight. Wow. We don’t hear that very often, do we? I will get back to eating what feels good to stop the obsession with food and the food items I “can’t/shouldn’t” have. I’ll keep eating lots of fruits and veggies, which I love. I’ll enjoy cooking again because so many limitations will be removed and I’ll release those limitations from my thoughts.
I have also set a boundary — I will no longer be part of conversations around weight loss, size, clean eating, keto, or anything else that perpetuates diet culture.
When conversations about weight loss, diets, or eating plans come up, what will I do? I’m not sure. If it’s a group I don’t know well, maybe I will excuse myself to the bathroom. If it’s people I am comfortable with and who understand boundaries, I will kindly ask them if we could talk about something else in order to support my mental health. People who have boundaries will not be put off by this. They will understand and respect it.
So. Big decision. It’s pretty awesome though, isn’t it? Imagine knowing you will never diet again? Imagine knowing you can just enjoy your pasta and dessert and macchiato? Imagine no guilt, shame or berating and just being able to focus on the conversation instead? Wow! It’s very exciting! In theory anyway. In reality there’s lots of work to do to get there but I know it’s worth it.